During my many years of violin playing, I always had many violin teachers and these smart aleck college music professors tell me to just “have fun” with it. Now, what? Is violin supposed to be fun????? It’s a box and a stick, isn’t it? Back in the 80s, I had this small violin — and wondered “what do I do with this?” Fast forward to 2021, and here I am……. a violin teacher, giving violin lessons in Atlanta telling my students the exact same thing I was told 41 years ago, “have fun!” I think I get it now Mr. Soho, Lambert, Heifetz, Glazebrook and the many other dear teachers who are long retired. So let me tell you the secrets to having fun at violin lessons to help your child succeed at the same time. No pain no gain doesn’t work for violin. Let’s be real here. It’s actually pretty simple without pain for actual gain. Ready?
Playing the violin is like the second hardest instrument in the world to play. I think bagpipes beat it for first place. So go easy on your beginner violinist. Meaning, don’t expect the child to practice 30 minutes a day making music so soon especially if the violin still feels really uncomfortable to hold. As my former teacher used to say (from one of the most prestigious music schools equal to Julliard), there is nothing natural about playing the violin at all. It goes against everything the human physique, muscles and upper joints were designed for. So go easy, let the child hold it in different ways. This can be a fun exercise just for 5 minutes a day, maybe just encourage your child to try holding the violin under the chin.
It’s the job of your child’s violin teacher to correct the hold position and posture over time during actual lessons so gradually but slowly things start to take form and shape. It simply can’t happen overnight. The key is to start small and make it a game each time. Just make sure the child knows to hold the violin securely and not drop it. Over time with practice and persistent violin lessons, the young violinist will be on their way to progress.
Go to Concerts
Another way to make it fun to learn the violin is to take children to live symphony concerts, watch online concerts or even YouTube videos together so they can see others play the violin. There are so many cool violin videos out there of violin players of all ages and abilities. This can be a fun experience to motivate the beginner and allow him/her to ask questions during violin lessons too. Remember, I didn’t have the internet or YouTube back in the day to watch recordings to learn from. So children today have more resources now to get excited about violin and play different songs quicker than I did.
Let Them Be Creative!
The violin teacher is so important to helping beginner violinists grow and mature, but students themselves also decide how much to grow and mature through each lesson over time. How? Let them contribute their own lesson plans and share it with their parents and violin teacher to discuss together. Of course, the formal lesson must be well structured and planned by the teacher with an effective lesson plan to begin with, but allowing the child to contribute to the lesson plan can be quite fun. It is this sense of shared power and responsibility between teacher and student that makes lessons more meaningful and fun.
If the student has a part in shaping the musical journey or its direction, you just never know what may surprise and even impress you by their ideas to make lessons more fun for them to want to get even more out of each lesson. Let them be sponges on their own account but also their own teachers too. Even the great violinist Itzhak Perlman admits to learning from his students which makes him a better teacher and better listener. So let your child teach something to the violin teacher too in return, not about technique or skills, but about the art of human expression, feelings, emotions, values, personal beliefs and young interpretations of life (hopefully not about what is the meaning of life, too philosophical for me!).
As a violin teacher, I am reminded every child has a diverse, wide range of mental and psychological temperatures (tremendous imagination!) that I can learn from and use to help the beginner violinist use their emotions and deep feelings to make the musical journey even more profound, and dare I say spiritual if I can get to the heart of the beginner. So making progress starts with the heart, and then the mind naturally follows.
Just Have Fun!
Lastly, success at violin lessons really depends on the child’s spirit to cherish and encourage through diverse means of any enjoyable and captivating practice games or activities (even fun challenges to double dare) rather than told to “practice, practice, practice!” So boring. Mix it up and make the journey interesting! “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” Even Albert Einstein knew better than that! And people thought he was boring.
Have fun! I really mean that.
By: David Bang