The Suzuki Method was developed by Shinichi Suzuki in Japan in the 1930s and 40s, and started to be used in the USA and Britain in the 1960s. It is a method of teaching the violin (and more recently other instruments) to young children, based on the belief that:
"Musical ability is not an inborn talent but an ability which can be developed. Any child who is properly trained can develop musical ability, just as all children develop the ability to speak their mother tongue."
- Shinichi Suzuki
Suzuki did not, however, see the main purpose of his method as a way of training children to become professional musicians. His aim was to help children develop confidence, self-discipline, determination and sensitivity through music in order to enrich their lives.
The ways in which the Suzuki Method differs from other teaching methods are as follows:
Starting young/parental involvement/encouragement
Suzuki modelled the method on the way in which babies learn to talk – through listening, imitation and repetition. He called it ‘The Mother Tongue Method’. Parents attend lessons and practise with the child (parent learns the Instrument as well to begin with). This enables the child to start as young as age 3. A lot of attention is paid to posture and violin and bow hold right from the start, to enable the best possible tone production. Great emphasis is placed on providing a nurturing environment, in which all achievements, however small, are encouraged with praise by both teacher and parents.
Before they start to play, children listen to recordings of the repertoire. They learn all their pieces from these, not from written music, as it is felt that it is difficult to play fluently and musically when struggling to read notes and rhythms (especially for very young children). All pieces are learnt from memory. In this way the children learn to listen and to focus on producing a beautiful sound from the very beginning.
Repetition/the Suzuki repertoire as a language
All children go through the same repertoire and exercises (in fact the repertoire is structured in such a way that each piece introduces new techniques). The pieces are then used as building blocks, and are constantly referred to in the context of new techniques being learnt.
Another feature of the Suzuki Method is the use of Group sessions in addition to individual lessons. To become a good musician it is important to get used to listening and following other players. The children learn to do this through musical games and through playing the pieces they have been learning in their lessons together.
Being Part of the Suzuki Community
All my students are required to join the British Suzuki Institute (BSI). As members they are part of a world-wide community. The BSI runs numerous workshops throughout the year and puts on concerts in London regularly, all of which students can participate in, whatever their playing level. These events can be truly inspirational. The BSI also runs a Graduation scheme whereby students submit a graduation recording when they reach the end of each book, receiving feedback from the country’s top Suzuki teachers and taking part in a high-profile concert at one of the main London concert venues (St John Smith Square or The Royal College).
For more information, please visit the official British Suzuki Institute website.
Henley Suzuki Violin Group performs at South Bank, London.