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Originally Posted by Pigpen
I'm saving up to buy the instrument and then I notice on ebay a lot of child sized violins for around $20-40 which probably means they're not good?? These are new instruments like this one...
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...330911868&rd=1
I'm a Suzuki violin teacher and I would not teach a student on a violin of that quality. I insist the instrument have decent quality tone, proper perlon-core A, D and G strings and a properly and expertly-fitted bridge and soundpost. Why? Because it's hard enough to make nice sounds on a violin when you're a beginner playing a small instrument -- why make it well-nigh impossible by adding the challenges of poor acoustics and tinny strings? In my experience the attrition rate of young string students is inversely proportional to the quality of the instrument the child is playing. No point in loading the dice against your child


There's no way for me to be sure that this particular instrument has a terrible quality sound without hearing it, but I've seen enough eBay purchases in real life, and watched violin auctions on eBay enough to know that there are a lot of dealers working the on-line auction market who know what they're buying and selling and so you get what you pay for.

Good violin teachers come in all stripes, but I grew up in a Suzuki program and swore I wanted that experience for my kids. The Suzuki approach is holistic in that its primary aim is not to produce fine musicians, but to produce fine human beings through the vehicle of disciplined study of classical music playing. It is built upon the foundation of a triangular relationship between parent, teacher and child, all playing active roles. It is particularly suited to young children because it starts with aural learning, adding visual learning (reading music) once a solid foundation of good posture and good tone production has been built, at a time when developmentally speaking kids are more capable of dealing with the mathematics and symbolic decoding of written music. It's also unique in that Suzuki children are part of a community of other students who share a common repertoire from the very start and play together regularly. We have a tiny Suzuki program in my town, and I just returned from our end-of-year Celebration Performance where advanced teenagers played together in groups and then joined with 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds to play early repertoire together. The warm mass of sound, and the sight of teens and preschoolers playing together with obvious joy, is something very magical indeed.

If you are strapped for cash I agree with renting. Find a teacher first and get hands-on guidance in sizing your ds correctly. Different teachers have different preferences for sizing, due to their differing emphases and styles of teaching. Get advice about good places to rent. Many have good rent-to-own programs, and generous systems for trading up from one size to the next as your child grows.

In choosing a teacher, observe some lessons first and consider your decision thoroughly. As one of my teacher-trainers was fond of saying, "Any idiot can teach and intermediate violinist, but it takes an expert to teach a beginner." Go with the best teacher of beginners that you can afford. It pays off hugely.

Miranda
 

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Originally Posted by Pigpen
I am concerned that I won't be able to do it because of my younger children, it almost seems as though I'd need to get childcare for them during his lessons, which is not a possibility.
That's unlikely to be necessary, at least not most of the time, in most studios. I have four kids and I've always taken all the younger siblings to lessions. Suzuki lessons are meant to be observed by others, and in fact observation is a large part of the learning. Often the teacher's studio will have a table at the back with crayons and paper and coloring books and lacing toys for younger siblings and waiting students to putter around quietly at. I mean, if you have a 2yo who is shrieking and pulling things off shelves, obviously that's not going to work, but reasonably non-distracting younger siblings are part and parcel of the family-based nature of Suzuki lessons. In fact, Suzuki teachers talk about the Sibling Effect, which is the incredibly quick pace of learning a younger sibling exhibits upon starting his own lessons after years of being witness to lessons, group classes and home practicing and experiencing all that passive listening to the reference recording.

Miranda
 

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Originally Posted by Kim
I couldn't disagree more. With a stringed instrument, you do *not* always get what you pay for. A child starting the violin is going to sound like a child starting the violin. .... I won't go into how much money you *can* spend on a violin, but will tell you that it is the player, not the violin that makes the difference.
Well, we'll just have to agree to disagree. I'm a professional violinist and a teacher of little kids for many years and my experience has been that of course, a great violinist can make even a lousy little violin sound great ... but a beginner cannot. A beginner can make a great sound, but it helps vastly to have a better-than-entry-level instrument. And hence the attrition rate it significantly reduced by insisting on a decent instrument.

Of course it's possible to pay too much for an instrument, especially if you're dealing with a medium-sized music store or a private vendor, rather than a reputable strings-specialist dealer. But I was speaking specifically to the converse situation -- someone hoping to get "a steal" by paying very little on eBay.

Anyway, to each his own. Obviously there are conflicting opinions on this. I happen to think it's a false economy to spend $30 on a young child's instrument.

ETA that one of main reasons for starting tiny Suzuki students on cardboard boxes is so that from the very first moment they have real violins on their shoulders, they have the skills they need to make a beautiful sound. The Suzuki method very much about beautiful tone from the get-go.

Miranda
 

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Originally Posted by Stacymom
(in fact, Miranda, do you run a Suzuki website for Canadians? I think I ran across it a few weeks back and loved it...)
Yeah, that's me. I'm risking the wrath of the SAA by even having it up there, but so far no one's said anything, perhaps because my mom's on the SAA board
. Glad you enjoyed the site. It's just a skeleton at this point, as I try to decide how brave to be in putting info out there that's not sanctioned/condoned by Suzuki powers-that-be. They're so concerned about poor and incomplete information getting out there -- fearing that parents and teachers will try to do untrained, DIY implementation of the method without a full understanding of it. Yet there's such a hunger for information and knowledge-sharing out there. I don't get it. </end rant>

Miranda
 

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Originally Posted by Pigpen
Miranda...one more question for you! I just realized that if we use a Suzuki teacher, we'll need two violins right? One for ds, and one for me?
Sometimes/often/maybe.
I have a couple of loaners that I use for parents to learn along for the first 3 months. Sometimes, if the child is on a 1/4-size or larger, I'll just teach the child on the parent's instrument. My personal goal in teaching the parents directly is just to give them the experience of grappling with the basic motor tasks their child will need to learn (making a bowhold, holding the violin, positioning the left hand and using the fingers in a basic way to make half-steps and whole-steps) ... so they understand the complexity of the tasks and how it feels to be the student in the equation. I don't expect parents to learn how to play the violin along with their kids. Other teachers do things slightly differently, but I don't know of any teachers who expect the parents to learn to play alongside their kids every step of the way. The parent has to learn, yes, but to learn how to be an effective practising facilitator and guide at home, not to play the pieces.

However, many of my parents do want to learn along with their kids and go out and rent or buy their own full-sized instruments. The enthusiasm is infectious -- once there are one or two parents playing along in the back row of group class, more want to join. Generally speaking the kids leave their parents in the dust before the mid Book 2 level, so the parents who decide to continue playing are those who have a certain lovely mix of un-self-consciousness, humility and good humour about their "lagging" skills. They're a heap of fun.

Anyway, this is all to say that you may not need a second instrument -- and if you do, it will likely only be for a couple of months.

Miranda
 

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Originally Posted by Laurel
In my dream world (ha!) every child would start out playing on a nice baby grand.
Laurel (and anyone else too), mind if I pick your brains on this one? My daughter takes piano lessons. We had a Clavinova for a couple of years but then "saw the light" and traded up to a nice newer-used upright with a bright sound and nice action. It made a huge difference.

But what about a baby grand? We don't have the space, which is why we never even considered it when we traded up from the Clavinova. To bring a baby grand into our home would require a fairly major renovation and would eliminate our basement workshop/storage area. (It's a semi-finished, humidity-controlled basement already, since I use a corner of it for my violin teaching. But walls, floors and ceilings would have to be moved and re-done.)

Anyway, I'm wondering at what point a baby grand might be considered a 'necessity' or at least 'very helpful'. Erin (dd) recently turned 11. She is working on the simpler Chopin Waltzes, and recently performed the middle movement of the Bach E Major concerto with orchestra and the Mozart 12 variations on "Ah Vous Dirai-je Maman (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star)". She's made a lot of progress in the past couple of years and seems quite committed to the piano. She's also a fairly advanced violinist, but piano seems to be her primary instrument even though she started studying it later. She doesn't practice a lot, but she does care about the work she does and has a lot of good musical and intellectual instincts.

We live in a community that doesn't have a baby grand. However, when she performs in the town where she has her lessons, she performs on a baby grand or a grand. And her lessons are on a Kawai baby grand. But there's nowhere she can practice on an instrument like that (lessons are over an hour away ... we can't drive all four kids there every day to use a church or music store or theatre piano).

Is it inevitable that we'll need a baby grand? It's hard to get a clear answer from her teacher, who has no students on baby grands and doesn't want to cause anyone any trouble or guilt. At what point do you think pianists need a baby grand? Only if they're wanting to pursue a career in music? At a particular level?

Thanks for any thoughts!

Miranda
 

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Originally Posted by Kim
And comments that sound like a student won't be accepted to a studio because of their violin feel discriminatory to me. A Suzuki student doesn't use much more than an A and E string for quite some time. However, a parent new to violin will rarely have a good ear for a high quality violin. It's like asking a first time wine-taster what she thinks of Franzia versus a good Bordeaux. Perhaps that comment was just worded poorly, but I would hate to think that children are being turned away because the the quality of their violin.
:LOL If you knew my teaching studio, you wouldn't be concerned about students being turned away. I have two students that I taught for free this year in order that they could afford to buy decent instruments, and another who is playing one of my instruments, rent-free. As I said earlier I do not think that students should buy an instrument without the help of a teacher (especially in terms of sizing, but also in terms of quality). My students do not show up for their first lesson with an instrument, so they'd never be sent away for having the wrong type.

It might also be worth pointing out that to learn good intonation skills, to for example play third finger on the A-string in tune (the note D), one needs to hear the sympathetic resonance from the D-string. Poor-quality instruments with poor-quality strings do not have this resonance. Sure, Suzuki students might not play on the D-string for a few months (mine start quite early, actually) but they need clear resonance from that string from the very start.

When my kids started soccer they needed to have appropriate equipment. If they didn't have it, it wouldn't be considered discrimination to say "sorry, you need to get a navy blue T-shirt, some shin-guards and cleats to be part of this." The same is true of violin. To participate and learn you have to have appropriate equipment: equipment which will ensure safety, freedom from injury and the possibility of success. I will go to the ends of the earth to ensure that an enthusiastic potential violin student gets the necessary equipment.

Miranda
 

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Originally Posted by umbrella
I was just surprised that someone can be sure of a violin's quality based on the price.
Hmmm, is that my post you're referring to? I clearly prefaced my comments with:

"There's no way for me to be sure that this particular instrument has a terrible quality sound without hearing it, but .... "

Miranda
 

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Originally Posted by Kim
Classical music has been (and still is, appears, and/or feels) somewhat classist. ....

No hard feelings?

No, of course, no hard feelings. I agree with classical music having classist tendencies. Even though I live in an amazing, tolerant, relatively poor, creative area where classical music crosses all socio-economic boundaries, there are still echoes of that classism that surface from time to time. For instance, at our recent end-of-year performance party, the father of one of my students, a self-described "ATV kinda guy", came up to me and said "we're so lucky to live in a town where kids like J [his son] can learn stuff that's normally just for doctors' kids."

Well, thanks, I guess. But "normally just for doctors' kids"?? Ouch, I think. I mean, dh and I are two of the three local doctors. How was I supposed to respond to that? :LOL

Miranda
 
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