studio korte

suzuki method

The Suzuki method aims to create an environment for learning music
which parallels the linguistic environment of acquiring a native language.

introduction

The Suzuki Method, also known as Talent Education or the Mother-Tongue Approach, is a comprehensive approach to early childhood music education developed in the mid-20th century by violinist, educator and philosopher Dr. Shinichi Suzuki. 

Its purpose is to nurture artistry and character through music lessons. Its central pillars, which differentiate it from other popular methods, are: parent involvement, early beginning, listening, repetition, encouragement, learning with other children, graded repertoire, and delayed reading. 

Read on to learn more.

background

Dr. Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998) was born in Nagoya, Japan to the owner of a large violin factory but did not take up study of the instrument until well into his teens. He took no formal lessons for years, learning rather by imitating recordings of European masters until in his mid-twenties he traveled to Germany to seek instruction. There he immersed himself in the music scene, befriended Albert Einstein by way of a family connection, and persuaded the concert violinist Karl Klinger to take him on as his only student.

As he learned not only the violin but the German and English languages, a question absorbed him: how does almost every child learn its mother tongue without formal instruction? and could a child learn to play an instrument in the same way? He found his answer when he returned to Japan and began to teach small children.

the method

Dr. Suzuki examined the foundations of early language learning and applied them to music lessons: repetition, encouragement, early beginning (as early as two years old), and regular music listening are some of those he extolled in his writings. These are bound by the common thread of parental involvement. Just as language learning happens primarily in the home—the child first listens to its family’s speech until it is ready for patient instruction—a child’s musical upbringing depends on its environment and hence its parents. It is recommended that parents begin playing recordings of the Suzuki repertoire daily for the student at least six weeks before the first lesson; the earlier a child is exposed to this and other music the faster they will develop their musical ability when they begin to practice. (This and other facets of parental involvement are described in detail below under “Parent Involvement.”)

Students are also encouraged to learn their pieces by ear rather than from the score. Suzuki observed that all children learn to comprehend and speak language long before they are competent readers. He adduced this as evidence that the contemporary practice of holding off on starting a child’s lessons until around age seven—when a child is typically ready to learn to read music—was misguided. Hence arose the maxim “ear before eye:” Suzuki discovered that starting a student off early, by ear, makes all the difference to their eventual powers of memorization, pitch, and reading.

Suzuki’s violin students were often regarded as prodigies, but he insisted that a high level of music ability could be nurtured in any child: he often repeated that “Man is a product of his environment.” By the end of his life his method had expanded beyond Japan and beyond the violin, and today Suzuki lessons from certified teachers are available all over the world on over a dozen instruments.

the suzuki philosophy

Dr. Suzuki’s pedagogical approach is inseparable from his philosophy of life. By all accounts he exemplified love, kindness, humility and discipline, and he wrote often that in teaching he hoped to instill these values in younger generations by setting a good example.

His writings echo the teachings of legendary moralists like Jesus, the Buddha and Krishnamurti. He stated explicitly that the goal of music lessons should not be to produce a prodigy or professional but to nurture an exemplary person, and that high artistry always springs from the noblest spirits.

Modern Suzuki teachers are sworn to uphold Suzuki’s admirable example as best they can. The basic purpose of lessons and studying an instrument also remains the same: to instil discipline through daily practice, to teach humility and kindness by example, and to nurture character and musical ability through love.

the repertoire

All Suzuki students learn a set of graded repertoire shared with their peers. This repertoire was carefully chosen to present technical challenges in a logical sequence without sacrificing interest or quality. Students begin with popular folk songs like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” and soon move on to simple compositions by composers like Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. All students are required to memorize their music; by their third or fourth year of study, most have dozens of performance-ready pieces memorized.

All Suzuki piano students learn the same pieces in the same order. Advanced students glean satisfaction from helping new students with familiar repertoire, and new students are inspired and given something to look forward to by advanced students’ performances.

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group lessons

Regular group lessons provide opportunities for students to socialize and perform informally for one another, and for the teacher to cover ancillary material (music theory, for example).

parent involvement

Parent involvement is the crux of the Suzuki Method. The teacher sets the agenda, but they only see the student once or twice a week: practice and improvement happen at home. Suzuki teachers work closely with parents to ensure their home is a musical environment and that they are equipped to help their child learn. The teacher provides exercises, games, and other activities for the student to practice, and instructs parents in the basics of technique and pedagogy. Suzuki lessons entail a partnership between parent(s) and teacher designed to help each student fulfill their potential. The most successful Suzuki parents follow these guidelines:

Nurture

Make the home a nurturing environment. Absolutely no disparaging comments or other displays of negativity toward the child's piano practice should be tolerated. Praise should be given often and criticism should be couched in positive language. Musical competition should be discouraged, especially in the beginning; a child should never be made to feel that they are better or worse than another student. This means the parent should refrain from making comparisons, talking judgmentally about other students, or speculating about how successful a student will be in the future. In general all family members should be respectful and encouraging of the child's playing even if they are tired of hearing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for the eightieth time. Regular informal recitals where the child performs for the family are highly recommended.

Proactive

Be proactive and set a good example for the student. The most successful Suzuki parents are enthusiastic about music and often go out of their way to take their child to concerts, introduce them to new music, and so on. Few things inspire a young student more than seeing their parent practice an instrument, even if the parent is a beginner just like them.

Recitals

Attend group lessons and formal recitals. Group lessons and recitals are important components of the Suzuki Method and should not be skipped. Parents should also ensure that the student attends every private lesson, extenuating circumstances excepted.

Sit

Sit with the child while they practice. The parent should ensure that a child practices regularly ("practice only on the days you eat," goes the maxim) and preferably at the same time each day. This helps make practicing a habit. On a given day the parent may be as unenthusiastic about practicing as the student, but it is important that practicing becomes enshrined as something that is done daily. During practice, the parent should watch carefully and occasionally step in with advice according to the teacher's instructions. If the student is having a bad day and cannot focus on practice, it is better to end the session early than to force them to push through it.

Listen

Listen to the Suzuki repertoire every day. It is very important that the student hears these recordings countless times before and while they are learning the pieces. Both passive and active listening situations are desirable: students could listen in the car, during a snack or meal, during playtime, or before bed. Have the recordings become almost a part of the furniture; the more familiar a student is with them the better. Additionally the parent should show interest in and not annoyance for the music, since young children are drawn to the things their parents like.

Attend

Attend each lesson and take notes. While a child is young, the parent should accompany them to their lesson, sit quietly and take detailed notes for perusal during the week, and should not hesitate to ask for clarification from the teacher about a teaching point when necessary.

links and resources

for further research and learning

The suzuki association

Suzuki Association of the Americas homepage.

frequently asked questions

you're not the first to have questions!
Suzuki lessons are traditionally started when a child is between 2 and 6, but everyone is different: for some children, 2 or 3 may be too young, depending on their emotional development and attention span. Ideally, lessons are started before age 7 while the child’s mind is maximally receptive, but children of any age can improve and learn immeasurably provided they listen to the repertoire and practice. Older beginners (12+) may benefit from a hybrid approach that incorporates non-Suzuki repertoire they help select.
No. At the level of an absolute beginner, one style is basically indistinguishable from another; and for most very young children, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is as compelling as any other music they have been exposed to: one purpose of the Suzuki Method is to give children an excellent musical and technical base while they are still young enough to be enthralled by simple repertoire. After a couple years of study and once the repertoire has become more complex, the student may decide to branch out and experiment with different styles, and they will already be well equipped to do so with ease. No student is obliged to complete all 7 of the Suzuki Piano books.

Yes. Where in the Suzuki repertoire we would start would depend on their ability when they first come to me. I evaluate each student on a case by case basis and adjust the curriculum to suit them.

All artists of all mediums learn through imitation. Original ideas do not spring from nothing but are unique amalgams of other artists’ ideas. Suzuki lessons nurture students’ creativity by honing their aural perceptions from an early age, preparing them to listen to music deeply and critically and to appreciate the subtleties of others’ performances. Even the most iconoclastic thinkers start out as imitators.
Suzuki teachers are fond of the maxim “practice only on the days you eat.” In general students will see the most improvement if they practice every day with at most one day a week off. It is obvious that, on occasion, circumstances inevitably arise that may preclude practicing for a day, two days, or a week at a time. How long a student should practice depends on their age and attention span. Very young students should be expected to practice for 15-30 minutes. If they want to practice more than that, great; but they should not be forced to. Older students should be expected to practice anywhere from 1-4 hours per day depending on how much time they must allot to other activities and whether they enjoy practicing. Exemplary artistry is developed only through copious practice, but it is not advised to force a student to practice for hours on end if they do not want to. Set a reasonable minimum and go from there. Finally, practice for any musician is best broken up into half hour or even fifteen minute chunks with short breaks between to avoid physical and mental fatigue.
Some parents may opt to buy the whole set of books and recordings at the outset. I would buy at least Book 1 and its accompanying recordings; from there, additional books and recordings can be purchased when necessary. The books and recordings can be found on the official Suzuki website as well as Amazon and other online retailers. If buying these materials constitutes a financial hardship, contact me and we can discuss it privately.

or, if you like, just leave me an email or number and i'll get back to you as soon as i can.