15 Weeks on Twinkle twinkle?


Yvette Willmot said: Aug 28, 2013
 4 posts

I was just wondering if it is normal for a child to go through the twinkle twinkle exercises for 15 weeks without moving on to any other song. Both of my girls (9 and 7) have played piano before but are new to suzuki. The older one was playing twinkle twinkle in its various forms for 12 weeks and has just moved on. The younger one is still going and very frustrated. I realise the importance of learning posture and tone but is this amount of time playing the same song a bit extreme? I can barely sit through the lesson any more without screaming. I am trying to remain positive with my girls but I feel for their frustration because I am frustrated too. They came to Suzuki with so much enthusiasm, listening to the CD and trying out the songs, I never had to ask them to practice. Now they are frustrated and tense at the piano especiallt if I try to go through twinkle twinkle with them.

Susan said: Aug 29, 2013
Susan Vaughan
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Flute
Madison, SD
1 posts

What do you do at the lesson?

Sent from my iPhone

Susan K Vaughan, Ph. D., MBA, MA Piano Performance, MA Art Education, MA Music Education
Levels I-VII Piano

Yvette Willmot said: Aug 29, 2013
 4 posts

First they spend time touching the keys with the correct hand positioning and posture and go through touching one note at a time until she was satisfied that each note had been touched with the correct hand positioning. In the very first lesson this took up a lot of the lesson, even now they spend about 2-3 min of a half hour lesson doing it before the even press a key. Then they began to play through the different variations of the twinkle twinkle one note at a time to ensure that it is played with the correct hand positioning and tone. The first few lessons only one variation was tried as it took so long getting each single note right. By the end of about 11 weeks she was satisfied that my elder daughter could start a new song but my 7 year old is still battling with playing one note at a time and maybe being able to string a few notes together. My 7 year old is very intelligent and always enthusiastic to learn but now she is very discouraged and hates piano. This is not like her at all. One week I nearly started crying when I saw her frustration (and I am not an emotional person) after the lesson she said “Mummy I don’t know why but I just wanted to cry in that lesson.” Before the classes began she had progressed through more of the first book (left hand) than her older sister by listening to the CD and sight reading (a skill which she new from previous non-suzuki piano lessons) she was so eager to learn. I feel that each week I have slowly seen this enthusiasm been sucked out of her.

Community Youth Orchestra Of S CA said: Aug 30, 2013
 Violin, Viola
70 posts

It’s not supposed to be frustrating.

Are both girls being taught the exact same way? If that’s the case, it’s a big warning flag. Kids at those ages are not in the same place cognitively, and what might be a smart approach in the long run for a slightly older and/or more mature kid (focusing a ton on technique) is going to kill the love of music for a slightly younger and/or less mature kid.

At the same time, playing piano isn’t just about pushing buttons…efficient technique is critical. Are they practicing every day? Are they able to reproduce what the teacher is asking for in their practice? Are you practicing with them and learning the material with them?

Alissa said: Aug 30, 2013
Alissa Rieb
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

Why did you switch to this teacher? Are they undoing habits from their previous experience? That can be the hardest thing ever, but worth it.

I think you’ve written what you’ve seen quite well. Copy and send this to your teacher. It sounds like you have really well behaved kiddos and perhaps the teacher is unknowingly pushing them past their limit. A little guy I work with comes to everything else in his world quite easily and took off on the violin. He’s now reaching where most kids start as far as effort and he’s frustrated when it’s not easy. His mom and I talk about it in lessons when frustration increases and try to catch him/bring him back to reality when new things aren’t perfect right away. That’s life! However, he is a super sweet little guy and his mom made me aware that he was starting to feel drained by a certain piece. We had done so well on a dozen pieces before that so I needed her comments on what was going on at home. I might have missed the mood change for a bit longer because he tries so hard with a pleasant attitude!

Playing an instrument is frustrating at some point for most players. However, we hope that at that point we have enough tools to handle it effectively and quickly. Constant frustration is draining! Little spots of it happen from time to time. I’ve had pieces requiring skills that are not my strength and I get frustrated at times, but I’m an adult :-)

I hope your family gets to the other side of this rough patch one-way or the other with positive results!

Cathy Hargrave said: Aug 30, 2013
 Teacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Rowlett, TX
51 posts

I think you need to talk to your teacher and let him/her know of your frustration and your children’s. Is the teacher being clear with you about what s/he is specifically looking/listening for? Are you understanding? Are you both working on the same goal? Say all the things you are saying here directly to your teacher. Call or ask for a conference and discuss it when your children aren’t there. Don’t be afraid to communicate. I would welcome feedback like this from a parent and I would want to work on these problems together. Your teacher probably would too.

Cathy Hargrave

Yvette Willmot said: Aug 31, 2013
 4 posts

Thank you for your advice everyone,
I have decided to finish up with this teacher. I did try to discuss issues with her but she doesn’t seem to hear what I am saying.
The hardest thing has been to tell a teacher who is very passionate and genuinely a lovely person that we are stopping. If she was just a little bit more flexible, it would have been such a fantastic experience for my girls. I have had children in piano lessons for 7 years now and I know that when I have a teacher that can inspire a child, the experience can be fantastic. We had one such teacher in the last place that we lived, she wasn’t Suzuki, but used lots of Suzuki methods which is why I looked into a Suzuki teacher this time. I am really disappointed that it hasn’t worked for us, but I can’t do this to my little girl (7) any longer.

Lenni Jabour said: Sep 1, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Toronto, ON
9 posts

Just wanted to contribute that I recently completed my Book 1 Piano training with an incredible and seriously experienced teacher and trainer who lived in japan in the 80’s to train with Suzuki himself .

We surmised that with a new/young student it would take roughly 15 weeks to get to the end of Twinkles, this was going step by step through everything that would happen at each lesson.

Wishing you and your girls all the best with future music studies.

Music is a language of the heart without words. 
- Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, 1898- 1998

Yvette Willmot said: Sep 1, 2013
 4 posts

Thanks Lenni,
I don’t have a problem with it taking 15 weeks so much. Especially for a beginner. But for a child who has started who has already played piano before, I think that some flexibility needs to be shown. Also if a child is expressing a lot of frustration to the point where they are just not taking anything in anymore, then I think that a perceptive teacher would change tact at least for a very short time to help get over a hump in learning.

Wendy Caron Zohar said: Sep 1, 2013
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
100 posts

Yvette, I know that you have already made your decision to leave this teacher. I would like to add some of my thoughts just for the benefit of the conversation though they may have no bearing on your next moves… perhaps for others encountering this, or similar frustrations.

In my experience children need widely varying periods of time to master the Twinkle Variations. Some breeze through it, others simply take and need much longer. I have known children to take a full year on just the Twinkles. Of course it is a matter of attitude and support, with the parent working together with the teacher to help the child master each skill set. It is THE most important stage of learnin. A well trained teacher knows how important it is to start off with the right habits being formed. That includes the varied bow motions, and many specific motions of the left hand, required for playing Twinkle in a way that launches the child for a successful start in playing. It is not just about playing the notes, so that the student can get on to the next piece! I would love to write more about this, and may do so at another opportunity.

I hope this helps in thinking about the aspect of trajectory of forward progress, and that it need not be time-related!

Wendy Caron Zohar

If we work hard, music may save the world.—S. Suzuki

Caitlin said: Sep 5, 2013
Merced, CA
41 posts

Yvette, it actually sounds like you have a jewel of a teacher, though you wouldn’t know it until about 10 years from now. As a teacher, every time I let a child move forward against my judgment, I regret it. The skills they gain from Twinkle are needed the advancing pieces, and catches up with them very quickly! The skill your daughter has learned from this teacher will enable her to play great concertos, not only Twinkle.

To give you an example, my little brother transferred teachers mid-Suzuki volume 3 on the cello. My mom has had 4 other children take lessons, and at this point she just let the teacher do his thing (and continued to be a great Suzuki mom with enforcing daily practice, listening and a positive attitude). That actually meant spending two years on one piece, and another year finishing the rest of the volume. If you watch a video of when he first started lessons to now, you would say that the teacher did a very good job. His musical growth was simply amazing! I am predicting that he will start be making steady progress from here out, and perhaps take-off!

14 weeks is a very short amount of time in the world of musical progress. I wish you best of luck with your daughters musical education.

Gloria said: Sep 6, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
75 posts

I could not agree more with Caitlin! She said it all for me.

Lori Bolt said: Sep 6, 2013
Lori BoltPiano
San Clemente, CA
262 posts

I also agree with Caitlin.
Since these students are transfers from traditional lessons, it’s normal for the teacher to need to spend a good deal of time retraining during the Twinkle phase.
I’ve recently acquired three or four transfers who don’t understand the slow pace after only about four-five lessons….I explain to the students & parent that we’re building a foundation for the future. There are some basics that just can’t be left for later.

Lori Bolt

Marni Hamilton said: Sep 8, 2013
4 posts

I also agree with Caitlin. Many years ago I was working on a Chopin Nocturne and after two months I wanted to move on. My teacher kept me on it for four more months and I remember not being very happy UNTIL the four months were up and I could hear how much better it had become during that time period. Since then I have studied with other teachers who IMO move me on too quickly. They do this to keep me happy but I now want every piece I work on to sound as beautiful as that nocturne.

Gianni said: Sep 12, 2013
 Piano, Guitar
3 posts

I agree with Yvette. I would also look for another teacher. Piano should be enjoyable for young students, not something they detest so much that they just want to quit.

Emily said: Nov 25, 2013
 59 posts

As a parent, you must decide what is best for your child. Though learning all of the correct posture and one note at a time is important, it is also just as important to enjoy playing and not hate it. Maybe a change in teacher would help to inspire your girls, someone a little more upbeat while still teaching the same thing. Your girls should never lose their love for piano over frustration that is being ignored by the teacher.

Emily Christensen
Music Teacher & Writer

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