Child-led progress or teacher-led?

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Celia Jones said: Oct 9, 2010
 Violin
72 posts

I just wondered if any of you had any thoughts on this. My daughter has been learning since her 3rd birthday, that’s about four months. She is very enthusiastic and approaches the process in a very methodical way. She has been working very hard on her bowing and will copy the rhythms to many of the book song tunes. After seeing video of other children playing and watching me she began making bow circles and multiple up and down bows. She is still struggling a bit to play just D or A strings, and works on this, playing the rhythms carefully. She can get a beautiful tone (she has a good violin with good strings, it really can be very nice).

Her teacher would like my daughter to put left hand fingers down but my daughter is adamant that she does not want to try that “until I am bigger”. My daughter says the sound with her fingers down is “not beautiful”.

I have been trying to encourage my daughter to give the left hand a go and the result is a big drop in enthusiasm, lots of practise sessions cut short “finished now mum” and I’m really seeing a big fall in standard of bowing—was getting very straight, now often going all over the place, also quite squeaky again.

I’m inclined to back off and let DD work to her own schedule—I don’t see the hurry. I’m certain that one of these days she’ll pick up the violin and carefully try to put her fingers down. Any thoughts?

Sara said: Oct 10, 2010
 Violin
191 posts

A three year old at 4 months of lessons already placing fingers?
I know some and probably quite a few have done that. My three year olds typically don’t. We spend A LOT of time with bow exercises, violin holding exercises and pitch training in the form of songs. I would think that if she is willing to stay with open strings, let her do that. If you’re focusing in on bow hand and posture while she is on open strings, she will be all the better set up for when she is ready to use fingers.

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Irene said: Oct 10, 2010
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

I would trust the teacher and follow her lead. After all, she is the expert and me as the parent is teacher assistant at home.
My 25 month old daughter, is doing the left hand on her 5th lesson. Teacher taped her violin ’s fingerboard and taught us the pizzicato. I have no idea how to do it at home, just do my best and try.

Celia Jones said: Oct 11, 2010
 Violin
72 posts

Thanks. I do see both points of view. I think the bottom line is: I can’t force my daughter to put her fingers down. It’s reassuring to know that some teachers would focus on bowing open strings anyway. The teacher is the expert—and this teacher is very good with school-aged children (aged 4 and up)—but I think my daughter is one of the youngest pupils she has ever had. I think there’s a lot of musical development between 3 and 4 maybe.

said: Oct 11, 2010
 17 posts

Hi Celia,
My daughter was 3 years and 2 months old when we started violin lessons. Our teacher did not allow us any “real” tones (even just playing A or E was not taught) until about 10-12 weeks later. My daughter is still in process of learning to make good bow strokes and remembering all the things necessary for correct posture,etc. And she has turned 5 years old now. (Repeating posture issues “1000″ times a practice is the bit that drives me nuts at the moment :roll:—trying to be patient there :oops: ).
It was about four to five months after starting that she was taught to put down the fingers. It was (for me unexpected) difficult for her to place the fingers not only on the correct spot (which are marked by little pieces of tape), but also with the right amount of pressure. That took a few weeks for her to get the right “grip” there. She was told to press her fingers down until the tip of the nail turns white—that helped a little. It just fell into place somehow. Guess everything has its time.
What also helped was telling the little one that most songs need more than four notes and if she wants us to sing with her she needs to learn the fingering.
Hope that gives you a little encouragement. At least with us somethings just seem to take ages to get somewhere into the correct direction. We are still working on some very basic things I thought would have long ago been digested.
Rippe

Celia Jones said: Oct 12, 2010
 Violin
72 posts

Rippe, thank you, the white fingernails is a great tip. After having this discussion on here, yesterday I focussed totally on rhythms and tone. I set her posture once at the start then shut up and ignored everything else altogether. For the first five minutes her bowhold was funny and her bow was haywire. Then she sorted her bowhand out herself, stretched, and played with straight bows for about 40 minutes. She was really pernickety about the rhythms and kept asking to do each one again until she was satisfied. Then she said to me “look at this” and carefully played each rhythm on each separate string, without any random notes. I was so happy, we were back where we were two weeks ago but better.

Later on, separately, I took her left hand and put it round mine, and had her pretend my hand was the fingerboard. That was a revelation! She squeezed my hand till it hurt, or else she couldn’t put her fingers down at all (like she couldn’t map to the finger she wanted). So we will be working on the left hand like that, hand in hand and I think that will get us somewhere.

Irene said: Oct 12, 2010
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

is there any stuffs we can put on the fingertips to make the experience less painful for beginners?

Ruth Brons said: Oct 12, 2010
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

Playing the violin should not be painful to the finger tips for beginners.
Please have your teacher or a luthier check that the bridge is correctly fitted—if it is too high finger tips may become sore from having to press too hard.

Best Wishes,

Celia Jones said: Oct 13, 2010
 Violin
72 posts

Not only fingertips. Also had very bad finger habits and a lot of tension in the left arm and hand. Too high an action (I mean, strings too high to press easily) may mean the child can never play quickly. They may have to lift the other fingers to press the strings—a very difficult habit to unlearn. Their arm will be too tense and maybe the back too.

Jennifer Visick said: Oct 13, 2010
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts
  1. No one should be pressing so hard with left hand fingers that it hurt a person who is pretending to be the fingerboard. I do disagree with pressing till the nail turns white. This can lead to putting too much absolutely unnecessary tension and pressure on the string.

  2. Even if the action is high, a student does not need to press hard enough to touch the string to the fingerboard—it is possible, with a high enough action, to only put enough weight on the fingertip to depress the string until the end of the string behind the finger stops vibrating—that is all the weight needed.

  3. Make sure that the strings are not cheap, high tension, skinny wires. Get Dominant strings (or some other decent quality string) that has thicker, softer strings with a synthetic core.

  4. Try having her merely touch the string, and find harmonics (harmonics happen when the end of the string behind the finger is not stopped from vibrating). This can help set a relaxed hand while working on accuracy in finger placement. (Although, harmonics are harder to find on smaller instruments and new strings help). Or, it being nearly Halloween, you could ask her to play a “spooky” sounding (or a “whisper”)Twinkle by playing with fingers just touching the strings, not worrying about finding actual clear harmonics.

  5. If she puts a finger down and bows at the same time, you should be able to feel the vibrations of the string that have traveled up through her fingertip if you rest your finger lightly (LIGHTLY!) on the top of her finger. If you can’t feel the vibrations, she is probably pressing too hard (or not playing loud enough).

  6. YOU can finger her instrument while she bows

  7. SHE can finger her instrument while you bow (she doesn’t have to think of two things at once this way)

Celia Jones said: Oct 15, 2010
 Violin
72 posts

Thanks for those tips. I didn’t know that about being able to stop a string with a high action without touching the fingerboard. Am intrigued to try it.

At my DD’s lesson this week, the teacher asked her to put her fingers down and she played the first two lines of twinkle, note by note. She seemed surprised herself, and she had a really good go in practise today, actually produced some notes that didn’t scare her off. This shows the value of a lesson with the teacher instead of getting the lessons secondhand from me. Sometimes the social situation of being with the teacher can bring about these jumps forward.

Barb said: Oct 26, 2010
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

For development of brain to fingers you can do a game away from the instrument, too:
Finger taps. One at a time, tap the fingers to the thumb. Number them 1-4 and call out the number (you can do it along side so she has a visual cue, too) for her to tap. Then let her have a turn calling out numbers for you, too! If she is also showing you when she is calling out numbers, that’s additional practice. Keep it fun!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Irene said: Oct 28, 2010
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

I draw the numbers 1 to 4 on her fingers, so she knows which fingers is one and so one but she still refuses to do the pizzicato.

Yesterday, I took out a rabbit puppet,, and pretended that the rabbit is asking her to do pizzicato… she smiled and did it! not for long, just 10 seconds.. but better than not at all.. looks like we need mr. rabbit around for practice at home.

Barb said: Oct 28, 2010
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Puppets are great! Glad that worked for you—10 seconds of success to celebrate! :)

(The finger taps are not just to learn the finger numbers, but to gain fine motor control, too.)

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Irene said: Oct 30, 2010
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

today, mr. rabbit didnt work. my daughter told me in perfect sentence,, ‘hurts my fingers’.. :(
what to do? how did other young children get over the initial discomfort ?

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