An Introduction to the Suzuki Method
by Jose Carlos
© 2019 JustViolin.org
Shinichi Suzuki (1898 - 1998) was a violinist and musical pedagogue born in Nagoya, Japan. He was the creator of the Suzuki method for music learning. His father was a luthier and although his music vocation wasn’t until his late teens, he lived a childhood surrounded by musical instruments.
He started learning violin at the age of 17 in the Tokyo conservatory, by that time (1915) western music was considered exotic; this led him to enlarge his studies in Berlin, Germany in 1924 where he becomes a disciple of Karl Klinger, he also lived in Paris for some time before he went back to Japan in 1932 and started a career as a pedagogue.
He developed several methods for music learning that would also be translated and adopted by Western conservatories, these methods includes learning techniques for violin, piano and cello. His scheme for teaching music is now an international movement that has contributed to the evolution process of many child education theories.
THE ‘MOTHER TONGUE’ IDEA
Suzuki’s method is based on a single idea which he called “mother tongue”. He observed that kids learn their native language with great precision. He assumed that because of the fact of kids being always immerse into the sounds of their language since their birth, they would also respond with music the same way if they’re exposed to it in a regular basis too. They would develop extraordinary music skills just as they do with language.
This concept is not just a method of education, is also a philosophy based on the respect for the kids as a person and also in the concept that skills are not hereditary but imitated, learnt and developed.
Suzuki also supports the fact that kids can learn earlier than most traditional teachers estimate. He says that starting from the very first stages of childhood from 3 or 4 years old gives them a head start to build up great skills even though they’re not considered to start learning.
This also follows the “Mother tongue” concept, the pace advancement is dictated by the kid and not his/her age or other factors. Kids start walking when they’re ready for it, not before. These beginnings might be slow at first; but the results are visible in the long term.
If kids in this process are respected and encouraged without any pressure they will end up with a bigger personal fulfillment. They’ll also learn deeper and play with greater pleasure and comfort.
THE ROLE OF THE TEACHER
The music teacher plays a fundamental role in the learning process and must have an attitude of love, support and motivation towards the kids. It is necessary for all teachers to fully understand that Suzuki’s method is not another theory book to teach pieces like the traditional methods. The philosophy, function and application must be exercised in all of their extent.
The teacher must also understand that this method is progressive and nothing should be skipped or avoided just for the sake of making the kid learn faster and get to a precise level in a precise moment, fast learning is not the goal, learning in a very efficient way trough discipline, imitation and exercising the memorization is the key for the success of the whole process.