Here Rafi and I are going over the first steps of learning to play the violin. The most important step is being grounded in your body from the feet up. We find our balance by putting our feet together and then taking a step so that they are shoulder-width apart. Feet apart are better than feet together- if you think about it, when you throw a ball or get ready to hit a tennis ball, you automatically connect your feet to the ground apart, never feet together!
The first songs to learn, Eggs and Sol Re Sol, use the left hand pinky finger. By using the smallest finger from the beginning, we train it well and this leads to a beautiful left hand position. All too commonly, violinists are not taught to use their pinky finger until months into their study (this happened with me when I was a child) which creates many difficulties learning more advanced songs and negatively affects intonation, shifts, and anything regarding left hand technique! However, by teaching Eggs and Sol Re Sol, my experience has been that students have an excellent start to a great left hand. Additionally, these songs are simple enough that at the end of the first lesson they can engage in chamber music (here, playing with piano accompaniment). By playing with another person, you learn to listen and feel rhythm very naturally. A powerful aspect of music is the act of sharing, and it is utterly enjoyable to make music this way from the beginning.
Next Rafi is also playing some songs with pizzicato (Italian musical term for plucking the strings). They include Saita, a Japanese melody, the beginning of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Mary Had a Little Lamb. Currently Rafi feels comfortable playing the Twinkle by himself, and in the other songs he prefers that I place his left hand fingers. By helping him, I can make sure that his hand stays supple instead of squeezing too hard. In time he will be able to pizzicato all these songs and will not want my help at all.
We will do a video using the bow next time!