Parental burn out

Tangie Lee said: Jul 26, 2013
11 posts

I’m new to the forum. My daughter started Suzuki Piano almost a year ago about a week before she turned 4 and she will be turning 5 in 3 weeks.

We are 3/4 through the book. Her teacher thinks that she’ll probably be done before Christmas. She’s playing Little playmates, Chante Arab, Allegreto, and learning LH for Christmas Day Secrets. It’s been summer break, so we had a lot to work on. As well as reviewing all the previous songs.
In order for her to “pass” a song, she needs to 1) play it w/o mistakes the first time asked, 2)play it w/ the recording, 3) play it w/ the teacher, and 4) play it counting. (ie, 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and…)

It’s been difficult for her to practice Chante Arab counting and Little playmates since Chante arab is a 3 count and Little playmates is 4.

Honestly, I’ve been slacking. I try to get her to practice 2-3 songs a session and then call it done. That is usually about 20-30 min. Sometimes a review song takes up to 15min bc she has forgotten it and so it takes a couple of days to get back to easy playing again.

In 2 weeks she’ll be starting full day kindergarten and I feel her piano practice will completely fall apart.

I know that we aren’t supposed to “compare”, but I also know that sometimes comparison is what I need to tell me if I’m doing enough or if there is more I can do.

I never did Suzuki and pretty much taught myself piano when I was 5 until I started lessons at 13 (a horrible age to begin). I wasn’t motivated and my teacher told me I was just wasting my parents’ money. I never progressed that much and honestly, I’m worried once we start book 2 that’ll be too above me.

I guess, I was just wondering if 30 min daily practicing for an almost 5 yr old seems about right and if we are at about the right pace for an “average” student.

Also, what to do when she surpasses me in skill.


Heather Reichgott said: Jul 26, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
102 posts

Dear Tangie Lee,

30 minutes daily practice for a 5-year-old is great, and it sounds like you and she are using the summertime to do a lot of work, and progressing rapidly. To give you some idea, the minimum practice time I require from beginners is only 5 minutes a day, and then 10 minutes a day by the end of book 1. The more motivated students practice for much longer.

Congratulations on your work together so far. It sounds like you and your daughter are off to a great start. The only advice I would offer is not to get frustrated if 30 minutes a day turns out to be unreasonable when the school year picks up. It is much more important to practice every day, even if the practice is only 5-10 minutes. Then you can use the following summer to practice more intensively.

The 15-minute review thing is perfectly normal in the pre-reading stage. Don’t forget to use listening and singing as the first steps in reviewing a forgotten piece. Once she is able to read music enough to follow along in a score and count lines and spaces, she will be able to review forgotten notes on her own using the score. Often reading just a couple of notes is enough to jog the memory and bring back the rest of the piece.

If I were you I would not be too concerned about how fast your daughter moves through the books. Among my best students I have one who completed book 1 in less than three months, and one who took almost 4 years to move through book 1 (but he sounds like a professional on every piece before he moves on). As for what to do when your daughter’s skill surpasses yours, you will still be the parent, and you will still be able to help your daughter remember to practice and to follow the directions for practice given by the teacher that week.

Of course, you could always take lessons yourself :)

Tangie Lee said: Jul 27, 2013
11 posts

Wow. How long does it take to get to the end of book 1 if you’re only practicing 10 min a day??

So I am supposed to be working w/ reading notes w/ her, but I’ve been lagging. I mean she’s 4. When should she start really reading music? I point along in the book sometimes or I show her how much of a song she’s learned but I don’t spend much time on it.

Will I be impeding her learning in the long run??? One of the consistent complaints regarding the Suzuki method I’ve read is that students learn to play by ear so well, that their music reading skills are really poor.

I don’t want that. Should I spend more time w/ it? I have a list of homework (reading being part of it) and I work on it once a week. But should I do more? Her teacher said that he’s never introduced it this young before, but he’s trying new things w her.

Thanks for your words of encouragement!

Heather Reichgott said: Jul 27, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
102 posts

The ones who only ever practice the minimum 10 minutes every day don’t move through book 1 in three months. But they most definitely learn faster and play better than students who practice 30 mins. but only three times a week. I find that frequency is more important than length of practice. Book 1 pieces are short, so in 10 minutes they can do hand exercises, play their working piece(s), do a few repetitions of trouble spots and new material in the working piece(s), and play several old favorites from earlier in the book. And many students are reluctant to get TO the piano, but once there, they are happy to practice for much longer than the minimum.

Suzuki teaching makes a priority of playing well: musically, with good tone, and with an inward connection to the music (like singing along on the inside). Reading is intentionally delayed so that the early awkward stages of reading don’t get in the way of learning to play well. Once good playing habits are well established and students have learned to play a few pieces, Suzuki teachers do teach reading. I wonder if the criticisms you have read may be about students who took lessons for only a year or two and then quit? At that stage they would be playing pretty well but would still have rudimentary reading skills.

Personally, I do not teach reading music to very young children until they have learned to read words enough that they can read simple sentences out loud. So sometimes I have students who start lessons at age 3 but do not start reading music until age 7.

None of us (even professionals, Suzuki trained or not) sight-reads new pieces at the same level as we perform, by the way. I have had parents before who think that professionals are sight-reading difficult new pieces at every performance! Everyone’s reading level is “behind” their playing level.

If your teacher is trying reading with your daughter, he must think she is ready, and that’s great. “Real reading” tasks will surely make their appearance on the assignment list in due time. Pace yourselves. Don’t add so many extra tasks that you do risk burning out (yourself or your daughter or both), and don’t be so worried about how fast you move through the books. Much better to save your energy for making sure she practices EVERY day, making sure assignments are completed, helping her develop a beautiful sound, joy and confidence in playing!

Sue Hunt said: Jul 28, 2013
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

You said that you are worried about your child surpassing you in skill. This needn’t happen for quite a while, if you also practice what your daughter is being taught. If you are practicing well, it will influence her in more ways than you think.

Your role at home to to see that she practices what has been taught in the lesson. You don’t really need to be able to do it yourself, in order to do that.

If your lesson notes are specific and sequential, and there is a clear goal for each practice task, you should be able to get more out of each practice task.

My last thought is how often do you listen to the recordings? When you learn music, you are learning to express yourself in another language. Think of the role that listening played in learning to speak your mother tongue. Listening makes a huge difference to the rate of progress. “Study listening” while following the music with a finger is a great precursor to sight reading.

Lori Bolt said: Jul 28, 2013
Lori BoltPiano
San Clemente, CA
262 posts

The consistency of daily practice will be the most important thing to strive for as your daughter begins kindergarten. Pare the time down to 10-15 minutes at first, increase in a few months if possible. She will have many new adjustments to make in starting school, so be patient with the process. Increase the listening instead.

There is no time frame for completing any Suzuki book. The foundation is what matters in Bk. 1, not the pace of completing pieces. Note reading will come. Good suggestion by Sue about listening and following along in the book. I also have students clap treble clef rhythms from the book once we’ve seen the basic notes and know their value (usually are not listening at the same time, but could be).

Above all, relax. You aren’t hurting your daughter’s progress :)

Lori Bolt

Tangie Lee said: Jul 28, 2013
11 posts

Thanks to all who have responded. I’m sure I’m more of the one pushing forward. Her teacher is absolutely wonderful and we are lucky to have him.

The reading we are doing is very simple. It’s the Music Tree “Time to Begin”. So, we are just talking about dynamics (p vs f) high notes vs low notes, quarter vs 1/2 notes.

It does help b/c she likes to have the music up of the song she’s practicing and I’ll point to mf or a staccato and it reminds her how to play. Although, most of the time her focus is the whole room, she looks everywhere but her fingers or the music.

We do listen to the recordings, but only w/ me. My husband can’t/ won’t do it when it’s just them two and I haven’t really asked who ever else is watching her to do it either. So it’s usually about 30 min—4 hrs daily depending on how much time together we get. I work full time.

How much time should it be???

And she prefers to listen to Book 2 so I try to have it on shuffle and mix both books together.

I will def try to be more consistent w/ practice. Sometimes I skip a day and make it up by upping her frequency the next day. For example, if she had to be in school all day while I worked, then the next day when we are both off, I double/ triple it.

She does enjoy the piano bc she goes to it just on her own and plays around w/ it, but if I try to sit down she’ll make it clear that she does NOT want a practice.

@Heather, if my daughter would just sit at the piano and do what I asked, we could prob get a lot done in 15 min. However, most of the time (not always), she’ll suddenly be thirsty in the middle of a song or need to use the restroom or can a toy sit and watch her play PUUULEEEZE or she has a very important question that needs answering RIGHT NOW… so that’s why I need to carve out 30-40 min out of the day.

I have to remember that my goal for her is not to be a concert pianist, but just have a love of playing and the ability to pursue that love.

Tangie Lee said: Jul 28, 2013
11 posts

@Sue, that is a great suggestion of just listening and pointing along w/ the book. So simple, yet I never thought of it. Thanks.

Heather Reichgott said: Jul 28, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
102 posts

Indeed, if she does turn out to be a concert pianist one day, it will be BECAUSE of a deep love and joy in music!

Mary said: Jul 30, 2013
 39 posts

Have you tried setting a timer near the piano and using a list of practice items that she can see and tick off as you go. I’ve done this in the past with my child to get him to focus when we’ve had some meandering practices. I’ve also done the 10 minute review challenge where I’ll put on the timer and have him go through as many review songs as possible in that small amount of time. The trick though is not to let them get fast and sloppy. And I’ve also broken up practices so that the first practice of the day will be 10 minutes of review and the second practice will be 10 minutes of working on the new piece. I think if you start to be consistent about keeping the practices short and not allow yourself to do the marathon practices, your daughter may be more willing and able to just focus and get to work.

As for music reading, I really would not worry about it if your teacher has a clear plan for when and how to introduce reading. I’ve seen my 9 year old violinist go from learning purely by ear to now being a very strong sight reader who can play in small ensembles. He started working on music reading when he was in kindergarten, after he was clearly reading sentences and able to track text horizontally across a page. His teacher started him with the I Can Read Music series and did easy fiddle tunes eventually moving him up to etudes and duets. At first, it wasn’t easy because his ear was so good. His teacher and I would catch him memorizing the exercises after a few sightreading attempts. And he would get discouraged at having to sightread such easy pieces when he was at a much higher level in the Suzuki repertoire. But you just have to be persistent and keep working and building up the skills and little by little it sticks. I think it actually isn’t that different from learning to read books. My child was a very reluctant reader at first because he preferred having my husband or I read to him more interesting books than doing the easy level readers. He just found those really boring and unappealing. But little by little he learned to read and he is now a voracious book reader. My 6 year old is doing Suzuki piano and his teacher just started him on note flash cards this spring and i think that was the right time for him. And I know that all the older children in his teacher’s studio sightread well so I know we’ll get there, too. It just takes time and with a 6 year old there’s plenty of time!

Anita said: Aug 1, 2013
 40 posts

As a parent of two Suzuki violin students (for about 5 years now, starting at age 4), I just wanted to say: remember to be kind to yourself as a parent, cut yourself some slack on days when it’s just too much, and know that it’s OK if you can’t do it all, every day. Some days, it’s enough that you and your child try, particularly if it means she’ll come back to it the next time, willingly and with a great attitude. We’re parents; we’re not perfect.

In my experience, they get the whole, “it will go faster if you focus and buckle down,” concept around age 8 or 10, so you have a while to go with that, yet. My own son pulls what I call a “noodle child” thing—puts the violin down and then proceeds to “melt” like cheese all over the couch. This is just his latest technique for “stretching things out”—literally. Patience is divine…

Stick with it; it will be worth it, in the long run. :-)


Celia Jones said: Aug 7, 2013
72 posts

Tangie, we do violin, school hit really hard for us but we got back to it in the end.

We’re on 3 years and still only two thirds through book one (but with technique that I think is very nice indeed). Actually that was:

year 1, age 3, my daughter would practise around one hour every single day, (I used to have to physically separate her from the violin)
year 2, age 4, she started school, and practised around 10—20 minutes, 3 times a week for a big chunk of the year, then 20 minutes a day 5 times a week
year 3, age 5, we built it back up to 40 minutes a day 5 days a week.

At some point I got the whole technique thing and I really couldn’t care less what piece my daughter is on. Her daily practise includes an improvisation slot and when I hear what she comes out with then I have no worries about learning notes.

Tangie Lee said: Aug 15, 2013
11 posts

So the first week of school went as expected. She was exhausted and we got in 3-4 practices maybe. But she would have a breakdown at the piano. On top of that, she was recovering from a cold and her birthday party was Sunday so it was just super busy.

@Mary, I tried the timer thing and it actually worked great! In 10 min she was able to play all her 9 review songs w/ o a mistake at least once. However, she seemed SO stressed about it when she would make a mistake (the concept of time is still a challenge for her) and almost start to hyperventilate. So I’m not sure how to proceed. In the 3 times we did that, we were able to review so much but her stress level was so high. Sigh.

And that’s exactly what I’m finding out she’s doing w/ the I CAN READ series. Once she knows the pattern, she’s no longer “reading” but just playing what she knows. Her teacher said to expect that but continue to keep at it.

Anyhow, thank you for all your input. It really does make me feel better.

Mary said: Aug 15, 2013
 39 posts

Hi Tangie,

If the ten minute challenge is stressing her out and not fun, I would stop doing it. Every kid is different so something that seems fun for one can be stressful or boring for another. Would it work to do something more like a “5 song challenge” with no timer? So you get her to pick out of a hat five songs she’ll do or you could let her pick the five songs herself? With my son, we do a variety of review games that include:

odd # songs only
even # songs only
First 10 songs
Last 10 songs
Songs that begin with “c”

We’ve also used dice for him to roll the # of review songs for the evening. You can also put the names of songs in a box for her to pick out.

With all of these games. I use a chart to keep track of the songs reviewed over the course of 2-3 days so that we make it through all of the review songs in that time so that we don’t neglect to play a song. If your daughter likes stickers she can manage the chart herself and put on the stickers after each song played.

At any rate, you may just have to keep coming up with variations on different ideas until something really grabs her. And I would definitely give yourselves time to adjust to the new schedule to avoid extra stress. You will get back to a great practice schedule once everything settles into a routine. It may take a few weeks and a lot of patience, but you’ll get there.

Darren Gates said: Oct 21, 2013
 3 posts

This relates to my experience with the violin, but maybe it is also applicable to piano…

I’m the parent of a 4-year-old, and I’ve had very similar problems getting my child to practice, but I think that I’ve finally realized what the issue was: she was BORED of playing the same song over and over and over! Her teacher essentially would not let her progress to the next song until the current song was perfect.

The solution: let kids be kids! Let them have fun with the violin. My daughter likes to pick out ridiculously hard songs—say, the last song (Gavotte) in book 1—and try to play it. At first, I was like “no way, this is far too advanced”, and of course she rebelled. So I changed my stance to: “sure, let’s try it!”. She had a great time learning the first 3 notes of the song, and in the process I was able to practice her bowing and finger technique a lot! She also realized that she needed to start with easier songs first.

So now about 2 months later, she knows by heart about the first 1/2 of book 1, because I let her explore them. Her technique on the first 2 songs (twinkle & lightly row) are MUCH better, and she always looks forward to practicing. Sometimes, after an hour of practice, I have to insist that she puts the violin down to go to bed!

Also, I often play with her (I played violin in school, but am admittedly rusty), but sometimes she puts on “concerts” for me and my wife, when she even dresses up for the part.

Our practices usually go like this:

  • a few minutes getting ready and tuning.

  • I propose that we play twinkle or lightly row (which are the only songs that she “officially” knows).

  • We MIGHT play one of those songs, or she might choose something else.

  • If she chooses something else, I go ahead and teach it to her, but still while working on technique, etc.

  • About 50% of the time, after learning a new song (or just the first few measures, or the first line), we go back and practice twinkle/lightly row, and she is always much more willing to do this.

One problem: I suggested to her teacher a few months ago that I’d like to start teaching Daphne some harder pieces, and the teacher pretty shot me down in a heartbeat. So, the teacher doesn’t actually know what’s going on during our practice sessions. I don’t want to get her teacher angry, but then again, I can see what works with my daughter at home, and I’ve had such great results so far that I don’t want to stop.

The most important thing—to me, at least—is that my girl is having FUN, I’m having fun practicing with her, and she is still improving and working on the various things that the teacher wants her to work on.

Rebecca said: Oct 21, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Guitar
Magna, UT
12 posts

It sounds like you really enjoy this experience with your daughter.  And, that she enjoys a good challenge.  

I am by no means aware of your level of experience with the Suzuki repertoire.  My only intention is to be helpful.

As I understand it, each piece in the repertoire introduces something new and specific.  Shinichi Suzuki intentionally arranged the order.

If your teacher completed the teacher training course for Suzuki Book 1 through the SAA, likely she is aware of this and has a plan for your daughter’s progress.

I get tough practices.  I have a son working on the first half of book one and believe me it can be challenging.  

For boredom, you could explore different games and practice challenges. I also recommend learning pieces outside the repertoire.  Like holiday music.  There are several short songs for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas that would be both fun and level appropriate. 

As for going ahead in book one, I highly discourage this.  I watched a friend go through this same experience with her sons.  And, if you don’t mind, I’d like to share a few thoughts and observations for you to consider.

  1) Have you considered what is likely to happen when your teacher is ready to introduce one of theses pieces you’ve gone ahead on? After you’ve worked on it with your daughter…and your daughter now feels so “done” with it because she already knows it. What if the specific technique that this piece introduces isn’t mastered yet?  Or, what if the teacher wants different fingering or bowings…or even just a different part of the bow? Every time you play/practice something, it makes a recording in your brain and reinforces what you have done. And, if you ever have to go back and unlearn something so you can relearn it differently…that’s hard.  And it’s not fun.  How will your daughter feel then?  Won’t she be even more bored and frustrated? 

  1. How will the teacher feel about you and your daughter when she realizes what has happened?  Especially after she’s already talked to you about it.  It will make her job harder, and puts her in a difficult position with your daughter as well. 

  2.  What affect will your approach have on how your daughter views and respects her teacher.  I can’t help but worry that she will think you don’t respect the teacher so why should she? Right now she has two teachers and you are one of them.  Which one does she prefer?

As I said earlier, I don’t know how proficient you are or what your training has been.  Maybe you do know more than your daughter’s teacher.  In that case, why do you pay her teach your daughter? Why don’t you teach her yourself?  It sounds like you feel like you know what you are doing and that you feel like you know what to do to get the best learning experience from your daughter. 
I am both a parent and a teacher.  I have my own reasons for having my children take from someone else. But, it couldn’t be just anyone.  I needed to find someone I respect.  Someone who has a teaching style I agree with.  Someone who teaches the way I would.  Someone I would be willing to learn from.

If my kids had a teacher I didn’t agree with or respect, it would make everything a huge miserable mess. If we came home from lesson and I always did things my own way…and disregarded or undermined instruction from the teacher….well.  That’s just not fair to anyone.

I’m just suggesting you take some time and really think about this experience from a different perspective.  Project out a few months….think about what lessons will be like for you, your daughter, and your teacher if you continue as you have.

Think about why you joined THIS studio.  How do you really feel about your teacher?  Do you really respect and trust her to know what she’s doing?  What do YOU want from this experience?  What do you expect the end result to be? How important is the having fun part, and where does it fit in with your priorities? 

Do you really want to study the Suzuki method?  It sounds like your teacher is doing her best to teach it correctly.  There are other methods and approaches to learning the violin.  

There are no right or wrong answers. It really comes down to what you want and what you are willing to commit to.   Figure out where you stand and be honest with your teacher. Whatever you do, respect and support whomever you ask to teach your daughter.  Follow and honor their instructions.  And, if you want to go above and beyond….or just do something to keep things interesting,  use music outside the repertoire. Don’t interfere with the teacher’s future plans.
Sent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device


Phankao said: Oct 21, 2013
 128 posts

Tangie, My boy is one that we try our best to work within 10-15mins practice each day. We try not to stretch beyond that because he also does violin.

He just turned 5yo and has done suzuki piano for 2yrs. He has just gone into the Vol.3 for suzuki piano and is in the middle of vol.3 for violin.

So if you want to know how long it takes to move thru the books—well, that’s our experience.

Phankao said: Oct 22, 2013
 128 posts

Oh, and the teachers who mention not guiding the child to read music until after they can read (read sentences, etc). Ah… so for my child (now just 5yo) who could read more than one language before he turned 1yo, he could be taught music reading earlier?

Anyway, just to share my experience, his teacher who is suzuki trained knew he could read fluently when he started piano before 3yo, but never went into asking to guide him to read music as well. And surprisingly, he never showed ability to read music until recently when he turned 5yo. Not too late, not too early. Just a natural progression.

Our little one, apart from his daily 10-15min practices does a lot of exploring on his own—composing, playing tunes he’s heard by ear, harmonising… basically what might sound like “rubbish” to anyone passing by. So he just has his own fun, which is good, I think. For piano he doesn’t go faster than what the teacher teaches, but for violin, sadly, he does bc he can easily read the score. I’ve cautioned him to accept further instructions from the teacher on those pieces he’s learnt on his own when teacher does touch on it though.

Celia Jones said: Oct 22, 2013
72 posts

But this is nothing like how children learn to speak. They don’t learn to say “Mama” perfectly, and then move on to “Dada”. By the time they are two they can say all sorts of things like:

“Ooh! I yike dat!” (Ooh, I like that!)
“Go jaggon park, you me? Jaggon park, take picnic?” (Let’s go to the dragon park, you and me, and let’s take a picnic.)
“ouch! Fumb boo-boo. Paster beeze.” (Ow, I bruised my thumb. Please may I have a plaster.)

There are parents who would immediately correct the child’s diction, and say things like “what’s a “fumb”? The word is “thumb”. Say “thumb”.” But that’s cruel.

If Suzuki were truly a mother-tongue method, they would allow the child to work on what they can do well, and let some of the other stuff come on in it’s own time.

Mengwei Shen said: Oct 22, 2013
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
220 posts

The point is that you don’t want technique (or weak technique) to get in the way of music reading and vice versa. You have to understand notation and pitches going up and down and how that corresponds to your instrument and then coordinate your body. It’s really a lot to keep track of and a beginning Suzuki reader is going to read at a lower level than s/he plays.

Mengwei Shen said: Oct 22, 2013
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
220 posts

Not every “mother tongue” concept can be translated exactly to the detail though. For one, there are motor skills to consider. Some sounds (such as “th”) are just physically impossible until later, just as at the early book 1 level I don’t ask for a singing long bow Twinkle theme with tapered phrases (for example). Also, Twinkle is not the equivalent of “mama” or “dada”. Not even each item on this list is equivalent to a single word.

By the time a child is two, s/he has likely been spoken to every day, for much of the day, and small speech development steps praised. Suppose you start the violin clock at age 3 or 4. The recording is heard for hours every day, the teacher and parent model successful learning/practicing, everyone diligently proceeds through every step no matter how small—then yes, two years later, the child will be able to do all sorts of stuff. But again, Twinkle or even one song is not a single step. Each piece is series of steps, there are lots of overlaps when certain steps apply to many pieces, and some children will have more steps than others. If the environment and support are not there, then no, we can’t compare to how children learn to speak.

Darren Gates said: Oct 22, 2013
 3 posts

hi Rebecca,

Thanks for the input. Here are my views on your questions (which are good ones!)….

“As I understand it, each piece in the repertoire introduces something new and specific. Shinichi Suzuki intentionally arranged the order.”

This is also how I understand it. However, when interviewing teachers about a year ago, I discovered that almost no one follows the Suzuki method to the letter. It was always like “I use Suzuki, but I supplement the material” or “I use about 1/2 Suzuki, and 1/2 traditional” or “I use Suzuki, but I teach the coursework in a different order” etc. Even her current Suzuki-trained teacher (a member of SAA) doesn’t follow the books exactly. It seems to me that there are a lot of different opinions about this—from violin pros, no less.

“1) Have you considered what is likely to happen when your teacher is ready to introduce one of theses pieces you’ve gone ahead on?”

This has actually already happened, with “Lightly Row”. What I told my daughter is that the teacher wants to get the piece “just right”, so she may have to play it for several more weeks with the teacher.

At this point, that has been sufficient explanation, and my daughter hasn’t complained about it. With regards to the fingering and bowing, I’ve been following the music to the letter (down/up bow, etc.), so hopefully what I’m teaching will be very close to what the teacher eventually introduces.

I’ve been following some YouTube Suzuki tutorials. You can basically get Suzuki instruction for every piece from a trained Suzuki teacher online, it seems. Hopefully, that will also make my instruction more in-line with the teacher’s instruction. For example:

“2) How will the teacher feel about you and your daughter when she realizes what has happened?”

Yep, this is definitely a big concern. I hope that she doesn’t dump us as clients, but that might happen. :( There are a couple of other violin teachers in our area if this happens. This is my #1 concern, in fact.

If she finds out that my daughter can play advanced pieces, maybe I’ll just act shocked and say “Oh my God, it’s a violin miracle!”.

I’m more concerned about my daughter quitting out of boredom than of any reaction from the teacher. If the teacher doesn’t like it, so be it. Hopefully, she’ll see that I’m just trying to make playing the violin fun for my daughter (and fun for me to help her).

I think that a good response from the teacher in such a situation should be: “I see that you’re exploring the advanced pieces. That’s OK, but be sure to continue to practice the pieces that we’ve worked on. Also, if you try song X, here’s what to look out for… If you try song Y, be sure to remember this…” etc. In other words, giving us some hints at what we should be aware of would be better than just getting angry over it.

“3) What affect will your approach have on how your daughter views and respects her teacher.”

She seems to like her teacher a lot, so I’m not too concerned about this one. Also, I’ve explained to her that the teacher wants to make the piece perfect, so she might work on pieces that she already sort of knows. At this point, that has proven to be sufficient explanation.

“…why do you pay her teach your daughter? Why don’t you teach her yourself?”

Lots of reasons. There are plenty of things that the teacher does well, like focus on bowing and finger technique. The teacher has recitals and group lessons, which I think are helpful. Just getting the same thing explained in more than one way is helpful. Also, regular lessons keeps my daughter focused on practicing (”Let’s practice tonight because we have a lesson in 2 days!”).

I’m a great swimmer, but I still sign her up for swimming lessons. I can read and write, but I still make her go to preschool. I am a very good artist, but I still enroll her in art class. But at the same time, I don’t hesitate to “enrich” her swimming/reading/writing/art with my own knowledge at home. Why should it be any different with violin?

“Do you really want to study the Suzuki method?”

Not necessarily. I’m open to other techniques. This particular teacher fits all of our OTHER criteria, however (cost, days available, willingness to teach toddlers, etc.), which are also very important to us.

Thanks for your feedback! It did make me consider some possible pitfalls. I’m also very impressed with the fact that you composed your forum post on a mobile device!


Mengwei Shen said: Oct 22, 2013
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
220 posts

In my opinion, there are as many (or more!) ways to “teach Suzuki” as there are “Suzuki teachers”! If my student had learned from the Lightly Row video about “short short long” bows vs. “short short slow” bows, that’s nice, but I’m really just looking for appropriate getting ready, clean string crossings, and approximate but steady tempo/rhythm (not necessarily holding the full half note with a specific amount of bow).

There are some LH techniques that could be done at Lightly Row that I personally wouldn’t delay Song of the Wind previews for, but I’m a stickler about one—keeping LH fingers curved and close to the strings rather than lifting them straight up. I would have addressed that during Twinkle.

Also, some teachers will say they don’t sing finger numbers (E22, 311) after Twinkle. I do still but get an ear training opportunity by having the student recognize and play “steps” and “skips” without singing A123EEE and A2EE222.

If you ask me, none of these are right or wrong—just different. (Well, LH fingers do need to be curved if you expect to play fast notes later on, but when do you make it perfect? The answer is—somewhere in between Twinkle and the piece that has the fast notes.)

“I think that a good response from the teacher in such a situation should be…”
Here’s how I would change your suggestion (okay, some of these I might not say out loud):

“I see that you’re exploring the advanced pieces. That’s OK—but please remember that the other assignments we are working on are very important, so I am asking mom or dad to help with those first. If you try song A, be sure to keep your “bow on the road”. If you try song B, be sure to listen for the “ring tones”. If you try song C, be sure to play all low 2’s. Before you play song D, listen to it on the CD 5 times. Before you play song E, do your 10x assignment from [some other piece] that uses the same finger pattern (or bowing or whatever) as song E. If you show me next week that you’ve done all your assignments, then we will have a new assignment for song F (almost always some tricky thing in the middle).”

Tangie Lee said: Oct 23, 2013
11 posts

So we are now 2 1/2 months into school and things have slowed down. But I think it’s also b/c her teacher expects more.

For the earlier songs, (Honeybee, Lightly Row…) he expected for her to be able to

  1. play w/ no mistakes first take
  2. play along w/ the recording
  3. play along w/ the teacher
  4. play while counting out the beats (1, 2, 3, 4,… or 1 and 2 and 1 and 2 and…)

For the last few songs, he wants that but he wants her to also play only on finger tips, shoulders down, back straight and w/ dynamics. And he adds more dynamics than the music shows.

He is also pushing her to read more (I’ve gone slack w/ that).

She really enjoys her lessons and really likes him (as do I).

I just wish practice would be more enjoyable. Her teacher wants us to introduce more games into the practice but that extends practice time so much and I feel that less actual practice occurs.

@Phankao, your child is so beyond me that I can not relate. But thank you for your input

Tangie Lee said: Oct 23, 2013
11 posts

ps. She plays piano and not violin

Mary said: Oct 23, 2013
 39 posts


My younger son who is 7 just started book 2 piano and I can see why a teacher would want the last few songs of book 1 to have very solid technique before moving forward because there is a bit of a jump with the first couple of songs of book 2. My child’s teacher was also focusing on dynamics and phrasing as well and it was a challenge—especially getting the left hand to play more quietly than the right hand. But I think it makes sense for students to get use to the importance of dynamics with these easier songs than in book 2 when there is a lot more to work on. And these last few songs are more challenging so it makes sense that progress would be slower.

I also want to say that it sounds like your teacher is trying to support you in making practices more fun with games and I do think with a 5 year old that it’s important to keep practices fun. You said that you’re worried about the games adding more time to your practice. Perhaps it would help to ask your teacher to prioritize what should be accomplished in the home practices during the week so that you can still incorporate the games but not draw out the practice time.

It sounds like she is progressing really well so you don’t have to worry so much about taking things a little bit more slowly if you end up with a happier child who enjoys her home practices.

Phankao said: Oct 24, 2013
 128 posts

@Tangie Lee… well, along the discussion up there, there was something said about finishing Suzuki Piano vol 1 in 3mths. My son definitely took at least a year. No spectacular superfast progress, I’d say. Just went with the flow.

I just feel a little intimidated by the requirements you listed up there.
- play w/ no mistakes first take
- play along w/ the recording
- play along w/ the teacher
- play while counting out the beats (1, 2, 3, 4,… or 1 and 2 and 1 and 2 and…)

Did the teacher actually list these out this way? Maybe he expects more bc your child is older. Maybe mine was younger at 3yrs old—teacher more forgiving. I know my boy can definitely play w/o mistakes, but all the rest are not practised by his teacher. Is it normal to count out the beats while playing? I personally would find that rather distracting. Maybe play with Metronome—yes, bc that works in the background.

Lori Bolt said: Oct 24, 2013
Lori BoltPiano
San Clemente, CA
262 posts

@Tangie Lee ~ I’m also curious about the counting while playing, and how the teacher introduces & implements it with a pre note reading piano student.

@Phankoa ~ This list is probably just this particular teacher’s requirements. I have not encountered it in my Book 1 training or any Suzuki related readings. Your teacher, as well as myself, no doubt has another set of criteria for evaluating pieces.

Lori Bolt

Tangie Lee said: Oct 24, 2013
11 posts

So, I have no comparison. I took piano from a music major as a tween for a few years and would just learn a piece and move on. There was no theory or review.
Her instructor is the only suzuki instructor in my town and the only one I’ve ever met.

But basically, for every song, he has a check off list. When they finish everything for a song, then he makes a certificate for it.

The beginning of the check list is,
-right hand melody alone,
-right and left hand melody together,
-left hand harmony alone…
onto the four I listed. We started to skip most of the beginning of the checklist right around London Bridge/ Mary had a little lamb, b/c she was able to play right and left (harmony and melody) pretty much right away. And didn’t need to practice both hands melody bc she picked that up pretty easily.

I don’t think he expects more bc she’s older. He had shown me the checklist when we first began lessons, so I was aware.
She began just before she turned 4 and she just turned 5 last month. I am pretty sure there are students that have been w/ him for a couple of years who still haven’t finished book 1. (The only reason I know this is bc I know what age the child started and how old they are now and I know when their book 1 recital is/ was.) He does not name names or set a time limit bc he is pretty adamant about not having a competitive studio. Meaning, he doesn’t want to compare (or have parents’ compare) one child’s accomplishments against another. He wants the love of playing to be the only driving force.

The dynamics and proper posture is a more new thing he’s enforcing on her.

I don’t know how to explain the counting except to say that she needs to count out the measures while she plays. I believe this is to ensure proper internal timing and rhythm of a piece. It was truly the most challenging in the beginning. Esp w/ Mary and London Bridge where some notes are played on the “and”. But it no longer is the hardest part for her to past. (Of course, w/ Musette counting 1,2,3,4,5, 6, it does throw her)

The playing along w/ the recording is bc he wants her to be able to imitate the music while listening. Same thing w/ playing along w/ him. W/ him, she starts the count. So she sets the metronome by how she counts off. Does that make sense? There’s no actual metronome that we use.
For example, how fast she says, 1 and 2 and 3 and… that’ll be how fast he plays (and she should play) the piece. If she counts off faster but plays slower, he’ll make her do it again.

But this has made me curious. What do others have to do to “graduate” a piece of music?

Tangie Lee said: Oct 24, 2013
11 posts

@ Mary, I agree book 2 seems much more difficult. I’m trying it and I’m not able to just play it. I don’t even think I have the 1st song down yet. So I need to get on it before she gets there.

And I understand he wants the practices to be joyful. And he has listed the homework in order of importance but he also says to make flash cards of the homework w/ one assignment on each and then let her pick a card and work on that.

It just seems we have NO time. And sometimes I think, not everything is fun and games, sometimes you just have to push through.

I don’t know, maybe that’s not in accord w/ the Suzuki method. =(

Mengwei Shen said: Oct 24, 2013
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
220 posts

This is a good site for Suzuki piano:

Also, the Performance Descriptors as defined by the SAA:

Mary said: Oct 24, 2013
 39 posts


I do understand the time issue. It feels like we have less and less time with each school year as sports and homework have also crept into our lives the older my boys get. My husband and I also work full time so it’s very challenging. Music is very important in our family but the boys also love their sports and I don’t want to take that away from them. And of course schoolwork is not negotiable. So we’ve just had to adjust our expectations a little and do our best to prioritize music and play around with our schedules until things more or less work even if it means some days will just be micro practice days with only 1-2 songs played. As long as I am able to get my child to focus and concentrate on what his teacher wants him to do in that particular piece then he is still actively learning and not mindlessly playing.

And you are right that there will be times when your child will just have to struggle through. I guess in those times I’d say take it slowly and make sure to praise the effort and remind her how far she’s come with a particular challenge. Recently, I’ve also added a lot of praise when my child is able to not get frustrated and instead verbalize what is hard about a challenge or let me try to help him. In other words, I try to remind myself that what matters in these moments is not whether or not he can play a few notes correctly but that he is learning to cope with challenges gracefully and productively. If he can do that the music part will follow.

Mary said: Oct 24, 2013
 39 posts

I just wanted to write a quick response to Darren’s comment about wanting to enrich his child’s lessons. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to help your child to succeed and sharing what you know. But I hope that you will talk to your daughter’s teacher and include her rather than try to go it alone in the home practices. Just speaking as a parent one of the best rewards of putting my kids on this musical journey has been the amazing teachers that we’ve been lucky to work with over the years. They are incredible musicians who also give so much of themselves in their lessons with my kids. My older son who is now 9 and working in book 6 violin has been with the same teacher for years. She saw him through book 1 on his little 1/16 and they have the most incredible working relationship that can only be built through years of trust and open and honest communication among the 3 of us. I know I can go to her whenever we’re in a practice rut and things are not going well and she knows exactly how to turn things around with a new exercise or a few very well chosen words that will re-energize my kid. I would hope that you get the same kind of relationship for your daughter and her teacher.

Phankao said: Oct 25, 2013
 128 posts

Our experience was that Suzuki Piano Book 1 was really lots of fun.

The teacher didn’t touch much on note-reading nor emphasized counting although it was expected. The emphasis was more on listening lots to the music. Any problems, teacher would advise “more listening”. Tr used lots of little toys to add teaching too. Eg. she clasped a bunny to my son’s wrist to illustrate how to get the bunny to “surf” on the waves by having his wrist flex/roll. I also remember her having some games on whose Animal (teacher’s or his) would win the race first, altho’ I really forget what the “race” was and what technique she was enforcing now. haha.

Every song was split up into “patterns” like “Walk, Skip, Rainbow”, etc . Even the LH styles were referred to by their “patterns” (fishball chord—sorry, very Asian term, broken chords, alberti-bass, skipping, walking, mini see-saw, big see-saw, etc). The whole book ended up being rather colourful bc teacher coloured patterns or notes/clefs to take note of with differently coloured pencils or transparent fluorescent “post-it” labels.

Most songs would have lyrics to go along with it to aid in remembering the pattern to be used/played. While I was tidying up some of these last year after my boy finished Book 1, I took some photos. Quite a memory.

Here’s some I’ll share… Lightly Row.—Secret Codes for the Patterns in the Music.. hehe:

Long Long Ago:
The lyrics again reminds how/what he has to play. Eg”Fly Down” (whole hand changed position down) .. “like to stomp” (ends totally with one note instead of continuing LH alberti).

Allegretto 2 was sung to “I can count to 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 little teddy bears”

Techniques like LH/RH volume balancing was worked by practising Silent LH movements while RH was sounded.

Most of the pieces, as long as he could play it with accurate notes and at a reasonable tempo for his size/age and in rhythm with some dynamics, the piece would be passed. The main thing that did surprise me was that the teacher worked on hand/wrist/finger form in book 1 already, which help in phrasing the songs.

Suzuki Piano book 2 was where teacher expected him to become acquainted with required fingerings and start looking at the form of the notes even if he couldn’t read them.

Maybe you can explore ways to keep it fun, especially during practices ! Lots of ideas online that I used too, and many I just followed on and expanded on what the teacher did.

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