Teaching a 12 Year Old Beginner Violin Student


Bryna Quiring said: Oct 6, 2011
 1 posts

I have just started teaching a 12 year old beginner violin student. We have had one lesson so far. I have had experience teaching both younger and older students, but the older students that I have taught began taking lessons when they were younger, so by the time they were a pre-teen, they were playing at an intermediate level. This is my first experience teaching a 12 year old beginner student. I know a lot of good teaching games and exercises for young beginner students, but my problem is that if I use these with this student, they will be below her maturity level. I would appreciate any ideas of how to teach violin basics to a 12 year old beginner, while making it enjoyable yet age appropriate.

Gabriel Villasurda said: Oct 6, 2011
Gabriel VillasurdaViolin, Viola
81 posts

Think about the concept that is covered/presented/reinforced in each of the games you use with younger children. Then teach the concept.

Small children are usually willing to do whatever you ask them to do, whether or not they understand the underlying concept. With older students, they wonder why you are asking.

Great teachers have dozens or hundreds of “tricks.” These help students understand or feel some important technique—freedom, relaxation, velocity, good tone, straight bow, and so on.

If the student has a problem—something that is inhibiting his/her progress, then apply a “trick”.

There is nothing as dreadful as a lesson that is a parade of “tricks” with no other reason than to occupy students’ attention.

Phyllis Young’s book, PLAYING THE STRING GAME is comprehensive yet carefully describes each salient concept being considered.

Gabe Villasurda

Gabriel Villasurda
Ann Arbor MI

Diane said: Oct 6, 2011
Diane AllenViolin
245 posts

Bryna—You were right on target with your concern. However -Your 12 year old girl will probably be a joy to teach. Those beginning steps will go so much faster than with little kids! Keep in mind the “sandwich” when speaking with her.


For example -
I can really tell that you worked on your bow pinky this week! It has a strong rounded shape.
Let’s take a look at your pointer finger and where it goes on the bow. (give instruction)
Since you did such a great job working on your bow pinky—apply the same fabulous thought process you did at home with your pinky now thinking about your pointer finger.

Since violin playing can have delayed gratification—I make it a point to establish with students at their first few lessons the idea that they are in a supportive nurturing environment. It helps tremendously in getting them to return next week and to return wanting more!

Keep us posted! Smiles! Diane

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Rachel Schott said: Oct 7, 2011
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

Having once BEEN a 12 year old girl I can tell you that it will be important for her to know you like her. I think as long as you are geniune, talk to her like she’s an adult (well, almost) and seem to enjoy your lessons with her she’ll love them too.

For me, this means being direct and kind. I disagree with Diane’s idea of sandwiching a suggestion between two positive comments unless there are two things that are so extraordinary that you just can’t help yourself. I would aim to be as genuine as you possibly can be, and save the praise for when it pops out of you legitimately.

Your 12-year old beginner probably will not expect violin to be “fun” and will probably have find the challenge in itself “fun”, especially if you keep it light and real. But, if you are in a pinch, you can always pull out the “you-won’t-believe-how-I-teach-this-to-the-little-kids” routine and let her experiment.

Patricia said: Oct 7, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

I actually started violin when I was 12. I was a flutist and pianist and wanted to play violin more. My first teacher was great as I am sure you will be. I like everyone’s ideas above….. She will probably progress quickly, I show my older beginners what I do with the little ones—kind a phrasing it like “i know this is a bit juvenile—but it seems to work even with the parents” They like the fact that I acknowledge they aren’t little and they aren’t their parents. They know the Parents have their own class in my school. For group—I actually tell them it is up to them if they want to come to my Twinkle Class. Most of the time -they don’t…. but as soon as they progress they come to the higher books… and that usually isn’t very long. They never catch up to the other students who started earlier—at least not in my program—BUT—their note reading is great…. and I even had one oust another student (different teacher) from her school orchestra seat.
Kay Slone always said “You are never too young or old to Twinkle”
About correcting things—I always say the good things first….. and when I have to fix something—I never tell a student it was bad- I just ask them if they could do it a different way. Does anyone remember “The Inner Game of Music”
I have a sign in my school that reads “Change something you don’t like about your performance into a Task you can achieve and then Go Get It”
Have Fun!

Julia said: Oct 10, 2011
Julia ProleikoViolin, Piano, Viola
Saint Louis, MO
22 posts

I also began playing at 12, though ‘traditional’. I was never allowed to be a true beginner and learn at an appropriate pace (hindsight—as, of course, at the time I just thought I had no talent)—the pace at which I was given material was based more on what the teacher expected me to be able to do according to my age (and that’s not counting all of the lovely teachers who refused to teach me because I was “too old”—so brava for taking her!). I still find it frustrating to not be allowed to learn ‘at a child’s pace’ and yet there is also a fine balance to not treat her ‘like a baby’—though for me, I would have rathered been treated ‘like a baby’ than to have left out so many important concepts which ultimately did great physical harm to me…so my two cents would be to go out and learn something totally new so you know how it feels—then turn around and apply it to your older students. They will appreciate you for it!
Also, don’t completely count out the games—get a feel for the student and adjust accordingly.

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