Practice Guidelines and Tips for Parents

Attend lessons and be involved in practice time. Students with good practice habits and positive parental support excel.  Help your child achieve focused and productive practice using the lesson notes as your guide.  Daily practice is much more effective than hap-hazard or panicked practice the day before (or the day of) the lesson!    Short practices are best for young players.  Monitor your child's focus and adjust accordingly.  This helps limit frustration. 

Schedule music listening as part of your family's daily routine. Listen to recordings of the Suzuki literature as well as other professional players online or in concert.  Students need to know what the music is supposed to sound like so they can strive for their own very best possible sound.  They will emulate what they have heard most often!  Without the listening, their standard of excellence will be themselves at their current level of playing! Sometime listening will be active which means your child will be listening for specific things noted in the practice log.  Other times the listening will be passive which means the music can be playing in the background.  Listening can be done while driving in the car, at bedtime, while getting dressed in the morning, at mealtime, at playtime, before computer game time, in the shower etc.  Whatever works best!  

Praise first, correct second! This concept will go a long way toward helping maintain a positive learning environment at home.  Your child will be accomplishing many things; some little, some big. There is ALWAYS something that you can praise even when you're seeing or hearing a lot of things that need work.  So, praise first. Make praise meaningful and specific.  Then correct. Using the lesson notes as your guide, you can address what needs to be worked on. It helps protect self confidence if you address problem areas one at a time and as a separate entities from the child. Here is an example of what I mean by this:  If a pinky finger has gotten "stiff" or "bossy" as I might call it, you might say something like, “What is that crazy pinky doing?  Is he supposed to be so bossy? I bet he just forgot to be soft. Let's play the song again with a soft pinky.” You might also take advantage of the way kids love to “teach” their parents.  Let them show or describe how to do something. You can even try it yourself and make a “mistake” and let them help you fix it. This works well with things like bow hand/ bow thumb, left wrist, proper rest or playing position, proper bow placement on the strings, bow arm levels etc. You can also also allow your child to “over-hear” you praise them to another person.  This is SUPER gratifying for students! These are just a few ideas for encouraging a positive learning environment at home.  Be creative!  Did you know that learning retention is increased when there is an element of humor attached?

Encourage "mindful" repetition/review (not ‘mindless' ). Repetition is key to developing skill.  Each review piece is an opportunity to develop skill through repetition. Skill can only be developed after the notes and bowing to a new piece have been learned.  Learning the new piece itself is not the skill!    For instance, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star is a piece with 42 opportunities (notes) to practice the skill of legato and staccato bowing, which is in preparation for the Bach Double at the end of book 4.  By the time the student has worked on this bow pattern all through the prior literature, it is "easy" to do in the more advanced piece.  So review and repetition should be the focus of practice and should be done with purpose. Keep the purpose in mind and evaluate each repetition against the goal.  It can also be helpful to provide incentives and rewards like stickers, pennies, small prizes, M&Ms (Cheerio etc) for each repetition done successfully, or for a large number of repetitions completed over time. Stuffed animals are a great audience for younger players.  Sometimes I roll dice in the studio and we practice a skill or repeat a section of music that many times. A “1” is never enough!  We just add it to a second roll (and, of course, my dice have more than 6 sides!) Finally, work on the new piece should be reserved for the last few minutes of the lesson.