The Traditional Method
Students who learn by the traditional method often begin their study around the age of nine or ten. Their teacher leads them through a method book step by step, explaining and demonstrating the material as it is presented. The skill of music reading is taught as the student progresses through the book. This enables the student to participate in an orchestra or other ensemble as soon as he reaches some proficiency on the instrument. The parent assists by helping the student maintain a regular practice schedule at home.
The Suzuki Method
The Suzuki Method was developed for children of pre-school age, but is also used in the primary grades. The parent is taught the basics of the instrument and learns to play the first few songs the child will study. This takes from a few weeks to a few months. Then the parent accompanies the child to each lesson, takes notes on the material that the teacher presents, and directly supervises the child’s daily practice time at home. Because the child is so young, the skill of music reading is taught in tiny bits and is not used by him to learn his pieces. Instead, there is an official Suzuki recording of the music that he will be learning, and the parent plays this recording daily so that the child may internalize the music and learn it by ear and by rote. It is not necessary for the parent to have studied music herself. What is truly necessary is for the parent to have a sensitive and nurturing relationship with her child.
The fiddle is the same instrument as the violin. It is the style of playing that is different. In the Sponheim studio, we begin by learning the fundamentals of playing the violin. With a certain proficiency, we begin using a simple fiddle book, which enables the student to learn some of the standard fiddle tunes. By listening to recordings and live performances of accomplished fiddlers, the fiddle style is “caught” rather than taught.
The violin is the instrumental equivalent of a soprano voice. It is well suited for solo playing, and many pieces have been written for it. In addition to the more mellow low tones, the violin can also produce high tones, which, when played sweetly, move many to tears. The violin is the most commonly studied stringed instrument.
The viola is held and played very much like the violin, but is somewhat larger. It is the alto voice of the string family. The viola has a more mellow sound than the violin, and does not produce the violin’s higher tones. It is not as well known as the violin, so fewer people study it. This can bring the accomplished violist a warm welcome when he applies to play in a string ensemble or orchestra.
The cello is the tenor voice of the string family. It is a larger instrument, and the player sits in a chair to play it, leaning the cello against his chest. Many people become very fond of the cello’s deep and sonorous tones. The Sponheim studio lays a careful foundation for the beginning cellist, preparing him for more advanced study with a teacher who possesses advanced cello skills.
Procuring an Instrument
Stringed instruments come in different sizes. Your teacher will help you determine which size is best for you. Instruments can be rented or purchased locally at a music store, or purchased by mail from a music supply house. “Used” stringed instruments that are still in good condition are just as good as new ones—in fact, even better, as they have been mellowed somewhat by being played.
Most lessons are 30 minutes long, and are once a week. In order to obtain full benefit from the lessons, the students do well to practice every day at home. Very young children can practice 15 minutes a day with their parent; older children and adults can practice 30 minutes or more. It is helpful to all students to listen to recordings of the music they are studying.
Older children or adult students sometimes prefer a whole hour lesson, which also can be arranged.
“As a parent of a Suzuki violin student, I must attend the lessons also. I initially groaned when learning that I’d have to commit to taking the lessons, but it was a blessing in disguise. I have come to love the lessons and the music as much as my daughter. And to think that this is only the beginning of a long future-history of music and concerts gives me a warm feeling inside that I am doing a good thing, a really special thing, for my child.”Gemma, parent