Practice: 10 Points

Practice: 10 Points

The Importance of Mom or Dad!

Why is practice so important? You meet with the teacher twice a week, once for private Suzuki violin lessons and once for group class. But the rest of the week, students skills improve when they practice Suzuki violin.  That’s why you are so important.

Enid Wood wrote an article in the American Suzuki Journal, Summer 2007, entitled, “On Structuring Practice at Home: Ten Points to Ponder.” Which of these 10 do you find most intriguing, most important, least likely to be done when you practice Suzuki violin?

PRACTICE more often than not.

I might add, Just Do It!

  • If you establish a daily practice routine, there is no discussion of “should we.”
  • You may want to (read that “Have To”) be clever and creative.
  • One clever parent called practice, Violin Club.
  • Stickers are motivational for some children.  They can earn one each day from a box and when the outside is full of stickers, they get to see what is in the box!

practice Suzuki violi


LISTEN to the recorded music.

  • Wood makes the point that if the child is struggling to remember the sequence of notes, s/he won’t be able to work on technique or interpretation.
  • Playing the pieces softly in the background gives the brain the opportunity to learn.  You don’t have to blast the music so that it becomes like fingernails on a chalkboard. (I can’t visualize Dr. Suzuki ever suggesting that.)
  • Listen to review pieces and the pieces from the next book.
  • With today’s technology, it’s easy to have the music in the car, in the play area, and in the bedroom.
  • Listening WILL help children “learn tricky music without giving up.”

practice suzuki violin

REVIEW the repertoire.

  • “Review pieces are like an ever-increasing vocabulary. We add new pieces; we don’t replace the old ones.”
  • Here’s where clever and creative are rewarded.
  • “Surf & Turf” —”Productive practice includes a balance between playing through pieces in their entirety and isolating small sections in order to dig out the beauty in them.”
  • “Twice as much review as new”—” a wise plan for some families because it builds confidence and reinforces skill.”
  • Christine Goodner has clever ideas in 20 Ways to Review Your Suzuki Pieces

GROUP Activities

  • Attend your studio’s group classes routinely to develop the social skills of playing together.
  • Join orchestra when offered.
  • Invite a Suzuki friend or 2 to your place to practice!

MASTER each step before going on.

  • Suzuki teaches to mastery.  No hit or miss here.
  • Wood says “thorough mastery of each small step leads to excellence for all.”
  • Get creative with a chart: done, memorized, fluent, beautiful tone.


  • Practice makes permanent. Be sure your child is practicing correctly.
  • Repeat until no mistakes are made several times in a row.
  • Be sure to have a creative way to keep track of the repetitions. Wood suggests lining up dominoes and knocking them down.  A line of stuffed animals disappears after each repeat. There are lots of creative use for Legos during practice.

Beautiful TONE at the Beginning & End

  • Begin & end each practice with a beautiful sound.
  • Experiment how tone is changed depending on body movements while playing.
  • Listening can help with tone.  If the child hears the intonation in their head, they are more likely to replicate it.

practice Suzuki violin

POSTURE is important.

  • Pay attention to posture, balance, and release of tension.
  • It’s ok to make mistakes in practice and in class.  We don’t want stress and tension.
  • Turn technique into a game. Flip a coin to concentrate on the right or left hand.

PARENTAL participation

  • Want a great advantage?  Be sure to be there for your violin child.
  • Unless you are in the stage of giving more independence, parents must supervise daily practice in order to see progress.
  • Listen to your child as s/he plays.


  • Choose reachable goals.
  • Quit while you’re ahead.
  • Steps:  1. Praise cooperation and completion of a task. 2. Notice beauty and individuality. 3. Only after those two steps can you make suggestions for changes in playing.
  • Back up and do something fun, easy.  A review piece.
  • Don’t expect perfection from your child.  S/he is only a kid once.
  • Don’t expect perfection from yourself.

“Nothing improves hearing more than praise.”  Shinichi Suzuki

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The Suzuki Method: It’s Real Violin Instruction

Why the Suzuki Method works for all ages & levels

The Suzuki Method of violin instruction is brilliant for starting new players of all ages as well as for teaching advanced players. Often people think of Suzuki as if it’s only for youngsters because it is a system that works brilliantly for those who are preschool age!  But the brilliance of this method is that the skills built early on are continuously developed through the advanced pieces.

Suzuki teachers who instruct advanced students have studied how advanced books and supplementary materials complement each other.   They know how and what their student needs to advance their skills.  At the American Suzuki Institute in Stevens Point, for example, the advanced students have developed high level skills solely through their Suzuki instruction.


Suzuki violin Suzuki instruction

Early start to violin instruction

In traditional violin instruction, parents often are told that their children should not begin learning the violin until age 10.  Starting much earlier was Suzuki’s revolutionary idea.  This idea was not new. After all, Jascha Heifetz started violin at age two! But certainly Suzuki made the idea much more mainstream. We have strategies for working with some children as young as 2.  These same sequential strategies work for older students including adults. Everything we learn in Suzuki builds flawlessly on previous skills.

Talent can be learned

In the past many traditional studios required students to pass a “talent test” to join their studio.  However, Suzuki said that anyone who wished to play violin could join his studio. He encouraged other teachers to do the same. “Suzuki famously believed that every child has innate ability that can be — and should be — cultivated with a nurturing and music-rich environment.”  It is often easier to mold a malleable brain of a young child.  However, everything depends on the motivation and persistence with older students.

Persistence counts!

Another old-fashioned idea that also doesn’t hold up is that you can tell when a student walks in your studio for the first lesson, whether or not he or she will be a good student. Most Suzuki teachers would not agree with that, nor would anyone who has taught for a long period of time.

Many students who seem to lack talent at their first lessons will work hard and turn into fine musicians. And those who seem talented in the beginning will grow only with practice and persistence. Sometimes they aren’t inclined to do the necessary work and see little progress.


Suzuki violin instruction

Children don’t need “childish music” to learn to play the violin

Traditional violin instruction used to be based on musical pieces that were manufactured specifically to learn to play violin.  The Suzuki Method uses real music pieces with high artistic merit.  Professor of violin and violin pedagogy, Mark Bjork said his childhood teacher told him he was not ready to play “real music.”  Suzuki wanted children to play real music, the same type of music he wanted them to listen to.

He used folk music, Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi and other composers to reach that goal. The music is organized in a way that helped students learn skills which were key to each piece. He didn’t want to use cute kids’ music, only music which had artistic or cultural merit. Kids can tell the difference.  There is a popular movement today in many traditional methods to use music that lacks artistic merit. It is manufactured to appeal to children. Suzuki believes children like to play real artistic pieces.

Since Suzuki teachers use real music for all students, there is no music that doesn’t fit the age they are at right now.  We don’t have to search for appropriate teen or adult pieces.  You can study the Suzuki repertoire at any age!

Listening to recordings

Suzuki was a man ahead of his time! He said listen to the recording before you try to play the piece. Bjork says, “These days nearly every method book sold to schools comes with a recording. Why? Because it works.” Listening to what the piece should sound like will not hinder the ability to play the piece.

Many and diverse artists have emerged from the Suzuki methodLeila Josefowicz, Hilary Hahn, Anne Akiko Meyers, Regina Carter, Lara St. John, Jennifer Koh, Nicola Benedetti, Ray Chen, Frank Almond, Brian Lewis, and Martin Chalifour, to name just a few. They are a testament to the fact that they did not turn out to be “robots” because they listened to the repertoire!

Listening is a strategy to use when you need to learn a piece.  It only makes common sense that you would listen to recordings to hear what the piece sounds like before you begin to sight-read.

What is the Mother Tongue Approach?

Perhaps the most unusual Suzuki idea was his Mother Tongue  approach.  He said that since all children learn to speak their native language, they can gain musical fluency in that same way. “All his ideas — start early, repeat things, do things as a group, listen before learning — stemmed from [the Mother Tongue] approach.”

I can attest that we observe how learning takes place in our Suzuki Early Childhood Education class for babies and toddlers.  We repeat, have a group, encourage good listening skills, and start the youngest babies as soon as mom can get to a class.  Yet even advanced violin students must listen to the recording, practice over and over, and play with others to hone their skills.

Suzuki violin instruction

Finishing the Suzuki repertoire

The Mother Tongue idea applies to more than beginners; it also applies to students who have moved beyond the Suzuki books.  Some people have the mistaken idea that Suzuki is only for beginners. However, the Suzuki program is based on analyzing pieces.  You study the piece for skills you have learned in the past, always building on previously learned skills.

Bjork has written a book on the more advanced student called Expanding Horizons: The Suzuki-Trained Violinist Grows Up.  He explains how the Suzuki Method is expanded to use with more advanced players:  “Children’s early efforts at speaking involve a great deal of ‘parroting’ what they hear from the people around them. ‘But then the individuality and thought processes start to develop.’  Just as adolescents and young adults learn to speak their own ideas through their acquired language, so does the violinist discover his or her own expressive capacities on the violin.”

When the Suzuki Triangle is no longer needed

Suzuki violin lessons baby toddler class

The Suzuki teacher who relied on the Suzuki triangle (teacher, child, parent) early on gives the child more and more independence. The parent does the same. When is a good time for parents to give steps of independence to their child?  Perhaps it starts with the student practicing by herself for part of her practice time.  The parent checks in for the other half.  Perhaps the student will ask to attend lessons without the parent.  That’s the time to see if it’s appropriate to let go of the earlier need for that strong Suzuki triangle which led to the child’s success.

In our studio, I begin a process of developing an independent attitude very early.  Children and parents have to believe that they have the ability to work together. They have the teacher at only one private lesson a week and one group class once a week. The parent-child team carries most of the burden of learning.

Furthermore, I teach young children the steps to lead a group and to lead in front of an audience.  They learn to play outside the Suzuki environment such as a retirement home without my presence (Obviously the parent has to make the physical arrangements, but once there, the student takes over.)

Although Suzuki’s original fame was for violin instruction with the very young, he never indicated that this method was no longer useful after a certain level of achievement.  The method he designed is strategically planned and used by trained Suzuki teachers with students who play at the highest level of competency.


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Suzuki Early Childhood Education Teacher Training

Suzuki early childhood education violin Sterling Herndon baby toddler music class

Suzuki Early Childhood Education class where we say: Pease Porridge Hot!

What is Suzuki Early Childhood Education?

The Suzuki Early Childhood Education program was created over 20 years ago by Dorothy Jones and her daughter, Sharon Jones.  At the urging of Shinichi Suzuki, the founder of the Suzuki Method for teaching violin to very young children, they began to create a structured curriculum which is now used worldwide.

This weekly class is centered around music and nursery rhymes, using real musical instruments.  The basis of the program is that every child has unlimited potential. Babies and toddlers meet at the weekly class with their parent or caregiver.  Here the environment is key.  The class environment is designed to be rich, unpressured, and calm where learning can easily take place.

A Unique Baby & Toddler Class

There is nothing else like it.

Suzuki Early childhood education violin baby toddler music class Herndon Sterling Oakton

Suzuki Early childhood Education. Good morning! We shake hands!

There is no baby and toddler music class in Northern Virginia that is comparable to a Suzuki Early Childhood class.  In addition, we are the first Suzuki School in Northern Virginia to offer this unique opportunity, Suzuki Early childhood Education, for babies and toddlers.

No Recorded Songs in Class

We just sing!

The babies and toddlers hear the teachers and parents singing!  At home parents use the CD or downloads to learn the songs. They can sing to their babies and toddlers, watching them learn the words through repetition. Even more exciting is that parents get to enjoy playing with their child while they say the nursery rhymes or act out the songs which are on the CD or download.  When baby returns the next week to class, s/he begins to recognize what they have been doing at home.

A complete education from infancy to the 4th birthday

Babies join our class as soon as mom is ready. The weekly class is planned so that children develop confidence and independence as they learn. Some children may “graduate” at age 3 and move on to violin lessons. Others stay in the program longer. Some children who begin violin lessons at 2 1/2 or 3 still continue to attend the Suzuki Early Childhood class!  Children don’t have to start taking instrumental lessons, but if they choose to do so, they have all the skills for lessons in place.

We even encourage expectant parents to come to class so that they can develop a prenatal listening program at home. There is plenty of research about that value.

We Teach to Mastery

Our Suzuki baby and toddler class differs from most baby classes because we teach skills until the child masters them.  

The founders of the program know and we have observed that children are very comfortable when they know what to expect.  They may like little surprises, but not when the entire curriculum is changed or something is added that is “too big” for them to process.  The comfort of hearing the same songs and rhymes allows their brains to process. Therefore they can learn new skills without the added pressure of new “material.”  They don’t want new.  The very young want the familiar!

Individualized for each child

baby toddler music class Suzuki early childhood education violin Sterling Herndon Ashburn

Suzuki early childhood Education. Ability develops early!

This class differs from other baby classes also because it is able to add “layers” to individualize activities for children as they develop.

There are 2 curriculums used in alternating weeks. As the year progresses, the baby or toddler develops skills. Then teachers add a “layer” individualizing instruction for that particular child so that s/he keeps learning. The other children see and hear the “layer” but it is selected for one particular child in the class that day.

Suzuki was all about beautiful tone!

Sterling Great Falls Ashburn Suzuki early childhood education violin babies toddlers music class kids infants

Suzuki Early Childhood Education. Jude plays the wood block!


And the Suzuki Early Childhood Education class is all about creating a beautiful tone. When we play the triangle, it is amazing that the room of babies and toddlers becomes absolutely silent as the children listen to the beautiful tone.  Each child has the opportunity to play the triangle and listen to the sound.  Everyone stays silent. It is remarkable!

When we play the glockenspiel, we encourage the child to listen to its lovely tone.  Children pay attention to the instrument’s sound.  We teach them to hear and appreciate it from a very early age. Even the lollipop drum and the wood block can make a beautiful tone when hit in the right spot.  We teach children the difference between a good sound and not. And of course everyone loves the beautiful tone of the xylophone.  When children play it, they create that lovely sound and they are close enough to it to enjoy.

Suzuki Early Childhood Education Teacher Training

Extensive Training

Suzuki early childhood education violin baby music class Sterling Herndon

Suzuki Early Childhood Education training, London, Ontario.

Perhaps the greatest difference between the Suzuki Early Childhood Education program and other baby and toddler classes is the comprehensive teacher training.

Educated and experienced teachers who receive a great deal of training make this a unique program!  Training is not a casual undertaking. There are 5 Stages of teacher training.  A teacher cannot take more than one stage of training each year. Each stage includes 30 hours of class time.

By the time a teacher has completed the entire course of Suzuki Early Childhood Education training, s/he will have studied for 150 hours.  In our Suzuki Early Childhood class, you will find two experienced and trained teachers.  By the end of the summer of 2018,  Eric Davenport will have completed Stages 1, 2 and 3 (90 hours).  Jeanne Davenport has completed Stages 1 and 2 (60 hours).

Eric has studied under Sharon Jones, and Jeanne has studied under both Dorothy and Sharon Jones, founders of the program.

Training is held at a location where a Suzuki Early Childhood Education class already exists so that during each of the five days of training a one hour demo class takes place. Both Eric and Jeanne have studied at the American Suzuki Institute at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point.  Jeanne also studied in London, ON, where the Suzuki Early Childhood Education program was created by Dorothy Jones and Sharon Jones.

Teacher Assignments

Suzuki early childhood education violin baby toddler music class Sterling Herndon

Suzuki Early Childhood Education where we explore scarves to music.

During the training week, the teacher trainer gives specific assignments to teachers to interact with the demo class each day.

Teacher assignments include teaching or supporting class activities. Sharon and Dorothy Jones have trained a handful of Suzuki instrumental teachers from around the world to be teacher trainers for the Suzuki Early Childhood Education class.

Outside of the daily demo class assignments, the training schedule includes preparation for and analysis of the class activities.

The teacher trainer reviews with the class the curriculum for the demo class before the children arrive. There are two separate curriculums to learn, each with 20 activities.  In addition, teachers learn to add “layers” to each curriculum as a child demonstrates s/he is ready for more challenge.  Teaching strategies, observation & recording techniques, child development, and implementation of the 7 concepts of Suzuki Early Childhood Education are topics in the class.

Why Choose Suzuki Early Childhood Education?

Suzuki early childhood education violin baby toddler class music Sterling Herndon

Suzuki Early Childhood Education for babies & toddlers.

You won’t find another baby and toddler class like it.  We form a tight community in each class.  Parents interact with one another and the teacher. Even the young children find friends that they see each week.   That is all in addition to the learning that occurs in the class because of this specific curriculum and the highly trained teachers is phenomenal. Parents observe the learning in their child as well as in other children.  They support each child’s development.  A community of learners is created from the tiny baby to the three-year old and their parents.

“…then children are seedlings. Unless the seedlings are well cared for, beautiful flowers cannot be expected.” Shinichi Suzuki

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