7 year old wants to play and learn Suzuki Piano Pieces from the book-

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Kate Saphir Alm said: Feb 1, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Davenport, CA
6 posts

I’ve got a new piano student, age 7&1/2. She has a great start: she does silent, “ready to play” on all the twinkle notes, then the single and then double notes, Twinkle A, long tones, then B, C and D. I hear that at home she avoids or dreads this, but she is playing beautifully in lesson. She has started left hand hand postition as well. She is playing Lightly, Honeybee, and Cuckoo, and has not yet got the B section of French Children’s song. She insists that she wants her book up- but in the pieces she does not know well , or know yet, as in French Children’s Song,she makes the same mistakes and/or plays worse. When the book is up she sings the finger numbers. She began observing lessons in September,started lessons herself in November, and continues to observe, so she has certainly seen a peer her same age learn melodies ,then accompaniments, all by ear, and she has seen reading books introduced as well.She is learning elements of reading: solfa, stick notation, rhythm exercises , and card versions (i measure per 8X 11 page) of book 1 pieces in her weekly group class. She only hears the CD about 8 times a week, however, and I am working with the mom on this to steadily increase.

Today I told her that when she can play through Au Claire without the book in front of her, she’ll get 2 reading books to take home, and that the Suzuki Book 1 is for her Mom to use to help her and for us to look at together once she can play all the songs.

Any advice or suggestions?

Elizabeth Friedman said: Feb 9, 2012
Elizabeth Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
49 posts

Hi! I’ve definitely encountered some of the same issues. Memorization and ear training are very difficult, much more difficult than reading. I now am very insistent that children do not look at the book at all when learning their music (well, not until much later than Book 1, anyway), although I do start to teach reading from a different book (I Can Read Music—it’s a Suzuki book, and I’m not sure whether they have it for piano) about midway through Book 1 if they are already reading words comfortably. I treat reading as a separate skill that must be learned alongside bow technique, ear training, and memorization. I also assume that since they are learning reading later, their reading will not be as advanced as their playing, and so I should not expect them to sightread the pieces their fingers are capable of playing. (Does that make sense?)

Reading for your 7-year-old is obviously a crutch, and that should be taken away, especially since it seems to be detrimental to her musical development. I would insist that the book plays no part whatsoever in lessons until she is comfortable and confident that she can play her songs without it. At the end of the lesson, you might find it helpful to use the book briefly to delineate the form of the piece you’re working on, but practice the piece in small enough chunks —even just a measure at a time—so that she can start to put those pieces together in her mind.

I have found that this approach works very well with beginners… it only sometimes falls apart around Etude, mostly because by that time children are used to the idea that they will learn a song in a week or two, and Etude is extremely difficult to memorize. However, making up a story to go with the parts of the piece helps extremely well, as does noting “well, you’ve already learned this part—just repeat the beginning again”. Helping the student to make those connections in their head so that they don’t just think of each piece as a super-scary string of notes will make a big difference.

Lori Bolt said: Feb 10, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

Hi ~ Does the parent understand the Suzuki listening/ learning by ear (mother-tongue) process? If not, she may need more understanding to bring her to where she can agree to put the book away at home (where only she may access it) AND increase the listening right away. Either the daughter wants to imitate the students she observes who use reading books, she feels insecure because she hasn’t internalized the music through listening, or the mom may somehow be encouraging the child to use the notes, either directly or indirectly.

You’ve given your student a reasonable goal to reach before receiving reading books. If stickers motivate, maybe a progress chart toward that goal would be a visual reminder of what she is trying to achieve (simple chart: name of piece, RH alone, LH, together—sticker earned at each step).

By the way, your Twinkle steps are great! She has a good foundation started :)

Lori Bolt

Lori Bolt said: Feb 10, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

Hello again ~ I just came across a quote by Dr. Suzuki where he said he would not hear anything in lessons that a student did not play from memory. He said “reading music in practice lowers students’ aural sensitivity and they tend not to listen to their own playing, in the manner of a typist.”

Teachers and parents alike need to understand that music is an Aural Art. I found some of what I quoted in the article “About the Suzuki Method” by Dr. Suzuki here on the website. I hope this helps.

Lori Bolt

Jane Plewman said: Feb 13, 2012
Jane Plewman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Cello
29 posts

In the list I give to parents, the first and most important is listening 10X per day to the new piece for one week before beginning work on it. The students get to sign the “Listening Maniacs” banner if the task has been accomplished and are thrilled to be able to pluck the melody easily after one week.

Cleo Ann Brimhall said: Feb 14, 2012
Cleo Ann BrimhallTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
West Jordan, UT
39 posts

Listening has much more purpose than just picking out the pieces. Are you working on discrimination of quality tone at every lesson? This is challenge especially for a 7 year old. Younger students do it much easier. Do you transfer the beautiful tone to the pieces? When they work on the beginning notes (such as a measure or a phrase) for tonalization the rest of the piece just seems to come.

Of course—they need to listen to the Suzuki CD’s (the entire book and perhaps the next book) and to the best performers playing beautiful music—as wll as learning to listen to themselves.

Listening can be an important part of every lesson in a general way as well as specific to the pieces.

And I don’t say memorize much anymore—it is “learning” the piece. Reading is just a minor part of the learning process. Just as they have learned the names of their friends, their teacher, how to get to school and home again—they were not told to memorize these things—they come from experience.

Cleo

Paula Bird said: Feb 18, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

I would consider whether your student is a “visual” learner. It is difficult for these kinds of students to let go of the learning process when their eyes do not see what they are doing. Since I was a more visual learning type years ago, I know whereof I speak.

Of course, I memorized. I’ve done it since I was a young child, but I was never quite comfortable with it. In fact, as I aged, I found the performing by memory process easier if I shut my eyes (and cut off all other visual distractions). As I became more proficient as a teacher, I learned about the proclivities of various learning styles, and visual learning in particular. Now I teach differently depending on the child’s learning style.

My teaching goal is to strengthen all around the various learning styles in each of my students. If my student is visual, then I give more attention to kinesthetic and aural skills. If my student relates to the aural or kinesthetic learning style, then I give more visual cues. I also did this same learning experience with myself.

Today I will tell you that I am equally strong in all three learning styles, and I work to accomplish this same thing in my students (and their parents). We need to be able to switch from one style to another depending on the various circumstances, so learning how to shore up a weaker skill area is a major part of what I do at every lesson.

I have had visual kids play a song completely by memory while having the book open to the song before their eyes. I carefully observe these students, and they aren’t really “looking” at the book. They just need something ” visual” before them to feel comfortable.

I observe my students carefully about many issues, and learning style and “reading ability” are two of these issues. Just these past two months I have discovered two students who had reading disabilities (dyslexia). Because I was open to many explanations, I was receptive to these discoveries that impacted on my students’ abilities to do well in music lessons [remember: dyslexic students learn differently as well as have different needs in order to process information visually].

I love the Suzuki approach, but I am careful to observe when I have a student who does not yet fit within the Suzuki program entirely. In these cases, I figure out a way to get the student (and parent) back on track with daily listening, and I spend time with the parent and student and teach them how to learn new songs by ear. In these cases, the parent and student need my teacher help and guidance to figure out how to do this.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Kate Saphir Alm said: Feb 29, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Davenport, CA
6 posts

Thank you for your thoughtful replies and helpful discussion. The parent totally signed on once I explained to her explicitly what she had observed herself in other students: the necessity for her daughter to internalize the pieces. I think she has doubled the playing time of the CD at home, and now she understands that playing without the book is the expectation. My student is now playing her first 10 pieces beautifully without her book- at home or in the lesson. Now she has earned her first reading books and her fluid playing will help her reading.

Jane Plewman said: Mar 1, 2012
Jane Plewman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Cello
29 posts

It is thrilling, isn’t it when the “AHA!” moment happens? Congrats on not
giving in (or up)
Best Wishes
Jane

On Thu, Mar 1, 2012 at 1:55 AM, SAA Discussion
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