From Parents as Partners Online 2016.

Hello, my name is Rafael Videira, and I am a Suzuki viola and violin teacher. Today I would like to talk about ways to make reviewing the repertoire fun and effective.

The activities I will suggest were taken from articles books, training materials, forum posts and conversations with parents in my own studio. I tried to gather tried and true strategies that will help you and your children to get the most out of your repertoire review time. This means that probably none of this information is necessarily new, but it is rather a review of review options.

Review is one of the most important components of the Suzuki method. It solidifies the skills through repetition, it facilitates the learning of new skills and gives the student a sense of accomplishment by performing well music that was hard a while ago. It is also one of the parts of practicing that’s easily ignored or not done correctly. It’s easy to concentrate only on the new stuff or to just play through the old pieces without much thought.

We should bear in mind that as Dr. Robert Duke defines, “Skill acquisition is a process of developing habit’s strength through consistent repetition over time.”

Effective review goes way just beyond playing through a list of music. In order for it to help the students improve, there needs to be a purpose. For example, enhancing the musical aspect of a given phrase, or technical mastery of a specific skill. My hope is that these activities can be used to create or highlight such purposes.

One thing to keep in mind is that more advanced students should play earlier pieces as the accomplished players they are now. For example, a book five student should play book one pieces with the technical and expressive tools that he has gained since learning that repertoire. Always play old pieces in a new way.

Often, teachers will be very specific assigning review routine. In these cases, following the teacher’s assignments, hopefully, will yield the desired outcomes to go beyond just those one or two assignments and keeping progress going, it is necessary to create a routine that can be implemented regardless of specific goals.

Some ideas to make review enjoyable for students are:

  • Ask the student to portray different emotions through the music. For example, “Play it like you are the happiest person in the world.” Or just the opposite, “Can you make it so sad that everyone in the room will feel like crying?”

  • Tell a story with the music. You can create a story to go with this one specific piece or a group of pieces. Then, tell the story through the use of different dynamics and sound colors in the repertoire.

  • Play a recital for your toys. Don’t just make it an improvised event. Schedule it for the end of the week, and prepare for it during everyday practice. Choose one or two performance aspects to focus on during practice. Also, make a nice reception afterward with some of the child’s favorite treats to celebrate the effort.

  • Videotape the review parts of daily practice, and watch it so the student can see his own progress in a given skill during the week. Smart phones, tablets, they are all very good for this kind of recording, and you can see the instant result right there.

  • Use a die to decide which will be the next piece to practice. Use another die to decide a specific point of focus on the practice. Vibrato, ringing tones, bow placement, phrase endings, hand position, breath control, you name it. There are many things that can be the point of that review. Blank dice patterns can be downloaded online using your search engine of choice.

  • There is a variation on the dice process. Use multiple bowls or bags, to place slips of paper with the repertoire. You can separate it by book, by mood of the piece, by teaching points, many ways you can decide it. And you can use another bowl, for the specific points of each piece. You choose one paper from each bowl to practice.

Again, I want to stress the importance of playing the review pieces with a purpose and with care. I believe it was William Starr who said, “Mindless repetition breeds mediocrity.” No playing just for the sake of playing, but playing with a purpose and a goal.

I wish to thank the many Suzuki teachers who shared their ideas in many formats and classes, as all the families of my studio who helped me with this project.