A term of violin and cannot play simple basic tune?

(76 Posts)

Is that normal?

She has been doing violin after school since September, they didnt even use the bow till November, she cannot play anything at all not even a very basic couple of notes tune.

Is this normal or am I wasting my money?

Thewhingingdefective Mon 04-Feb-13 12:23:58

Sounds normal to me. My DD and DS have been playing violin and cello for just over a term and only recently began using bows. They do one lesson a week at school and played two songs in the Christmas concert. It sounded pretty rubbish when they practiced at home, but actually sounded good when they were accompanied by other pupils and the music teachers.

lingle Sat 02-Feb-13 14:55:57

I think what we are getting at here is that it could be absolutely great. Could be wonderful lessons concentrating on right-hand technique and aural skills, as pugsandseals was explaining.

Or it could be rubbish, with poor teaching conditions and low expectations.

Descriptions of how many tunes someone played on piano or clarinet aren't useful comparisons.

I've just spent a term teaching a little girl cello (similar, but the hold/position of the instrument are slightly less complex because of the reasons Yehudi Menuhin was quoted as saying).

We spent half our time last term picking out plucked basslines by ear, and then with a little notation, to develop the aural side. So I'd play the tune to "rudolph" and she plucked the bassline rhythically. We performed it for her class so I had to completely rely on her for a steady beat. The other half of the time was spent on how you use the bow.

Last week we started doing "left hand fingers down" and put the stickers on. This week we did twinkle twinkle little star. This tune production stuff is fairly easy compared with the stuff that pugsandseals was describing to you above. I think that's what she meant when she said any teacher could do that.

Most of us get our left hand technique years ahead of our right hand technique because we don't have pugsandseals teaching us and we just want to get the tunes out. We then have to spend lots of money on remedial lessons as adults sad So that's why it's tricky to be a violin teacher. I think the best ones find a way of making the bowing exercises fun.

Schmedz Thu 31-Jan-13 22:44:39

Whistling waves that does seem quite slow progress to me, especially with the amount of teaching time and the fact there are only 2 in the group. Violin is not easy (strings are probably the most difficult instruments to learn) but it is surprising she is not yet playing any melodies. Have you spoken to the tutor about your concerns?
My daughter learnt cello for a term through our local music service and was playing and reading melodies by her 3rd or 4th lesson..even though they involved only a few different notes! This was in a group of 6 students, but it was for an hour each week, so I suppose that equates to your child's 6-8th lesson...

mistlethrush Tue 08-Jan-13 21:27:51

The thing that makes me hopeful is that last summer, on the week of music that we have, he complained at the end of it about the fact that he didn't do enough music himself. So this year I'll make sure that there's a junior session for 30 mins every day that's set at the right level for him and a few of the other children that are there - some of the slightly older ones have moved on and are playing at the back desks of the orchestral sessions etc.

He had a lesson this evening. He can make a fantastic sound on his violin, just need him to concentrate instead of mucking around and playing up blush

ZZZenAgain Tue 08-Jan-13 18:40:23

are learnt - oh dear
are taught obviously..

ZZZenAgain Tue 08-Jan-13 18:39:58

I think you are right not to push him hard especially not at the beginning. My dd's first teacher pushed my dd hard and moved her fast, I didn't know at that stage how other dc are learnt but now I feel it was wrong. She got a long way fast but in the end so what? I know a family where the father is a pianist and plays cello, the mother is a violinist and also a music teacher. They pushed their dd quite a bit and she striked aged 9 which is a shame for a lot of reasons. THey play a lot of music at home in the family and the little girl was good, had a good ear and played very accurately from the beginning but she just at some point dug in her heels and said no. I think it may have been the pressure. The mum was really sad about it being a violinist herself and I am sure they meant well, wanted talented dc, saw talent and made too much of it for the dd to be comfortable with long-term. I know another little girl who is 8 and I see the pressure her parents put her under with the violin but you can't say anything, can you? They wouldn't listen, they would assume you begrudge them their dd's progress in some way. I have never seen that girl smile with her violin in hand, not once

Sometimes I think we parents need to remember that we hope the lessons give them something for life. If you play violin till you are elderly, it was really worth while. If you play and work hard at it to please your parents till you leave home and then never pick it up again, I wouldn't say it was a waste of time but it would be a pity, wouldn't it? We generally let dc get on with their hobbies without so much pressure, they shouldn't feel so pressured with music. I think the idea of music competitions and exams is really wrong for dc, I wouldn't have ever gone down that track. It is about understanding music and participating, being able to play it. I doubt many dc forced through grades, pressured into practising, expected to win competitions will still be playing when they are 30. I really don't. It also makes me uneasy to see and to read how defensive a lot of parents get. It is about the dc and not about the parents but it comes across the other way round and to the dc that is exactly how it will feel too.

mistlethrush Tue 08-Jan-13 11:11:45

DS (7.5) has had one term of lessons. However, he's had a violin for a lot longer, and went to the first lesson able to make open strings sound good and play rhythmically in time - getting the idea of following music. He did get to a rather start-stop version of jingle bells by the end of the term. I know if he worked at it a bit better he would progress faster - but I'm also trying not to put him off - because coming from a family where both parents are string players I would really like him to be able to join in with the musical things we do (in time) rather than get put off it by being pushed to hard too early...

schilke Bosnia-Herzegovina Tue 08-Jan-13 10:55:24

There is a music theory course at Gloucester academy of music - GAM. It is a residential course in August, not sure if you'd want that for a 9 year old though.

Ds2 went on the senior orchestra week last year and really enjoyed it.....until he was ill and had to come home early!

MoppingMummy Tue 08-Jan-13 09:12:31

Kitkat - we need to do grade 5 theory this summer. Can you recommend a summer course?

MoppingMummy Tue 08-Jan-13 09:05:26

That sounds slow and depressing (for you) imo. Ds (5) started violin lessons (suzuki method - learning from ear, daily practice etc) and after a term could hold the violin & bow correctly & play 6 tunes from memory.

Ds practises for 15 mins a day, while Dd (9) is working for grade 5 and does an hr a day. How often does ur Dd practise? Do you have good communication from teacher? I sit in all lessons and practise so I know what to do with them in the week.

I would want t know what is happening during the lessons if i was you.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 07-Jan-13 17:51:24

My dd is 9 and has private lessons for violin. She practices for an hour a day and is ready for gr3. She started at aged 7, now plays other instruments but not at start of violin, iyswim.
My opinion fwiw is that after a term or even half term they should be playing some tune, whatever the instrument.

maggiethecat Mon 07-Jan-13 00:48:51

I agree that there is much to get to grips with on the instrument. However, surely teachers will understand the importance of a child being able to play even a simple tune on open strings after a few months - how on earth would you expect to keep them interested otherwise?

Kitkat, checked ABRSM website and was reassured that I am correct in thinking that dd does not need grade 5 theory to take grade 5 practical - relief!

But have decided to grab theory by the horns, much to dd's dismay and howling 'I hate theory!'

Happypiglet Sun 06-Jan-13 21:56:51

My DS2 has been learning for one term. 20 minute group lessons, there are 8 of them. He has just started putting one finger on a string. Before that all the tunes were open strings. They spent the first half term plucking and doing theory. Then they learnt to bow open strings. They use fiddle time Joggers and play along with a CD backing track which makes it more fun for him.
He practises every day for between 5 and ten minutes. They learn together but have a piece to learn for a solo slot each lesson which drives DS2 on!
He already plays piano so has a bit of an advantage with reading the music but as so far he only had to read four notes (well 8now!) it's not very hard theory! Obviously the others have had to learn about lengths of notes, bars, repeating etc.
DS1 learns cello and I would say it is easier than violin....everything is so small on the violin and harder to see because of the playing position.

I did violin up to grade 6. My experience as a not particularly talented student was that it was so hard to begin with. The coordination required is like learning to pat your head and rub your tummy. There are no visual guides for where to put your fingers, you have to learn where every note is by ear and by practice. It feels very strange doing such precise work with your left hand and it takes a while for your fingertips to develop the strength to press on the strings effectively (unless you're left-handed maybe?) Your arms ache and it's a bastard trying to get the thing comfy under your chin.

You then watch your friends who chose clarinet progressing straight to grade 3 while you're still learning twinkle twinkle little star ...

Is she practising regularly? If not, she's unlikely to learn fast enough not to get totally pissed off with it. Either way it's likely to be painfully slow for a while.

[gin]

pugsandseals Sun 06-Jan-13 20:10:51

Maybe OP could start by attending a lesson next term to see what happens. She will probably find the child will make more progress once somebody at home has seen what is required & can support practice at home

UrbanSpaceMum Sun 06-Jan-13 14:19:55

OP, I think if you are paying for lessons, you do need to find out what you are getting for that. If you don't think your child has much to practise, and she thinks she's bored, then it may be that the teacher is asking her to do something that doesn't make sense to her, so she doesn't do it, and next week the teacher patiently teaches it again, repeats the practise request, and your daughter still does not get it.

Violin can sound very nice from the start, if you work on tone and technique first. If you start by playing tunes any old how, then you spend hours and hours later on undoing bad habits.

pugsandseals Sun 06-Jan-13 11:58:19

I am not criticising for no reason. There are plenty of violin methods that do not fit with the British exam system at all, but teach techniques in a more sensible order that will equip students better for later life. The fact that the violin has 4 absolute notes, tuned in fifths, makes the methods that concentrate on right hand work first sound to parents like there is no recognisable tune to be heard. Whereas, pupils using these methods are developing the more important right hand technique to progress with greater accuracy. It is always a balancing act between giving the parent what they want to hear & see (recognisable tunes prove progress quicker) & providing children with sound technique so that they can progress quicker later & most importantly, INJURY FREE!

schilke Bosnia-Herzegovina Sun 06-Jan-13 00:02:35

Kitkat - you have it then! I always get over sensitive on this forum!

Op - have just reread beginning of thread. You say she is bored after a term. Is she bored because she wants to go quicker or just not keen on the violin? If you have to give half a term's notice could you wait until half term and then decide what to do? We only have to give half a term's notice with school music service, but at the schools dh teaches at, they want a term's notice. I'm sure dh has had pupils give notice and then decide they want to carry on blush, so you could try that one assuming there is not a long waiting list.

kitkat1967 Sat 05-Jan-13 23:16:44

smile - thought it was aimed at me (but maybe not then!!) - anyway DS is not taking exams but roughly covers the exam material, including scales. I would estimate that he plays about 80% of all the exam pieces (we don't have every book listed) plus loads of non-exam pieces but he just doesn't seem to need to spend any longer at each level. His sight-reading is probably his strength and after 1 year of lessons he can play most of the grade 4 level pieces by sight and is not coached to just play specific pieces by his teacher.
He also enjoys playing in orchestras and has just auditioned (and passed) for a local junior orchestra including a sight reading test so I don't think we have any issues with progressing quickly.
I just want him to keep having fun and he has no intention of following any sort of career in music. I know from experience with DS1 that if he needs to pass grade 5 theory he can do a 1 week course in the hols and take the exam after that - it's nothing to worry about.
Mind you it is all relative - he already knows several children his age who are streets ahead of him and some exceptional musicians grin so I am well aware that he is just a quick learner rather than a gifted musician of any sort.

schilke Bosnia-Herzegovina Sat 05-Jan-13 22:21:46

Pugsandseals - ds2 does the grades because he wants to. He likes those bits of paper wink he much prefers playing in his orchestras to his lessons and practice. Yes, anyone can learn 3 pieces and the aural tests are the real indicator, but he has those skills.

Don't mean to sound defensive, but thought it was aimed at me!

ZZZenAgain Sat 05-Jan-13 22:09:47

I would also say just on my experience with one dc (so not huge experience) that progress is not steady but seems to be in sudden leaps. What I have noticed and I find it odd is that when dd has had a break from violin (on holiday or she has been sick or just not felt like doing quite as much as she usually does), she then seems to jump up to another level. It is fascinating really how it works. It is not just about plugging away at it although of course that is important but I think the mind has to grasp certain things and does that in its own time. I also wondered if sometimes the brain makes you step back a bit when it is finalising a stage ready to move to the next.

I actually think they can all get there in the end. We cannot all be a David Oistrakh or Yehudi Menuhin or whoever but a dc who is taught well, likes the instrument and perserveres will get the hang of it IMO

It would be good if OP's dd got the feeling she was playing music with the violin which I don't think she does have and I think that is possibly why she doesn't like it much. Ensembles are the best for this IMO but she will need a bit more time first

Beamur Sat 05-Jan-13 22:01:28

My DD has been learning violin for a term. No discernable tunes coming out so far....
But she is learning music and we don't practise very much.
I'd like my DD to have an appreciation for music and the ability to play an instrument - if she wants to, when she is older.

schilke Bosnia-Herzegovina Sat 05-Jan-13 22:01:15

Would agree with rate of progress at start does not determine where you will end up. Ds2 was very quick with the violin. He wanted to do all the grades and whizzed through the first 5 - scoring highly. His teacher said he would reach a plateau at some point and slow down and need blasted theory. There is no reason why you couldn't do it the other way round. Slow progress to start and then whizz!

Dh describes his own progress as slow and ploddy - no flashy marks! - and yet he ended up as a pro musician. He reckons he is the only pro to have never got a distinction in any of his main instrument grade exams.

pugsandseals Sat 05-Jan-13 21:57:48

Maybe I didn't explain myself clearly. Any teacher can train a child by rote to play 3 exam pieces & pass within a year on violin. However, that child is unlikely to have gained the higher level aural & reading skills to progress further. The teacher that takes the time in the beginning is the teacher that will get better results in the end & produce a real musician who stands a good chance in an orchestra. This is after all, the main aim in taking violin lessons no? To be able to play with others at a later date? Or maybe there are some parents that want to have their child trained as a performing seal hmm . I gain much more pleasure from seeing my child enjoying herself immersed in orchestra than seeing what piece of paper comes home from school next, but then I am a musician.

kitkat1967 Sat 05-Jan-13 19:26:49

Also forgot to say that i would guess that rate of progress at the start doesn't necessarily determine where you end up - surely the main thing is to enjoy the playing and have fun.

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