Listening is a very important part, if not THE most important part, of learning to play the violin especially in the Suzuki method. In our culture of “busy-ness” it is often the most difficult part if for no other reason than lack of time. It feels like just another thing to add to the to-do list.
My students are expected to do “active listening”, where listening to the music is their main focus. They are also expected to listen to as much background music as possible during the week. As teachers, we are often struggling to help parents understand the importance of listening and not look at it as an optional part of at-home practice.
For parents, I’ve come up with a few ways to make listening easier to fit in to your schedule. And teachers, feel free to share these ideas with your parents if you haven’t already.
Active listening while doing another practice activity – You know those thousands of times a brand new violin student must listen to Twinkles (or any other song, for that matter)? I often pair it with violin holds for those young students. (ex. Stand in playing position, violin on shoulder, looking at scroll while Variation A is playing on the CD.) For older students, I like to give them something specific to listen for in their active listening pieces, such as in the first phrase of Gavotte in G minor, which note is the loudest?
Background music – There is rarely a time in our house that we do not have music playing. In the mornings during breakfast, we listen to Otto’s Suzuki Early Childhood CD. During morning playtime, it’s often the Disney station on Pandora. While Otto’s napping, I listen to all my Suzuki review pieces for the day, which Otto also hears after his nap while I practice them. If we’re at home for dinner, we play a favorite album while cooking and eating and before bed, I like to put on classical music for a calm mood. I won’t say this happens every day in our house. Things get busy and routines change, but the point is that different kinds of music make great background music for almost any daily activity.
Youtube videos – We live in such an amazing time where you can find a performance of almost any piece and any style of music on Youtube. When one of my students seems in need of a little inspiration, I suggest that they go look up something on Youtube, whether it’s their current piece, their favorite song from the radio, or an orchestral performance of a piece they don’t know. I find that it can be wonderful for kids to see people who are really good at what they are working hard every day to learn to do.
Bedtime listening – This one may not work for everybody. Some people need absolute silence and dark when they sleep. I, on the other hand, am one of those people who needs something to listen to or else I can’t shut off my brain. Everyone is different, but I suggest at least listening to something soft and soothing as you get ready for bed.
These are just of the ideas I’ve had. I’m sure other teachers and parents have great suggestions, too! Please comment below and tell us how you fit listening to music into your busy schedule! 🙂