Suzuki Meets Drums


Mikaela said: Sep 23, 2009
Mikaela CashViolin, Viola
28 posts

[color=FF0040]I just found out that one of my piano students (age 7) who recently stopped taking lessons because of financial reasons may be able to come back. However, he informed his mom that he would prefer to take drums instead of piano (to which both she and I slightly cringed—no offense to all the excellent drum players out there). Thus the mom asked me if I could teach something more…rhythmic. :?:
I offered to just continue teaching piano with a greater emphasis on rhythm (if that is possible), but she still seemed to want something more. I think that, because she is not enthusiastic about the drums and wants her son to continue playing piano, she is hoping for an integrated approach with some time spent on piano and some on “bongo drums” (her words).
As a music teacher, I fully understand that it is not only possible, but also imperative for music students of all instruments to have fully developed rhythmic capabilities. However, I don’t think I’m going to get that through to her. And, with the economy such that it is, I’m desperate enough to be flexible. :D Does anyone have any suggestions for someone who has never touched a drum in her life? Should I attempt this, or would I be doing them a disservice? Does anyone have any ideas for other creative “compromises”?[/color]

Tiffany said: Sep 23, 2009
Tiffany Osborn
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
Los Angeles, CA
41 posts

I don’t know if I can help you! But I have a similar situation with a violin student that wants to be a guitar player, but mom insists he will play violin.

So my general approach is to give him the tools to be a good musician, no matter what instrument, as well as violin technique incase he changes his mind a few years down the road.

Maybe you’ve already tried some of these things, but: lots of counting out loud, clapping the beat while you play, clapping rhythm while you clap the beat, perhaps doing just the rhythm of a piece with the piano lid down over the keys, talk about what part of the measure is most important rhythmically, types of pieces- such as gavottes, minuets, sarabandes, etc- what makes them rhythmically unique, listening to music (any kind) and identifying the meter and feeling the beat, basically anything to get that internal metronome clicking and being able to feel different subdivisions.

Good luck!

Jennifer Visick said: Sep 24, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

I don’t suppose that saying “Piano is a percussion instrument” would do any good….

Mikaela said: Sep 25, 2009
Mikaela CashViolin, Viola
28 posts

Thanks to both of you for your thoughts. I’d love to hear more input from others, but in the meantime, I’ll try to make a piano-is-a-percussion-instrument-requiring-rhythm believer out of the mom! :P

said: Sep 25, 2009
 18 posts

Off topic. Would you consider typing in something other than red? It is very hard to read.

Barb said: Sep 25, 2009
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

My guess is, if it’s not a drum set, doing more rhythmic things is not going to satisfy the child…

Hopefully it can be communicated to the child that those taking drum lessons instead of piano miss out on a lot of important things and he will be a better musician if he learns piano first. Maybe he would like to be a percussionist in an orchestra and the piano background would go a long way to helping him be able to play the xylophone or similar percussion instruments when needed.

We insisted our son learn piano though he wanted to play trumpet when he was 10. We told him he would have the option to switch or add trumpet after four years of piano. By then he had lost interest in trumpet and chose to stick with piano a few more years, though he did play a bit of trombone in a marching band at 18.

But, you might reward him sometimes by letting him accompany you on a bongo drum or something at the end of a lesson if he has been really well prepared with his piano music. ??

Best Wishes!

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Cynthia Faisst said: Nov 20, 2009
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

I am so amused to see this question on the Suzuki forum. Not because I am dating a hard core drum circle kind of guy but because before I even met him I was teaching my PreTwinkle Violin classes by requiring all of the children to master tapping each Twinkle Rhythm on a small drum and then with a short pair of rhythm sticks.

Even in the affluent community were I teach children were not getting ground level foundational experiences for starting a musical instrument like singing and rhythm. I keep meeting preschoolers who do not have adequate use of their grasping skills or upper body skill because they are waited on hand and foot. They are stuffed into the backseats of SUVs and entertained with video screens. We have become consumers rather than participants of the arts.

Occasionally I have kids request going back to using this technic to learn additional pieces. I am glad to have students who are willing to isolate those skills. For the most part, after doing all the Twinkle Variations up to tempo with the music on a drum, my PreTwinklers have had their fill with percussion instruments and very much look forward to playing the violin.

I like to tell them that inside every great violinist is an inner drummer. Perhaps I am also making up for something that was neglected in my own beginnings as a music student. One of my more talented students also takes drum lessons, dance lessons. bagpipe lessons and now recently string bass lessons. There is the growing awareness by his mother that all of this feeds into his ability to play the violin.

I think if you put the child in drum instruction that was every bit as comprehensive as the piano instruction he/she would find that the expectations for a beginner to master initial skills has not changed. I would expect that the cost of instruction would also reflect that. I also have students who take less demanding music classes for fun. How ever they realize that they are easier because they are getting more comprehensive instruction as Suzuki Students.

The Abreu Fellows have been observing some urban music programs in the course of their studies that we should take notice of. IT is a reminder that we still have much to understand about how children embrace music.
scroll down to red bucket band video

We have been so busy creating musical specialist and hoping that our local institutions would help with providing more integrative experiences to round them out .

It seems to me there should be some consideration for a Suzuki Percussion Method just as there is for voice.

See also:

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.

Lannie Shelton said: Jan 24, 2015
Lannie Shelton
Suzuki Association Member
Denver, CO
2 posts

I’m not sure if anyone is still following this post but I want to put in my two pence as someone who appreciates every single genre of music (no exceptions at all) and has performed many genres on violin. I’ve also been part of an African Drum & Dance performing group in Denver as a drummer and dancer. The gift I’ve received from all this experience is a deep appreciation for percussion and rhythm in any type of music, definitely including classical.

All I can conclude at this point is that percussion and eurythmics are very important parts of a well-rounded musician. In fact, for the kids that have a hard time focussing (I was one of them), dancing, marching, clapping help to embody the concepts they are learning and they will end up learning that rhythm at hand better then even those who traditionally focus well. (I’m tempted to launch into the subject of embracing the children who seem like they can’t focus well when in fact we as teachers simply need to help them find their hidden skill that they will soar with.)

I love that Cynthia Faisst acknowledged that we have much to learn about how children embrace music and that percussion is an under-appreciated aspect of music. I play with so much more feel, and my audiences notice it, now that I’ve studied music from other genres that involve complex rhythmic characteristics.

Really I just want to thank Ms. Faisst for her comments in support of percussion since I LOVE PERCUSSION! I will let you know if I have any PRACTICAL insight for the topic that Mikaela originally brought up. Until then, let’s not forget the magic of percussion in developing a wonderful musician.


Lannie Shelton

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