When looking for violin lessons for children, it is important to understand that violin teachers use different methods that place different expectations on student and parent. Although many teachers use a blended method, below are descriptions of three methods that are commonly used in violin lessons.
Shin-ichi Suzuki coined the term “Mother Tongue” method to describe his method of teaching beginner violin lessons. A child who studies in the Suzuki method will be expected to listen to music on a daily basis and will acquire the beginning repertoire by-ear, as she would acquire proficiency in her basic language.
The Suzuki teacher will emphasize beginning technique and tone, and much of the focus will be on reproducing sounds that are heard. Suzuki teachers often go through a rigorous certification process, so parents should inquire about the teacher’s level of training and expertise.
Music reading in the Suzuki method becomes a focus in later violin lessons. According to William Star, an accomplished violinist and reknowned Suzuki violin expert who wrote The Suzuki Violinist, it is recommended that music reading be started when the student begins the “Vivaldi A Minor concerto, depending on the child’s age.” A student may study for several years before reaching VIvaldi, depending upon their age.
If a child studies strict Suzuki violin, there will likely be a weekly group lesson in addition to the individual lesson. Parents are expected to attend both the individual and the group lesson, and to practice with the child every day at home. Parents are also expected to take notes at each lesson, and practice suggestions are usually provided by the teacher.
In his book Young Strings in Action (ed. Sheila Johnson), Paul Rolland emphasizes that “Music educators should strive to develop players who. . . use well coordinated movements without excessive tension as they play.”
Teachers who use a strictly Rolland approach will spend a great deal of time focusing not only on the quality of the sound, but on the technique that is used by the child to create the sound. This will involve the child doing repetitive physical actions such as the “Statue of Liberty” or the “shuttle” to promote freedom of movement and release of tension in violin lessons.
In the first year of instruction, the child will be introduced to music reading as well. Children begin with letter notation and quickly move to basic staff notation. Parents are encouraged to be supportive of children, but their presence in lessons is not emphasized, and will likely be decided upon by both the parent and/or teacher preference.
“Traditional” Violin Lessons
Teachers who identify themselves with the “traditional” method come from a variety of different backgrounds. Some may use techniques of Suzuki or Rolland, both, or neither in their teaching of violin. Many traditional teachers will use a method book, or perhaps a few different books, to develop both the reading and technical skill of the student. Parents should clarify the training and background of the teacher, as well as the expectations that the teacher will have of the student and the parent.
Parents should speak to several teachers before deciding on the music teacher for their child. Important areas to discuss are the teacher’s experience level, training, and method. Different parents and children have different expectations and desires, and finding a teacher who will match well with both parent and child is important for success.