Learning new pieces, Correcting, Teacher’s comments to child about parent

Lin Chen said: Nov 8, 2012
 8 posts

Dear all
I hope you are well well. My 5 year old has been learning Suzuki Piano since early in this year. He has progressed to playing two hands (different notes). We practice daily, usually for between 30 to 40 minutes. May I please ask for advise on 3 issues?

  1. Learning new lines is always very stressful for us both. He will refuse to do the new line or the new piece once we get home. I try encouraging, even remind him that its eating into his bed time story/movie night time. It takes a LOT of persuading and even reminding him that he’ll have to play for his teacher, before he will try. When he does, the moment he makes one mistake, he will get angry, frustrated and cry and refuse to try again. I try to persuade him to play one of his older pieces to make him feel better but he will refuse. So it usually stops there.
    Q: How do I get him to be ok with making mistakes and trying again. (I’ve even made up a song about how its ok to make mistakes and that’s how we all learn).

  2. Once he knows how to play the piece though, he will enjoy playing it and even goes to the piano himself to play. But some times, after he gets the notes right, his rhythm may still be a little off or some of the keys may not be correct. One of his current pieces, he forgot one section and figured it out himself, but his self-figured out section is actually incorrect. The teacher advise to let him figure it out himself and not correct him, if it looks like he is trying to do that). So I didn’t correct him the first few times he did it, thinking that he will soon see that its different from how the recording is and how I play it. Instead, that is how he plays it now. So when I pointed out that its played differently he got very angry and frustrated and cried. And of course refused to play again. Worst bit is he keeps saying he is wrong, he cant do this, he doesnt know how to do this.
    Q: How do i help him handle being corrected without feeling like he cant do it?

  3. I feel I cant really ask for advise from the teacher. Am sure she is trying her best. But usually at the next lesson (after I had texted her to ask for advise), she would make flippant remarks to him like “See? You can do it. Dunno why your mummy always complaining about you, say you cannot do it.” or a couple of times to other Suzuki parents “Lin when her son wont practice would text me such long messages, like a storybook. ” and then laugh. Am sure she sees no harm in this and finds it funny. But I feel it undermines my authority with my child. I contacted her in confidence, making it a point to do it when he is not around so that he wont hear and feel that I am talking about him.

Would really appreciate your advise. its gotten to the point that we are contemplating stopping the lessons altogether. Thank you

Paula Bird said: Nov 8, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

I have to make a few assumptions here. I’m thinking that your child is generally a quieter child, who likes his world in order. He likes music very much but does not like his schedule and routine to change. He shies away from trying new things until he is more familiar with them. Did I guess right?

This kind of child does need some time to warm up to things. Rather than dive right into a new piece, show excitement and enthusiasm for the song and the music, not for the fact that he will begin learning it. Just get excited about it yourself. Listen to it even more extra times. Try figuring it out yourself without him (and not just as a way to trick him to try it). Do this for a day or two.

When you first start to work on it, pick a very small part of it. Do not ask him to try it if you cannot do it yourself first. Your attempts may be just what he needs to get going. I hope you make mistakes too, scrunch up your face, and say something like, “that doesn’t sound right. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.” Maybe he’ll rise to the occasion and try to fix you, but DON’T TRY TO TRICK HIM INTO DOING IT. He will get interested in it because you are showing interest in it.

Is there someone in the house who is perfect? I’m guessing you might try to fill that role. When he hears you correct him, you are trying to help, but because you are his dear mother whom he wants to please, he probably hears that he doesn’t measure up to your standards. Instead find a way to make a game of it, and both of you need to play it. That’s why I suggested that you learn to play the song too, because I’m hoping that you aren’t very good at it. Kids love to help their parents. I have one little 6 year old who told me she has to really practice hard in the next few months to learn the next few songs, because her dad wants to learn Allegro, and “he can’t do anything on the violin unless I teach it to him first.” She was absolutely serious about this too. What a wise dad, I thought!

Next, you as the perfect parent are going to make a few glorious mistakes. The next time you make toast, I want you to burn it. Then I want you to get angry, frustrated, cry, and throw a fit about never making toast ever, ever again, because you cannot do it perfectly right. Make a big deal about throwing a tantrum, the sort of tantrum that your son throws. Watch how surprised he will look when you behave like this. He will probably say, “it’s ok, it’s just toast.” No, no, you’ll say. I’m just no good at this. I can’t do it, etc. Then do the same thing when you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Glop the PB on the bread and make a mess. Maybe you can tear the bread. Throw a fit and do the same thing about this.

Have some fun with this. Find ways to make lots of mistakes. Later on you will all laugh at this. Your child will soon get the message. Trust me.

I think it will help if you become less perfect in front of your child’s eyes and worry less about things. If you take the pressure off yourself and your son, he might find his joy of music again and you will enjoy watching him do it.

Have more fun. Play games. Think of ways to turn this into fun time, discovery time, games time. Set a timer for five minutes, and that’s it. See if he can do three notes in 5 minutes. If he does more, celebrate, and then stop. Do some more later in the practice.

I don’t know what your teacher said or did. I’m sure you felt uncomfortable, but it is probably all a misunderstanding. Maybe your teacher is trying to shrink the seriousness of the situation so that your son is not so overwhelmed by the new material. Maybe she is trying to help you to relax a little? I don’t know because I am not there to witness what happened first hand.

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

Lin Chen said: Nov 8, 2012
 8 posts

Thanks very much for the feedback Paula. Yes, he likes his world in order and is naturally very regimented. His siblings are much less so. Will reduce practice to 5-10 minutes and get him to play the only older pieces first for maybe a week or more. Hope it will make him feel better about the piano. But we can have only one practice session per day as I work full time and start work again once kids in bed.

I keep a bag full of stuffed toy ‘audience’, beads and a dice by the piano to play games with. He teaches his dad and his stuffed toys to play. We use stickers, even have ice cream to celebrate achievements like learning to play with two hands for one line of a new piece.

I play the piano and have been trying to learn a couple of new pieces myself for the past 3 months. Its not a complicated piece but been many years since I played so have been making lots and lots of mistakes on it and going over it again and again. I try to practice daily after his session. Never tell him this but I do this to show that even I have to do it slow and make lots of mistakes. he sometimes comes and asks me why I keep playing that little bit one hand only. I tell him its because I am finding it difficult and am trying to get to know it better by playing it more.

He’s also seen me make plenty of mistakes in the kitchen and elsewhere like dropping their breakfast all over the car when rushing to school. Small ones warrant small sighing or having a little shriek in frustration. While bigger oopsies like forgetting our movie tickets or the camera or missing dental appointments have seen much larger outbursts (of which I am not proud of as they have been in front of the kids). He has comforted me before, helping me to pick things up or give this to his siblings. So am thankful that he is such a loving, caring and mature boy.

Am mentally very exhausted by this all. Wrote my original post after another outburst. He was playing my in-law’s piano but its old and slightly broken. So he stopped after a couple of lines. When I asked him to try again. he shouted at me that he had done the whole song and then burst into tears of frustration. I really felt at a loss.

Perhaps learning the piano has actually affected him more than I thought. Been getting reports from his kindy teacher that he’s changed. Become more withdrawn in school with pend up frustration, shorter attention spans and looks tired all the time. The reports seem to coincide with key milestones namely learning to play with two hands and learning to play differently on two hands.

Am sure the teacher is just trying to lighten things up. But I dont think telling my child that “Dont know what your mummy is talking about” is helping much.

Will give it one more shot. Thanks again for your support.

Carmen said: Nov 9, 2012
 13 posts

I am not a teacher; I am writing this from a parent’s perspective.  I am wondering if slowing down with learning new pieces but instead spending a little time on theory might lighten things up a little.  The theory could also give him insight on “where the music is going”, thus making actual playing a little easier. 

When my child was little, we didn’t have the funds to start lessons, but we knew we want her to learn piano and she had expressed interest in playing the violin.  So from when she was five and a half, we started doing a little music theory using Lina Ng’s Theory Made Easy for Little Children (we jumped around in the book a lot, and we did it for fun).  The graphics aren’t the best, but it has stickers which made it possible for her to do the exercises without having perfect pencil skills (I just saw the Dr Mozart theory books and am itching to try it on my second child to see which one works better.).  When we were introduced to the Music Mind Games’ Blue Jello cards, we used those to learn rhythms.  We sang lots of folk songs using the song book “Go In And Out the Windows”, so she got familiar to written music (and because she already knew the tunes, she could make more connection to notes on the page to the sound).  We played lots of one hand
melodies of songs she knows to help her develop a good sense of the keyboard.  In the mean time, I would point out the scales (major or minor), try playing the songs starting on a different note (introducing transposing), how things like to start and end in the tonic and other fun little tidbits (later I started pointing out chords in the left hands).  And since I had very little time to actually practice pieces, I spent the time I have to practice scales (major, melodic minors, harmonic minors, arpeggios, etc).  Little did I know that all these have helped prepare her when we finally could afford lessons after she turned seven.  She doesn’t mind playing scales and enjoys figuring out the notes of different melodies on the piano, even as she enjoys playing the violin more. 

Not to say that she doesn’t hit roadblocks and gets frustrated from time to time, but when she does, we break down the music to very tiny pieces and only add a note or two a day, with may be four repetitions.  I remember times I would declare to her what small “bites” she would get for the day (besides reviews) and felt her relieve.  I would demonstrate exactly the very few notes I want her to attempt that day and hold my breath for her to repeat it four times then happily call it done.  The next day I may just add a note or two more until she regain confidence.  After a few weeks like that, she had learned that this little “drip” of sand a day would eventually build a nice sandcastle.  The persistence it builds would also translate to other skill acquisition outside of music.  

Do not loose heart.  There are lots of ways to have fun with music.  However, I do remember finding out-of-tune/broken pianos to be terribly distracting/frustrating when I was a beginner.  My in-laws have a somewhat malfunctioning piano with sticky keys too and it bothers my husband, a sort of beginner, much more than myself these days.  So may be staying away from a broken piano for him for a few years might help ease his anxiety.  Having fun listening to various kinds of classical music might help too
(it doesn’t have to be piano.  We found lots of music videos/recordings
to be quite inspiring.). 

Hope this helps.

Carmen


From: SAA Discussion

Merietta Oviatt said: Nov 9, 2012
Merietta OviattViolin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

Hello! I think in general you may need to slow things down. Remember, we need to go at the pace of the child—and though you may feel that it’s slower than a turtle, that may be what he needs. I also believe that what Paula meant when she was saying to burn the toast is to make a huge deal about it to kind of show him how silly it is. This way, the next time he throws a fit you can remind him of how silly he told you you were being with the toast.
1- Again, I agree with Paula, instead of a line do a small chunk. Be VERY careful to not tell him that by refusing to practice he is losing-out on fun things—you are accidentally telling him that playing piano isn’t as fun as the other things. He could begin to view it as a punishment instead of something fun. A bit of advice I got from Sprunger was to hold Suzuki practice time regardless of if the child was there or not. You would actually start to learn the new line yourself, do it just as it would be expected for the child. At some point he will want to learn new material—but you have to be EXTRA patient.

2- Completely take the teachers advice and then let her make the correction to his incorrect learning. Watch how she does the correction and watch his reaction. If he gets upset with her watch how she handles that. This will also put the two of you on the same page. It’s going to be hard not to correct him, but just let it go one or two weeks and see what happens.

3- I REALLY don’t like giving out my phone number. I only give it to my students for cases of cancellation or dire emergency. I would stop texting her. Remember, she has a lot of other students and has a busy busy life. Try to just let things go for the next few weeks, do exactly as the teacher says, and see what happens.

I am concerned about the reports coming back from school. I would not be so quick to pin it on piano (I used to be a school teacher). Please ask to have your child meet with the school counselor. He/she can talk with your child and find out what’s going on. Suzuki should never create that much angst in a child, remember that we are trying to develop the whole child—not just a good musician. Good tone means good heart.

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
www.uwsp.edu/suzuki
www.merietta.com
[javascript protected email address]

Carrie said: Nov 9, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
58 posts

Dear Lin,

I’m so sorry this has been so frustrating for you and your child. I will piggyback on what Carmen is saying. Only do a small amount of new material. For some students, I only teach them one measure of hands together at a time until it becomes easier for them. You want him to be successful to build confidence that he can do it, so keep the new stuff to as small amount as he can do successfully, without frustration.

As to the teacher, you might try talking to her separately and just tell her, “When you …, I feel …” She probably doesn’t realize how her comments are affecting you. You could also say in front of your son, “We having been frustrated practicing. What can we do to make this less frustrating?” I know I want my students to tell me when they are frustrated so we can change what we are doing. By saying, “We” it lets him know that he is not alone in the frustration, that you are in this together. By talking to the teacher in front of him, it provides an example for him on how to ask for help.

My dad always says, “Communicate, communicate, communicate.” To that I have learned to add, “Seek to understand.” Go to the teacher with the attitude of seeking to understand, then ask to be understood.

Blessings as you work through this! May your son develop of love of learning to play the piano.

Carrie

carebear1158

Lori Bolt said: Nov 9, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
229 posts

I agree w/ the other posts and would add:

Saturated listening to the CD, especially to pieces ahead of him.
Short, happy practices that end w/ something he plays well.
Use practice games a couple of times a week (good way to get some reps in!)
Sing or clap along w/ the CD….make up fun words.
Consider a Progress Chart w/ a sticker for each new piece learned and a small reward for reaching a certain piece.

Above all don’t give up!! It will be worth the effort.

Lori Bolt

Lori Bolt said: Nov 9, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
229 posts

One more thought: could something be happening at school that is actually the core of the problem? Maybe that is impacting piano and not the other way around. Just food for thought.

Lori Bolt

Barb said: Nov 9, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

LOTS of good advice here.

I had a happy-go-lucky five year old at one time, until he started school. (We started music lessons later, so it was very clear that it was school.) His kindergarten teacher communicated (probably, or hopefully, unintentionally) that she wanted perfection in the kids’ phonics work, insisted that he finish any work he missed while sick or out for speech therapy (giving up recess), and was not very good at managing the classroom, so there was a chaotic feel there much of the time.

Although he did not communicate stress in words (other than saying, when we were playing a phonics game at home, “I just can’t learn any more letter sounds!”), his behavior and things like stomach aches in the morning made it clear that that was not a good situation for him. We removed him from the class and I focused on rebuilding his confidence in his ability to learn at home for weeks. I do believe some of the stress was self-created, and possibly related to having an older brother who excelled in school, but what do you think when you see a teacher crumple up a child’s work and throw it away, asking a child to do it right next time? (Okay, I was almost having stomach aches after seeing that happen!)

For this son (now 19), I found he learned best incidentally. For instance, rather than study a list of vocabulary words, we did a lot of reading, and when there was a word I thought he didn’t know, I would ask him if he knew what it meant and then explain. And rather than tell him outright something is wrong, I would try to lead him to self-discovery. If it were him learning Suzuki piano and he had learned a wrong rhythm, I might try playing the recording for that short portion and asking him to determine which rhythm I played was the match. And not only in spots that were wrong, but in other places where you know he has the right rhythms, too—maybe START there. Then maybe he can do the same for you. Make one right and one wrong and you have to choose which one matches. To my older son I could just say, “Oh, oops, it goes like this,” and show him the right way. Different kids need different kinds of instruction/correction. I see this in my students, too.

But I do think that LOTS of listening—much more than the number of repetitions he plays— to the recording will probably clear up any rhythm issues, and you shouldn’t worry too much.

Whether it is going too fast or high expectations, piano or school… maybe some thing you wouldn’t even suspect, I would second the suggestion of getting an appointment with the school counselor to see if you can find out what the problem is.

Yes, it is important that we teachers respect the parents and help the children to retain respect for their parents, and not do or say things in front of the children to reduce the parent in their eyes. Probably the teacher didn’t realize she may have done this. Maybe she was afraid that your frustration was communicating to your son that he “couldn’t” and she wanted to encourage him that he “can”. I like the advice to talk about “we” to the teacher with the child as a model for how to ask for help. One day he will be responsible for his own lessons, and it is frustrating for the teacher to have those teens who don’t communicate, and not at all helpful for the child, either.

It sounds like you are doing a lot of good things and are a very dedicated parent! Best wishes, keep us posted!

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

Lin Chen said: Nov 11, 2012
 8 posts

Thanks so very much Carmen, Merietta, Carrie, Lori and Barb. Will slow down to four to five reps of any new material and keep new materials to two additional notes per day or two until he gets it. Getting a timer to time 5-10mins at the piano. Will also get the Theory Made Easy for Little Children. Am making flash cards of songs that he already knows that he can pick so we’ll play one existing songs and maybe one small chunk of whatever the new song is if he’s still in ok mood. he has been trying to read the book. Asks me what the notes mean. So was also thinking of making flash cards to let him play a game of guessing which key is which note/card.

Our school doesnt have a counselor. We’ve been thinking of seeking out a child therapist to talk to him. But here in Spore, kids get labelled with being either a difficult or unstable (and it sticks) if they see a therapist. Worried he will feel self conscious and start to think there really is something wrong with him if we go to one. So still mulling the pros and cons of this. His kindy teacher says there’s been no change in his school work or routine. She’s always been very forthcoming. So hope that there isn’t something more. But will try to gently ask him.

Thanks again for all your support. Feels much better to know am not alone in this.

Lori Bolt said: Nov 12, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
229 posts

Dear Lin ~ maybe your little guy is too young for a formal school setting. Many boys are simply not ready for school until age 6, especially if they have just turned 5 yrs. during the few months before school started. What is your law’s age requirement for starting school?

You’re so right to be cautious that he doesn’t get labeled….but consider whether to allow him to sit this year out and learn many of the school skills he needs while he’s learning violin.
I would not feel awkward or embarrassed about withdrawing him if that’s what you decide. Parents know best….no further explanation needed. I’m praying for you both…

Blessings ~

Lori Bolt

Elizabeth said: Nov 12, 2012
Elizabeth K20 posts

There’s good advice here. Having a short focused practice session, no longer than 15 minutes each day, with a specific goal he can achieve is important. Seeing and hearing how you deal with your own frustration gives him an example to look to when he’s annoyed and upset. And keeping music fun (and never a chore) is also important. You can read about that here.

Frustrated practices are extremely common! You are not alone at home dealing with this. I’ve written about why tears and tantrums are so common while kids practice here.

The teacher’s remarks should not be tolerated. Neither of you deserve that. For one, you contacted her in confidence because, as you said, you didn’t want your son to hear. That’s a smart move. I’ve told parents in the past to do the same whenever they need help during the week.

But there should be no playful jokes about your questions to your son or to other parents. This tension you’re feeling with her right now will only get worse with time. I would tell her very soon that you’d rather not have her say comments like that anymore. Whatever way you choose to tell her that: in person, in an email, or on the phone. This is no laughing matter.

Practice for Parents Helping You Help Them

Carol Gwen said: Nov 14, 2012
Carol Gwen Kiefer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Washington Crossing, PA
76 posts

Elizabeth, I read your post regarding frustrating practice.
I’m wondering why it is that in your experience teachers don’t teach how to practice?
Also, why are performers winging it on stage in your estimation?
I’d like to understand your opinion.

Paula Bird said: Nov 15, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Elizabeth, I second Carol’s request. I looked at your link and am having trouble getting on the same page. I spend most of my teaching experience showing students and parents how to practice. As a performing professional musician (just played in Carnegie Hall last March), I can tell you that I never “wing it” on stage and would not hire a musician who I thought was performing in that manner. There are tried and true practice methods and many useful and helpful materials out there to teach these skills.

So, I would also like to understand better what you mean in your article, because my experience is quite the opposite at the present.

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

Lin Chen said: Nov 15, 2012
 8 posts

Thanks very much Lori and Elizabeth. My son’s been in play school since he was 3 and enjoyed school so much earlier that he would cry when he catches colds and had to stay home. So I am hoping this means he has taken to the formal school structure ok. But this is a good point, and perhaps he is now facing new challenges in school.

Elizabeth, I read both your blog posts. It does feel a lot like what you described—I am a first time music parent and have absolutely no idea how to inspire or make music practice fun and enjoyable for my son. That’s why I was asking for help and feedback from the teacher. I was under the mistaken impression that under the Suzuki method, the student, teacher and parent are kind of like a group-of-three who supports each other, with the teacher having the most experience and hence being the most knowledgeable. I have since stopped contacting the teacher outside of class.

On the advise of finding an music army to inspire and help. That has been rather hard. But am still trying. Maybe over time, we will slowly get to know more Suzuki families and somehow can find a way for them to play music together. Right now though, he is highly reluctant to play outside of class or our home.

Thanks again Paula, Merietta, Elizabeth, Lori, Barb, Carrie and Carmen for your support and feedback. Right now, practice is less than 5 minutes long. He plays one song he knows well plus five reps of four notes on one line (both hands playing) of a new song. He will play the first song once only even if I encourage him to try again, so I just drop that and go onto the new song. He seems happy enough now. Probably helps that he gets to play with a new toy after he finishes this little practice session. Not sure how long the novelty will last, but at least the tantrums has stopped for now.

Merietta Oviatt said: Nov 16, 2012
Merietta OviattViolin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

Lin,
I am very happy that things are going better for you! I am, however a little concerned with your statement: “I was under the mistaken impression that under Suzuki method, the student, teacher and parent are kind of like a group-of-three who supports each other…”
You absolutely were NOT under the mistaken impression!! This is an important part of the Suzuki philosophy—the Suzuki triangle. If you do not feel that you have this triangle occurring within your lessons you need to talk to your teacher. I do not mean by text or e-mail—this is something that you should schedule a separate meeting for. Perhaps the snarky comments the teacher made may have done some damage to your relationship with her—it sounds as if your feelings are really hurt. If you cannot solidify this triangle you may need to look at a different teacher. However, you should not make a decision like that without talking to the teacher first—she may not be aware of your feelings. Remember, what makes Suzuki more than a method is that it is a team effort to build a whole child. Good tone is created by a good heart, and it is our job as parents and teachers to help the children create the most beautiful tone possible.

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
www.uwsp.edu/suzuki
www.merietta.com
[javascript protected email address]

said: Nov 16, 2012
 48 posts

Carol, Paula … Elizabeth’s post doesn’t mention musicians “winging it” on stage. She says that musicians you see on stage are “winging it” at home (i.e., in practice, not performance).

I don’t have any particular reaction to that post, but I don’t think she was saying what you thought she was saying.

Paula Bird said: Nov 16, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

If a musician is winging it in practice—at home or wherever—it results in winging it on stage. Unless there is something magical that happens despite winging it at home?

I don’t understand the underlying premise of the article and am asking for Elizabeth’s insights since I don’t seem to get it. I do know how to practice and well and spend much of my teaching and writing on that very topic. I just need some clarification here. I’ve read the article three times now and still do not understand it.

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

Carol Gwen said: Nov 17, 2012
Carol Gwen Kiefer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Washington Crossing, PA
76 posts

Hi Jon, I have to agree with Paula. Elizabeth’s article suggests that Suzuki teachers don’t instruct parents in certain terms how to practice with their children. The article’s audience is parents. If the message is in keeping with Talent Education, I, too, need clarification.

Melanie Drake said: Nov 17, 2012
Melanie Drake25 posts

I, too, thought Elizabeth was talking about parents “winging it” at home (child) practices even in cases where a child’s performance on stage seems very refined.

Sue Hunt said: Nov 18, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
391 posts

This sounds like a potentially ticklish situation. We all have different ways of making a point and different ways of taking in what we hear. It could be that your teacher has no idea that she is being indiscreet and would be mortified if she knew.

It also sounds to me like your son is a bit of a perfectionist. It is quite simple to empower him keep trying when has made a mistake. All you need to do is to take the emphasis right away from results and talent, and praise for hard work and focus. When you do this, he will have everything to gain from repeating and refining a task. This article Praise Can Hurt might interest you.

said: Nov 19, 2012
 48 posts

Wasn’t going to comment on the two articles linked in Elizabeth’s post, but I find them both to be rather odd and not particularly helpful from my viewpoint. I don’t care for the “army” analogy in the first article, and at least two of the three parts of the second article seem flat-out wrong to me [”They Have No Idea What They’re Doing” and “You Secretly Hate Listening to Them (and they know it)”].

All I was pointing out is that the linked article doesn’t say anything about musicians “winging it on stage”. I think people mis-read that. Yes, I agree that what the article does offer is (to say the least) questionable advice.

Paula Bird said: Nov 19, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

I was still hoping Elizabeth could shed some perspective on this. If I were a parent reading the article, I’m not sure what to think. I work hard to show my patrnts and students how to practice and why we do things. I try to avoid anything that gives parents permission to make excuses and take the easy way out.

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

Barb said: Nov 19, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I hope Elizabeth will answer your questions, but when I gave it a read I also noted she did not say winging it on stage—I thought that winging it meant that sometimes practice can be a bit haphazard. I think it’s true that a lot of teachers are not so careful in teaching how to practice (probably much less true in the Suzuki community), and that her overall point was that the parents need to be involved in helping practice, and make a point of learning and guiding good practice techniques to help their kids. ???

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

Paula Bird said: Nov 19, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Why don’t we stopping guessing and let Elizabeth speak for herself? I know what she wrote about winging it, but it just opens up so many questions.

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

Elizabeth said: Nov 21, 2012
Elizabeth K20 posts

Thanks everyone for the feedback. Sorry if I offended anyone—that was definitely not my intent!

In my post, I didn’t mean to imply that all teachers don’t teach students how to practice. The teachers posting on this forum are some of the best in the business, so what I said in my post isn’t meant to be describing all teachers here.

Let me clarify what I mean by “teachers don’t teach kids how to practice.” In my experience, there are some skills that teachers don’t always teach:

  1. When kids learn how to practice, they have to learn to handle failure and setbacks. There’s a large psychological component that goes along with practicing well – it’s a mind game. It’s so intuitive to professionals that it’s hard to teach to an amateur musician who’s barely 6 years old.
  2. They have to learn how to schedule practice into their day, while juggling other priorities in their life. Their goals and priorities change over the months and years as they change. Teachers don’t always have the time or attention to ensure students are making practice a sustainable habit that sticks.
  3. Then there’s figuring out how to chunk, what Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, sees as an essential skill to practicing well. This means taking a large task and simplifying it down to the point where it’s not difficult for us anymore. It’s a big part of how kids learn to dissect complicated concertos so that they’re able to practice each week without losing sight of the bigger picture.

A lot of successful kids get these 3 things right, not because they were taught, but because they figured it out on their own, or out of sheer luck. It’s invisible to most parents, kids, and even a lot of professionals unless they’ve studied all the nuts and bolts of truly successful practicing.

I had some fantastic teachers along the way to becoming a professional, but not all of them had the time in our lessons to teach me these components of great practice. And not all of them are even a teacher’s sole responsibility. The parent has a vital role in how the music experience plays out for their child, which is why I want parents to have all of the available tools to ensure success for their kids. After all, to maintain strong Suzuki triangles, you need strong parents.

Hope this clears some things up. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Practice for Parents Helping You Help Them

Paula Bird said: Nov 21, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Thanks, Elizabeth, for taking the time to write.

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

Sue Hunt said: Nov 22, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
391 posts

Elizabeth, those 3 points absolutely nail it. The more we, as Suzuki teachers, realise the importance of teaching a child how to practice, the less we will have to worry about speed of progress. It is so easy to send a child home with what we imagine to be explicit instructions, without paying attention to these 3 important aspects of optimising practice.

If the initial stages take slightly longer, because you are spending time on teaching how to practice, it is hugely worthwhile. I love playing practice games with my little ones and hearing how they would rather do their viola practice than their homework. I know that the practice skills they are learning, will be fundamental in improving their school work across the board.

Lin Chen said: Dec 4, 2012
 8 posts

Thanks Sue and Elizabeth for your advise and insights. Just read Sue’s article Praise Can Hurt. Can see my son in Bella from that article. So very reluctant to practice with me and wants only to play songs he knows with his dad.

Teaching him to accept setbacks and mistakes and to keep trying is the hardest hurdle for us. He seems really affected by it. Still trying to make it easier on him.

Our practices are now 5 to 10mins max. Usually starts with one song he likes very much to get him into a happy mood followed by one bar of the first line of a new song. We’ve been playing that same bar for nearly 3 weeks now. Am letting the teacher add any new notes to it if she sees fit. Not adding any on my own as whenever I try he becomes negative and refuses to play. Once I tried to correct when he played the bar wrong (had been playing it right for two whole weeks) and he instantly had a meltdown. I played the song to him on the CD player to let him hear it and he insisted that he played it that way. So I just left it at that. Still trying to keep it positive and don’t want to push the point. But now starting to wonder if all this emphasis on positives only and no correcting or helping him amend mistakes is making him worst? As in no new progress?

On another note—I can understand Elizabeth’s post on kids not being taught how to practice. I never was.

Paula Bird said: Dec 4, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Lin Chen,

Progress can be measured in many different ways. Right now it sounds as if you are measuring progress as to whether your son is playing things absolutely correctly and adding new things and new notes one day at a time. That is one way to measure progress, but that may not be what is happening today with your son.

With your new emphasis on further education about practicing and teaching your own child, and your new efforts at focusing on the positive rather than engaging in a battle with your son over who was right, you are actually making progress of a completely different kind.

What you are doing right now is building a better connection and relationship with your son and learning how to approach him in a more satisfying way from your son’s point of view. Considering that your “progress” up until now has been at the expense of your son wanting to practice and having a good relationship practicing with you, I think that what you are doing now is making a great deal of progress in comparison.

Focus right now on making progress rebuilding and reconnecting a relationship with your son. That kind of progress is going to carry you through any sort of difficulty. Once you have reconnected with your son in a positive way, then progress on the instrument will most likely grow quite quickly.

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

Carmen said: Dec 6, 2012
 13 posts

May be he would like a road map of his new piece?  This “detective game” might work (for more detective fun, use a magnifying glass.  A pretend one works just fine too.).  Start by making a copy of his previous song(s).  Point to the first measure/phrase and ask him what he thinks it sounds like (if he doesn’t read the notes yet, ask him to guess.  If he does’t want to sing, just hum it for him yourself.).  Ask him to pick a color (have assorted light color crayons on hand) to color the measure.  Then ask him if he could find another one that is the same , and color it the same color.  Use a different color for the next phrase/measure.  Do that for the whole piece.  Have some fun analyzing it together (hey look!  This repeats!).  This could take one or a few sittings.  Try to do the same for the new piece.  Count how many measures/phrases he actually has to learn to finish the piece, and point out the similar measures (exclaim—this one is
only two notes different than that!).  Ask him if he would like to learn to play the song correctly.  Then tell him if he were to learn one measure every two weeks, how many weeks that would take by counting how many colors he used.  Or ask him how long he thinks it might take him to learn a measure/phrase.  This might help him to set his own goal and pursue it.  Let him know that you are here to help him achieve his goal. 

Does he mind singing?  Sometimes I have dd sing the phrases before playing it. 

There is an older thread that mentions how Suzuki dealt with kids not wanting to fix their mistakes.  Someone please correct me if I get it wrong.  It starts with the teacher/parent asking the child if he wants to play correctly.  Then ask if he/she would want the teacher/parent not telling him/her there is a mistake and let it go on…

We also like to find other ways to have fun with music.  Going to concerts.  Listening to great composers.  Classical radio channels.  Reading about the composers and performers.  A harmonica/recorder is inexpensive and easy to play and could enhance piano learning (my dd plays more on the piano whenever she is trying to figure out another instrument).  Sometimes the love of music would carry them through difficult times on the piano and off.

  

For me, being my child’s practice partner has been the most challenging aspect of parenthood (and I homeschool with two smaller ones).  There are times I question why I signed DD up on learning an instrument (the what were I thinking moment and wanting to quit moments). Whenever I feel discouraged, I would think of stories from “Nurtured by Love”.  I just got the book “Studying Suzuki Piano: More than Music” by Bigler and Lloyd-Watts and found that to be very useful as well to remind me of the “do-s” and “don’t-s”.  I never learnt to practice efficiently either and I came from a background where people loves to dwell on the negatives (in HK), especially on children’s faults.  The Suzuki approach’s sensitivities to the inner growth is very different than a exam oriented environment where it is result focus.  I think you are doing great being able to focus on the positives (that is not an easy thing to do, especially if Spore is anything like HK!). 
Who knows, you child might come to chuckle after he’s grown of how you patiently guide him through this time of him not wanting to be corrected.  Hang in there.

 


From: SAA Discussion

Carol Gwen said: Dec 6, 2012
Carol Gwen Kiefer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Washington Crossing, PA
76 posts

Hi Lin,

“Making the child want to practice is better than making the child practice.” This may be your role as the parent and home teacher, at this time. Gauge success in practices by how willingly your child responds. Viewed from this perspective progress is a matter of trust and acceptance. :)

Best,
Carol

Katherine said: Dec 10, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Recorder, Flute
Petaluma, CA
10 posts

Dear Carmen, In your statement you gave your opinion that recorder is easy to play. I think most people would agree that any instrument is easy to play, poorly.
Regarding cost, we use the best instruments that are within budgets and make sure
young children have the abilities to take care of a recorder before their families invest
in those that are more expensive.
Because of many school music teachers who have received wrong information about the recorder (especially in USA), it has been mistakenly approached in ways that can and should be changed to reflect it’s highly artistic capabilities. Additionally, most of my Suzuki Recorder Method teacher trainees already know (before they come for training) that we use very high-quality instruments. Sad to say, many music suppliers and manufacturers use inferior materials and design; which lead the general USA public to think that all recorders are inferior in the world of “classical” music, or other styles.

When I was a teacher trainee at the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto, I found that Dr. Suzuki already knew of the vast capabilities of what recorder players can do with the best instruments.
I and others performed for him, with the result that I was invited by Dr. Suzuki to start a recorder program there at his Talent Education Institute. Because I
could not find a replacement instructor for me before I returned to the USA I ended up
teaching only in the Matsumoto adult community, which had follow-up instructors available.
And, it was very beneficial for me to direct the Matsumoto Collegium Musicum, including
some young Suzuki violin trainees from the USA and Australia, as well as the outside community.
The recorder has over 500 centuries of beautiful repertoire. When Dr. Suzuki was studying in Germany for those 7 years I believe that he was exposed to some of the
best recorders and players there during his chamber music sessions.
I hope that we can meet some day so we can exchange general teaching tips.

Katherine

Carmen said: Dec 14, 2012
 13 posts

Dear Katherine,

Thank you for taking the time to point out my poorly thought-out statement.

At the time I wrote the statement, I was thinking of ways that could enhance the child’s enjoyment in music overall by remembering back to the little that my parents did to help me through the less appealing beginner pieces (I was not instructed in the Suzuki method.). My parents had practically no musical background but they tried to help me “see” more music than the little songs I was working on. My father experimented on the harmonica, the dizi and the keyboard. He played of a few classical recordings, and my mother keeping the classical radio station on instead of the tv. I remembered feeling isolated and dry in the first few years of practicing the piano (I got no help practicing and never learned to practice effectively until recent years) but the wonder of music that they had instilled in me had helped me work through those years. I didn’t mean to suggest to see recorders or harmonicas simply as toys, but more like deliberate efforts on the part of the parents to broaden the experience and understanding of music in the child. Different people makes connections with different stimuli (somewhat like different ways/styles of learning), and so I thought the more ways that the child can associate music with wonder and warm relationships with parents, the easier it would be to practice the target instrument.

I personally find that learning more than one instrument enhances my study of the other instruments—I was seriously studying three rather different instruments at the same time in high school (yes, for four years, on piano, violin and trumpet; but no, I did not ended up majoring in music, even after taking some advanced theory courses. I had a few friends who did the same.). (I am not saying that this is for everyone, just to suggest it is possible.)

I am very interested in learning more about the recorder. I have heard quite a few good recorder pieces over the radio and it was amazing when I saw recorder ensembles live when I was in high school (this was not in the US). Unfortunately, the high school I attended didn’t have a recorder program and so I think I have missed out on that. Now with all this talk about problems of siblings learning the same instrument, I AM looking for other possible instruments for my younger children to study. I would absolutely love to hear more about learning to play the recorder properly. I think I have much to learn from you. :)

Lin Chen said: Jan 16, 2013
 8 posts

Dear Paula, Carmen, Carol,
Thank you very much for your feedback and encouragement. Your feedback does give me a different prospective on the practice sessions. Will try to keep that prospective in mind. Will also try out the detective game (it sounds quite interesting).

We have been playing an ‘echo’ game. Either one of us will be the ‘voice’ and the other the ‘echo’. The voice will play a line (if existing song) or a few notes (for new song) and the ‘echo’ will copy. We take turns being voice or echo and he asks for this game at most sessions now. So this has been nice.

Worryingly his sensitivity to making mistakes seems to have increased (even the teacher now sees it), eg. if he places one note out of place in an existing song, he will refuse to play again and that’s the end of the lesson / practice session. This is also showing up in other activities outside of piano. He’ll stalk off and sulk in a corner. Is this a phase that 5 year olds go through?

I’ve actually used that method of asking him if he wants to play correctly and if yes, would he like me to help him by telling him the correct note (I didnt know this is a Suzuki method and am happy to know it is). He always says yes but still acts up when he makes mistakes or i make suggestions. Am hoping he will grow out of this soon!

Yes, Carmen, based on your description, Singapore is very much like HK and my parents (with the best of intentions) focused on faults and how much better other kids are as a way to inspire us to be better. Its a real struggle for me to not be like this and to focus on the positives. Some days when I’m especially tired or stressed after work, I’ll suggest to him to play his favourite song and one other older song by himself. Then I’ll praise him from the (nearby) kitchen when its nicely played. Worried if I am by him I may see things and get all critical. Thanks too for your comment:
“There are times I question why I signed DD up on learning an instrument (the what were I thinking moment and wanting to quit moments).”
It is very heartening to know that I’m not the only one feeling that.

Thanks again to everyone who has been so kind with your time and advice. It is very much appreciated. Wishing you all the best for 2013.

Lin

Mary said: Jan 16, 2013
 39 posts

Hi Lin,

We have many of the same struggles with our 6 year old son who plays the piano. Like your son, he is highly sensitive to mistakes and will throw mini-tantrums when he gets things wrong. I do think having gone through this with my older son who plays violin that children this age are typically very self-aware and critical of mistakes and often compare themselves with others and are afraid of failing. So I do think it is a phase of childhood, but how we deal with it now can greatly impact how they handle mistakes and challenges with music or anything else in life in the future.

Like you, we have tried to drill in the message that it’s effort that counts the most. Also, we say it is ok to be upset and frustrated but it’s important to talk about it and not just be mad and stay mad. We also make clear that it is not ok to treat one’s teacher or parents meanly or rudely out of frustration.

As for the practices themselves, we have tried to have practice when he is not so tired. If mornings are at all possible for you then I’d suggest trying that. I’ve also tried to make review fun by telling a story with the music that involves his favorite stuffed animals. So for Little Playmates we renamed the song “little lions” so that he could imagine that his left hand was one lion and his right hand was another and that they were taking turns to play. For Chant Arabe, his teacher gave us the image of a camel caravan crossing the desert so we made up stories of where they were going. Or we’ll try to change up the sound of a piece by playing it on a different part of the piano. Mary Had a Little Lamb can be Mary Had a Little Mouse when played on the upper register or Mary Had a Little Dinosaur when it’s on the lower register. This has made review much much more fun and when he is having fun he will usually fix his own mistakes and be willing to try several times to get something right.

Outside of practices, I’ve also tried to encourage him to enjoy his piano. My son likes to freely explore chords and note combinations based on the songs he’s learned in book 1. I’ve encouraged him to do that as much as he likes and he has even composed little songs on the spot about “winter” or “ghosts” or anything else that has grabbed his imagination. They are gone from his mind the moment he plays them so he isn’t repeating these mashed up songs in a way that will actually confuse his playing. I actually think this has also paid off in ways that I’m only just starting to see. A few days ago he got very upset because he had forgotten a part of French Children’s Song. He gave up after a few tries and started to get really angry and yelled at me about how he hated his piano. I calmly reminded him that getting frustrated was ok, but he shouldn’t yell at me and that I deserved an apology. He was not in a place where he could come out of his funk and offer up an apology so I took his hand and said, it’s ok if he wanted to make up an “I’m sorry” song for me instead of actually saying it. He paused for a second and said he couldn’t do it and that he didn’t know what an “I’m sorry” song sounded like. But I started to play some random notes softly on the piano and then he took over and played for about a minute making up his own little tune and then he stopped, turned to me and smiled and said “I’m sorry, Mommy.” I gave him a huge hug and on his own he gave French Children’s Song another shot. It wasn’t perfect, but he fixed his own mistakes and he finished happy. That moment to me was just about one of the best practice moments ever. I know these struggles will go on and who knows if this strategy will work again, but I feel more confident that if I remain calm and creative and nurture his love of music as much as the technical aspects of piano playing we will find our way.

Lindsay said: Jan 20, 2013
Lindsay LogsdonViolin
55 posts

Hi Lin,

I don’t have time right now to read through all the replies that have been made, so forgive me if I’m repeating anything that has been said already.

My oldest child is 6 and started Suzuki Piano this past autumn. He sounds much like your son—he really resists working on new material. He feels very uncomfortable when he doesn’t know how to do something properly, so the learning process is anxiety-inducing for him. Once he “gets it”, he’s happy to play it again and again. But “getting it” is the struggle!

What works for us is this—

No pressure! Lots of games where we break new work down into tiny pieces that are easy to master. My son just started learning Twinkle Theme (right hand), and in the beginning we broke it down into only three or four notes at a time. That was easy-peasy for him, and by the third day he was playing the entire song with a smile!

My son rolls a dice to determine how many repetitions he will do, which helps him feel like he is determining the practice instead of having it dictated to him. He actually ends up doing more repetitions than his teacher asks for!

I don’t praise my son! I find that when I praise him, he feels he needs to live up to my expectations. Instead I use phrases like, “That’s the way!” or “Yes, you got it!” or “You figured it out!”—acknowledging that his efforts led to an accomplishment. I do not use phrases like “Good job” or “Im proud of you”, because the indication is that if he doesn’t do a good job (whatever that is!) then I won’t be proud of him.

My son sets the goals he wants to work toward, instead of me setting the goals for him. That way, he is working within his comfort zone and setting the pace that is best for him.

As far as your teacher is concerned, your original post raises a few red flags. Your relationship should be one of mutual respect, and making comments to your son or other parents is not an action that comes out of respect. The Suzuki Method works because of the TRIANGLE—the TEAM of student, parent, teacher. If you do not feel that you are part of a team, please have an honest, one-to-one conversation with the teacher. It may just be a case of a misunderstanding, or you may decide that it’s time to find a different teacher. Whatever the outcome, open communication is so very important.

Lindsay—Violin teacher, homeschooling mama of four, small-time publisher
http://www.essextalentacademy.com
http://www.talentpress.net

Kiyoko said: Jan 23, 2013
 84 posts

A few things popped out at me when I read your original post.

Your son is composing his own version of the piece when he is self-figuring the piece he changing it. It is different from improvisation or winging it (not that there isn’t a place for improvisation) because you said that is the way he plays it from then on. For him, it may be a way for him to personalize the piece so he “owns” it. The teacher may not want to suppress it because it is creative, but may not have articulated it well to you. Think of it more like you might have a budding composer, instead of he is learning it wrong.

Might I suggest you let him practice the piece “his way”, but also then ask him to play it the “Suzuki way”? You might also make a sticker chart for each time he plays a piece the “Suzuki way.”

You could even record the section he plays differently, then play both versions to him so he can “hear” the difference. Maybe ask him to him to tell you what he hears. If he can start making the distinction between his version and the original, it will become easier to ask him to play the original version at lessons and recitals.

About mistakes. Suzuki method is about life skills, not just music. Kids mimic what we do. If we are perfectionists in front of them and get upset when things don’t go right, they learn to do the same. Maybe burn the toast and laugh about how black and crunchy it is.

It reminds me of the time I was distressing over a daikon radish that had started to dry out before it got around to using it. Food waste was a big no no in my family, so I called my sister to get some advice on how to cook it. She made a few suggestions and then told me in her husband’s family, they would just laugh at how dried out and wrinkled it had gotten and throw it out. It helped me realize the daikon was really beyond help and I needed to let it go.

I’m not a Suzuki teacher but I played Suzuki Method violin from three and am now a parent of a one year old. I started being asked to “tutor” younger Suzuki kids by the time I was ten and I think it came from all of the stuff I used to pass along to my sister who was two and a half years younger. I hope you find this helpful.

Kiyoko said: Jan 23, 2013
 84 posts

One more thing, the next time you feel like getting upset in front of your kids, maybe you can ask them to help you find ways to turn it into something you can laugh about. Your son is obviously creative, but may be afraid to express it a bit because of a high expectation of not making mistakes. And perhaps this is apparent to him, not by what you are saying to him about how to handle mistakes, but more of how you interact with him when he is “doing his own thing.” Encouragement to do both his own version and the original may help rebuild his confidence.

Personally, I find the saturate him with the original version to blast it out of his head, is a way of killing his creativity. Later on, he may have more difficulty when people ask him to express himself and he may struggle with learning to be musically expressive. There is a balance of guidance and support that seems to be needed with him to overcome this.

Imani Barberousse said: Jan 27, 2013
Imani BarberoussePiano, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Violin
2 posts

Greetings,
I am a mother of 5 Suzuki students, ranging form the age now of 20-5. I would play the practice instructions first when you get home. I would try all the things he is afraid to try and I would take it in smaller pieces. I would say look, I made a mistake, I am going to correct it. It took me 15 tries to correct this mistake, today it took me 5 tries to correct it, see how much better I have gotten over time.
I listen to my daughter howl for 3 years about practice and now she just plays with joy. Of course she was my 4th child, and I had more patience under my belt. But that is what I did.
Imani

Lin Chen said: Feb 18, 2013
 8 posts

Dear Pianolinmom, TalentAcademy, Kiyoko, Imani,
Thank you very much for your feedback. Find them very good fruit for thought especially on the point of him being a little composer, how to help him handle frustration and the games that you play with your kids and the props you use (especially like the idea of the dice).

I am now keeping the practice sessions very simple. Adding only 1 new note very other day and only if he has become comfortable with the earlier addition, as well as letting him practice an earlier piece or part of which I know he can confidently do. Also tried out the stickers to mark good practice sessions idea and he likes this. He seems much better now with trying again after making mistakes. Still have sessions where he is frustrated and says he cannot when he makes a mistake. But at least the howling tantrums have calmed down to silent tears at most, which is a relief.

Kiyoko and Pianolinmom, thanks for your feedback on letting him ‘compose’ and play it his way sometimes. I had actually when wondering how to handle this. He’s been making up little ditties on the piano and I’ve been wondering how to encourage this but at the same time also get him to play the song as it actually is composed. Will definitely try out the idea of telling him he can play ‘his way’ as well as the ’suzuki way’.

Thanks again to EVERYONE for all your wonderful support, ideas and feedback.

L

Mary said: Feb 18, 2013
 39 posts

Thanks for the update. I’m glad the practices have improved. With time as your child becomes more confident and at ease with the piano and the repertoire the two of you will be able to do more but there will be roadblocks just the same. We just spent 6 weeks learning Allegretto 1 which seems really long when I say it out loud, but looking back it was the right pace for us. The piece threw many of his old pieces out of whack. Cuckoo, French Children’s Song, and Au Clair de La Lune all suffered because there were aspects of Allegretto 1 that resembled these other pieces and suddenly bits of Allegretto 1 began cropping up in these pieces. In order to solve this problem, we really had to make sure to review the entire book 1 repertoire every day to fix any mistakes that may have cropped up in the old pieces. We often made sure to listen to a piece carefully before playing it which added time to our practices. So it made sense to move slowly to learn Allegretto 1 to protect the old pieces. Once we did that, the old pieces were saved and he learned Allegretto 1 solidly. So being flexible and ready to slow down will be important for keeping stress at a minimum for all.

Kiyoko said: Feb 21, 2013
 84 posts

Oh, wow! Playing his own little ditties already! Your son must really enjoy the creative outlet that playing piano gives him! I hope you get a chance to record some of them, so that you can share them with him when he’s is older and understands the significance.

Have you talked to his teacher about his creative side of music? Perhaps this can be fostered separately from learning new pieces, so that your son can develop some distinction between between mastering a piece and being creative with a piece. As this develops, it might also help with some of the apprehension of new notes. (What does your son say if you ask him why it is so upsetting?)

I too, am happy to hear that things are improving in his practice and that it is becoming more comfortable. It is wonderful that you are aware to make these adjustments work.

Lin Chen said: Mar 25, 2013
 8 posts

Thanks very much Kiyoko and Pianolinmom. That’s a good idea to record the little ditties he plays and also to let him listen to the song before we play it when it. Have tried telling him that there is ‘his’ way of playing and the Suzuki way of playing and both are ok. But in class, we should try playing it the Suzuki way. He’s still taking some time to adjust to it. Thanks again for all your support.

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