Guidelines for teaching violin lessons

Standards for violin teaching
There are standards concerning ethical practices and quality of work for most professional fields. Accept for teachers who participate in college level string pedagogy classes or teacher training programs provided by organizations such as the American String Teachers Association or the Suzuki Association of the Americas, standards and practices for violin teaching is fairly limited.

What happens without standards
With no definitive standards, students rely mostly on word of mouth and any biographical information available to determine the quality of lessons they are likely to receive. Unfortunately, there are teachers who will go along with whatever a student requests, avoiding any constructive criticism. It is a surprise to these students the first time they try to audition for a special music program and are disappointed by the outcome.

Guidelines for teaching violin lessons
For the student’s sake, there are some basic skills that should be covered in lessons no matter how serious the student is about playing their instrument. Below is a suggested list of guidelines for teaching violin lessons:

  • The student’s violin should be the correct size and properly set up. Many string instrument shops have helpful online tutorials on both topics.
  • A correct and comfortable violin hold with the use of a shoulder rest is crucial. The violin should be placed on the shoulder with the scroll held level to the floor, roughly over the left foot.
  • A correct bow hold with thumb bent and pinkie curved will allow for flexibility in moving through the entire length of the bow and utilizing various bow strokes.
  • Proper left hand set up with straight left wrist facilitates easy fingering and prepares students for shifting and vibrato in the future.
  • Always prioritize playing in tune. Use no more than four fingerboard tapes that are 1/8” width and check them for accuracy on a regular basis. Remove them as soon as consistent accurate 1st position intonation is achieved.
  • Attention to tone production should be a part of each lesson. The bow should move parallel to the bridge.
  • Playing with a steady tempo and counting basic quarter note, half note, eighth note rhythms and corresponding rests accurately should be taught and reminded about on a regular basis.
  • Students should have some understanding of key signatures and at the very least be able to play a one octave A or D major scale.
  • Working on note reading skills should be a part of every lesson without the use of a lot of penciled-in prompts.

This list is just a start. If these basic skills are taught in lessons, violin students are guaranteed to be able to play in comfort with a lifetime of enjoyment.

Violinist Linda Beers is the creator of the Inspiration for Violinists, a 50 card deck. Each card has a unique image and text inspiring musicianship, mindfulness and spirituality.

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