Teaching Twinkle

January 6, 2006 at 08:18 PM · Hi -

I was certified in June to teach Suzuki book 1...I've been teaching it since, and enjoying it. However, all my students have a LOT of trouble with the 2nd variation of Twinkle, the one with the eight notes and eighth rest. Never the other variations. I need suggestions on how to teach this one. I use words, like Ronda Cole suggests, but some of my students still can't play it -- it's a disaster. Any ideas?


Replies (16)

January 7, 2006 at 01:52 AM · I am currently a student and have been teaching beginning violin (suzuki-influenced teaching) at my university for 3 years now...anyhew-just so you know where i'm coming from...

different ways that i've learned from my teacher, Dr. Hersh (Suzuki TT) and from experience:


Four Boxes, three of them filled in. For example:



I use the words: Lolli-pop

but also know of ice cream, cone

in use of these words you can have students [slurp/lick/etc] on the rest.

so you get: lol-li-(lick)-pop

My teacher uses: Ice cream, more...

varying the words of the food, so that students know when the notes change.


-Patching/patting/and clapping is very helpful for teaching rhythms. Students show the rest by moving the arms apart (if clapping). This reinforces steady beat.

-We also do a lot of preparatory bowing work that includes arm scrubbing activities (McCall Suzuki Group lessons bk), patty-cake with partners, handshaking (in the direction of the bow), etc.

The partners are good because the student can assess their own behavior. Partnering up with parents or teachers reinforces the correct behavior (if you've taught your parents correctly).

-Remember that students should be doing a lot of listening of the Suzuki Rep, and the teacher can construct listening activities for parent and child that incorporates movement, etc.

There are many different ways to teach this rhythm, and no one way will work with every child. I would talk to as many teachers as you could.

January 7, 2006 at 02:10 AM · This is, a NEW note, a NEW note, a NEW note.... changing the note every time the word NEW appears is a good one, it's how I learnt it

January 7, 2006 at 02:35 AM · I have no idea what this piece is like and I never taught anybody, so you need to try this.

Is the rhythm like 88 R8 88 R8 over and over? Teach them the two 8ths till they can't stand any more, then teach them the rest and the 8th. Clap, stomp your feet, and count..1 and 2 and... Then have them put the two halves together on an open string and repeat it till they can't stand any more. Then combine the rhythm with one or two beats of the the melody and do it till they can't stand any more. Then the next couple beats.

In other words, break it down into chunks they can master with no problem, then slowly combine the chunks. Make sure they've mastered the chunks first. Easy huh?

P.S. if I was right about the rhythm, teach them to feel the single note as a pickup to the pair. Like Jimmy Nolen in "Mother Popcorn." It could get downright funky.

January 7, 2006 at 03:07 AM · The 2nd variation is the toughest one by far. I teach it last.

First of all, they need to have done TONS of listening at home. Before they even attempt to play it, we do lots and lots of singing/clapping. We tap our head in the rest and say "shh".

"My Name (shh) is Mom-my (shh)."

When I'm convined they've mastered this, I will do the bow and let them do the fingers. Eventually, they do get it.

Good Luck!

January 7, 2006 at 08:16 AM · Whilst saying sh during the rest you could try bending from the knees.This also ensures that the posture is not locked.This was an excercise used by Paul Rolland to maintain fluid body movements whilst playing.Read up on his 'Action in String Playing'

January 7, 2006 at 03:53 PM · My teacher always teaches the second variation last because it is the hardest.

January 7, 2006 at 10:38 PM · Thanks for the ideas. Definately they need to listen more and maybe new words will help....

Don't shoot me for asking because I've heard good things and bad things about this - saying "A A....A E E...E F F...F E E" What are your ideas on this? Too confusing for someone who's 9? I haven't used it.

I think I'll teach this one last...I can't believe I thought I was the only one who was finding this one hardest to teach.

January 7, 2006 at 11:28 PM · Rests are problematic for everyone. Have them "sing" it. Clap only the rest. Perhaps da da [clap] da da... etc. I don't know what the rhythm is but you get the idea. Also have them play it with you. Eye contact is crucial. Use exaggerated gestures. Be positive and re-enforce the good habits, and if there is a mistake don't make it seem even slightly as severe as it is. Maybe oh good bowing, but if we could try it like this... that gives the child an opportunity to connect with you, and you with them, they feel they are not a failure and that they actually are making progress.

January 8, 2006 at 12:05 AM · Or maby it's clap the rhythm and grunt the rests...

January 8, 2006 at 03:17 AM · When i have taught beginners, i tried to teach this early, around the same time the var. c and d so that students have enough time for it to sink into their heads. Sure, it might be harder for them to perform it (with all applied technique, staccato, rhythmically, and with the correct notes...) but we must be patient and trust that every child can learn it.

I would be careful not approach var. b with the preconceived notion that it is more "difficult". (Just because we view it as a rhythmically complex rhythm with an offbeat doesn't mean that the child has to.) It is just a rhythm. Like any word/speech pattern, children will learn most naturally when immersed in it.

As teachers, we have to set our students up for success...knowing many ways to present concepts to students and being able to deconstruct the activity and get inside the individual student's head. In terms of behavior for var. b: you're teaching the child to:

move the bow down, stop the bow

move it up, stop the bow

stay at rest

then move the bow down and stop...etc.

all within parameters of a good bow grip, parallel to the bridge, within a short amount of bow, on the correct string level, with perfect posture, in a given rhythm, with a correct left hand position, with a group, with the accompanist, with the leader...it's a really complex set of criteria.

Our job is to teach students from the most fundamental basic elements and then add/combine and let that action/concept grow and develop into the desired behavior/attitude, giving students a chance to succeed at a task at the level appropriate for where they happen to be.

January 8, 2006 at 03:31 AM · This is by far the toughest variation. I used to have a lot of trouble teaching this one. Now I teach it a little bit at a time. As soon as my students have finished the first variation, I let them start on the second variation, but they are only allowed to practice the first two notes groups (AArestA EErestE). Each week they are allowed to add one more note group and they are not allowed to "steal" any more notes from me. Ultimately after the third week or so, they get the pattern and finish up without my help. Meanwhile I have them working on the next variation or two. I've found this to be less overwhelming for the kids and I've had better results. Alot of the ideas from above are good too; all kids are different, so its good to have lots of ideas on how to teach it. I personally like teaching it as 1-2-sh-4 keeping in mind that the new note always starts on 1. But for some kids I use words if counting doesn't help them. It's also a good idea to introduce this rhythm on open strings and clapping long before you start working on any of the twinkle variations.


January 8, 2006 at 03:57 AM · I forgot to mention, for some kids the bow direction can be confusing. If that is the case you can say "down bow stop and up bow stop....." or something to that effect back when they are working on learning the rhythm on an open string.


January 8, 2006 at 08:25 AM · this might sound a little strange...but...

I learned this as cu-cum-*pause*-ber


Or maybe it was Cu-cu-mm-ber. I'm not sure...I think it was the first one though.

This also seems a good rhythm to clap. I'd say first clap eighth notes, then have them clap the eights and ta the rests or smack another body part for the rest or something. Just something different that allows them to keep the steady pulse of eights going while differentiating a note and a rest. Then have them remove the sound on the rest once they get comfortable with the rhythm. You could also have them ta it with "ta ta nn ta ta ta nn ta ta ta nn ta ta ta nn ta ta ta" etc.

Edit: I just realized all this has already been said by Danny ~_~ Sigh, I totally missed that, oh well. At least I can add the cucumber as a new thing to think about ^^U.

January 8, 2006 at 01:48 PM · Laura - I like your idea of only teaching one group at a time. I think that's what I've been unconsciously trying to do (or maybe that's all they get, I'm not sure).

OK so I'm not going to tell the kid "This is a hard one." That might scare them off.

January 9, 2006 at 02:42 PM · My daughter learned it as:









Five years later and I still remember!! We have others, too, if this helps.


January 9, 2006 at 06:07 PM · Hi! I just had time to kind of browse through the other responses, so do please forgive me if someone has already mentioned this...

I have found that this works really well for me:

Right after they've learned "pepperoni-pizza" I introduce this variation as "Piz-za (shh) and, piz-za (shh) and..." to show the relationship of the two rythms and where they're similar. Also to plant the seed of the idea of a pick-up note with the "and". Sometimes I use flashcards just to show them a "picture" of "pizza". Believe it or not, they've all gotten it so far.:)

As for playing it... yup, even when they can execute the rhythm flawlessly, it's a matter of going up-bow on the second "pizza" on E-string that gets 'em every time. It just feels backwards. So I explain to them that sometimes we need to do things that feel funny with the bow, and that doing so will show that they are not controlled by the bow but are in control of it, so to speak. I can't say with any certainty, but perhaps, this may be one reason why Suzuki placed this variation where he did. To teach control, as the next rhythms do require a surprising amount of control...

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