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  • eleanor tagart

A Word on Notebooks from Helen

Hi Everyone, welcome to, what I hope, will become a great place for people to share ideas and information on all things music and Suzuki. I've only just discovered the blog feature to my website so this is brand new and fresh out the box, but I'm hoping that it will become something regular that can be enjoyed over a cup or glass of whatever makes you happy, and even a biscuit or two...

It's a brand new term and a brand new year; we're still in the throes of the Covid 19 pandemic and I'm pretty sure that it's not over yet, but let's enjoy the freedom to have face to face lessons while we can.

Today I'm going to pinch an essay from Helen Twomey, a very fine violin teacher piano Suzuki mum, and truly excellent friend, which she wrote regarding notebooks and note-taking in lessons.

May I present to you...My Suzuki-mum notebooks. I've decided (eventually) to go with one per child, I know other parents may find it easier to have one notebook per family. As a Suzuki parent myself (non-piano specialist), I have been taking notes and bringing the music to the lesson since starting a few thousand hours ago* (*Or so it seems).

They're a mess. Sometimes I write the wrong child's information in the wrong book, sometimes there's so much information I neglect to finish the sentence. Some of the time, it's full sentences as there are two parents doing the practice, the other parent needs to know what I'm on about! Sometimes it's just a list. They're really for my benefit, my teacher won't see it (until now) and it means when my teacher says something, it's put into the notebook to be practised.

(Here's a random page. I've deliberately picked a piece which we're NOT working on as to do so will only encourage one-upmanship. That is very un-Suzuki.)

When the teacher says something, I jot it down in my book, I also have the music to hand so I can annotate the score. The "pink tape" is for MY reference when we're practicing. It doesn't have to be pink tape, it can be a circle. Fingering is discussed, articulation and how to play certain passages. We work in partnership, my teacher is the specialist and she's the one teaching me. It's great for when the teacher works on a certain bar, to write down the bar number in your book. How it's broken down step-by-step to work on, how to integrate that section back into the piece. WHAT to work on, which finger is messing up the scale?

[As a teacher] what I see a lot of is people wanting to commit what I've said to memory and things that I've said are not really being practised effectively. If I see that fingering still not observed, bowing markings still not observed, tricky passages not really effectively practised, I will go over things again.

Ask questions, write down in your book. Get the older children to be more proactive and bring a pencil and a decent rubber so they can mark it also in their score. Never use a pen as this cannot be rubbed out of a score. Keep it in the violin case. When I've recapped the lesson, the "Takeaway" you may have heard me that list in your book? (I'm also great at doodling, too.)

Have you listened to your recordings this week? The pieces you're working on - and the pieces you're going to work on? [So now it's time to] rush to The Works (or Tesco) where they'll have some cute notebooks...and to find said recordings. Don't just listen to them in the car on the way here - can you find other imaginative ways to put listening in during the day.

Happy Practising

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