SUZUKI PIANO

WHAT IS SUZUKI METHOD?

The Suzuki method, also Suzuki movement, is an internationally known method of teaching music conceived and executed by Japanese violinist and pedagogue Shinichi Suzuki (1898–1998) dating from the mid-20th century. The central belief of Suzuki, based on his language acquisition theories, is that all people are capable of learning from their environment. The essential components of his method spring from the desire to create the “right environment” for learning music. He also believed that this positive environment would also help to foster character in students.

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.

— Shin’ichi Suzuki

The Suzuki Method was conceived in the mid-20th century by Shin’ichi Suzuki, a Japanese violinist who desired to bring beauty to the lives of children in his country after the devastation of World War II. As a skilled violinist but a beginner at the German language who struggled to learn it, Suzuki noticed that children pick up their native language quickly, and even dialects adults consider “difficult” to learn are spoken with ease by people of 5 or 6 years. He reasoned that if children have the skill to acquire their native language, then they have the necessary ability to become proficient on a musical instrument. He pioneered the idea that pre-school age children could learn to play the violin if learning steps were small enough and if the instrument was scaled down to fit their body. He modeled his method, which he called “Talent Education” (才能教育 sainō kyōiku?), after his theories of natural language acquisition. Suzuki believed that every child, if properly taught, was capable of a high level of musical achievement. He also made it clear that the goal of such musical education was to raise generations of children with “noble hearts” (as opposed to creating famous musical prodigies)

Philosophy

…all children can be well educated…

— Shin’ichi Suzuki

The central belief of Suzuki, based on his language acquisition theories, is that all people can (and will) learn from their environment. The essential components of his method spring from the desire to create the “right environment” for learning music (he believed that this positive environment would also help to foster excellent character in every student). These components include:

Saturation in the musical community. This includes attending local concerts of classical music, developing friendships with other music students, and listening to music performed by “artists” (professional classical musicians of high caliber) in the home every day (starting before birth if possible).

Deliberate avoidance of musical aptitude tests or “auditions” to begin music study. Suzuki firmly believed that teachers who test for musical aptitude before taking students, or teachers who look only for “talented” students, are limiting themselves to people who have already started their music education. Just as every child is expected to learn their native language, Suzuki expected every child to be able to learn to play music well when they were surrounded with a musical environment from infancy. (This does not preclude auditions for public performances).

Emphasis on playing from a very young age, typically starting formal instruction between the ages of three and five years old and sometimes beginning as early as age two.

Using well trained teachers, preferably also trained in using the Suzuki materials and philosophy. Suzuki Associations all over the world offer ongoing teacher-training programs to prospective and continuing Suzuki teachers. A basic competency as a performer was recently made mandatory for all teachers in the Suzuki Association of the Americas

In the beginning, learning music by ear is emphasized over reading musical notation. This follows Suzuki’s observation that in language acquisition, a child learns to speak before learning to read. To support learning by ear, students are usually expected to listen to the repertoire on CD daily. Other methods—such as Simply Music, the Gordon Music Learning Theory, and Conversational Solfège—have students playing before reading notes, but may not have the same focus on daily listening and learning by ear.

Memorization of all solo repertoire is expected, even after a student begins to use sheet music as a tool to learn new pieces. This is related to this focus on music as separate from notation.

Regular playing in groups (including playing in unison) is strongly encouraged.

Retaining and reviewing every piece of music ever learned is required. This is intended to raise technical and musical ability. Review pieces, along with “preview” parts of music a student is yet to learn, are often used in creative ways to take the place of the more traditional etude books. Traditional etudes and technical studies are not used in the beginning stages, which focus almost exclusively on a set of performance pieces.

Frequent public performance makes performing feel like a natural and enjoyable part of being a musician.

The method discourages competitive attitudes between players, and advocates collaboration and mutual encouragement for those of every ability and level. However, there is an audition process if a student wishes to perform publicly with the Suzuki Youth Orchestra of America, a national group sponsored by the Suzuki Association of the Americas.

The parent of the young student is expected to supervise instrument practice every day (instead of leaving the child to practice alone between lessons) and to attend and take notes at every lesson so they can coach the student effectively. It is not necessary for the parent to be able to play as well as the child (or at all); only that the parent knows from the lessons what the child should be doing and how the child should be doing it. This element of the method is so prominent that a newspaper article once dubbed it “The Mom-Centric Method.

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