I can teach you or your child how to play violin or viola 
... quickly and well!

Studies have shown that learning to play musical instruments helps children develop self-confidence and good work habits.  Playing stringed instruments in particular helps to develop the brains of children (in a way that generalizes to their general intelligence and schoolwork), and it helps to maintain alertness and mental function in mature adults.  I have had extensive experience in helping children, teens, and adults (including adult beginners) achieve mastery of the violin.

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I began teaching violin and viola in 1977 and am currently teaching in Northern San Diego County and SW Riverside County.  I’ve developed a curriculum for these instruments that uses principles of motor memory to help students learn to play in tune; see The Pitchfixer Method. The method helps beginning students to develop good technique right from the start so that the placement of their fingers on the fingerboard is consistent, resulting in notes that are in tune. The method has also worked well for students who already know how to play the violin but do so without the accuracy or consistency that good playing requires.

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Students differ in their ability to read sheet music, and different students learn in different ways.  Consequently, for the pieces I assign to students from the Progressive Melodic Études that I have composed, I make mp3 files of all the pieces available online so that students can listen to and play along with them.  (They are on a website called SoundCloud.) I am in the process of making recordings of studies by other composers so that they will be available online as well. In addition to helping students learn new pieces more quickly, the recordings help students improve both their pitch and their rhythm.

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Nuel Maravilla and Joshua Schaefer performing the Bach Double Violin Concerto, June 2017

However, the Progressive Melodic Études can be quite challenging for most students who are younger than nine years old. Consequently, I generally use published material (like Strictly Strings, All for Strings, the Sassmannhaus Tradition’s Early Start on the Violin, and Wohlfahrt’s Easiest Elementary Method duets) for children who are younger than eight before using my own materials. The Sassmannshaus materials provide an alternative to the Suzuki Method for young children. I’ve been using them since 2014 and have seen a dramatic improvement in students’ enthusiasm and confidence through the use of these materials, which contain a lot of repetition and the very gradual introduction of new techniques.

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OTHER MATERIALS THAT I TYPICALLY USE

Virtually all students find it rewarding to play duets with their teachers. Once they have developed rudimentary skills, I start assigning students duets by Bartók, de Beriot, Mazas, Wohlfahrt, and other composers (including myself). This gives them training in listening actively to improve their skills in playing in orchestras or chamber music ensembles. Duets pose a particular challenge to students who do not count rhythms carefully, and thus they provide these students with terrific learning opportunities.

For students who have particular other interests--whether in fiddling, improvising, or playing popular music--I augment the Progressive Melodic Études with other pieces, such as Mark O’Connor’s fiddling books or music from movies, musicals, or the pop, country, or soul music charts, as well as (initially) relatively simple performance pieces like Elgar’s Six Very Easy Pieces in the First Position for Violin.

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Screen Shot Phil Boatman and Me

Within a few months of students’ beginning studies, I assign them double-stop exercises (by Josephine Trott) so that they can learn to listen for the sympathetic vibrations that are produced when two notes played simultaneously are in perfect harmony with one another.  These studies help students learn to listen actively to the pitches they are producing rather than approaching violin playing as just a set of technical physical challenges.  Every successful violin player needs to learn how to coordinate what the hands are doing with what the ears are hearing.

“What is paramount ... is not the physical movements as such but the mental control over them.  The key to facility and accuracy and, ultimately, to complete mastery of violin technique is to be found in the relationship of mind to muscles, that is, in the ability to make the sequence of mental command and physical response as quick and as precise as possible.” 

--Ivan Galamian, Principles of Violin Playing & Teaching

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As students progress, we begin to use the standard literature of exercises by composers such as Wohlfahrt, Sevçik, Sitt, Schradieck, Kreutzer, and the like, to develop facility with both left-hand and bowing technique.  Also, students have an opportunity to perform for one another and their families at recitals held twice a year at my home in Fallbrook.  I also perform at the recitals with a piano trio and other groups so that students can see their teacher enjoy playing and experience chamber music firsthand. Pictured above is ‘cellist Peter Ko, playing with pianist Siyuan Zhou and me at the May 2015 house concert. This group performed at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego on June 17th as a part of a Mainly Mozart Festival Overture Concert.

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If you’d like to inquire about lessons, please drop me an email at
pitchfixer@mac.com or call 760-645-3555. Typically I charge $27.50 for half-hour lessons in my Fallbrook studio (including Skype lessons) and $32.50 for half-hour lessons in students’ homes.