Violin/Beginners

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Question
What beginning music materials, like method books, would you recommend for young students?

What size violin & cello would you recommend for beginner students ages 8, 11, and 13? I am curious about appropriate sizes of each instrument for each age.

Any other information or resources that would be good to know about for beginners?

Thank you!

Answer
Hi Marty,

Thanks for your questions.  You packed a lot into a few short sentences, but let me try to give you at least a brief reply to each . . .

There are many fine method books available, and much depends on the teacher and the type of student.  It's very difficult to teach yourself from a book, so I would strongly recommend finding a teacher.  The teacher will, undoubtedly, have certain method books that they will ask you to purchase.  However, to answer your question . . . For students younger than about 8 or 9, the Suzuki method is excellent - again with a teacher.  Suzuki is particularly good for these younger players because there is less focus on the notes and more focus on the body and the music itself.  Also, Suzuki programs typically involve group lessons and at this age, they really need to see their peers playing, interact with them, be seen by them, and be motivated by them.  For older students, I like to use a little-known method - "Wohlfahrt Op. 38 Easiest Elementary Method".  It is best used in conjunction with other materials, and as I've mentioned - with a teacher!  As for other materials for young players - you'll need a well-setup violin, with a decently carved bridge and, preferably, synthetic strings.  You'll need a decent bow with real horsehair.  You'll need some decent rosin - there are many good ones, but don't get anything under $5.00.  You'll need a shoulder rest or sponge.  You may also like to have a music stand, a mute, a cotton cloth (to wipe the rosin off the violin and bow after each practice, and a pitch pipe (if you don't have a piano to tune to).

As for sizing, again it's best to take the advice of a teacher.  The child should be measured.  There are numerous websites that talk about how to do this and give arm measurements for different sizes of violin (Google "violin sizes").  The teacher will also consider the child's finger length, build, and other factors into account when deciding on a size.  Generally speaking, at eight years old, children are usually in a 1/2 size, sometimes a 1/4.  They get into a 3/4 at about 10 or 11.  By 12 or 13, they are usually ready for a 4/4.  But every child is different.

Other information/resources . . . I'll repeat it because it's vital: Be sure your instrument is setup well, by a professional.  (Stay away from the $100 violins on Ebay.)  

Be sure they practice regularly - every day if possible.  The routine is more important than the length of time they practice.  To be successful, they'll need to practice carefully - not sloppily.  The goal is for them to repeat the correct notes with the correct posture.  Every time they repeat it incorrectly, they are learning to play it WRONG!  So, slow and steady and careful during practice.  Young children should keep the practice sessions short.  

You must have a good teacher!   

There are some great resources online, now.  Check out the Ebay videos by ProfessorV for supplemental instruction.

Keep it fun!  Young players who succeed are the young players who LOVE TO PLAY.  It does take dedication and commitment to a practice schedule.  But, if it's not fun, they won't do well.  Keep them motivated.  Take them to fiddle camp, the symphony, etc.  Listen to recorded violin music and see what they like - Celtic, Bluegrass, Concertos, etc.  Take them to see a soloist perform.  (Go see "Time for Three" if they come to your area.  They're fantastic for young people.)  

Good luck to you and your little musicians!

Best Regards,
Jim Fisher  

Violin

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James S. Fisher

Expertise

Please Note: For an accurate appraisal of your instrument's value or history, I must advise you to take it to a local luthier or string shop for an evaluation. It's really not possible to do this with any accuracy via email.

However, I am happy to answer other questions about violins, bows, violin playing, and violin/bow repair. I can also talk with you about what bows, rosin, strings, cases, shoulder rests, etc. might work best for you and your particular instrument. (There are some great new products on the market.) I've taught violin and fiddle playing for the past 18 years and will answer questions about playing and technique.

Experience

I've been studying the violin for over thirty years. I started teaching in 1996. In addition to my training at Lebanon Valley College and at the Violin Institute, I handle violins, bows, and customer questions of all sorts on a daily basis in my shop - J.S. Fisher Violins, www.fisherviolins.com.

Organizations
NAAM, ASTA

Education/Credentials
I hold a Bachelor of Music degree from Lebanon Valley College, as well as certificates in violin repair, violin maintenance, and bow rehairing from the Violin Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

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