Teenage and Adult beginners ?


Friederike said: Apr 5, 2016
Friederike Lehrbass
Suzuki Association Member
Plano, TX
71 posts

What is your experience with Adult and Teenage beginners? I started working at a music place( non Suzuki ) and had already 6 teenagers or adults quit. 3 I had taken over from the previous teacher( well 4th is quitting after this month) and 2 started and quit again.( One adult only lasted 2 lessons, she wasn’t a complete beginner). The other teenager is lasting around 3 -4 months. She said she doesn’t like Suzuki, but wants a more popmusic approach like Lindsey Sterling. So when she told me she is quitting for that, I said we can look at different violin methods.I offered her Mark O’Conners, but she took a look at it and said it’s not really what she wants and she had already made up her mind. (Well I don’t know what she wants. ) It’s kind of frustrating. What’s your experience? I know they pretty busy, but seems to me that some have high expectations. Thanks for your inputs.

Praise the Lord with the stringed instrument

Arlene said: Apr 5, 2016
Arlene Patterson
Suzuki Association Member
Longmont, CO
13 posts

In my experience, it’s nice to have a goal, a purpose for any endeavor, especially one such as playing the violin. Now that takes grit!

I’d be curious to know why the teenager or adult wanted to begin violin lessons in the first place.

I have a few older students. A couple of them are parents of young students of mine, so their goal is to be able to help their child practice and also to play music with their children. That’s working very well. One parent just had her book 1 recital and is working on book 2. She particularly enjoys learning harmony parts to her child’s book 1 pieces and her husband adds chords on his mandolin.

2 other adult students of mine are signed up for a summer fiddle music camp and want a jump start, so that’s motivating them.

Could you offer a special group class for adults? Simple trios or doubling up on 2-part pieces or rounds could be accessible. A social evening of that sort might be motivating. My adult group meets for 2 hours on a Wednesday evening and includes conversation and snacks. Social interaction is a big part of the enjoyment.

I’ll keep thinking. Meantime, don’t give up on older students.


Rebecca said: Apr 6, 2016
 19 posts

It seems like kids don’t really think about why they play the violin, they just do it. Teens start trying to figure out why they are playing and what their goals are, and how or if it fits into their future. Adults taking lessons usually know exactly why they are doing it and what they are trying to get out of it.

With teens I try to be as practical as possible and let them see how they can use their violin on or off the stage (3 of them right now are helping me plan the recital, and they get to pick some of the pieces).

With adults, if they don’t tell me right away why they are taking lessons, I make sure I ask. I tend to use lots of supplemental material at their level so they can enjoy playing many things, even if it only is a grade 2.

Arlene, I love the idea of having adult group lessons!

Overall, my teens and adults tend to drop out quicker, but it doesn’t always mean that you failed, it could just mean that they met their own personal goals.

Alan Duncan said: Apr 6, 2016
Alan Duncan
Suzuki Association Member
60 posts

A personal experience as an adult beginner (sort of). I’m an experienced pianist who decided to study violin alongside my daughter. Our trajectories have been different but now we’ve hit the crossover point at the Seitz concerti and she’s taking off!

Here’s the thing about adults beginners. Complex lives take their toll on commitment to practicing, but I think the main factor with adult attrition is that they don’t fully recognize how difficult this endeavour is. The lead time from first putting bow to string to making beautiful music is a long time. It’s even longer when a lifetime of stress creates inflexibility in the body. More than knowing what an adult beginner’s motivation is, I’d also want to know that they understand that progress is never as fast as they probably imagine.

Heather Reichgott said: Apr 6, 2016
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
95 posts

I think teens and adults are more focused on the relationship they build with a specific teacher, as opposed to just taking lessons with whatever teacher got assigned to them. You’ll probably have a different experience with teen and adult students who start with you, or who switch to you on purpose, and aren’t students you inherited from another teacher.

I started and lost a lot of adult students early on. Over time the more I’ve used Suzuki book 1 with the teens and adults, the better I seem to be at keeping them as students. It is just the best way I know to build technique, ear playing, self-confidence and artistry in the beginning stages. I frame the book 1 pieces differently for adults, too—”these are the techniques this piece is meant to teach, here’s the progression from your previous pieces so you can see the progress you’ve made, and here’s how these techniques are used in more advanced music.” Adults can and should understand the overall plan of the teacher.

I do let all my students choose a lot of their own music alongside the Suzuki pieces. I am pretty careful about difficulty. Teens and adults can be aspirational about wanting to start a difficult new piece, or have ideas about progressing quickly, but at least in my experience once they’re in the midst of practicing a piece they really prefer having something easier that they can learn and polish and feel successful and confident.

Practice is always a challenge and it’s no different with adults than with kids. Everyone’s day is packed, whether from a job and parenting or from school and homework. We just have to keep on about it, help them find solutions, and keep encouraging good habits to develop. Very short daily practices are awesome.

One thing I find tricky with adult students is that they get a mental and emotional grasp of the piece so quickly, but the process of learning to execute it consistently and beautifully still takes about the same amount of time as with kids. Teaching practice strategies seems to be really important to keep them from getting stuck.

Friederike said: Apr 7, 2016
Friederike Lehrbass
Suzuki Association Member
Plano, TX
71 posts

Thanks so much for your responses.. I hadn’t thought of offering a group class just for adult beginners, interesting idea though. But don’t the teenager never have time for anything? Adults seem to be so busy too. At this time I only have 1 adult beginner left, who doesn’t come very often. And the teenage beginner I mentioned above had made her mind up before she talked to me, I guess, what does disappoint me. Heather you wrote you use the Suzuki book also with the adult beginners. but that is exactly why that one student is quitting and my other senior student think those early pieces are not fun or to childish. I agree that the Suzuki method is the best. But if I loose students over it, it isn’t worth for those. I just bought 3 other methods( 2 fiddle ones and mark O’Connors). i agree they’re not as good as the Suzuki method. Though Mark has a nice CD with it. The Basic Fiddlers CD is horrible in my opinion( very monotonous, I had to stop it) and the American Fiddler also sings with it. May be using 2 methods from the beginning for students like that? Thanks for sharing all of your experiences.Seems like the main reason students quit is that they are to busy.

Praise the Lord with the stringed instrument

Anne Marie said: Apr 7, 2016
Suzuki Association Member
Troy, NY
12 posts


When I have adult students, I always ask what their goals are and what kind of music they like. Most of them want to have a platform, whereby they can enjoy making music with other people.

Because most want to enjoy the excitement of making music together, I get them started very early on striving for a beautiful tone on the open strings.

In lessons:
1) when they can make a beautiful sound on the open A-string, I’ll play the melody for Twinkle and they are always astounded at how beautiful we sound.

  1. next, they strive for a beautiful sound on the E-string and we do the same thing.

  2. when they can play Twinkle theme, then I play the harmony part.

The two alternate series I use when students don’t want to use the Suzuki curriculum, or when I want supplemental materials are:
American Fiddle Method, by Brian Wicklund and
Developing Virtuosity, by Lynne Latham.

Both of these are parallel to the Suzuki curriculum.

Finally, group classes are just as important to the adults as to the kids. They get guidance, inspiration, and encouragement from their peers, and they see that they too can do it.

Adults are often looking for a sense of belonging through a musical community and our adult group is well-attended and nurturing. The students are devoted to the music and to each other!

We also have a multi-generational fiddle group, and kids, parents, and adults come and we have a great time. New violinists are encouraged to play the open strings in rhythm.

Anne Marie

Renee Shaw said: Apr 9, 2016
Renee Shaw
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
19 posts

I have had varying success with teenager and adult students. I assume as I become a more experienced teacher and farther away from my teenage years, I will have more trouble connecting with and teaching teenagers. Right now, I think my enthusiasm lets them feel comfortable being excited about learning, too. Even if their friends are not involved in music, etc. Additionally, I am very candid about my own experiences learning the violin, past and present. I see more motivation from them when they realize I struggled or do struggle in the same ways.

With adults, I think being open is a great help, too. In the way I suspect my relative youth helps with teenagers, I do feel a bigger struggle to have my adult students feel I understand them or the obstacles in their schedules. Typically in regards to marriage and children or grandchildren. My biggest focus tends to be self-compassion in a way, where I try to help them understand they can only move as fast as their schedules and lives will allow. I use lots of supplementary materials with these students, to keep the focus off a lack of technical progress.

There are some great ideas here, thanks to everyone who shared!

Friederike said: Apr 10, 2016
Friederike Lehrbass
Suzuki Association Member
Plano, TX
71 posts

What supplemental material do you use for your adult beginners?

Praise the Lord with the stringed instrument

Kirsten said: Apr 12, 2016
103 posts

I used to supplement for adult beginners, but found that books 1 and 2 Suzuki are such a great introduction, and so much enjoyed by the adults, that using any other material gets in the way for me.

I love American Fiddle Method book 2 by Brian Wicklund as mentioned above, and it can really enjoyable for mid to late Suzuki Book 2 students.


Victoria Pharis said: Apr 12, 2016
Victoria PharisViolin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Viola
Murray, KY
2 posts

I have used American Fiddle as well as the Mark O’Connor method. Living in KY, most all of my students like fiddle tunes. We also use the “Festive Strings” during holidays..

Victoria Pharis

Robin Lohse said: Apr 13, 2016
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello, Viola
Souderton, PA
29 posts

I agree with most of these statements. the older beginner can benefit greatly from using the Suzuki method always come back to that but it’s harder to convince them of the necessity to use the method that’s so basic dr. Suzuki understood how we all think Act that’s amazing thing about this method. As for the fiddle books I use them too to teach technique. Trained as an Irish Fiddler I use the Celtic fiddle books with all of my students.

Robin Lohse

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