“I just want to fiddle”

Sara said: Jan 25, 2011
191 posts

I have a 12 year old student at Minuet 2 in book one (violin). He has decided that he doesn’t want to play classical music at all, he just wants to fiddle.

I have mixed feelings about this. I love to fiddle! It’s fun! But I know without learning the classical music, I wouldn’t be playing as well as I do. I also believe it’s good for students to understand and experience classical music.

I feel like where my dilemma lies is if I push too hard to make him do classical, he could likely just quit altogether. If I give in to his whims and allow him to only learn fiddle tunes, he misses out on the richness of the Suzuki method.

Any ideas? Thoughts?

Thank you!

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

Alie said: Jan 25, 2011
Columbus, OH
21 posts

I have come across this many times as a teacher, and can even relate based on my own experience as a child. It is my opinion that a strong and well trained Suzuki parent will not give a 12 year old the option of quitting. That said, I would educate the parent as much as possible and then approach it in one of two ways, depending on the situation.

  1. Spoon feed him Suzuki repertoire by letting him learn a fiddle tune each time he has mastered a new Suzuki piece. My teacher did that with me while I was growing up. It inspired me and worked remarkably well, but only because I had a very strong Suzuki parent who made it crystal clear to me that the Suzuki repertoire was not optional.

I often use the “spoon feeding” approach with my own students and even find teaching points that can relate to both Suzuki and fiddle repertoire. At the book 2 level, you can play something flashy and fiddly with low 1s in it. If the student likes it, explain that he can play it, but first must learn Two Grenadiers in order to develop low 1. (etc.)

b) Teach the student fiddle only, using the Suzuki philosophy. (I generally will not agree to this until after book 4) Insist that he do daily listening, and also keep up his fiddle repertoire by reviewing regularly. (Group is the tricky part, but with some research you might be able to find something suitable.) I would also have a frank discussion with the parent before agreeing to this as I have found that once “quitting” has been considered as an option, it is almost inevitable that the pre-teen child will revisit said option even after he is playing only the fiddle stuff that he pushed for. Regardless of whether the repertoire is Suzuki or fiddle based, there is an element of work. If the student (who may now think he is calling the shots) resists, and the parent is unwilling to enforce practice and listening, it is a downhill journey which will inevitably result in the student quitting.

To me, parent education is the hardest (but one of the most important) parts of being a Suzuki teacher. I have found myself in fewer tough situations as I have gotten more experienced at educating parents but it can still be difficult, particularly when dealing with the parents of older beginners who are likely already over scheduled.

Good luck, and please update us on how it works out!

Rachel Schott said: May 2, 2011
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

I would bet that this kid really is saying “I just want everyone off my back” because, let’s face it, MOST of the times kids are playing fiddle tunes no one is hounding about intonation, bowing, and posture. No one is saying, “challenge yourself to be better”.

I’ve tried switching to fiddle-only lessons but the problem is that the word “fiddle” for him probably means learning fast, easy pieces quickly and playing them without a lot of finesse. To you it means merely a different repertoire used to accomplish worth ethic, expression, and character. The two of you hold very different expectations. It won’t work for you to be his ‘fiddle’ teacher. At least, it didn’t work for me.

Cynthia Faisst said: Jun 7, 2011
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

There are Fiddle players with in the Suzuki Movement and it is very helpful when students go off to attend fiddle instruction with alternative teachers to have them back you up on the need for adequate technique.
The young new breed of Fiddlers that youth can find on YouTube are no slouches when it comes to skill, technique and musical adaptability.

Ms. Cynthia
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

said: Jun 7, 2011
 12 posts

Fiddling done well is no easy option. It does seem to fit in well with Suzuki as many fiddle players learn by ear. But I agree to be a well rounded musician you need to be able to do classical, learn theory and then apply the skills to fiddle playing. If you learn the trills and bowing styles appropriate to classical music then you can use the control over your fingers and bow arm that you have learned to play fiddle much better!

My daughter went to a Scottish fiddle workshop on Sunday and was stretched by having to learn a tune by ear, (with relatively few repetitions), adapt to a different bowing style, play appropriately styled ornamentation plus understand a long and detailed discussion on playing and improvising chordal accompaniments to the melody (and then take her turn improvising an accompaniment). My daughter said afterwards how grateful she was to her piano teacher for teaching her all the chords in a scale so she knew what was going on when the lead fiddle player was discussing root notes and inversions and chord substitutions. And commented on the similarities and differences between baroque ornamentation and some of the Cape Breton style wiggles and trills.

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