Student who won’t play by himself

Deanna said: Jan 23, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
90 posts

I have a 5 year old violin student (has played for 2 years and is in book 2) who refuses to play by himself. Generally, I alternate between playing violin with my students, accompanying them on piano or with the violin duet part, and having them play alone.
This little guy refuses to play alone. We have been working on this for a while and now he will play old review pieces by himself. But he still refuses to play his 3 newest pieces alone. His mom says it’s the same at home. He won’t play his new pieces unless she accompanies him on the piano.
Today he got very upset and cried while telling us he didn’t remember how the piece (his 3rd newest) I asked him to play went. I sang the beginning, and played the beginning but he kept insisting he didn’t remember and refused to even try.
After probably 10 minutes of this I said that he could sit down and calm himself and I would start his brother’s lesson and he could have another try once he was calm. Suddenly he remembered how the piece went and played it—by himself with no hesitation, while still crying and without any of the bowing (but I’ll chalk that up to the fact that he was still so upset). ????
While he was crying I asked what he thought would happen if he played by himself? shoulder shrug
I reassured him it’s okay to make mistakes and that his Mom and I would still love him no matter what he played.
I told him a story of how this week I practiced just starting a piece I’m playing for a concert over and over because starting is often the violinist’s job.
I asked him whether he rides a two-wheeler (yes) and how he learned to do that. Mom and Dad running behind him holding the bike and then letting go. It’s the same with violin—you have help but eventually you just need to play by yourself sometimes. You can’t ride a bike very well if someone is holding on to the back the whole time.

I just don’t know what the real issue is. Confidence? Fear? The thing is, he is totally capable of playing his new pieces by himself. He knows them. Is it just a manipulation and if so what is the motive? He generally is very well behaved, polite, respectful.

Any ideas? What can I do next time? Ask him to pick at least 1 piece at the beginning of the lesson that he will play by himself? Or maybe get him to pick one to practice for the week knowing he will have to play it alone at his next lesson?

Sue Hunt said: Jan 24, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

Sometimes, a child will feel overwhelming pressure to get it right. Some children are unfortunately brought up that way.

A very successful colleague of mine, Sharron Beamer plays a game with her students. She tells them that they are only a young and inexperienced, whereas she has had years of practice. So she doesn’t expect them to to be able to play the task as well as she can. She then plays “my turn, your turn” with them and pretends to be very put out when they beat her. In group lessons, she also regularly gives her students permission to sit down and cry if they make a mistake. By using these 2 strategies, she presents a challenge which few children can refuse AND make it OK to get it wrong. Getting it right is a bonus.

Praise him for the amount of effort he puts in, not for results. A study by Carol Dweck at Stanford university has shown that kids praised for talent become much less motivated than kids who are praised for effort.
Music in Practice

Barb said: Jan 26, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Interestingly, I have a student who doesn’t like to be accompanied. I don’t play the piano, but usually like to accompany or play along with my students using my cello. This student says it just mixes him up. It’s getting easier for him, though (he’s now 7).

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Wendy Caron Zohar said: Jan 26, 2012
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Ann Arbor, MI
94 posts

What I learned on this subject from my Bk 1 violin training with Ronda Cole, is that Dr. Suzuki strongly dissuaded teachers from playing a harmony on the same instrument with young children who are just learning to hear and play their notes. Students who are developing their ear for pitch and melody need to have just the clean melody by itself, in lessons and group class. A harmony voice confuses young ears and is to be avoided, until a later stage in their development. Even when the piano accompaniment is played, the melody can be heard as part of the accompaniment at all times.

Wendy Caron Zohar

Barb said: Jan 26, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Wendy—exactly what I learned from experience, with regards to harmony and same instrument, even though I waited until he was playing the piece well on his own. All my other students had been older and it was not a problem with them. But this student felt the same way about playing with a piano (his mother and sister both able to play the accompaniment on piano) and sometimes about playing unison with others.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

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