My kid is on their 3rd lesson… and they still are not playing!

I think this is the single-most voiced complaint among parents of new students, especially very young students. Let me debunk this off the top: Your child is not going to become a violin virtuoso in a month, or 6 months, or even 3 years. Playing violin is a very difficult skill and if you want them to become proficient at it, you’re in it for the long haul. Just ask my mom… she had me in weekly violin lessons for 14 years!

Of course, your child WILL be playing violin within a few lessons and will be able to play quite a few pieces quite well by the time they’ve been taking lessons for a few years. But often, parents of new students get a little frustrated with my method because it seems like we’re not really playing the violin for the first few lessons. We seem to do a lot of singing, some body exercises and not much actual manipulation of the instrument, let alone putting bow to strings for the first time!

From a teacher’s perspective, I look at it like building a house. You can’t start the cosmetic work like painting or installing bathroom fixtures until you have a foundation, a frame and a roof. And you can’t build all three at the same time. Same with the violin. The student needs to learn how to hold the violin, how to hold the bow, how to place the fingers, how to move the bow, etc. We teach all these things concurrently but separately.

So, in a half-hour lesson, your child might spend a few minutes practicing holding the violin under her chin. Then we’ll sing some music together. Then we’ll practice holding the bow. Then we might listen to me play something on the violin or piano. Then we’ll play some games to teach the proper bowing movement. And so on. These many small exercises, interspersed with breaks to listen to music or sing, help us create the initial building blocks without overloading a young child’s attention span.

Rest assured that after a few lessons, we will put all the pieces together and put bow to strings. But in order for that to happen, the parent has a crucial role to play. When you go home from your lesson, your 5-year-old is not going to remember the bowing game or placing their fingers like little houses in a row, or the melody we are learning. It is your role to help your child practice 4-5 days a week in order to reinforce these lessons so we can keep building on them week after week. In some ways, you will become more of an expert on the theory of violin playing than your child. I’ve even had some parents come back to take lessons themselves when their child is a little older, and because they have so much background theory knowledge already, they generally do very well!

Be patient and before you know it, your child will be playing her first notes on the violin. And in a few weeks, you will be begging me to get your child to play something other than “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” because you’ve heard it SO MANY TIMES!

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