Beginner motivation and discipline

April 13, 2005 at 11:38 PM · I was recently asked to begin teaching violin lessons to a 7-year-old, *very* high-energy boy. His older siblings have played violin; he loves the instrument and has wanted to take lessons for some time. I believe his potential is incredible! Music will be such a wonderful outlet for him.

My teacher teaches Suzuki and overall, that is what I use for my students. Parental involvement is a key factor in the Suzuki method, obviously. Although this 7-year-old's mother wants him to take lessons, she's made it clear that she doesn't want to be involved in practices. She will take notes in lessons and will remind him to practice, period. She believes that if he wants to do it, he will have the maturity and desire to practice (and progress).

I would be very grateful for feedback and thoughts from your experiences in teaching.

I think that the love and desire he has for violin will take him a long way. But how mature is a 7-year-old? What if, after a semester or two, he gets tired of practicing? Violin technique and practice isn't all fun and games. =) If he doesn't have the accountability and encouragement to continue (and he knows he can stop if he wants), I fear the whole experience will be detrimental to him and he won't pick up violin again...simply because of a couple frustrating weeks.

What is the balance? I would be thrilled to work with him--especially because of his enthusiasm. But I want it to be a good experience for him and I want to know that he'll stick with it long enough to develop good technique and beautiful music that brings him joy and confidence.

Thanks in advance for your advice!


Replies (4)

April 14, 2005 at 12:50 AM · Hi Laura,

I've taught a few 6, 7 yr olds before. Depending on the kid, some of them are already very serious about music, such that they'll ask questions like 'How do I make that sound good?', while some of them, like you said, not mature enough and are simply going to lessons because their parents want them to. This applies to older kids/young adults, too, which is quite sad. Parental guidence is very important for younger kids but of coz, the kid him/herself would also need to motivate themselves to practise, too. I guess one way to sorta make them practise is to play games with them in the lessons (eg. bowing games on strings etc.) and if they think lessons are fun, then they're more likely to practise at home.

Then again, when the technique starts to get difficult, the student might lose interest all together, that's when you ask them if music is really what they want - a totally different story yet again!

April 15, 2005 at 03:47 AM · Hi! Laura,

I am not a teacher, but as a mother I just had to let you know your student will appreciate you thinking about him seriously. When I read your post he sounded much like my 7-year-old daughter. She's been taking violin lessons for about a year now. Her first teacher was very patient and gentle, but one day she told me she couldn't teach her any more because of her luck of corporation. She is very head strong and she doesn't like to get help. So even if I offer her some help when she's frustrated, she would firmly refuse my offer. I was very sad when her teacher told me that she was dismissing her, but I knew my daughter loved playing violin so I found her another teacher. I am so grateful she took her in. She watches her very carefully and finds a way to make her feel better when she is frustrated and discouraged. (My daughter doesn't take criticism very well.) She focuses on my daughter's strength rather than weakness and teaches her in a way that her feelings won't hurt, like "that sound was very good and if you do this way it will even bring that sound out."

So please examine his personality and find what works better for him. I hope he will love violin!

And I really thank you, Laura.



April 15, 2005 at 01:09 PM · I am not real familiar with Suzuki, but I think it is fairly structured. It might help to supplement it with particular music that his mother tells you he likes. You could teach him to play his favorite song or whatever. Presumably, this technique would also work with older kids. it is important for a teacher to remember that while s/he envisions the kid as the next Hahn or Perlman, the kid may envision him/herself as the next REgina Carter (jazz) or Boyd Tinsley (Dave Matthews Band).

April 15, 2005 at 08:20 PM · I started the piano when I was about 7 and I thought I took it quite seriously. I could concentrate easily and with some reminding and encouragement from my mum, I didn't mind practising.

I think as Clarissa said, it does depend on the kid, some kids are better at concentrating than others.

I remember though what really made me happy at that age was that my mum showed enthusiasm in my learning of music too, which rubbed off and made me want to practise more. She used to say "go and play a bit of piano for me" and "that's getting quite good now isn't it?"

I think most kids want to please their parents and for some reason even the tiniest of encouragement from my mum really got me motivated at that age. When you say that the "mum doesn't want to get involved in the practises" I think you should still let her know that she should show enthusiasm towards his learning so he feels that everyone is enjoying his music and he's not just playing it for the sake of it.


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