What is the Suzuki Method?
Dr. Shinichi Suzuki based his method on the seemingly simple, yet deceptively profound observation – all Japanese children learn to speak Japanese fluently. When delving into this further, he came up with the following principles, which became the foundation for the Suzuki Method:
- Children are born without knowing how to speak.
- They learn to speak fluently because they are surrounded by language. They hear their parents, siblings and neighbors speaking Japanese, and so they learn.
- They primarily learn to speak by listening and practicing.
- Their vocabulary increases as they mature.
- Their ability to speak exceeds their ability to read (at least initially). Over time, the reading level catches up to their speaking level.
How does this translate to the violin?
- The parents are an integral part of the learning process.
- Children learn by listening.
- Children learn to play before they read music, just as children learn to speak before they read.
- Group lessons are required in addition to private lessons, as children learn from their peers.
Why are group lessons important?
Students learn from one another and are motivated to work harder when they see more advanced peers and older students. In addition, group lessons provide kids the opportunity to play together from the very beginning. Even before they can play their first piece, they learn to be part of an ensemble and to listen. As the kids advance, group lessons offer a fun way to review old repertoire, practice new skills and play as part of a group.
What is the role of the parent in the Suzuki Method?
The parent is an important part of the learning process! Parents attend all lessons, take notes during the lesson and are the practice partner at home. They also help the child stay motivated and listen to the music they are learning.
Dr. Suzuki required that all parents learn to play alongside their child. I don’t require it, but I do think it can be helpful for the child and parent to learn together. Please ask me if you are interested in learning alongside your student.
I’ve heard Suzuki students don’t learn to read. Is this true?
No! The Suzuki Method has ‘delayed reading,’ meaning music reading is introduced after students are able to hold the violin and play proficiently. Think about the language learning analogy – do kids learn to speak and read at the same time? It takes a lot of time for children to assign meaning to words and learn to control the muscles in order to speak clearly. Learning violin is similar. It takes a lot of hard work to master the bow hold, violin placement and to begin playing. Learning to read music makes much more sense after students have established a solid technical foundation and understanding of the violin.
Another advantage of delayed reading is ear training. Kids start by learning everything by ear, which develops listening, musicality and a ‘good ear'.
Why do you teach the Suzuki Method?
Dr. Suzuki’s method and approach to teaching makes a lot of sense to me. I love Dr. Suzuki’s belief that everyone has the ability to play, and share his goal of developing beautiful people through music.
In addition, I agree that parents’ support is required for young students to learn well. I also agree that it is important to develop solid technique from the very beginning, and that all technique should be taught in order to increase musicality.
Lastly, I think group class is a great advantage of the method. Generally, children have to wait until they are towards the end of Book 2 before playing in an orchestra. With the Suzuki method, they are playing in a group before they "Twinkle" (Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is the first piece they learn).
Where can I learn more about the Suzuki Method?
There are some great books. Two of my favorites are Nurtured by Love by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki and The Suzuki Violinist by William Starr. The Suzuki Association of the Americas is also a great resource, and has both an overview of the method and a discussion forum for parents with questions.
Do you teach grown-ups?
Yes! I greatly enjoy teaching adult students. For many of my students, playing violin is a lifelong dream that they’ve only now had the means to accomplish. For others, it is a new found interest, which brings them immense joy in the midst of an otherwise full life. In either case, it is a joy for me to start them on their journey with the violin.