We at Uptown Violins are passionate about teaching, and one of our joys is seeing the excitement on the faces of new students starting the instrument for the first time! It is wonderful to watch them discover a whole new world of music that they didn’t know before.
When we have particularly young students, we begin using a box violin, often consisting of a Gushers box with a ruler sticking out of it, and a dowel rod for a bow. This way the budding young player can get used to he feel of the instrument and how to hold it before raising the stakes with the “real deal.” (It’s easier to replace a broken box than a broken violin if it gets dropped a few times!) On the bow, we place a couple of corn pads to hold pinky and thumb in place. When they move to a real bow we like the bow buddy to help place fingers. I personally like to use the metaphor of a boat with four passengers and a shark to describe the placement of the bow hand. These include Pinky dancer (a bent pinky perched on top of the bow), 2 lazy men dangling their legs in the water for the middle finger and the ring finger, a scaredy cat who only dips his toes for pointer finger, and a scary shark with a fin to encourage the bent thumb. Kids love it, as it gives them a fun and concrete visual to help with a challenging bow grip.
We also like to have students use a foot chart, or “stage” so they know where to place their feet while playing. This helps curb little ones from twisting into unusual stances, running off, or flopping on the floor.
Regarding music, students can delve into their Rhythm Train books right away, which gives them a sense of accomplishment. (See previous post about Rhythm Train.) They are able to clap rhythms that they will later learn to play on the violin.
We also encourage our pupils to purchase the Suzuki Book 1 and CD, and to start listening to their CD as soon as possible in order to develop their ear. However, it takes several months before they can actually graduate from the first Suzuki piece, so we often supplement it with the book Songs for Little Players by Avsharian. These are easy songs that help beginning violinists master their new finger placement on the violin.
We hope you find these items useful, and we look forward to working with all of our new and continuing students!