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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

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This is a collection of practice ideas for Suzuki instrumental students.

Good and regular practice is crucial in the Suzuki method, and the more enjoyable the practice is, the more efficient it is and the more it helps the student to thrive and to progress in his studies. All over the world, Suzuki families have been inventing their own private ways and tricks to practice and to keep the daily practice routine interesting. This individual experience und these private collections of practicing ideas would be a tremendous ressource – if they would be shared with the whole Suzuki community.

This Wikibook is a first step to access this knowledge and to make it available for everybody. Every Suzuki student, Suzuki parent or Suzuki teacher who has a good practice idea to share is invited to do so. Just click “edit this page” (on top of this page) and start contributing your ideas. If you need help or have comments, leave a note on the discussion page.

To learn more about the Suzuki method, read Wikipedia.

Contents

General practice ideas

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Make your child a Popstar

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Every child wants to become famous. Make a CD with her best violin pieces. She can give those CDs away to her friends, and they also make good Christmas presents for your family. This activity not only includes dressing up and posing for photographs, but also designing a CD cover, choosing the right pieces, and carefully brushing those pieces up before you finally record them.

Take the index card practice to the next level

We are living in the 21st Century. Children love the computer. Give the boring old index cards an upgrade and prompt your child’s practice not with handwritten notes but with a PowerPoint presentation. Some kids might even want to create their own PowerPoint practice file. (Make sure they include all the exercises they are supposed to do.)

This activity might be a bit time consuming, but for children with a technical mind it is irresistible.

They can even include sound files, pictures or small videos. (Grasp that opportunity and have them show off their best violin playing, bow hold etc. for the camera or for the sound recorder.)

Review

Ping Pong Review

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This is a fun practice idea for students who are a bit more advanced and already have more pieces to review than they can keep track of.

Purchase a pack of ping pong balls. You need as many balls as you have review pieces. Using a permanent marker, write the names of the review pieces one on every ball. Put the balls in a non-transparent bag (a pillow case does fine). For the practice, let the child randomly pull a ball out of the bag and play the piece.

To make sure that every review piece will be played sooner or later, don’t put the used balls back into the bag, but keep them aside until the bag is empty.

The Suzuki Medley

The following activity is good for students who are more advanced and have so many pieces to review that they sometimes forget how a particular piece (that they perhaps haven't been reviewing for a while) begins. This problem can be fixed by a daily practice that you can call “The Medley”. For the Medley, the child plays Twinkle Theme, but only the first couple of notes. Then follows Lightly Row, only the first notes. Etc.

Special practice

Hire a puppet

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Tired of reminding your six-year-old for the gazillionth time that she can use more of her bow than just an inch and that her tone will sound so much better? You need a time out. A teacher assistant or visiting teacher should take over. Hire a puppet or a stuffed animal. Puppets make awesome teacher assistants. They are low-maintainance, they might be more patient and relaxed than you are and kids love them and listen to them. A puppet knows as much about teaching an instrument as you do, and you can introduce him/her to the child as an “expert” for the problem that needs to be tackled (“Meet Professor Long Bow”).

Sing the lyrics

This is a good activity to make younger children familiar with pieces that they are about to study. It also can help older students to memorize tricky musical passages.

For most of the pieces in Book 1, there can be lyrics found. Get hold of those, wherever you find them. They are not official, and so they tend to disappear. There are often several versions for one piece, so pick the one that you like most. Some lyrics can be found on the Internet:

Piggy back ride

Piggies for violin practice.jpg

This is a fun exercise to improve your young child's left hand position. She can only use her left hand efficiently when the fingers are in a nice position hovering above the strings. The middle sections of her fingers need to be in a horizontal position. You can call it "tables".

To practice this position, you can have your child play an A scale with a Mississippi Hotdog rhythm, and on each finger that she is setting down, you set some sort of a little object, like a cheerio or a button or a little toy like in the picture. The goal is not to let that object fall down while she is playing.

Mah Mah Mee Mee singing

The following exercise is fun and helpful if your child is preparing or struggling with a piece that includes complicated bowing like a number of slurs. Give the violin a rest, grab the sheet music and mark the slurs on the paper. Use one color for down-slurs, and another color for up-slurs. Then sing the piece together. No lyrics needed. The first time, you sing the whole piece, only using the syllable “mah” (“mah mah mah mah…”). The second time, you do the same thing, but use the syllables “mee mee” for up-slurs (“mah mee mee mah mah mah mah…”). After you mastered this, add the syllables “moo moo” for down-slurs. Repeat this as often as it is fun, and try not to peek in the sheet music anymore.

There are countless variations for this activity, all depending on what the difficulty is that you want to tackle. It works for all kinds of difficult bowing. For a lift for example, you can use a clap or yell “hop!”. For a hooked bowing, you can use other syllables (ask the child for suggestions).

More ideas

Composer Quiz

This is an activity for students who are a bit more advanced, but still are working with Book 1 or 2. You can quiz those kids with the names of the composers of pieces that they have recently been studying or that they are about to study. You can even prepare a memory card game where the players have to combine the name of a piece and the name of the composer.


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