Saturday, October 17, 2009

Very First Private Lesson (Complete Beginner)

All teacher/student relationships have to start somewhere. I still get a little nervous at first lessons, and I know most of my students do as well. Before the first lesson, student and teacher should talk on the phone or by email. Take down some notes about the student’s musical background and what kind of music they are interested in as well as their phone number and email address. Review these topics at the beginning of the lesson and play a little for them so they can hear your fiddling.

The first real job in the lesson is to assess a student’s instrument. All kinds of violins are available these days and it’s best to give your assessment right off so that your student knows what they’re in for (or if they’ve been had). Check the bow to make sure it’s the right size and explain tightening, loosening, and rosin. For younger students it’s nice to have corn cushions for their thumb and the pinky.

Tune and play on the violin, listening for strings that need replacing and rattles or buzzing. I also check out the height, size and placement of the bridge. It’s great to keep a three-quarter/full and one-quarter/half sized shoulder rest with you to loan out until students have a chance to get one. I always use tapes or stickers on the fingerboard for beginners. Some students resist, especially if they’re already musical, but it will actually save them frustration in the end and help to quickly train up their left hand. Again, for younger players I also sometimes use a corn cushion on the violin for the thumb and moleskin to cover the chin rest.

At the first lesson I teach the parts of the violin and bow and a bit about how the violin and bow produce sound together. The skills I teach at the first lesson are the bow grip, the violin position, the basic shuffle, and the A Major Scale. At the second lesson we go over all of that and add Boil Them Cabbage Down. For some younger students this may take several lessons.

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