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Shawn How

How can a Suzuki parent help child to practice better at home?

January 13, 2012 at 4:20 AM

Hello everyone

Here's a video of my daughter Cathleen practicing on her violin on a typical night. As you can see, there's room for lots of improvement in her techniques.

My daughter playing Suzuki violin book 2 Song 6: Bourree

My question for all the violin teachers and Suzuki parents is:
How can a Suzuki parent like me help my child to enjoy or be more motivated during the child's practice session?

Any comments would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you very much!

(from Singapore)

From Irene Yeong
Posted on January 14, 2012 at 4:03 PM
what works for my daughter is, play together with her. take out my violin and play together, then she feels this is 'playing' the violin and not practising.
From Jim Hastings
Posted on January 14, 2012 at 4:50 PM
I'm neither a teacher nor a Suzuki parent; but I was a kid beginner myself, albeit non-Suzuki.

I second the recommendation to play together. But before the discussion gets any more involved, we need to address the critical issue of whether or not your daughter herself is motivated to play this instrument at all. If it's something she wants to do, that's a big advantage -- especially if she likes the piece and hears you playing it well.

But if she doesn't really want to play violin anyway, if it's something being forced on her, then you're facing an uphill battle.

From sharelle taylor
Posted on January 14, 2012 at 11:32 PM
I can think of nothing more demoralising than to be asked to sit and notice all the things I did wrong, and knowing that someone else has picked up more errors, so even my 'self analysis' is wrong. I felt so, so rantie when I saw a list of errors ribboned across the screen. She's LEARNING, of course she has errors.

So here's what else I saw: a 7 year old who played a piece from start to finish, in the same tempo, with intonation, with mostly even sound. She tried to do the bowing as written, she corrected herself when she faltered. She was practising. She is harsh with bow sounds and yes it wanders. Her fingers are stuck rigid and splayed across the bow with a lot of tension in the wrist.
Its hard to control a longer bow to stay straight, and little tapes at the tip don't stop the length of the bow acting as the lever it is - could you use a shorter bow for a while? there was a good thread here about 3 months ago about beginners with lots of bow hand tension, it would be good to read.
Since she can essentially get through this piece, why not break down the phrases and have them played musically. Get the teacher to show you how they can sound and how to get that sound, and imitate that.
As mentioned, if she doesn't want to play, this is all struggle street. If she does want to play, play it with a smile. She should be proud of what she can do.

From Vitalis Im
Posted on January 15, 2012 at 4:58 PM
I agree with everything that Sharelle wrote. There's a very fine line here. Criticism is a healthy thing, but too much of it, no matter how constructive, is bound to be demoralizing. All I saw in that video were flashing critiques--where were the positive and up beat messages?

I also disagree with asking a seven year old to critique her own performance. She isn't old enough, or experienced enough, to fully grasp what she's done or doing wrong.

I also agree with the bow length issue. It seems as though a shorter bow would be better suited for her physique.

From Peter Charles
Posted on January 16, 2012 at 4:39 PM
Maybe my comment won't be very wellcome, but I would say you need to find a good non-Suzuki teacher, as fast as possible.
From Frieda Francis
Posted on January 16, 2012 at 9:22 PM
Yikes, it is a lot to catalogue everything the kid is doing "wrong" and to make her self-critique her own video, all in a single session. I am neither a Suzuki parent nor teacher, but I still remember taking violin lessons as a very young student. If my parents or any teacher had done that to me at that age, I would have begged to quit.

It may be more effective to focus on only 1 or 2 technical issues per practice session, and make sure she really gets it. And also let her know what she is doing right so she feels a sense of progress, which keeps things positive and can be a great motivator for her to want to learn more.

From Peter Charles
Posted on January 17, 2012 at 1:07 PM
Frieda - yes, I have to agree. Well said!!

What ARE we doing to our kids? Apart from the fact that she is getting awful teaching, she really needs to be convinced that playing the fiddle can be fun, and she shouldn't be the subject of video dissection as if she is some exhibit in a zoo.

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