Before you start learning violin music for beginners and all of the violin techniques you need to know, it’s smart to write down specific goals you’d like to achieve. Here, San Francisco, CA violin teacher Carol Beth L. share some guidance to get you on the right track…
Teachers, students, and parents of younger students come to the table with different expectations about violin lessons. Even before beginning the lessons, it is important to talk about those goals to make sure everyone is on the same page, and that at a minimum, no one’s goals interfere. A few basic questions can usually help pinpoint appropriate goals, and may even help you decide if you’ve found the right teacher.
1) Why are you choosing the violin, and who is choosing it?
With young students, sometimes the child chooses an instrument, and sometimes it’s the parent. While adult students more often choose their own instruments, peers may have an influence as well. Sometimes no one cares much which instrument it is; other times, several parties might care strongly. Violin could be on the table because a friend or family member plays violin, because the prospective student saw a beautiful violin concert, or because it’s just what’s available. These are all valid reasons. In most cases, though, especially for small children whose parents must approve and pay for related expenses, lessons will go more smoothly if the choice of instrument is not one-sided. For adults, also, if your peers are encouraging you and they are involved in your motivation for picking up the violin, it is important that their motivations be sufficiently matched by your own affinity for the instrument.
2) What role do you wish the violin to play in your life?
You may have heard about research indicating that classical music can encourage people to think in new and different ways, allowing them to improve academically. (If you haven’t, start by googling the Mozart Effect.) Others may value the new or deepened friendships found in other musicians. Maybe you just want to learn violin music for beginners for a fun hobby. Still others may hope for talent worthy of a career as a professional. Knowing your goals can help your teacher point you to appropriate resources. In some cases, teachers may focus on certain age ranges or levels. If your situation doesn’t match, they may be able to direct to you a more appropriate colleague.
3) For children, how much parent or family involvement will there be?
This depends on the family, family situation, and age of the child. Younger children often require more guidance, while older children and teens may benefit from gradually increasing independence. In the Suzuki method, parents and siblings are encouraged to stay and watch the lessons. Parents who want to be more involved tend to like this model, and children can benefit greatly when parents can help them between lessons because they know exactly what went on in the lesson. In some cases, however, it may not be feasible for parents to be present. Some of my students are in an after-school program, for example. These students’ parents are often at work during the day, and unable to attend or find separate times to take students to lessons. This does not mean that they are not interested; they communicate on a regular basis and support their child at home. It does mean, however, that they do not have the benefit of seeing what goes on in the lesson. If your child is the one taking lessons, make sure you and your violin teacher are on the same page.
4) How much time will the student spend practicing the violin on a regular basis?
There is no set answer for this question, and the right amount of time varies from student to student with age, level, and goals. Appropriate practice times may vary from around 10-20 minutes a day for very young beginning students to two to three hours or more a day for very serious students. The constant in all cases should be that practice is regular, and that the musical or technical goals for the next lesson take a priority over the number of minutes the student practices. Depending on your teacher, he or she may have specific practice requirements, and will be able to tell if those requirements are being met. If you have practice limitations at home, letting your teacher know will allow him or her to either suggest solutions or adjust expectations to meet what you are able to do. Long-term expectations of all parties need to overlap reasonably in order to avoid frustration.
As you talk with your or your child’s teacher, you may find other areas that help you set the right goals. Do your best to keep the communication open, and if something is not going the way you expected it to go, say something! It may help you reach, adjust, or even discover new goals for your violin lessons.
Carol Beth L. teaches viola and violin in San Francisco, CA. She currently plays viola in the San Francisco Civic Orchestra and has been teaching students since 2012. Learn more about Carol Beth here!
Photo by agullalee