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This discussion includes members-only video content

I just joined, so by way of intro: I took violin lessons for 2 years in high school after years of classical piano, and bumbled my way through a few chamber music groups in college, but since then it's mainly been hymns in church. A lady at church BEGGED me to teach her grandson violin (we live in a smallish, poorish town with apparently no violin teachers within a 45-minute drive) and I agreed, but I am totally second guessing myself. My new year's resolution is to practice 45-60 minutes 6 days a week (so I can stay ahead of my students - plural because suddenly word is getting out that there are violin lessons available in our town, and like I said, I'm second guessing myself).

So: I'm posting a video of myself playing a hymn we'll be doing on Sunday. I'm not at all satisfied with it. The intonation is all over the place, I'm not bowing straight, and when I play with the 4th finger it often caves in (not so much in this video, but you can see it at about 1:09). I'm kind of overwhelmed by how many things I need to fix; I haven't taken video of myself before and it's discouraging. Where should I start?

9 Responses
Posted: January 5, 2017
Last Comment: January 7, 2017

Posted: January 7, 2017

WOW! Thank you so much, Beth! What a lot of helpful insight. Just after one practice session applying the tips you gave me it already sounds better - slurring, and shifting more so I'm not relying on 4th finger all the time. I'm working on bow arm straightness too - I think I just need to be aware of it.

And thanks, also, to Carl M. and Diane in SoCal for pointing me to the MOOC on violin teaching - what an amazing resource! I've already tried out some of the activities from the first week on my 4-year-old and he loved it - I'm looking forward to seeing how my students respond.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: January 6, 2017
This discussion includes members-only video content

Hi Jane, I made your video response before I saw the sheet music you just posted. I see that it is in the key of Db! Ugh! When I listened to your performance, it sounded like it was in C. In fact, you're playing it closer to C than Db. But everything I mention about fingerings would still very much apply, it's just that now all of your notes and hand position will be higher. 

The confusion though is that since I heard you starting on a G, that put your hand in second position. So when you hear me talk about 2nd position or about the top note being a D, you'll know why. 

Posted: January 5, 2017

Here is the music for what I was playing. It is just the soprano and alto lines from the hymnal shifted up an octave, and at the end I thought the whole notes in the refrain were boring so I double stopped with the alto line as well.

Thanks, by the way, for all the encouragement. It's good to hear that my foundation is pretty solid. I'll go through and watch the videos from the beginning - that's a good teaching tip.

Posted: January 5, 2017
Coursera.org, Teaching the Violin and Viola, Building a Healthy Foundation. Great Course.
Hi Jane.  I would also recommend the Coursera.org free course on Teaching the Violin and Viola, Building a Healthy Foundation.  This is a 10 week module with wonderful videos 6 minutes long, printable PDF's on tunes and pieces for children, and downloadable stuff for teaching children and youth. This course is taught by violin teaching staff from Northwestern Univ, School of Music in the Chicago area The course is wonderful for learning how to teach children and starts with how to measure a child for a correct size violin to play and forward, lots of great and exciting material to incorporate into a teaching studio. The whole course is fashioned after Mini Zweig's String Pedagory Program at Indiana University's School of Music…she taught Joshua Bell and other great soloist to play. This is a wonderful course in how to help teach young student. I highly recommend it.  Check it out.  I'm a mentor for the program and you do the course in your own time and it is absolutely free. I took the course in late 2014 and use so much of the stuff I learned in teaching my students. 
Enjoy.  I too enjoyed your playing and once you work out some of the things that need help…it will sound wonderful.  Best of luck in your teaching.
Stay tuned. Diane in SoCal

Posted: January 5, 2017
Hi Jane, I think your playing is lovely. The pinky is always the first to go- so you probably just need to do pinky strengthening exercises. In only a few weeks (or months) your pinky will not collapse- also try not to over press the pinky. Your left hand and your shifting are well done. It looks like you are playing in 2nd and 3rd position for this hymn. I only heard a glissando once. Shifting exercises (Yost or Whistler for instance) will help to polish that. It seems as if you might be concentrating on your left hand, and if you switch to concentrating on your right hand, you can build back up your straight bowing, and work on your sound-although your sound is really good already. It looks like you did have excellent early training and it will come back. Can hardly wait for Beth's video response.

Carl M.
Posted: January 5, 2017
I enjoyed hearing you play! You might also be interested in this free online course on teaching beginning violin:

Beth Blackerby
Posted: January 5, 2017
Also, could you email me a copy of your music. It will be much easier if I have it. That way I won't have to replicate by ear.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: January 5, 2017
Hi Jane, I see many wonderful things in your playing. Fortunately, whatever early training you received was good! You already have an excellent set up and basic postures. We need to refine your bow arm first and foremost. I will make you a response video to help get you on the right track.

Elke Meier
Posted: January 5, 2017
Very simple suggestion, Jane: start at the beginning :). Not because I think YOU need to start at the beginning. But you are talking about teaching others. For that reason I think you would benefit a lot if you just watched all the videos in the order of the syllabus. That would give you hints of what to watch out for in your students and show the progression of teaching an experienced teacher like Beth would choose. And, as you go along, you might find answers to your own questions.