What is the Suzuki Method?

J. Beam

The Suzuki method is a popular method of teaching young children to play a musical instrument, typically the violin or the piano. The Suzuki method is an educational philosophy that was developed by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki. Dr. Suzuki was a violinist from Japan who began teaching young children music in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He believed that music could be equated to language acquisition and that if young children had the ability to develop language skills, they had the ability to learn to play music.

The Suzuki method is used in many areas of early childhood education.
The Suzuki method is used in many areas of early childhood education.

Though the Suzuki method was first developed and practiced in Japan by Dr. Suzuki, the method spread to other parts of the world as music teachers gained interest in the Suzuki method and began studying it. Today, the Suzuki method has been adapted as an educational philosophy used in many areas of early childhood education, not just music.

The Suzuki method is typically used when teaching one to play the piano.
The Suzuki method is typically used when teaching one to play the piano.

Musical instruction under the Suzuki method can begin as early as three years of age. Dr. Suzuki believed that it was not necessary for children to read sheet music before they learned to play an instrument. He developed this belief based on the fact that children do not learn to read their native language before they learn to speak it. The Suzuki method focuses on aural sensitivity and recognition so that children can learn to play the music they hear, while also hearing the music they are playing.

In addition to developing auricular skills, children are also taught to memorize. With the Suzuki method, parents play an important role in their child’s musical instruction. Though the ability to read a musical score is not a focus for the child, the Suzuki method encourages parents to learn to read music notation to help their children practice.

While the core philosophy of the Suzuki method is the belief that children can learn to play music just as they learn to speak, it also includes the belief that with a nurturing environment, a child can learn anything. Depending on both the child and the instructor, a child can begin learning under the Suzuki method between three and five years of age. Instructors familiar with the Suzuki method are located all around the world and can be found by searching out and talking with various music teachers.

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Discussion Comments


Still, I've always found the Suzuki method somewhat limiting, though this is based on personal experience alone. I was a violinist for years, and met many technically brilliant players trained in this method. The one criticism I could attach to their performances was a lack of interpretive ability. Though the notes were executed with great acumen, I found most players missed on making the pieces their own, and "feeling the music" so to speak. Again, these violinists were very good, but imho, a less trained player with greater interpretive skills was more enjoyable to listen to. The method certainly has its value, but may be overestimated when it comes to musical expression. Technical skills and heart may not be perfectly joined.

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