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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Listening Magic

I was reminded about the strong power of listening recently when one of my students came to his lesson and dazzled me with renewed confidence and very beautiful playing. Let me back up and tell you about his last lesson first.

listening students
The Magic Power of Listening!
This young man is in high school and started late to the violin. He is late book 2, almost near the end. We had talked about a possible recital selection from one of his more recently learned pieces. At the previous week's lesson, however, it was as if the student had never learned the piece we had selected. Playing wrong notes and incorrect bowings and uncertain about what part came next, he slogged through the music as if he had never looked at it or learned it before. And he was using a piece of music paper that had the notes written on it in tablature! So he was actually reading as he played, something that he does because of reading difficulties on occasion.

My heart sank. This was not going to work, clearly. And the recital was a month away. I considered choosing another earlier piece for a recital selection.

His parents are really great Suzuki parents and take the process seriously. I know the student practices regularly, even though he is a busy young man and quite interested in participating in sports activities. He is a great kid. So what was wrong? His parents were observing quite closely this difficult lesson.

At the end of the lesson I brought up the subject of what his listening program looked like at home. Our community has been beset by two major flooding events, and this family had its share of the community flooding woes, as I did. Life has been disrupted severely for all of us. Still, I brought up the listening issue.

We talked about how to make the listening to his songs easier for him to accomplish regularly at home. I talk about this subject a lot, and we all need to remind ourselves about the need to do daily listening. I feel like a nag, but the subject is important, as you will shortly see.

At his next lesson, I broached the subject of what recital piece we might consider, opening up the possibility of another earlier piece, and to my surprise the young man insisted on the original piece that we had selected! And he told me very confidently that he had been practicing it all week. Okay, I thought, here goes. And off we started.

To my amazement, he sailed through the Lully "Gavotte" without a single hitch. He played all the correct notes, and he also executed all the bowings, even that second part where most students stumble over the awkward slurs and rhythms! I was truly amazed. He knew the piece completely! So well, in fact, that I was able to sit down and accompany him on the piano.

What was this magic that had happened during the week in between his lessons? No surprise to find out that the magic was a saturated listening program. My student told me that his parents had made him listen to the piece six times every day. He would listen to the piece, then play it, then listen again, and sometimes he would play along with the recording (this was possible because I had sent a slower version of the piece with my Amazing Slow Downer app).

Once again, the magic and power of listening reminds me of the wisdom of Dr. Suzuki's listening requirement. Adding a regular (and planned) listening component to our daily music environment will yield all sorts of exciting treasures to our skill and ability development.

I talk at great length about the Suzuki Method's listening requirement in podcast episode 3 of the Teach Suzuki Podcast. If you have not yet listened to this episode, I highly recommend that you visit the iTunes Store here and subscribe so that you can hear even more amazing stories about the power and magic of listening in the Suzuki world. And the podcast is now available in Google Music Play for Android users here. As always you may listen directly to the podcast episodes from the website and have a listen.

Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird


  1. I save the pieces in mp3 format into a thumbdrive for the little one to listen to in the car. Etudes, Scales, pieces, everything.

    1. Great idea! I ask that my parents stay on top of this, because sometimes the little ones forget to actually listen. How do you help your child to remember?

    2. To remember to listen or to memorise his scores ? Memorising is no problem for him. Remembering to let the child listen is my job. I'll play it in the car for him to listen during drives. It can be on way to school, on way back - I'll even point out areas for him to take note of. He can visualise the score in his mind during listening.

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