Shinichi Suzuki was a Japanese violinist and teacher who was inspired by children's ability to learn their mothers' language at such an early age. He applied the development of language to violin instruction and created a revolutionary method of learning that he titled, "Talent Education." We often refer to it as The Suzuki Method. The founding principle is that talent is not a special gift bestowed upon a few lucky people. Rather, given the proper instruction and environment, the natural potential given to every child can be developed into the finely tuned skill we recognize as talent. He firmly believed that although some children learn more quickly than others, every child can learn.
Talent Education usually begins for students at an early age. Ideally, a child begins lessons around 3 years of age, but it is never too late to begin. The combination of listening, practicing, and performing is essential under the supervision of the teacher and parent. The parent assumes a large and active role in the learning process - attending every lesson and taking notes, practicing with his/her child each day, encouraging the child, praising each small accomplishment, and providing the appropriate learning environment.
The Suzuki Method develops a child's ear and technique before involving note reading. The student must listen each day to a recording of the pieces he/she will be learning. Children learn by small steps and rely on sound and pitch, which allows him/her to grow in ability and confidence before introducing music notation. All music is memorized, and pitches are learned before musicality and expression can be applied.
Suzuki students are involved in group lessons that meet at least once a month. This provides an opportunity for students to play together as a group and perform solos for each other. They learn how to encourage each other and provide constructive criticism. Each student can show others what he/she has accomplished and will be motivated by the progress of the others.
Dr. Suzuki's tour of young violinists first came to the United States in 1964. Since then, the tour group has toured the world, and the Suzuki Method now has thousands of students, all of whom have the same repertoire and can play together.
The ultimate goal of Talent Education is not to create excellent violinists, to instill a love of music in its students, or even strengthen the parent-child relationship. These are merely bonuses that accompany the big picture: To create more beautiful human beings. If Suzuki students do not become life-long violinists, all has not been lost. Children will have learned sensitivity, respect, understanding, and other qualities they can use throughout their lives.
Please read more about the Suzuki Method at the Suzuki Association of the Americas page.
1. Begin Early
Children begin learning from their environment from birth. Suzuki has found that children can often learn by musical instruction very well at about the age of three, and in some cases even earlier. Teaching and research in the U.S. has substantiated this belief.
2. Learn by Memory
Suzuki calls his approach the Mother Tongue method. All learning in the early years is without printed music. Children learn by small steps, hence memory is developed in a gradual manner until it becomes a high skill. Small children have an almost uncanny ability to work in this manner, the natural manner of language learning.
3. Creative Repetition
The analogy to language learning is obvious, since the small child is encouraged to say the same words over and over again until they are mastered and easily used. Suzuki limits the amount of material on any given level and encourages much repetition.
4. Active Repertory of all Pieces Learned
In one's native tongue, one never gets to the point where a word is learned only to be forgotten. The Suzuki student constantly reviews the repertoire he has learned, and then effectively reinforces his memory, his technical skill, and his musical expression.
5. Listening to Recordings
As the mother speaks often to her child, so the violin student hears recordings of the pieces he is to learn and gains expectation of fine violin, cello or piano tone. This is his environment at home which determines so much of his learning.
6. Involvement with the parent
Mothers (or Fathers) attend every lesson with their child; encourage him and help him practice at home each day. The parent becomes the child's assistant responsible for playing the recordings, encouraging the child, teaching the notes (by rote) and skills, and practicing with the child.
The mother of a small child doesn't scold her infant for mispronouncing the words he is learning, but encourages him to say it again, and again. Likewise, the Suzuki parent must always encourage the child. The lessons should be a happy experience, and the parent and teacher become involved in the marvel of the unfolding process of learning.
8. Step-by-Step Mastery
Each skill is broken down into small segments easily mastered by the student. It is imperative that these segments (and, later, pieces) be thoroughly mastered before attempting the next step, so as to engineer a built in success for each step in the learning process. This takes skill on the part of the teacher to assess the potential and limitations of learning at a given point in order to effectively challenge the learner.
9. Reading after Physical Control
This approach is also analogous to native language learning. A child speaks before he learns to read. By no means, however, should memory learning be dropped when one starts to read notes!
10. Every Child Can Learn
Eliminate the talent test, and believe that they can learn to play the violin or any other instrument.