Teaching requiring lots of review


said: Sep 18, 2006
 4 posts

Just wondered how other moms with more than one Suzuki kid deal with demanding teachers. We are at present at the end of book 3 and our teacher requires a books -worth of pieces to be played every day on top of practising the new piece. Talking to parents of other teachers this is much more that other teachers expect. What does you teacher require? My daughter loves playing but is struggling to review this much well.
thanks Diana

PS our teacher has no kids of her own and we want our kids to do things other than play the violin and cello.

Mariam said: Sep 18, 2006
Mariam GregorianViolin
Ashburn, VA
34 posts

A whole book’s worth of review does seem like a lot for every day. My biggest problem would be the fact that playing that many pieces in a practice session would necessitate just “playing though” them without much attention to detail. In my studio we have a list of pieces that will be performed at the next concert…these are the pieces to be practiced throughout the week.

One thing that I would clarify with your teacher is if she really does want you playing all of those pieces every day. She may actually mean that you should get to everything throughout the course of the week. I often need to make clear to parents that I don’t expect everything that I write in the notebook to be done every single day. It really would be too much.

I’d also like to point out that it is not likely that your teacher’s practice expectations are related to her not being a parent. Please forgive me if that’s not what you meant to imply. At any rate, there are lots of teachers out there with many children who are extemely demanding. Likewise, there are many non-parent teachers that don’t even require daily practice.

Best of luck to you!

said: Sep 18, 2006
 89 posts

There seem to be certain points in the Suzuki repertoire where the amount and intensity of practice must increase in order for the student to continue progressing at the same rate. Book 4 (violin) is one of those points, in my experience.

When my 16 year old began, we could barely handle two 5-minute practices a day. Last Saturday, she practiced her audition piece for the local youth orchestra for over 5 hours. :shock:

Perhaps you could talk with your teacher and come to a compromise that would allow your child to play fewer review pieces but do them in a more focused way (really careful practice on a particular technical point, for instance) than simply plowing through in order to check everything off the list?

said: Sep 18, 2006
 7 posts

“A whole book worth of review” to me means about twenty minutes of review. That seems normal and really is what the Suzuki method is built on as I understand it. Those pieces are like little etudes and build skills students use in book 4 and 5 and beyond. Your daughter’s teacher is not alone—my son’s teacher expected the same at that level.

Jennifer Visick said: Sep 19, 2006
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1072 posts

Review is one of the cornerstones of the whole Suzuki approach. Practicing review pieces often makes the new piece easier and faster to learn. It also is “easy” to make music with pieces that are already learned, memorized, etc. Doing a whole book worth of review means that there are some really beautiful pieces that can be “tossed off” with flair—you can have fun with them, fool around with the tempos, dynamics, transpose, use them to practice some technique which is harder in the current working piece, but only happens once or at a slower pace in an earlier piece. It also means the pieces closer to the working piece gain polish.

Dr. Suzuki often said that working on a new piece was not progress. Studying and polishing and raising your ability and becoming fluent in music all happens in review. This is the Suzuki philosophy; it sounds like your teacher takes Dr. Suzuki’s ideas seriously.

That said…. there are always some weeks, or days, or months, when other things take priority, time is of the essence, and you may not have time for each child to review all their stuff AND practice the new stuff. But if you’re taking music lessons, there should probably be some days, weeks, and months when music study and playing does take priority. There should be seasons in life when your family is focused on music. And during those times, you shouldn’t balk at the 30-40 minutes it takes to play all of book 1, or all of book 2, at the review sessions. (You can, and probably should, break a 40 minute session into smaller parts).

Doing other things besides music study is an excellent idea. Giving up other things to study music is also an excellent idea.

said: Sep 19, 2006
 4 posts

Thank you for you support—I know there are many camps out there and that this is a subject at the cornerstone of the whole method but it’s sooo hard!
The teacher does definately want a whole book each day and usually bk2 and 3 (bk 1 only once/twice a week). All these pieces are performance standard because of the emphasis on review so it isn’t a case of playing through with mistakes—that was never acceptable!
The teacher too talks about it only being 20 mins a day of review but this I’m afraid is not the case with a 9 year old who although focused during the piece is not inbetween and takes ages getting from one piece to the next. She won’t play with the tape/CD anymore since both her and her teacher agree that the tempi are not to their liking.
The teacher is now starting each lesson with a book of review—it took 45 mins last week (as it often does at home!). This is becoming very demoralising.
However, (biased that I am) she does play beautifully!

said: Sep 19, 2006
 26 posts

Sounds like this is a behavioural issue…

Have you tried setting a timer in between the pieces? A small inexpensive electronic timer might be a good investment.

A thought: Book 2 has 12 pieces, so start off with 12 (very small) candies (or whatever) and two small bowls. If your daughter starts playing the next piece before the time is up, a candy goes into her bowl. If she wastes time and the timer beeps before she starts playing, a candy goes into your bowl.

You can reward extra quick ‘changeovers’ with an extra candy or transferring one of yours to her bowl.

said: Sep 19, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
120 posts

I love PiperKate’s idea, and I liked RaineJen’s response a lot.

Have you considered this: thinking of something really positive to comment on casually to your daughter about the benefits of reviewing each piece in the book? This could be a case of “which came first: the chicken or the egg?” In other words, was it your attitude that your daughter picked up on about the review taking so long? Or was it her attitude, which then caused you to rethink the benefits of the review? I don’t mean to overstep my bounds, but if you start thinking of all the positive aspects of her review—”have you noticed how much easier Gavotte from Mignon is getting each day?”, or “I really like how much your tone is improving each week”—then your daugher may start enjoying the process more, resist less, and it will take less time.

I’d love to hear what happens if you try PiperKate’s idea. Best wishes!

said: Sep 20, 2006
 26 posts

Just had another idea.

You mentioned that playing along with the CD has been abandoned because of tempo issues. Have you heard of the Amazing Slow Downer? (or something like that…)

You download it off a website, (you pay for it—I can’t remember how much it is) and you can basically slow down CD tracks without affecting the pitch.

I’ve had several students find it really useful, although I haven’t used it yet.

As well as creating an accompaniment CD which is at the desired speed, you can also use it as a tool for getting a piece up to speed. One student I had made a whole CD of each new piece at various tempi—50, 55, 60, 65, 70, etc. She would play it at a particular speed until it was really comfortable, then move up a notch. (I’m sure you get the idea…)

This could be worth a try—creating an accompaniment CD at the desired tempo. Then just play along with the CD.

said: Sep 20, 2006
 4 posts

Thanks for all your input.
We do play for candies, raisins etc sometimes but it does seem to be the quick fix which only works for a day or two and doesn’t address her underlying struggle—we will try the time limit and let you know!
The CD is not so much an issue with the overall tempi but the rigidity with which the music is played. As a musician myself I don’t think it is unreasonable for a person (child or not) to want to do eg more rit, or place a particular note etc particularly in the likes of Bach—a tape doesn’t allow this and unfortunately I don’t play piano.
I’ve had another chat with her teacher and we are going to try moving her on to the next piece (Seitz) so she has a challenge—she has always enjoyed review when she has had to work hard at her new piece (the last few pieces she hasn’t found technically difficult and has played musically from the start). I think the Seitz may be enough of a carrot to get through the next week! Wish me (us) luck !
Thanks diana

Update from this mornings practise—I beautiful bk1 was played efficiently and 17 pieces of dried apricot earned for getting on with it! Oddly enough the apricot although prized at the time of earning was left on the side as she went off to school. (Candy was avoided since I don’t feel it would be very helpful to school if she went in with a sugar high!!) Thanks piper kate. Maybe this has kick-started her back into it—the thought of Seitz helped too!!

Joyce said: Oct 16, 2006
 Violin, Piano
6 posts

To your original post:

The key was that your daughter loves playing but is struggling to review this much well. If the love of playing fails, all of the practicing in the world won’t help.

Frustration with teacher expectations on the part of the child and parent is one of the problems we all face from time to time. IMO, this is where Suzuki teaching should deleniate itself from traditional teaching methods.

Speak with your teacher and tell her of your concerns. It may well be a comunication problem. If not, tell her of your concerns. Open and honest communication should remedy this issue. If your child is in book 3 she has received valuable instruction from someone.

However, simply running through pieces is not practicing.

A good rule of thumb for me is that review of previous work should always be accomplished. It is just as important as introducing new material. The review assigned should be reviewed by the teacher the following lesson to insure that basics are in tact and that the child is demonstrating an understanding of concepts already learned. Of course the teacher cannot possibly review two books in a single lesson. I would suggest 2 new review pieces each week along with current teaching. However, keep in mind this depends on the child, teacher and parent. Others may be able to do more, others less. But keep the focus on love of music and playing the instrument.

Sue Hunt said: Nov 10, 2012
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

Review is so important that it just has to be done. I have great difficulty with getting kids to fill in review charts and I know from experience how soul destroying it is to repeat over and over without any apparent reason.

This will help folks who get bored easily or who have a hard time maintaining focus during review.

When I review, I use an in and out pile of review cards. Been there, tried it? Here’s the difference. I write a focus goal for each piece on each card. This helps me to review for a purpose.

All really tough pieces have more than one card, for extra practice. I can still keep to one focus point on each. Your teacher will be able to tell you exactly what to write. Don’t forget that it is in your teacher’s best interests to make sure that you are practicing correctly.

I love Piper Kate’s idea. Making it fun, gets the job done!

Paula Bird said: Nov 10, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
404 posts

Review is so important that I do a current book review during lessons on the second lesson of each month and in group classes. The first lesson of the month is Twinkles review. I remind parents that a particular review will occur, so most parents prepare for it. As we review together, I remark aloud what the teaching points are for each song and where they will lead to in later books. If we don’t finish at a lesson, then we continue at the next lesson.

The first month review this fall was weak. The oct review was so much better. The nov review sounded fabulous!

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Laura said: Nov 16, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

Review is important to Suzuki, period. As a teacher, I struggle with some students reviewing even the latest piece they have put together, not to mention the rest of the book! I am also a parent of Suzuki kids, so combining this with with my teaching experience, I am convinced that it boils down to how it is emphasized and prioritized at home—very much like whether families each meals together, or eat healthy foods vs. junk food.

I wonder sometimes whether we live in a culture in which people (both kids and adults) are too easily bored, and constantly need new stimuli to keep emotionally engaged. How often would you want to watch your favorite episode of a TV show over and over again? But if you don’t have cable, you might be happy to watch entire seasons of favorite shows on DVD over and over again until you entertain/annoy your family by reciting passages from the script! It’s a fine line. But Suzuki parents are responsible for the home environment, which is one of the pillars of Suzuki philosophy.

But back to practicalities: I would suggest that if your child loves to play, and plays review pieces fluently, then that is at least 80% of it. In that situation, I believe that requiring the whole book every day is overkill, and might understandably cause some resentment. Some teachers insist on maintaining every single piece back to Twinkles, no matter what book they student is currently in. I believe it’s hard enough to maintain one book of review, but sometimes it’s good to go back to Book 1 and 2 for certain teaching points, and it’s always worth it for reading skills if nothing else. I only ask for one book of review. The students maintain a chart, and have a steady review program such that no piece ever loses basic fluency (or worse yet, forgotten altogether!). I recommend that they go through their review systematically every day—for example, every other piece, groups of 3-5 pieces, etc.

I do emphasize reviewing with a purpose, not just mindlessly playing through. I request that a certain significant percentage of daily practice is devoted to review. However they maintain review pieces at home is their choice, but I expect that they are able to be able to pull up any review piece(s) when asked during a lesson. I use that lesson time to raise a point of improvement with those review pieces, and then send them home with that point to add to their growing list of points to keep in mind when reviewing. For example, if we work on staccato technique or stretching to the top of a phrase, then we’ll go through a selection of pieces with staccato passages or long legato phrases.

Over time, they will experience the steady improvement in their playing, as specific skills are applied over a wide range of pieces.

Sue Hunt said: Nov 17, 2012
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

I do believe the most important thing about getting useful review done is to have a clear goal for each piece. Many of us do get bored easily when we are just floundering dreamily through a whole book of reviews from start to finish. The added whammy is that each piece gets progressively more complicated and harder to focus on.

With a pack of cards, I never know what’s coming next, which keeps me on my toes and there’s always the delightful possibility that I will have a yummy, easy piece after sweating my way through a toughie.

Kiyoko said: Feb 5, 2013
 95 posts

I totally understand the value of review but I also get where “20 minutes” is not enough time to review a book, even if that is the amount of time it takes to play through it. When I was young, I hated doing review. I’d fight doing it, and even when I did, I’d play a piece and pause to do something else. I was also a fairly disciplined kid otherwise. You know how it can go… even with rewards.

What worked better for me was to have a few review pieces I worked on along side my new pieces. It also included learning harmonies for Book 1, working on tempo, and polishing technique. Of course, we worked hard to review all the books before a workshop.

Even when I moved on to new pieces, if it was not up to performance tempo with good technique then there was still more to master. A good way to up tempo is to find a tempo it is easy to play at, move the metronome up a beat each time you play it without mistake. Keeping track of the tempo gives a more tangible goal.

Oh, and I can play Chorus upside down and in my sleep because I had a summer workshop teacher tell me to drop him a postcard when I had played it a thousand times to work on my vibrato. I don’t remember if I ever sent a postcard, but I did make it to a thousand.

Review charts help, but so does playing with friends. I think the most I ever enjoyed reviewing pieces was when my friends and I would just play pieces while waiting for things like group lessons and ensemble rehearsals to start, or when we brought our instruments over to each other homes for play dates.

I also enjoyed playing along to various recordings by non-Suzuki artists. I loved playing Bach concertos to recordings by Perlman and Menuhin. If you find the Suzuki recordings too rigid, you can look for others.

Hope you find some of these ideas helpful.

Sue Hunt said: Feb 6, 2013
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

I think it was Ed Kreitman, who advised dividing review pieces into 3 groups:

a Pieces which you can play correctly in your sleep.

b Pieces which are slightly rusty, with the odd slip.

c Pieces which are lost in action.

The way I deal with this, is:

Aim to play the a pieces once a week. Keep an eye on them, because careless performance could downgrade them.

Play b pieces (or the tricky bits) daily, or at least every other day, aiming to smooth them out for adding to the a group.

Take the first c piece and practice it every day till it can be added to the b group.

Above all engage your child in any decisions and make sure you have a musical or technical goal for each piece. Making it Fun Gets the Job Done.

Heather Reichgott said: Feb 11, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
102 posts

In my studio, review is called “old favorites.” I allow the students lots of latitude to choose pieces that are actually their favorites. I require that they practice them, and I require a set amount of practice time per day at the piano, to be divided among working pieces, exercises and old favorites. Listening is extra of course.

I regularly have the students play old favorites at the lesson. Almost always it’s either a fun and relaxed break from intense work on a challenging piece, or else it is a chance for the student to have a memory refresher on a piece that got rusty. Old favorites are also my go-to place for music theory education, e.g. flipping through Book 1 and finding all the AABA form pieces or identifying cadences, as abstractions seem to be easier to understand when the student knows the piece.

And then… when it comes time for performances, auditions or competitions, my students MUST use an old favorite. I do not allow them to perform pieces that have only just been mastered (or not quite mastered….), for humanitarian reasons. Every time a book is finished, we do a recording project where they make a CD of their very own, using their favorite pieces from that book. So they learn to see their old favorites as where they shine. Whenever a performance or CD project is coming up, old favorites become the majority of practice time.

In teacher training I was inspired by someone who said “How many times do you think Itzhak Perlman has reviewed the Mendelssohn violin concerto to play in concert?” It helped me connect my own repertoire maintenance as a performer to how I ask students to handle their review material. I have some pieces in my repertoire that I play often, and some that get rusty from time to time. I don’t think it would be fair of me to ask students to keep reviewing a piece they hate. I certainly don’t keep pieces I hate in my active repertoire. I do think it’s fair to ask them to keep up a repertoire of the music they liked the most and shows their abilities.

Paula Bird said: Feb 12, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
404 posts

I like Heather’s ideas. I also find that it helps to schedule small community performances on a frequent and regular basis. We have a local coffee shop that allows us to present young student performances once a month. Students pick 2-4 “old favorites” to perform. I find that these little performances encourage students to really practice and perfect these songs.

When students tell me that they don’t like a song (usually because it’s hard), I always tell them that my experience is that when they feel that way about a song, that the song will probably become one of their very best songs. Usually we feel that way about songs until we finally “get” them. And sure enough, having said that (or planted that suggestion in their subconscious), the students one day tell me that they love that particular song. That’s what happens when we really get to know something well. We learn to savor it’s flavors and nuances.

I like the CD project for a book graduation. I see great possibilities in that, including having them record the entire book.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Deanna said: Feb 12, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
90 posts

Just an aside about kids not liking a piece when it’s hard:
When one of my students was learning Minuet 1 he was struggling a bit with it and didn’t want to practice it. He eventually told his mom that if he practiced it a lot he was scared he might like it!
I guess his fear was well founded because a couple weeks later it was his favourite piece!

Another little guy (who loves to talk) after playing one review song at the beginning of his lesson said: “You know what I like the best about violin?” “What?” “That I get to play all the easy songs first.”

Kim said: Feb 13, 2013
 39 posts

I have an 8 year old just starting book 4 violin. We were using the standard book 1-3 review chart (like the one here … http://www.myviolinvideos.com/blog.php?id=30), but now with scales, shifting and vibrato exercises, and an intense note reading/pre-orchestra class this year it was just too much. We switched over to using this chart, which has her playing about 6 review pieces a day, and a nice mix of hard and easy. It also will allow for gradual ramping up of the review list as we move on in the repertoire. We don’t necessarily do it 7 days a week either. We do not review on group lesson or lesson days, because we usually get some built in review on those days.


I know many teachers would like more review, but moving to this chart has kept me more sane and my daughter who is a reluctant violinist already somewhat appeased. We also play her newest 2 pieces (sometimes 3, something has to be really solid to move to 1X a week review).

Sophia said: Feb 23, 2013
16 posts

Reviews are excellent and I usually like to emphasize one thing each time. For example in the May Song, perhaps using more of a bowing division piece, using the right amount of speed for each rhythmic component.

Also, I like to demonstrate and then have the student respond with the following Q & A type answering to my phrasing in the lesson and then have the student play the whole song through at the end of the lesson.

Lindsay said: Feb 28, 2013
 55 posts

For students who are further into the repertoire, I break review up into lists—List A, List B, etc. Monday will be List A day, Tuesday will be List B day, and so on. It helps to keep everything fresh without overwhelming students.

Also, the majority of each lesson is spent working on review pieces, with a focus on polishing and perfecting. Only the last ten minutes of so is spent working on a new piece. This way, students come to understand that the real improvements in playing come through review work.

Lindsay—Violin teacher, homeschooling mama of four, small-time publisher

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