Search This Blog

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Getting Ready for the book 1 Minuets

Written by Paula E. Bird ©2013

Up to this point in our discussion about teaching and learning the Suzuki Violin repertoire in book 1, I have systematically gone through the pieces and analyzed them into four areas:
  • left hand
  • right hand
  • how to preview or teach
  • later problems (or just later for advanced students, group class, or review ideas)
At this point, everyone has most likely figured out how to teach students new songs, and students may be approaching the point when they learn to read music as well. So, I will not go into detail about that. Lately I have used very large index cards (the largest that they make) to list the fingering on the cards for the practice parent, and I anticipate that my students will look at the cards to some extent as they learn the new pieces. Since I have worked diligently on developing my students' aural skills and abilities to play by ear, I am not worried that my students will lose any of their aural or listening skills by referring to a card. My students will learn to read shortly, since I usually introduce reading materials that are age-appropriate at the end of book 1.

We have also engaged in reading preparation activities from the very beginning of lessons by referring to the symbols in the book, such as down bow and up bow indications, repeat signs, fermatas, and by discussing other words that we find in the songs, such as ritard, forte, and other dynamic markings. My students may also look at the way a piece looks, and we discuss the form of songs. Students are likely able to compare the way two phrases look and determine whether the notes look the same or dissimilar. Since I expect my students to play the songs without having to refer to music or a card, and as long as the parents play the reference recordings at home on a daily basis, I am confident that my students' aural abilities will remain strong.

So at this point in the learning progression, I focus more on the skills to be developed with each new song in the repertoire. I have several questions that I think about routinely as my students enter into the world of the Bach/Petzold Minuets:
  • What skills are to be developed?
  • What tricky bits will challenge the students?
  • What supplemental exercises or repertoire could I use to shore up the technical challenges that students face?
  • How can I reinforce the learning in group classes?
  • Was this skill introduced gently in earlier repertoire?
  • Will this skill be revisited in later repertoire?
I find that if I approach each song in the Suzuki repertoire with these questions, I will find my answers about how to teach the material to my students. Even now, after so many decades of teaching with the Suzuki Method, I still make new discoveries, often with the help of my students! I am sad to hear so many parents or teachers complain about how tired they are of playing or reviewing the "same old thing." The Suzuki repertoire is a collection of wonderful music, and each child sounds different when playing the songs. I can listen to Twinkles all day long because the students never play the Twinkles in the same way. There is an individuality about each student's playing that will never cease to interest me. Each student presents individual challenges and approaches to music and expressive playing. Each student comes to lessons with a different environment and different family situation than other students. Even students within the same household present unique responses to the learning. No student is the same as another, and that fact is a beautiful thing for teachers and parents to embrace and enjoy.

In the next areas of discussion about the later Suzuki repertoire, I will approach the songs with the philosophical overlay I have discussed above as well as the questions I raised earlier. Between us, we will be able to come up with a plan to address teaching and learning concerns with the later Suzuki repertoire.

Let us start with the first Minuet in Suzuki Violin Volume 1. What challenges have you faced with your students or children? Leave a comment below, and we will tackle these issues in the coming weeks.


  1. Although we started with another teacher, I took over teaching my son and have just started a couple of beginners. More and more I come to appreciate how well the repertoire builds (I was a Suzuki kid myself). For example the down, up, up bowing that is introduced in the minuets. We're currently polishing Bach Bouree (book 3) and the down, up, up with decrescendo at the end of phrases has come very naturally to my son.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. In Minuet One how do you work the intonation of the fourth finger for the first measure of the B part. The melody goes from a B note with the first finger to the E note sustained for two beats with the fourth finger. Other than finger taps for strengthening the fourth finger and playing the open E to hear the pitch, do you have any other ideas? This is a tough passage.

  4. I usually have the students place 3rd and 4th fingers as a unit since they have a common muscle. As the student becomes more advanced then they can play the 4th finger indepently