What do you need most?

Diane said: Mar 28, 2011
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts

As the parent of a practicing musician—what do you need most?


Fill in the blank_______________???

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Jonathan said: Mar 29, 2011
 11 posts

More time.

We do manage to get a practice in every day. But some days there just isn’t time to do more than a “nominal” practice, enough to prevent backsliding but not to make any particular progress.

It’s hard to believe, because my child doesn’t have that many other organized activities (just one after-school sport two days a week), and is young enough that she doesn’t have too much school homework. Where does all the time go?

The other thing we need most is … a solution for next summer’s vacation. So far we’ve taken her viola on all trips, even short camping trips. This summer we’re planning an extended trip in the southwest USA. That wouldn’t be safe for the viola! Do we go for two weeks without practicing? I’d like to build (preferably) or buy a collapsible travel instrument, something that (a) would be easier to take on the plane; (b) would be OK to leave in the car (briefly) even in very hot, dry weather; and (c) could be collapsed and carried in a backpack for a 4-day backpacking trip away from the car.

Jennifer Visick said: Mar 29, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

Hm. What size of instrument are we talking about here?

There are plenty of full-length “pocket” violins—but they might be expensive for what you’re thinking of. These are sometimes called “pochette”, “chette”, or “kit” violins. Basically full length of string and fingerboard, but skinny.

There are also carbon fiber instruments that would withstand weather and heat—but also, there you’re looking at more expensive, and full-sized.

Maybe you want to go get a cheap “throwaway” instrument—it won’t sound good, but you won’t have to worry about losing too much money if something happens to it.

Jonathan said: Mar 30, 2011
 11 posts

Hey, thanks for the advice. She uses a 13″ viola, equivalent to a 3/4 size violin.

I’ve noticed those “kit violins” (e.g., from wipLstix and Lark in the Morning). They’re both about $300, near the upper end of what I’m willing to spend for a travel instrument. I really like the compactness—the wiplstix one apparently fits inside a 2″ diameter watertight PVC tube, which would be great for camping/backpacking.

My concerns about those would be:[list]

(1) Need to restring them with viola strings (I assume that’s no problem).

(2) Although they look small for an actual violin, would the finger spacings be uncomfortably far apart for a child still using a 3/4 size instrument?

(3) Most of the videos I’ve found show people holding them in very un-Suzuki-ish positions (off the shoulder, or folk fiddle style with the instrument resting on the chest).

(4) Would they feel very different/strange to practice on? It seems counterproductive to spend two-three weeks practicing on an instrument that feels physically very different from the regular one.

(5) They seem more durable than a normal instrument, but how sensitive would they be to heat/dryness? Is the fingerboard going to come unglued if it gets left in the car for a couple of hours in the midsummer sun? We never leave the viola in the car, but if we’re going to be living out of the car for a couple weeks it would be nice if we didn’t have to lug an instrument with us every single time we stopped for a meal, museum, or day hike.[/list:u]

I’ve thought about seeing if I could get something like these practice violins in a 3/4 size, or make one myself. The need to keep assembling/disassembling it every day for practice seems like a bit of a pain. The pre-made ones are a bit pricey for me (around $500).

The other “kit violin” type things I’ve seen on the web (e.g., this) are all far beyond our budget at this point. They seem great for a professional, or for a (grownup) serious amateur. The same is probably true for carbon fiber instruments I assume. And a full-sized instrument would be too large anyway …

I’ve heard that some people get an inexpensive electric violin when traveling. Without an amp it would be silent, so she could practice without bothering anyone else around. I don’t know how durable or how heavy they are (someone I read was talking about cutting down the sides of one, to make it even more compact).

I have thought about your last suggestion (a cheap “throwaway” instrument which we wouldn’t worry about getting damaged). It would still be awkward to carry in a backpack for 3-4 days, but possible—we did that once with the regular viola, in the fall when the weather was mild. For some reason the idea of listening to a horrible-sounding “throwaway” instrument that still looks like a normal violin bothers me more than something that would both sound and look odd…. but this might be the best option.

Or … just give up, leave the viola at home, and don’t practice for 19 days. I really hate that idea—she hasn’t missed a practice in years, a record that we’d like to continue.

Any more comments/thoughts/suggestions would be very much appreciated!

Irene said: Apr 2, 2011
Irene Yeong160 posts

as a parent, i feel what i need most is support and encouragement. to me the suzuki violin journey is like a roller coaster ride.. sometimes, it goes up, and i am like “weee….. we are getting there”, sometimes the ride goes down and feel very disastrous…
our violin teacher is very encouraging and patient.. and it is good to have a forum like this to share and just talked about the good and the bad days…

said: Apr 10, 2011
 24 posts

I think information and guidance are very important. I think I was really “missing the point” for at least the first year my son was taking lessons and information would have really helped me with understanding how to be more successful. I then read a lot of different sources that helped me tremendously. I mentioned guidance because my son and I practice a lot, but I’m never 100% confident in how I am helping him at home. This Saturday he attended the ASTA Certificate Advancement Program and that was absolutely great. I really feel like that experience helped me get a good grasp on how we can set goals for his progression. I also loved the additional comments from different instructors….I know my son’s teacher was very interested in seeing what other instructors had to say about his playing as well.

Time is always a challenge. Practicing seven days a week takes a lot of determination with school and sports. We make it happen, but it definitely isn’t easy. It is tough to always get good quality practice sessions in…those sessions where we can work on review songs, new songs, scales, etudes, and skills. Week after week I feel like we’re never able to accomplish everything on the weekly/daily practice plans I make. I get worried about this. Sometimes I feel like one thing or another is always getting compromised in a practice session due to time constraints. His at home practice schedule always has to change when different sports are in season and I’m sad we can’t have the same schedule all year long. I like those 2-4 week breaks in between semesters when we don’t have lessons so we can really focus on practicing what he has already been taught and we don’t have new stuff to handle along with making the existing pieces and skills better. Everytime we come back after a break his teacher is very pleased with how well he plays for her.

Diane said: Apr 11, 2011
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts

Time and Guidance—both seem to be a running theme here.

I’d love to know what the “missing point” was in your first year as a Mom of a music student.

Regarding time—I had a student recently miss his lesson to attend a chess tournament. Not only does this boy do chess but, skate ski and violin. There is probably more I don’t know about.

I happen to think that in this boy’s case—it’s fantastic. I totally see a circle of development between the intellectual side of chess, purely physical side of skiing and the mix of physical and intellectual with the violin. The violin then adds the creative self expressive side. Everything enhances everything and it’s truly wonderful that this boy’s parents can provide all these experiences for him.

As a parent you will need to craft time usage to maximize all this. Have you tried an early morning practice? Is there “down” time during the school day that can be utilized? Would a nap for your child provide a boost of energy? Have you ever written down in log fashion how the day is spent? Sometimes when you log what you are doing you are able to get some distance and be able to objectively see ways to make improvements.

After trying to squeeze more out of your day—you are still short on time—then there may be considerations about dropping an activity.

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Diane said: Apr 12, 2011
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts

While I’d love to know what deenaz81’s “missing point” was the first year of lessons…

Regarding Guidance -
I would highly, highly, highly recommend taking SAA’s Every Child Can course. Also—pick your teacher’s brain! If there is no time during the lesson then take your teacher out to lunch! I’ve been treated to lunch and had the chance to answer in depth questions for student’s parents.

Regarding ree818’s support and encouragement -
I can’t help but to point you to a video I made. It’s an outline of parental roles but at the same time it’s funny! People who know me don’t know how I made the video without laughing. The main point is that parents need to not get caught up in all the emotional ups and downs that children go through. It’s important to remain calm, dedicated and model the big picture for your children.


Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

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