Teaching fiddle to a young kid

Teaching fiddle to a young kid

This saturday I went with my 4yo friend to buy him a small fiddle. It’s a 1/8.

It happened because I play music with his squeeze boxer dad quite a bit and each time he comes and ask me to play. I always agree and just sit him on my lap and make him hold the bow. The last few kid songs we played together he was able to bow by himself. So, we got him a small violin. It was funny, in the store, he just grabbed the fiddle in a fairly good position and started bowing on it. The selling lady was impressed with his ability.

But I am writing this thread because I would like to get tips about how to show him how to play the left hand. Is it too early? Should I put some tapes as reference (I would take them away when appropriate)? He knows how to bow (roughly) so what would you suggest as the next step.

So, if some of you are teaching young kids and are ready to share your experience, I would appreciate.


Re: Teaching fiddle to a young kid

Many might disagree with me, but I would say do not put tapes as reference for places to put his fingers. Start with very simple tunes (ones using only one or two fingers and lots of open strings. Make them up if you want). Get him singing the tunes and matching the sound on his fiddle. This will get his ears more involved with his playing. Having tape down tends to make a kid want to look at where his finger should go rather than listening for it. Oh, and have fun! When teaching kids, having fun is the most important part of the job.

Re: Teaching fiddle to a young kid

I agree with fiddleK. I try to get the ears involved right from the start.

Re: Teaching fiddle to a young kid

You could set him the task of working out how to play a simple tune for himself (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star would be a good place to start). The chances are he won’t get it spot on - he might not get it at all. But it gives him a chance to figure out the relationship between fingering and pitch and it gives you an idea of what he’s capable of at this stage.

Re: Teaching fiddle to a young kid

Sweet! Thanks fiddleK, zulu, and ragaman! We sure have fun when we play fiddle together. I was wondering about the position of the fiddle. He is such in a hurry to play that the position is not very good sometimes and I wonder how you get a 4yo to understand that the way he hold his fiddle is important.

Also, maybe I will try with no tapes as you all suggest, it might be harder for him though.

Re: Teaching fiddle to a young kid

Watch him with that fiddle! Yehudi Menuhin at the age of 4 smashed up his toy fiddle in a rage because it didn’t measure up to his already exacting standards!

Re: Teaching fiddle to a young kid

Yeah, the blind folding idea is good, but I think I will wait a bit for that, I do not want to scare him. But it is a good idea to do this like a game.

I wonder if he will have the patience of plucking the strings. I have a meeting with him tonight and we will play for 15~20 mins. Then I will bring him (with his dad) to one of the session I occasionally play.

Yehudi Menuhin did that? HeHee! I remember dropping my fiddle when I was kid, but those fiddles were like army tanks. By the way, I understand Yehudi, those small violins sound like a can.

Re: Teaching fiddle to a young kid

Hmmm…I think using tape is just fine. It’s about building muscle memory at first, more than the ear thing. if you didn’t have tapes wouldn’t you get some, um, unusual fingerings? which is not in itself bad (a la benton flippen - an old time fiddler who learned unusual fingerings as an adult learner) but might make things difficult later on….

I guess I’m thinking that for your left hand to "develop" you need to learn where it should "sit" to easily reach the basic notes….but maybe you can teach him the hand position and then let him just figure out the fingerings from there…

I’ve just met a number of self-taught fiddlers near me who didn’t "believe" in using tapes because they thought it was a crutch and would keep them from learning to "hear" and, um, they really should have used tapes LOL They are working WAAAAY to hard to find their notes. Muscle memory is key. They are like training wheels.

Using the tapes also lets you focus on making music rather than hunting for notes…

just to be the contrary opinion here…

Re: Teaching fiddle to a young kid

The balance is between overstructuring it and letting the kid
play around.

Also as the authority figure you have a role.

If a teacher agrees with the steps (like using tapes)
then you are off the hook but still the kid needs to
be able to play.But going the other way the teacher
does not hold to keep things that deter playing.

My son came to me at the age of six and said
"I don’t need the tapes anymore." We took them
off; no comment from the teacher.

Re: Teaching fiddle to a young kid

Hello Carabus,
We must hear it in our head before we can play it. So sing alot.

I start beginners not with 0-1-2-3, but with "third finger sounds like the string below." This keeps the hand in a useful place.

Play "Joy to The World" and you have a hand shape and a scale within wch to fit the other 2 fingers.

But the sounds of the first and second fingers may be ambiguous. Point out visually and aurally that keyboard and fretboard have the exact same chromatic sounds and letter names as the fiddle strings. Therefore, there is a reason to space fingers close or far in relation to others: a finger space must be left vacant when you choose to play (for ex.) either a natural or a sharp.

"position is not very good sometimes" sounds dangerous. As noted in the "Technique Help" (Anna) postings for the same date as yours, violin style positions are inappropriate, even to violining because they cause great pains and unmusical playing. Allow your student to play as he wishes until something repeatedly gets in his way. Only then suggest (not "correct") something that might help. (Analogy: I never suggest piano fingerings until those used cause musical problems. At that point, the student will want to learn how to play more easily, so suggestions are accepted and learned, not fought as policing.)

Much more encouragement and helpful suggesting than policing. Instead of "No" say "Close, how bout this?" or "That’s some other tune, this one has…."

I invented "The Musical Copy Game", wch of course students call "Copy Cat". Take turns playing something - anything - and the other must play it back. The one rule is that the first player must be able to repeat what they play, in case the copier asks to hear it again. (This rules out uncopyable blather.) The copier copies as best they can, then switch players.

You can teach tunes this way. Of course, many musical traditions rely only on copying short phrases directly from the teacher.

Happy playing!

Re: Teaching fiddle to a young kid

That young I would definatly use the tape. Without it he may get very frustrated and quit before he has even had the chance to learn. Also if you can teach him to play by ear, then read music, you will save him from not feeling like he can figure things out himself.

Also I bet he would really enjoy if he could learn some tunes or basic notes he could play with you and his dad. That way he gets to play "with the guys".

Re: Teaching fiddle to a young kid

Cool, thanks for your comments everyone.

I am meeting with him again tomorrow. Last time went good. We played all the empty strings while singing their names. We also started to play a kid song he already knows. And his dad also learned to play that song on the accordion.

What I met by bad position is that he hold the violin between his chin and almost his chest. So he has hard time to hold the fiddle if not using the left hand.

I haven’t put tapes yet. I will see tomorrow how he does and we will see from there.

Thanks for helping me! That thread really helps me to think about ways to teach the rudiments of fiddle to a kid and gain confidence into this process.