Why the Suzuki Method?
In addition to learning a new instrument, many parents desire for their children to learn skills such as: focus, problem-solving skills, poise & stage presence, memorization skills, confidence, discipline and collaborative skills, to name a few. For this reason, they will often seek out a Suzuki teacher for their child’s music education.
Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, born in 1898, was a violinist, educator, philosopher and humanitarian. He believed that every child is born with unlimited potential, especially in regard to ability development. His primary goal was to nurture fine human beings with a noble spirit, and he chose the violin as the instrument of this transformation.
What is the Suzuki Method?
There are three main components to the Suzuki Method that set it apart from traditional teaching methods – the philosophy, the curriculum and the teaching techniques employed by Suzuki teachers.
The philosophy of the Suzuki Method is based upon three primary beliefs:
1. Every child can learn to play music to a very high level.
2. The environment a child is immersed in determines their musical success (rather than genetic make up).
3. The whole child should be taught. The ability to create beautiful music springs from a noble heart; therefore, a child’s character must be fostered, and is a necessary component of learning music.
The Suzuki curriculum consists of 10 books with a carefully considered selection of etudes (exercises to improve technique) disguised as repertoire. Each song has a specific technique that it is either introducing or reinforcing. These techniques, along with ear training and musicality, are the focus of each lesson.
Parents are involved in their child’s musical journey. They attend lessons with their child and serve as the “home teacher” during the week. In the case of very young children, parents will often take a few lessons themselves – before starting their child – so they can better understand what is expected of them and how to help them. Parents work with the teacher to create a favorable learning environment.
Although many older children, teens and adults have successfully learned to play music using the Suzuki Method, the method was designed with young children in mind. By about 8 years of age, the brain is mostly hardwired. An infant brain is “hungry” to make new connections, which is why infants and toddlers grow and learn so fast. Children should begin listening to music at birth (if not before). Formal music training may begin as early as age 3, and a general music class is an excellent option for babies and toddlers.
With each Suzuki book comes a cd that contains an audio recording of each song in that book. Students listen to this music every day as part of their daily practice. Like learning a language, the more a student listens the faster they learn the songs on their instrument.
Delayed Note Reading
Children learn to read years after they’ve uttered their first word. In the same way, children should have mastered the basic skills and techniques on their instrument before learning to read music.
Each piece in the Suzuki books teaches and/or reinforces a particular technique. The pieces present technical “problems” to be learned in the context of the music, rather than through dry technical exercises.
Review / Repetition
Repetition is essential in learning an instrument, especially because most of the skills needed to play an instrument depend entirely on muscle memory. Instead of discarding learned pieces, students continue to play them, reinforcing, strengthening and refining previously-learned skills and techniques. Each song is like a new word that is added to a student’s “vocabulary”, or repertoire.
In addition to weekly private lessons, students also attend a weekly group lesson. In group, students reinforce the skills and techniques learned in private lesson. They discover a fun purpose for their review pieces, learn ensemble playing and enjoy the natural motivation that comes from playing with peers and being part of a community.
Accomplishment is the result of consistent praise and encouragement. A big part of babies’ motivation to speak comes from loving parents who sincerely make a big deal out of their child’s first words. The baby’s efforts are met with genuine enthusiasm and encouragement, yet with no expectation, which frees the child to enjoy speaking, and to learn at their own pace. As in language, each child learns their instrument at their own pace. The adults in their environment (including their music teacher) trust that the child will play beautifully at some point in time, but there is no concrete expectation as to when that ‘should’ happen. Emphasis is put on the given day and week, and each new skill and technique is broken down into the smallest achievable step for the student, ensuring their success. When the success is visible, parents and teachers implement constructive praise, encouragement and enthusiasm, and the child – in turn – is motivated to learn a new and more difficult skill in the near future.