Pizzicato Parrots - beginners 6/7+
For the first year of traditional violin lessons we work primarily from a book entitled "Red Parrot, Green Parrot" which includes a lot of silly songs, playing the violin whilst stomping around. Fun skills involve playing on the wrong side of the bridge and making parrot-like squawks, but they all serve a purpose. For example, the squawks of our red and green parrots make sure we are holding the violin without tension and are an early step towards shifting position for high notes and playing with vibrato. We learn by both singing and reading music.
Students may take their first one or two ABRSM Music Medals, which can be assessed by the teacher during lesson time. The Music Medal repertoire includes duets and trios which can be played with the teacher or another student.
In this age range we primarily use the Hey Presto! series of , written by a fellow member of the European String Teachers' Association, together with essential exercises from the Trory Violin Playing series. These provide a structure for technical exercises and some lovely pieces, across four books, taking us up to grade 5 level and beyond. The Hey Presto! books are matched by an introduction to music theory for violinists.
However, tutor books alone are not enough - I try hard to supplement with real repertoire in a variety of styles, as well as with general musicianship exercises and games. Music Medal repertoire gives us the opportunity to work together in duets and trios..
Students may choose to enter ABRSM or Trinity examinations but this is not compulsory and many prefer to wait until they are older. Medals provide a less formal introduction to external examination and may be done during lesson time.
Violini con Variationi - 10-adult
Classical violin lessons for older students will cover a range of repertoire, whilst also drawing on the "Violin Playing" series by Robert Trory, another ESTA teacher. These provide exercises for bowing and left-hand skills up to grade 8 standard and beyond., organised in a rational manner.
Students may work for exams if they wish, but this is by no means compulsory.
Fantastic Fiddlers - 8-adult
I am often asked "What's the difference between a fiddle and a violin?" My usual answer is simply that no one minds if you spill beer on a fiddle. Essentially, fiddlers and violinists play the same instrument, just in two very different styles. As well as playing classical violin, I regularly play Irish and Scottish folk music and am also a member of the local gypsy punk band Mishto. If you or your child would like to concentrate on folk music or jazz, including improvisational skills, this is possible as soon as the very basics (like where to put your fingers) have been mastered.
I am investigating possibilities for formal assessment in folk music and frequently use the Scottish board's books as a guideline to the relative difficulty of pieces.
Adult students are invited to sessions around the Island, as well as workshops run by a colleague of mine. We are hoping to set up a session-style folk group at JAM on Saturdays for younger students, minimum standard roughly grade 3 (very secure in first position and able to play their own part in an ensemble setting).