Ask the Teacher - John Krakenberger


The Madrid-based violin teacher explains to Tim Homfray how he gets his pupils to feel their way to good intonation

What age groups do you teach?

I have a great mixture of students, from young children to adults. Some of them want to play for fun, while others have ambitions to be soloists. With late-starters I prefer to take on only those who do something with their bodies, such as sports, otherwise they can find it very difficult and get frustrated. Sometimes they tell me that learning the violin has helped them in their jobs and their lives, because their mind and body coordination improves. Children, I believe, should start at between four and six years of age, when they take the asymmetry of violin playing as natural. Once they get used to symmetry, to doing things like using a knife and fork, asymmetry becomes unnatural. One must also be careful not to push children too much. There is a saying in Spain that tuition enters with blood: in other words it has to hurt in order to be effective. That doesn’t work with the violin. I make sure that children get satisfaction in every lesson. I ask them if they enjoyed it and they say, ’Yes’. Then I say: ’Hard work will give you more pleasure like that.’

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