Trouble With Reading Music/Fingerboard Tapes

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said: May 15, 2011
 24 posts

Okay, my son is 8 loves to play his violin and he has been taking lessons for a few years now. The trouble I’m having now is he doesn’t want to do music reading exercises :(. We practice lots and he loves figuring out how to play by listening. He is really hard on himself when he does have to refererence the music. Does anyone else have this problem? I don’t know why such a small addition to his practice time (music reading exercises) annoys him so much….this is so strange. He’d rather me play the song multiple times so he can figure out what note comes next than look at the music! This is really the last little hump of complaining I’m trying to overcome (at this time). We are finishing Minuet in G and Minuet in Book 2 and his instructor would like to start supplementing with Whistler (Introducing the Positions) and Wohlfahrt Etudes in the Fall. I thought the summer would be a good time to get some nice time in to practice reading music, but he isn’t agreeing with me.

Also, he is moving up from a 1/2 size to a 3/4 size and his violin is on the way. When his violin arrives we will not be able to see his teacher for about two weeks or more. I know he will want to play right away, but I need to put his finger tapes on. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to do this? I was thinking about using a digital tuner to help me find the first position notes B, C#, D, and E on the A string so I can apply the tapes.

Barb said: May 16, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
685 posts

Probably the reading seems like work to him and he just wants to play. I would do all I could to keep it short and easy, and use (or make your own) games for that aspect of learning*. He might also be interested in writing some of his own music. When I first started to read I would make notes on the staff and then figure out what I had written using my violin!

Are you sure he still needs tapes? I had a six year old student whose thumb spot fell off his cello after one year of playing. His mom and I planned to replace it, but then he started to use his ear to correct his hand position—we didn’t know he was ready to do that! Maybe you could let him play without tapes until his teacher returns just to see what happens. Then ask her advice. Other than for initial instruction, I find that playing without tapes encourages careful listening and better intonation—though that is a bit more difficult in a group situation.

*One game off the top of my head might be to take something like Lightly Row and cut it up by measure (enlarged print or hand printed on cards, hopefully with no fingerings), and see if he can put it back together with the measures in order. He should read and play it to make sure. Or you could put the pieces out and have him identify two measures you have purposely put in the wrong places. Then let him have a turn doing the same for you.

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said: May 16, 2011
 12 posts

We lost our tapes going from 1/2 to 3/4 size. If he can figure out how to play by listening he should be able to switch violins without the safety net. I would be careful if you aren’t seeing the teacher when he gets the new one about things like position of the shoulder rest on the new violin—and don’t ignore any complaints of discomfort. I assumed that my daughter’s complaints about her new 3/4 size violin last year were just getting used to a bigger instrument (we also got it in the school holidays)- but in fact she had the shoulder rest incorrectly adjusted and ended up with a shoulder injury after just three weeks of playing with her shoulder dropped down a little too far, that took three months of weekly physiotherapy to fix.

My daughter hated sight reading exercises as the tunes were so dull. We did quite a lot of clapping games to reinforce sight reading rhythms—she had less difficulty getting the right notes as she she seems to find it easy to associate intervals on the stave with intervals on the violin. As soon as she got good enough we moved on to finding easy sheet music for tunes that she really wanted to play—movie themes worked well, and she was much more ready to try them than what she saw as dull exercises.

Rachel Schott said: May 22, 2011
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

Try Wohlfahrt’s Easiest Elementary Method. It’s a beginning reading book (not the etudes most of us are familiar with) but it is a musical reading book. Each exercise is a little, beautiful duet!

How we teachers drone on and on about musicality and expression and then expect our students to stomach boring, dull, unmusical exercises is beyond me! My students generally like Wolfie’s take on things. :)

Deanna said: May 24, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
90 posts

I’ve really liked using David Tasgal’s Music Teaches Reading ($15) available on his website:

The book includes a CD with really fun accompaniments in tons of musical styles. My students love doing music reading now that I use his books. The idea is to play the CD a lot as you would the Suzuki CD and then learn the pieces while also learning how they look on the page. At the end of each section there is a piece that isn’t on the CD to test their progress.

I use it a bit differently in that I have the students learn the pieces by reading first and then have them play with the CD. I find with the kids that have excellent ears and can pick things up quickly by ear do the same with these pieces and then don’t actually read. Having them read first and then play with the CD is motivating and confidence boosting.

I highly recommend it.

Phankao said: Aug 22, 2014
 128 posts

Try using Black-coloured tapes first, which are not so easy to see first to have the child try.

Laura said: Aug 25, 2014
 33 posts

David Tasgal’s books are great! I second that recommendation. It is definitely best to use the book without the CD first. Then it can be a treat to go back and play all the songs with the CD. The tunes are fun, the background music is all types of styles—jazz, ragtime, country, etc. There are 4 levels for violin now I think.

Nathan Smith said: Aug 25, 2014
 Violin, Viola
Nashville, TN
2 posts

A Tune a Day has lots of great little duets and is great for starting to read notes. The “I Can Read Music” book may be a little dull at ages past 6 or 7.

Amanda Hockenberger said: Aug 25, 2014
Amanda Hockenberger
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Marlton, NJ
10 posts

My students enjoy the Fiddle Time Joggers series by Blackwell for note-reading. I require students to sing or say the pieces with letter names, then play the pieces. The pace is perfect for beginning readers, the illustrations are terrific and there is an accompaniment CD to play along with once songs are mastered.

If your son hates his note-reading book, it is probably because either the book is boring or because he feels like it is too difficult. I would talk to your teacher about trying something else. Note-reading is an important skill but there is no reason to be miserable while practicing it. :)

Best wishes for continued progress!

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