Where to start new student with some orchestra background?


Lindsey said: Oct 1, 2014
Lindsey Crouch
Suzuki Association Member
Layton, UT
3 posts

I just had my first lesson with a new student—a 14 year old who has been playing violin in the school orchestra for a year or two. This is her first time having a private teacher. She’s never been taught how to hold her violin and bow correctly, and is pretty shaky on basic music theory (she doesn’t know how to read a key signature). However despite this she really has lovely tone and her notes are perfectly in tune. She showed me some of her orchestra music, and the accidentals and timing are pretty complex for someone with only a couple years of experience under her belt. She plays it well, but I’m pretty sure she relies completely on her ear.

My question is, how do I know where to start her in Suzuki? I’m pretty sure I could throw something from book 3 or 4 at her and she’d pick it up just fine, but since she has essentially no foundation I know that’s not going to be in the best interest for her in the long run. If her tone and intonation were not so good I’d start her back at Twinkles, but after hearing her and seeing the other music she’s playing, starting her on Twinkles seems laughable.

Suggestions on where to begin?

Jennifer Visick said: Oct 11, 2014
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

You don’t have to go sequentially through Suzuki rep for this type of student—I mean; you can make a list of what she has down fairly well and what needs work, then go through the repertoire and identify pieces that you can use to help her work on the “needs work” list while also identifying pieces that she will quickly excel at because she already has those skills “down.” A piece may fall into both lists for different reasons!

Why not create a plan (it is, after all, an individual lesson) where you give her a mixture of a piece that, while not technically “review” for her, would be easily and quickly picked up so that it can fulfill the place that ‘review’ might take; and a “challenging” piece that is just a little above the level she is at right now, in terms of what she can pick up. You can work on changing the bow hold and getting a balanced instrument on the shoulder with the easier piece and yet allow her to feel the challenge of why she’s going to need that new bow hold and stance in the more difficult piece.

Also look at the orchestra music: if that’s what she’s going to have to play, make sure you’re teaching skills for that, too. So the lessons could be a combination of coaching on the orchestra parts and working on a couple of solo pieces.

Also you can ask the student “hey, I want to work on X (technique) with you today. We can use a 1 octave scale or we can use a simple folk song, like, for example, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Which one do you want to use—the scale or the song?” A 14 year old is capable of understanding that you’re not giving her Twinkle as a song but as an exercise, and is also capable of knowing what they would find more enjoyable while practicing the new bow hold or playing position stance or what have you.

Or consider using a different method or etude book, not necessarily Suzuki rep, for technique work. Bill Fitzpatrick has a book called Melodies for the Young Violinist—http://store.payloadz.com/details/2058414-music-classical-melodies-for-the-young-violinist.html —which might be suited to the level you need for this student.

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