by Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Brown - Montréal, Quebec
“Beautiful tone, beautiful heart” is one of Dr. Suzuki’s most iconic quotes. The very idea of a resonant and ringing tone is a staple of every Suzuki lesson, but how to we continue to develop this beautiful sound in the time between our final bow and the next week’s meeting?
TALK ABOUT IT!
Choose a time when you are both relaxed and away from your violins to listen together (the car is a great place to start)
Listen to a favourite recording (this could even be one of your Suzuki pieces) Use the talking points below to start a discussion with your son or daughter, keeping in mind that there are no correct answers.
Don’t be afraid to repeat this exercise as your child grows and matures. It’s a joy to see their ears develop, and such discussions can be a good way to build bridges as you discover each other’s ideas.
Through totalization, we focus on the idea of producing a beautiful sound. Before playing, take a few seconds with your child to imagine the sound first. Use the words from your discussion to help cue their memories. Remember: forming sound comes from the inside out and not the other way around. Once you have established an idea of sound, play the exercise all the way through and invite your child to self-assess: did it sound like the tone you imagined? How would you change it? Remember to keep these discussions positive and collaborative in your approach – even if one harsh or judgmental word can cause a child to shy away.
Our review repertoire gives us access to a library of beautiful music that is mastered and played with ease. When we are not worried about surmounting new technical challenges, we are better able to listen, hear, self-assess and make positive changes in our daily pursuit of a beautiful tone.
Working pieces present new challenges that require concentration, but the idea of a beautiful sound should never be far from our minds as parents and teachers. While being attentive to the idea of “flooding,” we must continue to look for opportunities to encourage the beautiful sound. For example, as each preview section has become comfortable, we can propose the added challenge of playing the passage with a beautiful tone.
To all musicians, even to the youngest violinist, tone is closely related to our identity as people. Working on tone therefore requires sensitivity on the part of the participating adult(s) in the room. Through discussion, active listening and self-assessment and constant, gentle encouragement, we can cultivate a beautiful tone the whole week long.