Debbie said: Sep 2, 2008
Debbie Mi138 posts

I have a really cute little student, a 7-year-old boy—who is moving very quickly. He started in January and is now on Lightly Row. In some ways he is quick, but in other ways I am frusterated because it is really hard for me to get him to slow down and master specific techniques.

His mother called me this morning and told me that at home he is often in tears about practicing because he hates doing the same things over and over again (review songs). She wants me to start teaching him to read music so that he can learn new songs. I do not feel that his technique is at the point where I would start normal note-reading with him. I don’t believe in letting kids learn the Suzuki songs with the notes in front of them untill they are much farther along. But, he is really board, and I don’t want him to hate it and quit!

Any suggestions?

Laura said: Sep 3, 2008
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

Sounds like one of my students! (Hates review, hates listening, hates focusing on technique—but doesn’t realize that those are two major reasons why he has a hard time learning things now that he’s in Book 2)

It’s always tough when the student needs convincing. Here are some approaches that might work:
1. Acknowledge his feelings (”Yes, I realize this seems picky, boring, etc.”), but request that he trust you in why you’re teaching him those things (perhaps demonstrate some more advanced playing, and show what happens when his technique isn’t strong enough to handle it). It’s important to let him know that you’re actually with him, and not against him.
2. Be very open with your praise about ANY sort of improvements his has made, however reluctantly on his part. Let him know that his efforts are not going unnoticed, and that it is improving his playing in very specific ways that make him “ready” for any number of subsequent things.
3. Teach him some “outside” music (fiddle tunes, Christmas carols, etc.) or anything he can pick up by ear just for fun. This will give him more to enjoy instead of feeling stuck on the focused points from his latest Suzuki working piece.
4. Show him some games and special twists on the review songs, so that he’s not just doing review for the sake of review (or in his mind, for no reason at all!). For example, he can play the pieces on different strings, with different bowings, different personalities, working with dynamics, playing with his eyes closed, etc. Or you can play thinking games such as playing a piece but keeping every finger 1 note silent, for example. Or you can teach him a new point, but apply it to review songs instead of just the working piece—for example, controlled endings to phrases, using full bows, making sure finger 2 is in tune, etc.

Hope that is helpful! With my “challenging” student, I’ve found that the best approach has been to improve the relationship above all else. Where there is trust and respect, willingness will follow—and that goes both ways. He has to learn that life doesn’t always cater to his likes and dislikes, and that things sometimes happen for reasons that may seem undesirable for the moment, but are ultimately good. I also have to be supportive and gracious to him as I help him realize all of this on his own accord, and not “just because I say so”. I am learning to speak this child’s language from the heart, and so is the mom. It is an ongoing process and it isn’t easy.

Laurel said: Sep 4, 2008
Laurel MacCulloch
Suzuki Association Member
Langley, BC
120 posts

I’ve found that age 7 is actually a good time to introduce reading—IF you use a separate reading book, and are quite clear that the Suzuki songs are to be learned by ear, from the teacher.

I agree with the review thing—even 5-year-olds eventually get really bored with just the Twinkles.

Also—I introduce the preview skills for upcoming songs before the last song has been mastered. So the 3rd finger “hop” from A to E could be introduced. Maybe he will be willing to review more so he can “earn” the new skills, and thereby feel he is progressing?

And frankly, I don’t do as much review with my own children as I should; it does need to be changed up a bit as mentioned above. Suzuki was right when he said that “children love to do what they can do”, but then he was working with a LOT more preschoolers (age 3/4), I gather, not so much older beginners.


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