My favorite tips from The Little Book of Talent~

The Little Book of Talent

Written by Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, The Little Book of Talent is a quick read. Even though the back cover says it is a book for “building a faster brain and a better you,” words that sound too promising to be true, the book has some good ideas.

The book claims to have field-tested methods to improve skills. There are conveniently 52 Tips for you to read, perhaps one a day over a year?  Or all in one sitting.

4 Favorite Tips

Tip #27

Close your eyes while you practice. Coyle even attributes this tip to musicians who he says have “long used this technique to improve feel and accuracy.”  The reason we close our eyes while practicing is because it is a quick way to get you to engage your other senses to give you new feedback.  Your brain loves something new!  That’s why kids with ADHD can pay attention easily when there is something new in the air.  Their brain is immediately engaged. When you close your eyes to practice, your brain is sensing a familiar skill in a new and fresh way.

Your child would love to try closing her eyes to play a song or to practice a certain skill.

Tip #26

Slow it down!  I’d be the first in line to play a new piece fast.  But we should stop the “Hey, Look at Me! reflex.” Yes, we are excited because we learned to do something new.  However, playing it fast simply creates sloppiness, hurting our chance of improving over the long-term.  “It’s not how fast you can do it.  It’s how slowly you can do it correctly.”

Remind your child to slow down on newly learned parts of a song.

Tip # 41

End on a positive note. This tip is near and dear to my heart because Coyle tells about his daughter’s violin practice. He says they end her practice with a foot-stomping rendition of the bluegrass tune “Old Joe Clark.”  Just listening to “Old Joe Clark” would be fun!  I think your young child would consider a big bear hug from you as ending on a positive note!  And the words, great work!  Or, let’s go tell Daddy how well you practiced.  Let’s FaceTime Gramma about it.  Let’s tell your stuffed animals or baby brother.  Older students have moved into the area of self-satisfaction of a job well done, or of completing something they agreed to do.  You could use a simple chart where your older child checks off the day and, if you want to teach him metacognition skills, have him record the best part in the practice.


Practice increases Myelin

It’s all about that Myelin!

Tip # 43

Embrace Repetition.  To borrow from the cellist, Andrea Yun’s clever video– It’s “all about that myelin”  — Coyle says, “Repetition is the single most powerful lever we have to improve our skills because it uses the built-in mechanism for making the wires of our brains faster and more accurate.” Myelin is a substance that wraps around nerve fibers and makes the messages travel faster. Easy to see in the above image.

Myelin grows in proportion to the hours spent in practice. Every time you complete another rep, your brain adds another layer of myelin. The more you practice, the more layers are added,  the more quickly and accurately the signal travels, — the more skill! Easy!  I suspect Coyle read a lot that Shinichi Suzuki wrote because of course this is all about Suzuki.  It is all about that bass, I mean myelin!

Oh, and myelin is the culprit for explaining why bad habits are tough to break.  You can’t unwind myelin.  Look at that image of a nerve. How could it unwind?

These are just 4 of the 52 gems in the book.  I think Suzuki parents know a lot about what goes into creating skill, and they might enjoy dabbling in Coyle’s short book.

“There is no such thing as a difficult piece of music. A piece is either impossible or easy.  The process whereby it migrates from one category to the other is known as PRACTICING.” Sir Yehudi Menuhin

Image source here.

Some related posts

Five year old excited to set and reach a goal

Practice the violin: Rewire your brain!

All Children Can Play the Violin Well

Happy Birthday, Dr. Suzuki!

Our Children Can Celebrate!

They can develop talent~

Dr. Shinichi Suzuki was born on October 17, 1898, in Nagoya, Japan.  His life story is inspirational because he developed a unique method that allowed students from very young children to adults to learn to play the violin and other instruments.

He began to play at a rather late age–most likely age 17.  What is most fascinating about the man is that he thought through a way to teach a complicated instrument in a simple way. He broke the steps into even smaller steps to make the skill easier and accessible to all.

Two Focuses

Shinichi Suzuki violin pedagogue

One focus is on his method which is based on how babies learn to speak their native language, their Mother Tongue.  Babies are surrounded by people smiling and talking to them, repeating words, and encouraging all the time.  Suzuki had the idea that you could learn to play the violin by that same method.  It is such a strange idea for him to have come up with.  However, he was an observer of children’s development that far exceeded other’s skills.

Another focus. I like to think about him in yet another way.  I like to focus also on his idea of breaking down the steps to the smallest parts.  With this idea, there is a very specific way to understand the violin and how it works.  A way to figure out how to make beautiful music from an instrument with no markings on it!

His idea of small steps is very similar to that of other pedagogues who work with children with learning differences.  Teachers have discovered that children with dyslexia, for example, can learn to read when the process is broken down into its minuscule steps.  Children who have difficulty with math can be taught when the teacher understands what knowledge and skills must be mastered before the next step can be introduced. So it is the same, he thought, with teaching someone, even someone very young, to play one of the most difficulty musical instruments.

Significance of His Ideas

Perhaps this was the first time someone said you don’t have to be talented to play the violin.  You just have to have the right kind of teaching.  I think this attitude is so apropos to today’s children with their different learning styles.  They don’t have to be talented to read, to do math, to learn a second language.  They just need the right teaching method–one that understands the way they learn and the way the content can be taught successfully. And they need a teacher who has been trained to do just that.

That’s how Suzuki thought about learning the skills involved in violin playing.

He analyzed the instrument and the music

Introduced the basic skills that need to be in place before the next step

Taught to mastery those skills before moving on to the next step.

Never will we find sloppy playing if we implement and follow this method.

Suzuki, Never Satisfied

Furthermore, Suzuki was a life-long learner (He lived almost 100 years!), frequently tweaking his method as he discovered new ideas from his teaching, from his students.   What an inspiration for any teacher.

This is a man who changed the way we look at teaching violin.  If he were alive today, I feel certain he would continue to improve upon his Method.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Suzuki!

You can find more information here about Dr. Suzuki on the Suzuki Association of Americas website.

Find out about The Suzuki Alumni Project founded by cellist Yumi Kendall here and on FaceBook.

“Talent is no accident of birth. In today’s society a good many people seem to have the idea that if one is born without talent, there is nothing he can do about it; they simply resign themselves to what they consider to be their fate.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki


You might enjoy reading:

Baby Eli, Is Suzuki for you?

How does that triangle work?

Is there a Suzuki Method for 0 to 3-year-olds?