Deconstructed Music

14225513_10210382266171978_7983799239212933453_nThis 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.14192620_10210382268932047_2845906120095776422_n


How do I make the Deconstructed Music Cards?

STEP 1: Gather your materials:14225532_10210382266291981_2447840166443650966_n

  • A photo copy of the piece
  • Hole punch
  • Binder ring
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Pen/pencil
  • 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.14237634_10210382266651990_7705365746321075397_n

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!14212179_10210382266851995_2029459269334336807_n

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.14199260_10210382267732017_3051506094912254111_n1

STEP 7: Place the cards on the ring in the correct order.

I used a different color for each section of the piece.



Glitter Cup Review


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
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Mod Podge
  • 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!


3 Charts for Organized Practice

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!

  1. 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.

Click here for the rainbow review charts:  




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.

Click here for PDFS:


Which piece are you on?

thWhich piece are you on?

Ah, yes. The five word phrase that turns my stomach.

When a parent doesn’t correct a child for uttering this phrase, my stomach flips again.


“What piece are you working on?”

“Lightly Row!” Exclaims the child with a smile.

“What!? I’m working on May Song!!!” The child is overflowing with excitement about coming out “ahead”. Then this child starts playing May Song.

        …the child on Lightly Row looks back at the parent. The child’s grandfather died a couple months ago. It was understandably difficult to get practice in during that time and the child fell behind. Since then the child has been working as hard as they can to get “caught up”.

When faced with the question,”What piece are you on?”, it seams like all of the hard work isn’t paying off. What’s the point? The child looses motivation and is saddened by the comments.

Sometimes a student will ask me this question during their individual lesson:

“Ms. Glenda, did Jane finish this piece? What piece is Jane on?” 

“Which piece are you on?” 

Does this question come from a place of kindness?  No, this question comes from a place of JUDGEMENT.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen the look of embarrassment, sadness, frustration and  defeat on a child’s face when they are asked this question. 

I don’t think parents or students pause and reflect on where this question comes from. I don’t think parents realize the impact that it has.  I don’t think Parents realize that if they adopt this attitude, their children will also adopt the attitude of judgement.

Do I expect young children to be sensitive enough to know that everyone learns at different rate? Do I expect children to understand that things happen outside of our control making progress plateau? No, but I hope parents will help the child ask a better question, and to help develop a caring cooperative attitude…not to encourage unhealthy competition. 

 I’m not saying anything goes and children shouldn’t strive to become better. Some competition can be healthy. However, we need to teach our children to be cooperative, to be kind and to first worry about their own progress before they judge a friends progress. We don’t encourage our children to make other children feel bad.  So why don’t parents correct children that ask “What piece are you on?”

It is quite common for children, of the same age,  who start lessons together to separate in ability at some point. Why is this? It has everything to do with the home environment and the curve balls thrown at us by life.

  • Some children have parents who play the suzuki recordings everyday.
  • Some children have a single parent.
  • Some children have parents that don’t help with practice at home.
  • Some children have parents that don’t take notes at the lessons.
  • Some children have parents who are so strict and aggressive practice becomes a stressful or abusive situation.
  • Some children have learning differences.
  • Some children are dealing with a poor school situation.
  • Some children are so over extended with multiple actives that they don’t have time to practice, the energy to focus in the lesson, or time to simply play and be a child.
  • Some families are also going through major life events such as a new baby, moving, death of a family member or pet, a parent that travels a lot for work.


 Everyone has many facets to their lives and no one is performing equally in each one of those areas. For example, I’m an excellent and accomplished suzuki teacher who is respected in the Suzuki community. I’m doing very well in this aspect of my life.However,  I have started to write and illustrate children books and have not yet become as successful in this area. Does that mean I should give up? No, it’s simply a product of getting started. It takes time for the seeds you plant to sprout and it takes many more years of nurturing that plant before it becomes a strong tree.

The beauty of the Suzuki Method is the community it creates and the life lessons that present themselves through music study. If parents are paying attention to the big picture rather then getting caught up in the horse race of pieces and book numbers, the more important lessons will present themselves:

Let’s go back to the conversation I opened this post with. Let’s take a look at the life lesson in this exchange…

Going back to the child who lost a Grandparent. Yes, the child may have fallen behind from the children he started with. The lesson for him at this time is about perseverance. Don’t give up when things happen that are out of your control. Sit in the chaos for a little while and then get back to it. Yes, he will be able to “catch up” if he chooses to work hard everyday. The lesson of perseverance is quite a large lesson for a small child. It doesn’t need to be compounded by “Which piece are you on?”

I realize that the child who asked the question probably didn’t  know his friend was having a hard time. However, I encourage parents to use this as a teaching moment for their children. The parent could explain that asking the question, “Which piece are you on?” isn’t kind. The parent should explain to the child that we should always be kind because we never know what someone is going through. They should help the child come up with a positive and supportive solution. Perhaps the parent might suggest to their child to practice a piece both children are comfortable with.

Lets go back to Jane.

“Ms. Glenda, did Jane finish this piece? What piece is Jane on?” A student will ask.

My response, “Does it matter?

” I guess not” the child replies. “Well, I’m working on Perpetual Motion.”

I respond, “Yes, and are you ready to perform it at the concert next week?”

“Mmmmm, no.”, says the child.

” I see. Perhaps we should focus on your perpetual and not waste our lesson time with which piece Jane is on?” 

” Yeah, you’re probably right.” says the child.

Fish in the pond.

Big-Fish-Little-Fish-dreamstime_xs_8612498Children who ask “Which piece are you on” tend to be the “bigger fish” in their book 1 group class. When it’s time to move to the book 2 group class they are in for an awaking! It’s been so long since they’ve been the “little fish” they have forgotten what it’s like. I use book 1 and book 2 specifically because I rarely hear a child in book two ask “Which piece are you on?”  Most children learn a very humbling lesson from that book 1 to book 2 transition:  Everyone is the little fish and the big fish. You can be a little fish in one activity and a big finish in another. You will be the little fish again at some point, so be kind to all the little fish. 

I also think this is another reason why there is a high dropout rate from book 1 to book 2. Some parents and teachers inflate the child’s ego by telling them their work is excellent when it is anything but excellent. They also drag the children into the horse race, giving the impression that who ever knows the most number of pieces is clearly the best musician. This is not the case, and some children cannot recover when they find out that they will not always remain the big fish. 

Why are we comparing and judging our children against the progress of other children? What good comes of that?

Although I’ve never liked “What piece are you on?” I have realized that as a teacher I have contributed to this attitude by posting sticker charts and child’s work on the studio walls. The children often check what their classmates have accomplished before checking their work. To me, it was a system that made it very easy for me to keep track of each students progress and I had not considered it to be a negative thing. After coming to the understanding  that it does contribute to the attitudes I’m trying to avoid, I have decided  to make sure that I’m not unconsciously contributing to the situation. I will no longer post student work if it leads to “What piece are you on?”

We should be comparing a child’s progress against the child’s individual ability. 

Let’s choose better questions to ask our children. Questions that help us to learn who they are; questions that help them solve their problems; and  questions that help them become better people. Let’s stop asking children questions that imply their value is based solely on their accomplishments. 

“Do not hurt anybody’s heart.”-Dr. Suzuki

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!