transition into an unsupervised home practice?

said: Aug 4, 2011
 15 posts

It has been almost 3 years since my son began in violin. He’s almost 7 now, and wants to practice alone. He is more than half way through Book 3 though he is not solid in foundational skills: posture, bowing, bowhold, tone, etc. I understand that he doesn’t want to be interrupted when he is playing a piece, and he doesn’t want to be to be told what to do. When I let him have his practice alone a couple days ago, he took 40 minutes to play one scale, one or two short review pieces, one current piece before telling me he finished the practice, which could have been done in less htan 10 minutes. He did enjoy the practice, however. I understand that he does need to eventually own his practice, but how do I let him transition? His instructor does not tell us exactly what to cover in each home practice but tells us to “work on these scales and work on tone”. I have been the one to come up with home practice activities to get “there”. Maybe I mentioned too many issues here, but my main question is, how am I supposed to help my son “own” the practice while making sure that he is not neglecting the foundational skills?? He is one of those kids who can keep him bow straight, etc., if he chooses to, but it’s up to him to decide and it’s not telling for adults around… HELP!

Diane said: Aug 5, 2011
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts

I have a system for this. Of course it can be modified depending on the maturity of the student.

Around 9—10 years of age I have the student take their own notes during the lesson. The parent still comes to the lesson during this process. When the student can take notes in a reasonable amount of time and show full understanding the parent does not have to come to lessons anymore. This is also a good indicator that the student can do their own practicing.

I rarely let a student leave a lesson without explicit directions: play bracket 10x, play line 3 5x, etc. Think of 2 categories—What and How. What to practice (bracket 10x) and How to practice (straight bow). Sometimes I’ll make “what” and “how” cards for a student to use during review. The “what” cards have the names of songs and the “how” cards have directions (straight bow, round pinky, walking, laying on the floor…you name it)

Many of my students parents find that during practice there are times when they absolutely need to be there to help and monitor. Especially when working on a new habit. They can also figure out what the child can do alone and they give them the opportunity.

Here are links for some practice trackers:

Smiles! Diane

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

said: Aug 5, 2011
 15 posts


Diane said: Aug 6, 2011
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts

Glad it was helpful!
Smiles! Diane

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Jennifer Visick said: Aug 16, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

Perhaps you can use the idea of coaching to help. Does he like any particular sport? Point out that no athlete worth his or her salt practices alone, without coaching, without an assistant coach or a trainer even if the head coach is not there all the time… musicians are like athletes—we need coaches.

Paula Bird said: Aug 19, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
404 posts

“Owning” one’s practice is not easy. Many of us professionals still work at motivating ourselves. Right, Diane? As a teacher I spend a great deal of teaching time showing a student what it means to “practice.” It is too easy for me to say, “work on improving this,” but I have come to understand over the years that students and their parents really do not understand the concept of practicing.

I have just been listening to an audio book called “The Talent Code.” The author relates his research into talent “hotbeds” of talented soccer players, musicians, skateboarders, and chess players and discusses the commonalities of successful “talent.”

Once a student learns how to practice correctly, they will begin to take ownership. This may not happen until the child is much older.

I agree with Diane about having the students get involved in note taking. I still find it useful for the parent to remain involved. Because I think it is crucial to build the student-parent relationship, I work closely with my parents to figure out what is going wrong in the practice sessions. Once we resolve these issues, the relationship (and the practice sessions) improve so much. Everyone is happier and much more is accomplished.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio (blog) (podcast)

Sue Hunt said: Aug 25, 2011
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

One of my colleagues sets a DIY task every week. This is introduced at the first lesson with something very easy, like covering the violin with a fiddle blanket before the case is closed. The parent is not allowed to interfere in any way. As the students mature, she gradually increases the complexity and number of DIY tasks, till they are ready to take the final steps to independence.

I try to do this, but I keep forgetting to follow through. You really do need to stick to it. However, I have found it useful for children who won’t let their parents help them practice. A small element of DIY really helps.

Music in Practice

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