Counting stones are a variation on the abacus. They are easy to make and as simple as getting a jar and 10-20 of your favorite stones (or really, anything that is small, personal and is readily available).
You can see a version I made as gifts for my students one year here.
Counting stones will help make violin practice successful for the following reasons:
1- Anytime you can make something personal by choosing a unique stone (or sticker or toy, etc...) it will bring a positive connection to the experience.
As advanced as the frontal lobes of our brains may be, what drives the show in our life experiences is the unconscious part of our minds. Making a simple positive connection like choosing your personalized counting stones will bring this positive influence into violin practice and help encourage the practice process. Helping to make a positive and personal connection is equally useful for a 5-year-old as it is for a 57-year-old, or in other words, is applicable for all ages.
2- Violinists need ways to release the repetitive stress involved in playing to avoid an injury.
Laying practice stones out on the music stand will create a built-in mechanism for regularly relieving the arm from holding the instrument up (of using the left arm). Since I have injured myself in part thru lack of implementing healthy practice techniques such as this, I feel strongly about emphasizing this subject for future musicians to help preserve their music making experience. This led to inviting physiatrist Dr. Lin to do a presentation for my studio informing violinists and their parents about preventing violin related overuse stress injuries. The presentation, The content shared by Dr. Lin in his presentation The Violinist Athlete and Injury Prevention, is concise and solution oriented.
3- Tangible goals and tangible results.
I was once teaching a 10-year old student named Julia, who came into her lesson with a look of wonder in her eyes as she stated:
"Isn't it amazing that I just move my fingers and arms around and all this beautiful music comes out?!"
She perfectly captured the awe of this magical experience of creating invisible art (which is what music is). Other art forms are visible - painting, films, the martial arts, etc... We violinists create invisible art and having something concrete to aid in our process such as counting stones can be useful in tracking progress and bringing a sense of groundedness to our practicing.
4- Optimize practice methodologies.
In the correlating video, I show how to use practice stones to create better sequencing in violin practice. Too often students will play thru something 10x but only reinforce the incorrect bowing. With practice stones, a student can lay out an alternating pattern with one type of stone representing doing the correct bowing in the air and the other kind of stone for implementing the proper bowing on the instrument.
Use stick-on jewels on the fine tuners to help make violin playing fun and personalized for young students.
This idea for making violin fun comes from one of my 5-year-old students who brought in some stick-on jewels one lesson. While I have a strict rule for no stickers on the face of the violin, I thought to add these to the fine tuners would not damage the instrument and they helped a young musician make her music-making a little more personalized and festive.
You can purchase these on Amazon by searching for stick-on jewels and also at many stores in the scrapbooking and craft sections.
Free *Gift With Purchase - While Supplies Last
*$10 minimum purchase needed to qualify for the free gift.
* Limit one set per customer.
It is time to celebrate -
I also want to celebrate the first physical item for sale in the Music for Young Violinists store - Violin & Fiddle postcards. Having elements connected to our passions and goals placed in our environment helps us create an identity and culture and supports our long-term goals.
I love mail, all things violin and expressing gratitude, so the postcards were a heartfelt project for me to create. I reserved a portion of them for sharing as gifts with purchase in September.
While supplies last, a colorful pack of postcards will be sent in the mail to violin sheet music orders starting today.
Flip your instrument to the other side (violin on the right and bow on the left) to be a beginner again and truly understand what your students are experiencing. This is the best way I know of to assist in breaking skills down into micro progressions so that you can fully convey a concept to a student. This simple act of changing sides was a revolution to helping me improve how I taught vibrato to young children.
Finger patterns are a fantastic way to help students understand half/whole steps and key signatures plus finger patterns will help violin students play better in tune.
I like to teach them in the sequence displayed above and include the less common finger patterns of 1-2-3 and 2-3-4 together as well as all fingers together (half steps) and all fingers apart (whole steps).
This chart is available as a free download on the FREEBIES page and comes in an unlabeled version to accommodate your teaching needs.
For more information on finger patterns and a sequence for teaching them, please view the video below.
Have a violin finger pattern tip?
Please let us know in the comments below, thanks!
Young musicians having fun with a play on words in one of our group classes.
Learning is an incredible experience that encompasses all parts of life. YES, that sometimes means fun, silliness and cheesy jokes!!!
We are using the quarter note rests from the Blue Jello Rhythm Puzzles that are a part of the Music Mind Games curriculum created by the brilliant pedagogue Michiko Yurko. I highly recommend this music theory program - your students will have so much fun, they hardly even realize that they are learning!
For more information, please visit the Music Mind Games website.
What's cheap, hands-on, quiet, colorful with easy clean-up?
Answer = Pipe Cleaners!
A parent recently turned me onto this fantastic teaching tool. Pipe cleaners are economical, colorful, hands-on, quiet and clean up with the swoop of one hand. What's not to love? We have been using these to study the shapes of musical symbols. The hands-on quality makes it a slow and individualized learning tool for young children to study the details of the shapes in musical symbols.
We have also used pipe cleaners to re-create Blue Jello cards with great success (see picture below.). For more information on the incredible Blue Jello cards that are a part of the highly recommended Music Minds Games curriculum please visit: http://www.musicmindgames.com
Hi! It's me, Heather. I absolutely love working on the Music for Young Violinists project and all the many facets: blogging, website, music, teaching materials, freebies, videos, newsletter and giveaway contests. The best part is connecting with you so feel free to drop me a line. You can learn more about me on the "ABOUT" page. Thanks!