reading vs. listening- any student who ‘bumps into’ the Suzuki Method?

Essie Liu said: Mar 10, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

Do you have any students transferred to the Suzuki Method? If they prefer learning by reading rather than listening, will you ask them to change?

I started applying Suzuki Method in my studio last summer. Most students especially those young kids who are new to violin seem to fit in quite well. However, it varies to those more advanced students. I have a 11-year-old student who is quite struggled with listening and reciting. He is in the second half of Book2. ( The majority of music students in my current area use Suzuki repertoires as textbooks but are not trained under the Suzuki Method.) He feels more comfortable and skillful about playing by reading as the way he used to. Though he managed to try at the very first pieces, later he couldn’t help opening the book instead of figuring everything out by ear(according to the mom). I totally understand this as the pieces get harder and sight-reading still seems to be his ‘express way’, but should I call him back to the aural-learning track? (Honestly I can’t observe what they do at home anyway.)

There’s another student in the similar situation. She can sing the piece well after listening, but she said it’s difficult for her to play the right bowing just by memory. She plays different bowing every time even though she’s learned some memorizational skills. It’s actually going to be negative after so many times of corrections, which I’m afraid even discourage her from trying to play without music.

I do have a student who now turns into a 100% Suzuki kid and he exactly enjoys what we are doing. Yet, I still can’t help wondering if the method works better for beginners, while it requires a lot of more work for the various ‘transferred students’. I also find some fighting posts here about traditional training and Suzuki method. However, I believe things can become positive if we treat them honestly and effectively. So I’m looking forward to a solution to balance the learning habit and ability development. At least, I don’t want some kids to lose interest as they may feel forced to change the playing habit that they prefer into a relatively struggling way.

What can be flexible and what is the must-do? Any suggestion or comment is greatly welcomed.

André said: Mar 10, 2013
André AugensteinViolin, Piano
55 posts

how difficult it is to survive classical music in a country still underdeveloped ,having to split rent with openly gay and is having stepfathers and adoptive son evangelical zealots and daughters of formers students as pastor is my case.
I feel very offended to be in this ridiculous situation.
Regards
André Gomes Augenstein
Violin Teacher(ISA/95)(SAA/2012)

Violin Student(International Suzuki Association) in Germany 1987
Violin teacher (International Suzuki Association) in Dublin 1995

Essie Liu said: Mar 10, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

Sorry André, but I’m trying to figure out something related to properly exercising the method. Where is the ‘ridiculous situation’? Are you still in SAA?

I’m a little confused about your post. Do you believe that music will save the world?

Karen Zethmayr said: Mar 10, 2013
Karen ZethmayrViolin
15 posts

Kids vary a lot in whether they’re best at learning from the page, from hearing a CD or from watching/listening. They will all eventually need both note reading and ear learning skills.

I have yet to see a student who doesn’t want to play fiddle at some point, and they have usually already noticed that improvisation is important in fiddle and folk music. The desire to improvise motivates many of them to join happily in the imitative exercises that build improv skills, even if they are already good at reading.

For those who come to you already reading but with the hampered posture and movement that comes from being glued to the page, there are a number of ways they can use the printed page without the violin.

For early pieces, I often have parent and child sing the notes from the page as I play them. After several times that way, they are well on their way to memorizing; Mom has learned a little about note reading if she’s weak in that area; and they have spent time associating the printed page with the sounds it stands for.

Book-without-violin is helpful both for the kids who need to learn to read, and the kids who are too dependent on the book. They know I expect them to memorize the piece, and the book-without-violin stage helps the memorization, which frees the body when it needs to be at one with the violin.

For bowing problems that stubbornly recur, the book is an indispensable tool at home. Those passages I often have parent and child air-bow, looking at the book, in the lesson, and mark the spot in the book, and in Mom’s notes. MP3 players are now so flexible that they can easily find that spot at home and sing and air-bow the passage ___ times each day, before setting the book aside and picking up the violin.

I have one “transfer student” like yours, who came having “used” Book 1, all by reading, none of it memorized, some pieces skipped, and very much in need of tonalization and more precise intonation and key awareness. What has helped her memorize all of Book 1 and much of Book 2, has been attention to more precise intonation and more freedom of movement for both hands. We have also used brief imitative ear training exercises, which are more fun in the company of other kids.

Karen

André said: Mar 11, 2013
André AugensteinViolin, Piano
55 posts

if certain people depend on the music will not save the world.
Example: my stepfather and isometric struggles fanatical religious
people (or would wolf in sheep´s clothing).
sorry for posting this,but my patience is over.
André Gomes “Augenstein” Violin Teacher(Musician Professional)(ISA/95)(SAA/2012)

Violin Student(International Suzuki Association) in Germany 1987
Violin teacher (International Suzuki Association) in Dublin 1995

Essie Liu said: Mar 11, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

Thank Karen for so many wonderful ideas! Note-reading, ear-training, imitative ability are always essential ingredients, yet it’s more important that we exactly know when and how to develop them with every individual. ‘Transfer-students’ seem to require more respect and flexibility-are we able to capture their sensitive way and appropriately plant the skills?

I like the idea of ‘book-without-violin’. Also, for those ‘experienced reading-players’, we will figure out how to approach a recording-level performance- I believe it will become natural for them to easily ‘memorize’ while they are paying more detailed attention and evaluating their playing. I guess it also means that not every child is suggested to memorize mainly by listening without looking at music.

Mircea said: Mar 14, 2013
Mircea Ionescu
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
Crestwood, KY
23 posts

Dear Essie, that’s a really important question that teachers struggle with as they deal with all sorts of students.

Karen, thanks for the wonderful suggestions.

I have made a decision in my teaching style/approach/pedagogy philosophy that Dr. Suzuki’s principles will be a guide for me and bring in whatever good stuff I learn. From reading Dr. Suzuki’s books, I do not get the sense that he was against the traditional method. He was seeking to teach children in the most natural way, so that they would grow up with a beautiful character.

So I would continue to build your student’s ability to read, sight-read, those are part of his strengths. I do sightreading in my lessons, where I give a student a short melody to figure it out right then, some love this! So I do take time to teach them sightreading skills. So keep encouraging his and every student’s reading abilities, they are important.

For memorization, I would use some of the strategies that Karen recommended. Here is another game challenge to consider. I’ll say as we are looking at the book, “Ok, here’s the challenge, I’m going to play something from these two lines.” I will point to the two lines. Then I will pick two measures, play them for the student. Then the student has to play them back really well, to win the challenge. Then we will will play those two measures a few more times (maybe 3-4 times) in different ways, which includes playing it from memory. Then I will pick another spot, this time, I will pick one of the challenging places that he struggles. We go through the same process of playing it together to have it memorized.

This has helped students to grow in aural skills, reading, memorization and creativity. All those skills are crucial to my teaching approach. Eventually, the student will continue to strengthen their memorization skills to play more complex pieces from memory.

These are also opportunities for me to teach students the importance of perseverance, commitment, honesty, and excellence. Character is important to me, as it was to Dr. Suzuki.

All the best and enjoy yourself!

Essie Liu said: Mar 15, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

Mircea, what an amazing challenge- incorporating listening and reading, developing concentration as well as encouraging creativity! I love this game and I believe children will love it too. Yes, I always consider character education to be part of music education. Probably Suzuki teachers are expected to be more sensitive in this area.  

Just as what you said, I increasingly feel that Suzuki Method is actually not to be against any specific method, but to seek a more natural way suitable for every child. Even though some people from other methods always like to ‘fight’ with it (you know those topics recently posted here), we should always calm down and think carefully what else we can bring in to get the children fully nurtured in their acceptable way, instead of falling into the endless comparisons led by some people that what we don’t have and what they have. The only conclusion would be that no method is perfect in the world, and it’s just a teacher’s job to include whatever would benefit both learning and teaching according to who we face.

A big thank-you! :)

Mircea said: Mar 18, 2013
Mircea Ionescu
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
Crestwood, KY
23 posts

You are welcome =) Let me know how the game works for you.

Yes, I think the discussions can get too heated. I think in part because people have strong convictions about string pedagogy. They have helped me to see where I stand and consider other options to integrate in my teaching stye. All the best to you!

Barb said: Mar 18, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Essie,
Thank you for addressing this issue, and thank you all for your helpful comments!

Like you, Essie, I didn’t apply all of the Suzuki principals from the start. I allowed students to read from the start (most already had some reading skills). I had a resistant student who thought he could not learn without the book when I was encouraging more learning by ear. He was finishing book 1, so what I did was keep his Book 2 book for him until he learned the first piece, which in Cello Book 2 is Long Long Ago and Variation. He had already memorized the theme in another key from book 1, so I thought this would be a good one to give him confidence that he COULD learn by ear. He also seemed to think it was a little backwards to learn by ear when he could read, but I explained we were exercising a different part of his brain. He still learns mostly by reading, though.

Another thing I have done is assign my students to learn Frere Jacques, Happy Birthday, etc. without any printed music. I just give them the starting note. For more advanced students, I might have assigned a fiddle tune found on YouTube. Hmm, that might be a good summer project for this student!

Unfortunately, I do find that because the parents aren’t assisting the practice much at all, I have to have him use the music at home for bowings on most pieces. The air-bowing with the book idea is great.

We are still struggling with “hampered posture and movement” from his early days of being glued to the page, unfortunately, in spite of having memorized everything, and encouraging working on these issues while reviewing. This wasn’t a problem for all my students who were reading early, but I really feel it was this student’s focus on the page which made posture etc. more difficult. It is a weak area for him even without focusing on the page.

I will definitely try some of the ideas here, and I appreciate the comment, Mircea, that you didn’t think Dr. Suzuki was against the traditional method. Thanks again, all.

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

Essie Liu said: Mar 19, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

Dear Barb, nice to see your comment again!

It’s a great idea of developing listening skills based on a familiar tune or something can really stimulate a student’s ear to capture. Thanks for sharing the story of your student. So again, I’m convinced that a good posture and movement should always be firmly established before s/he can read while playing beautifully. For him, I would even rather have some lessons specifically for re-establishing his posture and movement before proceeding, and try to convince him how necessary it is to change as early as he can. Actually, I did this before to a few of my students with the example of myself adjusting to a correct posture later in my violin study. I’ve never regretted taking time apart for just fixing that problem. As the saying goes, “Never too late to mend.” It is exactly scientific and it just saves more time in the long run.

Also, it’s actually not bad to start reading maybe in the middle of Book1, as long as we make sure that the student is learning to read, rather than depending on reading for learning music. Let them know that note-reading is only a tool, not something coming up for hampering posture, tone, and anything that’s well established.

Barb said: Mar 20, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thanks, Essie. We have had lessons where I only addressed posture. Unfortunately the student began to get discouraged that he was not learning enough new pieces. Hard to find the balance and get the student to understand that he needs the better technique in order to play more advanced music. I have been encouraging him that now that he can play the book one pieces like a book two cellist! (And he is learning new pieces.)

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

Essie Liu said: Mar 21, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

That makes sense, Barb. I know it doesn’t always work out for every individual. It’s actually more or less adventurous of sticking to it, because in this case someone might just quit, either the teacher or the student. Maybe there’s going to be another thread like this: Surrender or insist? -how long will you stick to a problem with a student? It’s probably the art of balance and I’d always like to learn about your experiences.

Heather Reichgott said: Mar 24, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
95 posts

I often have the opposite problem when my Suzuki ear-learners must first begin to learn by reading as well. Most of them are very resistant to learning by reading at first. Eventually we get there but it is rarely easy—except for the few students who always struggled to remember pieces by ear and are delighted to have something written down that they can refer to.

Perhaps it is human nature to prefer the first way we learned to do something, and to resist being a beginner at learning a new way?

Barb said: Mar 24, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

“Perhaps it is human nature to prefer the first way we learned to do something, and to resist being a beginner at learning a new way?”

Probably. We love best what we know first.

I am considering, based on a different discussion elsewhere, as well as reports like Heather’s, beginning reading activities earlier than suggested in my Suzuki training. Actually, I think we were told, “Teaching reading should begin BY Rigadoon.” (My emphasis.) So I can’t say we were told exactly when to begin. I know it depends on the child. But I am thinking of beginning fairly early (as long as the child is developmentally ready to read), but keeping it separate from learning the instrument or the repertoire at first. Clapping, drumming, singing, etc.

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

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