If you start now, you can play a song by Christmas

Do you have a family tradition of a concert under the Christmas tree?


If you start learning violin now, by Christmas you will be able to play at least one song.  The chances are better that you will be able to play a number of them.

In 2014, we had a Christmas Music Workshop, something we wanted to continue as a yearly tradition in our studio (the Moncrieff Music Studio, of which my violin studio was  a part).

A small bit of our story

2015 rolled around and my mom-in-law had terminal cancer.  We were looking after her, as a family.   There was no time for organizing a workshop.

2016, we were in the throes of moving house – and we had moved out our studio concert into December as there were flash floods on the roads on its original date.

The concert was followed one week later by our year-end Ceilidh (usually we tried spacing these out).

For Christmas, after an eventful year, we had a small chamber concert – with my son, daughter, father, and myself, we played some quartets for the family.


It is 2018.  We have spent almost 2 years in a daze mourning the death of our beloved Iain – husband, father, soulmate, band-mate, and also the hub, the mover and shaker of our music studio.  We relocated to Ireland last year, here we are.  Do I miss my South African students?  Terribly.  But without Iain, I simply could not carry on there.



I still teach violin.  There is no reason Cobh should not enjoy at least some of the benefits of the Violin Studio and its vibrant activity and ideas.  The focus is on enjoyment of music; I’m strict with technique but as soon as is practical, move children towards playing together.  First comes the love of music, then the facility.

So, if you want to learn how to play a few Christmas carols before Christmas, to perform under the tree, for your family, grandparents, parents, children, siblings, cousins…  you’re at the right address.

Blank bookcover with clipping path

There are 7 Christmas carols, varying from “Jingle Bells” to some traditional German ones, hidden between the 30 well-known tunes in this book.

Most of them are easy to play even for very basic beginners.  Some are really easy.  One has some interesting string changes.

And here is the cutie who sat and posed for the cover (without realizing it at the time – don’t worry, I have her permission to use these images):

Practicing with her Daddy.



Getting organized on stage. 🙂

School Year about to start

Hi to all my peeps in Cobh and Cork.

The school year is about to start.  We still have space in the studio, please feel free to call if you want to start.

What you need to start violin:

  • to be at least 5 years old
  • own violin, bow and a shoulder rest
  • rosin for the bow
  • a music stand
  • a bag for your music

Books:  If you are a beginner, Suzuki Method book 1.  Preferably with the CD, but if you buy the copy without, it’s no train smash.

There will be a second book soon, still getting it organized.

And you’ll need an empty notation booklet (with music lines).  I write extra material in there as we need it to support your learning.

If you have played before, simply bring the books you last worked from to your first lesson.  We’ll take it from there.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my studio!  And as for my current students:

Welcome back!  We’re going to have fun this year with our music.


Thank you to my current and previous studio parents for ensuring that your children practise. 

This is a pep-talk for parents.  It solves a parental conundrum.

Many parents have some trouble getting their child to practise daily.  I have spent many hours trying to analyze why this is.  Centuries of classical music have yielded the following insight:

Those who practise, progress.

The other half of this bit of wisdom is not so often vocalized:  Those who don’t practise, quit.

They may take some time quitting, but sooner or later they run out of energy to rehash the same stale technique over and over again, no matter how the teacher tries to keep it interesting.

If you expect your child to learn a musical instrument without practising, you expect them to be the first human on Earth to achieve instant mastery over a very complex and difficult skill.   It doesn’t matter whether the practising is self-driven (Mozart) or parent-enforced (Beethoven), but all good musicians practise, and practised in past centuries too.  But remember that for every one Mozart there are literally millions of non-Mozarts, and to expect your 5-year-old to be self-driven about practising is also a tall order.  Are you a Leopold Mozart?  No?  How can you expect your child to be an Amadeus?

Children have parents for a reason.

So why do so many parents let their children off the hook about practising?

Here’s one possible answer I have discovered.

For many adults, enforcing a daily practise routine on their child involves a guilt trip, because are they themselves keeping to their own self-enforced gym routine?

Dear parent, let me solve that one for you.  Does your child work for 8 – 10 hours daily for a demanding boss, under existential threat of losing her livelihood if she doesn’t outperform herself all the time?  The chances are, no.  There are laws protecting children from this.  The result is that your child is a lot more rested than you are!  And she needs her energy channelled into more meaningful activities than television or DS games.

You:   “What happened to leading by example?”

Well, the point is that for every routine you can’t keep, you probably have ten that you do so automatically, you don’t even notice them anymore.  Do you wash the dishes after breakfast before leaving for work?  Do you put your kids into the bath when night falls?  Do you reliably go to work each and every day, no excuses?  And here is the crux.  Most of these routines aren’t even fun.  You do them because they are necessary – if you don’t, things start turning bad.

You are already setting a shining example!

You don’t need to sit next to your child in school, ride a bike with training wheels or crawl around a playground with other adults to set examples for your child’s good behaviour.  Children are not idiots, they don’t learn exclusively by imitation.  In fact imitation is only a very small way in which they learn.  A lot is learned by experimentation, by playing around, trying new things.

So, shake off that guilt and make your child practise.  Set a regular time of day, to activate that “uh-oh” gene, that trigger, where the child realizes, “oops, the clock is pointing to the big six, it’s now time to practise”, or “Mommy’s cooking, that’s my time to practise”.  Don’t let her get away.  Don’t let her wriggle out of it.  A habit is formed by doing something often enough that natural guilt kicks in when one misses a session.  When this internal feeling of obligation is established in the child, it doesn’t matter what is on the menu for practising, she will tackle it.   But you enforce that she starts, and finishes, her practice every day.

You are not doing your child or yourself a favour letting them off the hook.  The internal sense of obligation is one of the best benefits children learn from doing music.  People who have had practise routines as children can more reliably stick to good habits as adults; they are better at goal-setting, persistence and achieving long-term projects.

Why destroy the opportunity to learn these skills?


About Practicing, Funktionsfreude, Exams, and the Studio Concert

I would like to direct my students and previous students to this post from 2015… if you become good at something, you will enjoy doing it! “Plaisir actif” or “Funktionsfreude”. Still looking for an English term for it.

Violin Tricks

A fellow teacher posted this excellent post on practising:


Yes, essentially this is what it is about:  It’s a parenting problem, not a music problem.

As a mom of 3, I’ve seen my children go one-by-one through the phase where they refuse to bath.  Well, I’m sorry to say, but bathing is not optional.  It might not be fun, as isn’t brushing your teeth or doing your homework or helping around the house, but are you going to let your child get away with being unwashed?

Nor is practising necessarily fun.  But if you don’t insist on your child practising, you’re wasting your money on lessons.  The teacher is not going to (even be able to) magically improve your child’s neurology and reflexes into being able to play the required pieces in only one short hour or half-hour per week.


There is this lovely little emotional feedback mechanism…

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On learning the violin

Just finished helping Eloise Hellyer from “The Violin Teacher’s Blog” edit her excellent book, “Inspired Teaching”. What a power-packet of information! She is a wonderful teacher, highly experienced, and the book contains information and insights you won’t find anywhere else.

We’ve submitted it to a publishing house that has more clout than mine, let’s hope it reaches far and wide.
Learning the violin is difficult. It’s a long road. I like telling my students, “it’s easy”. Is this a lie? No. It is easy – every step along the way is achievable, but you have to be committed, and you have to focus. I also tell my students I enjoy practising. Well, I do! I love working on the details of a piece or on the way I deliver it. (Check this post on practising if you want some tips.)  But not everyone loves working on something. This is one of the things I feel we teachers are trying to develop in our students: A joy for getting it right. It is an inherent, self-rewarding joy, similar to doing the Right Thing. We should be teaching our students to tap into that feeling of satisfaction that comes with a job well done. By that one principle alone (and there are countless more that we teach en route teaching violin) we have given a child a life-long advantage.
But isn’t it about the music? Doesn’t a musical soul get deep satisfaction out of producing a clear sound, and a lovely and vibrant performance of a beautiful piece of music? Even when there is nobody listening but oneself! I’m thinking of the little goatherd sitting on the mountain playing his flute while watching his goats. There’s nobody listening; but he himself gets joy out of listening to the music he produces.
If you can get that internal joy out of music, you’re already 3/4 there.
TBH if you can’t, why play at all?  Why would you want to perform something to others that you yourself don’t enjoy listening to?