Essential Elements Method: A review


essential-elements-2000-violin-book-1Essential Elements, my dear violinist. That’s what this article is about. There are a myriad of different methods for learning the violin. Many of them are quite usable and do a good job of teaching students how to play.

However, each method has it’s strengths and weaknesses. Each method has a specific application. Essential Elements is no different. It is geared toward the individual who already reads and understands their native language. It is a method with which one can more easily teach themselves not only the basics of violin but the basics of music in general.

This method is best applied when used as part of a curriculum with an instructor and is intended to be used as a method that can be taught in a group setting in middle school or high school. To this end, I recommend it is initiated between ages 8 and 10 for private and group lessons, depending on the abilities of the student. Now that we’re acquainted with Essential Elements, let’s discuss it more extensively.

Reading is required

If you already know how to read in your native language and have a decent vocabulary, Essential Elements is an excellent way to begin. It is designed to have a logically linear path to follow in order to learn about how to play the violin and learn the very basics of music and note reading.

This method relies more heavily on sight reading at the onset of learning which can be helpful. But it also means that unless the student is naturally gifted with an understanding of ear training, they may not develop the ability to play by ear as quickly as with other methods. This is not an inherent flaw, simply a difference in approach. It’s another tool in the teacher’s belt, if you will.

If you are attempting to learn on your own, this method can be bought with accompanying audio tracks via CD or download that aid in ear training, but in my experience they reinforce what is already written on the page.

Excellent for school programs

This method was specifically designed so as to manage a room full of students playing all orchestral stringed instruments. To that end, it works very well. Generally, I find that students participating in this method are driven to excel due in part to their working as a group.

More often than not, if the instructor has control of the room, this method and it’s structure based on the group can quickly inspire students as it presents them with actual music making very early on in their learning process. They hear themselves playing and making harmonies with other students and it helps them more easily understand the concept of harmony.

There are only certain times where I find this method to have any draw backs. The first, concerning the group classes, is when the students are not all progressing at the same speed. This can take some juggling and it’s important to have an instructor who knows how to handle this situation effectively.

Additionally, it is helpful, but not essential to have an instructor who has some measure of experience with each classical stringed instrument as each of them function slightly differently than the others in terms of posture. Those drawbacks aside, group programs with students at the right age, benefit greatly from Essential Elements.


Essential Elements is highly effective under the right circumstances and it does provide a wealth of musical knowledge and understanding. Students learn instrument posture, how to read sheet music, important terminology and music notation, the concept of pitch, and ultimately scales and simple pieces.

By the time we finish the first book, the student has learned all of the notes in the first position on the classical stringed instrument they have chosen. My only criticism of this method is when they teach bowing.

This method begins with students employing pizzicato in order to make pitches on their instrument. I prefer to begin teaching my students how to bow(called arco in most books) immediately. I believe that teaching a student to execute the proper posture and form for bowing is essential and therefore I recommend teachers instruct their students on how to do this from day one.

Final thoughts

In summation, I find Essential Elements to be a great method for learning the violin starting as soon as age 8. Every student is different, but once they are able to read basic English(or their native tongue), this method becomes quite viable. With a little help from a good instructor, the Essential Elements method will produce a quality violinist.

Essential Elements Violin Book 1

Essential Elements Violin Book 2

Essential Elements Violin Book 3

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