There are four twinkle variations in the Suzuki repertoire: Twinkle variations A, B, C, and D. However, my Suzuki instructor affectionately referred to them as “Mississippi Hot Dog”, “Run Pony, Jump Pony”, “Bounce, Roll, Bounce” and “Twinkle Theme.” I have chosen to continue using the fun names with my students.
Mississippi Hot Dog and Run Pony, Jump Pony are both songs designed to teach staccato technique as well as to strengthen the fingers by requiring the student to play repeated staccato notes in a row. Repetition is an important aspect of the Suzuki method.
Traditionally, “Bounce, Roll, Bounce” is taught as the third variation, but I have started teaching “Twinkle Theme” before “Bounce, Roll, Bounce”. My reasoning for this is because “Twinkle theme” teaches legato technique only, whereas “Bounce, Roll, Bounce” incorporates both legato and staccato techniques. Some students find it more achievable to play legato only before attempting to combine it with staccato.
In order to accomplish staccato and legato techniques, students are given fun visuals and demonstrations such as “plucking tissues from a box” (incorporating the wrist action) and “see-saws” (connecting notes/sounds by having the fingers “take turns” up and down in a back and forth rocking motion). Students are also taught the importance of playing with beautiful tone: “how we make the piano sing!”
After students can play all four twinkle variations with note accuracy as well as beautiful tone and technique, they are awarded their “Twinkle Certificate” the first big achievement, which is usually accompanied by a lollipop!
Note: I personally think we are never too old to have a little fun! But for older students who may find the twinkles too childish, I begin with scales and incorporate staccato/legato techniques before moving on to “Lightly Row.”