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Question for beginning Violin/viola teachers


PhilipKT
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55 minutes ago, Rue said:

I'm not sure I can express myself better.

By "wrong" fingers I meant we wouldn't use the 3rd finger to sound an F# on the D string, or the 4th finger for a G...while teaching a beginner in 1st position.

Thank you, dear heart, for exposing one of the big flaws of the traditional method, which is that you have to use a specific finger for a specific pitch, which is one of the major things I have to combat when teaching students who come to me from the program.
You can use any finger with any pitch. First position F sharp on the D string can be played with 1 to 4.

I constantly ask a young student, “what note is that?” And receive the happy answer, “three!” And then I say, “no… What note is it?” And I get a blank look and again, this time a little bit more hesitantly, “three?” They have realized that something is wrong in their answer, but it is the only answer they have.

The source of the problem is that they have been trained, unintentionally but well, that a specific note is a specific finger, and devil take those who stray from the path.

So sure, 4 on G, 2 on F natural etc. Thats first position as much as any other alignment is first position. Remember, the kids are starting from zero, so everything they learn is new, so there’s no need to teach them a particular way because they have no preconceived notions.

And in addition to the happy benefit of allowing a unified classroom approach, it uses all four fingers, and they are all equally spaced, and avoids all the conceptual and physical issues of the traditional approach. 
That is so obvious and I asked the originally question of why is it done as it is. Tradition and convention are the answers I’ve gotten so far but there must be a better one.

 

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1 hour ago, Rue said:

I'm not sure I can express myself better.

By "wrong" fingers I meant we wouldn't use the 3rd finger to sound an F# on the D string, or the 4th finger for a G...while teaching a beginner in 1st position.

Yes, of course "we" would. That's how traditional methods did things. Pretty soon you have fingers holding notes and then others must get out of their comfort zone. :)

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59 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

That is so obvious and I asked the originally question of why is it done as it is. Tradition and convention are the answers I’ve gotten so far but there must be a better one.

Here's a better one: Because it works.

Seriously, write your own method book(s) and find out if yours work any better. 

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

 

And in addition to the happy benefit of allowing a unified classroom approach, it uses all four fingers, and they are all equally spaced, and avoids all the conceptual and physical issues of the traditional approach. 
That is so obvious and I asked the originally question of why is it done as it is. Tradition and convention are the answers I’ve gotten so far but there must be a better one.

 

What music in what key can be played with fingers arranged as you suggest?  You're suggesting a chromatic fingering?  Wouldn't your system neglect the perfect fourth stretch from first finger to fourth finger?  That's a somewhat difficult stretch for many beginning students.

Have you looked at Schradieck?  He introduces the low-2 almost immediately.

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44 minutes ago, Stephen Fine said:

What music in what key can be played with fingers arranged as you suggest?  You're suggesting a chromatic fingering?  Wouldn't your system neglect the perfect fourth stretch from first finger to fourth finger?  That's a somewhat difficult stretch for many beginning students.

Have you looked at Schradieck?  He introduces the low-2 almost immediately.

I have not looked at Schriadeck Because he is specifically a violin teacher, and I didn’t look at violin-specific methods, and my query was about classroom methods, all of which have the same problem. Individual Cello methods are more varied and most also teach the whole hand. I glad that Schriadeck does so.


Regarding your first question, I’m not sure I follow. You can play any music that requires the four notes that the fingers play in first position.  Just because the second finger is on F natural doesn’t mean you need it in order to play a G scale. You can play a piece that uses F sharp with the second finger in position but not playing.
And why must F# be high 2 instead of 3? What is the disadvantage of initially teaching 2 on F natural and 3 on F#? The advantage is simple. It trains the entire hand from the beginning.


The fundamental hand shape is fingers equidistant apart. Drop your hand and let the fingers dangle loosely and you will see the fingers are equidistant. What can be more natural? Regarding 4th on A, nothing is being neglected, it is just being sequenced a little differently.

Also, the traditional hand has a whole step gap between 3G and 4A, when a single half step expansion to G# is more logical. Expanding the fourth finger to include the A on the string will come quickly, and because the concept applies to all the fingers in a given position, expansion can be easily taught. 
If the hand is relaxed, Then it is easy to expand from point A to point B. So the fourth finger being on G natural is no more difficult than the fourth finger being on G# or A natural.  After the basic four finger placement it’s easy to expand 2, then 3 then 4.

Edited by PhilipKT
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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

The source of the problem is that they have been trained, unintentionally but well, that a specific note is a specific finger, and devil take those who stray from the path.

All serious methods I know something about clear up that one pretty quickly. Question is how fast you want to advance and with which quality of pupil ? 

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1 hour ago, Carl Stross said:

All serious methods I know something about clear up that one pretty quickly. Question is how fast you want to advance and with which quality of pupil ? 

Yes, individual teachers tend to not have the problem. My question was about group teaching.

in every method I’ve looked at, the second finger( and low 2) is introduced after the Christmas music, or sometime in January or February, depending on the speed of the program. That means that whatever problems are created are not addressed until 5-6 months into the students development, assuming no teaching prior to joining the class.

in my own students who have come from the classroom program, that causes physical and conceptual issues and problems with shifting. Not insurmountable of course, but easily avoidable.

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

Yes, individual teachers tend to not have the problem. My question was about group teaching.

in every method I’ve looked at, the second finger( and low 2) is introduced after the Christmas music, or sometime in January or February, depending on the speed of the program. That means that whatever problems are created are not addressed until 5-6 months into the students development, assuming no teaching prior to joining the class.

in my own students who have come from the classroom program, that causes physical and conceptual issues and problems with shifting. Not insurmountable of course, but easily avoidable.

Thank you for this. I think I am starting to understand what and where the problem is. I'll think about but there is little chance I'll come up with something better than you could. Definitely worth exploring...

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4 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

I have not looked at Schriadeck Because he is specifically a violin teacher, and I didn’t look at violin-specific methods, and my query was about classroom methods, all of which have the same problem. Individual Cello methods are more varied and most also teach the whole hand. I glad that Schriadeck does so.


Regarding your first question, I’m not sure I follow. You can play any music that requires the four notes that the fingers play in first position.  Just because the second finger is on F natural doesn’t mean you need it in order to play a G scale. You can play a piece that uses F sharp with the second finger in position but not playing.
And why must F# be high 2 instead of 3? What is the disadvantage of initially teaching 2 on F natural and 3 on F#? The advantage is simple. It trains the entire hand from the beginning.


The fundamental hand shape is fingers equidistant apart. Drop your hand and let the fingers dangle loosely and you will see the fingers are equidistant. What can be more natural? Regarding 4th on A, nothing is being neglected, it is just being sequenced a little differently.

Also, the traditional hand has a whole step gap between 3G and 4A, when a single half step expansion to G# is more logical. Expanding the fourth finger to include the A on the string will come quickly, and because the concept applies to all the fingers in a given position, expansion can be easily taught. 
If the hand is relaxed, Then it is easy to expand from point A to point B. So the fourth finger being on G natural is no more difficult than the fourth finger being on G# or A natural.  After the basic four finger placement it’s easy to expand 2, then 3 then 4.

I'm not sure why you see any advantage to your method.  Seems six on one hand and half a dozen on the other.

I do think that your "equidistant" hand position is odd since it doesn't occur very often in the repertoire.  I understand the argument that it's "natural" but it's naturalness seems negligible.  Since most of the time our hand shapes include whole steps, it makes sense to introduce them from the start.

I think your thoughts make a little more sense on cello.

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28 minutes ago, Stephen Fine said:

I'm not sure why you see any advantage to your method.  Seems six on one hand and half a dozen on the other.

I do think that your "equidistant" hand position is odd since it doesn't occur very often in the repertoire.  I understand the argument that it's "natural" but it's naturalness seems negligible.  Since most of the time our hand shapes include whole steps, it makes sense to introduce them from the start.

I think your thoughts make a little more sense on cello.

They’re probably more easily adaptable to cello, but that’s OK because you know, I’m a cellist, but the reason I asked was because I was trying to find out what is the reason for ignoring the low second finger In initial string training. In a heterogeneous class,  It is beneficial to design concepts that apply to the whole class as a group as much as possible. And teaching the whole hand allows the same fingerings, the same concepts to be taught to violin viola and cello simultaneously, and the different characteristics of the upper string hands Can be taught once the fundamental finger placement is stable.

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Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, Stephen Fine said:

For violin and viola players, the "fundamental" finger placement involves some whole steps.  Having the hand arranged to play a series of half-steps just isn't very useful for making music.

I think you’re misunderstanding me, Stephen. I am suggestion that by arranging the fingers in her steps you create a more comfortable and stable foundation from which to develop finger movement. The traditional “first position“ involves a whole step between one and two, a half step between two and three, and another whole step between 3 and 4. This arrangement is Not necessarily bad, but doing half steps from 1 to 4 also allows for everything, and makes it easier to teach a mixed class. The half step arrangement is also far more logical because all the intervals are the same and all the intervals are the same on every instrument. You don’t have to tell that cellos to bide their time while you explain some thing to the violins or vice versa.And you can still do all the scales you would under normal circumstances, but all the notes now have the same finger.

Expanding the hand and adding the whole steps is easily accomplished at the same time the cellos learn their extensions.

Edited by PhilipKT
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I just think you're solving a "problem" that doesn't exist using a "solution" that isn't particularly useful.

But I haven't done much instruction of beginners in large groups including cellists. So, what you need is a classroom instructor to show up and proclaim you a genius who has solved an important problem.  Maybe this issue of different hand shapes for different instruments is a problem in a mixed classroom setting.  I just don't know.

But, then, what are you going to do for band instruments?

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2 hours ago, Stephen Fine said:

I just think you're solving a "problem" that doesn't exist using a "solution" that isn't particularly useful.

But I haven't done much instruction of beginners in large groups including cellists. So, what you need is a classroom instructor to show up and proclaim you a genius who has solved an important problem.  Maybe this issue of different hand shapes for different instruments is a problem in a mixed classroom setting.  I just don't know.

But, then, what are you going to do for band instruments?

I think Philip is refering to adaptabilty rather than rigid dogma. No ingenuity required, just playing a different tune.

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2 hours ago, Stephen Fine said:

I just think you're solving a "problem" that doesn't exist using a "solution" that isn't particularly useful.

But I haven't done much instruction of beginners in large groups including cellists. So, what you need is a classroom instructor to show up and proclaim you a genius who has solved an important problem.  Maybe this issue of different hand shapes for different instruments is a problem in a mixed classroom setting.  I just don't know.

But, then, what are you going to do for band instruments?

Well Stephen I have the greatest respect for you, but having been a classroom teacher, I think the problem is a very real one. And having dealt with young cellists to come to me after several months in the reading program having already developed the problems that I mention, yes, it is indeed a problem.

Im not a band teacher, for which I daily give thanks, so that is no concern of mine, nor of any orchestra teacher.

I came here to ask why things were done as they are done. The answers I got were “traditional” and “convention”

I got no information as to why it is a good thing, nor even as to why it is not a bad thing. But it is a valid question.

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1 minute ago, sospiri said:

I think Philip is refering to adaptabilty rather than rigid dogma. No ingenuity required, just playing a different tune.

One of the things I constantly tell my students is, “we collect solutions.” Looking for different ways to accomplish a goal is never a bad thing, and what I’m discussing here is, at least to me, a very bad thing, even though the problems associated with it have become accepted parts of the process.

About 25 years ago, I was pondering different ways to approach beginning cello. Because a student is coming to the instrument with absolutely no preconceived notions of how to do things, Any logical and ergonomic approach could arguably be as valid as any other logical and ergonomic approach.

So I started her with fifth position. Third finger on the A440 harmonic on a string. In our very first lesson I taught her A, G#, and F#. I then played a third finger C# on the A string and had her slide down from 3rd finger A to third finger C #.
It worked perfectly.
One cannot make any kind of claims based on one single example, but it did work, and that girl, who still plays, became one of the best students I ever had, and her shifting was always effortless.

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41 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

I came here to ask why things were done as they are done. The answers I got were “traditional” and “convention”

I got no information as to why it is a good thing, nor even as to why it is not a bad thing. But it is a valid question.

Actually, you also got the answer "because it works," but you ignored that.

Why don't you write your own method books since you feel so strongly that is what the world needs? And then show how it works "better."

 

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8 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

Actually, you also got the answer "because it works," but you ignored that.

Why don't you write your own method books since you feel so strongly that is what the world needs? And then show how it works "better."

 

He's got a point. But you all are ignoring it.

He doesn't need to write a book. There is no great revelation in what he is saying.

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When I was teaching I sometimes found it amazing how quickly some students were able to start playing music they really wanted to play.

One beginning adult (59) cellist wanted to learn "Amazing Grace." In fact, that was her goal in taking up cello. So for her second lesson I had transcribed it into bass clef and we worked on that at the second lesson. The next week she was able to play that hymn in tune and was ready for whatever was to follow.

Another student wanted to play the "Ashokan Farewell" - same story. It turns out my fiirst issue of my STRINGS magazine subscrription (July-August 1996) contained a treble clef version of the song - so I transcribed that for cello too and had it available for any student who wanted it.

So when little kids are started on "Twinkle" it is a song they already know and if their parent could sing it in tune they are good-to-go for playing it in tune and working out their finger placement and everything else can follow from there - and usually does. Even though I was only 4-1/2 at my first violin lesson in Spring 1939 "Twinkle" was my first piece (no Suzuki then). Many of the pieces I had in my pre-teen violin lessons showed up in the Suzuki violin books. So did must of the pieces from my mid-teen cello lessons - although I pretty much started those around the equivalent of Suzuki book 4 or 5.

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1 hour ago, sospiri said:

He's got a point. But you all are ignoring it.

He doesn't need to write a book. There is no great revelation in what he is saying.

Lots of things work. Rejecting possible improvement brings to mind the horrible teacher in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” I have already mentioned. “we don’t want it done a better way, we want it done our way.“ Is a pretty terrible way of doing things. I asked a valid question and did not get a meaningful answer.That doesn’t mean there isn’t one, it only means I did not get one.

The problems I mentioned are real, and eliminating them would make the process smoother and quicker. Yes, because tradition is tradition, the problems are accepted as part of the process and Are dealt with. But if it’s possible to eliminate them, without sacrificing anything, then why not?

I don’t think there’s any great revelation in what I’m saying. People have been questioning tradition and suggesting alternate methods of progress as long as there have tradition, methods and progress.
I don’t think any classroom teachers are reading this post and these comments, and all the private teachers are probably overcoming the problem in their individual lessons anyway, So yes there’s nothing here but discussion.

But the next time you have a young violinist, Give some thought.

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4 hours ago, sospiri said:

He doesn't need to write a book. There is no great revelation in what he is saying.

Apparently every current beginner method book is problematic in his mind (despite the fact that they have worked well for countless students for centuries) which is why I suggested that he write his own book to solve this non-existent problem.

After all:

3 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

But if it’s possible to eliminate them, without sacrificing anything, then why not?

Why not, indeed?

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2 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

Lots of things work. Rejecting possible improvement brings to mind the horrible teacher in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” I have already mentioned. “we don’t want it done a better way, we want it done our way.“ Is a pretty terrible way of doing things. I asked a valid question and did not get a meaningful answer.That doesn’t mean there isn’t one, it only means I did not get one.

The problems I mentioned are real, and eliminating them would make the process smoother and quicker. Yes, because tradition is tradition, the problems are accepted as part of the process and Are dealt with. But if it’s possible to eliminate them, without sacrificing anything, then why not?

I don’t think there’s any great revelation in what I’m saying. People have been questioning tradition and suggesting alternate methods of progress as long as there have tradition, methods and progress.
I don’t think any classroom teachers are reading this post and these comments, and all the private teachers are probably overcoming the problem in their individual lessons anyway, So yes there’s nothing here but discussion.

But the next time you have a young violinist, Give some thought.

Philip don't worry, I am a huge fan of 20th Century music. I totally get what you are saying.

 I can dig it. You're thinking like them Jazz cats man. 

If other posters can make bold statements, then why can't I?

So:

1, If you can whistle it, you can play it.

2, You can extend 1 until you can play anything in any key.

3, To accomplish this, different fingering patterns can be learned.

4, A good teacher can demonstrate things easily.

5, A good teacher has an open mind to learning from the student.

 

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1 minute ago, sospiri said:

Philip don't worry, I am a huge fan of 20th Century music. I totally get what you are saying.

 I can dig it. You're thinking like them Jazz cats man. 

If other posters can make bold statements, then why can't I?

So:

1, If you can whistle it, you can play it.

2, You can extend 1 until you can play anything in any key.

3, To accomplish this, different fingering patterns can be learned.

4, A good teacher can demonstrate things easily.

5, A good teacher has an open mind to learning from the student.

 

:-)

I’m going to make that into a poster and hanging on my wall.

And I like cats too!

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22 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

:-)

I’m going to make that into a poster and hanging on my wall.

And I like cats too!

 Hey that's cool man. 

There's just one thing bugging me though.

The whole tone scale. What's that all about?

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If you (the royal you, not you you) are teaching only individuals, you can teach them how you please, provided you keep them as a student long enough to get them to a "mainsteam" point should they get a different teacher.

Otherwise, the students you teach must fit in with all the other students - who may have been taught by someone else, or who are taking private lessons on top of classroom lessons. So in a classroom situation, with students coming and going, you can't have an "original" approach.

I'm assuming the reference to Christmas is a reference to a school semester?

Every new student also wants to learn to play something as soon as possible. Teaching them to have the 4 fingers together doesn't allow them to play any song I can think of.

If you want a visual aid to finger spacing and notes, use a mandolin to illustrate the where/why. Doesn't have to be a good mandolin, and only needs 4 strings (versus all 8) to be useful. I don't know why a mandolin isn't a "must have" teaching tool. It's an awesome aid.

If you want another aid, use a 16" viola. Then they "see" how much further their fingers need to stretch to hit the notes in tune.

Another factor would be age. Teaching 3-year olds is different than teaching 8-year olds is different than teaching adults.

 

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