Suzuki lessons: when progress seems too slow..

This article was placed by a violin colleague, Brecklyn ( I think this issue is important to read, as well for teachers as for parents. So I copied it and put it on my website. Not to forget! The image I found on internet, it was not included in this article.


Schermafbeelding 2016-02-21 om 13.34.04


February 17, 2016 by Brecklyn


How many times have you heard first variation of twinkle this week? I know. For some of you with beginning students, you’ve probably heard your child or the recording of “variation A” hundreds if not thousands of times. It’s enough to make you lose your mind.

t’s not just that though. It can be so frustrating when we see other students moving to new pieces while we are still playing the same piece for months. Your child may be getting bored. You may be getting bored.

You might feel like your Suzuki teacher is going too slow. Being too picky. I understand this feeling, and felt it many times when I was a student myself, but it is important to understand why your teacher is moving your child slowly through the repertoire.

There are a few possible reasons your teacher is moving slowly. Let’s assume that your child is playing the correct notes, rhythms, and bowings with decent intonation. (If this isn’t happening, then that’s probably why you’re not moving more quickly.)

Your teacher wants to prepare your child for the difficulties coming in the next pieces.

There is a big jump in complexity between some pieces, and almost no jump between others. For example, is Andantino harder than Allegretto? Not really. But Gossec Gavotte is 100 times harder than Happy Farmer. In my opinion, La Folia is basically a kick in the face after Bach Double. Your teacher may be waiting to start the next piece because the next piece has unique difficulties that they want to prepare you for.

Your teacher wants to focus on some technical issues.

Playing the violin, or any instrument, is a pretty complicated activity. The movements aren’t always natural and it requires a great deal of focus and attention. Tension can creep in and lead to very uncoordinated and awkward movements, which become deeply ingrained habits. It is important to address these technical issues quickly and thoroughly as they can inhibit future progress and even cause injury. Moving your child to more difficult repertoire without addressing serious tension issues can actually cause overuse injuries. Not good.

Your teacher wants your child to polish and perfect their pieces.

Playing music is more than just playing the right notes and rhythms (with the right bowings, of course.) What about dynamics and phrasing? Learning to play dynamics and phrasing is the beginning of developing your child’s unique musical expression. Teaching children to express themselves and communicate through music is one of the many lessons we want our children to learn in music lessons. They can only do this when they aren’t totally focused on playing the “right” notes, so those have to be learned first. Some of the polishing and perfecting happens when the piece is in “review” but you need to know how should be played before it can be relegated to the review portion of your practice.

Of course, these are just my thoughts on the subject. There may be other reasons to move slowly through the repertoire.

Believe me, your Suzuki teacher wants your child to progress and improve. We get sick of Martini Gavotte too! If you are concerned about a lack of forward movement, please, discuss it with your child’s teacher. They may have insight that you don’t. And, if you or your child are frustrated, we want (and need) to know! Maybe your teacher can provide a supplemental piece to keep things interesting while you polish the piece you’re stuck on. If you don’t communicate these issues, we may never know that there’s a problem.

Above all, be patient and don’t compare. Your child didn’t learn to speak in a week, or even in a matter of months. It took him years to learn all of his vocabulary, the rules of grammar, and he’s still perfecting them now. Try to adopt an attitude of excitement for every small step in this journey and show your child that it’s not just new songs that mark improvement. Better intonation, straighter bow, bigger tone, increased focus..treat all of these things as milestones on the way.

Of course, the main requirements for quick progress are pretty obvious. Take an inventory to make sure that you’re not missing one of these vital components.

Are you listening to the current (and coming) pieces a LOT? I’m talking every day for at least an hour.
Are you practicing consistently? Dr. Suzuki suggested practicing every day that you eat.
Are you practicing carefully? Haphazard practicing leads to messy playing, and little to no improvement.
Have you ever felt like your teacher was going too slow? If you are a teacher, when you put on the brakes what are your reasons?

Best way to learn new skills

This interesting article was pubished by the Washinton Post. I should like to share it with you.

Foto: Heleen Verleur
Photo: Heleen Verleur

If you’re trying to improve your golf swing or master that tricky guitar chord progression, here’s some good news from researchers at Johns Hopkins University: You may be able to double how quickly you learn skills like these by introducing subtle variations into your practice routine.

The received wisdom on learning motor skills goes something like this: You need to build up “muscle memory” in order to perform mechanical tasks, like playing musical instruments or sports, quickly and efficiently. And the way you do that is via rote repetition — return hundreds of tennis serves, play that F major scale over and over until your fingers bleed, etc.

The wisdom on this isn’t necessarily wrong, but the Hopkins research suggests it’s incomplete. Rather than doing the same thing over and over, you might be able to learn things even faster — like, twice as fast — if you change up your routine. Practicing your baseball swing? Change the size and weight of your bat. Trying to nail a 12-bar blues in A major on the guitar? Spend 20 minutes playing the blues in E major, too. Practice your backhand using tennis rackets of varying size and weight.

“What we found is if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row,” said Pablo Celnik, an author on the study, in a statement.

Here’s how they arrived at that conclusion. The researchers recruited 86 healthy volunteers and asked them to learn how to perform an abstract motor task that involved moving a cursor across a screen by squeezing an object connected to the computer. “The screen test featured five windows and a ‘home space,’ ” according to a release describing the study. “Participants were asked to move the cursor from home to the various windows in a set pattern as quickly and accurately as possible.”

Essentially, the recruits had to learn how to use a mouse that operated via squeezing, rather than sliding around.

The subjects were separated into three groups. All three groups participated in an initial testing session. Then, two of the groups did a follow-up exercise six hours later. The first group performed the exact same test as before. The second group did a six-hour follow-up too, but their test was different. The rules were similar — move a cursor around by squeezing something — but the researchers subtly altered the test by changing the amount of force required to use the cursor.

A third group, serving as a control, didn’t perform any six-hour followup.

Finally, all three groups performed the initial test again, 24 hours after it was first taken. The question: Which group would perform best, showing the greatest increase in ability to move the cursor?

The control group — the ones who didn’t do a six-hour follow-up session — performed the worst. The group that repeated the exact same test six hours later did considerably better.

But the folks who did the variation of the test at six hours performed best of all — 24 hours after the initial session they scored nearly twice as high on the task as the group that did the same test at six hours.

“For skills to improve, we must update an existing memory with new information,” the researchers conclude. If you practice the exact same thing the exact same way every time, you’re not layering much new knowledge over what you already know.

But, the theory goes, subtly changing things up and adding tension between what your body already knows and what it doesn’t can help you learn skills faster.

The researchers caution that it’s important not to change things up too much. If you’re trying to improve your golf swing and spend 20 minutes a day shooting hoops, you’re probably not doing yourself any favors. “If you make the altered task too different, people do not get the gain we observed,” Celnik said. “The modification between sessions needs to be subtle.”

Source: Christopher Ingraham from The Washington Post