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Teach your student to teach themselves
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
January 17, 2011 - 5:21 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11694

Let's face it. A student spends probably one hour a week with a teacher and up to 40 hours practicing at home by themselves. Don't just tell your students what they are doing wrong, rather ask them questions that will help them troubleshoot themselves. Give them tips on how they can analyze their sound production, how they can experiment with bow contact point and pressure, relaxation techniques, listening and making changes that affects the sound. Encourage them to record themselves and teach them to be their own teacher in any way you can.

Pierre

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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suresh
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September 29, 2014 - 10:14 am
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Is not it time for us to prepare a "Teach yourselves'" document covering the needs of a beginner to an intermediate level player.  It need not be more than 2 pages.  Just my thought.

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it ..(William Shakespeare in Twelfth Night)

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DanielB
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September 29, 2014 - 11:55 am
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On a possibly related note, Pierre, the son of a friend of mine recently started taking violin in their school music program.  They asked me for some tips/pointers, since they know I play.

I found out the teacher had told him to practice for an hour a day.  That doesn't sound too unreasonable.  But when I asked about the practice routine or schedule, I found out the teacher had given no indication at all of what he should be practising.  I figured it must be an oversight and said he should ask the teacher for clarification.  When the student asked, he was told "Oh, you know.  Just practice.  Stick with it."  When his mom called, she was told pretty much the same thing  "Just make sure he practices every day and check it off on the calendar I sent home.  He'll be fine."

All I can figure is that either his teacher isn't actually much good at teaching music, or perhaps he feels too many students signed up for violin this year and he wants a large number of them to drop it. 

They got a nice form letter on how much the student's success will depend on the involvement of the parents, and then nothing about what the parent(s) should watch for and remind about or encourage. 

Practice is an important part of every musician's day.  But it isn't a miracle cure.  Just doing any old thing for an hour isn't likely to help much.  The person has to know what they are supposed to be practising, have a routine or schedule to follow, etc. 

I came up with a basic practice routine for him and some metronome recordings and etc.  But what you were talking about in the original post reminded me of that situation and that some teachers really don't seem to think about anything outside of the lesson or class at all.  They say they want practice and/or study, but they don't give the individual enough of a clue about how to go about it and get some good benefit from spending that time.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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coolpinkone
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September 29, 2014 - 2:14 pm
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Superb Tip Pierre.  

And since I am self teaching at the moment.. I need to apply that to myself.

Thank goodness for all the help here on the forum. 

:)

(I was a very lax teacher to myself early on... I am crackin' the whip now).

Happy Monday.

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
September 30, 2014 - 9:26 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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Great idea, I can't deny, If you guys help me organize it, I'll work on it. I'm even prepared to make videos for it. I am very busy but I agree that this would be super beneficial to so many.

Thanks

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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rockinglr33
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September 30, 2014 - 10:39 am
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Oh i'm jumping on this band wagon! I've found through this forum that using all our tools here, including just recording sessions helps teach so much. I dunno what i'd do if i didn't have you guys to help out. and some of ya'lls conversations are just awesome but a "guide" of how to practice and what to strive for would definitely be awesome. especially for those like me who can't have a teacher at the moment and kinda "get lost" for a while in practice! I dunno how much help i'd be but i'm definitely excited to help in what ever way i can!! 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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suresh
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October 1, 2014 - 10:09 pm
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Hi rockingglr 33!  We can start from you.  Our members can please put down their ideas, suggestions, pitfalls, expectations, all from a beginner's perspective.  Pierrie can then put them into a sort of beginner's guide.

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it ..(William Shakespeare in Twelfth Night)

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rockinglr33
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October 2, 2014 - 12:29 pm
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@suresh  Alright, i shall start it with what ever pops into my head at the moment and i'll update it as i think about it more.... and most of these tips i have learned from everyone on this site so if i'm stealing your thunder i apologize! feel free to pipe up! i don't wanna snag someone else's helpful pieces!! 

 

Some helpful tips, suggestions, pitfalls and expectations of the beginners (not nessicarily in the order poster and a lot tie into each other)

 

1. Patience: learn a wee bit of patience when starting out (though quite hard at first sometimes) When we are just beginning to learn its so easy to get caught up in wanting to sound like a professional that when we put bow to strings and hear the horrid squealing/dying cat sounds its quite shocking! just remember rome wasn't built in a day! 

2. Baby steps. Its so easy to try and rush into learning! When i first started i was bound and determined to learn the natural notes on the G string that instant. What i didn't realize is that learning to hear each note and learn the muscle memory for it doesn't always happen overnight (unless your a prodigy or just that awesome i sadly am not) Its alright to get frustrated and set down the violin and walk away for a while, even a day or two, or even trying a little different piece before coming back to it. Its amazing what the brain can learn and understand. it doesn't have to all be learned in one go and sometimes coming back to it later its surprising how easy it is.

3. video yourself! especially if you don't have a teacher, but even if you do video yourself. You don't have to share it with anyone but being able to see and hear yourself from an outside point of view can really point out some glaring problems that you don't notice before. if you feel comfortable find a place to post them (like here) and try and get some positive criticism and critique.

4. Know how to take criticism. For a lot of people its really hard for them not to take it personally or to feel embarrassed by their mistakes, especially if it could be a stranger pointing them out. Just know we have all started at the beginning and theres a good 99% chance that we did the same thing or something similar before someone stepped in and helped correct it! so take it constructively and work on it, and then check it again to see improvement.

5. learn to "play by ear" from the get go. by this i mean using your ear to know when your hitting the correct note. I agree with most people in that it is a learnable skill and that with some time and patience it can be learned. if you try and try and still have trouble, don't be afraid to use the tapes, but don't rely on them either. try to memorize the sound and the feel of where your fingers go, take the tapes off, try try again until your using muscle memory and your ear. now feel free to expand this and use music to learn and pick up new songs as "true ear players" are if thats your style or something you wanna learn.

6. Take a break!! when your learning and trying  a new piece. let the muscles relax, set down the violin and take a break. get some tea and or coffee and enjoy a moment before picking up the violin. sometimes when hitting a rough patch its because we are tired. our brains can get just as tired as our muscles just as quickly when learning new things!

7. Go back! when frustrated at how slow progress is vs. where you wanna be don't be afraid to go back and watch some of your older videos or audio recordings. We (americans especially) are so bound and determined to be so perfect in the here and now that sometimes we forget just how far we have come, regardless of how far we have to go to be at our "ideal" place. don't forget how frustrating just putting the bow a crossed the strings and getting a clear sound was, the first few times you did it....but now your working on 16th notes or staccato, or a piece from bach!

 

ok well thats what i have for now...dunno if it really helps at all but maybe someone else will think of videos or have other awesome thing to add!! 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
October 2, 2014 - 12:41 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11694

Good advice Lindsey. :)

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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coolpinkone
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October 2, 2014 - 12:57 pm
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Nice nice tips Lindsey.  

I like the thoughts on learning by ear.  My teacher did not ever suggest that or even tell me about it.

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Chinafiddler
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October 6, 2014 - 6:35 am
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rockinglr33 said

 

Patience: learn a wee bit of patience when starting out (though quite hard at first sometimes) When we are just beginning to learn its so easy to get caught up in wanting to sound like a professional that when we put bow to strings and hear the horrid squealing/dying cat sounds its quite shocking! just remember rome wasn't built in a day! 

Great advice rockinglr33,

I think your advice just about covers most things, but I would like to add a few things myself.

Often when I am in the chat room I hear beginners (one had only been learning for a few months) talking about how they are working on their vibrato. Now I am not sure if things have changed that much in the world of teaching fiddle, but I am sure that we humans are pretty much the same today as we were have always been. Yes we can enjoy many of the benefits of modern life that technology has given us, but fundamentally we are the same. Hence advice given by the old teachers of yesteryear is still as good today as it ever was (IMO).

For this reason I think it is ill advised to venture into learning vibrato until the left hand is comfortable and capable of playing scales in tune. 

If one tries to rush into using vibrato simply in a bid to sound more like a professional, intonation will suffer badly, and the opposite will be the result.

This is where patience comes into play.

With regular well organised practice, progress should be fast and then soon the day will come when vibrato can be your prize.

Like FM I agree that we should ask our students to analyze what they are doing.

For instance I usually ask my students to play open string for a few minute (like I do myself), then I ask them to play a scale either one or two octaves.

this is followed by a question: How did that sound to you?

Usually they will say, 'not so good, or not bad' and then tell me which notes were wrong!

Doing things this way tells me that the student has acknowledged that they hit some wrong notes.

Then I ask the student to play the scale again very slowly and stop and adjust when it goes wrong.

Now I am not saying this is the right way to do things, but I have used this technique for many years and found it to be useful in helping students to play in tune and pass exams.

Regards

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fiddle chick
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October 6, 2014 - 8:48 am
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I'm without a teacher also, and the biggest issue for me isn't learning the instrument, it's learning music in general. Practicing technique is great, but if you don't know what to do with it once you mastered it, it doesn't do much good. Music theory should be taught early on IMO.

Let the bow flow.

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DanielB
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October 6, 2014 - 11:29 am
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I'll add a couple of things..

First, always make sure your instrument is in as perfect tune as you can manage before playing.  Otherwise you may be teaching your ear and your fingers incorrect things.

Second, try to spend at least some time every day playing big, long, loud, notes.  When I got given that tip, the way I managed it was to go into the basement for that part of practice, so I didn't overly annoy the rest of the household. LOL

But I was several months in to playing before anyone told me to do that, with open string bowing exercises.  I do feel that the months before that were spent playing far more timidly than I should have.

It is easier to play very lightly and make it sound kinda nice.  But it doesn't really get you the whole voice of your violin, and it doesn't build up the muscles that you need to make good use of the dynamic range of the instrument.  Using dynamics is an important part of holding interest and expressing emotion through the instrument, and if you only ever play softly, you aren't developing your ability to use dynamics in your music. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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coolpinkone
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October 6, 2014 - 1:09 pm
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Hi Daniel:

Great tip about the long loud bows.  I do recall doing this and I found that 5-10 minutes a day was helpful and actually fun.    It helped me clean up my bowing. I had added this back to my practice. 

I also like the bowing tip.  Where you hold the bow as you would hold and  you make a windshield wiper.  I like the idea of becoming one with the bow.  As an extension of ourselves...  I think that bowing tips helps me to control my bow and relax my hand and wrist. 

Practicing.  I have added more disciplined practice to my violin playing.   It is not quite where it should be.  But I am getting better.   

In chat last night it was suggested that I practice more.   At first I thought, "well I did just add a bunch more hours over the last 3-4 months"... then I thought.."oh wow, that helped..." So it makes sense to practice even more than we think is necessary.

Thanks Ken, I am adding 30 minutes daily to my practice.   :)  (with more structure)

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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suresh
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October 6, 2014 - 1:20 pm
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@fiddle chick your point is well taken.  But as far as violin learning is concerned, theory can take the back seat for some time.  You need to learn to hold the violin, to hold the bow and to co-ordinate your bow movement with the other hand at the  finger-board,etc.  

Where to begin:   I consider the starting point to be 'A' major so that young and adult beginners will have an easy access to the a and e strings; then to 'D' and 'G' major, 'C' major and so on... 

@rockinglr33,  @Chinafiddler, @DanielB and @coolpinkone  thanks for your contributions.

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it ..(William Shakespeare in Twelfth Night)

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Uzi
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October 6, 2014 - 2:52 pm
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DanielB said
I'll add a couple of things..

First, always make sure your instrument is in as perfect tune as you can manage before playing.  Otherwise you may be teaching your ear and your fingers incorrect things.

Second, try to spend at least some time every day playing big, long, loud, notes.  When I got given that tip, the way I managed it was to go into the basement for that part of practice, so I didn't overly annoy the rest of the household. LOL

But I was several months in to playing before anyone told me to do that, with open string bowing exercises.  I do feel that the months before that were spent playing far more timidly than I should have.

It is easier to play very lightly and make it sound kinda nice.  But it doesn't really get you the whole voice of your violin, and it doesn't build up the muscles that you need to make good use of the dynamic range of the instrument.  Using dynamics is an important part of holding interest and expressing emotion through the instrument, and if you only ever play softly, you aren't developing your ability to use dynamics in your music. 

The long, full bow stroke practice is a great tip that's not mentioned often enough. If you want a fiddle to sing, that's a big part it.   

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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VickieD
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Great suggestions from all. In addition to all of the above posts I wish I had started learning positions much earlier. I only learned 1st position when I first started and now learning the other positions is proving quite a challenge.semiquaver-1214

"A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?
~~Albert Einstein

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Uzi
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VickieD said
Great suggestions from all. In addition to all of the above posts I wish I had started learning positions much earlier. I only learned 1st position when I first started and now learning the other positions is proving quite a challenge.semiquaver-1214

Yes, not that easy, but very useful for some kinds of music.  As a side note, at third position, you're playing the same notes as a viola in first position -- just an octave higher. 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Chinafiddler
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DanielB said  
Try to spend at least some time every day playing big, long, loud, notes.  When I got given that tip, the way I managed it was to go into the basement for that part of practice, so I didn't overly annoy the rest of the household. LOL But I was several months in to playing before anyone told me to do that, with open string bowing exercises.  I do feel that the months before that were spent playing far more timidly than I should have.

Looking at this point of practice closer I would also suggest that a beginner student should at first watch closely what they are doing. Their point of contact, angle of bow, pressure, etc., as they pass across the strings G,D,A,E, then returning eventually to G.

Always ensure that their bow maintains regular movement(smooth not jerky) in a level path mid-way between the bridge and fingerboard and they use as much bow as possible.

Doing this will help rid the fear of playing close to the frog or tip!

In time their arm will naturally adjust to the correct angle for playing smoothly on all strings

I also suggest that you ask them to close their eyes whilst doing this exercise to build confidence.

VickieD said:

Great suggestions from all. In addition to all of the above posts I wish I had started learning positions much earlier. I only learned 1st position when I first started and now learning the other positions is proving quite a challenge.

Naturally if  they ( the student) wants to play more complicated music or simply music that uses notes beyond the first position then they must investigate and learn these positions.

WARNING: Don't be in too much of a hurry.

I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to ensure that all their 1st position scales are learnt and can be played with very good intonation before moving on.

They should also pay particular attention when learning their 1st position scales to chromatics.

Once this is done they can learn the 3rd position as this is much easier to learn due to the hands point of contact with the body of the violin. The 2nd position is much more difficult to learn because it sits mid-way between the 1st and 3rd with no point of reference, but it is a most important position and very useful if you can learn it well.

At this point I would like to suggest a useful book that I have used for year:

The Seven Positions of the Violin by Basil Althaus by Cramer Music 23 Garrick Street, London WC2E 9AX

Now I am not at all sure if this is still in print, but if it is it is worth buying.

Hope this advice is of some use.

 

Regards

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cdennyb
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If you think you can finally play a tune well, (in your opinion or others opinion), try playing it from memory in the dark (or at least really dim light) and see if your fingers and bowing arm remember where they are supposed to go.

That is the ultimate test to see if you can play with your mind and ears or just with your eyes.

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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