The Suzuki Method is one of the most effective ways of teaching children to play musical instruments at an early age. It was developed by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki. His techniques help develop accurate pitch recognition and musical genius in children.
As a small boy, Shinichi was surrounded by the sound of violins at his father’s violin factory. At age 17, he taught himself violin by listening to recordings and trying to imitate what he had heard. Later he began teaching at the Imperial School of Music and at the Kunitachi Music School in Tokyo.
After WWII he began teaching the violin to orphan children. This is where he started developing the Suzuki Method. His primary philosophy was there are no limitations to the capabilities of children. He also noticed that children pick up their native language very quickly. These two ideas formed the basis of his method of teaching violin, which he originally called “Talent Education”.
Later, Dr. Suzuki also incorporated the following philosophies into his music pedagogy schools:
- The human being is a product of his environment.
- The earlier, the better – not only music, but all learning.
- Repetition of experiences is important for learning.
- Teachers and parents (adult human environment) must be at a high level and continue to grow to provide a better learning situation for the child.
- The system or method must involve illustrations for the child based on the teacher’s understanding of when, what, and how. (Kendall, 1966)
The epistemological learning aspect, or as he called it, the “mother tongue” philosophy, is that in which children learn through their own observation of their environment.
The Suzuki Method Today
The Suzuki method is a way of learning to play music using right brain accelerated learning techniques. He believed that every child, if properly taught, was capable of a good level of musical achievement. It emphasizes playing from a very young age. To facilitate this, scaled down instrument sizes are used.
In the beginning, learning music by ear is emphasized over reading musical notation. The method also encourages, in addition to individual playing, frequent playing in groups (including playing in unison) and frequent public performance, so that playing is as natural and enjoyable as possible.
The method discourages competitive attitudes between players, and advocates collaboration and mutual encouragement for those of any ability.
In addition, the parent is expected to supervise the child’s instrument practice instead of leaving the child to practice on his own. And, parents need to attend every lesson so they can supervise the practice effectively. It’s 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 on the instrument and how to do it.
The Suzuki Method does not compromise individual musical development but facilitates it by providing a sound technical base from an early age and encouraging the study of the instrument.
It can also be taught on any instrument, although it is most commonly taught on violin. Suzuki literature has also been published for viola, cello, piano, bass, flute, guitar, harp and voice.
Click on the video below to see the results of the Suzuki method with a 4 year old learning the violin.