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Sometimes teachers hear from parents that if only their child could start the new piece, their enthusiasm would improve. Even students seem to think this will happen. But all too often the initial excitement turns to a loss of interest and even avoidance, once the piece has begun. This is because students who are not technically, physically, aurally, or mentally ready for a new piece will soon discover that it is “hard.” Then their interest quickly turns to dislike. It is just plain discouraging to line up for a daily session in being defeated by overly difficult skills and musical demands. It is probable that the piece will never be brought to a high level of musicianship with such a beginning.
It is necessary for you and your teacher to be sure the student is thoroughly prepared, and then you must make practice fun and rewarding. This huge responsibility takes planning. But the result is much more pleasant for both the child and you. So here are some crucial ideas that help with new pieces:
Listen to the Suzuki CD at least an hour a day, yes, an hour. People who have gone deaf as a child forget how to pronounce words, although they heard the sounds once. Students who fail to listen adequately to the CD do not know on a neural level what sounds they are to produce. No amount of instruction can replace what the brain can do automatically if given enough exposure to the music. A piece that seems hard one week, miraculously becomes easier after a week of concentrated listening.
Review! Songs are not just a series of notes. The repertoire is sequentially arranged by skills. If review is not done, old skills weaken and in some cases die. Like forgetting the sounds of the English language when a person’s become deaf.
Preview! Practice diligently the segments (units, chunks) your teacher assigns and as much as is assigned. Learning these skills outside of the new piece is of enormous value.
If a segment is difficult, break the piece into smaller, doable parts. This could be as small as two notes. Or simplify the chunk by removing something: a bowing, the pitches, or the rhythm.
Ask the teacher for further suggestions at the next lesson.
Make up games to increase the tolerance of repetition. It is amazing how the simplest of games can build enthusiasm for many, many repetitions of a difficult spot. And repetition is the ONLY way a human brain learns.
Often a skill can take months to perfect. Don’t be discouraged with the journey.
© 2009 Susan A. Sommerville
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