Notes on practice for class 3-5 string players

Just a quick note to thank you for all the great support you have given your child in learning their instrument this year. It has been fantastic to see how they have engaged with the programme. A couple of quick tips on practice at home;

Participating in practice

The Suzuki Triangle is made up of the learner, the teacher and the parent. Each of these people has the same influence on the learning. As a parent, you can help the most by reminding your child to practice at home. The programme relies on students getting five or more 15-minute practice sessions in a week. In my experience, it is often necessary to provide that structure to children as they may favour other activities over violin or cello practice! In fact, the more you can engage with practice at home, sitting with them, setting a permanent time slot, listening in and asking questions, the more you will be able to help them make practice warm and fun. A typical practice session starts with a tonalization, then a couple of Twinkles variations. Then onto reviewing old pieces and lastly working on the latest piece. There is lots to do in the 15 minutes and you may find it turns into 20 minutes!

Listening

The Suzuki Method also prescribes daily listening to the recordings. There are two ways to listen, actively and passively – Active listening tries to work out a piece of music and actively visualise playing it on the instrument, thus learning repertoire and building ideas about sound. Passive listening is when the music is on in the background, in the car, over dinner or during homework. Both listening strategies make up how we can listen to the recordings and learn the songs. If your family is finding the songs getting stuck in your ears you are listening enough!

Tonalization

Tone is the character of the sounds emitted by a stringed instrument. It can sound heavenly or…not. The Tonalizations in book 1 are simply exercises where students learn to develop and grow their tone. This can be done by building a great posture and setup, getting the bow to move smoothly and playing in tune. Before starting practice, it is essential that students focus on their tone production by practising tonalizations. The first big tonalization is the Twinkles theme but you can use any early repertoire such as plucking a string, bowing open strings or stopped notes etc. There may be focuses given out by the violin or cello teacher on posture, technique or musicality to be worked on during tonalizations too.

The New Zealand Suzuki Institute

If practising, tonalization, ‘the Suzuki Triangle,’ ‘review’, ‘preview’ and ‘working pieces’ interests you, please consider getting some extra coaching on the violin or cello. We have excellent Suzuki cello and violin teachers working at school and the Suzuki Community of families is fantastic. Head over to Suzuki.org.nz for more information. If you become a member, there are big opportunities for music making such as family concerts, summer string camps and masterclasses.