The idea for this post came after I saw a statistic stating that if a child can make it through the first year of violin lessons then they have an 85% chance of sticking with the instrument long term. I have tried to go back and find the source of this and unfortunately can’t, so please don’t hold me to it. My point in sharing this, however, is not in the statistic itself, but is rather to point out that the first year of violin lessons is the most difficult. After that, things do seem to get a little easier, not in every case, but in general.
Why is the first year so difficult you ask? Well let me leave you with a list of skills worked on from day one through the completion of the twinkles. Please keep in mind that all children move at their own pace. Some children take a year to get through the twinkles, others take less or more. Age plays a big role here too. An older child will move more quickly than a 3 or 4 year old.
Here are the skills a student will work on from day one through completion of Twinkle Theme:
- Rest position feet
- Bow 1,2,3
- Play position feet
- Rest position to play position and back to rest position
- Build focus (for some kids this takes a very long time)
- Bow hand/violin hand discernment
- Develop left hand muscles and finger flexibility and dexterity
- Ear training
- Bow hold (you all know this takes a great deal of time!)
- Identify and solidify the 5 twinkle variation rhythms
- Identify parts of the violin and bow
- Instrument care
- Placing violin in play position
- Develop heavy head stamina
- Left hand set up (straight wrist, worm hole, fingers curved - again, this takes a lot of practice!)
- Placing the bow on the string
Time out! Do you all see how many skills must be solid before we even play our first note on the violin?!?!? For some children this can take months!
17. Bow Mississippi Hot Dog on the E string (may take a long time!)
18. Develop a good tone
19. Bow Mississippi Hot Dog on the A string
20. String Crossings
Another time out! All of the above skills need to be solid before we can move on with the next set of skills. Are you starting to see why beginning violin is not easy and why the first year tends to be the most difficult? Many of the skills mentioned are also broken down into even smaller steps.
21. Add fingers on the violin (this step includes a variety pretwinkle pieces that are used to help a student develop their finger strength and tone when learning how to use their left hand fingers while playing)
22. Learn twinkle song structure
23. Play twinkle (with good bow hold, left hand posture and tone)
24. Introduce independent fingering (walking fingers)
25. Introduce detache bow stroke for Twinkle Theme
26. Introduce apple pie tonalization
27. Play Twinkle Theme with independent fingers and detache stroke!
Phew!! That is an incredible amount of work right there! Those of you who have been through it know it, and those who are just beginning are learning it. Ever wonder why the kids who stand up and play Twinkle or a pre-twinkle song at a recital get the loudest applause? Well, not only are they usually super cute, but everyone who has been through this phase knows the amount of time and energy that goes in to completing the Twinkles. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about the love, dedication, patience and encouragement that go into bringing a child through this phase. I am never more proud than when I see one of my students stand confidently on the stage and sing Up Like a Rocket or play a beautiful Twinkle. To all my families who are just beginning – keep going, even on the days when you feel like your child isn’t making any progress. Remember the seed, we don’t immediately see the results, but with lots of love, patience and constant tending we will be rewarded with a beautiful flower (violinist). To those families who have made it – Wow! You did it! You have accomplished so much! Keep going, keep moving forward, don’t let up, don’t stop!
Okay, now my part is over! Almost time for what I am most excited about. I asked several parents, including my own mom, who have successfully made it through their first year to answer three different questions about their first year experience. I think you will find what they have to say to be of great value. Keep an eye out for next month’s blog post to find out what these parents have to say…