What is the Suzuki method?


The Suzuki Method, or Talent Education, is named for its founder the violinist, Dr. Shinichi Suzuki of Japan.  Dr. Suzuki upheld that every child has high ability.  He taught that just as every child learns to speak a native language, so can every child learn to speak –and play and sing, a musical language.  The Suzuki method emphasizes tone, technique and enlists lots of parental involvement.

What will my child learn in piano and voice lessons?

Of course in piano and voice lessons children learn “to play” and “to sing.”  Traditional students learn note-reading first, however, Suzuki students learn note-playing and singing first, including all the correct skills, posture, and positioning to create beautiful musicality and sensitive artistry. Then we learn note-reading second. We can do everything. But we cannot do everything all at once. Learning to play the piano and sing with your body is a study of organized skills rather than pieces.  Children may learn many important technical skills in music lessons. However, they may also learn crucial life skills such as discipline, perseverance, focus, tenacity, grit, productivity, creativity and the list goes on.

What can I do to help my child at home?

Ability grows at home; parents/coaches become the home teachers and accept the responsibility of daily practice and listening through genuine praise and consistent repetition.  Combine these two elements and success is rapid and can often surprise adults. Forget this and progress will become slow and arduous. Guilty feelings never produce fine musicianship.

1-be sincerely kind and look for ways to complement your children.

2-allow time to practice daily by offering choices to your child; consistent short practice times work well.

3- press play so your children can listen to the Suzuki songs (see Listening and Practicing under Policies).

4- correct piano fingering and voice text by offering the printed music as a guide. Homework skills are learning notes, fingering and rhythm; teaching these basics is a poor use of our time.  Children can easily learn the notes, text and rhythm of a piece directly by listening and by looking at the editor’s markings in the music.

5- keep trying.  Of course we expect ups, downs and plateaus but we keep trying.  Keep encouraging and being open to new challenges in order to foster a safe and confident musical environment that children will thrive in.  Allow joy and success to permeate your home through choice and discovery. No one likes to be forced. That said, I highly encourage, persuade,  have patience, support, ask questions, take breaks, and regularly change my tactics as a parent.

How do I practice with my child?

Listening. Discovery. Repetition.

Listening to your child is important. However, I am referring to listening to your Suzuki playlist or repertoire playlist. It is rewarding and uplifting to play or sing a song you have heard before. You will understand the goal and how it sounds. There is stress in not-knowing and fear in the unknown. Effortlessly sweep these negative emotions away with a simple click or swipe by pressing play on your child’s playlist. Play their songs in the car, during meals, getting dressed, brushing teeth, going to bed –anytime! Multiple times a day. On average a child learns to speak by listening to their mother tongue hours a day–even 12-14 hours! Please listen.

Discovery is successful when we see what is possible. After listening let your child try to sing or plunk out the tune on the piano. They may make mistakes. This is normal. This is the science of learning and discovery. When parents or guardians show students which notes to play and give expert advice this stifles discovery. Remember the butterfly story! Yes you can give sincere encouragement and choices but please do not give them the answer. Let them discover it. They will remember the melodies so much more and gain confidence and enjoyment in the process.

Repetition. Once a child achieves perfection in a particular passage they either repeat it or forget it.  Children are fast learners, but they are also fast forgetters.  Dr. Kataoka stated “listening until we remember is not enough; we must listen until we cannot forget.”  This is true of practice.  Ability is proportionate to repetition.  You have heard the phrase, “practice makes perfect?” This is true only when the practice is perfect.  Allow children to learn musical concepts correctly first and then commit them to memory through repetition.  Don’t worry I’ll help you with lots of ways to make it fun! If I go to the symphony for years and I totally understand how an instrument should sound, but I never pick up an instrument to practice it and make the motions for myself, then I will not be able to play that instrument. Repetition is the hands-on action and fun doing of music.

What changes can I make to help my child progress?

Give yourself self-care. Understand mistakes are natural and normal. We are human. Take a break, then try again.

By repeating an action for a few days nothing whatsoever will happen –certainly not success.  By continuously repeating an action, however, over a period of ten years success certainly will happen. If you’re informal and unscheduled, practice will be too, that is not to say that you cannot change gradually.  Remember success occurs in many small steps rather than one big one (Michiko Yurko), and it is the parents who can make that success a reality for their children.  If your child resents your help change your methods.  Parents with smiling faces have children with smiling faces (Dr. Suzuki). Just as your child imitates their musical recordings and teacher, they will imitate you.  That is why it is so important for parents/coaches to set the environment of learning as enthusiastic, happy and fun.