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#1 of 18 Old 02-10-2002, 02:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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In case anyone is interested in early musical instrument training, I thought I'd start this thread. We've done it since dd was 2-3/4 (she is now 5).

I was amazed to discover (you unschoolers will laugh that i would have been surprised at this) that dd had learned simple addition and subtraction (numbers under 5) by the age of 3-1/2 strictly through violin practice. i would say we had to practice a piece X times, and after she played it she would tell me how many more times she had to play it.

I also have some negative things to say about our experience, but I'll wait to see if there is any interest before I mention those things.
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#2 of 18 Old 02-10-2002, 05:42 PM
 
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My daughter turned two the end of December, and is proving herself to be quite musically gifted. More importantly, she loves it. She sings everything perfectly on key, and memorizes songs frighteningly quickly. I have just started looking into what I should be doing to cultivate her gift and interest. I didn't know if this was too early.

Any and all suggestions would be very, very appreciated!

Thanks,
Rachel
(SAHM to Raanan (7), Michal (2), Eitan (9m) and Zev (9m)
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#3 of 18 Old 02-11-2002, 03:10 AM
 
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Hi Erika,
I am interested very much in hearing about your experience with the Suzuki method; my ds is 20 mo and I have started researching music options for him. We became interested in Suzuki b/c we heard that it was very parent involved and lended itself to h/s. I've only met one other person who does Suzuki with her son and she's said only positive things thus far. He's 5 and they've been doing it since 3. What are your positive & negative experiences overall? would you recommend this method of instruction to others? what turned you onto Suzuki and what other methods did you look into when making your decision?
ok lots of questions.... I'll quit here, but I am curious....
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#4 of 18 Old 02-11-2002, 05:29 AM
 
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So, What exactly is it?

a

The anti-Ezzo king
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#5 of 18 Old 02-11-2002, 12:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think if you find a teacher who is very flexible and playful, Suzuki violin can be wonderful. our first teacher was too rigid, and it nearly killed dd's interest in playing music. actually, it DID kill her interest in music, but when we switched teachers her interest was resurrected.

i'll give you an example of rigidity: we came in one day, happily announcing that our 4yo had just practiced 7 days in a row. teacher asked, how many days did you listen (to the suzuki tape)? and we replied "two" - her response was "you only get a sticker if you practice AND listen for 7 days". ugh. i could go on, but this post would be too long.

on to my recommendations for very young children, if you want them to learn violin: follow a path more like Suzuki developed in Japan and less like Suzuki is practiced in the US. get yourself a decent violin (rent or buy - you should be able to buy an ok one for slightly under $500) and start lessons with the Suzuki teacher you have already decided would be right for your child (I only suggest Suzuki because then you will be learning the exact same pieces your child will learn). get or make a "box" violin. practice your violin at home for at least 15 minutes everyday (if you can't make time for this it will be hard for you to make time for your child's practice, too). when your child wants to play like you, pull out the box violin. take child to lessons. when child shows interest, the teacher will spend a few minutes in the lesson teaching her as well. eventually get a small real violin. teach proper care of the violin, proper position, etc, but don't discourage experimentation with playing in the "wrong" place, etc. let the child lead, but don't be discouraged if she loses interest for a while - if you don't push her to perform, but continue in your own enthusiasm and study, she'll stick with it, too.
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#6 of 18 Old 02-11-2002, 12:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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it's a method of teaching violin, viola, cello, bass, piano to very young children which, in its ideal form, is supposed to mimic the natural way children learn language. it can be very rigid in the way it is taught in the US. the big danger is that kids who start formal training too early will burn out early. a teacher (and parent) with a very flexible, creative, and non-pushy approach with young children should not pose this risk.
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#7 of 18 Old 02-11-2002, 12:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Rachel, your daughter sounds a lot like my daughter. I was taking voice lessons when dd was 2 and she was singing scales with me quite accurately. Whatever you want to do with her, make sure it is fun for both of you. If you have instruments in the house, she'll play them if you do. If you sing a wide range of songs - and not just simple children's songs, she'llearn them all. You don't need to do more to develop her talent right now, but if you choose something like Suzuki, see my posts above.
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#8 of 18 Old 02-11-2002, 12:54 PM
 
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Erika,

Thank you so much! Now that I understand A LOT more about the Suzuki method, it helps me understand what I can/should be doing.

I have been studying voice privately for 17 years, and used to bring dd with me. Now, when I start up again, I will look into finding a teacher that will allow her to sit in, and will give her "mini instruction" as well. I don't know if I could find such a gem of a person, but it is a goal.

How young can they do a Suzuki type of learning on the piano?
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#9 of 18 Old 02-11-2002, 01:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Opal,
the reason we chose Suzuki is because that was the only game in town for early violin. if I had it to do over, I would have done it the way I described above plus I would have been more consistent with practicing early on but more playful and experimental. I lacked confidence because I didn't know violin myself.

great things about Suzuki:
playing with other children in group lessons and concerts is an incredible experience for the budding player. dd just had her first "real" concert yesterday, where she played "twinkle, twinkle"' in a concert hall to an audience of thousands with about 250 other young violinists, plus some cellos. i can't even describe how elated she was from this experience - she just wants to keep studying violin until she can play like the big kids.

you learn a lot as a parent about how to teach (and how not to teach, in my case) your child. you learn a lot about how your child responds to someone else's instruction, too.

your child learns all sorts of other things (like arithmetic) from studying an instrument

negative things: kids can be pushed too hard, too early. there's a tendency to want these kids to be playing Bach by 5, Dvorak by 6. it can also stifle musical creativity. it can also create unecessary strife between parent and child in trying to "meet expectations".


I still believe (almost) daily practice is important, but I go about it very differently now and we almost never have resistance (she often reminds ME).
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#10 of 18 Old 02-11-2002, 03:58 PM
 
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I''m a professional violinist/teacher who started out with the Suzuki method when I was 5. In my professional experience, 2 years old is just too young, 3 is pushing it. I have taught all age groups from 2-??? (my oldest beginnner was 65!) and have done both Suzuki and non Suzuki teaching. The concept is wonderful in that you also learn how to play the violin so that you can help teach your child just as you teach them how to speak. I know many many teachers who do start kids as young as 2 and 3, but when my experience was that those kids were just not coordinated enough to learn how to hold things the correct way and wound up learning bad habits that take a long time to fix. That being said I'm sure there are exceptions to the rule, but if you are determined to start at this young age, I would be very diligent in the search for the right teacher. I definitely think violin lessons helped me with math and even language, another thing that I am very grateful about is that my parents found a Suzuki teacher who also taught me how to read when I was young- most American Suzuki teachers don't do that, they wait until kids are much older, which I think is wrong. I have seen so many Suzuki students who could play circles around me concerto wise, but put an easy piece of orchestra music in front of them and they don't know what to do. Those kids wind up missing out on what I consider the most fun and important part of being a musician: playing in a group with other people! There is ia great book I think it is called Nurtured with Love that does a fantastic job of explaining the whole Suzuki concept. (It's packed away in the attic right now, don't have the exact title in front of me)
Ok enough rambling, I obviously have a lot to say about this topic, haha. I'm sure I could ramble on forever, but I'll spare you...
By the way my ds is 22 months and there is NO WAY that I am going to start him with lessons any time soon! In fact if he shows interest when he gets older, I think I will find another teacher and just help and encourage him- I don't want him to feel pressured to do what mommy does!
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#11 of 18 Old 02-11-2002, 07:14 PM
 
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As a professional violist and Suzuki violin/viola teacher, I agree with much of what Sully shared. I also think that most 2 years olds are not ready for formal lessons. There are Suzuki teachers who start students this young, and it takes a very special teacher and an exceptional parent to help a 2 year old succeed.

With that said, it is never to early to create a musical environment for your child. There are reference recordings for all of the Suzuki volumes. You could start with those, then add more recordings to your collection. Make listening a part of your everyday routine.

When you decide to look for a Suzuki teacher, make sure you do your research. If you know any Suzuki parents, ask about their teacher. You can find teacher referrals through SAA - their website is www.suzukiassociation.org.

Make sure you observe the teachers you are considering. A good personality match is important. Your Suzuki teacher will be a part of your life for a long time to come!

This is one of my favorite topics - feel free to email me if you would like more info, reading lists. . .
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#12 of 18 Old 02-11-2002, 07:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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sully and ebethmom, I have two questions for both of you.

I doubly agree that it can be a bad idea to start kids too early on violin, and if I had it to do again I'd do it differently. That said, the main reason I wanted to start dd early on violin was to give her experience performing before she developed stage fright. I sing (fairly well), play the harp (fairly well) and the piano (mediocre), but stage fright really prevented me from pursuing music as a career (and now I'm in my 30's with a PhD in another field and no desire to start over).

Is there anything to the idea that early and frequent exposure to performing reduces stage fright, or in your experiences are other things related to that?

The other question is about reading music/playing by ear. I was exclusively trained to read music, and can sight read well for singing and okay for harp (pretty well for piano). But I don't have the intuitive approach to my harp that my daughter is already developing at age 5 on her violin. Is there any way other than Suzuki (or the playing by ear common to folk music) to develop that skill? Or are some people just innately better at it than others?

just curious...
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#13 of 18 Old 02-11-2002, 08:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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racheldmoore, make sure you find someone who knows about children's voices before they start coaching your child, unless they're just doing fun stuff like breathing exercises and scales. i had a voice teacher for three years who turned out not to know what he was doing and it was REALLY hard to unlearn what he had taught me! not to mention that it was bad for my voice! but my good voice teacher would give her own daughter mini-lessons in between private lessons, so someone well-educated in voice would probably be fine. I hate to be an education snob, but the good teacher had her PhD in voice and the bad one had a BA in general music education.

i think Suzuki piano starts around age 4 - basically when the child can reach the piano while sitting at the bench in the correct position.

another piano idea - my dd, who takes formal violin, is teaching herself piano using the piano adventures series (there is no way we are starting formal lessons on any instrument other than violin until she's older). even though she can't really read, the primer level books are such that she can look at the pictures and figure out what to play, and I help out when she asks. a friend who teaches piano and harp to young kids recommended the series and it's really great if you want to start out in a relaxed way at home (you buy 4 different books - the lesson book, theory book, technique book, and performance book, which are organized to be learned in tandem)
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#14 of 18 Old 02-12-2002, 01:56 AM
 
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Hi everyone, I have been lurking on these boards for 2 years (my favorite naptime activity - I'm too busy reading to take the time to write!) but I HAD to respond to this one! I began Suzuki violin at age 5, have a masters degree in performance with emphasis in Suzuki pedagogy, and have been teaching for 17 years.
Sorry for being long, I just want to make sure anyone reading understands the philosophy.

Dr. Suzuki observed young children learning their native languages so easily and fluently (while he struggled for years to learn German and English) and believed that given a similar environment music could be learned in the same way. (Most famous composers and performers grew up in environments where music-making was as natural as breathing.)
He believed that ALL children have the ability to be fine musicians given the proper environment.

Here is a list of the basic principles and ingredients of the Suzuki approach :

1 Begin as early as possible. Dr Suzuki recommends that ability development begins at birth. Formal training may be started by age 3.

2 Move in small steps so that the child can master the material with a total sense of success, thereby building his confidence and enthusiasm for learning. Each child progresses at his own pace.

3 Either the mother or father attends all lessons so that (s)he understands the learning process, and can feel secure when working with the child as home-teacher. To this end, the parent receives instruction in correct playing posture and all of the beginning steps including the playing of a simple piece. The most important single ingredient for success is the parent’s willingness to devote regular time to work closely with the child and the teacher.

4 Daily listening to recordings of the Suzuki repertoire, as well as good music in general, is the nucleus of the Suzuki aproach. The more the student listens to his tapes and CDs, the more quickly he learns. The approach derives from the way all normal children learn to speak their native language.

5 Postpone music reading until the child’s aural and instrumental skills are well established, just as we teach children to read a language only after they can speak. This enables the main focus of the teacher’s and student’s attention to be on the sound: beautiful tone, accurate intonation, and musical phrasing then become a basic part of the student’s earliest training.

6 Follow the Suzuki repertory sequence, for the most part, so that each piece becomes a building block for the most careful development of technique. Equally important is the stong motivation this standard repertoire provides; students want to play what they hear other students play. Constant repetition of the old pieces in a student’s repertoire is the secret of the performing ability of Suzuki students.

7 Create in lessons and home practice an enjoyable learning environment, so that much of the child’s motivation comes from enthusiasm for learning and desire to please. When working with children we should remember Dr. Suzuki’s exhortation that we must come “down to their physical limitations and up to their sense of wonder and awe.”

8 Group lessons, in addition to private lessons, and observation of other students’ lessons are valuable aids to motivation. The child learns from advanced students and from his peers possibly more than he does from his adult teachers directly - children love to do what they see other children do.

9 Foster an attitude of cooperation not competition among students, of supportiveness for each other’s accomplshments.


The Suzuki approach deals with much more than teaching a child how to play an instrument. It seeks to develop the whole child, to help unfold his natural potential to learn and become a good and happy person. The purpose of Suzuki training is not to produce great artists, but to help every child to find the joy that comes through music-making. Though the Suzuki growing process, children thrive in a total environment of support; they develop confidence and self-esteem, determination to try difficult things, self-discipline and concetration, as well as a lasting enjoyment of music, and the sensitivity and skill for making music.

Now a couple comments:
In Suzuki teaching, as in every profession, there are a few great teachers, many who are good, and several that really have no business teaching and give Suzuki a bad name. If you wish to take lessons try to find the best teacher possible.

About reading: It is possible to take Suzuki lessons and not learn to read well, but this is not the fault of the method, it is the fault of the teacher. (A good teacher will devote some time in each lesson to reading and music theory)

I have begun 3-yr olds who were astounding students, and have had many who needed to wait till they were 4 or 5. For it to work with a 3-yr old the child needs to want to play and be somewhat focused, and the parent needs to be 110% committed and willing to work a slow pace in tiny baby steps.

erika - I'll share my experience as a Suzuki kid:
I have performed hundreds of times in orchestras, chamber groups and as a soloist. I am usually not nervous at all though I can be for really important performances. I attribute this to my Suzuki upbringing of performing regularly.
Since I was a Suzuki student memorizing is a piece of cake for me.
I also am a very good sight-reader (years of playing in orchestra is the best thing for this!)

Finally, my ds is 2yrs2mos. He has a box violin, knows how to bow, can do his foot positions, and holds it on his shoulder correctly while I count to 10. He holds the bow across it and bows and sings Twimkle. This is only because he wants to after watching me teach a five-yr old student of mine. In my attachment parenting style I follow his cues and teach him what he is interested in, and in a spirit of fun, never pushing. This is really the true Suzuki philosophy.

Joan, Aaron's mom
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#15 of 18 Old 02-12-2002, 01:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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joan, thanks so much for your response. your description of Suzuki is definately what we were hoping for. unfortunately, our first "Suzuki" teacher at a very expensive Suzuki school did not appear to share those beliefs!! Luckily our new teacher does - and interestingly, she feels she is not "in line" with the school philosophy. hence my concern for how the method is actually taught in the US! i guess we can't stress enough the importance of finding a teacher who loves teaching young children at their level!

what made our second teacher great was her willingness to wait patiently with us through a few months of very oppositional behavior on dd's part - and the payoff for the teacher's patience is that now dd will usually do everything she is asked to do during her lessons with great enthusiasm.
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#16 of 18 Old 02-12-2002, 01:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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i just thought of something regarding attachment parenting and Suzuki - i should have been clued in early on when the first teacher asked what i did to make dd (then 3) do things she didn't want to do. i was puzzled by this question, because I only made an issue of things regarding health or safety, and didn't understand why i should be making something as beautiful as music into a 'discipline' issue...
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#17 of 18 Old 02-14-2002, 01:02 AM
 
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I just saw this post, and thought I'd ask for some advice. My ds has been taking Suzuki violin lessons for about a year and a half - he started when he was 4. I think it's wonderful for him to be able to be exposed at such an early age to a music education! Unfortunately, he usually refuses to practice. Argh. When I do get him to get out his violin, he usually goes on to have a wonderful time (except if I open my mouth to try and tell him to do something differently - he hates it when I correct him). It's not always like this - today, for example, he took out the violin almost right away, and had a good practice.
I like our teacher - she helps me with ideas about making practice easier (her last suggestion was putting on the timer for 3 minutes, and letting him play whatever he wanted - what's funny is that when I suggested getting out the timer the other day, he said, "no, it's not enough time to play!")
So - is this "normal"? Sometimes he says, "I don't want to play the violin ever again!!" But I do know that when he plays, he really does love it. Is this all my fault, because I rarely play the CD? And because I try to correct his playing?
TIA for any help.

BTW, Rachel - are you in North Jersey?
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#18 of 18 Old 02-14-2002, 12:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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a number of things have worked for us - usually something works for about 3 months and then I have to come up with something new.

on the other hand, now that we've been in it for 3 years, I no longer need gimmicks because it's a part of the daily routine, so the following suggestions are things we did before it became so:

i took purple and yellow index cards - on the purple cards I drew pictures of the songs or exercises, plus some extras (sit down and rest, have a hug, do anything at all you like, play a duet with mama (song of her choosing)). on five yellow cards I drew a different number of bows - 1 through 5. the cards were placed face-down in two piles, and she drew one purple and 1 yellow card - then she had to do whatever was on the purple card for however many bows were on the yellow card (does this make sense?). an alternate way of playing this game, after the first 3 months of excitement wore off, was to let her match purple and yellow cards (i would only let her have one 'wild card' for this game), so that she chose the five things she would do, and she chose which to do 1 time, which to do 2 times, etc.

i also drew a circle divided into 6 pies on a piece of posterboard. i drew pictures of 6 different violin activities (always with one wild card) and numbered the pies 1-6. she then rolled the dice, counted the dats, and practiced whatever she rolled - we also rolled dice to see how many times.

a game she came up with, and that she still likes to do, is she pretends to be different children performing each song - after one child performs, she'll go get the next one to do the next piece, and we have to go through introducing each one, etc -- it can draw the practice out to an hour, with a total of only 20 minutes playing time, but she loves it!

our teacher taught us a game called magic notes, which she plays with dd at the end of the lesson, and that we do only at the end of practice -- where she can't look at the teacher, and the teacher plays something very short (she starts easy -such as 1 goody-goody-stop-stop on E string -and gets harder -such as adding a finger or switching strings once or twice -but is never too hard) and dd has to try to play it on her violin by ear. then it's dd's turn to play something the teacher has to try to imitate without looking. this game was started when dd was about half-way through the twinkle variations.

we, too, are not religious about playing the tape, and may go weeks without using it once -- on the other hand, we have been singing many of the book 1 folksongs in german since she was born, so they're pretty well ingrained.

by the way, i try to be flexible, and if dd is not in the best mood, we may only do 5 min of practice - i just try to be consistent as best i can.

i hope you can use some of these ideas. good luck!!!!
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