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Grandma's Kite
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Suzuki Info
Kids' Activities
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The Back Room

by Karen Zethmayr

A gallery of kid-made violins

and what we do with them
Anything goes for building materials as long as it's not too heavy, and the thickness and length match the child's real violin.
box violins

Try a styrofoam tray with a plastic paperclip for a bridge and a chin-rest marked out in felt pen. Pluck the rubber-band with either hand to develop finger independence.

Or how about one of those ubiquitous cyberfrisbee packages? A rolled piece of junk mail serves as a bridge. If the box is flimsy, tape it shut and stuff it with paper.

box violins

Here's the same assortment, bottom view. The styrofoam tray, being concave, needed a thick sponge for a shoulder pad.

The shoulder pad for the cyberfrizbee box is a "tire cleaner" sponge with a nice concave edge to fit the shoulder.

Hannah's violin box violin

Now we get fancy. If you enjoy art projects, go ahead and make it fancy as Hannah and her dad did. Doing this kind of project helps you notice different parts of the instrument.

Such elaborate creations are not required, but they can be fun for the child so inclined.

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We use box violins often during the lessons in which the parent learns to play the Twinkle Variations, but we continue to use them after the child has begun to use the real one. We use the box violins (way less delicate!) to practice movement and freedom of movement. (How many things can Nina (right) do freely without dropping that violin? Stories, drama, and rhythm games are essential and fun components of this phase.

child holding box violin with head and shoulders
Nina – no hands

• Suzuki teachers invent many games to build both rest position and playing position. Both are important in stage etiquette and in coordinating a large group of small beginners. The more times one gets in and out of those two positions correctly, the more easily the body falls into movement patterns that allow the child to play in reasonable comfort, and become one with the instrument. Too often we waste precious practice time just learning the notes, and we lose all but the first three minutes to bad habits and frustration.

• To reinforce good left hand movement, one story we use is the Three Billy Goats Gruff. The left hand, stationed at the shoulder of the violin, makes tapping sounds as each goat crosses the bridge. Use different rhythms as sound effects for this part of the story. The right hand plays the role of the troll. (Left hand - right hand independence is sometimes an issue for little ones, and the game helps.)

• You can attach things that make a little joyful noise. Children in a group session who are listening to others play a piece they have not yet learned can add rhythm in key places using the box violins. At home, explore the soundmaking possibilities of everyday objects. Below is a great add-on; a classroom chime.

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box violin used as base for classroom bell

practice bow for violin


Attach the chime to the box with a rubberband. The "frog" on the mallet is an eraser. Hold the box violin in the usual way (the blue foam is the chin-rest on this one.) Head and shoulders hold the violin for amazing hands free operation.

Hold the mallet as you hold the bow. Practice rotating the wrist without losing the correct bow grip. At first the chime may sound thuddy when you play it, but as you loosen the wrist and let the mallet bounce off the chime, the sound improves. This is the same lightness of touch you need for bowing. (See pencil exercises for bow hold)


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If you would like to receive notification as new Suzuki resources are added to this site, you can send an email to Your email will not be sold, shared, traded, or used for any other purpose than that which you requested. As it turns out, I have been adding a topic in a parent letter about once a month for my own Suzuki families.

Other Suzuki resources on Grandma's Kite:

Videos for beginning (and lasting) technique
~ ~ ~ ~ (and some fun violin sound effects)
Pencil exercises, set one
for bow hold
Pencil exercises, set two for bow hold
One Little Elephant (left finger strength and flexibility)
Left hand number card "pick up" game
"Home built" violins and ways to use them in group sessions
Reading readiness game "Who Ran Away?"

Reading readiness game "Rhythm Flash "
"Reading Readiness in Music

Supplementary Music and Midis

Twinkle Rag – a twinkle variation with a new twist on half of the rhythm in Variations A and D. Same four sixteenth notes in a ragtime setting

Daisy Daisy uses a three four twist on "Mississippi without the hot dog." The whole accompaniment is open D and G. The song and bass line can be played as a violin / 'cello duet or on the piano.

For more information on the Monroe Street Fine Arts Center Suzuki program, see Monroe Street Fine Arts Center, or email

For more information on Middleton School of Performing Arts, see or email


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