Back to Music!! How to get a good start for violin lessons this fall!

“It is necessary to be concerned about the importance of educating a really beautiful human spirit” – Shinichi Suzuki

Music is about so much more than just playing notes and making a nice sound. Music can be a great vehicle to help develop a beautiful heart and a wonderful bond within families. Isn’t this why you actually take music lessons for yourself and/or bring your child to lessons every week?

It can be hard to remember the above when your teacher asks the dreaded question at the first lesson… soooo… did you practice over the summer? did you listen? did you play your violin?

Of course, every year I am ever hopeful to hear a resounding YES! to all of these but I’m realistic! Don’t worry parents, I’m not judging you! I often don’t take out my violin unless I have a deadline either and I know all the higher purposes for playing music!

Music lessons serve so many purposes. I will talk about a lot of them on this blog this year. One of the most important is simply to give you a deadline to keep you on track! So, if you haven’t played the violin over the summer you still have a good 10 days to dust it off and warm up your collective ears and fingers!

IF you haven’t played all summer – a few DOs and DON’Ts for getting a good start:

  1. DO put on the CD and listen to it all the way through – everyday! This is the most important thing you can do!
  2. DO open the violin case and tune it up – if it’s really bad…call me!
  3. DO start with the easiest piece you and your child remember and continue from there.
  4. DO point out something good about each piece from tone to memory to posture.
  5. DO challenge yourself to find something positive and different in each piece.
  6. Don’t start with the hardest piece they finished with in June – DO work back up to it.
  7. DO SMILE!
  8. Don’t worry if it sounds scratchy  – keep smiling! Many children get frustrated when it is not as easy as they remember. This will all resolve itself with a little consistent practice over the next few weeks – your job is to be ultimately kind and encouraging.  In my experience the end of August is the most likely time of year for a student to say they want to quit. This is just a little frustration speaking – simply put on your best smile and say ‘don’t worry!’ it’ll sound better tomorrow and remind them of all their musical friends waiting for them!                                                                                                Warningif it does sound truly awful please DON’T tease them as that will backfire! Don’t say it sounds like a cat in heat (even if it does!). However, telling them it sounds great when it doesn’t will also backfire. That said,  DO be kind.
  9. DO find something positive to say no matter what! – For example, “isn’t it great that we took our violin out today! good for you!”  “it is so nice to spend time together making music again!” “thank you for playing for me!” Point out how well they can play and how quickly it will get easier with a little practice.
  10. DO play again tomorrow and point out all the things that were better than the day before (ie. they remembered more of the piece, fixed some wrong notes, better tone etc)
  11. DO keep practices short and playful! Play under a tree! Play lying on the floor! play for friends! play in the woods! – just play!
  12. DO Simply enjoy getting back to playing music. We’ll have a great year together!

Other DO’s for the start of the year:

  1. DO think about what you and your child would like to learn this year (is there a piece you want to work towards? better posture? better tone? more consistent practice?)
  2. Do set reasonable and attainable goals for music this year. For example, how many days will you practice per week? over the year? (100 day club! 200 day club!)
  3. DO schedule in practice time now, at the start of the year. If you have a busy schedule and you leave practice time as a floater then it won’t get done. It’s important – schedule it!
  4. DO make a plan for listening everyday. Listening to music is the key to sucess as it makes it easier! Will you listen in the car? at bedtime? during a meal? during homework?
  5. Do you want your child to take fiddle, orchestra, chamber? email me and I’ll give you the right contact information.
  6. DO talk about how much you value your time with your child, making music when you practice together, go to lessons and rehearsals, just listen to music at home. It is time just for the two of you! how very special!
  7. As a parent, even if you don’t play the instrument yourself. DO think about your own musical goal for this year? to listen to more music? learn to read music? learn to tune the instrument? hear bowings better?

A few other little things for parents:

  1.  DO find a dedicated notebook for lessons this year. Taking notes results in better and more focused practices.
  2. Do email with any questions
  3. Do take note of the studio policies and invoices when I send them around shortly.

Remember what Dr. Suzuki says in the quote above. Music lessons are more than just learning the notes, music can help nurture beautiful human beings. I am so glad that you have allowed me to help in ennobling your child through music! Looking forward to seeing and hearing you in September!

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