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Learning With Suzuki Violin Method

Introduction to The Suzuki Violin Method

I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart. - Shinichi Suzuki

You've heard people talking about Suzuki violin method before. You may have even seen violin books with SUZUKI written across the top in big bold letters. Now that you or your child is interested in starting violin lessons, you want to know exactly what Suzuki is and whether or not it is right for you. On this page you will find out the basics of Suzuki violin method as well as the pros and cons to using the Suzuki violin method.

The Suzuki and Traditional Method are different, and so is every student. It will be up to you to decide what method of instruction will work for you.

When looking for a violin teacher remember this: A good violin teacher will emphasize and build upon the strengths of their specific teaching method. An excellent violin teacher will also recognize the weaknesses of their teaching method and work diligently to overcome them. The method you choose is not nearly as important as the teacher you choose.

A Brief History

The Suzuki violin method was developed by Sinichi Suzuki in the mid-20th century. His goal was to develop an educational philosophy that made teaching all children of any age possible. Suzuki observed that even young children can learn to speak their native language, even very difficult languages. He noticed that children were able to learn to speak the language by listening to others, and by hearing it spoken often in their environment. Suzuki concluded that if the same philosophy applied to music then even very young children could learn violin. From these findings he created the Suzuki Method. Suzuki violin method is now taught world-wide with teacher trainings being held frequently, and is recognized for excellence in violin training as well as character building.

Read these unique elements of the Suzuki violin method to find out the pros and cons.

Students of the Suzuki violin method begin very early, even as young as age 3.

Pros

1. The early years are often considered prime for developing muscle coordination and mental processing.

2. Children who are constantly immersed in a musical world from a very young age will have a much greater chance of quickly learning an instrument.

Cons

1. Some educators believe children age 3-5 is too young to begin violin. Critics of the Suzuki Method claim that a student that young doesn't really understand what is going on, and the high demand for structured practice is detrimental in their overall musical progress. Although Suzuki teachers believe that musical ability can be developed in all children, it is best to use judgment on each individual child's maturity and developmental readiness before beginning any instrument.

Suzuki violin method uses common repertoire and a standardized curriculum.

Pros

1. This enables group practice and performance because all the students play the same songs.

2. For a home with multiple Suzuki students this can ease financial burden of buying books as each sibling uses the same materials.

Cons

1. Many of the Suzuki songs used are of the same style and time period. Unless a Suzuki teacher is flexible and supplements with outside material, students will be limited in their playing styles.

2. Although non-competitiveness and positive peer interaction is encouraged, it might be easy for students to compare themselves to others around them who are playing in the same books but are further ahead than themselves.

Review of past Suzuki songs takes the place of the traditional etude or theory books. Suzuki believed that every technical problem or difficulty that a student needs to learn can be taught right in the context of their song book repertoire. Repetition and review is key in the Suzuki violin method to mastering songs and moving on to the next level.

Pros

1. Repeating and reviewing music can serve as wonderful building blocks to new music.

2. Constant review of music facilitates group lessons and performance.

3. Going back to the basics (simpler, familiar music) allows students to easily work on the fundamentals of proper form, technique, and intonation.

4. Etude and theory books can sometimes be non-motivating for children. Learning technique under the guise of a fun song is much more appealing and motivating for children.

Cons

1. Students may miss out on building a repertoire of many wonderful and useful etudes that have been written for the exact purpose of teaching students a specific technique.

2. Although reviewed frequently, repetition of techniques may not be enough in the context of a fun song. Etudes are designed to give student ample practice by repeating a specific technique over and over again.

3. Etudes give variety to practice and lesson time, and can serve as wonderful warm-ups.

Suzuki Students practice and perform frequently in a group setting.

Pros

1. It is beneficial for students to hear and see other students playing the violin, especially playing the music and songs they themselves are learning.

2. When playing in a group, a student learns valuable skills; keeping perfect rhythm and beat, following a leader, and to keep playing or 'catch up' when they make a mistakes.

3. Students meet and become friends with other youth that have a common interest in music.

4. Students become very comfortable in performing with their group. Performing becomes a non-stressful, enjoyable event.

Cons

1. Depending on the size and playing ability of the group, certain techniques of a student when played poorly, like intonation and proper form, may go unnoticed and uncorrected by a teacher.

2. Student may develop a tendency of robotic playing at the expense of their individual musicianship.

3. Performing always as a group may make a student dependent on the ability of others to perform. As a result, they may not develop the ability to perform as well as a soloist.

Suzuki violin method teaches students how to play violin by ear (listening to recordings and other violinists), not by reading music.

Pros

1. Students develop a strong ear. This means they are able to listen to music and replicate it.

2. When students do begin learning note reading they have already developed the ability to hear phrasing and predict the melodic direction of a song.

Cons

1. Learning music first by ear and later by note reading may compromise sight reading ability.

2. Students may develop the tendency to be dependent on others and not take ownership of their practicing and learning.

3. Students may struggle to develop their own style and interpretation of music because they are always copying others, and recordings.

Parents are very involved at lessons. They take notes and attend every lesson. They then become the at-home violin teacher.

Pros

1. For the very youngest students, parental involvement is necessary.

2. Parental involvement boosts student's self-esteem and confidence.

3. Parent helps student to stay on track during the week and make practice time more effective between lessons.

Cons

1. Students may become slack in taking responsibility and listening to their violin teacher if their parent is always taking notes at lessons and directing their practicing at home.

2. Students may be less likely to take ownership for their own learning, and as result could lack intrinsic motivation.

3. Older students may become dependent on teaching styles better suited for younger students.

If you are considering using the Suzuki Method, I would encourage you to also check out the Suzuki Association Website for even more information and a directory of Suzuki certified teachers near you.

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