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Hi there,

As some of you will know, I tend to teach mainly 12-18 y.o. pupils, most of which are already playing mainstream repertoire.

I have been asked to teach a 6 y.o. and see the opportunity to work with a completely clean slate. I have given lessons to 7 - 8s before and succesfully used tutor books that are readily available. I would like to buy/borrow/create some sheets for complete beginners preferably working without written notes to start. i.e. AADD, AAEE, that kind of thing.

My theory is to get the pupil holding nicely and playing pizz then bow on Open strings. Then move onto simple music etc. I did this with my own daughter and we got onto reading quite quickly. She holds the violin like a pro and bows well too.

Does anyone have any good pointers to web sites or beginner books. I have bought some, but they are onto reading very quickly and the print is small (despite being aimed at under 8's).

If I produced some sheets with open string tunes and pictures etc. would anyone like them?


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I really don't see the point of having a student read from something that isn't notation. If they are at a point where they can read the letters, they can read the notes just as easily. I will use the letters at the beginning in their assignment books to remind them of the things they're supposed to be working on (by rote - see below).

What I do that works well is for the first month or so (until they are completely comfortable holding the violin and bow correctly and bowing properly - long and short bowstrokes) is to essentially teach them a few simple things by rote. First it's just a series of long notes (bows) on a single string -- to get the feel for bowing straight and playing with a beautiful sound. Then we add rhythm, and I have them do a certain number of notes in rhythm (like 8, 4, 2 on each string). Then I have them do "Happy Birthday" on each string -- this establishes where the first finger goes. Then I build on that by teaching them "Frere Jacques" to establish where 1,2,3, and 4 go. Only then do I start with note reading, because I have found that if you start with note reading (or reading letters, etc.) while playing at first, the position, bowhold, and drawing straight bows are much harder to maintain.

The beginner books I use sort of depend on the temperament and age of the child, but I often start with Applebaum's String Builder (yes, it's really dated...). I also really like Doflein's books - although they are certainly not large print -- I've used the first one with an 8 year old successfully, but she's incredibly gifted. Another one I really like is called Fiddle Magic by Sally O'Reilly. It's a series of very simple, but very well thought out and distilled technical exercises (simple, but not always easy). It is fairly large print and has cute pictures.

FWIW, that's how I do it.

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Personally, I ususally don't like to teach anyone less than 6 years old - the progress is frequently so slow that I fear it might be tedious for the kids.

But I have found the music in the Suzuki books leads to progress and can be taught either by learning to read the notation or by copying the teacher and the CDs that are available - so that's what i ahve been using for the past 30 years (i.e., ever since I first discovered their existence). Before that I plowed through the more stanndard approach by which i had been taught, before and during the WW-II years.

A bright 7 year old can actually move through the early part of Suzuki (not taught in the "Suzuki Method") one piece a week - and keep up with piano and ballet lessons too.

The toughest thing about teaching little folk is getting their parents to keep their instruments in tune. I like to include one parent in the lessons so that they learn enough to help the child through the first half of the book - after that the child usually progresses more and the parent drops out. The competition can develop with the parent is usually not a good thing.


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