Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star Variations

0001ipCongratulations! You have made it through Pre-twinkle and you are about to embark on a new journey! This journey will most likely be the hardest  during your time as a suzuki family. It’s likely to be a looong year.

Yes, I said YEAR. In my studio it can take children from 6 months to one year to complete their Twinkles. This is perfectly acceptable. While every child learns at a rate unique to them, the Twinkle process is a long one and it helps for parents to know this upfront. Otherwise, they get frustrated and bored…ultimately sabotaging the child’s interest to complete the Twinkles.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Twinkle by Glenda Walsh Crouse

Yes, sabotage. The moment a parent starts to talk about how they are tired of hearing the Twinkles, the child develops the same attitude. It’s tough to get through Twinkle, lets approach with motivation instead.

So, let’s establish the rules of “Twinkle Club”. There is only one rule. We never say “I’m tired of twinkle”

If you are worried about the length of time it will take to complete the twinkles, listen to the recording daily. The more you listen the faster it goes. The more you listen the faster it goes. The more you listen the faster it goes.The more you listen the faster it goes.

Really….young children become obsessed over the things they like. I haven’t met a child yet that didn’t know or like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” They rarely tier of Twinkles unless someone shows them to be tiered of it.  Be mindful of your actions. Your children will always follow your actions  before they will ever follow your advice.

Children learn to smile from their parents.

– Dr. Suzuki.

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Ice Cream Shh Cone Twinkle by Glenda Walsh Crouse

Don’t look at this process as long and drawn out. Cherish your time with your child while they are learning the Twinkles. Before you know it, they will graduate book 1 and you’ll be watching the tiny, oh so adorable, new twinkle children and you’ll begin to miss that time of your suzuki journey.  I know that any child who graduates the Twinkles will go on to make music a part of their lives. It’s worth it, it really is.

With that said, lets get to it! Before you do, you may want to check out my  ” Your child may not be my student disclaimer.”   Please also keep in mind that all teachers do things differently. If your child has a teacher, you should go with their suggestions.

Updates in my teaching from the notes below and my observations:

  • I no longer teach SOD (swing open down). Ignore this in my notes. I’ll try to get an updated version together in the future. : )
  • I don’t always go in order for the variations. I follow the child’s ability to play each rhythm- I  let them choose which one comes next. I always start with Peanut Butter Ice Cream (Var. A). I find most children naturally gravitate to Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter (Var. E) after Peanut Butter Ice cream (Var. A). Ice Cream Shh Cone (Var. B) and Strawberry (var. c) are always the last variations students attempt if given the choice, because they require the most bow control.
Strawberry, Strawberry Twinkle by Glenda Walsh Crouse
  • I do teach my students to walk 1st, 2nd and 3rd finger on the a string for 3rd finger D. When I say walk, I mean place each finger separately, not all three at the same time- I don’t teach a “blocked fingering”. As time goes on, children naturally place the 3rd finger independently-AFTER and only after they feel 100% sure where the 3rd finger goes. This is not something that can be forced-we move at the child’s speed. When its time to head in the direction I teach about the sneaky pinky. I’ll write another blog post on that lesson later. My book 1 teacher trainer said she  taught the student to use independent fingers, to free the left hand of tension.-providing a clearer path to vibrato. I did that following the training. However, I noticed two things:
    • 1) If I worked with my students to have a good instrument hold and set up we didn’t have tension in the left hand. I’ve never witnessed extra squeezing as a result of the walking fingers: Blocked, yes. Walking, no. In fact, I would argue walking the fingers are more productive to vibrato as students learn to re-balance their hand as they place each finger. In my experience young children don’t have the strength to stop a string completely when placing an independent finger, resulting in poor tone.
    • 2) Later on, I noticed my students having trouble with 2nd and 3rd finger intonation (when teaching independent, popcorn fingering). I believe that very young child’s sense of pitch isn’t quite like that of an adult. I do think children have a hard time hearing the closeness of a half step. I read somewhere that young children prefer listening to music without half steps. If I come across that information I’ll add it later.  I believe Dr. Suzuki taught students to place each finger on the A string. So far, I have run into lesson intonation issues as students develop the feeling of the half step and train their ear very early on.
  • Ice Cream Shh Cone (var. b). This is difficult because it requires a great deal of bow control. I think getting the bow to stop is harder that making it go. The second issue is the piano accompaniment. The child hears the piano play during the violins eighth rest and tries to play on the beat with the piano.
  • Strawberry Twinkle (var. c) is difficult because of the bow division. Long, short short. I have the most success by teaching students to put a stop in the bow after the eighth note. Teach one strawberry at a time. Start with the one that starts on a down bow. Only add in up bow strawberry after down berry is comfortable.

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  • Separate the hands. You play the fingers while the child controls the bow. Repeat in the manner until the child can play the rhythm correctly without any coaching. Then switch. You be the bow and they get the fingers. Separating this way allows the child to focus deeply on one aspect of their playing- with the benefit of hearing everything when its put together.  This is very motivating and helps the child know where they are headed.
  • Open E to 3rd finger D. This is the most frustrating part to the parent and is the very last thing to come together. Dr. Suzuki said we should allow for plenty of time for this skill to develop. It’s not just a finger thing. The finger is placed first, but the bow also has to stop the note before, roll to the a string then then play the 3rd finger. That’s at least 5 separate steps just to get the third finger down!!! 5 steps takes a long to time to become fluent and internalized. There are a limited number of things our brains can focus on in any given time (personally, I believe that the mind can only truly focus on one thing at a time) 5 things at a time is hard for an adult…and we are asking children to do this. Master one step so that it becomes automatic, then you can put all of these mastered steps together and it seems effortless.
Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter Twinkle by Glenda Walsh Crouse
  • Finger before the bow. The finger must always be placed before the bow moves.
  • Think of the Twinkles as a crash course in violin playing. The very basics of playing are covered in this piece. Be sure to master them and be wary of teacher who doesn’t find value in the Twinkles and who doesn’t review them often. In fact, Dr. Suzuki wanted his students to review the Twinkles DAILY until they graduated Perpetual Motion. Don’t leave the twinkles until you have a good bow hold and violin hold. You’ll be sorry if you do.

My Violin Teaching Notes:

Practice Help

Please comment below if you have any questions!

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