The Suzuki method

picture 1Musicality is not an inborn talent, but an ability which, as any other abilities, can be developed. Every child, if properly taught, can be capable of a high level of musical achievement. It is not more difficult than to speak a native language.

Shinichi Suzuki

 

The Suzuki Method is based on the principle that all children possess ability and that this ability can be developed and enhanced through a nurturing environment. Shinichi Suzuki has made a breakthrough: just as every child can learn to speak his/her own language, so can he/she learn to play a musical instrument (or anything else).

 

The Suzuki Method is also called “the Mother Tongue Method”, and the whole system of early childhood education based on the Suzuki Method – “Talent Education”.

 

 

When a child learns to speak, to play music, the following points are of utmost importance:

 

1. Early beginning

2. Parent involvement, their love

3. Active listening

4. Learning music by ear

5. Social environment

6. Core repertoire, used by Suzuki students across the world

7. Step-by-step approach

8. Vocabulary

9. Repetition

10. Memory

 

According to Suzuki, this approach is also applicable for teaching mathematics, arts and poetry. It is intrinsically unique.

 

1. Early beginning


An early start in learning music is very important, as the early years are crucial for developing mental processes and muscle coordination. The age of two-three-four is high time for acquiring a native language. A child’s ear is tuned for uptaking, adopting, and thus, it is the best time for learning music.


In many countries the Suzuki schooling starts at the age of 3-4. But to create an environment where a child can listen to music, as he can listen to his/her native speech, is important from the day of his/her birth. By doing this, you make a base for future development of a musical talent.


2. Parent involvement, their love


According to Suzuki, the involvement of parents into the process of training musical skills is very important, as it is in teaching language skills. A harmonious interaction between a teacher, a parent and a child is a headstone in the Suzuki method. A parent’s role is in attending lessons with the child, making notes and serving as a “home teacher” during the week. Some parents even start to play a musical instrument to further transfer their experience to their child. Shinichi Suzuki said that for a child to have a right bearing and arm posture, his/her parents should have been taught to do that first. Parents visit concerts, summer schools and participate in other activities with their child.


Children learn with enthusiasm, their success needs support and performance must be encouraged. Parents should praise their child for every tiny achievement that he/she makes (as it happens when a child pronounces his/her first words), and be patient while constantly correcting and mastering the skills of their child. Learning process must be filled with love. A child can by no means be forced to play musical instruments. It is never allowed to push a child to study music.


3. Active listening


Children learn to talk by listening carefully to the speech of their parents. Suzuki suggested transferring of this idea to music education: to surround a child with good background music from the day of his/her birth. The more often they listen to music, the easier for them to learn to play a musical instrument. Constant listening to the Suzuki repertoire records is a compulsory approach in working over a piece of music.


4. Learning music by ear


Children are taught to read only a few years after they learn to talk. According to the Suzuki method, children always start to learn how to play music before they learn how to read it. The main task on the beginning level is to pose hands, to achieve the right tone and a beautiful sound.


5. Social environment


Children always learn their language within their family or with friends. Positive atmosphere should be created at music lessons as well as while practicing music at home. Parents have to make favorable conditions for education. All family should be glad for the success of their child. A good motivation for young kids is a performance of their seniors, when they can listen to more technically advanced and complicated playing of their eldest friends, they tend to reach that higher level as soon as possible. At the Suzuki schools there are both individual and group classes.


6. Core repertoire, used by Suzuki students across the world


There is a core repertoire for each instrument in the Suzuki Schools. Children all over the globe learn the same pieces. Due to a common environment, children from different parts of the world can perform easily with each other at a concert without a rehearsal. The Suzuki Schools of different countries hold forums, organize concerts and summer camps, where 10, 50, 100, 1000 of young children from different countries, of different nationalities play one piece all together. Thus, a social interaction with other children happens. Children from all around the world can communicate with each other with the help of the language of music.


7. Step-by-step approach


After a musical text has been learned, it begins the time of work over a good sound, phrasing and musical sensitivity. When a child can perfectly perform one piece, he/she can be given with another one, but the training of both of them should be continued. The same happens to every new piece. Shinichi Suzuki said: “Having learned one piece, train and master it daily during approx. three months… till you achieve next advanced level. It is all about heart and soul, not technics.”


8. Vocabulary


On developing speech skills, a child, having learned one word and its usage, does not deny it when his/her vocabulary increases. He/she continues to use the words that he/she learned in the childhood. The same happens during musical development: children repeat all over again already known pieces, constantly using their new skills and methods. Every piece of music is like a brick in the basis of music education. Those pieces that are learned by children at the beginning level of education are always used as a technical foundation for more complicated pieces.
Daily training is a must.


9. Repetition


Repetition is a very important principle, as all the skills of a child are developed in practice. Suzuki noted that a skill was acquired only by constant repetition. If a child learned the F sound wrongly, having listened to it five thousand times, he/she should be taught the right F sound by listening it six or seven thousand times. As a rule, it takes six to seven months to retrain a child.


10. Memory


Teaching music literacy starts after a child has learned to play properly a musical instrument. At the lessons children should play without a score. This helps to develop child’s memory and accelerates the process of education. There is no Suzuki concert where children read music, they play only by memory. Suzuki quoted Daisetsu Suzuki: “A man can draw an inference and originate new ideas only from the knowledge accrued in his memory. If there is a memory base, there is experience, and if there is experience, a man is intellectual.”

 

The Suzuki Method Purpose


Although many students of Suzuki have built a successful career in music, and the system of early childhood development by the Suzuki method has been named “Talent Education,” the professor has never made it a point to raise geniuses. The “Talent Education” is wrongly understood by many as “for the gifted”. It is far from it. Shinichi Suzuki noted: “My goal is to make a child not a musician, but a kind, noble man. If my students love good music, they will look to beauty and harmony in all aspects of life.” He claimed: “I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the date of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart. If all nation together takes on children education, then war might be avoided.”


Thus, the goal of the Suzuki method is not in finding geniuses among students, but in developing potential of each child through playing a musical instrument.


It is not surprising that many great people in a varying degree could play a musical instrument. Einstein was 16, when the revolutionary idea in physics came to him, and he said later on: “That idea came to me instinctively, and its driving force was music. My new breakthrough became a result of music perception.”

 

More information about Shinichi Suzuki can be found in the following sources (also used for writing the present article):

1. Nurtured by love: The classic approach to talent education /Sh. Suzuki/ Translated from English by S. E. Borich. – Minsk. ООО «Popurri». 2005. – 192 pp.

2. http://suzukimethod.or.jp/ - Japan: Talent Education Research Institute (TERI).

3. http://www.internationalsuzuki.org - International Suzuki Association.

4. http://suzukiassociation.org - Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA).

5. http://www.europeansuzuki.org - European Suzuki Association (ESA).

 

 

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