Monday, September 24, 2007

All Strings Night

It has been a long week... Last tuesday was Delta's third lesson... and we hadn't really practiced. It went ok (I told Miss A before we started that we hadn't practiced.) Delta was not fully attentive, and was eager to leave by the end of the lesson.... apparently that is common among young children when they hadn't practiced.... they know they didn't practice and are edgy about doing stuff they know they aren't doing as well as they would have.

Anyway, Delta is working on the same stuff - the main thing is placing the box violin into playing position. It is probably one of the more important things to practice, and of course it is the one thing we practice that he doesn't really want to practice. I can understand his feelings on it though - it does feel awkward.... and he is having to do it with a box!

On Thursday there was an All-Strings night for the suzuki program. All the returning string instruments would be playing their songs.... and the beginning students could come and watch. Miss A wanted to properly size all her students for their violins (as there would be a selection of the sizes there). Of course it was a night that my husband worked. I had planned for him to drop us off there (it started before his job), and then we would take the bus home. But then I had to take Charlie (my step-daughter) to the doctor because she wasn't feeling well.... so we didn't get home in time for that to work out - so we took my husband to work, then drove to the strings night. By the time we found parking and everything, we were about an hour late - and they were half-way through the last song. And guess what - the last song was "Twinkle Twinkle". Delta loved it though. I felt so frustrated I wanted to cry! Anyway, we went up to get sized.... and it ended up being worth it because Delta got to take his size of instrument home for his. We will be renting it. They only had 1 of each size there that night, so he was fortunate to get it.... and they only have a few at all to rent in his size anyway. He is in a 1/16th violin, which is the smallest they use here. (I have heard of a 1/32nd violin, the only smaller one, and they are pretty rare and not used much... and apparently it is not much smaller anyway.) It is SO TINY!

Delta was so excited about getting his violin, that he wouldn't let anyone carry it back to the car. He carried it very carefully (in it's case) all the way back. Before we left, I made sure that Miss A explained (as did I) that he still needs to use a box violin until he can show her that he is ready for the real one.

Practice has been going a bit better this week. I still didn't manage everyday with him (I gotta get the whole life routine worked out!) - but did manage about 3 or 4 times. He is upset that we aren't using his violin though. One practice I did use it for the "Name the parts" game. But I think that will be a bit of a treat though. Tonight when it was time to practice, he didn't want to, so I started practicing with Beta (his little sister...) - and zoom - he was right over and co-operating. Mind you, when I had to put her in a time-out a few minutes later for hitting him (she didn't want him to have a turn!), I have to wonder if maybe it isn't that great an idea.... Also, I lost the little footboard I made for her. He didn't want to practice putting the box violin in playing position, so we only managed to do it once - but I think it was a bit better. He is good at singing "Twinkle", generally aces naming the parts, is not too bad with his feet (oh - I think we forgot to practice the bow tonight.... oops!) and is overall still interested. But his favourite practice activity (and always has been) is singing the "A" to the note played on the violin or on the computer. The really neat thing is that he is actually getting the pitch pretty much right now! I'm impressed - as it shows that he understands what the purpose is, and can hear the pitch, and match it with his voice! I think that is amazing for a boy that isn't even 4 yet!

Oh, at the lesson I also learned how to hold the bow. Delta isn't ready for that yet. I suspect he will have a box violin for a LONG time!

We will see how lesson 4 goes tomorrow. Hopefully our practice has helped, and he will be attentive tomorrow. Also - Saturday is our first group lesson. That should be quite the interesting experience I should think! Not sure how big the beginning group is (but I think I heard 25 at some point?) - but I'm just picturing 25 little 3-5ish year olds with their little foot charts and box violins.... with no-one but the group teacher knowing what is going on and what to do. I'm sure that later weeks will be a lot easier, as the routine will be there - but I'm sure this Saturday will be interesting!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

2nd Lesson

Well, the second lesson went well. It was obvious that we had been practicing! Delta was able to name all the violin parts, and was actually pretty close to being on pitch when singing his "A"... He is good with his feet positions too.

Now we learned how to put the violin into playing position.... that isn't easy! Unfortunately, as "daddy" has been home from work this week, we haven't been practicing this week!

With me, we went over a way to hold the violin slightly differently in the resting position, so that when I put it in playing position, it is quicker to be ready to play. It is a bit awkward... But Miss A had been impressed with how relaxed my hand was. She also put finger tapes on my violin, and I am to practice putting my fingers on them as if playing. Although this hasn't been a part of the lessons - I'm able to "peck out" Twinkle Twinkle.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

More Practice

Well, Delta has been mostly happy to practice.... we have managed at least once a day.... occasionally twice. He is getting most of the parts of the violin right - is confused about the "tailpiece". I'm going to have to make a footboard for Echo though, as she keeps trying to go on Delta's - getting in the way! She wants to play the game too! Delta's favourited game in practice is singing the "A" note.... LOL. He seems to not like doing the bow at the end at all.

Yesterday we went to the local music store (all strings store) because I needed to get a new chin piece.... man stuff is expensive! We bought Delta his suzuki violin book 1. I haven't bought the CD yet (it is expensive), but I have a recording of Twinkle Twinkle variations, so should be ok for a bit... Apparently the chin rest on my rental violin was broken! Oh well.... For us to find something that was comfortable, I had to buy a sholder rest too. The sponge just wasn't working. I think we found a combo that will work, amoung the cheeper options.... so that is good! Of course, now I'm just going to end up having to buy a violin for myself... LOL.... but then one I buy would have a chin rest! ARGH. I also bought Rosin for the bow - so now we are set for a little longer...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

First practice at home

Yesterday was our first day to practice. It went well, we practiced twice, and Delta was eager each time. He is learning the names of the violin parts. Oh, and I forgot to mention. Miss A liked my box violin! She liked the picture on it, so that she could play the violin parts game with the box violin instead of one of the real ones.

Finally - the First lesson!

2 days ago, it was finally the first lesson. Delta was so excited, as he had been eagerly waiting for them and asking each day. (3 year olds have little sense of time!)

Our individual lesson isn't too close, but it could be worse. We have a newer teacher, but she grew up in the program, and is certified. I think she got a lot of the new students, as the more experienced teachers are pretty busy already with returning students.

Oh - did I mention that a part of the program is that I have to learn to play too at this stage? I am renting an instrument from the suzuki program right now, so it was waiting there at our teacher's place.

The teacher started with Delta. She got out a piece of cardboard, which is his foot-board. She showed him 3 different foot positions, and drew around his feet. ("Resting Feet", "Smiling Feet", and "Playing Feet".) Delta had the biggest smile on his face! We have to practice going to the different feet positions at home. He will also take his footboard with him to group lessons when they start next month.

Next, Miss A (our teacher) played the "A" string on her violin, and sang "A". With a few tries, Delta sang "A" too. Not at the right pitch - but the main thing is that he sang it. Then we played a game. Miss A would sing "Where is the chin rest" (and she pointed to it, as this is new...) and Delta and I sang back "There is the chin rest" pointing to it. She went over various parts.... that is another thing for us to practice.

Then she had Delta practice his feet positions again, then we handed him the box violin, and she showed him "Resting position", and taught him that he must always use 2 hands with the violin. I think that will take a LOT of practice!

Then he learned how to BOW, and his part was done!

Then it was my portion of the lesson... I went over the feet position quickly, and then learned how to move the violin from resting position into playing position. Boy is playing position uncomfortable! I will have to look for a different chin rest!

That was it for the day!


Our first lesson was coming up fast, and I had preparations to do! 3-5 year olds (or so) in the suzuki program start with a "Box Violin". This is so they can learn to be gentle, how to hold the violin and work with them without anyone having to worry that they will break them. He will probably be with a Box Violin for about a month or so.

My instructions were basically to take a small box (granola box for example) and stuff with paper. you stick a ruler or paint stick in it, tape it all up, cover it with paper and decorate it. Well, the way I am, I wanted the best box-violin I could make with my skills. I would have liked to glue several layers of cardboard together, and then cut it into the right shape - but I doubted my abilities to do that one! But I spent a bunch of time researching how big his violin will be, so I could find the best box in the house! Would you believe that it was almost impossible to find the depth of the violin on the internet! (which I figured was the most important measurement....) I finally found it - (don't remember off hand....) - and found a box that was pretty close to all 3 measurements..... It was a Robin-Hood mix box.... I think for angel food cake. Well, as we have had that mix for 7 years (we no longer have the right type of pan) - I just dumped the mix and used the box.

I got a couple of free paint sticks from Rona, and also checked in their cutting area.... and they had a perfect sized dowel (Delta's fore-arm length) in their scrap that I got for free to make the bow. I pasted and taped 2 paint sticks together to make it a bit thicker for the violin neck. I also pasted an eraser onto the dowel for the "Frog" of the bow.

I finished up the box violin by printing a picture of the body of a violin that I found on the internet. (I printed it with the print dimensions to fit the box perfectly!)

I am pleased with his little box violin.

[Note made much later - the bow should have been longer - I think more like the length of his whole arm, not just the forearm.]


After doing some research, it appeared that there is only one place to get true Suzuki lessons here. There was another place that sounded like they did - but then it was suzuki-like lessons. The place we are going to has the true suzuki program, with certified teachers.

I just like the suzuki philosophy. The combination of individual lessons and group classes. Learning the instrument through games, and learning to play the instrument before learning to read the music. (like you learn to talk before you learn to read!)

I also checked, and they have a bursary program. Although it is rarer for a brand new student to get the bursary - I applied, as we are really going to need it!

about a month later I got notification - we got the full bursary - so about half of our tuition is being paid. Hurray!

Why am I doing this?

First thing I had to ask myself was "Why am I doing this?" Well, honestly, I had always wanted my children to take music lessons, and as my sister took suzuki violin years ago, I was familiar with the program.

But if I had any doubt, it definately went away! Delta (my son) has always loved music.... and seemed to pick up the names of instruments quickly. He also seems to love violins. A couple of months ago, I went to a music store with him to look for some music. We walked in a bit (past a bunch of instruments) and he saw a violin. He saw it and said "My Violin!". I told him that it wasn't, and he said "My present violin???" I started doing more research that very day. (I hadn't mentioned anything about violin lessons at that point.)

For days, he kept asking me where his violin is.