If your studio is anything like mine it’s not uncommon to teach large pre-twinkle group classes. Which also means that you might have to store a large number of foam violins. I really love this method because it’s organized but looks fun. You also have an easier time keeping the correct bow size with the violin.
Many of my students by a special violin wall hanger- which I must say really helps encourage practice. I keep my violin on one at the studio when I need my hands to be free. This version allows younger siblings to do the same at home. : )
This is how I do it…
Foam instruments and bows
Tiny rubber bands
Command strips & hooks
I bought the large command strips and cut them into smaller pieces. I put on on the foam “scroll” and the middle of the back.
Then, I stuck the violin to the wall where I wanted it. So far, the strips are holding the foam but if they do come off my plan is to glue them on. I kept them very low on the wall so the little ones could grab one if they want to. Who doesn’t like ripping stuff off the wall?
Then I attached a hook to the wall. I tried to keep the hook on the right hand side of the violins. BUT sometimes I like to swing the piano out. I didn’t want a hook to be in the way of the piano and scratch it. I may redo the one closer to the piano…
Next, I wrapped a tiny rubber band around the bow so it would sit in front the frog. Just lift part of the band to hang it on the wall. I used a different colored band for each size. This will save me time later if they get mixed up. I previously marked the violin sizes on the back of the violins in sharpie. I tried to do the same on the bows. However, the marker just bled into the wood and now you can’t read it.
Many teachers have tons of games and ticks up their sleeves for group classes and home practice. So many that sometimes we completely forget about some of them. I have a solution! It’s fun AND since it’s organized it helps to speed up your lesson planning. Parents of course can make a box to keep track of a child’s favorite games. In a rut? Dig through the box to rediscover an old favorite or spark creativity and birth a new game!
Let’s make a Treasure Box!
STEP 1: Gather your materials:
I recommend using a larger card size so you have plenty of space to record details. If you are just going to list the name of activities you can stick with smaller cards.
Index card box
Card Guides/ dividers for the cards
Hot glue gun
Gems, sequins and GLITTER. Stickers work too. Or, you can leave it plain.
STEP 2: Decorate your box. I just attached all the sparkles with the glue gun.
STEP 3:Create your categories. This is key for teachers who plan to use this as an aid to planning lessons. Parents might also want to organizer their cards so they can find games quickly for a certain skill. My categories are more based on the skills I teach in group classes. Here are my current categories. I’m sure I’ll think of more later.
Taking a bow
Bowings ( Styles/directions)
STEP 4:Add the games ! I like to write the name of the game on one side and the details on the back. In the details I include teaching points, including points that fall outside of the category I place the card in. Many games can be adapted to fit multiple teaching points. This is a good rainy day activity. Brain dump all the games you can think of. Go back through old notes and reflect on past group classes. Browse around online to see if you can add more to your treasure box. Whenever you make up a new game during a lesson or hear something that another teacher or parent does, add the game to your box right away. Watch the games grow!
This is a practice tool that should only be used by students that are starting to read from their suzuki books or who have already established sold reading skill. Please check with your teacher first.
This practice tool is designed:
To help with memorization
To aid learning and memorize bowings.
To break pieces into small units, visually.
Deconstructed music can be used with any piece. In this example, I’ve used Minuet 3 from Suzuki violin book 1.
How does it work?
Each piece is dived into one measure units. Those measures are pasted to a card that is hole punched and attached to a binder ring.
Play each card 3 times with your goal in mind (bowing, memorization, etc). Do this for each card and each goal until you have mastered all of your goals.
NOTE: For bowings, you’ll want to make in the direction you start on for each measure
Then, move to two cards at once, check to see if you can play two card units meeting your goals (bowings, memorization). Move to 4 cards and then to whole phrases. Repeat until you have whole phrases and then the whole piece.
Puzzle Game: You can also use the cards as a puzzle. Mix them up and see if you can arrange all of the measures in the correct order.
How do I make the Deconstructed Music Cards?
STEP 1: Gather your materials:
A photo copy of the piece
Sentence strips or colored index cards.
STEP 2: Cut the cards.
I folded my sentence strips into quarters so that they are equal sizes. Equal sized are key. If you are using 3×5 index cards cut them in half. I used a different color for each section of the piece. I find this helps with memorization.
STEP 3: Number the back of the cards with measure numbers.
This way, if your cards come out of order you can quickly put them back. Or, if you play the puzzle game you can figure out the answer it stumped. Originally, I put the numbers on the front but then has the puzzle idea. So, I moved the numbers to the back– yay!! erasable pens!
STEP 4: Cut up your sheet music copy. Glue one measure onto a card.
I cut one line off at a time and then I cut off one measure at a time so I wouldn’t get anything mixed up. I glued one measure on a card at a time, again so I wouldn’t get anything mixed up! Let the cards dry.
I think the line on the sentence strip is very helpful to keep the measures lined up. This way when you put the cards on a music stand it flows well in one line.
STEP 5: Hole punch each card.
You can do this while they are drying.
STEP 6: Create a title card.
This way if you make multiple deconstructed pieces you can find the one you want. It also gives a place for you to write your name.
STEP 7: Place the cards on the ring in the correct order.
I used a different color for each section of the piece.
The glitter cup review is a fun way to review your old favorites pieces (previously graduated pieces). It’s a system that also tracks which piece you have reviewed during the week within this system. It’s not necessary to track pieces with additional chart, saving you time! Tracking your review pieces is a good idea, this way you don’t leave anything out. There is nothing worse than not practicing Go Tell Aunt Rhody for 8 weeks and then come concert time you realize that you have no idea how to play Go Tell anymore!
This type of review practice is great for children that have a hard time choosing a piece to review, those that like to “forget” a piece so they don’t have to review it and for those power struggle days …when the child refuses to play a piece because it was not their idea.
How it works:
The popsicle sticks have the name of pieces on one end. You draw from the cup and play the piece. When you are finished put the Popsicle stick, writing side up so that you won’t draw that piece again. Keep the jar lid, put it on after each practice session. That way, if it gets knocked over during the week you won’t loose track of which pieces you’ve already reviewed. Ideally, you’ll want to review each piece you know once per week. At the end of the week, flip all the sticks back over and you are ready to start for a fresh week of practice.
For the pieces that you don’t know how to play, you can just listen to them.
How to make a glitter cup:
Step 1: Gather the supplies
Mason jar with lid
Glitter in favorite colors
Craft painting sponge
Fine tipped marker
Paint in your favorite colors. Use a different color for book levels.
Step 2: Paint the jar
Pour in enough Mod Podge to cover the bottom of the jar. Then, dump in a bunch of glitter. The more glitter you use, the more coverage you’ll have for the sides of the jar. You’ll also get more vibrant colors with more glitter. Use the craft sponge to mix the glitter and glue then pain the sides of the jar. Add more Mod podge if the mixture is too dry. Leave it to dry over night. Many people say to flip the jar upside down for drying in these types of crafts…I recommend only doing that if you want the jar to stick to whatever you put it on….
Step 3: Paint the sticks
Paint one end of each Popsicle stick, front and back. Leave time to dry between front and back. I only used one quick coat of paint. I used one color per book. You’ll need one stick for each piece in the book. I just cut open a paper bag to cover my table.
Step 4: Label the sticks
Once dry, write the name of each piece on a stick. It’s helpful to work from the table of contents in your suzuki books so that you don’t miss anything.
Step 5: Put the sticks in the cup color side down.
Now it’s ready to use. Choose a stick, play the piece and then return the stick colored side up. Don’t forget to put the lid on when you are finished!
We learn in layers. Always cycling back to the older pieces to build on them and bring them to higher musicality. This means, that after a few months as a suzuki family you have quite a few pieces to keep track of !!!! How do you keep it organized? How do you know which pieces to spend the most time with? Here is your answer with 3 practice charts.
I realize that this doesn’t include things like scales, etudes or monthly practice challenges we do at Westminster Suzuki Strings. However, it gets to the very core of what needs to happen for successful practice. Additional items vary widely from studio to studio but the following is universal in all suzuki studios.
I hope this helps you get organized!
Suzuki Practice Pyramid. I created this chart so parents could understand what aspect of practice is most important. It’s modeled after the food pyramid. Like the food pyramid, the most important parts of your practice are lower on the pyramid. These are the items you’ll want to spend the most time on. You can print it out and fill it in as I have pictured below to create your weekly practice plan. Use pencil to make changes from week to week to save the trees. : ) Click here for a printable PDF
2. Rainbow Review Chart. The rainbow review chart helps you organize all of the pieces in to daily practice through one week. This way, you can review and listen to each piece of the book within one week. You won’t forget anything and you’ll spend just a few minutes each day rather than trying to cram 45 minutes worth of review and listening into one day! Use the chart to create daily playlists for your iphone or ipad. Click here to learn how to make an ipad playlist.
When it comes to the review portion of practice, you will need to review one piece before your polish piece, daily. Spend the rest of your time reviewing older pieces so you don’t have to cram for the next recital. Once ability has sprouted anything that is not watered will wither and die (you’ll forget it). “Ability begets ability” we cant expect to grow with a rocky foundation. Your older pieces are the foundation for the newer pieces.
3. Am I Ready to Graduate this piece? Mastery is essential in fostering ability but how can we track which layers are mastered, which layer we are currently on and what comes next? By the graduation chart. I have a list of 15 things required to consider a piece graduated. All pieces are memorized but this is not on the chart as it is a given. I print this chart double sided. List on one side, table on the other.
I used this method to track my students progress but parents can also use this chart to track it as well. I officially check things off, but parents can fill in their charts to match mine if they want to track progress.
The numbers on the chart correspond to the list of 15 items. When we are working on a layer I make a little note in the box. If we have mastered the question from the list, I put a check mark in the box. We work in order from 1-15. Doing this also helps teachers have a snap shot to work load and can be sure to give only one teaching point per piece.
While French Folk Song is not included in the violin book, it can be found in the viola and cello books. I’m not completely sure why it was left out of violin books. Many teachers are asking for French Folk Song to be included in the repertoire and I must agree. Let’s hope they add it to the next revision!
I teach French Folk in A Major. I used to teach it in D Major so that my violin students could play it with my viola/cello students. I no longer teach it in D Major to my violin students upon their first encounter. I have found that the technical demands with the piece itself combined with exploring the D- String is too much all at once. However, I do encourage students to explore the D String through Monkey Song in D and the D Major scale. After graduating French Folk Song in A Major, I encourage students to transpose it it D major, and they are able to do it with ease, which lends to my original goal of having a piece that is compatible with the viola/cello students….the process is much easier though in A Major with the violin.
I teach my students French Folk song for a few reasons. As mentioned above, it helps violin students have a fuller repertoire, compatible to the viola/cello repertoire. I used it to improve tone and increase the length of bow strokes. The biggest reason why I teach French Folk Song is to further develop the concept of Finger Before the Bow.
Finger Before the Bow is a concept that reminds us to make sure the finger is placed on the string before the bow moves. This is necessary to 1) get the correct pitch 2) play that pitch in tune and 3) for proper left and right hand coordination.
In the Twinkles, children are given a great deal of time to think about and place their finger while playing the rhythm variations. When they reach Twinkle Theme they have less time to prepare the finger before the bow stroke. We only allow for one variation to teach the Finger Before Bow concept before moving to the remaining book 1 pieces- which all require a faster, more complicated version of Finger Before Bow. I believe that we have two separate skills illustrating this concept in French Folk Song. 1) The Finger is placed and the the bow plays a few times on that same pitch. 2) The finger is placed and we have only one bow stroke on that pitch. The second idea is the more difficult technical point. Twinkle Theme don’t give much of an opportunity to explore this. If we cut straight to lightly row, we not only have to develop this part of Finger Before Bow but we also need to deal with the subtle rhythm challenges presented in Lightly Row- which seams to be a lot in one piece.I do think there is a leap from Twinkles to Lightly row, and that gap is a great place for french folk song.
I do have students place fingers 1, 2 and 3 before they play the first A in measure 1.
One tough spot is the repeated A B C# pattern. You have to lift B and C# at the same time to get back to open A. Children forget that B is on the string and only lift the C#.
A lot of children have trouble when it comes to playing the repeated B C# D pattern. HINT: Keep the first finger (B) down for this whole section. After playing B C# D, lift C# and D TOGETHER….without lifting B.
We do have one very big problem when it comes to learning French Folk Song… There is no Suzuki Association approved recording for it in A Major. You can download the viola version, but it’s in D major. Here are the recordings I send to my students. They aren’t of studio quality- recorded in my pianist (Judy Weber) music room with my iphone. Hopefully, it will help fill the gap until we can get a studio quality recording completed.
Violin & Piano:
I’d also like to explain my artwork. I use the tune of French Folk Song in my Pre-Twinkle classes to teach the “Bunny Bow Hold”. Of course, this happens WAAYY before we learn French Folk song, but it’s related so I’ll mention it here. Many times the children forget to place the index and pinky on the bow. When both of those fingers are straight up in the air we joke that it looks like a llama instead of a floppy eared bunny.