Were to start beginner student that has played for several years


Mariya said: Jan 13, 2015
 Violin, Viola
4 posts

I am going to be teaching a student who is 9 years old. She has been playing violin for a few years but does not have a good foundation at all. (Her bow hold still looked more or less like a fist.) She has not played any of the Suzuki material and I am going to put her in book 1 but am not sure if I should have her start on twinkle or have her start on something a little hard and eventually come back to the first few songs. Her little sister is going to be starting on Twinkle and I don’t want her to feel put back, but there are defiantly some basic things we need to get straightened out before we go to far. Any ideas on were to start her?

Christiane said: Jan 14, 2015
Christiane Pors-Sadoff
Suzuki Association Member
New York, NY
47 posts

Hi Mariya,
I would recommend NOT starting the 9 year old on Twinkle. It will feel like a demotion to her since she has played for a few years. Try some other beginning pieces that are similar but appear to be her own, you can still simulate the Suzuki experience by recording the piece for her, and having her listen to it repeatedly. Here are suggestions:
Basic A major Schradieck 1 string exercises

French Folk Song

Ode to Joy

Fiddle Songs in A major—check out American Fiddle Method 1 by Brian Wicklund (a former Suzuki student)

A major scale using Rhythms (have her make up her own using her name)

Introduce her to Creative Ability Development by Alice Kanack called Fun With Improvisation which begins with the A major finger pattern—this often helps someone whose muscles are tight.

And there is so much more that can be introduced in A major. The world is your oyster! Good luck.

Christiane Pors
Mikomi Violin Studio
Kaufman Music Center
NYU Steinhardt

Katherine said: Jan 15, 2015
Suzuki Association Member
75 posts

I recently discovered The Blue Book of Violin Tunes. Apparently some teachers use it to supplement Suzuki Book I. It’s a great little book for somewhat older beginners, IMO. Like Suzuki it uses tunes to teach technique. I like that it draws from a variety of sources (eg Chinese, Japanese, Jewish folk songs, American fiddle). It uses alpha notation that some teachers may find useful for teaching reading.


Alexandra said: Jan 15, 2015
Alexandra Jacques
Suzuki Association Member
Mesa, AZ
35 posts

I think I would have her start at Twinkle, but also use pieces outside of Suzuki as well, and the recommendations that Christiane and Katherine made sound great. At her age, I think she might understand if you explain to her that you’re starting her on easy pieces, but she will likely progress through them faster since she has been playing for a while. If it were me, I’d tell the student that I teach all of my students Twinkle, even if I was teaching an adult. Since her sister is going to be starting at the same time, supplementing with other rep would definitely be a good idea so she doesn’t feel like she’s at the same level as her sister (like Christiane said, she can have rep that is her own), but I don’t think I could leave out Twinkle and the beginning of Book 1, since I use those pieces to teach technique for a long time. Teaching siblings on the same instrument can be very tricky sometimes.

I’m not sure if she’ll also be participating in group classes, but if she was, I would still teach her the beginning of Book 1 so she knows the same pieces as the rest of her group.

Mariya said: Jan 16, 2015
 Violin, Viola
4 posts

Thank you for the ideas. I looked into some of the things you all have suggested and now have a better plan to start off with.

Cynthia Faisst said: Jan 17, 2015
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

My frustration with starting older beginners on their first instrument is that they have not been doing the listening that is needed. If they are in a program at school they want to get by just by reading the fingers to the notes or at best the notes. Its not easy to convince them that they need to listen enough so that they have memorized material in their head. Its much more difficult to get a child at this age to take responsibility for their listening habits because they have more independence than a younger child.

I start with the beginning of Suzuki Book I , Twinkles because it is the most affordable way to embed those classical harmonies that they will get from the piano part. They need more than just the notes from the violin part to really hear what supports the intonation expected from their fingers.

I usually tell them that they are going to learn more advanced version of Twinkle than their friends at school will ever see or know about. I let them know that they need the first 1/2 of book I from memory because we are going to recycle all of that material every time we learn a new key or technique before we apply it to a piece they don’t have memorized.

I haven’t found any other publication that is as thorough about creating a recorded repertoire for this purpose that can soak ones nervous system with the tonality that is needed.

Perhaps it would be nice to have a collection of additional enrichment material for listening on one recording that is focused on the Major String keys in classical styles for book I students. They could be a series of short excerpts. The idea would be to put as much complex melodic material in A, D and G major in their ears to jump start their brains and make the pieces in Book I as accessible as possible.

I have experimented with creating a listening list of folk tunes and fiddle tunes as supplementary listening in A and D major and I have not been satisfied with the results. The harmonies are not complex or interesting enough to keep them engaged or listening enough. The folks that make recordings for children and beginning musicians do not demand much of themselves as musicians.

I often bring out fiddle tunes and alternative music books after they have mastered the Book one materials to say look how easy this is now that you have mastered A major or D major. You can do this for fun on your own.

Ms. Cynthia
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Danielle Gomez Kravitz said: Jan 18, 2015
Danielle Gomez Kravitz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
59 posts

I always start transfer students on Twinkle no matter how long they’ve been studying the instrument. If I flat out say that the student is going to be working on Twinkle for the first few weeks it gives me a really good indication as to how dedicated the student will be to reworking technique. If the student/parent is adamantly opposed because the focus is on the “next piece” then I already know that lessons are going to be rough.

If the student is older I do underscore that it’s just a chance for us to get to know each other’s style and that we won’t be stuck on Twinkle for a year like a beginner would be. I also explain that it’s important to know how I do things so it’s an easy transition into group class. In other words, “I understand you have experience. I’m not going to treat you like a baby. This is merely a starting point.”

Allison Cooke said: Jan 28, 2015
Allison Cooke
Suzuki Association Member
Guelph, ON
6 posts

I had a student come in last year, 9 years old, who had a year playing experience but terrible technique. Since he was going to be in group class, I told him we had to go through and learn the pieces so that he could play in group and concerts and starting with Twinkle. I also explained how twinkle teaches us so many important skills for later pieces.
He picked up the notes and bowings faster for the early book one than other students while I slowly chipped away at his posture. I didn’t make him do the usual pre-twinkle steps, because being forced not to play while doing endless bowholds and such would have put him off, which meant that his bowhold was still rather interesting for the first couple pieces, but after a year now I’ve gotten him to hold it properly (most of the time) and his sitting posture is much improved.

Sera Jane Smolen said: Jan 29, 2015
Sera Jane Smolen
Suzuki Association Member
Ithaca, NY
24 posts

Yes, I agree regarding transfer students. It is such a benefit to them to learn the Suzuki repertoire by memory. Depending on each individual student and where their “ego” is, I start by reviewing what they know in order to improve their posture, tone and intonation. After that, I encourage them to memorize one song each week, gradually adding songs to their “pile” of memorized review songs. They soon realize how our group classes thrive on playing the repertoire together. With individual reading assignments parallel to the repertoire, they soon become happy with their new situation.

When we learn to truly hear the music of children,
we learn to hear the music of the future.
—Michael Deeson Barrow

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