About Suzuki Method
Suzuki Method is an approach that uses music education to develop the character of the child. It was created by Dr Shinichi Suzuki and is based on his observations that “Musical ability is not an inborn talent but an ability which can be developed. Any child who is properly trained can develop musical ability just as all children develop the ability to speak their mother tongue. The potential of every child is unlimited.”
Suzuki Talent Education or Suzuki Method is based on a philosophy which embraces the total development of the child. Dr Suzuki’s guiding principle was “Character first, ability second”.
His philosophy on education, character development and the cultivation of ability in all children are explored thoroughly in his two best known books, ‘Nurtured by Love’ and ‘Ability Development From Age Zero’. The essence of this may be found in the following quotes from his many writings:
Inspired by the fact that children effortlessly learn to speak their native tongue, Dr Suzuki called his teaching method the Mother-Tongue Approach. Prompted and encouraged by parental love and the family environment, the child responds and develops intelligible speech – a most extraordinarily complex skill.
When a child learns to speak, the following factors are at work:
- Step-by-step mastery
- Parental Involvement
In the Suzuki approach each of these principles is used in the learning of an instrument but the mother-tongue approach has successfully been applied to other fields such as art, poetry and mathematics.
The Suzuki approach closely follows the parallel with language learning and recommends that musical training should also start from birth and that music should become an important part of the baby’s environment. When the infant’s environment includes fine music as well as the sounds of the mother-tongue, it is understandable that the child will develop the ability to speak and to play an instrument (with technical guidance) before being required to read in either language.
Formal lessons on piano, violin, viola, cello, flute, guitar or organ frequently begin as early as 3 years (earlier with voice). In addition, Suzuki Baby and Toddler (Early Childhood) music classes cater for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers with their parents.
The Suzuki Method has revitalized the teaching of instrumental music and is certainly not limited to the teaching of junior repertoire to young children. The repertoire is designed to thoroughly prepare students beyond the requirements of VCE and tertiary entrance. Advancing students can participate in a comprehensive range of masterclasses, workshops and performance opportunities with prominent Australian and International teachers. Suzuki students are well represented at the highest levels of performance and education and many are now trained Suzuki teachers and professional musicians.
Whilst the purpose of Suzuki is not to train professional musicians, many students have gone on to successful careers as soloists and orchestral musicians. Many more have grown up to have a love for music and treasured memories that will stay with them all their lives.
Much emphasis is placed on listening to recordings of the Suzuki repertoire as well as music in general. It has been proven that the more frequently the students listen to the recordings, the more easily they learn to play.
Children learn to speak by listening and imitating the spoken language they hear around them. In Suzuki teaching, much emphasis is placed on daily listening to recordings of the Suzuki repertoire, as well as music in general. The more frequently the students listen to the recordings, the more easily they learn to play.
Constant listening to music performed with beautiful tone provides children with a role model for their playing. In the lessons, the production of fine tone and sensitive playing is stressed from the beginning.
The Important Role of the Parent
In the Suzuki approach, learning takes place in an environment of cooperation between teacher, parent and child. The parents’ role is crucial to this process and involves:
- Attending each lesson with the student
- Taking notes, and practising with the student at home
- Playing the recordings daily at home
- Understanding the instrument and how to take care of it
- Helping to create an environment of affection, support, encouragement and understanding
- Attending workshops, concerts, group lessons, graduations and festivals with the child.
As students grow in age and experience they develop greater independence. The parents’ role naturally evolves to provide the child with the degree of support of freedom that is appropriate. The teacher assists both parent and child to navigate this course.
A Positive Environment
A positive, nurturing environment is created in the lesson and is also essential at home. Children learn enthusiastically when they are supported with sincere praise and encouragement. They learn to recognise one another’s achievements, creating an environment of co-operation.
The Suzuki Repertoire
One of Shinichi Suzuki’s major contributions to music education is the unique order of the repertoire. Each carefully chosen piece becomes a building block for future learning. Technique, musicianship and style are developed through the study and repetition of these pieces.
Each instrument has its own repertoire. This provides familiarity and hence excellent motivation to progress. Through the common repertoire within each instrument, children have a bond with each other, and with Suzuki students world-wide.
The spirit of Suzuki teaching may encompass all styles and periods of music. Teachers often give supplementary material to develop reading ability, and repertoire which may help to widen the students’ musical experience.
The Mother-Tongue Method recognizes that reading music follows the acquisition of good technical and musical skills just as reading language commences after a child can speak fluently.
The stage at which a child begins to learn to read music varies according to age and general development. However, it will always be after basic playing skills have been mastered, to maintain the focus on beautiful tone and musical phrasing
Integrating the music reading programme with the Suzuki repertoire is vital to the child’s musical development.
For most students, the Suzuki Method involves regular group lessons as well as the weekly individual lessons.
The common repertoire enables students to play together giving them valuable ensemble experience and positive reinforcement of skills learned in private lessons. Students enjoy this motivating and social activity.
Students also take part in performances and workshops and observe other children’s lessons. All of these things are wonderful motivational tools – children love to do what they have seen other children doing!
Suzuki Music Victoria runs a wide range of events and concerts, providing opportunities for students to perform and learn from guest teachers each year. The calendar of events changes annually but often includes:
- Annual Festival
- Instrument workshops
- Solo concerts
Certain pieces in the Suzuki repertoire are designated as Graduation Levels. When students have studied beyond the piece for each level, they may graduate ‐ that is, they prepare a polished performance of the set piece. They then receive a written report on their playing, and are presented with a Graduation Certificate at a special raduation Concert.
The beautiful certificates, edged in gold, come from Japan and are screen printed from a painting done by Dr Suzuki himself.
Graduation is not an examination, and every child succeeds. Teachers present students only when they are certain that the performances are secure and musical and that the student is studying well beyond that particular level. To graduate is to achieve recognition for having reached a certain milestone in the ongoing process of musical education.
Graduation is not compulsory, however to graduate at any level beyond Level 1, a student must have graduated at all previous levels. More than one level may be presented on one occasion
Suzuki teachers undergo specialized training to teach the Suzuki Method. The Suzuki Association in each State provides courses of teacher training in the various instruments and is the only licensed provider of Suzuki Teacher Training.
Once accredited, teachers are required to participate in ongoing professional development workshops to ensure their professional growth and maintain their teacher status.
You will need an instrument to start learning, but consultation with your Suzuki teacher is absolutely vital before purchasing. It is important to ensure your child has an instrument of the appropriate size and tonal capability, and trained Suzuki teachers are the best positioned to assist you with this.
Second hand instruments are regularly advertised in Suzuki Music’s newsletter ‘Suzuki Notes’ and on our website’s Buy, Swap & Sell page.