Often, the first few months of violin playing come more or less easily to a student. Months of anticipation culminate in the beginning of violin lessons. Everything is new and exciting! The child learns to hold the instrument, then s/he learns to play rhythms on open strings, then s/he learns to use fingers, and play their first song: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Variations! Then they enjoy the early pieces in Bk 1. But often, somewhere between 1 or 2 years of study, students and their parents may begin to run into a bit of lack of enthusiasm or even resistance toward practicing. This can be a bit confusing to parents: why I smy child not enjoying violin now when it seemed so enjoyable just a few months ago? What changed? How do we get this joy back?
If and when this happens – because it happens at some point(s) to every student! – we as adults need to focus more on fostering the child’s own vision. Adults are happy to work and go through discomfort when they see a reason; when there is a goal worth sacrificing for…and children are no different! This goal may be learning the next song. It may be the reward at the end of a sticker chart. It may be a desire to “keep up” with their friends (though this one is very tricky! Comparing, either positively or negatively - is all too often deadly to a young violinist’s love for the instrument). But after a while, even these extrinsic motivators can begin to fall short. The best way to encourage practicing is through the fostering of intrinsic motivation. Children naturally desire to please adults – show them you are pleased! Children love to create something new – allow some space for exploration. Children seek things that are new and full of wonder – find a way to allow wonder to permeate even the “mundane” tasks of everyday practice. Children love to do things that others are doing – arrange play dates with other young students apart from the violin to foster friendships which will strengthen the group class camaraderie.
Below are some additional ideas. Please let me know which of these ideas has motivated your child. Include additional ideas in the comments section for other families to try!
- Give him/her opportunity to crave a beautiful sound s/he heard another player create by leading the example of rejoicing in classmates’ performances.
- Give him/her a dream of joining a children’s orchestra by attending youth orchestra concerts.
- Give him/her a chance to realize that music can be fun by attending BSO family concerts or Plymouth Philharmonic family concerts.
- Listen to the Suzuki recording (to the point of saturation!) so new pieces come more easily.
- Purchase and listen to the next Suzuki Bk so they can have a vision for what comes next.
- Speak with excitement and anticipation about the things learned in a lesson as you leave the lesson room.
- Devote a practice session once a week toward only positive comments – asking questions and giving praise rather than instructing and correcting.