Violin is probably the most difficult and ungrateful instrument in the beginning stages of learning. Even the most basic aspects of playing an instrument – playing with good sound and intonation can take weeks or even months for a student to achieve. Hence, student will often find this stage of learning frustrating and will need encouragement from both the teacher and the parents. Often, the parents’ involvement in this early stage of learning can be a determining factor in the development of a student.
Some methods use a number of teaching aids in order to simplify this beginning stage of learning and help the student start producing correct pitches and sounds in the shortest possible amount of time. In my opinion, though, this approach can often have an adverse effect, since the student doesn’t have an immediate need to start developing his (or her) hearing and sense of pitch.
Leopold Mozart, father of the famed Wolfgang Amadeus comments on this very same problem in his Treatise on the fundamental principles of violin playing, written in 1756!
“At this point I cannot but touch on the foolish system of teaching which is pursued by some when instructing their pupils; namely, that of affixing little labels with the letters written thereon, on the finger-board of the pupil’s violin, and even of marking the place of each note on the side of the finger-board with a deep incision or, at least, with a notch. If the pupil has a good musical ear, one must not avail oneself of such an extravagance. “
Although it may take a while, I always get amazed at how quickly students start noticing even the most miniscule changes in pitch and start correcting themselves. As Carl Flesch, one of the most important violin pedagogues of the 20th Century said: “To play in tune in terms of physics is an impossibility. Playing in tune is nothing but an extremely rapidly and cleverly executed correction of the initially imprecise pitch. By contrast, out of tune playing means that the note remains as false during its total duration as it was initially.”
Even though learning the violin may be difficult, it can also be an extremely enjoyable and rewarding experience. After all, something as valuable as playing this amazing instrument is certainly worth all the effort!