Category Archives for Suzuki Violin

Is the Suzuki Violin Method the Best Way to Learn Violin?

Violinist Karen Gomyo – Rising Star Began Her Violin Journey with Suzuki 

I recently got into a semi-heated “discussion” with a rather well known violinist (who shall remain unnamed here). His belief: that the Suzuki Method has “brought forth the end of the era of great violinists.” That this new generation of Suzuki-spawned “violinists-in-a-box” are somehow less creative, and lacking in the musical qualities that make for great performers.

Hogwash.

Is the Suzuki Method the Best? or Should I Take “Traditional” Violin Lessons?

It’s time to dispel a very common myth: that Suzuki lessons are somehow different than “regular” violin lessons. They are not!

In fact, Suzuki instruction is about as traditional as it gets. Students generally follow a similar technical progression. The musical substance starts with folks songs and moves into classical selections. Even the supplemental pieces and etudes that a great Suzuki Method teacher uses, are identical to “traditional” teachers.

So what’s so different about Suzuki instruction? It’s simply a matter of emphasis.

  • Suzuki students are up on their feet and performing from the very beginning. Early in the game they are learning how to memorize music and perform from memory, a super advanced and useful skill set.
  • Suzuki students share a common repertoire which enables them to play with other students anywhere in the world. Suzuki has community baked in!
  • Suzuki teachers have the opportunity to draw upon an amazing peer group of teacher trainers and a well established system of professional development.

 

It’s All About the Work

While some insist on arguing the merits of one method or another, this argument is pointless, even ridiculous. The success of any musical training comes down to many, many factors, the least of which is the specific choice of method.

Match a great violin teacher with a motivated student that enjoys the benefit of consistent family support, and mountains can be moved.

So is Suzuki a great choice for you or your family? I can offer you an unabashed “yes” if you’re ready to embark upon your violin journey with due care.
Still not convinced? Spend a few minutes with  Karen Gomyo’s Tango, or enjoy any performance of the countless Suzuki trained musicians who are inspiring audiences across the globe.


How to Practice Suzuki’s Lightly Row and ANYTHING else.

Umm, hello! It’s like the second song in Suzuki violin lesson Book 1. It’s about as simple as tunes come: a nursery rhyme. And already someone is telling you how to practice it! Lucy said it best; “Good Grief!”

How to Practice Wrong

It’s easier to talk about what good practice isn’t. If you or your child is doing any of the following, there’s going to be a problem, sooner, rather than later.

1. Practicing without a specific end goal in mind.

2. Failing to use proper posture in the legs, torso, head, violin hand or bow hand

3. Allowing any tension, anywhere in the body

4. Producing a poor tone quality

5. Allowing the song interpretation to sound plain or bland

6. Practicing only one way, that is without a range of practice strategies.

The sad truth is that many if not most beginners will get not just two or three but all six of these points wrong. Which is why so many young violinists wash out and quit before completing three or four of the Suzuki volumes. These practicing errors compound upon each other, making things unpleasant for player, teacher and audience alike. Ouch!

Right Practice: Hacking Your Practice Routine

It’s hard to imagine, but even a five year old can practice like a seasoned pro. Really. And even on a song as simple as Lightly Row! Here’s how it might look at its most basic level:

Goal: Place fingers 1, 2 and 3 on A string accurately at least 9 out of 10 times

Tactics:

1. “Twinkle” the notes; play each consecutive note in a twinkle rhythm.

2. “Take Away” the rhythms, so that each note is of the same duration

3. “Add-On” the notes. Start with one note, then play two, three, etc.

4. “Stop and Go” the song. Stop whenever need to place a finger.

5. “Cherry Pick” the notes. Leave out the difficult notes to be added later.

Strategy: Choose from any/all tactics to meet your 9 out of 10 goal every time you practice. It’s a success mindset that gives you confidence and ease. And it’s the same process a pro might use to practice a concerto or symphony. It’s systematic, challenging and fast moving. You’re never bored.

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So Misunderstood! The Difference Between Practicing and Playing

It’s a common mistake. Practicing isn’t meant to teach you songs. It’s simply a system to meet specific goals as quickly, easily and accurately as possible. So it’s a very structured activity that often sounds nothing like the final result you have in mind. Some common goals for Lightly Row violinists might be:

1. Pinky curved and on top of bow for the entire song

2. Be able to identify 7 notes that require a slow bow, instead of a quick bow

3. A ringing tone is heard each time 3rd finger is played

Simply practicing by playing through the song over and over will reinforce whatever playing habit is already in place, good or bad. Yes, repetition does work for you, or against you.

Moreover, I won’t waste violin lesson time teaching a student the notes of a song; that’s a baseline activity that must happen at home through repeated listening and experimentation on the instrument. The bones of the song must be in place before the lesson begins, and before the real practicing commences.

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Ready to hack your own practice? Begin by making a plan similar to the one above. Choose goals that give you a sense of ease and bring out the unique character of the song. Find goals for a rich tone, and a beautiful posture. Most of all, realize that you are practicing, not performing, not learning the notes of the song. You are creating your musical future, one note at a time.

Scales AREN’T lame!

bored-violin-practice

Photo: Bixentro

Are you bored with practicing scales? Too bad for you; you’re missing out on what could become the most awesome, useful and fun part of your music practice.

Many music students practice scales for the same reason; they’re forced to do it for their violin lesson. And because of that, there’s a lot of scale bashing going on these days. Bashing by sick and tired music students, who see them as a boring, useless and needless exercise. Even some music lesson websites entice their readers with catchy headlines such as “forget about practicing boring scales, have more fun and make more progress playing songs.”

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Music Teachers: How to Push the Practice Reset Button

Aargh!! It’s lesson time and here comes that nasty passage. Your student’s execution sounds no better than it did last week. Or for the two weeks before. Did he even practice at all? Did she just blindly plow through those four measures thinking it sounds fine? No amount of explaining, cajoling, pleading, demonstrating, or drilling seems to make any difference. Another week rolls by, and still no improvement. As a fellow music teacher, I feel your pain.

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