Twins and Sibling Rivalry

Joanna Pepple said: Nov 1, 2013
Joanna Pepple
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Tallahasee, FL
9 posts

Hi! I started teaching violin to a family with 6-year-old twins, a 4 year old, and a 3 year old. We have a group family lesson with singing, practicing bow holds, rhythms, etc., and then we break into individual lessons. The mom is also learning and very supportive. Each week the kids are all growing and practicing well.

I don’t see any issues in sibling rivalry between the 4 year old and 3 year old, but I am starting to be concerned about the six-year-old twins. They are fraternal (a boy and a girl). They started with me about 6 months ago, and they are both playing Song of the Wind. As much as I never try to make comparison an issue, I am noticing that they are comparing themselves occasionally. The boy actually tends to move a bit faster than the girl, seeming to possess some natural and effortless inclination.

Right now I have kept them mostly on the same piece at the same time. Now that the boy seems to be moving much quicker, I don’t want to stunt his progress, but I know this will be difficult for his sister, who is a bit more sensitive and wanting to compare. Having both of them so close in age is great because they can play together a lot, but when one rises above the other, and they are both the same age…twins in fact…this is difficult.

Has anyone else taught twins at the same time and how have you structured this? Have you had them play different pieces for the recital? How have you dealt with comparison among the kids when you have never mentioned it?

Thanks for any suggestions!

Heather Reichgott said: Nov 1, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
94 posts

I have taught twins, as well as near-age siblings starting at the same time. I try to give them different repertoire as soon as possible, by supplementing the Suzuki repertoire with different pieces and/or by moving through the Suzuki pieces in a slightly different order. I also make sure to praise what each child is doing well. I also have to watch for myself that I don’t slip into viewing them as a ‘package deal’ in pedagogy… since in so many scheduling/logistics issues I have to treat them as a unit. Some amount of comparison between the kids is probably unavoidable though, especially when one moves up to the next book and the other isn’t ready yet. It seems to help when they have different secondary instruments for playing in ensembles in school, although one student did just switch his instrument to the same one his near-age sister plays!

Erin P said: Nov 3, 2013
23 posts

I am not a teacher, but a parent of twins. My daughters started this summer. They are identical twin girls, not that it matters. Not that this is helpful to you, but I actually decided for each of them to have a different teacher. This helps tremendously with “why can’t I play Lightly Row for the recital”- type questions, since my excuse is that she has a different teacher.

That said, my twins seems to be always varying who is ahead. One of the girls was ahead for a while, then the other one caught up and surpassed her. And now it has switched again. I think the sibling rivalry plays into it, but it is almost helpful, because I can say things like, well if you practice well this week, you might be able to start the next piece (which her sister might already be learning), and it almost always causes the lagging twin to catch up. Right now they actually both just started Go Tell Aunt Rhody, even though one of the girls started Lightly Row 2 weeks ahead of the other.

I do think it is very important to have them progress at their own pace, so I would say that if you feel like you can have the brother advance, but not the sister, she will catch up if she wants to.

Good luck!

Jennifer Visick said: Jan 25, 2014
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Another option is to have them play different instruments. (I know they already started, but: my inclination would be to have one play viola and the other violin. The beginning skills can transfer easily).

But, at some point they need to realize that not everything is the same for every person. Some people move faster in some techniques and get slowed down by others. Some people practice smarter, or with more motivation, than others.

Maybe you teach that: people are not the same as each other, and that’s a good thing.

Walden said: Jan 26, 2014
 Violin, Viola
Montgomery, AL
3 posts

I am a Suzuki parent of 3 grown violinists who are now Suzuki teachers. We started a trio as soon as it was musically possible. We had to transpose/adapt all of our music since there is virtually no violin trio music without a piano accompaniment.
However, the greatest boost to our business came after all 3 at a Suzuki institute took an elective in ‘viola for violinists’ [thank you Gail Acosta!] We bought the largest violin available [an ebay viola—shudder!] for gigging ONLY because it actually almost sounded like a cello due to its size. My husband’s idea.
I am stressing practicing and lessons for the 3 were always done on their superior sounding violins. Besides, the huge viola was too big on which to practice 4 hours a day. Eventually the thoughtful middle son who wanted to help the trio expand musically, for exposure/practice, played viola in the various student orchestras, and of course was then always in demand for assorted quartets, etc.
Speaking of violinists moving to other stringed instruments—a violist can move to cello regardless of what professionals tell you. The third son did it and did it at institute and did it with nothing but the viola training from the above mentioned institute course and successfully played cello in the final concert [thank you Joann Bath we love you!]
As time went on, this third son taught himself guitar and began Suzuki guitar teacher lessons [thanks Mary Lou!]. This REALLY expanded their business opportunities and his teaching studio as well.
The first born contributed his website savvy to cut down on complaints by the other two brothers since he continued only with violin.
My advice to all you Suzuki parents is to create a musical vision for your Suzuki children and pursue it with all your might. Try unheard of things [I did!] And ask LOTS of questions! And of course pray a lot, that goes without saying.

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