How to teach See Saw Swings in the first lesson

“See Saw, See Saw, will you be my friend? See Saw, See Saw, yes I’ll be your friend.”

I always teach students to sing the song before learning to play it.

Perhaps the most important element of See Saw Swings, which I discovered by accident, is that it employs whole brain learning. The simplest way to understand it is to ask, “How does a baby learn to walk? A toddler, to talk? A preschooler, to hit a baseball?”

With these elemental activities, there is no possibility of teaching the child step-by-step with articulate explanations.

So why do we expect children to learn to play the violin one step at a time? In the folk tradition, children learned the violin by watching their elders from infancy and eventually picking up an instrument and copying. Trial and error. No formal lessons. With a basic principle, as expressed by F. M. Alexander, of doing it “All together, one at a time.”

In everyone’s first lesson, down to the age of six, I teach every student to play the first line of See Saw Swings as seen at the top of this blog.

First the student learns to hold the bow. This never takes longer than ten minutes. (Remember, when babies learn to walk, they all move like Frankenstein’s monster and we love them for it. And most toddlers are less than comprehensible when they try out new words. So it is with holding the bow.)

With bright students, the bow hold/violin hold takes only two minutes. The quicker the better. Do not expect perfection on the first try. Whether you spend ten minutes on the basics, or ten hours over the course of two months, there is a high probability that the bow hold will not be professional. Look at baby walking!! Look at baby falling down!! Are we having a good time yet? I think so!!!

First notes are never just one string. The first notes are the first measure of See Saw. You will be surprised to learn that a beginner can play as well crossing strings as learning one string only.

I help them move the bow making their first sounds. I do not let them play it on their own until I am confident they will follow suit.

Then I guide their first finger onto the E string. Say and play: “Will you be my friend?” Or: Take your finger off.

From there, it’s child’s play to play: “Yes I’ll be your friend.” On the A string.

With children 9 and older, I’ve been able to take them through to the entire A major scale in the first lesson, as imbedded in the fifth line of See Saw Swings. From there, it is easy to play Twinkle.

I am presently teaching a six year old who just had her fifth lesson. It took every minute of the first lesson for her to play See Saw. Now, after five lessons, she plays the entire first page of See Saw Swings and Twinkle is easy.

See Saw Swings for violin, viola, or cello is available at amazon.com .

Movable Do and See Saw Swings

Yesterday I had a student, a girl in 3rd grade, beginning Suzuki Volume 2. She had tremendous difficulty learning the notes to “Judas Maccabeus.”

I took her into See Saw Swings, playing an exercise on the A and D strings. I introduced her to Kodaly style solfege, with movable Do.

So do so do la la la la so     So do so do re re re re do….

We sang most of the page. I jotted down just enough symbols so she could extrapolate, and I was quite amazed at how well she sang through the exercises. I explained the difference between traditional solfege and movable Do. And we sang.

When she played the See Saw Swings exercise on her violin, it was her best playing ever! Then we went back to the music by Handel. We sang the first phrase only.

So mi fa so do re mi fa so fa mi re…

I cannot express my amazement at how easily she then performed the entire piece. This, of course, is an endorsement for solfege and the importance of singing. But it is so easy for the student to solfege the simple progressions of See Saw Swings, and then the connection to music happened as if by magic.

Fun at the ASTA Conference in Atlanta!

I took a giant step by attending the American String Teacher’s Association  conference in Atlanta last week. I learned so much at the various workshops. Most amazing was to learn about the latissimus dorsi muscles and their role in supporting the instrument and the bow, at a class called “Body Mapping.”

I also reconnected with Christopher Smith, a student of mine in Omaha almost 30 years ago.  He and I became great friends and I’ll be doing a workshop for him in Nebraska next year. Two workshops actually. An intonation class with my cousin Paul Lindsay, who is getting the world’s first doctorate in intonation from George Mason University. And a workshop on See Saw Swings.

I distributed hundreds of See Saw Swings flyers and more than 40 free books. My intention is to prime the pump! Dr. Alice Lindsay, my Aunt, was in attendance and told me that everyone she spoke to liked See Saw Swings.