Suzuki method

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The Suzuki method, also Suzuki movement, is a method of teaching music conceived and executed by Japanese violinist and pedagogue Shin'ichi Suzuki (1898–1998) dating from the mid-20th century. The central belief of Suzuki, based on his language acquisition theories, is that all people are capable of learning from their environment. The essential components of his method spring from the desire to create the "right environment" for learning music. He also believed that this positive environment would also help to foster character in students.

Background[edit]

I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.

—Shin'ichi Suzuki

The Suzuki Method was conceived in the mid-20th century by Shin'ichi Suzuki, a Japanese violinist who desired to bring beauty to the lives of children in his country after the devastation of World War II. As a skilled violinist but a beginner at the German language who struggled to learn it, Suzuki noticed that children pick up their native language quickly, and even dialects adults consider "difficult" to learn are spoken with ease by people of 5 or 6 years. He reasoned that if children have the skill to acquire their native language, then they have the necessary ability to become proficient on a musical instrument. He pioneered the idea that pre-school age children could learn to play the violin if learning steps were small enough and if the instrument was scaled down to fit their body. He modeled his method, which he called "Talent Education" (才能教育 sainō kyōiku?), after his theories of natural language acquisition. Suzuki believed that every child, if properly taught, was capable of a high level of musical achievement. He also made it clear that the goal of such musical education was to raise generations of children with "noble hearts" (as opposed to creating famous musical prodigies).

Philosophy[edit]

...all children can be well educated...

—Shin'ichi Suzuki

The central belief of Suzuki, based on his language acquisition theories, is that all people can (and will) learn from their environment. The essential components of his method spring from the desire to create the "right environment" for learning music (he believed that this positive environment would also help to foster excellent character in every student). These components include:

  • Saturation in the musical community, including attendance at local concerts of classical music, exposure to and friendship with other music students, and listening to music performed by "artists" (professional classical musicians of high caliber) in the home every day (starting before birth if possible).
  • Deliberate avoidance of musical aptitude tests or "auditions" to begin music study. Suzuki firmly believed that teachers who test for musical aptitude before taking students, or teachers who look only for "talented" students, are limiting themselves to people who have already started their music education. Just as every child is expected to learn their native language, Suzuki expected every child to be able to learn to play music well when they were surrounded with a musical environment from infancy. (This does not preclude auditions for public performances).
  • Emphasis on playing from a very young age, typically starting formal instruction between the ages of 3 and 5 years old and sometimes beginning as early as two years of age. (See Technique).
  • Using well trained teachers, preferably also trained in using the Suzuki materials and philosophy. Suzuki Associations all over the world offer ongoing teacher-training programs to prospective and continuing Suzuki teachers. A basic competency as a performer was recently made mandatory for all teachers in the Suzuki Association of the Americas; the holding of a music degree is not required.
  • In the beginning, learning music by ear is emphasized over reading musical notation. This follows Suzuki's observation that in language acquisition, a child learns to speak before learning to read. Related to this, memorization of all solo repertoire is expected, even after a student begins to use sheet music as a tool to learn new pieces. There is no formal plan or prescribed materials for introducing music theory & reading into the curriculum; this is left to the judgement of the teacher.
  • The method also encourages, in addition to individual playing, regular playing in groups (including playing in unison).
  • Retaining and reviewing every piece of music ever learned on a regular basis, in order to raise technical and musical ability. Review pieces, along with "preview" parts of music a student is yet to learn, are often used in creative ways to take the place of the more traditional etude books. Traditional etudes and technical studies are not used in the beginning stages, which focus almost exclusively on a set of performance pieces.
  • Frequent public performance, so that performing is natural and enjoyable.

The method discourages competitive attitudes between players, and advocates collaboration and mutual encouragement for those of every ability and level. However, there is an audition process if a student wishes to perform publicly with the Suzuki Youth Orchestra of America, a national group sponsored by the Suzuki Association of the Americas.

The parent of the young student is expected to supervise instrument practice every day (instead of leaving the child to practice alone between lessons) and to attend and take notes at every lesson so as to be able to coach the student effectively. It is 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 and how the child should be doing it. This element of the method is so prominent that a newspaper article once dubbed it "The Mom-Centric Method" (Constance Meyer, LA Times, September 7, 2003).

Criticism and response[edit]

The most common criticisms of the Suzuki method from educators outside the various Suzuki associations are that group playing, extensive listening to and copying of recordings, and early focus on memorization lead to:

  • compromised sight reading skills
  • a tendency towards rote learning and mechanistic group performance at the expense of individual musicianship

Other criticisms include:

  • if music is to be learned from audio recordings, the quality of the recorded pieces must be questioned in terms of style, integrity, and its positive or negative traits. The resulting views are subjective and may differ between people.
  • any reliance on listening to a single piece in order to learn it is not sufficient for instilling a sense of the style of the work (where the style refers to the traits of performance that are common to many similar works), since a style can only be acquired by listening to a range of works of common style (including listening to works for enjoyment, rather than with only the goal of copying them).

Many Suzuki teachers have addressed these concerns by introducing sight reading exercises earlier and more often than was practiced when the method was first introduced in the West.[citation needed]). Some also defend their emphasis on unity of musical expression in group performance by pointing out that this is a necessary skill "just like ... in the string section of any professional symphony", and add that although group performance plays an important motivating and ensemble role, and is a highly visible part of the Suzuki method, solo expression can also be encouraged, and individually tailored lessons are at the heart of the method (Barber, 1991). In order to assure the quality of teachers, each national Suzuki association institutes its own competency requirements for teacher training: for example, a basic "competency" audition to register teacher training in the Suzuki Association of the Americas was instituted in 2002. Suzuki teachers often urge their students to listen to many different recordings and live concerts in order to help them acquire a sense of musical style.

Criticism has also sprung up from within the Suzuki movement:

  • students may progress too rapidly and find themselves studying repertoire for which they are not yet emotionally prepared.[citation needed]
  • Baroque music is emphasized in the Suzuki violin literature to the detriment of other styles and periods. Some of this literature includes note errors and 19th-century editorial changes that are not in keeping with historically informed performance practice. (The International Suzuki Association is in the process of addressing this by revising the violin repertoire.[citation needed])
  • "Older students can become overly dependent" on the support structure of recordings, parental note-taking and tutoring at home, and teaching styles appropriate for younger students (Barber, 1991).
  • very young students, such as those aged 3–5, are often not ready for formal instruction, and too much emphasis on practicing hard at this age may be counterproductive (American Suzuki Journal, 2005).

It is common for many Suzuki teachers to introduce supplemental repertoire such as fiddle tunes or other classical music as collected by Barbara Barber in Solos for Young Violinists. This practice addresses the concern that students progress too quickly as well as the limited musical styles represented in the Suzuki books. Supporters of the method contend that the tendency of students not to grow into independence is largely a cultural issue in America and can be easily addressed by a teacher who requires students to begin working independently (American Suzuki Journal, 1996) and has a process in place for that transition.

Technique[edit]

Although Suzuki was a violinist, the method he founded is not a "school of violin playing" (like the French or the Russian school of playing) whose students are always easily identified by the certain set of techniques they use to play the violin. However, some of the technical concepts Suzuki taught his own students, such as the development of "tonalization", were so essential to his way of teaching that they have been carried over into the entire method. Other non-instrument specific techniques are used to implement the basic elements of the philosophy in each discipline.

  • Tonalization is a term coined by Suzuki, and is deliberately similar to the word "vocalization" (as it is used by singers when they talk about warming up their voices). Tonalization is defined as the student's ability to produce and recognize a beautiful, ringing tone quality on their instrument. While initially developed for violin education, the tonalization technique has been applied to other instruments such as the piano. Suzuki believed that a student must learn tonalization in order to properly reproduce and perform music (Lavie, Karen, New Zealand Suzuki Journal, 2005). Outside the Suzuki method, the term used is "tone production," and is part of Western music education stretching back to its beginning.
  • Using sound recordings is another technique common to all the musical instruments taught in the Suzuki method. Pre-recorded music is used to help students learn notes, phrasing, dynamics, rhythm, and beautiful tone quality by ear. Suzuki pointed out that great artists (such as Mozart) were surrounded with excellent performances from birth, and that the advent of recording technology made this aspect of their environment possible to achieve for large numbers of "ordinary" people whose parents were not themselves great musicians & music teachers like Mozart's father was. So-called "traditional" (that is, not Suzuki trained) music educators have used this technique since the earliest days of recording technology; the difference in the Suzuki method is the scale on which Suzuki systematically insisted on daily listening in the home, from before birth if possible, and his focus on using recordings of beginner's repertoire alongside recordings of advanced repertoire.
  • "Adult" sized instruments are adapted to meet the demands of a small child's body in various ways. This lowers the age at which people are developmentally ready to begin studying an instrument. Scaled down instrument sizes are used for children studying stringed instruments. Curved headjoint flutes with displaced keys which are closer together than normal flute keys & holes are also available making it possible for children as young as 3 years old to study the flute through the Suzuki method. Height adjustable chairs, benches, and footrests are used for piano, guitar, cello, and string bass. Although fractional sized student violins were available when Suzuki began to teach, the success and popularity of his idea that pre-school aged children could also learn to play prompted violinmakers to scale violins down to even smaller sizes than before.
  • Suzuki Institutes were established to encourage a musical community, train teachers, and provide a place where master teachers' ideas can easily be spread to the whole community of Suzuki students, teachers, & parents. These short term music festivals began in Matsumoto, Japan, where teachers & students came to learn from Suzuki himself. In the US, they often last for a week or two and include daily masterclasses; repertoire (group) classes; teacher training courses; concerts; discussion sessions; seminars; and various 'enrichment' classes in different musical styles, instruments, or non-musical (usually arts, crafts, or dancing) activities. As at any music festival, participants must pay registration and tuition fees to the institute they are attending. Each national Suzuki association handles registration for teacher training, and policies differ from country to country.
  • A Common repertoire for all students of an instrument was established. This body of music allows each student to participate in group classes, helps to foster local and international musical community and camaraderie, and provides motivation for students to learn new music while keeping the 'old' pieces they have learned in top form. This is in direct contrast to music education outside of the method, in which teachers tailor the repertoire to the current need and level of the individual student.

Repertoire[edit]

...If it is true that "everything in music is preparation" (Gerhart Zimmermann), then the genius of Suzuki is truly expressed in the scope and sequencing of the music....

The core Suzuki literature is published on audio recordings and in sheet music books for each instrument, and Suzuki teachers supplement the repertoire common to each instrument as needed, particularly in the area of teaching reading. One of the innovations of the Suzuki method was to make quality recordings of the beginners' pieces widely available, performed by professional musicians. Many traditional (non-Suzuki trained) music teachers also use the Suzuki repertoire, often to supplement their curriculum, and they adapt the music to their own philosophies of teaching.

Another innovation of Suzuki was to deliberately leave out the large amount of technical instructions & exercises found in many beginners' music books of his day. He favored a focus on song-playing over technical exercise, and asked teachers to allow students to make music from the beginning, helping to motivate young children with short, attractive songs which can themselves be used as technique building exercises. Each song in the common repertoire is carefully chosen to introduce some new or higher level of technique than the previous selection.

Suzuki teaching uses a common core repertoire for students of the same instrument worldwide, and although it focuses on Western European "classical" music, it emphasizes that this music can be a bridge across cultural and language barriers: one does not have to share the ethnic or national origin of the composers in order to learn or share the music.

Suzuki created a series of rhythmic variations on the theme "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", using rhythms from more advanced literature in units small enough for a beginner to grasp quickly. Although these variations were created for violin, most of the instruments use them as a starting point for their repertoire.

Violin[edit]

Compiled and edited by Suzuki. In ten volumes, beginning with Suzuki's Variations on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and ending with two Mozart concertos. This repertoire is currently in the process of being revised by the International Suzuki Association. The first 3 books are mostly graded arrangements of music not originally written for solo violin, although book 1 contains several original compositions by Suzuki for violin & piano. These arrangements are drawn from folk tunes and from composers such as Bach, Telemann, Dvořák, Beethoven, Schubert, Handel, Paganini, Boccherini and Brahms. Books 4–10 continue the graded selection by incorporating 'standard' or 'traditional' student violin solos by Seitz, Vivaldi, Bach, Veracini, Corelli, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, Rameau, Handel, Mozart, Fiocco, and others. Audio recordings for books 1–4 are available in separate albums by artists such as David Nadien, David Cerone, and Shin'ichi Suzuki. New recordings of volumes 1–4 by William Preucil, Jr. were released in 2007, along with revised versions of the first 4 books. Recordings for books 5–8 have been made by Koji Toyoda, although many of the pieces can be found separately on other artist's albums. In 2008 Takako Nishizaki made a complete set of recordings of Books 1-8 for Naxos Records. There are no official recordings of books 9 and 10 but these books, simply being Mozart's A major and D major violin concertos, have readily available recordings by various violinists. Completing the 10 volumes is not the end of the Suzuki journey, as many Suzuki teachers traditionally continue with the Bruch and Mendelssohn concertos, along with pieces from other composers such as Paradis, Mozart, and Kreisler.

Viola[edit]

Compiled and edited by Doris Preucil. Like the violin repertoire, much of the viola repertoire is drawn from the Baroque period. Currently in eight volumes, with two more volumes planned. The first 3 have been arranged (or transposed) almost directly from the first 3 violin volumes, and the rest differ significantly as they delve into standard viola literature. These volumes include works by Telemann, Casadesus, Bach, and others. Volume eight, released in 2005, contains works by Mendelssohn, Vivaldi, Cassado, Leclair, Telemann, Hummel,and Bruch. The series is expected to end with Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata. Books 1–4 have been recorded on two albums by William Preucil, and the rest are available in separate albums.

Cello[edit]

The cello repertoire is in ten volumes, with some early pieces arranged from the early violin volumes, and the first distinct piece (the second) being "French Folk Song". Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi performs volumes 1 through 4. Volumes 4–10 contain works by: Vivaldi, Saint-Saëns, Popper, Breval, Goltermann, Squire, Bach, Paradis, Eccles, Fauré, von Goens, Sammartini, Haydn, and Boccherini.

Piano[edit]

Composed of seven volumes. The first book starts out with "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" (as with the violin books) and goes on with many folk songs and contemporary songs. As one progresses to the second book, there are pieces written by classical and baroque composers, such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach. The fourth book ends with the Gigue from Partita in B by J.S. Bach, the fifth book ends with the famous "Für Elise" by Beethoven, the sixth book ends with the Sonata in C Major, K.545 by W.A. Mozart, and the seventh book ends with the Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major by Mozart, this book also includes "The Harmonious Blacksmith" by Handel. There are also many minuets in the second book. The New International Edition adds some more recent compositions to the books, such as the music of Béla Bartók.

Revised versions of the Piano books have now been published. The new volumes are collections of piano repertoire from all eras representing works by composers such as Mozart, Bergmüller, Beethoven, Bach, Tchaikovsky, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Daquin, Grieg, Granados, Villa-Lobos, Scarlatti, Handel, Bartók, and Debussy. Many pieces from the original books remain; some have been shifted to another volume. The book/CD combo for Revised Books 4-7 is now available, and was performed by Japanese concert artist Seizo Azuma.

Bass[edit]

Currently five printed volumes in this series, with the first three volumes available on recordings. Nine volumes are planned and being compiled and edited by Daniel Swaim (SAA, Chair), Virginia Dixon (SAA), Michael Fanelli (SAA), Domenick Fiore (SAA), and Eugene Rebeck (SAA). Volume 1 and 2 contain arrangements of the traditional Suzuki violin pieces mixed in with some new arrangements of other pieces. Volume 3 contains some new transcriptions of jazz, Gaelic, and folk songs; plus works by Handel, Gossec, Beethoven, Bach, Webster, Saint-Saëns, and Dvořák. Famous pieces include: The Elephant from Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns, Ode to Joy by Beethoven, and Largo from the New World Symphony by Dvořák.

Flute[edit]

Compiled and edited by Toshio Takahashi. In fourteen volumes, beginning with Mary Had a Little Lamb and ending in the Flute Concerto by Otaka. Also included are concerti by Mozart, Cimarosa, Ibert and Quantz. Students also study music by Bach, Handel, Blavet, Fauré and other major composers.

Recorder[edit]

In eight Volumes, for both soprano and alto recorder. Shares some early repertoire with other instruments, such as "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", several Bach Minuets, etc. Later books delve into more complex renaissance and baroque music, including instruction in intense baroque ornamentation along with 17th-century Dutch and Italian articulation techniques.

Guitar[edit]

Compiled through a collaborative process involving teachers from the United States, Europe and Australia, and edited by Frank Longay. In nine volumes. The method begins with Twinkle Variations and many folk songs, and adds pieces originally written for the lute in the Renaissance, and spanning all musical time periods, including pieces by Sanz, Vivaldi, Bach, Carcassi, Giuliani, Sor, Tarrega, Albéniz, Mudarra, and Yocoh's Sakura Variations. Music in book one is performed by Frank Longay and Bill Kossler, with books two through four recorded by Seth Himmelhoch, Andrew LaFrenier, and Louis Brown. George Sakellariou has recorded books five, six and seven and William Kanengiser recorded books 8 and 9, with the exception of Recuerdos de la Alhambra in book 9, which was recorded by Scott Tennant.

Harp[edit]

In four volumes. These books are suitable for learning to read and play music on the pedal harp or the lever harp (folk harp, Irish/Celtic harp, etc. that preferably has 30 or more strings). Most of the music is arrangements of either folk music or classical music. Students of the lever harp will find some of the pieces in the later books to have challenging lever changes. This series ultimately leads to more in-depth study of the pedal harp and its repertoire and teaches more of a classical style technique. Those pursuing traditional Celtic music can use this as a foundation, however, the traditional style of teaching focuses on relying on the ear rather than on the written note. Repertoire for volume Four is selected, though the music is not published in a single book.

Voice[edit]

In five Levels. Developed in Finland since 1986, the vocal repertoire of the Suzuki method has spread to over 20 countries including America, Australia, Europe, Asia and New Zealand. Teacher training courses are scheduled yearly in Europe, US and Australia.

Organ[edit]

Gunilla Rönnberg and Lars Hagström started compiling and editing the Suzuki method for the Organ 1998. Currently Volumes 1-4 have been published, Volumes 5 & 6 will be published shortly, and material for Volumes 7 & 8 is currently being researched. As of 2011, an active Suzuki-training organ scheme is under way in the Australian city of Newcastle.

Mandolin[edit]

The application of Suzuki's teaching philosophy to the mandolin is currently being researched in Italy by Amelia Saracco.

Early childhood education and Suzuki in the schools[edit]

Although early childhood education (ECE) is not an instrument, a curriculum for (pre-instrumental) ECE has been developed within the Suzuki philosophy by Dorothy Jones (SAA), Jeong Cheol Wong (ASA), Emma O'Keefe (PPSA), Anke van der Bijl (ESA), and Yasuyo Matsui (TERI). Also, a "modified" Suzuki philosophy curriculum has been developed to apply Suzuki teaching to heterogeneous instrumental music classes & string orchestras in schools.

Trumpet[edit]

Trumpet was added to the International Suzuki Assoaciation's list of Suzuki Method instruments in 2011. The application of Suzuki's teaching philosophy to the trumpet is currently being researched in Sweden; the first Trumpet teacher training course to be offered by the European Suzuki Association in 2013.

Supplemental materials[edit]

Supplementary materials are also published under the Suzuki name, including some etudes, note-reading books, piano accompaniment parts, guitar accompaniment parts, duets, trios, string orchestra, and string quartet arrangements of Suzuki repertoire.

Historical notes[edit]

In the late 19th century, Japan's borders were opened to trade with the outside world, and in particular to the importation of Western Culture. As a result of this, Suzuki's father, who owned a company which had manufactured the Shamisen, began to manufacture violins instead.

In his youth, Shin'ichi Suzuki chanced to hear a phonograph recording of Franz Schubert's Ave Maria, as played on violin by Mischa Elman. Gripped by the beauty of the music, he immediately picked up a violin from his father's factory and began to teach himself to play the instrument "by ear." His father felt that instrumental performance was beneath his son's social status, and refused to allow him to study the instrument. At age 17, he began to teach himself by ear, since no formal training was allowed to him. Eventually he convinced his father to allow him to study with a violin teacher in Tokyo.

At age 22, Suzuki travelled to Germany to find a violin teacher to continue his studies. While there, he studied privately with Karl Klingler, but did not receive any formal degree past his high school diploma. He met and became friends with Albert Einstein, who encouraged him in learning classical music. He also met, courted, and married his wife, Waltraud.

In 1945, Suzuki began his Talent Education movement in Matsumoto, Japan shortly after the end of World War II. Raising children with "noble hearts" (inspired by great music and diligent study) was one of his primary goals; he believed that people raised and "nurtured by love" in his method would grow up to achieve better things than war. One of his students during this post-1945 period was violinist Hidetaro Suzuki, no relation, who later became a veteran of international violin competitions (Tchaikovsky, Queen Elizabeth, Montreal International) and then the longtime concertmaster of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Eventually, the center of the Suzuki movement in education was established as the Talent Education Research Institute (TERI) in Matsumoto. TERI hosts thousands of people each year—students, parents, teachers, (and teacher trainees). Other organizations have sprung up all over the world to help oversee the movement and train teachers. These include the Asia Suzuki Association, the Suzuki Association of the Americas, the European Suzuki Association (which is currently assisting in the beginnings of the Suzuki movement in Africa) and the Pan-Pacific Suzuki Association.

John D. Kendall of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville brought the Suzuki method, along with adaptations to better fit the requirements of the American classroom, to the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Vilem Sokol of the Seattle Youth Symphony hosted Suzuki in Seattle. The majority of American Suzuki pedagogues and teaching methods are grounded in the Suzuki-Kendall system. Other pioneers of the Suzuki Method in the US include Roland and Almita Vamos, Elizabeth and Harlow Mills, Betty Haag, Louise Behrend, Dorothy Roffman, William Starr, Anastasia Jempelis, and Margery Aber.

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Barber, Barbara (Autumn, 1991). "Traditional & Suzuki Teaching: A Comparison". American String Teacher.
  • Bradley, Jane (Spring 2005). "When to Twinkle – Are Children Ever Too Young?". American Suzuki Journal Vol. 33, #3, p53.
  • Campell, Don. The Mozart Effect for Children. Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., New York, NY, 2000, ISBN 0-380-97782-6
  • Hermann, Evelyn. Shinichi Suzuki: The Man and his Philosophy. Warner Brothers Publications, 1981, ISBN 0-87487-589-7.
  • Kelly, Birte (2002). International Suzuki Association: Regional Suzuki Associations. Retrieved February 21, 2007.
  • Kreitman, Edward. Teaching from the Balance Point: A Guide for Suzuki Teachers, Parents, and Students. Western Springs School of Talent Education Publications, Western Springs, IL, 1998.
  • Lavie, Karen (Summer, 2005). "On Gastronomy and Tonalization." New Zealand Suzuki Journal Vol. 16, #4, pp. 5–6.
  • Meyer, Constance (2003, 7 September). The Mom-Centric Method. Los Angeles Times, Classical Music.
  • Nurtured by Love: The life and work of Shinichi Suzuki [Video Documentary]. Produced by The Cleveland Institute of Music. Telos Productions, Inc.
  • Suzuki Organ Website [1], Retrieved June 20, 2010
  • Suzuki, Shinichi. Nurtured By Love: A New Approach to Talent Education. Warner bros. Publication, Miami, Florida, 1968
  • Suzuki, Shinichi. Ability Development from Age Zero. Warner bros. Publication, Miami, Florida, 1981
  • Suzuki Talent Education Association of Australia (Vic) Inc., (Copyright 2005). History of the Suzuki Method. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  • Suzuki Association of the Americas Website, http://suzukiassociation.org/news/suzuki-teacher-training-for-trumpet-european-2/, Retrieved July 15, 2013.

External links[edit]