Seating as ranking in youth orchestras:
What do you think?
For my taste, I don’t think it is the way to go. Rotational seating is much better for everyone. Ranked seating can put a great deal of undue pressure on students. If you want to showcase an individual’s talent, hold a concerto competition, or invite one of your students to come and play a solo with the orchestra. But to rank students in such a public way is not effective—and it can never be truly accurate anyway. Side effects that I have seen over the years include students actually quitting—not the orchestra, but the violin altogether. There are other ways to keep order, provide positive motivation and encouragement, and to foster a healthy and productive amount of competitive spirit in music students.
I have two sons, aged 7 and 4 years old. My older son began violin lessons when he was 6 years old. When I asked his current teacher if I could begin my 4-year-old, she said that he was too young to begin violin lessons. What is the right age to start, and what age is too young?
This is a good question, and there are many factors to consider. First, not every 4-year-old is ready to begin learning the violin. Second, not every teacher is able to teach a 4-year-old child to play the violin. In both cases, there is nothing wrong at all. Over the years, I have taught many 4-year-olds (in addition to beginners of all ages) to play the violin, and I have also told many parents that their 4 -year-old needed some more time to mature before beginning violin lessons with me.
The right age to start is when the individual child is ready to accept direction from the teacher and is ready to take on a new activity. This does not happen at the exact same time/age for every child. The factors to consider are so numerous (school dynamics, home dynamics, ready for more challenge, new sibling, etc.), I could not even be able to list them all.
Oftentimes, teachers will have a specific age groups that they feel able to teach; and this can vary from a small age groups (4th-5th graders only for example) to a larger age group (such as Elementary School-High School). There are some teachers who do not like to teach children at all and prefer to teach at the college level and beyond exclusively. These preferences can have a lot to do with the individual teacher’s training, teaching experience, temperament, or any combination of the three. Advice: check in with your current teacher to find out if he/she would like you to wait a year or so for your son to start, or if your teacher does not teach that age group at all. This will give you a good heads-up as to how you would like to proceed!
My daughter is in the fourth grade and just began taking a violin class at her school. We will need to bring a violin from home to each class. Should we rent or buy the violin for her?
If you are brand new to the violin, you might want to rent your first instrument for a month or two (or three!) to see if it will be something that your child will take to and continue. After that amount of time, it is probably less expensive to buy than make monthly payments. Violin shops in general are very aware that young violin students will “grow out” of their current size instrument, and may have options available for “trading up” to the next size. This means you will be able to swap your smaller instrument for a larger size instrument of equal value. I would recommend talking to someone at your violin shop of choice and asking about the rental and buying options they have available for student instruments.
My violin teacher keeps telling me to play with a straight bow. But nothing on the violin is a straight line. I never know if it is straight or crooked until my violin teacher tells me. How can I play with a straight bow?
This is a good question. In many ways the violin is a bit of an optical illusion. Everywhere there are curves and round edges, no right angles or straight lines are visible anywhere, and yet we have to keep our bow “straight” as you mentioned. Instead of describing your bow as going straight, I would suggest describing it as having your bow parallel to the bridge. A good way to check if your bow is parallel is to look in a mirror while you play. Then, stop your bow right where it is on the string and look at its relation to the bridge. It will actually not look straight, but at an angle to the bridge when you look right at your bow. Trust the mirror. You will notice that the angle will look different when you are in different parts of the bow. Keep working with the mirror, and you will begin to memorize not just what it looks like (when looking at the bow as it is angled against the bridge), but also what it feels like to have your bow parallel to the bridge. Good luck!
My 6 year old daughter says she likes violin, but when it is time to practice, she goes on the i-Pad or plays video games instead. Maybe violin is not her passion?
Let’s be honest, who does not like video games? I would suggest not having the i-Pad be a choice with violin at this age. Children in primary and early elementary are not yet equipped to self-regulate to that degree. A more appropriate choice for a child of 6 years old might be a choice between violin practice or reading a book; or perhaps violin practice or note reading practice. As children grow and mature, they are more able to regulate needs, wants, and requirements for activities (such as violin lessons and practice). Until then, it is best for adults to step in a bit and help provide children with positive guidance and the support they need for success.
Our private violin teacher told us to get one size instrument (1/2 size), but the people at the violin shop told me to get a larger size (3/4 size) for my nine-year-old son. What should I do?
This is a tricky situation to be in. Violin shops pride themselves on correctly sizing students with instruments. Private teachers pride themselves on knowing what is best for their individual students’ needs and unique circumstances. The first thing I would do is ask your violin teacher why he/she thinks your son should be on a smaller instrument. Perhaps your son is working on building some specific aspect of his technique right now? Perhaps he is delicate boned/slight and your teacher does not want any undue strain on him while he is growing? Communicating reasons to the shopkeepers can then help them to understand that you do respect their expertise, and have a specific reason for requesting a smaller size violin than they recommend.
My son is learning the violin using Suzuki Method and is currently practicing Lightly Row from Violin Book 1. Sometimes when he plays, the sound is.. almost crunchy. It is sometimes hard to hear the actual tune because of this crunchiness. How can I get rid of the crunching?
Without actually hearing or seeing what is going on, I would suggest one of two possibilities: The first is that there could be too much rosin on the bow, making the bow “bite” too much into the string when your son plays. Another possibility is that your son may be “pressing” too much with the bow when he plays. When you hear the “crunchy” sound you mention, you might ask your son to use his bow more “softly”, and perhaps even use a little more bow as well. But again, without hearing or seeing what is going on, these are only my best guesses.
Best of luck!
My 10 year old daughter has been taking violin lessons for two months. She loves her violin lessons, but she doesn't like to practice at home. What can I do? I want her to practice, but I want her to want to practice..
While teaching violin, I have heard this question many times. As parents, we want our children to be happy, and to find joy in the extra curricular activities they engage in (in this case, taking violin lessons). It is important to remember that nothing can be fun all the time, and that is okay. One way to make practicing more manageable, is to create a routine around practicing. Children are very adaptable, and adapt to routines best of all. If violin practice time is at the same time each day, it is easier for a child to become accustomed to practicing as being a part of every day life. Another way to make practicing easier is to start with small chunks of time, and slowly increase them over time. Violin practice could be 5 minutes each afternoon for the first few weeks. Then, you might move it up to 10 minutes, and from there 15. This way your daughter will have time to acclimate to this new activity and over time, her enjoyment and ease in her violin practice routine will shine through.