Corona and how to switch a child to self-practise?

June 1, 2020, 3:50 AM · Right, so, here I am again with problems looking for creative answers :)

So my child is now 7 (started a bit before 3 and is now in Book 5 Vivaldi g minor 3rd movement) and we have been having a lot of problems with practise during this year and to top it off with corona and videolessons I am quite fed up. Violin is now a problem, not a creative hobby. As we have been doing Suzuki I have practised with my child all these 4,5 years and it has sometimes been easy and sometimes rough but she is now 7 and I just cannot take any more arguing while practising.

I made the decision of switching her to a new traditional teacher in a conservatorium and she is starting there next autumn. And I did that in the hope that I could step aside and just remind her to practise not to be forced to practise with her. And also to get a different type of teaching. So its a conservatory and the teacher is a very good teacher and there are other talented kids so I thought that maybe she will find more motivations there. If only she could get there.....

But then came this bloody corona and now only videolessons as I am in a risk group and cannot take any chances not even in the autumn. So what to do?

Am I just going to let her practise herself even though she really cannot do it properly. I know she will just practise mistakes and as there are no proper lessons what is the point of practising mistakes?

Or are we just going to quit? She really doesnt want to quit but she has got into the habit of being difficult when everything just doesnt go perfectly and she is reminded of the mistakes that need correcting. What do other people do in similar situations? I cannot be the only one who has a 7 year old who wants to do everything herself and preferable just open the ipad instead of practising even though she really likes her violin and likes playing. She just does not want to make the effort. Quite normal for a 7 year old. The problem is how to go forward now.

Just stick and practise with her even though I do not really want to do it anymore? Or just count minutes and tell her to practise herself however she wants? Or set a timer and tell her to practise a few bars as many times she can fit into the time? Or qive up?

Replies (29)

June 1, 2020, 4:34 AM · If you quit playing with your daughter because "I do not really want to do it anymore" you are telling your daughter it's alright to quit because she doesn't want to do it anymore. Which will of course remove the fighting and arguing but it won't be good for your daughter, since she has come this far.

In my opinion practice needs to be an enjoyable experience, not a chore that has to be gotten through. What sort of rewards can you offer her for practicing with a good attitude? I'm not talking about bribes, but perhaps you can trade practice time for screen time. No iPad until she has practiced for at least 30 minutes.

These are stressful times for everybody, young and old. What your daughter seems to be exhibiting is something that most adolescents go through anyway but moreso these days, and in my opinion the worst thing you could do would be to give up or let her give up.

Picking out problematic measures/phrases/passages is a good idea -- guiding her practice with a timer can work for some people, it can make it worse for others. Try it -- but don't set the timer for 30 minutes, tell her to practice from measure 35 to 47 over and over and then walk away. Set it to 5 minutes and tell her to practice from measure 35 to 47. Then set it for another 5 minutes and pick a different passage.

I think that as adults we too often look for too much perfection in younger children. I'm not advocating letting her practice bad habits, which is why you need to still be a part of her practice. But a slightly out of tune note on one run-through isn't something which needs to stop the music and be pointed out. If it's always the same note in the same place, that's a different issue and needs to be addressed.

In face-to-face lessons I never let parents in my teaching room with their students, but I don't teach string instruments other than guitar and electric bass and I don't use the Suzuki method. During these online lessons the parent is often there "helping" the student and the comments I hear them make are sometimes horrifying but done with the best intentions. A student will play a wrong note, 1 time, and the parent will be all over them telling them they should start again because they missed that note. And it's very difficult as a teacher to get in the middle of parent/child relationships -- that single wrong-note may just be the tip of the iceberg that is causing that sort of remark. But I wish the parent would just shut up and let me address those issues, if indeed I feel it's really an issue.

Let your daughter make mistakes and when she reaches the end of the section she's practicing, ask her how she thought she did. Don't point out her mistakes -- let her point them out. And then ask her to play it again and pay careful attention to the mistakes she noticed and try not to make them again.

Often children will experience slumps in their desire to practice and if allowed will quit when something gets difficult or boring. You can't make it easier for her if she's working on difficult music, but you can help her not be bored. Make things a game, laugh with her instead of criticizing her. You play the same passage and ask her to listen and tell you what she heard you play wrong. And if you do make mistakes perhaps you can point out what happened that made you play that pitch or rhythm wrong, or had bad intonation or allowed your bow to not be straight or whatever. Seeing adults make mistakes and struggle is one of the best things for a child because then they don't feel so bad and don't feel that adults always do things perfectly and children always mess up.

Encourage her to play songs she loves, even it's something from book 1 or 2. Let her just play for fun as the last section of her daily practice. Get some fiddling books. Ask her to make up some music -- not write it down, just play notes and rhythms she feels like, and don't worry if it doesn't sound like great music. Help her to feel in control of the music. These days when so much is way beyond our control, we all can feel frustrated and helpless. Children especially so. If she can gain a sense of control over her practice and over making music it might help her deal with the other issues of being trapped at home.

Please keep us posted about what you try to do moving forward and what sort of results it gets -- I hope you are able to keep your daughter enjoying playing music. One of the saddest things I ever hear people say is "I used to play the [fill in instrument]. I wish now I hadn't quit." I do point out that it's not too late to begin again but all too often those people say, "No, I don't have the [time/desire/money]."

June 1, 2020, 8:33 AM · I had a lot of trouble with one of my kids around age 7 (the other was fine) and during much of that year, we were practicing via Skype because my oldest was in the pediatric ICU for months on end. It is definitely extremely challenging for some kids, and the video stuff doesn't help.

However, seven year olds definitely cannot practice well by themselves, so you are unfortunately somewhat stuck.

Some things we did that helped:

1) Make a list each week of what needs to be practiced (very detailed) and how much time on each one. Do a sticker or stamp as each item is completed each day.

2) Set aside 15 minutes for Play Whatever You Want each day. Yes, this led to my 7-year-old trying to teach himself Mendelssohn, but it made him happy.

3) Play along with them on (almost) everything on whatever instrument you can play. I would write duet parts for everything we were doing (if they didn't already exist).

4) Try to enroll her in some sort of program where she is working with at least one other student remotely. It is really hard for our kids not to be playing together, performing for each other, etc. That provides a lot of motivation. We just did the Benedetti Virtual Sessions with my 10yo. It was really nice for her to learn some orchestra pieces and play along with others.

Edited: June 1, 2020, 12:12 PM · Thanks David and Susan.

We are now in the middle of a new experiment. So, I divided the work into 10 +10 + 5 + 5 + 10 minutes and took a timer, which goes only when she plays and so far so good. She rests a few minutes between every session. It works ok, if I just try not to listen. It is actually quite hard as I can obviously spot the notes that are not in tune. It would be easier if I couldnt spot them. This is probably how a non-musical parent can be very pround of the practise when at the same time a musical parents feels that more work should be put to getting things in tune and not just playing through.

So at least a step in the right direction :) will tell you later how it goes.

As far as motivating goes, we have tried a lot of things during the over 4 years. She gets screentime after practising for about 25 minutes and stickers and such. We have tried making the practising enjoyable but the core truth is that at this level practising is quite hard work for a child who would preferable not do hard work.

We also today changed the practising time. We used to practise together in the mornings but now she will practise herself in the evening after shower at 7 pm. It worked today so we shall see.

June 1, 2020, 1:50 PM · Thanks for sharing with us what is working -- I hope that you and your daughter find continued success in keeping her practicing and hopefully enjoying the journey!
June 1, 2020, 3:35 PM · As a parent of a 9 year-old strong willed daughter who's been playing since 3, I completely empathize!!!! My last 6 years of being daily practice coach->assistant->close supervisor have not been for the faint of heart. Many many tears have been shed (both hers and mine!).

From my experience, you cannot expect a 7 year old to practice by herself. Even now at 9 years old, I still need to be pretty hands on with my daughter, shepharding her through practice. It is worse to practice incorrectly as bad habits and mistakes are easily reinforced which will then take much longer to correct. For these kids, their violin advancement is faster than their physical and cognitive development. I think I'm going to be needed for her practice through middle school.

At 7 years old, my daughter was practicing 45 min a day. I had a chalk board that listed all the music she must do each day with number of repeats etc. She did not get to finish practice unless all items had been completed and in a non-sloppy way with no whining. We used lots of rewards: screen time minutes, favorite candy, cheap toys, playing pop songs on the violin, whatever she deemed desirable. We also used punishment (take away rewards or privilege), not for playing bad but for bad attitude or lack of focus. We never skipped a day of practice. Violin practice was treated as a daily routine just like brushing teeth. I had to be militant about it.

Now at age 9, she practices 90 min a day and 2 hours on the weekend. Practice has been internalized as a must, so getting her to practice is no longer an issue. However, we are still working on how to practice and her attitude. She thinks she knows better and argues with me ferociously when I give her feedback. When I get sick of arguing which is daily, I will resort to overriding her objections with my parental authority! Parenting experts will disagree with my tactics, but I have to live with my own reality. Not sure how long my authority will still be effective.

Over the years, I've thought about quitting many times because it has been very hard on me. Honestly, who wants to have a 2-hour argument with whining and crying everyday after a long day of work? However, when I see all the benefits she's received from her violin study, I am thankful that I did not. She is proud of her violin playing which sets her apart from her classmates in school. It gives her confidence, which is important as a minority girl. It also has taught her how to tackle a difficult problem. All very important for her intellectual and emotional development.

This post is not to give you suggestions but encouragement and support. You are not alone. Please do not quit. You may need to reset expectations and be flexible in your goals that tailor to your daughter's development. Find a balance where she can achieve/progress while you and her are not being pushed over the edge. These goals and expectations need to be periodically adjusted and clearly communicated to your daughter.

Good luck! Your and your daughter's hard work will be worth it!

Edited: June 1, 2020, 4:06 PM · Maria,

While you clearly stated your goals, I did not read anything about your daughter's goals. Has anybody bothered to ask her?

Does she listen to music on her own? If so, what kind of music does she like? Is there a piece she wants to play? No, not in the Suzuki books, but in her heart, in her likes of music.

Isaac Azimov noted many years ago that you can teach a person anything but you have to start where the energy lives. It sounds like your daughter's energy and the printed material in the Suzuki books are not in sync.

I will agree with the rolling-eyeballs that a seven year old doesn't know where she wants to go for the rest of her life. But, she does know what makes her happy, what gives her joy, what makes her feel good about herself and the world around her.

We are in the midst of a pandemic that is teaching us just how fragile life itself is. Just how important is the next concerto piece in the next Suzuki book? So what if she wants to play some movie music or something way outside the Suzuki canon?

I teach violin to young musicians who want to play the violin where the families cannot afford private lessons. All of them are learning via the Doflein method but augmented by music that they like and want to play. As I type this, one of my students is auditioning for next season in the Youth Orchestra - she's going to "knock-'em-dead" with her heart-felt rendition of "Blue Skies" complete with swing and just a short improvisation at the end - while the others will be playing metronomic versions of "The Two Grenadiers." She plays classical stuff as well but the energy comes from Jazz. I can tell you who will still be playing the violin decades from now.

Edited: June 3, 2020, 3:09 AM · Maria, you are certainly not the only one who is struggling through the pandemic. Parenting is challenging enough as it is but add COVID-19 and distance learning, it became so miserable. Trust me, you are not alone in this.

Since she is moving to a new teacher in the fall, would taking a break this summer an option? My daughter took a 2 month break from violin lessons when she was 7. She still practiced everyday on her own and she eventually asked to restart lessons.

If that is not an acceptable option, what about a virtual practice buddy during the summer months? I think you can find someone starting from $10. It's okay to get help when it is needed. It doesn't all have to be on your shoulders.

June 1, 2020, 9:33 PM · One should have a very strong motivation to do something. We eat because we are hungry. We go to work because we need money, unless we get pleasure. Etc.
What is your child's motivation to practice?
When you were doing it with her, it was you.
Now, you have removed her motivation. You need a new driver then.

My son is 7 now. He practices scales and etudes only to be allowed to "give a concert" at the end of the practice.
So he put all his toys in the circle and perform "his own music".
It is not a music yet. It is random sounds. But it is what he likes most. He likes bowing his violin. But i only allow to do it, if he practiced whatever teacher assigned him.
On the days when he has this internal desire to play, he does practicing himself.
But he is just 7. So it is not everyday he opens his violin case himself. Sometimes i have to be pushy to stop him to watch youtube ))))

June 2, 2020, 12:14 AM · I think it is hard to be helpful, and not be overwhelming as a parent. You really have to pick which hill you die on in my experience.

Intonation could be iffy, technique could be good but spotty, and dynamics could be all over the place. If you work on all at the same time frustration is inevitable. Focusing on one thing at a time I think is imperative and learning to let certain things slide is healthy, even if it runs the risk of creating a bad habit.

I also think it is really helpful to sandwich feedback if you do not already do so.

"Wow that was very nice! I really loved your sound the whole time! I feel like your intonation could be a little more secure, especially with the second finger. If we can make the left hand as great as the right hand, I think it will be even better!"

positive comment, constructive feedback, positive comment that reinforces both previous comments. Also avoid "see what i said?" and "what did I tell you?" as it can be often taken poorly.

As far as internal motivation goes, 7 might be a bit young for that in my opinion, (Those parts of the brain don't really develop fully for a few more years) but every child is different! Maybe have a rewards system for hours practiced, or every new piece learned. Stickers, a small allowance bonus, musical rewards like going to a concert of their choice, or even movie/dinner of their choice.

Edited: June 2, 2020, 5:09 PM · Something to consider is simply that your daughter is now firmly in the "intermediate" stage of playing, which is the time at which practice habits need to change in order to make forward progress (talented people seem to be able to get to this stage without thinking too much about *how* they're practicing, but they always hit a wall eventually....less talented people need to employ smart practice strategies much sooner).


What I would personally do in your situation? I'd tell her that she gets to post an online "recital" of a piece she completes, and she has a certain (realistic) time to prepare. The "recital" will really just be a recording of her playing her completed/polished piece, and you can post it to your facebook or whatever. 7 is an age where kids start becoming more self-conscious, and also where they care about being more successful in a social sense, so this idea may work well for her.

Also, be careful how you frame this.... don't treat the "recital" like a threat, but like an opportunity. Perhaps mention that it's her chance to impress people with all of her hard work. Still be prepared for some push-back.

Another idea that might appeal to her is having her own youtube channel. Kids today love that idea. Obviously you would control/moderate the channel, but the idea would be that once she completes a polished version of a piece, she gets to post it to her youtube. You might mention that she gets to be the inspiration for other kids her age to play the violin.

Practicing hard music without a goal is basically futile. The brain of any smart child will say, "why am I putting all this effort in for nothing?" At some point, there needs to be a goal besides just the music itself. And impressing our peers is a popular goal, especially because she's reaching that age where she cares what people think. Luckily it's easier than ever to do this without having to leave the house, thanks to technology.

June 2, 2020, 9:12 PM · Sounds like a convergence of violin pedagogy and typical parenting issues -- that can be turbulent water indeed.

When I started violin lessons at the age of 5, I practiced by myself after maybe the first month. I did not have Suzuki lessons, however, and my progress, admittedly, was slower than it could have been. I could already read music because my dad had already been teaching me the piano for a year or so. My mom didn't watch me practice, but the walls in the house were pretty thin and she could tell if I was practicing or not.

The core of my "traditional" lessons were (1) Whistler books, they're really just books of progressively organized studies; (2) study books like Wohlfardt, Kayzer, Dont Op. 20, both volumes of Levenson, etc.; and (3) repertoire books with names like "50 violin pieces" or such. And basically I'd be assigned a new study every week, and a new piece every other week or so, and my "practicing" consisted in playing through them several times. I didn't memorize anything, ever.

Now I know what you're thinking -- that's just NOT how you learn to play the violin. And I really didn't learn all that well. But I didn't quit because I wasn't either bored or frustrated with it. Everything I was assigned was right about at my level and the challenge was extremely gradual. I wasn't really practicing, but I was enjoying playing the violin, even if I was just sawing through a Wohlfardt study. I'm only suggesting you consider this approach (playing = practicing) because of the constraints that you're under because of the pandemic. It could get you through the next six months or so.

If your daughter also enjoys playing on the violin tunes that she hears in movies or on the radio or music stream, this could be added to her "workload" as an "official" form of "practicing" for the time being. Again, just until you get through the next several months. If a teacher is going to be involved in this little scheme, however, they need to be on board with it or it's a total bust.

June 3, 2020, 2:37 AM · Excellent replies here already, mine's not to show "how" but rather to reflect on this post and jot down some thoughts.

"Quite normal for a 7 year old"
I'd say it's normal for most people, regardless of age.
Dealing with frustration - things not going perfectly the first time
or whatever - plagues us and it will become a problem if you are not given the tools to understand and handle it productively. Especially if failure is taught to be disappointing and shameful, like it was for me. I'm not saying this is the case for you and your child, Maria.

I don't yet know what it is like to be a parent, but I do very vividly remember what it was like to be a young child learning complicated skills or playing sports with the aim to win. I had an inherent ability to really commit to something, which I realised later is a trait that both of my parents stronly share. This trait meant I was able to deal with frustration quite well and disregard even emotional exhaustion - unfortunately it was also tainted and exploited by the dogma perpetueted in the sports teams I was first joined. Winning was the only thing that mattered to the head coach and we served that ego.

All I ask for parents here is to see your past selves and take inventory, don't make the same mistakes either you or the adults around you did.

Allan, I agree with you on the feedback and on the general outline you described. I have had to rework so many things about myself because the authoritive feedback from my teachers/coaches was initially harsh (luckily constructive). Even if I could take it then, it doesn't mean I've could not have progressed so much further with a different approach...

June 3, 2020, 5:21 AM · Hi to all of you,

I am admirig the passion you invest into your children's development. Honestly, I couldn't do it!
I teach one of my kids myself, and this is teaching once a week, and other than that, he practises alone (now at 13).
My 10 y/o cello-daughter wants to practise on her own, and she does it a lot, I only have to remind her, but it is way less effective than with my help. But practsing with my suggestions means a lot harder work for the brain, and this is causing conflicts, every time, even with my 16 y/o, whenever I dare to mention anything helpful when he practises trombone or singing, respectively.

I regard myself as a very lazy person. I don't want to spend more time learning something than is necessary. Consequently, I look for the most effective ways to learn. That, I even did as a child. I would rather practise only 10 minutes, in high intensity, than doodling around for hours without noticable results. But most children, I come across, including my own, have a different mindset from that.
Especially at such a young age like seven.

I know, especially when it comes to your first child, seven seems already pretty advanced, and after having started that early, the child is already not a beginner, anymore.

But she is still only 7. My string playing children startet at 6, and now (13, and 10) they are at a normally advanced level in comparison to other children who take it seriously. At 10, or 12, you cannot tell, if a student has been playing for 4 years or 10. So, why start so early, in the first place? The only reason I can come up with is the joy such a young child gets out of it.

You could start violin at 8, and still become a professional, even later, in some cases.

So, you have to put it into perspective. It is simply too early to follow a professional career path. It is possible to learn very much, but it is also possible to ruin her interest in the instrument.
Even if you give her a complete break, this wouldn't be wasted time, in the long run. Whatever she has reached, so far, can easily be restored with much less effort, at an older age.

My children rather invest 20 minutes of arguing, instead of 5 minutes really oncentrated analytical work. Or, as an alternative, practise a few weeks, on their own, still making the same mistakes, and then asking for Mummy's 5-minute-solution.

If they were ambitious, they would accept the harder work (and they have proven to be ambitious, when approaching children's competitions). But if they don't have that ambition on a regular basis, why should it be ME to be the ambitious one? It's their lives.
I know, they have the skills to become professionals, and I have taken care that they get really good teachers, so in the end, they cannot complain they dind't get the chance. But apparently, other fields seem more interesting to them, and I am pretty sure they will pursue a different career.
But they can still switch their minds, if they want to.

Edited: June 4, 2020, 4:06 PM · It is completely normal to have this issue and every kid is different, but here is a possible solution especially with the issue of corona.

Sometimes, kids can benefit from having a "practice buddy" that isn't their parents. The Inside Music Academy is a virtual music festival has musicians of all levels learn with internationally acclaimed faculty, but a big aspect of it is the "practice buddy system". Kids from all over the country are paired up and they have time set aside to practice while they are both on a Zoom call together. This creates a social benefit to keeping on track with their practice because the kids can learn from each other and play music for each other, motivating them to stay on task and match each other.

This can sometimes be the first step to self-motivated practice.

If you want more information, you can visit: insidemusicacademy.com

I hope this helps!

Edited: June 8, 2020, 1:32 AM · Update

So she has now practised a few days with the new regime. 10 + 5 + 10 + 5 + 10 minutes by herself and a rest of 5 minutes between every part. I told her the part to practise and set a timer and the timer stops every time she stops playing or plays something else. Afterward she get to watch tv on ipad for 45 minutes.

And I try to shut my ears and hope for the best. Dont know how teachers manage.

I would say that so far so good. She moans and groans but realises that every moaning prolongs her standing.

And now I got the realizatiion that this may be going on for a year as we are as a family in a high risk group for corona. So probably the most likely case scenario is that she continues even without any progress. And that is a good outcome, Any progress would a positive outcome.

June 8, 2020, 11:56 AM · This could be a translation issue, but if you're actually only timing the seconds when the bow is touching the strings that sounds counterproductive to me - an important part of practicing is learning how to stop and think about what you've just played instead of mindlessly playing over and over.

To be honest, I don't really see the need for such strict regimenting anyway - it sounds like she's between teachers right now, and she's 7, so even a year or more of unfocused doodling is not going to derail her future professional career (if she turns out to even want one!). As someone who performs professionally, I think it's more important for children this young to learn to enjoy music - and if she decides this is what she wants to do, she'll have time when she's a bit older to focus on technique and the "proper" way to do things. If she wants to play through old pieces or random pop songs she hears, I think that's great! This is a very stressful and unpredictable moment for everyone, and young children feel that too, so why not let her discover what sorts of sounds she loves and what she likes about music instead of trying to stick strictly to what she was doing before?

Edited: June 8, 2020, 3:37 PM · My violin lessons started when I was 4-1/2. I remember the day about 18 months later when I decided not to practice. When my father came home form work that evening he asked me if I had practiced. I replied that I had - and he spanked me. This was the only spanking I remember ever receiving. He told me that he spanked m because I had lied to him, not because I had not practiced. I can't remember when I found out that he knew because my violin case, which I kept under our baby-grand piano had not been moved from where it was when he left for work that morning. But I do remember self-debating whether to move it the next time I didn't want to practice, or whether to practice anyway.
I practiced, every weekday until at the end of the spring semester when I was 11-1/2 (after 7 years of weekly violin lessons - the last 2 years at the Manhattan School of Music that included an hour of Theory Class every Saturday) I had the courage to tell my parents I wanted to stop. I was the only kid I had ever seen (except for those in the MSM Theory Class who played a portable instrument).

They told me they wished I had let them know when I first wanted to quit.

I did not touch my violin for nearly a year, playing it only once in that time. I finally found some fellow violinists in school after we moved from NYC to Frederick, Maryland and restarted playing on my own before I was 13. When I got to the high school orchestra and saw the way the others played their violins it was obvious I did not want to go anywhere near their teacher, the only one in town. So the rest of my life I have been self-taught, taking what advice and coaching I could glean from others.

I became concertmaster of the high school orchestra the beginning of my sophomore year and held that chair without challenge until I graduated.

The last time I practiced was about 2 hours ago, 74 years since I first quit.

June 8, 2020, 1:45 PM · I think that children go through a transition at the intermediate level that may be to some degree age-independent, at which they become knowledgeable enough about the instrument to not want to listen to a parent who doesn't themselves play, because the parent's feedback becomes frustrating instead of helpful. (Not listening to a violin-playing parent comes from different roots of independence.)

Playing the violin involves coordinating a tremendous number of things together. You can think you know what you're doing, in your head, and still utterly f--- it up completely when you actually try to execute it. You need a moment of stillness and reflection, which your critical parent is interrupting with their potentially ill-informed complaining about what you just did. You can know what you did wrong and not want your annoying parent to tell you when you are perfectly aware of it -- and indeed, now you reflexively push back because if your parent is so smart, why the heck aren't they playing this b*tch of this instrument themselves? But figuring out *why* you did it wrong is something that your non-playing parent is often ill-suited to tell you, and it's a vital exercise to figure that out yourself, anyway.

Parents can actually hinder their children's development of independent practice skills. Watch a 13-year-old who has done Suzuki parent-supervised practice for the last ten years, and there's a good chance that they are utterly helpless to self-critique and self-structure a practice session.

Now, a 7-year-old probably justifiably needs some boundaries around how they practice, but they can start to be thoughtful about what they did well and what needs to be better. We want to try to steer players away from the notion that blind repetitions is "practice".

In my son's Suzuki group class, when the kids play for each other, every kid in the group class has to say one thing the other kid did well, and one thing that they could do better. Even a 4-year-old can manage that.

Similarly, though, if you do a quick smartphone video of a practice run-through, a child should be able to self-critique. If they can't, you can structure it with a checklist -- good posture, good tone, correct notes, correct rhythm, printed dynamics followed, no rushing/dragging, in tune, straight bow, clean shifts, appropriate vibrato, etc. (modify with level of player). From the checklist which indicates "what do I need to improve", you can structure a practice plan for a session, i.e. "these measures need to be practiced with an attention to intonation". It's also useful to decide what "good" means in a repetition. This teaches fundamental practice skills.

Non-playing parents tend not to understand that it is very difficult to concentrate on all aspects of playing simultaneously. Sometimes you have to work on a skill and let another aspect slide a bit while your brain grapples with one thing. Suzuki teachers will often tell parents not to try to ask the kid to do everything, but I'm not sure that parents actually ever follow that, especially if, say, a total focus on a straight bow causes the intonation to go to hell on a repetition.

June 8, 2020, 2:01 PM · Lydia said: "Watch a 13-year-old who has done Suzuki parent-supervised practice for the last ten years, and there's a good chance that they are utterly helpless to self-critique and self-structure a practice session."

This is 100% true and a huge problem we have dealt with. My son can self-critique but still begs me to help him structure his practice and listen to him play. And the sad thing is I know he *can* do it all on his own since he has been to camp and did fine.

Finding the balance of how much to help is really challenging. You definitely need to help provide enough structure to make practice successful, but you also need to (slowly) introduce independence. Our first step was to introduce independence in scales and etudes since those are more regimented.

June 8, 2020, 3:43 PM · I think Lydia is spot on, as always.

Although my father was a serious amateur violinist and avid ensemble player all his life he never interfered with my practice and never offered suggestions or comments on what he heard. But he was always ready with sage advice whenever I asked. He had a large library of solo, chamber and etude music and I was free to borrow and use any of it - and I did.

Edited: June 8, 2020, 9:26 PM · I feel like everyone is overestimating the cognitive and physical independence of a 7 year old. My daughter at 7 years old, 2nd grade, couldn’t be reliably be expected to tie a tight knot with her shoe lace as to not to have it untie during the day. Neither could most of her classmates. That’s why most shoes at that age use Velcro or slip on. She also couldn’t brush her long curly hair or braid it or shampoo/condition perfectly without help. Lastly, do you know of a modern day 7 year old who can cook? We wouldn’t think of letting them use a knife even with supervision. Then why do we expect them to be able to learn and practice violin independently, which you all say is one of the hardest instruments? In terms of cognition required to play violin, imagine a 7 year old memorize a 4 page essay or doing math with fractions. Would that require some adult help in breaking it down the hard concepts into digestible pieces and encourage some practice with repetition? I wouldn’t expect an average 2nd grader to spontaneously and passionately pick up a pencil every day to do math problems, yet I still want her to do her math homework despite the fact that I don’t expect her to grow up to be a professional mathematician.
June 8, 2020, 9:35 PM · I was convincing myself to stay out of this one the whole time, but Liyun said it. That's a CRAZY amount of pressure on a 7 year old. If you want your 7 year old to practice regularly, YOU will have to do a LOT of work. This isn't Dougie Howser MD, and I'm assuming your child isn't some autistic savant.

Every minute of practice for your 7 year old is gonna take 5-10 minutes of thought and work and planning on your part. What an absurd question!

June 9, 2020, 7:01 AM · I read a lot of recognition here. I have a daughter who just turned 8, I think on a similar level (she is now learning Boy Paganini and Rieding 21). We don't do a Suzuki and live in Europe, so our situation is different I think. Here it is common (and undesirable!) that a parent is present at the lessons. The learning process is something between the teacher and the child. After the lesson I speak briefly with the teacher and at home I look at what is written in the notebook. What I do next is put all the homework in a sheet: the order of practice (starting with the scales, then the piece she likes best, then etudes, then a piece to refine etc.) and how to practice (for example: play slowly once, practice difficult pieces 3x, play again, etc.). After finishing one of the tasks she colors the box, which she likes to do. This way I can walk away when needed at here practice (for example when one of the other kids needs me).

I am present at the practice, but I am mainly there to applaud. I keep in mind that the feeling she has to have after the practice that it was fun/rewarding/enjoyable (so that she will happily take the violin again tomorrow). I try to find something positive in everything she does, because it is always there. And if she really makes a mess of it, I tell her that how you play the piece during a performance is the average of all your practice sessions. She is very fond of performing, so this comment works.

Our teacher believes that a child will only do something if she feels or experiences why she has to do something. That helps a lot. Our daughter takes her scales seriously because her teacher explained why that is important. We can always ask her questions and send videos of the practice between classes. This motivates my daughter enormously. In addition, I have found quite good overviews of the composition of violin pieces in terms of difficulty on the internet. Once in a while I go with her on YouTube to listen to pieces that are (just) a little too difficult for her. She really likes to do that. Based on that, she always makes a wish list with about 10 pieces, which she shows to her teacher. They talk about it together, what she in the meantime has to learn to play these pieces. It motivates our daughter enormously, working towards it, but also when she can finally play one of those pieces.

What I still struggle with is getting her to repeat difficult pieces a lot. The real practice. I sometimes solve that now with sweets or games. This week, for example, we do tic-tac-to. She can make a move every time she plays the difficult part right, every time she makes a mistake I get to make the move. As a result, she plays the difficult bits extremely slowly not to make mistakes. I assume that learning to study is also a process in which she eventually realizes that it is necessary. This may all sounds very positive, and offcourse our daughter also has her moments when she does not feel like it. Then I keep practicing shorter and only do what is necessary. But in general it is a very nice time of the day, which I already look back on later with great pleasure. And I think she does too. This our special moment of the day. We have several children, and this is our daily moment (with the other I read about 45 minutes every night, with the oldest I regularly go for a drink or watch a movie together).

Edited: June 9, 2020, 10:18 AM · I agree with George. It's up to the individual. When my grandson was five, he had a massive interest in dinosaurs. He couldn't get enough of them, he could rattle off over 100 species, and their geological period,. Then one day he didn't care about them. He thought something was wrong with himself. I told him he was fine, People - children especially - are allowed to change their minds, to explore what they wish and to seek their own path.

I never pressed my children to practice. It was their choice. My daughter started piano at three and played until she was 13. It was in her heart. She was playing some amazing music, however, when she walked into her lesson and asked to play, "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis, her teacher grew offended. My daughter quit, and I backed her decision. "I'm doing this for fun dad, not to impress that woman." Well, I happen to believe a person needs to find their own path, so I didn't have any problem when she quit. Subsequently, my daughter took up flute had first chair for years, Interlochen Music Camp, camber music in college, the whole bit.

My son was drawn to playing guitar, trumpet, piano, and drums. I never bothered him to practice. I provided the lessons and instruments, beyond that it was up to him. My son performs, writes, records, and loves doing it.

My grandson, who is now almost eight, took up an interest in drums, and is taking lessons. Will he stick with it? Who knows? If he does, great. If not, he'll do something else. What he does have is the trust of his family to believe in him to find his own way. Like Kurt Vonnegut said, "you can or you can't, and you do or you don't."

June 10, 2020, 2:55 AM · I am not a parent. But I was a child who was subjected to the kind of bullying and controlling behaviour at the hands of my parents to get me to practice that I see people advocating here - my mother once told me that if I stopped playing the violin I would have to find somewhere else to live (I was 14 at the time). The outcome for me was huge, unbounded anger towards them which saw me put the violin away as soon as I was independent of them (I did this to punish them) and it was 35 years before I got it out again. The effect on my relationship with my parents was profound - I'm in my mid-fifties now and still haven't forgiven them.

I went to an all-boys school (this is in the late seventies/early eighties) where playing the violin made me a target for every aggressive bully. Repeated and determined efforts were made to break my fingers, I was spat on often and spent most of my teenage years very miserably. My parent's attitude to this? Suck it because we're not going to let you give up.

I get great joy from playing now - and I could have had that joy for the 35 years I missed had my parents not being such control freaks.

So my message is: if you are intent on forcing your child to practice, be aware that the consequences may resonate throughout your lives.

I appreciate it's not an easy path to encourage a child into the discipline of practice without resorting to simply compelling them. But at least be aware that there are potential future consequences you might not like.

June 10, 2020, 11:58 AM · Tony, I am sorry about what you went through as a child. I hope you will find a way to resolve your conflict with your parents and re-build your relationship.

Every parent-child relationship is unique to the individual pair. My post above was brief and certainly did not include anything else about my parenting, and how we show our care and love and respect for each other in my household. I wouldn't categorically describe any parent who is strict and hands-on about practice as "bullying and controlling". There are many ways to be strict, and it's certainly achievable with lots of love and kindness without destroying the parent-child bond.

June 10, 2020, 4:00 PM · Liyun - thank you for your kind words. My parents, my mother in particular, were most definitely bullying and controlling. I doubt they realised it (they have both passed now), but their ambition wasn't mine, and that's really the start and end of the issue. They wanted me to do something that had immense personal cost to me (and I'm not just referring to the time in the practice room) but it was for their gain, not mine. It's incidental that I have learnt to love playing again - my desires didn't come into it when I was a child.

I am not trying to call out anyone making a post here - I just hope that my (admittedly extreme) experiences serve as a warning of how things can turn out. I'm sure my parents didn't want me to feel angry with them, but they weren't thoughtful enough to realise it was an inevitable outcome .

June 10, 2020, 4:03 PM · "When she walked into her lesson and asked to play, 'Great Balls of Fire' by Jerry Lee Lewis, her teacher grew offended. My daughter quit, and I backed her decision."

There are piano teachers out there who embrace that sort of thing. I was lucky to find one as a young teenager and then in my late teens I transitioned to another one who was known regionally for jazz pedagogy. Fortunately my parents were totally on board with it.

June 18, 2020, 6:46 AM · Tony, Im sorry to hear about your childhood. But it does seem quit far from the reality in our family. There is quite a difference in bullying and letting the child do whatever he or she wants. People think differently, some think that children should develop freely. Do what they like and parents use minimum pressure or indeed punishment (and I dont mean physical punishment but things like denying ipad access ;) ) And then there are parents that find it is best to be strict and rational and use effort in guiding the childs way to sdulthood. Who knows what is best? There is no answer as also children are different.

But then there is neclecting parents and bullying parents. So both child rearing methods can go wrong. And then children have traumas. But it is important to differ what is just another way and what is abuse.

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