THE SUZUKI METHOD
Suzuki teachers use a number of techniques that make the method a unique approach to teaching instrumental music. These technical concepts are specific teaching ideas that flow from the philosophy of the method.
We want to capitalize on the child's ability to absorb sounds in the early developmental years before age six, so formal instruction may begin as early as age three. If we begin lessons this early, then clearly we must invite the aid of a parent as an assistant teacher to help guide the child in practice at home. This strong partnership of parent, teacher, and child is often referred to as the Suzuki triangle.
When a child learns to talk, parents are involved in the process with their child. In the Suzuki Method, parents attend lessons with the child and serve as “home teachers” during the week. Previous musical knowledge from the parent is not at all required, however, as the teacher ensures that parents understand all unfamiliar technical and musical concepts. Parents work with the teacher to create an enjoyable learning environment.
Since the method is based on the mother tongue approach to learning, the use of reference recordings is essential to the progress of all students. Daily listening to recordings of the pieces to be studied helps the child to learn the melodies and to hear how good violin tone sounds. Listening also aids in developing accurate pitch and rhythmic pulse.
One of the most important techniques employed by Suzuki teachers is that of learning to play the instrument by ear. This approach allows the child and parent to focus on how they are playing rather than on what they are playing. In other words, the goal of a Suzuki student is to focus on how well you can do something rather than on what you are able to do.
Playing by ear frees the eyes to observe fingers and bow arm. This observant approach helps us to evaluate how we are doing, rather than having eyes glued to a page of music telling us what to play next. Several factors will determine the readiness of a student to begin the important skill of reading music. Among these are the age of the child, years of study, performance level, and interest in reading music. Lessons are taught individually to allow each student to learn at his or her own pace. Technical skills are broken down into the smallest possible steps so that information is introduced in a way that is understood by both parent and child. Suzuki teachers employ the concept of one-point teaching. We will focus on only one technique at a time, temporarily overlooking others so that we do not overwhelm the child with instructions about several different things at once.
Group classes are designed to allow children to share their music with others, while we reinforce important skills introduced at the private lesson. Another function of the group experience is to learn how to play together. The social benefits of group classes are a tremendous aid in the motivation to practice at home.As we return to the idea of learning by the mother tongue approach, remember that a child does not discard the first words learned but continues to use them over and over as new words are added to the vocabulary. Suzuki students keep the original pieces learned in their repertoire, reviewing them daily to perfect those skills, which are then used again and again in the subsequent pieces.