Developing good left hand habits with a 4YO

Shannon Farley said: Jan 5, 2013
Shannon FarleyViola, Violin
Madison, WI
11 posts

Has anyone else struggled with teaching a 4YO to hover fingers over the fingerboard when not actively using them (as opposed to clutching them below the fingerboard)? I’m really trying to establish good left hand habits from day one. Does anyone have any suggestions for fun games to help a 4YO establish hovering fingers from an early age??

Sue Hunt said: Jan 6, 2013
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

There are 2 things that affect accuracy:
1 The distance from under the fingerboard to the landing spot for each finger.
2 The finger has to search around for the spot after it uncurls.

This addresses both.
What about getting them to jump onto a spot, from a distance (with eyes closed)? Then you can get them to discover how easy it is to step onto a really tiny spot right beside their own feet (with eyes open).

Draw a little eye on the string print on each finger to help the fingers see where they are going. Tell the fingers that they need to watch where they are going. They can’t possibly do this if they are watching TV in the basement.

Merietta Oviatt said: Jan 6, 2013
Merietta OviattViolin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
107 posts

I have had to deal with this A LOT with a few transfer students. My older students I just explained it to them and gave the Schradiek. However, for my little girls I put some very small flower sticker on their fingerboard (instead of tapes) and told them that their fingers were butterflies. Butterflies always have to hover close to their flowers—and if they don’t a bumble bee may come by and try to steel their pretty flower. I have a little bumble bee finger puppet and while they do their scales/monkey song my bumble bee will fly around the violin trying to find a flower to take. Only if their fingers are close enough to their flowers will they keep them safe. It works REALLY well!! I’ve had so much success that some of my fellow teachers have used it and also have success. It just so happens that I don’t have any little boys at the lower levels, and if I had one who didn’t like flowers I would maybe put some green stickers instead of flowers and have them pretend their fingers are frogs. The bumble bee would still work. As of now, there hasn’t been a student who this has not worked with!! Enjoy!

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

Shannon Farley said: Jan 6, 2013
Shannon FarleyViola, Violin
Madison, WI
11 posts

Great tips!!! Thanks so much!!!

Jennifer Visick said: Jan 6, 2013
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

Merietta, I think I’m going to use that idea…

Sue Hunt said: Jan 7, 2013
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

What a super idea Merietta. You could put clear tape over the flower stickers to make sure they stay put and to keep them from getting rubbed by the strings.

I have had lots of students who try to watch the tapes while they are playing, so we give that responsibility to the fingers. Do you find that you have to do this with the butterflies?

Nora Friedman said: Jan 7, 2013
Nora Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools
Brooklyn, NY
37 posts

I love both of your ideas, sue and Marietta. I also feel that the issue derives its roots from a squeezing left hand. The left hand is trying to send a message when the fingers squeeze into the hand that the upper arm is not doing its job holding the hand up and the hand is almost trying to hang itself onto the neck like a coat hanger. It can also because from a head that’s not snugly balances on the violin sandwiching the violin between the head and the shoulder.

Play the clap and drop game: When you clap the child drops their left hand from the neck and their violin has to remain completely still to get a point. clap again and they lift their hand back up to the right position. Be sneaky and surprising about when you clap.
Here’s another idea: See if they can hold their hand in the right position for an entire twinkle variation that you play, or have them hold a home position while they play an open string variation of a twinkle.

In general, when issues like this arise, I try to think about creative ways that I can actually take a step backwards in progress. Certain things need to be re- taught once you layer on new elements if the previous element was not completely “cooked.” I spend a lot of time (Possibly more than I should) getting the left hand to demonstrate a lot of accuracy before we put fingers down. Then I just start with the first finger. when the first finger is doing what it needs to do and the other fingers are making an umbrella or a rainbow over the strings I feel that the rest of the fingers Learn their spots fairly easily.

Rose Lander said: Jan 8, 2013
57 posts

Has anyone else had a problem like this? i have a very bright, verbal 6 year old who i have been giving bi weekly lessons for over a month. after some initial difficulty paying attention, i now have her attention for about a half hour. i introduced the first 3 rhythms in many, many ways. when she is asked to reproduce any of the rhythms, clapping, tapping, shaking hands, using dowel, she is unnable to do it. i tried separationg the eighth notes from the sixteenth notes, with no success. i tried using different words (down wiggle up wiggle) to no avail. she can sing the first variation successfully when it is continuous. she has been diagnosed with sensory overload. looking at her therapist’s notes, i do not see any connection.
any thoughts would be welcome.
rose lander

Paula Bird said: Jan 8, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
404 posts

I would work together with the therapist. He or she can help you to narrow your focus. If sensory overload is the issue, then teaching the rhythms six ways from Sunday would be a problem, althou ive been known to try that. Ask them to help you narrow your focus to meet the needs of this particular child.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio (blog) (podcast)

Michelle McManus Welch said: Jan 8, 2013
 Violin, Viola
Lindenhurst, IL
42 posts

I agree; ask the therapist how best to work with this child! Maybe just work on one variation each week; call it the rhythm of the day or something. You said she can do the first var. if it is continuous, GREAT! HOW did you teach that? Did you just focus on that one? See if you can remember what worked. I’m betting it was that you only did that one the whole time.

Next to try:Do Mississippi Mississippi (the 16th note one) next, as it is also continuous. DON’T go back and forth, but master this one. Then do Twinkle Theme, and sing that with her so she could experience success. (Chances are she knows this one!)

Then the triplet one; again it is continuous. I have even “normal” students have trouble with the 3rd var with its 8th 2 16ths, so expect this may take a couple of sessions. The 2nd var is the HARDEST, do it LAST

Can she sing along with your playing them or speak them in rhythm? Can she “take a ride on your bow,” with her bow hand? Perhaps tapping into her verbal skills would help?! I kind of remember learning to have moms do “back rubs” along the spine of the rhythms to help children ‘process them,’ after a therapist suggested this to my teacher trainer way back when. I’ve had wiggly boys have success WALKING the rhythms around the studio, and that worked for them.

Teach all the positioning you need to as you are doing this. Teach lots of violin skills (putting violin on shoulder, bowing, bow games, bow hand). Give much praise. Have much patience. It WILL take time, but it WILL happen. Dr. Suzuki taught a student who had a disability that made him drop the bow-actually it ‘flew out of his hand.’ FINALLY, the student mastered this and went on and played with a beautiful tone.

Michelle Mc Manus Welch

Kiyoko said: Jan 25, 2013
 95 posts

Ask therapist how she learns best and adjust your methods to take advantage of that. Since she’s obviously bright, she’s probably figured out how to compensate in other areas of her life by figuring out how to use those ways to learn. Now to apply it to music!

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