The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah

Practice @Three-Quarters Speed

Posted in learning hebrew, soulfish by Juliet on March 21, 2010

Knowledge, plus ten thousand times, is skill – Dr Shinichi Suzuki

Our seven year old daughter, Eva, has been taking violin lessons from Suzuki instructor Sandiwa del Rosario for almost a year. One of the ways Teacher Sandi has her practice is by playing along with a CD. Even though the CD has been slowed to three-quarters speed, Eva looks like Gilligan after he gets hit on the head with a coconut and runs around on fast-forward.

It’s just too damn fast.

Even three-quarters speed is too damn fast.

I feel that way when I try to read along from my prayerbook pages with a CD that Temple Adat Shalom’s Cantor Lori Frank made for our class. You can tell Cantor Frank is speaking extra slowly and clearly. She is carefully enunciating every word.

And it’s still too damn fast.

So I try reading only the first three words of each sentence.

When that’s too damn fast, I try to read the first word of each sentence. (Often in prayers it’s “Baruch,” or “Blessed,” which I know by sight now so that speeds things up nicely.)

I don’t want to just listen because I want to learn to read without inadvertently memorizing the prayers. It’s harder this way, but once I can read, I can read anything.

When Eva gets frustrated, I tell her to just play the rhythm of the piece on the A string, rather than trying to move her fingers to hit the actual notes. If she still gets frustrated, I tell her that while progress may feel imperceptible, she’s way ahead of where she was when she began.

“But I’m still on the three quarters speed CD,” she complains.

And it’s true; when we play the regular speed version, it sounds like a Chipmunks album.

That’s when I remind her of Dr Suzuki’s philosophy about practice.  In a nutshell, you have to do it.  A lot.  Malcolm Gladwell presented this brilliantly in his 2009 book Outliers, The Story of Success.  This old truism ain’t just a vaudeville gag.

“How do you get to the bimah at Temple Adat Shalom in December?”

Practice, practice, practice.


2 Responses

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  1. Sara said, on March 25, 2010 at 3:06 AM

    Just found your blog through SITS. I think it’s fabulous you’re going through Bat Mitzvah and also blogging about it. It brings back memories of my own bat mitzvah eons ago. Then I come across this post – and wow, how similar we are. My daughter is 7 and plays violin too. We’re a Suzuki family too! Although my daughter has been playing for almost 6 years. I spent 4 years in Book 1. We’re in Book 4 now, so I know the frustration.

    We’ve got a lot in common. I’m always amazed at how small the world can be thanks to technology.

    Anyway, just wanted to say hello. I didn’t see RSS on your blog so I’ll follow you on Twitter to catch your updates.

    Todah Rabah.

    • Francesco said, on September 2, 2013 at 3:02 AM

      Oh no poor you Jacqui. Should have gone to Specsavers and got 2 pairs, lol! I still have my last pair as a spare just in case of such emergencies. Hope you get them fixed soon. Marianne x

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