Why Review?

Once upon a time I had a great article about the importance of review, and I can’t find it anywhere!! Instead, here are my top 5 reasons for reviewing those old favorite pieces.

  1. Performance – there is always something ready to play for houseguests, grandparents, school talent shows, etc. Students perform review pieces with ease and confidence. Musicians who regularly keep pieces at their fingertips feel ready for anything.
  2. New Skills – Reviewing old material can help us implement new technical and musical skills. Our brains can be devoted to the new idea while playing a piece we already know well. Once a piece is in review, we can further polish by adding more nuance like balance, shaping, tempo, and more.
  3. Previewing new material – almost everything we do in Suzuki Book 1 is getting us ready for Suzuki book 7 and beyond. For example, the pattern in Honeybee of D-E-F-D is repeated in so many pieces in our Suzuki repertoire that it becomes second nature to students. A swift scan of the books reveals the pattern in: Book 1: Christmas Day Secrets (Dutton), Allegro (Suzuki), Book 2: Arietta (Mozart), Book 3: Vivace, Op 36 #1 (Clementi), Allegro Op. 55 #1 (Kuhlau), Book 5: Old French Song (Tchaikowsky), Invention #1 (JS Bach), The Cuckoo (Daquin), Book 6: Rondo, K545 (Mozart), Nocturne (Grieg), Spanish Dance #5 (Granados), Book 7: Alla Turca, K330 (Mozart), Prelude & Fugue in D (Bach), Romanian Folk Dances (Bartok).
  4. Flow – In the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle*, the author discusses various “talent hotbeds” of training (like Brazilian soccer, Russian tennis, Julliard musicians, etc.). While these training centers certainly have programs and routines that cover various technical drills, another important aspect of training is allowing athletes (or musicians) to play the game (or piece) with little to no interruptions. In the “flow” of playing, students learn how to work through errors, retrieve important information, and experience joy and accomplishment. Flow is empowering! I’ve seen students who learn to “play through” their music apply it to other skills away from the instrument.
  5. Transcend Your Instrument & make music! – I love what cellist Yo-Yo Ma says about learning an instrument “One of the purposes of learning how to play an instrument really well is so that you can go beyond the instrument. Sure, you’re playing the bass, you’re playing the mandolin, you’re playing the cello. But you actually want to transcend that instrument so that you don’t hear instrument, but rather you’re hearing music.”  This sums up what many of us are looking for when we sign our children up for music lessons: helping children to express themselves, to have an emotional outlet to express a variety of personal emotions.

Reviewing is a great tool that helps us meet our goals of happy, healthy, expressive, joyful playing.

Happy practicing!

*P.S. If you are interested, I have a copy of this amazing book available for loan. Or maybe your library has it!


Focus on the Suzuki Method: Listening
Dr. Suzuki developed a method of teaching young children to play musical instruments he named “Talent Education.” He began with the belief that every child can learn. Four elements of this method separate it from traditional music instruction: listening to recordings, involving parents, delaying notereading, and reviewing.

As detailed in his book Nurtured by Love, Dr. Suzuki was asked to teach a young child to play violin. As he thought about how to approach teaching this complex instrument to a three-year old, he had an idea. Virtually every child can speak her native language because she is totally immersed in the language from before birth! Suzuki modeled his teaching method on the way each child learns to speak his mother tongue.

Listening is the way the students learn the musical language. At first, the student learns to repeat sounds heard from the instrument like imitating vocal sounds heard from a parent. Slowly, these sounds are put into longer phrases with musical nuance added, much like how a child slowly learns to speak in phrases, then full sentences.

How much listening to the assigned material should your child do each day? Suzuki piano experts vary widely in their suggestions for beginners (books 1 and 2). In the book Teaching Suzuki Piano: 10 Master Teachers’ Viewpoints, these 10 teachers recommended anywhere from one to six hours of daily listening.

For students in Book 3 and higher, the reasons for listening change. Notereading allows us to read notes and rhythms, but we still must listen to high quality recordings for tone, tempo, style, and musical quality. Students may also be asked to listen to several different recordings of the same musical work. This will facilitate their maturing as a musician, allowing students to pick preferred versions, and eventually learn to create their own interpretations.

When deciding how much listening to fit into your schedule, think about your child and answer the following questions:

  • Does my child easily remember his review pieces?
    • Does my child learn new pieces at a satisfying rate?
    • Is my child able to pick out notes on the piano of the songs he has heard on his own?

If the answer to any of the above questions is no, then you may want to consider increasing your daily listening. The amount of daily listening should increase until your child can play through his review pieces with relative ease and frequently goes to the piano to try out what he’s heard. Not only will progress through the repertoire increase, your child will begin playing more musically. “Listening is the heart of the Suzuki method. To attempt to teach this method while leaving out listening to the recordings ensures failure…If listening is deleted, you do not have the Suzuki method.” (Beverly T. Fest, from Teaching Suzuki Piano: 10 Master Teachers’ Viewpoints).

Ways to Increase Listening

Link listening to another regular event in your daily life: getting in the car, brushing teeth, bedtime rituals, homework time, etc.

Play the music while the child is sleeping

Create a playlist for your child, which includes his or her favorites and the Suzuki material. Put it on random…but the rule is no skips on the Suzuki songs.

October Listening Challenge: Power Listening Playlist!!

For another trip to the treasure box, make a playlist or CD with your child’s current piece 10 times in a row, followed by her next 2 pieces 10 times in a row. Pledge to listen to this playlist/CD at least one time a day for one week. Let me know where you are in this process. Do you notice any differences in playing? Is your child retaining more information about the piece? Do you notice any other improvements? Do you notice any drawbacks?