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Extremely untalented pupils who don't practise at all and choosing

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#31 linda.ff

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 13:03

You couldn't make it up really..... how did Suzuki do it?

Mother-tongue method. Started them really young - and assuming ours were taught according to Suzuki's principles, and I have every reason to believe they were, LOTS of listening, mostly with little music games to begin with and physical games. In our first lesson they were given a large piece of paper, the teacher drew around their feet after having put them into a good posture, told us they had to colour them in and practise standing on the paper every day and by the next week we were playing games to see if they could get it right with their eyes closed. They didn't have violins to begin with: we were told to get a smallish food-box, like a small cereal packet, and tape a ruler to it, and the practised holding it on their shoulders, spinning it around, seeing who could hold it longest without it falllng on the floor... by about the third week the teacher had given us a length of dowel and they practised games with fingers holding it.

 

Meanwhile we got going on the "set" rhythms - most people made up their own words to them, but ours were Everybody Down-up, Caterpillar caterpillar, Run rabbit run rabbit and Twopence and threepence  - and they clapped them recognised them when clapped, heard them played on the violin, moved the dowel up and down to the rhythms, and left to right... after about a month, two little violins were hired, and they had fun practising holding them under the arm, then at arm's length and turning them over, looking along their left shoulder (head moved by the teacher: "that's what noses are for!") and lift chin back on to the chin-rest, and if a parent was there to catch it, trying to hold it there with no hands while standing with a straight back. Eventually, with gold tape marking the edges of the usable length of the bow, and with a "traffic warden" made of a pencil and a rubber band sitting against the left edge of the violin to prevent the bow sliding out of line, they played Everybody-down-up on the E string. No further than that until they were keeping the bow flat, straight and within the gold tapes. Still holding the shoulder of the violin at that stage.

 

But of course you can play Everybody-down-up over and over again while your teacher changes the pitches on her violin to those of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star so that you take a full part in the first of the Twinkle variations. Maybe try another rhythm: remember they've been moving the dowel "bow" - and their own bow when they got it - to these rhythms at various angles before applying it to the violin - and after another couple of weeks, listening to the teacher playing it on the A string and seeing if they can spot which it is, and then trying it on their own A string.

 

Fingers on the string might take about a term.

 

THAT is teeny-weeny achievable targets. And by exploring the ways to develop it through games and exercises, posture was established right at the start so that they know no other, correct bow-hold, straight lines - our fees included group lessons about once a month in which some of them got to play solo, some got to choose what the group would play (there were four classes - ours was the largest group outside of London) and there were a lot of simple games and exercises - I remember us having to close our eyes and point if we heard any sounds as the children picked up their violins from the floor and put them on their shoulders and then at a signal from the teacher reversed the process. Teeny-weeny steps each achievable before moving on. 


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#32 Chomp

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 16:44

Perhaps these Kodaly people actually have got it right, and if the musicianship training is put in place early on, the task of learning an instrument is made easier.


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#33 lingle

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 17:54

Fascinating Linda, thank you, I will be rereading that.
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#34 lingle

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 18:27

Musical futures has it right too.
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#35 Joni

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 18:30

In lessons now, in case anyone is wondering if  I've disappeared.

I totally understand and sympathise with you. I don't teach violin but I find the issues you brought up frustrating also in own lessons. I was venting in my other post about some of the issues!  I've learnt to reconcile the pupils that don't practice or can't concentrate well by giving them a practice chart, mentioning to the parents that they haven't completed homework etc.. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't it depends on how involved the parents/guardians are in their lives. I find a lot of teenagers are going through that difficult teenage years, are self concious and lack confidence. That's part of the issue and I try to build their confidence and it works sometimes. But unfortunately many of these pupils have other issues that I can't fix as I'm not a therapist! I hope it all improves for you. 


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#36 Joni

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 18:33

 

 

I don't think they're too young, having lots of average pupils that age who can play simple tunes around Initial/Prep Test/Grade 1 level somehow and some super talented ones who played around Grade 5-7 standard at the age of 7/8 which are the exception of course, but show it's more down to talent and practice than age.

 

Are you sure they are not too young? At least the 6 year olds really are quite small. My daughter started cello at five and a bit, with a very patient teacher and supportive (pushy!) mother. Though the instrument was her choice, she was a very reluctant bower for MANY months, and progress was really painfully slow. She took grade 1 only after 3 years. Though she gave up cello somewhere after grade 6, she has grade 8 now in 3 other instruments, and musical theatre, and at 18 is still very much involved in music making. I can't help feeling it must be very tough for your young pupils if they are not getting any encouragement at home, and their teacher has also given up on them. My daughter's cello teacher was Italian and, like you, found the English attitude to exams somewhat peculiar. However, in the face of daughter's obstructiveness and occasional naughtiness, she never ceased to proclaim daughter's musicality and persisted in teaching her. Though she is only a very very occasional cellist now, I'm sure my daughter benefited from this early musical training and the faith this teacher had in her.

 

With 5 year olds it's (generally speaking) slower than 7 year olds but then again it depends so much on the individual child. Some 5/6 year olds are faster and play better than, say, the older pupil (example B). The problematic ones mentioned above are 7 and have been playing for a while. My own kids started at 6 (2 of them not the violin) and would never have practised without me sitting with them. 

 

I just don't think it works very well at primary school age without at least some parental support. I'm not blaming the pupils, I'm not giving up on them, but think the parents could be a little bit more encouraging if the pupils are supposed to make even a tiny bit of progress on the violin. What is the point otherwise? I would then rather not bother with an instrument at all and do something else, or do nothing. Mostly, pupils do "something else" already anyway, and too much of it, hence no time to practise.

 

Parental support includes, for example, even the practical side of it, to make sure the violin gets taken home from school. I'm not perfect myself and both I and my kids forget things and not everything gets done as it should be.  But if the violin never comes home for the entire school year, something is wrong!

 

Totally agree. I have pupils like that also where the parents don't make sure the 7 year old practices. They're too young to remember to do it. I actually have had to draw up practice charts with a 7 year old and ask her to fill it in but of course she's very childish and can't really do much of it. the parents should just have them do something else til the old is old enough and wants to leatrn music themselves.


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#37 jim palmer

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Posted 14 November 2014 - 00:43

@ linda.ff

"Eventually, with gold tape marking the edges of the usable length of the bow, and with a "traffic warden" made of a pencil and a rubber band sitting against the left edge of the violin to prevent the bow sliding out of line, they played Everybody-down-up on the E string" :)

I shall have to try your "traffic warden" idea! I use a standard lamp positioned by my knee for bowing practice, aiming the bow at the lamp-post like an arrow. Or a pupil could sit by an open door, keeping the bow hand close to it. These methods work with the long bows needed for whole-bar-slurs!


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#38 linda.ff

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Posted 14 November 2014 - 11:50

@ linda.ff

"Eventually, with gold tape marking the edges of the usable length of the bow, and with a "traffic warden" made of a pencil and a rubber band sitting against the left edge of the violin to prevent the bow sliding out of line, they played Everybody-down-up on the E string" :)

I shall have to try your "traffic warden" idea! I use a standard lamp positioned by my knee for bowing practice, aiming the bow at the lamp-post like an arrow. Or a pupil could sit by an open door, keeping the bow hand close to it. These methods work with the long bows needed for whole-bar-slurs!

Ours were taught always to watch the bow, never the LH fingers - I was surprised to meet children later on who had never been taught that - and shown straighaway the "super-highway" where their bow would make the best sound, The short bows in "everybody down-up" or Piccadilly Circus if you prefer, made it easier than trying to play long ones first of all.

 

Actually Twinkle Variations wasn't their first piece, their first was Pop Goes the Weasel, where they just pizzicatoed on the E string for the Pop after the teacher played the rest of it. Occasionally a child would request to play that one at a group lesson  :lol:

 

Suzuki method is often criticised for its adherence to its repertoire. I suppose it's a two-edged sword, but of course the children don't think "oh no, not that one AGAIN!" when they hit a new piece. We were meant to play this disc, or at lest the relevant part of it, every day, the relevant part being as far as your Top Piece and maybe just a couple of pieces further. And of course in all group lessons and concerts - children were selected for concerts but often they involved all levels, just a cross-section of the children, and once they were on to Twinkle they took part - and learnt to sit quietly in the front row with their violins on the floor in front of them.


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#39 AirVarie

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Posted 14 November 2014 - 13:10

Just a thought, but if the child is disinterested and the parents apparently disinterested, why do they have music lessons? Is it just something that is expected, like academic subjects or (shudder) games?

 

But that's exactly why I posted this. I do believe that children in general should be exposed to some musical activity. But doubt very much that it necessarily has to be the violin for everyone. For some it's like a fashion. That's why I don't understand why parents insist a child who isn't the faintest bit interested and puts in no effort whatsoever must continue lessons with me. 

 

If I compare it to something I'm really bad at and don't like: Sports.  In the same way that I'm simply bad at sports (not because some coach told me as a child, but because it is true and I knew it myself from early childhood. I simply don't like sports, to this day. It didn't need a teacher to imply or point it out.)

 

As some sports activity was still considered part of a rounded education, my parents did still sign me up for a sporting activity. But I could choose a sport that I hated least, tennis. Not that I was any good at it, but at least I tried to do my best. However, I would have refused to do, say, rugby, and would have probably given the most well-meaning, encouraging and sympathetic rugby instructor a really hard time by simply refusing to join in. But in the same way that a rugby instructor might do general sporting activities, ultimately they are there to teach rugby and will mainly do that in their training classes.

 

So I advertise myself as a violin teacher and despite being also trained as a general classroom music teacher the violin teaching is what I'm best at and I generally find most rewarding (the above mentioned exceptions aside), so parents get what it says on the tin.

 

I DO other musical activities (clapping, singing, rudiments of theory, Aurals etc.) in my lessons, depending on the child and the length of the lesson, but ultimately what the kids are there for is learning the violin, as you would sign up a child for rugby training in order to learn how to play rugby, not some general running about -even if the general running about is maybe part of it. 

 

That's why I think another musical activity, be it singing, Kodaly, choir, drumming, general musicianship classes or another instrument or something else might be better for a small number of my pupils, those I referred to in my original post. Either for their current age, developmental stage or in simply in general. They could still do something musical, even if they don't particularly like it, be exposed to musical activity as part of their general education.


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#40 AirVarie

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Posted 14 November 2014 - 13:25

I'm utterly sure the Kodaly people have got it right.

 

 

Every child is individual; every teacher is individual..

 

I agree on the second, but not on the first statement which somehow contradicts your first ;-) but I put them out of context.

 

My eldest child LOVED Kodaly, my younger two HATED Kodaly lessons, refused to sing or really join in in any other way and didn't see the point of them at all (even years later they don't understand why I made them attend, so in a way I'm like the "bad" but probably well meaning violin parents I'm complaining about.). They did not join in at all and I felt very sorry for the poor Kodaly teacher who was lovely, patient and did really try to encourage them. I simply couldn't understand how they could dislike it so much as child 1 had liked it and still hoped they would take in something, even if not actively joining in. But I doubt they did if they have not very good memories of it even years later despite having had such a patient and nice teacher (unless she secretly thought my kids were hopeless, who knows, and they picked up the vibes.)

 

When they eventually were allowed to stop the dreaded Kodaly lessons and to learn an instrument, it was completely different They are  just normal children who wouldn't practise without my encouragement.


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