This 5 level course in Violin/Fiddle follows a traditional method. We use the String Builder series, written in the 1950’s by Dr. Samuel Applebaum, in conjunction with the method books of the 19th century’s great masters: Wohlfahrt, Sevcik, and Kreutzer. Suzuki music is also used. Now you might be thinking, “O no, I have to buy all of these books right away…” but that is not the case. String Builder Book 1 will take you through the first level alone, we then add Suzuki book 1 for the second level. At level three we will add Wohlfahrt violin studies book 1 and Sevcik Bowing Studies book 1. Further method books and performance pieces will be added at continuing levels. Our fiddle tunes will be taken from a number of sources, and our own FMS transcriptions. All of these books, along with rentals and accessories are available at the FMS store.
Students must have an acceptable student violin before beginning to learn!
There are many choices available to you in the world of student violins. The first thing to make sure of is that you do not buy or rent a V.S.O (violin shaped object). V.S.O’s are everywhere, looking to the untrained eye as a regular violin. However, they are made of lesser materials and are difficult or even impossible to keep in tune. They are often set up (how we stretch the strings over the instrument) poorly, making learning incredibly frustrating, often ending in disappointment.
You need to make sure that your instrument is of good quality and set up properly. We have a wide selection of student instruments for sale or rental, all set up and ready to go. Should you decide to use that old family violin that’s been sitting around since uncle Bob passed away, (see the notes below about sizing) do make sure that you have it professionally set up and readied for play. We are able to offer suggestions and advice, but only with good photographs of your instrument, and even then it can be a guess on our part if we’re not able to hold the darn thing!
PLEASE NOTE: your child will have to be sized for their instrument. Too long or too short of a violin can make the learning process infinitely more difficult. It is also a common mistake to allow the student to “move up” to the next size of violin before their arm is long enough. Your family might be tiring of the smaller sized violin’s squeaky or scratchy timbre and longing for the more balanced tone of the larger violin, but if the child’s arm is not long enough your better tone will include many out-of-tune notes, and that is far worse. In general the 5 and 6 year olds are on 1/4 size violins, 7 and 8 are on 1/2 size followed by 3/4 size and sometime in the early part of their second decade you will be able to enjoy the timbre of a full-size violin. As always, make only the changes that your teacher approves!
If we told you that we had a way for you to play violin/fiddle without having to go through the attrition of practice, we would be charging a lot more money! It would also mean that violin/fiddle was an easy-breezy flash-in-the-pan thing that anyone could do, thereby lessening the craft. Make no mistake families, violin/fiddle is the most difficult of all the instruments to learn to play, and eventually master. Now, there is a small ocean of books and magazines, blogs and videos that discuss the art and strategies of practice and good vs. bad practice, etcetera. And they are mostly all valid. Please read and watch everything you can about this subject, to be best prepared, but remember this structure: in the first three to four levels the student should be practicing somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes a day. This can be done in one, two or three sessions. If the practice gets frustrating, PUT IT DOWN!! There is no need for undue pressure in the early stages of this effort, and believe me, in the years to come you’ll be preparing for recitals, other performances and rehearsals. The art of practicing without pressure will be useful. If you ever find yourself clicking on something that says it has found a way around practice in music study, please report it to us and we’ll have the author dealt with immediately!
The practice approach that shows the most success is just getting it done. Good practice habits lead to successful students! Set the time and place for the effort and make it part of your daily routine–no screens on and no other background noise.
Parents: make no mistake folks, you will be making the practice happen, just like you probably make most everything happen. It is only the rarest of children who will practice diligently on their own, and even rarer still the child who will listen critically to what they play. If you’ve got 10-12 year olds doing that type of self-motivated practice, you are fortunate. In the first years, however, your motivation and regular practice habits, combined with your critical listening, is what will make this effort a success.
Although you will want to hear beautiful music right away, your family will have to be patient as the sound develops. With little ones it can be months before good tones can be produced with the bow. With older students it tends to even out in one to two months. You will hear and read much about bowing throughout the entire process. Bowing is the core of violin/fiddle playing. We like to say that it is 80% of the effort. Remember also that your 15 year old, 10 year old and 5 year old will all come to be able to control the bow and have good tone in their own way and time. That being said, after six months to one year you will be hearing good sounds, in tune fiddling and begin to experience something that not many families in our modern world enjoy: music at home, within the family!!
That is how my sister and I grew up, and I wish the same for your kids. Mom and Dad too if they want to join the fun. We have seen time and again how well kids do when one or both parents learn along side their kids also. Usually the parents pick up the rudimentary skills faster, thereby leading their kids through the beginning stages. By the end of level 2 it is always fun to watch the kids burn right past the parents! (this is what we are working towards Mom and Dad;)
O.K, let’s get to our first lesson and start learning!!