Motivation for Beginning Students

Ronald Hoffman said: Nov 3, 2011
 3 posts

my pre-twinkler student loves to play the violin but he keeps getting frustrated when he doesn’t sound like the violin recordings and performances that he hears. i have tried motivational games to keep him interested, but this doesn’t help as he actually likes to play the violin but only gets very restless when he doesn’t sound as he wants to. since he is only six, he doesn’t understand the rewards of practicing hard to play well, and the more restless he gets, the worse he does, and the worse he does, the more restless he gets, and we go in circles. Any suggestions?!? thanks so much!

said: Nov 3, 2011
 13 posts

Perhaps it would help to have him set modest goals (en route to playing like the recordings) that he can reasonably expect to achieve in the foreseeable—even to a six-year-old—future.—e.g., en route to playing like the tape, is being able to do X consistently.

If he wants someone else’s playing to compare with, maybe have him listen to fellow students, and have him choose a role model for playing—in addition to the recordings—who is just a teeny step ahead of him.

My mother used to tape-record me (every once in a great while), so that I could hear the progress.

Deanna said: Nov 3, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
90 posts

Have very small acheivable goals in the lesson and to practice at home. Maybe it’s just getting a beautiful ringing tone on one tuka tuka ti ti on the E string. (Which is actually quite an accomplishment for a pre-twinkler.) It sounds like he’s already very conscious of tone which is great—that is a step in itself.
Does he know HOW to make a beautiful sound? Opening from your elbow, playing on the highway, not pushing on the bow, watching the bow, playing between the tapes, having a beautiful bowhold, etc… Notice how many things are in that list and that’s just for playing an open string without fingers!
Work on one of those at a time—maybe playing on the highway or between the tapes and make sure he understands WHY you’re doing that. Even fixing a small thing like that will impact the sound in a short time so that he can hear the difference.
It takes time to learn that doing something difficult over and over makes it easy. He just doesn’t have that experience yet. Giving him something to do where he can sound better within 5 repetitions will help to teach him that.
Also alternate violin activites with singing, clapping, movement activites to break the circle of restless leading to poor playing leading to more restless etc.
Depending on his personality if you can do something silly, crazy or surprising it will help him loosen up and “forget” his restlessness. Something like: “We’re going to have a silly face making contest. Ready, go! And you both make silly faces for 10 seconds. Or stand on one foot and clap the twinkle rhythms, or pretend your someone else and introduce yourself with the Suzuki handshake. Example: Hi, my name is Mumphy Bumkin. Shake hands with your right hand to the tuka tuka ti ti rhythm. You can have the student introduce themselves to you and their parent too.
If his personality is more business like and he just wants to be able to do it, get him away from his violin for a minute or two doing something physical. A lot of the time setting down the violin, running to touch the far wall (that may be only 3 steps away) and then getting set up again is enough of a break. Jumping jacks, turning in a circle, touching your toes, giving parent/teacher high fives, all work too.

Irene said: Nov 4, 2011
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

play together with him so he doesn’t know how awful he sounds, then slowly correct him. let him play on his own only when you can see that his technic is okay, :)

Lori Bolt said: Nov 5, 2011
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
San Clemente, CA
227 posts

Some of the suggestions made above by dbmus remind me of the Practice Games available from Sue Hunt at The games are meant for use in home practice, include fun non-music activities within each, but can also include a good deal of work on those skills your son may sense he is lacking in order to play well. The parent can tailor the game to fit the students practice points for the week.

Good luck! Lori

Lori Bolt

Sue Hunt said: Nov 19, 2011
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
391 posts

It is so easy to become discouraged at Pre Twinkle level. Often, a young child can’t understand why he can’t just pick up an instrument and play it.

Therefore, it is very important to work on individual foundation skills, before combining them on to make a sound on the instrument. It takes many, many repetitions before a skill becomes automatic and putting them together before you are ready, leads to frustration.

Make a game of it, but before you play for real, make sure that, with a little focus, he is capable of performing the task.

Doing fun things while sustaining a bow or violin hold builds stamina. I give my students lots of these games before putting bow to string. This way they are not still struggling with basics, while trying to make a beautiful sound. Have a look at 36 Beginner Bow Games

It could also be that he feels that he is getting praised for producing a good result, rather than working hard. This makes a huge difference. A scientific study has shown that kids who are praised for “being talented” do less well subsequently than kids who are praised for “being a hard worker.” The “hard workers” have everything to gain in trying hard, but the “talented kids” had a lot to loose by not reproducing their good results.

I hope this is useful.
Music in Practice

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