...les comptes du chat perche

(Reblogged from Letterdash for my WP Letterdashians)

The concert yesterday was a great success. It “raised the roof” – we had a very nice audience!

We’re planning to repeat the experience (I was quietly plotting not to repeat it if we had played to a near-empty hall but that was luckily not the case – attendance was great). The next one will be either a matinee or soiree at an outdoors venue; depending on how far into winter it is.

Here are some points of useless information about some of the music we played.

Jos van den Dungen – A violinist/composer from the Nether World. I mean, Netherlands. His (gorgeous) compositions range in style from tangos and jigs over American ragtime and swing, into the deep Balkans with Czardas and so on. We played his ragtime “Playing at the Club” (very much like the “Ritz” song) and a tango.

Sintengo Djepen…

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Concert next Saturday

Come listen to an evening of uplifting music, something you and your children won’t forget in a hurry.

Concert 17 March, at Taurominium Theatre 330 Derrick St Waterkloof, 19h00, entry R80 adults, R40 under 12
On the programme: Mozart, Dvorak, Sibelius, and a lot of tangos by various musicians in the first half and the Divertimento Quartet in the second half.

Treat yourself to an uplifting evening of music.

Ideal to escape the stresses of life for an evening. Treat a loved one; treat your children to something they won’t forget in a hurry.

Bookings at info@pkaboo.net. Book early to avoid disappointment; the setting is a small, intimate private concert hall seating only 50. Seats are reserved on payment.


Allow yourself to play fast!

There are few things that hold young violinists back as much as speed does.  A very easy piece can become unplayable at a fast speed.


The youtube clip of Ben Chan playing and pushing up the speed of the Bach Presto (from the Sonatas & Partitas) demonstrates how you go about it.

There are other ways and means of course; but the metronome is the most important.

But in effect, you need to know your piece pretty well.  Don’t try pushing the speed limit with a piece you’re still learning.  This means:  Practice!!!

Eventually it also means letting go and allowing yourself to play at that speed.  When you know the piece well, playing fast shouldn’t feel like pushing, it should feel like flying.

Enjoy your speed!  😉  

(A tip:  Ben Chan has a lot of good YouTube vids out.)

Violin Tricks: Scales!

Scales are “riffs” and are used in that way by everyone, from Beethoven through to metal lead guitarists in night clubs. The only difference is that the lead guitarists might not think of their “riffs” as “scales”.

Scales??  Who wants to read about scales??  What an outmoded system!  Ancient people always forced their children to learn scales…

Maybe today a better name for a scale would be a “riff”.  In case you really didn’t know, a “riff” is a short sequence of notes that causes an effect and is repeated in various shapes and sizes throughout a piece or performance.

Scales are simply a specific form of “riff”.

Beethoven’s violin concerto is as full of those scale “riffs” as a metal guitarist’s performance.

Think about it and listen out for them.  Maybe this very short post has served as a new perspective on something you thought you hated…



Why you should let your child learn violin

Benefits of learning violin:
+IQ increases!
+ Both fine and gross motor control, balance and dexterity improves
+ patience gets exercise (also for the supervising parent)
+ learn to perform without fear
+ helps build self-image
+ helps with public speaking, and assertiveness
+ has helped many a stutterer speak normally
+ ADHD symptoms get less
+ unlocks the imagination
+ children with slight physical disabilities find an escape into something special
+ learning problems improve
+ music calms and helps with mood control
+ MUSIC IS THE VISION OF A BETTER WORLD (quote a great musician, will update) and is known to alleviate depression

young violinist

It is beginning of the year and people are thinking of taking up a new hobby or booking their children into extramurals. Especially where children are concerned, the choices are endless.  Playball, Micky Math and Kindermusik all vie for your attention:  “We’re good for your child”.

Of course they are.  I especially find that Kindermusik children tend to learn the violin more easily as Kindermusik develops their natural sense of rhythm and melody.

But why go halfway?

Here are a lot of reasons why you should consider letting your child take up the whole hog – the arguably most difficult and yet most popular instrument in Western society.  And why, perhaps, you’d have fun challenging yourself to learning the violin, too.

In 2008 I posted an article on ezine (http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Importance-of-Music-in-Development&id=1544174) which keeps on growing.  I’ll repost it here and see if it wants to grow some more.  🙂

It’s no lie:  Music makes you smart!

The importance of music in development – upgraded edition

To learn an instrument such as the violin or clarinet takes years.  The job opportunities for musicians are scarce and competition is fierce.  Then why are more people than ever before paying a lot of good cash to get their children the best music tuition they can afford?

The secret lies in the impact of music on the whole person.  Diverse sources detail the influence that learning a musical instrument has on children and even on adults.  Occupational therapists are currently recommending to parents of children who struggle with schoolwork, to let them learn an instrument.  This, along with horse riding and swimming, has become a bit of a pet recommendation.

It has been found that learning a musical instrument actually increases a person’s IQ over time.  Different instruments and different types of music have varying effect, with classical music and the string family (violin, viola, cello) coming out on top, potentially increasing your IQ by up to 12 points!  In certain regions of Europe, music in schools is now a mandatory subject once more.

When is a good time to start learning music?  Experts have found that even the fetus in the womb can benefit from listening to classical music.  Surround yourself and your family with good music from the first.  Toddlers love banging on stuff and playing xylophone, or tooting on recorders and mouth organs.  The Suzuki Violin Method teaches children from the age of 3 years violin, with two lessons per week, one single and one in a group setup.  From preschool, children can learn to read music and play from sheet music.  Progress in learning your instrument is directly proportional to the amount of practicing.

Is there such a thing as an unmusical child?  Shinichi Suzuki proposes that music is the native home language of all human beings and therefore nobody can be “unmusical”.  Of course there are exceptional talents, compared to which others may seem to be slower learners.

Is there any benefit for adults in starting an instrument?  Apart from the purely relaxing aspect, yes.  Learning an instrument can earn even adults additional IQ points, and as an added benefit it improves your health by reducing your stress levels.  Your social life may benefit too, if you are prepared to come out of your box and join occasions such as Ceilidhs (musical get-togethers) or arrange house concerts.  It has been established that people who play instruments tend to be more emotionally balanced and more patient with themselves, others and life in general.

So go ahead, sign up for that amateur orchestra, dust off your old trombone or take your first real six-string from the summer of ’69 down from the attic; get out there and play!

 Add-in (September 2009):

It is a year since I wrote the above article.  In the interim I have found, read and remembered even more reasons why music is a good idea.  I also spotted various ways in which this article was too brief and not informative enough.

  1. Parents and school children should be aware that music is an accepted school subject – for example, if you play Grade 6 via a reputable exam centre, here in South Africa this counts for an additional matriculation subject.  In Britain a similar system is in place (except that I think the grade you need to pass is Grade 8.  Verify this though).  Check in your own home country whether and in which way this applies to you.  Having an additional subject on your senior certificate is an advantage for getting into certain university courses (not only music).
  2. In some places the school syllabus does not include memorizing poems and similar contents verbatim anymore.  While learning things off by heart isn’t everything, it certainly is an important skill.  Music gives the student the chance to learn memorizing.
  3. I also realized that I never specified why music is so good for children that occupational therapists prescribe it.  The amount of focus involved in learning an instrument is enormous.  In other words, the ability to concentrate for longer and harder, improves.  Besides this, playing an instrument involves a lot of fine muscle coordination, as well as hand-eye and hand-ear coordination.  Musical development is also closely correlated in the brain with speech development; I have taught more than one student violin whose main aim was to improve their speech.
  4. Performing and playing with / for others:  This is a separate area within music that deserves mention.  We hold studio concerts twice a year to give our students the added advantage that comes from performing; we also hold “Ceilidhs” (Irish musical parties during which everyone eats, drinks and plays their instrument).  The two kinds of functions focus on different aspects of performing.  The one is formal; performing for a formal audience teaches the player to deal with stage fright.  If you have performed an instrument before people, you’re not half as afraid to step up and deliver a speech anymore.  The other kind of function (the Ceilidh) encourages the musician to play up in an informal setting; this translates into being able to speak up and say your say in, for example, a discussion or a company networking event.  These are social and career skills.

As you see, there are more than enough reasons to pick up the old “ramkiekie” and play.  So “give it stick!”


Need more inspiration?

Download our Studio Brochure here…

With a bit of searching you will find violin studios similar to ours, wherever you are.

Now go and have fun!


The Suzuki Violin Method, which is by far the most popular in this neck o’ the woods, is set up (in its full systems) to start children on the violin at age 3.

You even get specially small violins, 1/8ths and even 1/16ths.  I’ve never yet started a kid on a 1/16th, and the kids who started on 1/8ths in my studio I can count on one hand.

Then again I don’t start them at age 3.

At age 3, many children are still learning to be dry at night; to master their first language to the point that people other than their mom can understand them; and their attention span is usually (I say, usually) not more than about five seconds.

I did say, usually.  You do of course get unusual children.  However, the grade of difficulty violin presents, would take a very unusual child to learn at age 3.  I believe David Garrett started at age 4.

I generally start them no younger than 5.  Just to be on the safe side.  That is not to say, if you want to start your child on the violin and they are already 8 or even 11, that they missed the boat.  Not at all!

7 or 8 is a wonderful age to start:  Children learn fast and can apply themselves with real enthusiasm to their instrument. Where I spend many a lesson with a 5-year-old merely practicing posture and making a sound, I move like lightning with the Grade 2 and 3’s , and within a few lessons they play a few songs.  The 11-year-olds are even more fun to start:  We fly practically through the whole first half of that Suzuki method that is so lovingly, ingeniously, set up to accommodate the preschoolers.

The Suzuki learning curve is rather steep, though.  A lot depends on the teacher.  According to the book you’d need to stick with a song until it is perfect before moving onto the next.  Well, that is a nice theory.  In practice, do this to any healthy normal little lout and they will get bored and frustrated.  They do not experience the same joy as we adult listeners do, in perfect intonation and a beautiful tone; they want to move forward and play a tune!

Boredom and frustration are of course part of the learning curve (itself steep) that is the violin.  A child needs to overcome the sense of “nothing happening here” and start taking note of the things that are indeed happening.  But all within limits.  The first responsibility of the teacher, as some famous person said, is to foster the love of music in the pupil.

So I supplement the Suzuki with songs English-speaking children know well.  This helps them come to grips with the instrument.  (click here for a resource.)

The cutest part of our studio concerts is right in the beginning – when the “Twinklers” walk onstage with their tiny violins, in a group, dressed to a T, little boys in smart pants and collared shirts and little girls in dresses fit for bridesmaids.  And the audience (moms and dads, and older players who’ve all been there and remember with nostalgia) sighs, “awwww!”  And then the weeny violins get lifted, and the audience bravely plugs their ears against a very brave rendition by first-time performers of “Twinkle Star”, as composed by Mozart and arranged by Suzuki.  And afterwards, the thundering applause (because if it doesn’t thunder, I shall!) is meant for the braveness of the little ones who are not even yet aware of stage fright; and the way they are just adorable.  What an experience!  After which, the concert can progress through the levels, to more and more versed players until by the end of the evening, our advanced students really wow the audience as experienced young performers.

Writing this, I’m really looking forward to reopening the studio on the 16th and preparing them all for their next concert.  What absolute fun!