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Best way to start the REALLY young on violin?
!st steps for familiarizing toddlers and preschool kids with the violin?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (13 votes) 
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ELCB
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June 21, 2020 - 5:27 pm
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Anyone dealt with toddlers and preschoolers and a 1/2 size violin?

It's one thing to let my Grandkids run my bow over my "tank of a violin" (I think Fiddlerman calls the 5-string Glasser AEX) - or pluck it's strings, but I've seen some pretty little kids with tiny violins in videos!

This all started with my BH finding a 1/2 size violin at a second hand store.  It is in what appears to be good condition. 

Bought some Fiddlerman strings (not installed yet) and a Fiddlerman Carbon composite bow (thanks to the savings recently offered) - but I don't just want to throw it at the Grandkids!

This teeny, tiny, (did I mention little?) delicate wooden instrument has me almost scared to touch it!  Maybe it's just TOO cute - I'll just have to get over it (lol).

I'm about ready to say "here, see if you can make a noise".

ANY advice would be greatly appreciated!

BTW, my daughter home schools - kinda puts a little pressure on me to help see they get exposed to the arts. Both of us have shown them videos of performances and videos of music theory for kids - as well as numerous toy instruments they play with.

- Emily

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Irv
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June 21, 2020 - 6:41 pm
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@ELCB and others.  

Untrained small fingers have a difficult time holding down strings tuned to conventional a=440 hertz.  Tuning down to a=432 hertz or so makes playing a lot easier.  Ear training is much better if strings adjusted on the Pythagoras scale (you may need a smart phone app for this as most electronic tuners are programmed for chromatic scales).

A chin rest which centers the chin on the instrument (over the tail piece) maximizes the effectiveness for short arms.  A piece of foam held on with rubber bands makes for an excellent shoulder rest for the young.

If the child establishes an interest, replacing conventional pegs with planetary adjustment pegs (which also allows the removal of tail piece fine tuners) makes tuning faster and generally improves sound on a fractional sized instrument.  Your glasser violin has this type of peg (for comparison).  Even greater improvement can be gained by undersizing the tailpiece (1/2 sized on 3/4 instrument or similar).

It is difficult to obtain good sound from a small instrument.  Typical misadjustment of cheaper instruments (poorly shaped bridge, nut, and soundpost) can make the item unplayable.  Fiddlerman strings are a good upgrade from standard (make sure to get spare e strings).

The addition of note position fingerboard tapes is a hotly contested issue.  I do not see the harm.  Others do.

If paper business cards remain available, it is a good idea to test 90 degree angle bridge position with each tuning.

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

It is unpleasant to be thought so uncleverly unclean and capable of poisoning a whole city.—Sir Walter Scott

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ELCB
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June 21, 2020 - 7:18 pm
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THANK YOU Irv!

It has a chin rest off to the side, but I agree with you about "centered over the tail".  Also, I have the Foam w/rubber bands ready and I have an old paper Bussiness Card of mine to use to ck the bridge - but I have a good eye (only up close - ha!).  Came with 3 tapes on the fingerboard (1 crooked) - will have to think on those (wonder if tapes discourage exploration of the fingerboard).

I am SO grateful for all the suggestions of things I hadn't thought about (specially the tuning) - very tricky business dealing with Kids.

I hope I'll be able to entice some of my Grandkids to try & have fun.

 

- Emily

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Irv
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June 21, 2020 - 9:04 pm
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@ELCB and others.  It would be useful if you took a photo of the bridge and space between fingerboard and strings (bass and treble sides).  A flat bridge makes for difficult bowing and too much string clearance makes it difficult to finger notes.

Small violins are very strong devices.  To not leave in a hot car or the glue will lose grip.  

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

It is unpleasant to be thought so uncleverly unclean and capable of poisoning a whole city.—Sir Walter Scott

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ELCB
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June 22, 2020 - 9:39 am
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Thanks Irv,

I will try to get a photo AND I'll take a closer look - seems to me I checked the action & bridge when we 1st got the violin, thinking this was a pretty nice little violin.

Bocaholly - Thank you again for the great link to Mimi Zweig videos! 

I have a lot of research to do - already started the Kids on Music Theory and Ear Training.

Not expecting this (but secretly wishing) -

 

- Emily

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ELCB
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June 22, 2020 - 11:06 am
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Bocaholly -

2nd Kudos to you Holly - for the link to "Strings"!  Found great story there!

 

https://stringsmagazine.com/mu.....heir-kids/

 

- Emily

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ELCB
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June 24, 2020 - 8:35 pm
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Irv -

Wanted to thank you again for your suggestions on Kids using the 1/2 size violin!

I had read up on tunings when I 1st started violin & again after I learned there were Folk tunings (I had only known about ones for Ukulele).

Anyway, felt I better refresh my memory after you talked about the Pythagorean tuning - found this, which goes into more depth than I remember. 

http://baylakeyes.com/2013/06/.....ntonation/

Maybe I just understand it all better at this stage of my violin adventure.

I definitely want to explore these more!

- Emily

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Irv
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June 24, 2020 - 10:41 pm
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@ELCB and @cid et al.  I just began the book “measure for measure” by Thomas Levenson.  It is about the science of music.  The first nugget gleamed from the book involved a Norton Lecture at Harvard given by Leonard Bernstein.  It took a bit of investigation but I found the snippet of referenced lecture on YouTube.  

No clue on how to link it here but if you look up “the unanswered question 1973 1 musical phonology bernstein norton” by the submitter “cagin,” you will find it.  Advance video to the 30 minute mark and play until the 45 minute mark.  You will find a very clear demonstration of string overtones and the difference between Pythagorean and chromatic tuning (I brought cid into this because she thinks my stressing of Pythagorean tuning for string instruments is bunk).

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

It is unpleasant to be thought so uncleverly unclean and capable of poisoning a whole city.—Sir Walter Scott

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Irv
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June 24, 2020 - 11:40 pm
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@ELCB and others.  Your grandchildren are likely too young for this, but I will repeat it for possible lurkers in audience.

I always admired the intelligence of the parents of my boyhood friends that had a creative method in regards to musical education.  It started with economy—they only paid for one lesson.

After a week of practice, the night before the lesson the two boys gave the parents the audition on the lesson material.  The boy giving the best performance was rewarded by going to the instructor.  In turn, the boy having the lesson had to teach the lesson to his brother.  Each boy had his own instrument and method book.

By this method, instructional cost was halved.  Each boy had weekly practice with playing in front of an audience.  Performance was stimulated by sibling rivalry.  Excellence was rewarded (there was a multi year age difference between the brothers, so it was likely that some skewing of data was involved so that both brothers got to see the instructor on a regular basis).   Each boy had practice of giving instruction and likely had better understanding of material by so doing.  

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

It is unpleasant to be thought so uncleverly unclean and capable of poisoning a whole city.—Sir Walter Scott

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ELCB
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June 24, 2020 - 11:44 pm
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Irv - Thanks - I will definitely check out this info!

Earlier, I read the pros & cons of some of the different tuning - was leaning toward the "Compromise" tuning... but the little voice in my head says "go for the Expressive/Solo intonation!" - no one will care but me...

 

- Emily

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ELCB
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Irv - sorry, meant to tell you how much I appreciate the story!  I will definitely keep it in mind. 

I'm kinda scared about how many of the Kids will want to pursue Music, Art, Sports, Equestrian lessons, etc... and how much I can be involved.

#7 on it's way - this is going to be not only a daunting task to see who is truly interested, but also a daunting test of logistics for lessons (and $ doesn't grow on trees).

I know some counties in our state have special arts programs for Home-schooled, so I have to research what's available.

One step at a time - thanks for helping me with this!

 

- Emily

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ELCB
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Irv - you make my head explode (in a good way)!

I watched the Bernstein video you ref'd and yes, my eyes (& ears) are open and I really hear Mozart differently now!

Now for the Pythagorean tuning, I still think Bayla Keyes's Compromise Tuning has more merit - but my Grandkids are familiar with their toy piano keyboards (some more than others) - whole steps/half steps & Do-Re-Mi... 

You got me thinking about fingerboard tape pros/cons (I never used them).  I'm not so sure I want to give them too much info on the fingerboard. 

If I were to use an aide, I like the idea of just marking where the Natural notes are (no sharps/flats) to begin with - and let them spend time exploring everything in between.

Which led me to find a decal that shows just that in bright colors - but that won't work if I change to the Compromise Tuning, right?

So, is it really worth the hassle for me to change from Equal Temperament Tuning right now (on the 1/2 size violin)?  Maybe later?

- Emily

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Fiddlerman
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June 26, 2020 - 2:15 pm
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ELCB said
#7 on it's way - this is going to be not only a daunting task to see who is truly interested, but also a daunting test of logistics for lessons (and $ doesn't grow on trees).

Seventh child? Wow wow weeeeeeeeeee wowwwwwww.

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

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ELCB
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June 26, 2020 - 7:17 pm
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Fiddlerman -

 Soon to be 7 "Grandkids" - only 1 Daughter (whew)!  ... and she swore she'd never have kids...

 

Anyway, what's your take on handing a 1/2 size violin over to a toddler (or young child) to explore?  ... supervised, of course.

 

- Emily

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Hermes
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June 27, 2020 - 5:01 am
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Hello ELCB!

Another concern would be the size of the instrument, (Take a look here ). Another approach is to tell if the player's hand can reach and hold the scroll of the violin, without their hand being fully straight, but the link is much more detailed.

So if even the 1/2 violin could be "enormous" for them, and it might not work.

Other than that I can see no harm, of course as you said, under supervision.

In any case, even if the violin is big for them, they might be really interested in it, so you may judge if you can get them the proper size. When I started, the closest violin available was another students 1/2 size, and a full size violin belonging to the conservatory. I got to hold them, etc but they felt enormous. I just could not wait for my own violin to arrive (it was a 1/4)

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Irv
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@ELCB and others.  Not particularly violin related, but this poem embraces the spirit of this thread.

To a Child

 

The greatest poem ever known,

Is one all poets have outgrown:

The poetry, innate, untold,

Of being only four years old.

 

Still young enough to be a part

Of nature’s great impulsive heart,

Born comrade of bird, beast and tree

And unselfconscious as the bee—

 

And yet with lovely reason skilled

Each day new paradise to build;

Elate explorer of each sense,

Without dismay, without pretense!

 

In your untainted transparent eyes

There is no conscience, no surprise:

Life’s queer conundrums you accept,

Your strange divinity still kept.

 

Being, that now absorbs you, all

Harmonious, unit, integral,

Will shred into perplexing bits,—

Oh, contradictions of the wits!

 

And life, that sets all things in rhyme,

May make you poet, too, in time —

But there were days, O tender elf,

When you were Poetry itself.

 

Christopher Morley, 1922

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

It is unpleasant to be thought so uncleverly unclean and capable of poisoning a whole city.—Sir Walter Scott

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ELCB
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June 27, 2020 - 9:20 pm
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Irv - Thank you!  Beautiful poem.

 

Hermes - Thank you!

I know what a deterrent the wrong size violin can be (1st hand).  I will keep this in mind when/if I can get any of the Grandkids interested.

I still have to finish getting this little 1/2 size ready.  Next, I've at least figured out I should only have two of the kids (at a time) over to our house when I bring out the violin or there will just be chaos.

How I deal with each individual child will be a tough call.  Some insist they really MUST figure everything out for themselves (or else). Timing is crucial, too - not too tired, not too energized... 

There's also been occasions when a simple offer of help (or suggestion) just shuts down any interest they might have had!  Of course they don't understand what "shutting the door on an opportunity" means (yet).

Some of the Kids like to dance or wiggle when I play - some just like to listen.  So, no matter how small each child's interest might be, I want to keep that moving in a positive direction.

I didn't have any of these issues with my daughter.  It was cut & dry.  She was older, only Band available, she picked the flute and was taught at school.

I appreciate all the suggestion!

- Emily

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ELCB
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June 29, 2020 - 3:46 pm
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I'm working my way closer to to presenting my little 1/2 size violin to my troupe of Grandkids, ages - almost 8yrs down to 19mos (and very co-ordinated).

I'm going to play Psycologist - try to sneak in a little subliminal education on them, before hand. 

Well, not exactly - just figured it couldn't hurt to see if my Daughter will play a few Fiddlerman beginner videos for them (in between their other educational videos).  Maybe "How to hold the Bow" and "Natural notes on the A string" to start.

Irv - the subject about the Pythagorean tuning and making it easier on little fingers, I have some questions.

Are there any soft tension strings for fractional violins? 

Could really warm strings make a difference on how much all of us are going to suffer listening to this experiment with kids?

If there can be an "Octave" full size violin, can there be a 1/2 size one?

 

- Emily

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Irv
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June 29, 2020 - 4:39 pm
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@ELCB and others.  

Musical establishments have unfortunately have made little investment in all types of fractional sized string instruments.  I am attempting to see what I can do one that regard.  For your specific questions.

The use of synthetic (perlon core) strings are a definite benefit to offset the shrill tendencies of fractional instruments.  The fiddlerman store brand are quite good.  The oriental offerings of Opera and For Tune are serviceable.  Other manufacturers are beginning to offer inexpensive student models.  In general, trim off peg ends of violin and viola 4/4 strings for fractionals.  Shortening cello strings is more problematic since they are designed to be thicker from the nut down.

Tuning conformance will have no effect on finger effort.  Tuning pitch has a great effect, which is the basis for my recommendation to begin at a=432 instead of the modern convention a=440.

It is possible to use octave strings on a fractional, but you will need to enlarge peg holes to accommodate them (which you would also have to do on a 4/4 violin).  Tuning would need to be near a=440 or your g (now c) would wobble.  Bridge height would likely need to be raised to avoid fingerboard buzz.  Little fingers would have a hard time playing them.  I would suggest going electronic with an octave shifting pedal.  Quite inexpensive.

Another thread to investigate is the “hole in heart” viola, if you are better at gaming the search function than I.  

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

It is unpleasant to be thought so uncleverly unclean and capable of poisoning a whole city.—Sir Walter Scott

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ELCB
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June 29, 2020 - 5:48 pm
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Irv - thanks so much!

Even though I was wavering about tuning to 432 - I read other articles & I'm going to use it.

I got confused by reading about the problems of using the Pythagorean tuning at "The Ideal Violinist"

http://baylakeyes.com/2013/06/.....ntonation/

Many other people don't seem to be concerned about these problems.

My last stupid question (I hope) is - do I need to change the placement of a note decal on the fingerboard when I tune down?  Am I running the risk of the Kids learning Natural notes flat if I don't?

Am I just overthinking all this?

 

- Emily

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