8 Essential Components of Suzuki Instruction

Dr. Suzuki’s method centers on his “mother tongue” theory.  Suzuki realized that all children naturally learn to speak their native language by hearing it constantly throughout their day, by repeating words and sounds over and over, and by gentle corrections from their family as they attempt to speak.  Suzuki realized that music really is a language and can be learned in the same way.  The key is to immerse your child in music, to make it an integral part of the home environment on a consistent basis.

8 Essential Components of Suzuki Instruction

1. Daily Practice: Students need to practice 7 days a week to feel successful and progress on their instrument.  Just as you cannot become fluent in a foreign language by speaking it once or twice a week, you cannot learn a complex musical instrument such as violin or cello without consistent daily practice.

2. Parental Involvement: In addition to the bonding experience between parent and child that happens through daily practice together, children benefit from having a home “coach” and “cheerleader.” Children have an easier time developing good technique and good practice habits when a parent is able to give gentle reminders of what to work on throughout the practice session. Parents of children up through elementary school should plan to observe all the lessons, take notes in the lesson for their child and take an active role in the daily home practice sessions. Children 9 and younger should certainly not be expected to practice independently.

3. Daily Listening: To create an environment conducive to developing musical talent, students need to do two types of musical listening on a daily basis.  One is to listen to their reference recordings of the Suzuki repertoire they are learning.  The other is to listen to other high quality music by top notch musicians.  While recordings and concerts are a wonderful way to do this, today we also have a chance to see/hear many wonderful performances on youtube. By doing both types of listening, students not only learn their pieces faster and more fluidly, but also gain a better sense of pitch, rhythm, and innate musicality.

4. Learning by Ear: At the very beginning stages, students are taught music by ear to help develop a good ear for music and solid playing technique before learning to read music. This allows the child to focus on making a beautiful sound and on playing with really fine technique rather than just reading notes on the page. Music reading activities/games away from the instrument are introduced early on to ensure that good music reading skills are readily acquired when the child’s basic technique is developed.

5. Tone and Technique: Beauty of tone is central in Suzuki lessons.  The goal is not to learn lots of pieces quickly or just get the notes learned and then move on.  The primary goal in playing is to create beauty which means correct technique and emphasis on the quality of the sound is of the utmost importance.  At every lesson, we focus on how to create a beautiful tone, even from the very early stages.  Beginning violin players do not have to sound squeaky and out of tune.  There is a better way!

6. Review and Repetition: Students learn best through repetition.  In addition to repeating “practice spots” and sections in their newest pieces, students consistently review pieces they have already learned. By practicing music that they already know, students are able to improve their technique, practice new techniques, and work on developing their musical interpretation. Although students also study some scales and exercises to improve their playing, for young students most technique is developed on pieces.  It is more fun and engaging than dry exercises! By spending a substantial amount of the practice reviewing pieces they already know, students develop greater fluidity in their playing and are also able to learn their new pieces more quickly and easily.

7. Private and Group Classes: In addition to their weekly private lesson, students come together for weekly Suzuki repertoire classes to work on their review pieces and new pieces together. They work on improving technique, performance skills, ensemble skills, and the ability to focus. Group class also provides a social component to their musical experience and is a fun motivator to keep practicing. Dr. Suzuki emphasized the fact that children learn a great deal by observation.  By seeing more advanced students, children learn a great deal about their own playing and are motivated to learn more.  In addition, advancing students gain confidence and leadership skills by acting as role models to less advanced students.  Group classes are a vital part of violin instruction and are just as important as the weekly private lesson.

8. Character Development: While some students may choose to pursue a career in music, that is not the ultimate goal of Suzuki lessons.  The aim is to help unfold your child’s beautiful nature as he/she grows into adulthood.  The beauty of music helps foster beautiful qualities in character such as kindness, creativity, generosity, depth of feeling and thought, and joy.  It also helps to develop qualities and skills such as precision, discipline, problem solving, and patience.