How long does it take to work through all the books?
It depends on the age that pupil starts at. In general, a precise and thorough study of the first levels (especially Books 1,3 and 4) will enable faster progress in the later levels:
With a normal teaching programme of 1–2 lessons a week we can aim for the following approximate timescale:
Book 1: 6–12 months
Book 2: 1 year (maybe more for younger students)
Books 3 und 4 (simultaneously): 3 years
Book 5: 2 years
Book 6: (virtuoso level) 3 years
Why does Book 1 start with pizzicato instead of using the bow?
There has to be one fixed starting point. I chose this solution, because after the first lesson, the pupil can practise more easily with the left hand alone. Parents can help with marks on the fingerboard and by playing pizzicato. During the lessons we start very early on with the bow, but I often keep the children‘s bows in the studio, so that they don‘t practise wrongly at home.
Since all the fingers are used from the start, the danger of a bad left hand position is avoided. However the child‘s violin must be the right size – not too big.
The teacher can introduce bowing gradually. From the third lesson one can often manage pieces with short bow strokes. Of course teachers are also free to start with bowing technique (page 50) if they prefer, or to alternate the two approaches.
What is the ideal age for children to start?
Previously 6–7 was considered ideal, but things have changed. First of all children have a much more demanding programme at school, at least from the 3rd year on, and there is also far more material available for younger children, and more teachers willing and able to teach them. The pre-school period is also a period when many parents can spend time with their children and everything is more flexible than when they start primary school. Many parents feel that children of this age require more stimulation. I prepare very young children with exercises such as practising bowing with cloths, drumming, clapping, singing and games, whilst also introducing Book 1 of my Method. We have quite a few 2–3 year old pupils.
Is the Method also suitable for older beginners?
Book 1 and some of Book 2, despite the complex contents are conceived to suit the mentality of children from 2–8 years old. For older beginners Book 2 is the ideal starting point. Crossing over from other methods is also not a problem, especially in Books 3 and 4.
Why are open strings and 4th finger specified so often, especially in the first three books?
The choice of fingering in these books has specific reasons:
Notes which could be played either with the 4th finger or as open string are marked with one or the other to avoid the pupil having to stop and think about it, and to avoid random choices. It is easier to perform a piece perfectly if one always uses the same fingering. Using the 4th finger is also often desirable to improve the position of the left hand. Too many open strings can lead to problems such as:
Why does beginners‘ playing often sound so horrible, and why do they make so many mistakes?
Pupils at all levels must master very complex tasks requiring separate learning processes. If they are paying attention to the position of the bow, they tend to forget about the left hand, or if they concentrate on rhythm, the sound becomes scratchy. Concentrating on the fingering makes the pupil forget all the rest. The teacher‘s job is to work patiently and sensitively towards a middle term objective (e.g. performing a short piece) or a long term one such as playing fluently by the end of Book 2. Of course at the start even playing one short piece right through without mistakes can seem very daunting, but this is normal. Here are some suggestions:
Build up the different aspects and be understanding when it comes to performing pieces. Remember that the child should first of all enjoy playing. Remarks such as ‚that was scratchy‘ or ‚that was out of tune, how can you be happy with that?‘ are counterproductive in the early levels and belong to adults‘ rather to children‘s way thinking.
I like to think back to my first years: I‘m sure it sounded horrible, but I was very happy with my little violin.
Why is there no piano accompaniment for Book 1?
An accompaniment book is being prepared, but young pupils play in general so slowly, that the teacher must sit beside them to help.
Pupils who can play fluently are generally already into Book 2.
Why do the books not stay open on the music stand?
The books have a high-quality binding which we find very important. Like with other thick music books, they must be forced to open wide, then they will stay flat. Don‘t worry; they won‘t break! You can also buy clips to hold the music in place.
Is it not a problem to stay so long in G-major in Book 2?
In principle Book 2 is quite simple. If a pupil can almost sight-read the exercises then they should probably move on to Book 3. However if they still have problems, they can feel in safe territory in Book 2, and they can play and practise by themselves at home without having to be worried about different key signatures. Many of the great violin concertos are in the same key – D-major. For me it is more important to develop qualities such as a good sound, secure intonation and rhythm and musical enjoyment. Experienced teachers know that pupils are discouraged by too many different keys and start to use their fingers without thinking, so that a B-flat easily becomes B-natural. Only pupils with a good musical background derived from singing or listening frequently to classical music can hope to correct this instinctively, and this leads to frustration, and the pupil starting to believe he has no talent. The ‚keyhole‘ approach in Book 2 offers most pupils a better chance to feel secure in their playing. Being able to play Eine kleine Nachtmusik even in a simplified form feels like a considerable achievement, especially if no-one else in the family plays an instrument.
Why is Book 2 so difficult? My pupils struggle with the two different finger patterns.
Book 2 is intended for older children, adults and pupils who have already studied another instrument. If this proves too hard they can go back to Book 1. Anyone who has worked thoroughly through Book 1 should have no problem tackling the second level.
How do we practise the rhythm exercises – only by clapping and counting out loud?
There are no limits to the imagination which teachers and pupils can apply to this. I have a bongo and a big bass drum in my studio. You can play the exercises on the open strings or speak the rhythms using words like ‚three of them‘ or ‚mot-or-way‘ for triplets. If this training is done thououghly, pupils can forget about the rhythm when playing pieces and concentrate on other matters such as a beautiful sound or vibrato.
I recommend my own Meierott Rhythm Method, which you can order here in the online shop.
Why do our young students have such trouble playing with other instruments such as recorders?
They feel stressed!
One problem is that the order in which keys are learnt is different with wind instruments. It is not really possible to suit everyone here; violin pupils have trouble with F-natural, whereas recorders find F-sharp difficult. If necessary one could introduce C-major and F-major in advance by using examples form Book 3. In this book every key is carefully explained and introduced with very easy pieces, which can help to introduce young players to playing with recorder groups or other wind instruments.
Why are there so few original compositions in the first four books and so many arrangements?
Compared to the piano repertoire there are very few violin pieces by the great masters suitable for beginners. In Books 1–3 I tried to include as many melodies and excerpts from the great classics as possible, in order to form the pupils‘ musical taste and understanding of classical style and harmony.
My pupil is extremely gifted; so does he actually need to follow a method?
That is an important question. Obviously it is tempting to allow a gifted pupil to skip the rather tedious first apprenticeship levels, especially if they attract (sometimes almost hysterical) public attention by being able to play virtuoso pieces. However a lack of systematic technical training and basic music theory knowledge can lead to the player‘s skills collapsing later on like a house of cards, because the foundations were not properly laid. Proper training requires structure. Teachers sometimes assume that gifted pupils ‚somehow‘ absorb everything correctly, but this is not the case: ‚somehow‘ is not good enough, and timing is important – the basics must be learnt from the start.
Why do we need these 6 books? Why can‘t we just copy exercises and pieces as we go along?
First of all, photocopying copyright matrerial is illegal! Then pupils should not just choose to copy parts they find interesting, as they may very well omit things which they do not consider important, but which are in fact essential. They should not skip the theory pages; they must work through everything in the right order, and for this having the actual book is vital.
Moreover it is very hard to keep loose copy pages in order; they get lost and mixed up and the pupils and their parents gets confused and frustrated. A lot of time can be wasted, which would be better spent playing and practising!
Why 6 levels?
In my experience, it helps the pupil to be conscious of his progress and what he needs to achieve before moving to the next level, and to relate his progress to a large-scale plan.
This is also helpful when it comes to playing together with others, to ensure that players are at a compatible level.
Shouldn‘t pupils give up, if for instance after 3 years they can‘t manage a Vivaldi concerto?
We must not forget that we are approaching education on a broad basis and not simply trying to produce future Paganinis. If a pupil has difficulty learning the violin, then that can be an important experience for them, in the sense that they learn that some skills cannot be acquired overnight and require long and patient study. We want to form a musically and artistically educated society, and we should not think that every beginner should become a professional musician. Moreover some pupils who may seem almost hopeless at the start suddenly have a spark of inspiration later and develop a real passion and talent for the violin. If teachers are really dedicated and patient, they can experience some astonishing results in the long term.
Why is there so much help and so much repetition?
People often underestimate the time needed for pupils to absorb and retain new content and information Only constant repetiton ensures a satisfactory result.
Unfortunately many teachers believe that mentioning a subject once is enough. That would indeed be ideal, but in practice it seldom suffices.
Why is Book 3 so voluminous? 20 pieces might have been sufficient!
Book 3 is a core level, where pupils expands their horizons and hopefully discover what making music is really about. It is an important time to consolidate what has been learnt before. It is possible to continue with this book and at the same time start Book 4 – see the next question.
Shouldn‘t position changing come earlier than Book 4?
In my own teaching I start preparing position changing in Book 2. This will appear in the next impression of this book. As the first pieces in Book 4 are limited to two keys, they can be used together with Book 3, so that the pupils can practise position changes. However do not neglect the study of keys and intervals laid out in Book 3.
Why are technique and hand position not explained more fully?
No-one can learn the violin properly without a teacher. This method offers a foundation on which the teacher can build his teaching. The pieces provoke questions, which the teacher can answer by means of demonstration. Technical instructions have deliberately been omitted, because there are many different approaches, and the teacher must choose his own way.
Why do school orchestras often play music that is much harder than the pieces violin pupils study in their lessons?
School orchestras are often conducted by teachers who are not necessarily string players, and they choose music which was composed for adults, even though the images and stories may appear suitable for children, such as Peter and the Wolf, Star Wars or The Magic Flute. The pupils are stressed and frustrated, and the conductor may question the string teachers‘ programmes. Teachers should discuss this with the conductors and ask them to prepare simplified parts with no high octaves and to avoid pieces with difficult key-signatures, or to tranpose them, so that 10–13 year-olds can master them. We don‘t want children to be frustrated because theycannot manage the parts; we want happy young musicians!
Why is Book 5 relatively easy? What about the really virtuoso repertoire?
As mentioned before, a sixth book with this very advanced repertoire is in preparation. It will include music byBeethoven, Paganini, Wieniawski, Mendelssohn, Bruch, Tchaikovsky and Dont etc.
And Book 5 is not really easy! Anyone who masters this level can give concerts and perform to a high standard.
Will there be a viola version?
This is planned for later. In teaching viola myself, I use the violin books, especially 4 and 5, and add original viola compositions and chanber music parts as well.
Why is it hard to order the method from booksellers?
Any book shop can order my method, but some are reluctant to deal with small quantities. However you can very easily order everything from our website www.violinschulemeierott.de or by telephone on ++49 (0)9321 9279966.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any more questions. Florian Meierott
Verlag Florian Meierott
Moltkestr. 20 a
Tel.: +49 9321 927 99 66