When your child starts a new instrument it can be a very exciting time, they are learning lots of new skills and uncovering a whole new world of classical music and (hopefully) starting to develop a passion. It is a joy to watch and natural for parents to want to encourage this further, yet there may be a multitude of reasons why you are reading this article, whether you would like to help them with their motivation and enjoyment, or to prevent/ shorten a dip in their motivation. It is very common after a few months of progress for a plateau to occur and this can be frustrating for both you and your child but don’t panic! It happens to everyone at one point and although it may feel like the plateau will last forever, there is light at the end of the tunnel and you will both have a greater appreciation for the violin and classical music. However, it is tempting to search online for items or accessories to help keep the motivation there. This can be overwhelming and daunting if you are not a musician yourself, so I have took it upon myself to create a list of my favourite and most helpful gifts for you to peruse and treat your young musician!
CD Player/ CD Alarm Clock
This is number one on my list, for obvious reasons! Listening to the CD is the cornerstone of the Suzuki method and I don’t think there is a Suzuki teacher alive who has not encouraged daily listening practice, however listening to the CD has become increasingly difficult as we have moved away from CD’s. Therefore investing in a CD player is important and pretty cheap too! (charity shops) but if I were to recommend a product it would be a CD alarm clock. When I was younger and working my way through the Suzuki books, my mum had the genius idea of setting my alarm to go off with the track number of my top piece so as I was getting ready for school I was able to listen to the CD, it was extremely helpful and my teacher noticed a difference in my playing.
I would recommend this
Much like the CD Player, a violin stand acts as a physical reminder to practice. It can be difficult at first to get into a routine and it may even feel like a chore more than a joy! Although it takes about two minutes to get the violin out of the case and ready, the psychological effect of it being zipped up and put away is extremely powerful. However when the violin is put on a violin stand ready to play you will notice a dramatic difference in the frequency of practicing –In all honesty, I do not think I could have got through Music College without one!
This may come as a shock recommendation for Suzuki pupils, but learning to read may be closer than you think. All teachers have different opinions on when the right time to teach note reading is but usually Perpetual Motion is when I would start teaching basic rhythms and notes (this is also dependent on the child’s age). So having a stand ready at home is important, stands really help maintain good playing posture when the stand is about eye level, you may find propping the music on the chest of drawers or mantelpiece becomes a pain in the neck (literally and figuratively!)
Tuners are very helpful to have around the house, as changes in weather can really affect the strings, particularly winter and I have spent the majority of my lessons tuning violins that have gone very badly out of tune. This can be quite distressing for pupils, some may find it difficult to practice as they will have very finely tuned ears, therefore a tuner could really help. I use a tuner and metronome combo by Korg, as it has an arrow that shows you visually if the note is flat or sharp. There are many tuners around but I would recommend Korg as it has multiple uses and lasts a very long time. The metronome will not be used as much but is still very useful, this way it will reduce the cost!
This list may seem quite small and simple, but I wanted to do a list of items that I personally found helpful when I was a Suzuki pupil. Finding an article like this would have saved my mum a lot of time, not being a musician herself. Perhaps you will find more tailored items on your way as a Suzuki parent, but my main aim was to highlight the items that I thought had the most use with the longest shelf life so as not to break the bank. But for now I hope you enjoy reading and happy practicing!