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How do I support DS music at home when I do not know anything about music?

(22 Posts)
Ferguson Wed 16-Oct-13 23:15:33

rrbrigi -

If you are still following this 'thread', can you let me know the answer to my question the other day : Do you and DS have access to a Piano or an Electronic Keyboard?? If you do, that would be a good way him to do additional things, besides the violin, as on a keyboard he could start to play little tunes quite quickly.

(I note on another of your 'posts' you may be going back to Spain sometime.)

WorriedMouse Fri 11-Oct-13 12:35:50

Don't worry too much. Encourage practising what he's done in his lessons. I started lessons at a similar age and had parents who had no clue. They just encouraged me to do what I'd been told to and communicated through a little notebook with my teacher. It didn't do me any harm as I did gcse and a level music, grade 8 in 2 instruments and read music at university.

Definitely take him to see live musicians and children's concerts. Id encourage joining an orchestra. If there's an orchestra for his level then he should go. Music's more fun in a group!

noramum Fri 11-Oct-13 07:23:01

Fergusson, we will see.

The problem often is, we actually proposed the piano but DD was set on the violin. It is not always a parent choosing the instrument.we came but with every reason to sway her, no result and I am proud she is sticking to it.

I agree we had days where my ears were glad the practice was over but I r early love seeing DD now with her instrument.

So OP, if your child wants it give it a go.

Ferguson Thu 10-Oct-13 23:45:39

noramum - why joke? it would be great if DH had a violin as well, so they could learn together!

Ferguson Thu 10-Oct-13 23:42:25

Hi -

As a Teaching Assistant I taught recorder in primary school for ten years; also informal keyboard club with Year 6, and percussion with Yrs 1 and 2. The percussion kids accompanied the school Christmas production each year.

Music is certainly one of the most satisfying skills that a person - child or adult - can learn, and can give life-long pleasure. I admire all the support you are giving DS, and the different activities that he now feels confident enough to tackle. But do take care that he doesn't try to do TOO much, or he may get overtired, and sometimes he may feel he needs a rest from some activity for a week or two. If that does happen, try not to 'pressure' him, or he may get discouraged.

I don't know if you realise it, but the violin is one of the HARDEST instruments to learn, and progress will be very slow at first, so it could be several months before he starts to play anything like a real tune.

However, do you, as a family, have access to a piano, or an electronic keyboard? If you do, DS and you could start learning little things that could make simple tunes, while he is still learning to use the bow, and keep on the correct string on the violin. Or recorder might be another possibility, and certainly the cheapest. I started recorder children in Yr2, as younger than that it is possible their fingers are too small to cover the holes.

I will 'keep an eye' on this thread, and see if I can be of any more help.

Did you see any of the Classic Brit Awards on ITV recently? Try and have a look at Nicola Benedetti with Lang Lang (the first item in the programme.) She was winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year ten years ago, and is one of the UKs most succesful violinists now.

rrbrigi Thu 10-Oct-13 12:28:07

noramum you are right. I try to help him in every subject I can. I asked MN mother about reading and one of you told me to buy piper books and it was a great success he loves them and he improved a lot. Also I asked about the education program and one of you told me to look at education city, so I bought it for him and he just loves it. And all of these advices help me a lot, because I come from another country so I do not know a lot about the education or how I should support my child at home.

Last year (in reception) he did not even want to hear about any afterschool club, but this year something changed and he wanted to go to craft club, sports club and asked me about the violin. We started with craft club, than sports club and now with the violin. He still loves all of these and he goes there happily (that I could not imagine just a year before). If someone would told me a year ago that he will go to 3 after school activities when he will be in Year 1, I would told him or her that he or she does not know my son at all. And suddenly this year he is in an "I can do everything" attitude. I do not know what has happened with him, but I just would like to “take an advantage” of it, if you know what I mean.

He attended violin lesson (3-4 lesson) when he was around 4. At that time I bought the violin for him and put the violin in his room, and told him he needs to learn if he would like to use it. Certainly I know he won’t be a musician within two weeks, just trying to get some ideas from you how you help your DC at home and thanks for the answers.

noramum Thu 10-Oct-13 12:15:12

DH is in charge of the violin practice and he basically learned together with DD. I am joking that I will get him an adult one for Christmas to carry on.

Is the teacher also teaching outside the school? Ours does and DD has the odd lesson with her and then she also shows DH what is going on and how to help.

PastSellByDate Thu 10-Oct-13 12:08:56


I do mean this nicely - rrbrigi you need to relax a bit.

Your DS is only 6 - you've already been on about tutorials for school work (which I've responded to elsewhere & others did for you last year) and now you're on about violin.

I think it is fabulous that you want to support your son and admirable that you are here on MN searching for ideas an advice on supporting learning in pretty well every area, but you don't have to have all the answers (and frankly nobody ever does).

With violin and your son only just starting and only plucking my advice is view this: or this

(I found these by simply typing in how to pluck the violin for beginners & selecting videos on a popular search engine).

The teacher should have shown him some of this in lesson and this will hopefully jog his memory.


I'd write in the violin book that you'd like to attend a lesson so you can understand a bit more about the violin, as you've never played an instrument.

I'm sure that fairly soon your son will be asked to get a beginner violin book and these have diagrams of all the parts of the violin, information on the strings and the notes they play - which you can also read about and then help your son with.


titchy Thu 10-Oct-13 11:25:18

I'd leave off the youth orchestra until he is playing with the bow and can read a bit of music.

Theory I'd certainly leave for the time being, maybe wait until he has grade 1 at least.

You can always write notes to the teacher in his practice books if you want to communicate with him/her!

But yes, the greatest support will be your encouragement. Sit with him while he practices. Praise him when it seems as if he is getting better! Sticker chart, aim for him to do at least 5 minutes, not including getting it out of the case, at least 5 times a week.

rrbrigi Thu 10-Oct-13 11:14:54

He does not use the bow yet, and the teacher told me I should not expect him to play on it very soon, first he needs to learn how to hold the instrument correctly than she will introduce the bow.

rrbrigi Thu 10-Oct-13 11:12:50

There is a chance to join to a youth orchestra, but don't you think it is a bit early, because he does not even know how to hold the violin correctly? Also could you tell me what is the basic level name, please (eg.: pre level, grade 1, or what)?
I just ask because the level of the youth orchestra is pre grade1 and grade2. Do you think does it mean that there will be some children like my son, who is absolutely beginner?

Also he can join to a “music theory” group whatever it means. But I do not know if he is too young for it or not?

He just started the lessons. Should I wait with the youth orchestra and music theory until next term?

PastSellByDate Thu 10-Oct-13 11:07:06

Oh forgot to say two things:

For practice:

1) on new pieces - encourage them to take the time to work out what the notes are first and annotate the book/ sheet.

2) encourage them to pluck out the notes first before starting to use the bow.


Golden rules:

Remember to gently tighten the bow before you play.

Remember to loosen the bow before you put it away.

Be sure violin & bow are securely in place in case before closing.


Never just set violin or bow down anywhere - we use the violin case only. Prevents terrible accidents with clumsy siblings or animals stepping on violin or knocking it over. (well almost all accidents).


PastSellByDate Thu 10-Oct-13 11:04:17

Agree with VenusDW

You tube is great - just type how to.... and off you go. I'd advise previewing first and deciding on the one you prefer and then showing your DC.

e.g. how to hold the violin:

Now most teachers will ask you to get a beginner violin book which will have explanations of how to play notes and start introducing simple songs for certain strings.

What a non-musical background parent can do (or a parent who played a different instrument entirely):

Learn about counts:

4/4 time means 4 beats in a measure (the bit between vertical lines) and the quarter note (the black note with a straight line going up) gets one count.

3/4 time means 3 beats in a measure and the quarter note gets one count.

So you just have to clap - one - two - three - four (for 4/4/) or
one - two - three (for 3/4) time tunes. The clapping whilst your child is playing will help them remember the underlying beat of the music whilst they're playing a rhythm which may vary from it (if there are eighth notes etc...).

If you have questions your DC should have a lesson book which the teacher will write in and there will be a box for you to put any questions in. Honesty is the best policy - if there is a section of music your DC is finding tricky - let the teacher know and they can work on it during lessons and quite often the teacher will make a useful suggestion (sometimes saying a funny series of words - 'I like cherry ice cream' - works with the tune).

Also - try typing in the name of the song on youtube - quite often parents video their children playing. It may not be perfect but it will help your DC see and hear what it should be like.

I also think BraveMerida has it right - this is something your child has to do with the help of the teacher and ultimately (especially if you don't play yourself) the music will be too difficult for you to keep up and they'll have to do it themselves.

If there is a chance to join a school orchestra/ youth orchestra that really helps - DD2 who plays violin (lessons in school) improved no end by being with other people playing violin, viola, cello and bass string instruments and her technique is really improving according to the teacher.


GhoulWithADragonTattoo Thu 10-Oct-13 11:01:14

Well in that case perhaps your helping can extend to reminding your DS when to practise and leave him to do what he's been taught in lessons. I think this what a lot of parents do. It's just that most kids are probably a bit older when they start so can take a bit more responsibility for their practice themselves.

rrbrigi Thu 10-Oct-13 10:52:29

When I say we are not a musician family, I mean we never ever learnt music before (not recorder, piano, etc…). Even my music teacher told me not to sing in music lessons, because I had a terrible voice and I could not follow the rhythm.

JustBecauseICan Thu 10-Oct-13 10:50:57

dd does violin and piano and I am clueless.

Tbh, I just trust the teacher and let her get on with it at home. I wouldn't know where to start!

There are some beginner books on Amazon I noticed. Don't know if they'd be any use for you.

I just make sure dd does the time that her teacher tells her tbh.

rrbrigi Thu 10-Oct-13 10:50:09

Yes, I know probably I cannot cope with his homework by Year3 that is why I try to find him an educational program to take over the "job" from me.

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Thu 10-Oct-13 10:49:23

Maybe get a book from the library about learning the violin and reading music. Reading music and following rhythms is not that hard when you know how. And I'm not a naturally musical person by a long shot!

I can remember when I was learning to play the recorder at school the teacher saying to my parents that she was teaching herself from the recorder book the night before and then teaching us the next day so it's possible to do. Violin obviously harder but you only have to assist him not actually teach him. I'd also say he doesn't really need to practise yet but once he has a few pieces of music to play it will become more obvious what is needed. smile

rrbrigi Thu 10-Oct-13 10:48:47

I will try utube, that is a good idea.

Unfortunatelly I do not see his teacher, because he teaches him at school time in the school (it is a small grup session with 4 children).

VenusDeWillendorf Thu 10-Oct-13 10:39:39

YouTube is great for beginners techniques.

Tell the teacher to give you extensive notes on the homework, and go over with the teacher exactly what the homework is at the end of the lesson so you are absolutely sure what is required - I presume it's all written down?

Bring your DS to concerts and tune into a classical radio station, and discuss the instruments and the pieces played.

Start a reward chart for practice - get your DS to tick off the scales, studies and pieces he has been told to practice himself: and reward for compliance.

Get a few books cd DVDs and read / look at them together also!

BraveMerida Thu 10-Oct-13 10:33:52

You know I have the same problem.

When DD first started piano lessons, I was able to help but after about a term or two of lessons, I struggled and totally lost, now she's doing Grade 2 piano and I seriously have no clue....I've just concluded that the piano is something between her and her piano teacher. The only thing I come into it's reminding her to practice everyday.

You will probably find the same problem with school work beyond Yr3...

rrbrigi Thu 10-Oct-13 10:28:00

DS is 5 and a half and started to learn on the violin. He goes to lesson once a week for 30 mins. He loves it; he said he would like to go every day. We are not a musician family no one plays on any instrument; no one knows anything about rhythms, reading music, etc... The teacher would like from us to practice at home with him every day for 5-10 mins. But how? He is just learning how to hold the violin, but how should we help him? I have no idea how to hold the violin. The teacher sent home some paper, but it is not so clear for me. I do not want him to learn the wrong way how he holds the violin, but I also do not want him to not practice at all. He is keen on practicing, asks me every day to practise with him.
Any idea how I can help him?

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