“I keep playing the wrong strings!”
One thing that stops students dead in their tracks is hearing extra noise. This happens when they are accidentally playing more than one string. They are confused by the mysterious extra notes. The good news is, they can hear this! The bad news is, they don't know what to do about it.
Fortunately there is a simple solution.
Your bow arm is an elevator.
Depending on which floor you are on, you will play a different string. If you are missing the A string, for example and playing D instead, you need to calibrate your arm more precisely. In child language, put the elevator on the right floor.
Imagining an elevator will quickly fix the lack of control over which string they are playing, because it helps them gain a more precise body awareness.
This is a really quick and helpful practice tip for parents and teachers to know, because once students start paying attention to the exact position of their arm, they will automatically clean up the extra noise.
How to Ride the Elevator
First talk about how many floors there are on the violin. There are 4 floors for open strings, 7 if you are learning to tune or play chords (purposefully playing two strings at once.)
Teachers demonstrate by having the student place their hands on your bow arm as you move up and down to each string.
Students move your arm to each open string and play, practicing how it feels to be only on that floor.
Keep in mind: Riding UP the elevator makes the notes go DOWN. (With the arm at the highest position we are at the lowest note, the G string.)
Usually students are able to grasp an additional idea: there are three more in-between floors, where we play two strings at once. I will introduce this for tuning or if the student is asking for an explanation of they are playing two strings instead of one.
Good luck getting off on the right floor!