So, what is different about the Suzuki Method? The following components could be found in any method of teaching, but they are highlighted in the Suzuki Method, often being considered ‘a way of life’, rather than a checklist. Each component is explained below this list:
- building block instruction
- delayed note reading
- group learning
A music studio of any kind naturally emphasizes daily practice. Suzuki teachers are not only trained how to teach, but to teach their students how to practice.
building block instruction
Mastery of the skill at hand must be witnessed by the teacher before introducing the student to the next (more difficult) skill. Because each skill builds upon the last, progress is not necessarily measured by what piece a student can play, but it is often measured by how well their already-learned skills are demonstrated.
delayed note reading
When it comes to reading notes within the Suzuki Method, the goal is always to make sure the ear is still taking precedence. All depending on the instrument, and the age & ability of each student, note reading may be introduced almost immediately, or it may be delayed for several years. The parallel to language learning returns: no young child has ever learned to speak their native language by reading it; but only by listening to the same words and sentences, over and over.
When students are asked to play a piece for memory, and they are struggling, they will often say “I need the music”. Almost as often as they ask, once the music is placed on the stand, the student continues to make the same mistakes…over and over again. It’s because their ear has not fully internalized the music they’ve heard. No amount of note reading will help students fix these types of common mistakes. Increasing listening time, however, usually does the trick.
Group lessons are usually offered in the typical Suzuki studio. In addition to the obvious skill of learning how to play as a group, these lessons are designed to enrich the skills students have learned in their private lessons. Equally important are the values of community, learning from peers, leadership skills and respect for all ages and musical abilities.
The typical Suzuki student owns a music book and a cd, both correlating song-for-song. Students are highly encouraged to listen in advance to the song they will be learning next. Dr. Suzuki recommended listening to a song 100 times before ever attempting to play it. Additionally, teachers (and parents) encourage musical exposure in ways the students aren’t able to get in the studio – expanding their listening to other classical artists, attending symphonies, researching various composers, etc..
In the Suzuki Method, parents have a prominent roll in their child’s musical journey. In fact, they are one of the three parts that make up ‘the Suzuki triangle’ – student, parent & teacher. Parents form a ‘team’ with their child, practicing daily with them, and working with the teacher to guide the student to eventual independence and autonomy. In pursuit of developing the whole child, it is naturally essential that the student is immersed in a positive, loving environment, both in and outside of the studio.