Practicing with your child can be one of the most rewarding and distressing events of your day. Life can never be perfect, but my hope is to give you a bit of help to balance the scales to a more rewarding practice time with your child. Parents need to understand their role in the practice routine. Your role is very important and can be the most difficult.
The first way to make your role easier and more efficient is to take careful notes in each private lesson. Make sure that you clearly understand your child’s assignment and write down the teachers expectations carefully. This is the best way to keep track of your child’s development and to not forget what the teacher said a few days after the lesson. Always ask questions during the lesson if you do not understand an assignment that the teacher is giving.
The second way that you can be more effective is to understand that you are the teacher at home. The home practice should follow the assignments set out by the teacher. Students should practice with their parents until they are approximately 12 years old. This varies in every family. The child needs the structure and accountability that only the parent can provide. The shared responsibility of practice is one of the most important aspects of the Suzuki method. The parent should always look for ways to keep the practice times creative and fun. If you are motivated, your child will be motivated. Parents need to reinforce the same kind of technical and musical examples that the teacher demonstrates in the lesson. Take a digital camera to your lesson to photograph proper posture and bow holds. Use your Suzuki CD or Smart Music as a reference for musical ideas, rhythm and intonation. Record your child’s practice and listen to it together. Let them be involved in the critique process.
The third way to perfect practice is to be consistent. Most families find that it works best to have one parent play the role of regular practice partner. If this is the case, the practice parent should be the one to attend the lessons. If for some reason this does not work, the parents should take the time to review the lesson notes and the assignments for that week. The time of the daily practice session and the location in the house should also be consistent. The parent can vary the time and location as a special treat of a motivational tool. Review of polished songs, scales and exercises should fill up 70 to 80% of the practice time. The student gains mastery through repetition. Students need to review their polished pieces to retain the artistry of what they have just accomplished. This is a vital part of the Suzuki method, the ability to perform a vast amount of repertoire at a very high level of excellence. This can only be done through proper review. Advanced techniques such as bowing styles, vibrato and tonal studies can also be incorporated and mastered in the review pieces.
Mark Mutter is a registered Teacher Trainer with the Suzuki Association of the Americas. He received his Bachelors Degree (DePauw University) and Masters Degree (The University of Michigan) in Violin Performance studying with Walter Schwede, Angel Reyes and Camilla Wicks. His orchestral career began in Hong Kong as the Assistant Principal Second Violin of the Hong Kong Philharmonic. He also taught at the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts. Mark studied Suzuki pedagogy with John Kendall, Ronda Cole, Jacquie Maurer and Geri Arnold.