4 year old help

Bettina said: Nov 6, 2014
 6 posts

I have been reading through posts and other information since we started violin in Jan 2014 (when my son was 3.5) and have found some great advice on this site. My son and I have been practicing daily for the last 10 months (some days we only practice a few minutes and other days we practice 20-30 min.) and overall I have been happy with my son’s progress. He can play fairly reliably through the Twinkles and he’s excited about moving on to Lightly Row in the near future.

I’m hoping that others have some insight into helping him relax and focus more when he plays in front of other people. He’s a typical 4 year old boy: easily distracted, short attention span, and very active. When we practice together and he has a goal he is able to focus, maintain a good bow hold, play accurately and with reasonably good intonation. When he is at lessons (group or individual) or tries to play in front of family or family friends things usually fall apart. He doesn’t seem to be stressed or bothered by other people, but instead of playing through his pieces he will see how fast he can run his bow across the strings or make up songs (which I honestly wouldn’t care about as long as it sounded good). He gets grippy with his bow, moves his whole arm, and just makes unpleasant noise most of the time. His instructor and I are not sure if he will be ready to play a Twinkle in the winter recital next month. He says he wants to play by himself in the recital (he’s also part of a group piece), but unless his public playing behavior changes in the next 6 weeks we are going to have him wait until spring recital.

My intuition tells me that he simply needs to practice publicly more to allow him to learn to focus on his violin and ignore distractions. Does anyone have any specific advice?


Sue Hunt said: Nov 7, 2014
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
391 posts

You have done well! However, he is still very young & performing on the violin is an incredibly complicated activity. Adding the distractions of an audience could be just a little overwhelming for the moment. Most little children will get a bit silly when this happens.

Time will take care of this, as long as you stay relaxed about it.

It sounds like a very good idea to wait before letting him perform twinkle as a solo. I always insist that my students play several pieces behind their latest piece, because they will perform a piece that they know so much better than fairly reliably. At the Twinkle stage this could include anything between demonstrations of good violin holds, or bow holds, to playing a simple Pre-Twinkle tune. We are focussing on appropriate performance behaviour.

We want them to have happy performance experiences. If you are patient, he will be much more likely to enjoy a long & happy musical life.

In the meantime, play performance games to to see if he can focus on ONE thing at a time in front of an audience of toys, the cat, the goldfish, grandpa etc. Now this is important: Praising him for all signs of hard work and focus will motivate him to work at this. Praising him for talent and achievement will have the opposite effect.

Robin Johnson said: Nov 7, 2014
Robin Johnson
Suzuki Association Member
La Crescenta, CA
15 posts

how about having him sing the rest position song, or copy cat song (or another song you may have) at the recital? several of our beginning students have done/do this when they aren’t ready to play something on their violin.

robin johnson

Bettina said: Jan 16, 2015
 6 posts

Just an update: He was given the option of playing after their group piece and he declined. Very low pressure. He’s happily working away on Song of the Wind at this point. Maybe he’ll play something during the spring recital and maybe he won’t. He’s predictably unpredictable.

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