At recitals or any performance it is important to appear well dressed. This does not mean that we must "Keep up with the Joneses."
Hair: Off your face and shoulders.
Clothing: Whatever you wear, please make sure that you're comfortable and that your blouse or shirt does NOT cause your instrument to slide off your shoulder. Ladies may wear dress slacks and a lovely blouse. If ladies decide to wear dresses it is mandatory that the skirt be long enough to pass your knees. Check if slips will be necessary in case the material is too thin. Gentlemen will wear dark pants and dress shirts; however, neckties and coats are optional.
Shoes: Please practice in the shoes that you intend to wear and check for comfort and balance.
Having Practice Recitals are so much fun! For the child, they love to share what they're doing and like to hear that applause. For the parent, you can't help but smile and glow when your child is enjoying something.
These Practice Recitals will need an audience of course! Please invite all of your favorite dolls/cars and toy animals. If family is near by, they are of course special guests. Have an "official" stage area and follow all the procedures of a "true" recital. Walking out on stage to applause, a beautiful bow with a smile, take time to prepare oneself, play beautifully, and bow with a smile to thunderous applause.
The Practice Recital can consist of one piece, or many more. The idea is that there will be no interruption and anything that is given is lovingly received.
by: m. moser
As a teacher, I like to give my parents step by step instructions. I want to share exactly what I want and go slowly enough that the parent can grasp it. Until my second child begand taking violin lessons I hadn't realized how much a non musician parent can struggle to meet the teacher's standards when they themselves are not musicians. Phew, I appeciate my parents (past and present), but now I have a new found respect for them as well. Now, in addition to detailed instructions I encourage my parents to take pictures and videos during lessons. They're essential and we now have phones that can do it! The picture and/or video, can help you remember the look or sound of the assignment in the middle of the week or during a tough practice. Let's face it a parent has a gazillion million other things to think and remember, use the technology that was created to help us!
by: m. moser
There are countless of books out there about practice and strategies for practice and the psychology of practice. They're good books and the abundance indicates that practice is not so simple. The word alone can induce whinning and an immediate headache. Here is where I have bowed down to smarter people than myself and have begun using games. So, all right, I confess, I was never much of a game type of teacher. However, since having a second child, I do recognize the necessity for them... if I want to get something accomplished. The problem is what's the game. The answer is, it doesn't matter when they're young. "Rules" and "strategy" are not important at the tender age of 3-4. So, as long as it looks like a game (anything that doesn't have YOU telling THEM what to do)... you've already won!
The reality is, that once you create a genius game, you'll need another. Don't get rid of any game! You can always come back to it or may need to recycle something for another game! As a result, you'll need somewhere to collect your games. Keep them handy, near your practice spot in your home.
There are two types of people, those who are crafty and those that like to recycle. I hope to provide inspiration to both.
Here are some examples...
Number Cards (Also known as Phrase Cards): You'll use these often. Recycler: Take the first four cards from a deck (keep the whole deck for later use) OR Crafter: create your own. The kids will love creating their own, as they can add their favorite "whatever" to it. Game: The purpose of the game is to practice phrases, which later on helps them understand form. (Fancy!) Even twinkles have a form: ABA, or Sandwich (bread, cheese, bread). So twinkle has three phrases. Take the three cards, shuffle (made a big deal about not looking and trying to mix them up real well) and show them facing down. They select the card and they play that phrase. Now, if they don't know which phrase to play, that's ok! Help them sing the song, identify each phrase until you get to the one they're to play. Now, once they get the hang of the game you may also use it to refine. For example, they can't pick another card unless they play the phrase with... a bent thumb. Have them be the judge! This, I find is essential for them to own the quality of their work. Soon their standards will be higher than yours. Now, you can also pull out another three from the deck, in a different color or symbol (hearts and clovers). As they advance there will be more phrases.
[This is not an original game from me, but shared within the Suzuki community, and my family inherited it from Ms Sue Bakshi.]
Board Game: Recyclers: Get your hands on all ready made board game like candy land/ shoots and ladders. Crafters: Create your own. Game: You typically have two landing "spots" one have challenge cards ready (play a phrase of Lightly Row balancing on one foot, or air bow and sing Long Long Ago), the other spot can be for a dice (roll and play Song of the Wind that many times). Of course you'll need a dice to roll to move the "pieces" on the board. Designate colors to pieces. Go with it! You can change it as your musician advances.
The ideas for these games have been out there and like so many other things, once you hear about a couple you'll soon discover there are many more out there for you to try. As a basis for these, you can customize to your musician! Before you know it, they soon won't need these games any more and you'll be the one missing them. At that point, share your materials and ideas with another family!
by: m. moser
In learning any instrument there is little to no magic to it. There's a lot of work that goes in to it. My music education began in a public elementary portable class rooom. We learned how to read and play an instrument. A few years later I was at a local summer music festival and I heard kids complaining about lessons. So I asked a teacher what they were and before I knew it I was taking lessons. I wanted to practice, but I didn't really know how. It seemed I was expected to already know how. It was frustrating. Then I went into a music store and discovered that the piece I was working on was on a cd! It was recorded and I could listen to it. That was when I discovered the magic of listening. Suddenly I didn't have to decode everything myself. It was amazing. Just by listening I understood what I had to do in my practice. There were now easy parts and parts I had to work on! I had ideas of how I could go about playing certain passages. Before this I didn't listen to much classical music, but after I began to record our local symphony's concerts and I would listen to them over and over and over and over and over and then some more. This became my true music education. I was able to memorize every note of symphonies, violin concertos, piano concertos, etc. I gathered from these recordings a vocabulary by which I could then call upon when working on my own pieces. They were trusty references that later as I gained confidence allowed me to create my own ideas. And in creating my own ideas I became independent!
So, not only is it important to listen to your current and past pieces, but to other music as well. Grow your musical vocabulary by listening!
by: m. moser
I've always been amazed at how much I have to encourage a child to TRY something, to make a decision, to share a thought. I wonder, are they being rude? Are they going through a stage? Then I realize... it's fear. Fear of saying or doing the wrong thing and disappointing someone. And I buckle down with my imaginary pom poms.
"I can't." Yes you can! Yes you can!
"I'm going to make a mistake." It's okay! It's okay!
"I made a mistake." Try again! Try again!
Hurray, You did it!
And guess what? You'd think that this would accumulate, but it doesn't! Those poor pom poms have to keep working at the lesson and at home.
One day I had a child not wanting to come in for his lesson. He was around the corner, screaming. Yes, screaming. His mom got him into the room. He wanted to stay right next to mom. He's mumbling incoherently. He's a smart and kind kid, so I'm wondering what is going on? It makes no sense. Then I wonder about fear. He's acting so out of character I ask, did you practice? (I hadn't see him in two weeks) The answer is, Yes. How many days? (I'm thinking, maybe not enough?) They answer ten days. (Not bad!) So, I comfort him and give him permission to set up right next to mom. While he's unpacking, I ask him if he's scared? And he confesses he's afraid he's not going to do well. My heart breaks in two! Seriously, he was so distraught he was not going to do well?! Pom Poms are out and ready to work. It begins, reassuring, small requests that will display his success, encouragement, always finding the positive and requesting refinements. By the end of the lesson, he is smiling and feeling so proud. And no doubt, we'll have to repeat this in some form or another again and again.
by: m. moser
So, I have a little violinist who has been playing for 1.5 yrs, and a young cellist who has had five lessons. And they both play piano. How was I going to get this practice in? Well, I haven't had a brilliant idea for the piano, but I did come up with a pretty good one for the strings. They share their practice time. What! I know! But I was about to loose my mind, trying to get them both to practice. Now, what makes it great is that they're enjoying themselves and they're learning a lot too.
So, they both get their instruments out. One has to sit and the other cannot be left out, so out comes a chair for the other to "rest" on. Now, we take turns while doing review. The less advanced selects a piece and will go through the following when taking turns (1st turn pizzicato, Next turn air bow, next turn bow one phrase, etc). Here not only are they reviewing and refining (because afterall , they are performing) but they are also learning concert etiquette, how to be silent, pay attention, clap and praise the performance and performer.
Now since their songs are in different keys they can't really play their songs together right? No! Wrong! They CAN play duets! It turns out this is their most fun part of their practice, when they play their twinkles! The violin will play the rhythm on D, while the cello plays twinkle. They reverse, cello will play rhythm on A while violin plays twinkle. We work through all the rhythms AND all the while they get to work on their ensemble playing (starting together, staying together, listening to the articulation).
And in the end... I've retained my sanity.
by: m. moser
We covered some simple bowings techniques to help the body accept a correct rhythm or bowing.
Now, let's move on to something a bit more crazy and definitely more physical. And that is, to include the entire body.
Notes: For example, let's say we have 2 quarter notes, 4 eighth notes, and 8 sixteenth notes. Alright, the quarter notes get a slide toe touch(R then L), The eighth notes will hop one foot at a time (R-L-R-L) at proper value, and the sixteenths will get double time hops (R-L-R-L-R-L-R-L).
Other Notes: A half note = 2 slides in a row. A dotted half = 3 slides in a row. A whole note= 4 slides in a row.
Rests -They stand still, they may count or say Sh! Whole Rests (They touch Knees, Waist, Shoulders, and Head); Half rests (Right Hand Separates from center, then Left Hand); Quarter Rest (tap chest), Eighth Rest, a finger flick.
Then you have fun! Beyond this, the kids understand sound and silence and as a result understand rhythm. They'll come up with their own moves to express their rhythm.
Create chains! Typically the troublesome bowing/rhythm is a small section, but if it's longer, please start small (one measure or less) and add a little at a time (try to keep a section to no more than four measures).
This being said, I also like to introduce reading rhythms early. Kids LOVE rhythm. Watch any little one bob their head or move their bodies to a beat. It happens! I do have a reading book and we take it slow. I have them clap and count it. Some like to use syllables, and that's cool too. I also have them pizzicato it as well, so they can hear the rhythm. Then airbow, soapy arm it, dance it! Rhythm is fun!
by: m. moser
Rhythm happens in both hands. However, it's typically the bow arm that goes a bit crazy when confused. There are a few techniques that I like to use in order to deal with rhythm. First we must remember the very simple concept that rhythm is motion. It's active. So we must DO it. And like so many other things, we must practice it!
Soapy arms... Your left arm is stretched out in front of you and you pretend your right hand is soaping your left arm. Initially this is used to introduce the Five Twinkle rhythms to both parents and children. But this does not have to stop when you've graduated your twinkles. This is a good way to get the rhythm going in the arm. What I love about this technique in particular is that we are creating the exact motion that our bow will follow on the violin.
Another simple and effective manner of dealing with rhythm, is air bowing. Without the instrument in hand, hold the bow in front. If beginning at the frog, place the frog near chin level. Move the bow/hand (You can also do this without the bow as well. What's important is that the arm is moving in the rhythm.)
So far, we have done things without the instrument. So, next is to use the violin. Have the student pizz the rhythm (L or R hand). Then you can move on to applying the bow to an open string. And finally, before applying the Right hand to the Left, do make sure that the Left hand is on track as well.
There are times when your ideas or thoughts are singular. And then, there are other times... when you're not the only one with the same idea! In this case, this is fantastic. I'm glad I'm not the only one!
Tone... among musicians is very important... in fact, vital. Please read this and join my enthusiasm in working with the bow and bow arm to produce inspiring tone!
by: m. moser
Another frequently asked question is... How long do I have to practice? Well, that's a tougher question to answer because it requires the parent and young musician to get to know each other more! This does go along the same lines as... I know he likes the color blue or that she prefers to wake up to the radio versus the alarm clock.
There is no "formula"; which, is why this can be such a challenge. As a rule of thumb - ask the following ... does it feel easy yet? Drilling is our best friend, but only when used wisely! Drilling is typically playing a passage/section multiple multiple times. However, this should NEVER be done mindlessly because it results in fruitless work. Have a goal in mind and repeat it until it is easy. You can mindlessly play something 50 times that if done thoughtfully 20x will achieve better results.
For example, Today, I am going to play the first two notes of Twinkle and I'm going to have a good posture. This is fantastic and something that will be needed from now until your child plays a Mozart Violin concerto! DO NOT get distracted and start mentioning that the bow was not straight. Focus on the task at hand and repeat until success is secure. Give yourself a goal... 10x, and once you reach that goal you can add 5x at a time if needed. If you're exhausted you're done for the day. If both of you are not exhausted and you are able to practice more THEN perhaps you can add the focus of having a straight bow. It begins by setting up that good posture (reinforcing the work already done) and playing those two notes with a straight bow. Again, have a goal of 10x and 5x at a time if needed. Repeat the set up and execution until you achieve ease or you sense that either of you are getting tired. Again, be careful to NOT get disctracted.
The beauty of this type of practice is that your musician will begin to develop a discerning ear and will be able to wrinkle their nose when they play and it is not to their liking. Then, they will willingly play it again. So, the question will not be - how long do I have to practice, but they will practice until it is easy. :)