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Should a student give violin lessons?

How much should a student charge for violin lessons?

I've been playing for 7 years, and my teacher has asked me to take on some students, as their studio is full and there are no other teachers in the area. It would be starting students, and eventually readying them to play in a simple ensemble.
12 Responses
Posted: May 8, 2019
Last Comment: May 13, 2019

Posted: May 13, 2019
Welcome back, Vicky! So good to hear from you. Great advice, thank you!

Posted: May 13, 2019
If you decide to pursue this option to teach, you may want to consider paying for consultation for yourself with a good teacher.  That would not only be a good learning resource for you but would allow you to more confidently guide your student. 

A good supervisor, if you can find one, is always a good resource.  You may only meet with them once a month or so, but if you bring good questions about your own teaching challenges, or maybe even a brief video focusing on your efforts to teach a new concept  or technique, your supervision time will fly by and be very productive for you. 

Also, learn to recognize when you are over reaching your own skills and it is maybe time for the student to graduate to a new teacher.  That point will always occur in any teaching environment so view it as a success for both of you rather than thinking you have failed a student.


Posted: May 10, 2019
Dianne, I'm excited for you -- seems like a wonderful opportunity to pass on what you know as well as revisit your own learning (which never hurts) AND give something back to others. Your passion and enthusiasm alone are already "teacher's gold." Kids are acutely attuned to whether or not an adult believes in what they're saying. Of course there are many, many other aspects to teaching (it is an art form in and of itself); but I remember the teachers in my life who were unenthused and it sure made an impression! And I also remember the one or two who were really passionate. In fact, I very nearly became a chemist -- me, a non-science art geek -- because one of them was so compelling.

"A good question arises: How important is it to give the student opportunities for public performance and/or recital?" From my own experience, I'd say it's paramount! Am kicking self that I didn't do it years ago. There are SO many benefits to playing with and for others... Plus, getting them used to the idea of performing when young seems to me ideal.

OH!! I wanted to add, if you haven't already, then read "Nurtured by Love," which is Shinichi Suzuki's autobiography. Wonderfully insightful about fostering talent as well as charming as all heck.

Posted: May 10, 2019

Dianne $5/hr? 

 That's like in the 60's? 

If this is like apprenticeship to gain more knowledge/training to be a proficient violin teacher then 100 % dedication it is.

I wish you the best in this honorable career journey...

Posted: May 9, 2019
Lesley, thank you so much for your comments. You reminded me of something I had forgotten: I was 'raised' as an orchestral player. I learned all technique through the repertoire after having gone through a method one book. It was an exciting journey that brought me into the world of orchestral playing. The whole cultural experience of musicians was a fascinating one, and I immediate gravitated toward it. So as a result of my earlier training, I have played in a few community orchestras and small groups. I can draw from that and give the viewpoint of the drop and run player, and what the process looks like from lessons, to rehearsals, to performance. I have even done some busking performances in front of tables, and strolling while playing. Yikes, I had forgotten all about that! But I would definitely structure the lessons mainly around technique.

A good question arises: How important is it to give the student opportunities for public performance and/or recital?

Posted: May 9, 2019
Wow, I really appreciate all this great advice. It is very helpful. There are so many well made points here, and I would like to comment on just a few at the very least.

Katja-teaching under the guidance of a teacher: this is very well what a student teacher is I believe in other disciplines as well. This is good advice!

Maria-half the cost of a lesson: I have heard of a middle school student who taught for $5/hr many years ago here, but she was not teaching any technique, but quick songs to the very, very young. Teaching below my level: it is my plan to absolutely feel comfortable with any book I teach at full tempo before I start. If the students come in with book 4 level I would like to be able to teach them to that point at least, and yes, anything further would go to the main teacher, or they would have to travel a distance and pay much higher fees as they near the big city. I did this myself for nearly 2 years, and it was worth every penny because the teacher was Julliard trained as a soloist and eventual orchestral professional, so fee is commensurate with education and/or decades of experience, but if no other choice, I did go through a summer of teacher training a few years ago, as I was a teacher's aid for a year in the public school system. But that training was just measuring a student, and how to start a student in a method 1 book.

-Barbara, your comment about use of the whole bow versus starting in the middle was a good reminder not to overwhelm a student- this was so very helpful. With remembering what it was like, or else having the training to have an awareness of how hard the initial steps can be, we can guard against forgetting all the little steps to get there, such as having a lesson plan, and VLab has a really good one!

Elke-all you have written I poured over and have gleaned so much good information from. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to share with us all here your experience teaching your student. I could relate to all circumstances and it helped me to get a clear picture of what is involved. It seems like such a responsibility, but if the students have no other possibility, then I could feel that I could atleast offer them what I can, and yes, much planning and effort would have to go for each student. I was especially impressed with your respect for the autonomy of the teenaged student. I also like that you are teaching her to listen to her own playing and troubleshoot her own issues during the week. This was the big takeaway that I got from the teacher I travelled to. To this day, I use each and everything she taught me daily. I have never forgotten one word she said- it was worth every penny and every block of hours of travel. It has helped me so much to define my issues and challenges with the instrument and how to solve them. So another good reminder to make that a priority- how to teach themselves during the week. I think you are doing so well with your student in that and all in respects.

Elke Meier
Posted: May 9, 2019
I just wanted to chime in and give you a some feedback based on my experience with Amelie. I am afraid this will probably get a bit long - but then, who knows, it might give you some incentive to try it also :).   

One thing that was important for me was that Amelie is already 13. I don't think I would dare to teach a small child. But since I felt that in terms of violin hold, bow hold, left hand technique and so on it would be very similar to what I as an adult have learnt I felt more confident. When you watch very small children play I notice that a lot of things are different for them - and I would have no clue when to challenge them to "proper" technique. Also, Amelie really WANTS to learn. I wouldn't really know how to motivate a child where the parents might have the bigger passion for their child to learn an instrument. 

Our lesson together is a highlight of my week. And it keeps me busy for the rest of the week also. Amelie really likes for us to play together. Any "real" teacher would be able to just play the teacher's parts of early duets - I still have to practice those. 

Things I find/found difficult: 

Violin size: Amelie is rather delicate. Officially she is the right size for a full size violin. But she had no end of problems when I started her on using the left hand. Eventually we took the violin back to the luthier and exchanged it for a 3/4. Since then she can use the left hand and play without problems. An experienced teacher would probably have seen this right away and not just trusted the measurements and have her struggle for several weeks. 

Intonation: My intonation is not always 100% - and I find it very challenging if I accompany her on her scale practice to decide at any time whether a problem is her playing or my accompaniment. If it is my accompaniment I have to adjust. If it is her playing I should challenge her to adjust. That is not always easy to distinguish for me.

Left hand: This is something I still struggle with and where I wish I had more experience. I just don't know what to do about it. Amelie has slender fingers with long finger nails. Well, not long in that they are not cut enough, but long grown. I don't know how to explain this in English. When I hold my hands out in front of me and look at my fingers, there is still 3-4mm of flesh after the end of the fingernail. So coming down with a nicely curved finger is no problem at all. I can have my finger hit the string at a 90degree angle and still not touch the string with the fingernail. When Amelie looks at her fingers the same way there is just no flesh visible after the end of the fingernail. The nails grow to the very tip of her fingers - which means that when she has a nicely bent finger she automatically has the fingernail involved in stopping the string - not a good thing! I wish I had experience with different shapes of hands and fingers to give her proper advice on how to best use her left hand.   

Since she is already a teenager I feel there are some important things I want her to learn - not necessarily violin related: 
  • She is doing this for herself, not for me as the teacher. I don't care if she practices or not (well, I do, sure...). If she had a heavy week in school with very little time (or desire - I don't know) for practice, in the beginning she tried to cover this up. By now I am happy that she does not pretend any more but rather tells me right away what she had the time to practice and what she didn't. The other week she had exam week and not practiced at all, so we took the lesson to practice together - and we both just enjoyed it :). 
  • She needs to learn to evaluate objectively. "Oh, this was just all terrible!!" was a statement she used to bring. So I had her decide, what was terrible in what she just did (and then in a next step WHY it was terrible) and what was good. Nothing ever is all the way terrible. At least most of the time this is true. And if she is to have profitable practice time she needs to be able to analyze her own playing. If she is ashamed to say "This I did really well" (and that is not an easy statement for a teenager...), or if she feels personally devastated when she makes a mistake and does not live up to her own expectations (another hard thing for a teenager - and not only for a teenager...) she will have a hard time making the best of her practice time and enjoying herself in it. This is a real learning process, but I have been very happy in the last weeks when I noticed that she gets better and better in naming a problem. Sometimes I show her again how she just did something and then she notices the problem :). 
  • Something that goes with this is that when something goes wrong I want her first thought not to be: "I, Amelie, have a problem" but "The first finger of my left hand has a problem. Hmm, I wonder how I can trick it to do what I want." 
  • Perfectionism doesn't help. It is okay and she does not have to feel bad if intonation goes out the window when she concentrates on the bow - and vice versa. She needs to make a decision: I will concentrate on this aspect now. And then in the next step concentrate on another aspect. But be content if only the thing that she concentrates on gets better right now and not expect everything to be perfect all at once. It will all come together in time. She is very camera shy but she has recorded herself for her own enjoyment and goes back to the early videos sometimes - and is immensely encouraged :).
  • When we play together the first goal is not to play without mistakes - or else stop immediately at a mistake and put the violin down and be frustrated but to be able to find her place again and continue even if she made a mistake. The first few times she was rather puzzled when I congratulated her after she made a mistake but by now I think she has learned that I consider it a bigger achievement if she did not give up but manages to continue on even if she got messed up than if she just breezed through something. 
  • In general, I don't just demand her to practice or do certain things. SHE wants to play the violin, so I tell her the choices: This is why we do such and such. This is why we do this in a certain order. This is why warming up is important. This is what will happen in the long run if you neglect or ignore such and such. - She needs to choose but she needs to be aware of what the consequences of her choices will be. 

What I do with her: 

I followed Beth's syllabus in establishing a good bow arm. And even though in the pieces she uses the middle of the bow a lot now, we still do a lot of whole bow exercises in slow Dowani scales. I like those a lot. Even though they are just slow and boring scales the accompaniment makes it into beautiful music. They give a good basis to also expand her knowledge of music theory. 

Music theory is something that is important to me. Her knowlegde of theory has to keep up with her learning, otherwise it will become a stumbling block before long. So with a new piece I have her explain to me all that she can see from looking at the sheet music. In the beginning she reacted as if we were in an exam situation when I started to ask questions and was embarrassed when she did not know an answer. But by now she has understood that unless she is willing to even say something that is wrong I won't know what I need to explain to her.

Rhythm and counting are a challenge for her, since she has not had much of fractions in math yet (i.e. not much of a concept of quarter, eighth or sixteenth yet). So that is another focus as it will free her to work out things on her own and not be dependent on me showing her how to play something. When we play together I let her count us in and decide on the tempo. That was hard for her in the beginning, but it is getting much easier now and I am very happy with the security she is gaining this way. 

I try to use any opportunity that presents itself to have her "discover" aspects of the violin. To me the violin is such a fascinating instrument because it is completely logical. Amelie is not as analytical as I am but still I can see that she is fascinated when she discovers some new little aspect for example of fingerboard geometry.

For technique we follow Suzuki. The early Suzuki pieces are really not very fun pieces for anybody older than 4 or 5. But she understands that they are good because they introduce technical aspects. It is very slow going but since we do other things on the side it does not get too boring. 

And for fun we follow pieces in other books: David Tasgal has wonderful fun and easy pieces. And I have a German violin school which uses duets a lot from the very beginning. This is her favorite :). They introduce technical aspects in a different order than Suzuki, so I have to pick and choose which things work for her. For most of the things we do I try to make sure that there is some kind of accompaniment for her to play along with. 

A couple of weeks ago I asked her for a piece she really, really likes. Last week she told me and I have found a simple violin version of it. It is still a bit over Amelie's head, but that does not matter. So tomorrow we will start to tackle it slowly, maybe even measure by measure - and have lots of opportunity to learn new aspects along the way both in note reading and music theory and in violin technique. The first step I will have her do tomorrow is develop a bowline version of it. It will be her first introduction to this kind of practice technique :).

Well, this was probably WAY more information than any of you ever wanted. But maybe, if you actually go ahead with teaching, Dianne, one aspect or another here might give you some ideas.       

Barbara Habel
Posted: May 9, 2019
Remember Diane from SoCal? She is a student too and she is teaching for some years now. Sadly she is not around anymore :-( She would be really good to ask questions.

So you will have to ask Elke about her experiences with her student.

Posted: May 9, 2019
Dianne, sounds like an adventure and right up your alley! Since besides all your orchestra experience and sight reading abilities, you seem to have a really solid grasp of technique and theory. I think what the others have said, i.e. with full support of a trained teacher and charging at a lower rate, makes a lot of sense. Sometimes the best way to learn something is to teach it!

Barbara Habel
Posted: May 9, 2019
Dear Dianne

I have done it too for several lessons at the 5 year mark of playing. But the student did not like it and gave up quickly. Was was starting her with whole bows. Maybe not the best thing to do :-(

It made me think a lot about how I should have done it. And now I would start in the middle of the bow.

Also students like quick progress. Have a book like

Sassmannshaus, Kurt - Early Start on the Violin Book 1 Published by Baerenreiter Verlag

  . It is colourful and a student can do several pages a week and will feel he / she has accomplished something.

Best wishes for your new lease in life.

Posted: May 9, 2019

Personnally I could take on students if these requirements would be fulfilled.

-There are not enough available trained teacher
-Full support of a trained teacher
-The students would be starting violin from scratch
-The trained teacher and go through the basic things that need to be checked about position etc. (I think we are mostly aware of these things, but it is good to go through this)
-Go through with the trained teacher things that should be covered before moving to next piece, topic... Also go through with the trained teacher basic methodology, practice skills etc. 
-Agree with the trained teacher when the student should be passed to the trained teacher.

If this would be fulfilled, I would say, go for it - it will be a great opportunity for yourself and I am sure you will learn a lot at the same time and simestudents wh would otherwise be without teaching gets an opportunity to learn the violin.

Coursera has a good e-leárning about teaching violin - I would recommend you to take that.

Posted: May 9, 2019
Yes  you could teach if the student is below your level  and perhaps you can get half of what would a teacher would charge...

Elke, is doing it perhaps she can give you an idea and more information.

Excited for you! Good luck and may you have lots of prospect students🙏🏼🌷