Book 2 transfer student struggling with rhythm and note reading

Anna said: Oct 27, 2012
 5 posts

I just received a transfer student who has never had regular private lessons and I’m not sure where to go with her in regards to repertoire / filling in some holes .

She’s 11 years old, and has gone through Suzuki Book 1 and part of Book 2 during sporadic lessons with her grandfather, who was is a retired violinist with the Cleveland Symphony. She practices for an hour each day and has pretty good tone/ basic technique.

However, in playing through pieces she’s pretty much learned on her own (Chorus, Musette, Long Long Ago) and starting Hunter’s Chorus, I’ve discovered some holes such as:

Never memorized anything, so seems difficult for her
Doesn’t learn pieces by ear (even though she does listen to CD)
Doesn’t read music very well either (all notes written in!?!)
Doesn’t have a great sense of rhythm/meter (halfs, quarters and eighths all blend together sporadically)

What should we work on first? Is it worth relearning Suzuki pieces she’s already been playing for a year? I don’t want her to feel discouraged but I’m also thinking Hunter’s Chorus may be too tricky for her right now with these issues…should we move to a different book or piece?

She is working through Essential Elements book 1, which is more at her level, and has same issues with sightreading and rhythm.

To complicate matters, we only have lessons every other week due to family custody issues so it’s easy for her to revert to old rhythm habits without weekly feedback. I am insisting they get a metronome right away and use it always. :)

Barb said: Oct 27, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
685 posts

NOT speaking from experience (just brainstorming) I would try:

“You’re have a good tone and great technique—it’s time to take some of your early pieces to a higher level by being really careful about note values, and learning them by memory so they will be even more musical!”

  1. For memory, choose one of the review pieces each week. The early book 1 pieces shouldn’t take longer than one week? If that seems hard break it down even more. Listen to that piece 10 times a day, sing it by memory, try to play it by ear. (I think that we memorize better when we learn by ear—and I do have some experience there—I didn’t learn to play by ear and don’t memorize well either!) Mom (or Dad) can help when she gets stuck. (Finger or note name—they are all written in her book, right?)

Do you have a group? That gives another reason she could understand to learn the review pieces by memory. That is a very social age for girls, especially. Maybe match her with a practice buddy if you don’t have a group?

  1. For new music choose some easy Christmas piece she knows how to sing already—give her the starting note or measure—start in lesson and a week to figure it out.

  2. Work on reading separately from the Suzuki rep. with something like J. Martin’s “I Can Read” books which separate out note reading and rhythm reading.

  3. Maybe she would like to write out something like point 2 above which she already knows the tune for. You can help her figure out note values, where the bar lines go, etc. Maybe just have her mark the spot on the staff at home, and then do the rest at the lesson with her. She might enjoy using a notation program such as the free Musescore - it plays back the music so you know if you got something wrong, and it governs your number of beats per measure, too. Easy to use.

  4. Yes to the metronome—the ones which emphasize beat one are great! (There’s an app for that! Free if I remember right. Also a free “Weird Metronome” online which she might just enjoy playing with without the violin.)

  5. Get her to move to music. A simple dance or even something where she somehow marks beat 1 while you play. (Clapping hands on 1, legs on 2,3,4…??)

Please—I also need more ideas for the sense of rhythm, meter…. I have an adult student who started out “beat deaf”. Three years, at Chorus from JM (she’s had a couple breaks from really progressing while taking courses, etc.) and it’s getting better, though. Lots of listening, metronome, working at counting… Look forward to hearing ideas from others!

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

Gloria said: Oct 28, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
75 posts

Barb, you have some very good suggestions there.
As for you beat formerly deaf student, I would get her/him to do a little Eurhythmics, moving in an organized way to the rhythmic flow of the music. Adults are often “disconnected” from the music in their bodies, unlike children. You can use very simple things at the beginning and see how it goes, starting with kids’ clapping games, designating a specific clap for the down beat, etc. I think sometimes it is better to bypass the intellectual rout and go for the
non-verbal, creative approach. You student will also have a little more fun!
I hope this was helpful.

Barb said: Oct 29, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
685 posts

Thanks, Gloria!

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

This topic is locked. No new comments can be posted.

You must log in to post comments.

A note about the discussion forum: Public discussion forum posts are viewable by anyone. Anyone can read the forums, but you must create an account with your email address to post. Private forums are viewable by anyone that is a part of that private forum's group. Discussion forum posts are the opinion of the poster and do not constitute endorsement by or official position of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Inc.

Please do not use the discussion forums to advertise products or services