He dosent know the notes to twinkle

said: Jul 27, 2010
 2 posts

I am beyond frustrated with my 4 year old. He has been playing Violin for almost a year, he practices well, about 15-20 minutes 4 days a week. He can play all the twinkle rythms, but he still dosent know the notes, I have to tell him the notes every single time, every single time. He has been working on twinkle for almost 8 months. I am so frustrated, I would like to be able to help him with other issues he has, like wrists and finger placements, but its so hard when I have to tell him every note he has to play. He cant even get through a scale on his own. It has begun to make practices frustrating for both of us. How can I help him to know the notes?

Gabriel Villasurda said: Jul 27, 2010
Gabriel Villasurda81 posts

Be patient. It will come.

Remember learning involves 5 modes of thinking: SOUND, FEEL, SIGHT, NAME, CONNECTION.

  1. SOUND: We play the CD’s over and over hoping the SOUND map, the pattern of pitches, will finally be the one the child remembers and other processes (fingering, bowing, etc.) will follow this map. The child should learn (after a while) that when the pitch goes up to the next scale tone, we add a finger; when it goes down we remove a finger, and so on. Keep the listening going. Make sure the child can sing along with the recording and can continue to sing even if you suddenly cut the volume. Can the student tell you when you play or sing a wrong note?

  2. FEEL: Muscle memory about what finger comes next hooks on to this sound map. Keep reinforcing the connections between brain the fingers by doing finger calisthenics— tapping left hand finger tips on the thumb in various patterns (1234/ 4321/ 1324/ 4231, etc., etc.) Do them watching the fingers and later with eyes closed to see if the connection between brain the finger is secure.

  3. SIGHT: Use the eyes as needed. You can write the fingering numbers to Twinkle on a big poster; parent can point to symbols so that the child can tell what comes next.

  4. NAME: You can pick out scale segments (second phrase of Twinkle, for example: E D C# B)
    and help the child remember by asking for blocks of memory instead of an isolated note. You can color code certain sections (2nd line of Twinkle has two descending scale segments which you can highlight in a certain color, say green). Then you prompt the child by saying, “Here comes two green sections.”

  5. CONNECTION: You can help the child recall that the last phrase of Twinkle is exactly the same as the first phrase. You can make up a story or draw a diagram illustrating the shape of the phrases.

I suggest you try to prompt the student by giving four or more finger numbers in a block. The first half of the first phrase of Twinkle is “A E 1 E”. The next is ” 3 2 1 A” After you have prompted the child a number of times, ask him/her to say out loud the next block of numbers before beginning to play the phrase. The brain must move ahead of everything. If it’s not in the brain, it will never get to the fingers.

In the early pieces, I usually ask the child to learn the fingers away from the violin. We tap the left hand fingers on the left thumb while singing Twinkle, “A E 1 E 3 2 1 A; E 3 2 1 E 3 2 1; A E 1 E 3 2 1 A”. Lightly Row is “E 2 2 3 1 1 A 1 2 3 E E E. etc.”

It is good to play “brain games” with the student. You start saying the alphabet by saying “ABCD”. Point to the child and expect the child to carry on with “EFGH” ; parent says IJKL, child continues MNOP,etc. You can do the alphabet with only 2 letters alternating. Do the same with numbers, months of the year, days of the week, even integers (2, 4, 8, 10, 12 etc.). If the student’s mind is working even as you are speaking, he/she can jump in without hesitation.

You can also say a familiar poem, for instance, and expect the child to say the last word or words of each sentence. Example: Once upon a time there were three______; Child says “BEARS”. Parent says “The mama bear, the papa bear and ________; Child says “THE BABY BEAR”. These activities train the temporal sense in the brain. Of course, if the child has never heard the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears you are in trouble.

Remember, the Suzuki method is based on the methodology parents universally use in teaching their children to learn language. As lovingly and patiently as you worked with your son/daughter in making those first few meaningful words, you need to do as well with music. It may have gone very slowly at first with those early words, but you persisted and the child finally caught on.

Gabriel Villasurda
Ann Arbor MI

said: Jul 27, 2010
 2 posts

Gabriel Villasurda

Remember, the Suzuki method is based on the methodology parents universally use in teaching their children to learn language. As lovingly and patiently as you worked with your son/daughter in making those first few meaningful words, you need to do as well with music. It may have gone very slowly at first with those early words, but you persisted and the child finally caught on.

This is actually the very issue, He never spoke a first word….He started with sentences, at 9 months, not “mama, dada” it was “mama we go home? mama where dad?” everything you talked about with games, those would be too easy for him, he would laugh at me, He reads actual books, not just readers. Today he entertained himself by doing three pages of addition in a workbook I have, by himself. nothing comes hard to him, he has memorized all the mother goose rhymes, and several other poem books we have. this is why I don’t understand why he cant remember the notes, If I say the note names he knows what to play, he just cant put them together. it makes no sense at all. its not beyond his mental capabilities, I feel like I am missing something, I don’t know how to help him.

Diane said: Jul 28, 2010
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts


Here’s a list of “play along with me” videos. There are Twinkle “parts” and there is a slow version of each variation at quarter note equals 50.

I’m going through this same process with one of my students. The Mom realized that her son is relying on her to call things out. When her son plays along with my videos at home he has to rely on himself. All the Mom does is help him set up his posture and press the video play button and then she doesn’t say a word while he’s playing.

Although it’s frustrating for you the adult—it’s really not a problem at all for your son. He’ll assimilate it when he’s ready to.

Keep us posted!

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Kim said: Jul 30, 2010
 39 posts

A couple of thoughts I had. First of all—it might serve you better to switch to 10-15 minutes 6 days a week. At 4 days a week, the consistency isn’t quite there to make sticking happen. We are 6 day a week practicers at our house, and honestly, before my violinist knew her twinkles, we were doing something 7 days a week. Some days that was might have been stomping rhythms. But I found consistency REALLY important during the early days.

Other thing I thought—since you have a child that jumped from not speaking to sentences. You might just have a visual spatial learner on your hands. My oldest plays piano. His first 8 months were spent counting 10 at a ready postion, listening, learning song one hands. The next 6 months were a race to complete book 1. Your little one might just surprise you one day and magically know them all. Sometimes these kiddos do that! Keep listening—that can make a big difference. My oldest and probably my younger too is quite academically gifted. That’s part of the beauty of learning music for them. It challenges them at some level constantly.

For the record, I’ve been a Suzuki parent for 4 years and grew up taking Suzuki. I’m not a professional. :)

Anna said: Aug 6, 2010
 145 posts

I think these suggestions that Gabriel Villasurda will be really useful for me and my student who is very similar. His mum and I have to say every note to him before he plays them. I think particularly writing it out and adding colour to certain parts.last lesson I was teaching this little boy ‘hot cross buns’ hoping it might get him to play a piece through, but he was exactly the same as in ‘twinkle’ it seemed to me that he still dosnt understand that if he plays a note and then lifts that finger he’s playing it changes the note.it will come I know but I think it’s so hard for the mum who’s so good to keep trying week after week.

Sara said: Aug 8, 2010
191 posts

With my beginning students I don’t even teach note names in the Twinkle phase. I find that by “driving” their fingers for them and having the parent drive at home—not call out the finger—gives them a kinesthetic feel which is sometimes all they need.
By driving I mean just place the finger down for them and lift it up when it’s time.

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Jennifer Visick said: Aug 9, 2010
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

How often does he hear the music being played (whether by you, the teacher, other students, or a recording)? Can he sing the pitches by himself, without naming the notes? Would it be accurate to say that he hears Twinkle 50 (or more) times each day, in the background of his life, even on the days that you are not practicing?

Timothy Judd said: Sep 4, 2010
Timothy Judd
Suzuki Association Member
Glen Allen, VA
57 posts

Try building it up a little at a time. Make sure you add a pause for quick finger preparation and string crossings. In the pause keep calling out the next finger or string. Start just with “Mississippi Hot-Dog” on the A string. Play it again and add the string crossing to E following Suzuki’s preliminary exercises. Than start again see if he can do three rhythmic groups, adding the 1 on F-sharp. Repeat small phrases and then try to keep adding. Listening to the CD is obviously essential. Try singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with him. I also agree that it is important to try to practice every day rather than just four days a week.


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