The left hand is very important, for with it the notes are formed in obedience to the mind and ear. But the right hand is also very important, and the quality of tone produced is made or marred by the right or wrong use of the bow arm and hand.
It is generally thought that a beginner must inevitably " scrape." For the first two, or perhaps three, lessons it is almost impossible to avoid making some quite unpleasant sounds, but it is the fault of the teacher if it continues for longer than that.
Let the pupil first learn to produce lovely soft sounds on the open strings only, being careful to remember that the angle of the arm is different on each string. The arm and hand must not be used as a drag on the bow but as a lifting and pushing agent. The wrist must be quite loose and the pressure on the bow be equally divided between the first and fourth fingers. A looking-glass is of the greatest help, as then the pupil can see for herself when she is using the right part of her arm or wrist, when the angle of her arm is right, and when also the bow is being drawn straight over the strings.
It is most important not to hurry over the correct and patient mastering of the easiest bowing, nor is it advisable to teach any but the first position for some months. For pieces at this stage Berthold Tours' "Thirty Melodies," Pleyel's " Sonatas," and Kayser's "Studies" may be recommended.
A great mistake that is often made is to avoid teaching the second position. It is a hard position, but it grows no easier by being put off, and if it is taken at once all the other positions seem easy in comparison. As soon as the second position is learnt and the third taken as the next step, a large literature is open and waiting for the really musical child. Most of the simple and quite beautiful music of the seventeenth century does not go beyond the third position, and not only does the practice of this standard of music help to teach her a suitable technique, but it also trains her ideal of what music itself should be.
The pupil who learns early to love Corelli and Purcell will, all her life, prefer the highest in music, and will not tolerate anything vulgar or trivial in what she either hears or performs. The only possible objection to the choice of the early violin masters for a student's study is that, difficult as they are to really play well, they do not give a wide range of difficulties. They give very small varieties in bowing or keys. To counteract this objection it is advisable to give some modern studies also.
Sufficient stress cannot be laid on the importance of working the left hand until it is really firm and strong. Every finger exercise should be practised first without the bow, and if the professor can hear the notes at the end of the room simply by the firm percussion of the fingers on the strings, she can congratulate herself and her pupil. The Schradieck finger exercises are invaluable if they are worked the right way. The bowing of these exercises should be soft and very even. In studying the sonatas of Corelli and Purcell, which are all for piano and violin, the pupil should study not only the violin part but the piano part also.
But few children realise what a sonata is. The intelligent teacher, therefore, should make a simple analysis of each movement, and point out when each instrument has the subject, and when it has merely a secondary or accompanying part.
It is never too early to insist on the pupil minding the marks of expression. It is wonderful how careless quite good players are, and later on, when the pupil is advanced enough to wish to play in orchestra or quartets, she will find herself an unwelcome member if she is oblivious of the " fortes," " pianos," "diminuendos," "crescendos," and the other innumerable signs.
After three years' careful work the average amateur pupil should have mastered her positions, her scales in two octaves, and some easy broken chord exercises. She should be able then to give an intelligent sensitive reading of some simple sonatas, and should be on the high road to a sound technique. As to the time a student should give, it depends on the amount of time she has left on her time-table, and whether she is at school or not. An hour a day is the minimum and three hours the maximum.
The pupil at this stage should be allowed to join an orchestra, provided that the music chosen is simple and good, and that the conductor is herself or himself a violinist. The conductor should be very careful to watch the positions and bowing of the players, and to encourage them invariably to give a beautiful quality of tone.