Two weeks ago, I decided I had had enough.
Picture a horse hitched to a stagecoach. The horse's agenda is to go as fast as possible. Never mind the safety of the passengers, the integrity of the coach itself, the driving conditions, the possible turns in the road. Then there's a driver. Her sole purpose is hauling on the reins. That's all she does, just pull back on the reins, with varying levels of frustration and patience, frustration and patience, yank yank yank. Occasionally the driver brings the horse to a halt, climbs down off the coach, and has a heart to heart talk with the horse. She explains all the logical reasons why this breakneck pace is not healthy or conducive to personal growth. During this conversation, the horse nods its head sagely, meanwhile tapping its hoof distractedly. When the stage driver gets back up on the coach again, the horse takes off at the exact same speed as before. Yank, yank, yank.
Horse = Benny. Stage driver = me.
Benny is in book 5. He is playing the third movement of the Vivaldi concerto in G minor. He cannot play this song, he cannot successfully pass this song, by ripping through it at maximum speed again and again. Repetitions at this speed do nothing to help him execute the song. What he needs to do is to slow down to a speed where he can play it absolutely correctly and in tune, and do a thousand repetitions. A thousand? Really? Yes. Suzuki would say, a thousand, in a slow tempo. This trains your hand and brain to correctly do the physical act of playing the song. Then when you take it up to speed, your reflexes take over. If you play it fast, you do not learn to play it right. You learn to play it messy. This is a tough piece, the toughest so far. It's not one he can just talent his way through.
So I said to his teacher, I can't do this anymore, it's so frustrating, I'm in this adversarial situation with my child, it's bleeding into other parts of our day, and I can't do this with joy, I can't approach practice with happiness, when I know that I'm going to fight with him the whole time.
His teacher, bless her heart, told me to take a break, let him practice on his own. That was two weeks ago. So, Benny has been practicing on his own. He is trying. He really is. He has in his mind what mature, independent practicing sounds like. He calls it "self-responsible." If he makes a mistake, he stops, dramatically fixes it, and then goes on. There's a lot of checking intonation with open strings. However, I know that what he's actually doing is teaching himself to play it wrong, and then fix it. You don't learn to play correctly by playing incorrectly and then fixing it, because then when you get to your lesson or in a performance situation, and you can't fix your mistakes, you're just left with the mistakes. Plus you're training your hand to play the wrong note by doing it over and over, regardless of whether you're fixing it or not! Not very Suzuki.
So, here we are. Lesson is tomorrow. He's not being very Suzuki and neither am I. I honestly don't know what the solution is. We can use a metronome, but that involves me standing there enforcing the metronome, measure by measure. Me as enforcer is the dynamic I'm trying to get away from. On the one hand, I want him to learn to practice on his own! When I was nine, I was doing it. On the other hand, I think maybe he isn't capable of practicing on his own yet, and what I'm doing by "taking a break" is just making things worse and being selfish.
I am overthinking it. I am complicating matters. But I just can't get my head around it -- I need help! And may I just say that it doesn't help that Sadie is so easy to practice. Oh yes, the Sadie/teacher/me triangle is fully functional. And maybe that's part of the problem too!
More Suzuki posts: Suzuki violin.