Flow Pedagogy for Strings Education

Flow Pedagogy for Strings Education

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3359-8.ch004
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Chapter 4 addresses practical approaches of teaching and learning for string instruments to facilitate learners' flow experience throughout the learning activities. Contemporary string pedagogy is heavily reliant on traditional methods. In this chapter, the author proposes an alternative idea for teaching the basics of string playing (e.g., violin) by providing musical and teaching examples, environment, and episodes. The practice is constructed based upon observable flow experience of strings learners derived from the author's pedagogical practice both in the U.S. and in Japan. This chapter describes appropriate strings learning activities, content, and repertoire for children from ages 0 to 12 and can be easily adapted to suit older learners.
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String teaching is heavily reliant on tradition. Most conventional violin method books begin by teaching how to stand properly, “with feet about a shoulder’s width apart” (Allen, Gillespie & Hayes, 2000), followed by how to hold the violin in a correct position and the bow holding. In many cases, these instructions occur long before making actual sounds on the E-string (Starr, 2000). Many of the conventional teaching methods tend to lean on a rigid atmosphere, a teacher-oriented and less enjoyment in learning and playing the strings instruments (Akutsu, 2019).

This chapter describes an approach of string learning activities to facilitate learners flow experience throughout the learning environment, activities, contents, materials instructions and repertoires for children from ages 0 to 12 and can be easily adapted to to suite older learners. The practice is constructed based on observable flow experience of string learners derived from the author’s pedagogical practice both in the U.S and in Japan for past 20 years. Although each activity is deliberately selected to foster individual child’s flow experience, teachers need to observe and make a decision to teach, or not to teach, the materials based on individual students’ skills, interests and the observable flow behavior. Although many examples are written for the violin as an example, teachers may use them to teach other strings families including viola, cello, and bass. It is not necessarily recommended to teach the activities in order. The teacher may always find it necessary to adjust the sequence to fit the needs of her/ his students. To make the chapter more useful and practical, the author categorized the appropriate ages for each activity, and the observable flow indicator by Custodero descriptively for the reference for teachers.

As a trait of this book with flow theory in mind, some contents may just set the environment for students to experience and explore without adult interventions, and not including any instruction by teachers. The author also describes the examples with some photo images. Some activities include musical examples that the author use in his teaching. Some musical selections are Japanese folk tune as the author is a Japanese, and some notation is also written in Japanese; however, the author added the English notation for the convenient reasons with the wish to this book to be more universal.

By using flow indicators in young children’s playing in string instruments (Akutsu, 2018), the teachers and parents can understand when the child indicated the strong motivation to pursue challenges and/ or keen interests to learn. Akutsu, Gordon, and Noguchi (2013) pointed out that although children are naturally in flow in musical environment, traditional instruction and conventional teaching methods stifle their flow.

In the following section, I would illustrate how children indicate their flow experience in each moment of her/ his musical development with specific stories, and use the cue to construct the pedagogy and new approaches.

This section strives to answer A persistent question: when to start teaching the strings for children. The aims of the flow theory-based string education is the following:

  • To recognize that children are naturally in flow in musical rich environment.

  • To have a critical view point that traditional instruction could stifle their flow.

  • Developing flow leads to more enjoyment for students’ learning.

The author would like to start approaching the topic by illustrating the case observed by Holt (1983) depicted young children’s encounter with the violin as follows:

After they have done a good deal of bowing they begin to think about using the fingers of their left hand to press the strings down on the fingerboard. This does not have much effect, for two reasons. In the first place, their fingers are not strong enough to hold the strings down tightly enough. More important, they do not at first make the slightest effort to be sure they are holding down the same string they are bowing. The left hand goes up and down the strings, pressing them here and there, but the two activities are not connected. While this goes on, I say nothing. (p.71-72)

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