What is the Suzuki Piano Method?
Every Child Can Learn
More than fifty years ago, Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki realized the implications of the fact that children the world over learn to speak their native language with ease. He began to apply the basic principles of language acquisition to the learning of music, and called his method the mother-tongue approach. The ideas of parent responsibility, loving encouragement, constant repetition, etc., are some of the special features of the Suzuki approach.
As when a child learns to talk, parents are involved in the musical learning of their child. They attend piano lessons with the child and serve as “home teachers” during the week. One parent learns to play the first few pieces in the book, so that they understand what the child is expected to do.
For the first year of lessons, Suzuki students are taught in groups of two. Two students attend each other’s lessons back to back (for a total of one hour). During one student’s lesson, the other child can read, color, play with legos, etc. The goal is for each child to “learn by osmosis.” Both parents also attend the lessons and work with the teacher to create an enjoyable learning environment.
Expanded meaning of ‘parent’ to include any caregiver, guardian, grandparent, etc who is supporting the child in the learning process.
The early years are crucial for developing mental processes and muscle coordination. Listening to music should begin at birth; formal training may begin at age 4-6, but it is never too late to begin.
Children learn words after hearing them spoken hundreds of times by others. Listening to music every day is important, especially listening to pieces in the Suzuki repertoire so the child knows them immediately. Each Suzuki volume comes with a CD that the child can listen to everyday at home. The Suzuki repertoire can also be found on YouTube, Spotify, or Apple Music.
Constant repetition is essential in learning to play an instrument. Children do not learn a word or piece of music and then discard it. They add it to their vocabulary or repertoire, gradually using it in new and more sophisticated ways. Learning is cumalative, so students continue practicing their pieces even once they have learned all the notes.
As with language, the child’s effort to learn an instrument should be met with sincere praise and encouragement. Each child learns at their own rate, building on small steps so that each one can be mastered. Children are also encouraged to support each other’s efforts, fostering an attitude of generosity and cooperation.
Learning with Other Children
In addition to private lessons, children participate in regular group lessons and performances at which they learn from and are motivated by each other. Group lessons occur once every other month.
Children learn to read after their ability to talk has been well established. in the same way, children should develop basic technical competence on their instruments before being taught to read music.
*Nell begins all new Suzuki piano students at the start of each school year in September. It is best to get on the waiting list for Fall 2023 if you would like to start Suzuki lessons. All new families starting Suzuki piano lessons will attend an information session together in late August 2023. Parents also attend a second meeting together in October once all new students have learned the Twinkle Variations.*