Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Working for us Thursday - (or is it Wednesday?)

So - What is working for us right now - is Sassmannshaus Violin!  Of course, we just started this week - so it might be short term - but I'm hoping it will last long-term.

Those of you that know me as "SuzukiMom" are probably confused.  Yes, we did Suzuki Violin.  We did Suzuki Violin for a number of years.  But - that ended about a year and a half ago.  I tried continuing Suzuki violin with them without a teacher for a while - but ended up giving the kids a long break - almost a year long.

This spring, it was "time" for us to do more violin.  It wasn't an external time - it just felt like time.  Delta and Echo would practice obediently - but I knew, and they knew, that they had forgotten songs - it was very much backwards progress - even though Delta was conquering some bad habits.  It was disheartening for them, and for me.  Foxtrot was happy to do violin... but it just wasn't working.

We did have a surge of practice when I was able to get a used copy of Lego Rock Band for our Wii (and free "instruments" from Freecycle!).  I was telling people how much Lego Rock Band was improving their Violin.   In case you are wondering (like the people I told) how it would help their violin - easy.  They weren't allowed to play it unless they had practiced that day!  (If they have time to practice fake instruments they have time to practice real ones!)

This all screamed to a halt when I got sick this summer.  I haven't had the energy to require violin at all...  but those violins were sitting in the living area making me feel - guilty.  And I was discouraged at the thought of trying to work through Suzuki - knowing where we had been, where we would be restarting - I just couldn't.  I was ready to sell the violins.

But I love the violin, and the kids all have at some point or another.  The violin is very musical.  It is portable.  A great Solo instrument, also great for Duet's, Trio's, Quartets.  You can play Classical, Fiddle, Country, Folk, and even Rock music on it.   It is also one of the few instruments that can be played in Sacrament Meeting at church.  

I talked to Mike about it, and he said that we shouldn't quit - but should look at other resources... and that anything we did is better than doing nothing.  So I started looking.  One thing I wanted to check out was Sassmannshaus - as I had noticed it about 3 or 4 years ago at the Music Store.

With a lot of looking, I discovered that there is a related website, that has video's of various violin techniques that will be helpful  (and of course there are always other You-Tube videos out there - you just never know how experienced the "teacher" is on those...).  I liked the pages I could see (I did a bunch of searching on Google) - and I liked the switch of pace!

This series is designed for the young beginner.  Foxtrot is the perfect age.  It has note reading right from the start, and has many tunes that the young student will recognize... things like "Rain, Rain - Go Away", or "Hot Cross Buns".  The book has engaging pictures, and large music.

I started by giving Foxtrot a lesson on Monday.  She has continually been eager to do violin.  I showed her the book, showed her a few of the songs, and explained that she was going to learn to read music.  I gave her the short course, so to speak - and we started with the first couple of "Open String" songs.  She has already been doing Pre-Twinkle songs with Suzuki, so she already knows how to hold the violin and bow and play on the strings.   Boy was she delighted when I turned the page to the D String song.... she had never gotten to play on D String before!  And then the G String.... pure delight!

On Tuesday she was eager to practice first thing in the morning, and again today (Wednesday).  She was even upset because Echo had started to practice before her!  (I need to watch Foxtrot practice - but Echo can practice on her own.)


Tuesday had ended up being a hard school day - and I had given up on the idea of starting Echo on the violin that day... but near bedtime Echo asked if she could have her lesson.  I'm sure a part of it was to delay bed... but I decided to go for it.  Echo was also happy - as she was going to learn how to read music.  She hadn't learned at all officially in Suzuki, and had done just a very basic amount with me at home over a year ago.  A part of that may be from her wanting her Musician Badge in Cubs, which requires knowing the basics of reading music.  She also got an introduction to the Metronome to help her keep time... it is hard not to rush those half notes!

Today (Wednesday) she got out everything and started practicing on her own!


So Today (Wednesday) I did a lesson with Delta.  He had listened to all the theory stuff with Echo - and of course this is all very basic review for him.  He did learn to read music with his Suzuki teacher - although I don't think he was reading as well as she was thinking he was.... and of course these open string songs are nothing compared to the Minuets, or Happy Farmer, or the other songs he had been playing in Suzuki.  But - look at that straight left wrist!   I hope his confidence will go up.  I expect he will move very quickly through this first book.  If I'm not mistaken, the second book will have techniques new to him (and therefore me!)  There were no complaints.   I'll see if he practices on his own tomorrow or not.

This is a total change in teaching methodology - but we needed a change.  The program is supposed to be done with a teacher, but the videos on methods should help.  I wish I could find a bit more guidance though.  The book suggests a single finger tape (for the 2 finger) - our Suzuki teacher had 3 or 4 - depending on the number of fingers being used.  I'm not sure when some skills are introduced (and whether or not the book will say, or if it would be up to the teacher)  I don't know of any groups or forums to discuss the program.

That said - Right now, we are looking good, and I'm thrilled!

Still Working For Us

- SkedTracker - working great!
- Cubs/Beavers

Not Working For Us Anymore

- Children's Miracle Music - well, I just use this now and then anyway.... it works as a once-in-a-while item.

It is bedtime and Echo is doing another practice.  Foxtrot wants to do another one, but I'm too tired.  (Ok, bad mom.... who tells a kid that they can't practice the violin anyway?)


  1. Ah, the joy of music! I love that you've found something new to do for violin and the kids are embracing it for now. I really need to get my act together and start Joseph and Emma on the piano. I only do their lessons for a while and then move them to Makayla's teacher, a mom in our ward at church. Unfortunately I can't see where we'll find the money for three in lessons, so maybe it's time for me to get my own practicing going. Sigh. That's something I would love but never seem to make time for.

    I also love that you gave updates about what is still working or not. I will try to remember to do that next week.

    A question - I was thinking about doing a week sometime here about what's NOT working for us, sort of a way to get out there an area that just isn't working so maybe some comments on ideas from others will give us fresh ideas. What do you think? Or even a what Didn't work for us, something we tried in the past that was a really bad fit for our family/child/learning style, etc. Thoughts?

    1. Yes, music lessons is expensive with larger families! I have to get to practicing too so that when they get to stuff we don't know, I'm ready...

      I think the occasional - Not working for us - post would be good (warn me a week before in case I do things early....) - obviously we don't want to focus on the negative - but sometimes some suggestions (and some keeping it real) is helpful!