What is the Suzuki Method and How Can It Benefit My Child?

Kidlist welcomes the Western Springs School of Talent Education and the Naperville Suzuki School as site sponsors! They offer violin, viola, cello, and bass instruction for children and are here to answer the question, “What is the Suzuki Method?” Learn how it can benefit your kids, not only to learn an instrument, but child development as a whole!

Today, Edward Kreitman, the founder and Director of the Western Springs School of Talent Education and the Naperville Suzuki School, is our guest contributor. He is a Registered Suzuki Method Teacher Trainer for the Suzuki Association of the Americas and is the author of “Teaching from the Balance Point – A Guide for Suzuki Parents, Students and Teachers” and “Teaching with an Open Heart – A Guide to Conscious Musicianship.”

What is the Suzuki™ Method?

The Suzuki™ Method can be explained by its philosophy, curriculum and technical concepts.

The Philosophy

All children have talent. We believe that environment, rather than genetic background, will determine the success or failure of your child. Every child learns his or her native tongue in the first few years of life by listening to and imitating the mother’s voice. Dr. Suzuki calls this the “mother tongue” approach to learning. We now know that the same process can be used to teach music. We are most successful when we break each new skill into the smallest possible steps, affirming and supporting each attempt with positive reinforcement.

Summary of the Suzuki Philosophy

  • Every child has the potential to become musical.
  • Environment rather than genetics will determine achievement.
  • Positive reinforcement promotes success.

The Curriculum

The curriculum of the Suzuki™ Method is slightly different for each of the instruments studied, however, all instruments begin with Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and end with a major concerto from the classical music period. If it is true that “everything in music is preparation” (Gerhart Zimmermann), then the genius of Suzuki is truly expressed in the scope and sequencing of the music in his carefully planned method. Suzuki gave much thought to the introduction and subsequent repetition of each technique to be studied. The brilliance of the method is that all of this technique is disguised in musical selections that will be as charming, compelling, interesting, delightful, and attractive to your children as they are to you. Much of the motivation for learning comes from the desire to learn new pieces in the repertoire.

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Summary of the Suzuki Curriculum

  • The Suzuki™ Method curriculum is a well-considered series of musical pieces designed to introduce and review musical technique in a progressively challenging format.

Technical Concepts

Suzuki teachers use a number of techniques that make the method a unique approach to teaching instrumental music. These technical concepts are specific teaching ideas that flow from the philosophy of the method.

Starting Age

We want to capitalize on the child’s ability to absorb sounds in the early developmental years before age six, so formal instruction may begin as early as age three. If we begin lessons this early, then clearly we must invite the aid of a parent as an assistant teacher to help guide the child in practice at home. This strong partnership of parent, teacher, and child is often referred to as the Suzuki triangle.

Several factors will determine the readiness of a student to begin the important skill of reading music. Among these are the age of the child, years of study, performance level, and interest in reading music.

Learning by Listening

Since the method is based on the mother tongue approach to learning, the use of reference recordings is essential to the progress of all students. Daily listening to recordings of the pieces to be studied helps the child to learn the melodies and to hear how good violin tone sounds. Listening also aids in developing accurate pitch and rhythmic pulse.

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Play by Ear

One of the most important techniques employed by Suzuki teachers is that of learning to play the instrument by ear. This approach allows the child and parent to focus on how they are playing rather than on what they are playing. In other words, the goal of a Suzuki student is to focus on how well you can do something rather than on what you are able to do. Playing by ear frees the eyes to observe fingers and bow arm. This observant approach helps us to evaluate how we are doing, rather than having eyes glued to a page of music telling us what to play next.

Individual Lessons

Lessons are taught individually to allow each student to learn at his or her own pace. Technical skills are broken down into the smallest possible steps so that information is introduced in a way that is understood by both parent and child. Suzuki teachers employ the concept of one-point teaching. We will focus on only one technique at a time, temporarily overlooking others so that we do not overwhelm the child with instructions about several different things at once.

Group Lessons

Group classes are designed to allow children to share their music with others, while we reinforce important skills introduced at the private lesson. Another function of the group experience is to learn how to play together. The social benefits of group classes are a tremendous aid in the motivation to practice at home.

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Mother Tongue Approach

As we return to the idea of learning by the mother tongue approach, remember that a child does not discard the first words learned but continues to use them over and over as new words are added to the vocabulary. Suzuki students keep the original pieces learned in their repertoire, reviewing them daily to perfect those skills, which are then used again and again in the subsequent pieces.

Summary of Suzuki Technical Concepts

  • Begin lessons early, enlisting the aid of the parent as home teacher.
  • Adapt the “mother tongue” approach to learning through listening, imitation, review, and positive reinforcement.
  • Break each skill into the smallest possible steps.
  • Teach individual lessons to let each child progress at his or her own pace.
  • Use group classes to review the materials presented in the private lesson and to introduce the skill of playing together.

The Western Springs School of Talent Education and the Naperville Suzuki School enjoy a reputation for excellence that is well-known throughout the world.  We offer instruction in violin, viola, cello, and bass.  Our teaching follows the philosophy and principles of the world renowned pedagogue, Shinichi Suzuki. The Suzuki approach deals with much more than teaching a child how to play an instrument.  It seeks to develop the whole child, to help unfold his natural potential to learn and  become a good and happy person. For more information see our website wsste.com.

Western Springs School of Talent Education
1106 Chestnut Street
Western Springs, IL 60558
(708) 246-9309
Naperville Suzuki School
32 Foxcroft Road
Naperville, IL 60565
(630) 420-9309

About the Author

Annie Tandy
Annie loves making great memories with her kids and started Kidlist so she can help others do the same! Besides finding fun and exciting things to do, Annie, her husband, and their kids enjoy caring for their chickens and hanging out with them in the backyard. Click here to read about Annie's chickens and see pictures! She also finds joy in gardening, home improvement projects, knitting, soap making, and painting along with being active in her community, church, and as a board member of the Western Springs Business Association. Click here to follow Annie on Instagram.

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