September 21, 2009 at 11:41 PM
Of all the Suzuki method criticisms, some of the harshest seem to be directed toward the CD that accompanies the method book. "It's like twinkle on speed!" One parent exclaimed to me.
This is why I think it's important to clear up what the CD is ACTUALLY for. Most people seem to believe that Suzuki students are supposed to listen to the CD, memorize the song, and then play it along with the CD. This is only half true.
What partially makes "the Suzuki method" different from "the traditional style" is the approach to sight reading. When young students (3 or 4 years old) are learning the violin, it would be almost impossible for them to make any sort of progress if they were asked to play the violin (which involves a high level of fine motor skills) AND read music (most of them can't even read books yet). Doing both of those things is even incredibly difficult for an adult beginner who can read. So we separate the two tasks. This allows them to focus on the technically complex task of playing their instrument.
Enter the CD. The CD is used to help the students memorize a piece. It's very difficult to play a piece (reading or not) when you have no idea how it goes. The CD also serves as a reference point for intonation. Beginners are by no means expected to play with the CD or even at CD speed. Once they are more solid players (as in, well past twinkle), they are asked to go back and play with the CD. Beginning students are, however, asked to do simple activities such as bowing on their shoulder along with the CD. This is an easy way to teach them how to keep a consistent tempo.
What I think is important to keep in mind is that the Suzuki method books are just that: method books. Their purpose is to teach certain techniques in a pedagogical fashion. They are NOT the method. The actual "Suzuki method" is an approach to teaching.
The CDs are still too fast to play with. I accept that playing with them is not the main point of them, but in that case, it would be nice if there were some other recording that was slow enough to play with. My teacher uses the books as teaching material and I would personally like to play sometimes with the piano accompaniment - because the equal temperament of the piano screws me up something awful. I think it would be a good thing for me to practice - but it is simply not possible with these recordings. And I must say, as long as there is a track that has only the accompaniment, it seems to me like there is a suggestion that the CDs are supposed to be useful for that.
Just beginning students have a hard time playing with a piano period. Playing with a different instrument is a separate skill in itself. The piano part on the CD is for students who are ready to perform the piece. Not for those who are learning it.
Try bowing on your shoulder with the CD to piece you are learning. Then try doing the bowings with the CD on an open string. Practice the hard sections of the piece by themselves. Then work those up to CD speed. THEN try playing the whole piece with the CD.
Doing too many new things at once is frustrating. Break down the skill sets into things you can accomplish.
I agree with you, Ms. Gomez. I am an adult beginner on the violin. My first teacher taught from the Suzuki Method books along with a couple of other books. She worked with me up to the fourth book. The recordings really helped me to know what to look for. Of course, just like any music, I was not playing at the tempo of the recording from the beginning. But the recordings gave me an overall picture. I suppose it was beginning with the end in mind. You need to know what the result you want is before you begin so you can visualize how to get there. Definitely practice slow first then pick up tempo as you become more familiar. Good blog, Ms. Gomez.
I have also been frustrated with the tempo's of the cds. Is there a way to slow the recordings down? Some computer program (preferably free)?
Haven't actually tried it, but SmartMusic is supposed to do the job if you want a variable-speed piano accomp. But I'm pretty sure it's not free.
The Amazing Slowdowner is a fantastic program. They have a free trial version (which is actually very comprehensive) that you can download from their site. The full version is $50.
Thank you Danielle for you suggestion about how to practice with the Suzuki CDs.
My son and I (at Book 4) are always wondering when will we be able to play at the same speed as in the CD after a lot of practice.
PS: you can slow down music for free with Windows Media player and Quicktime,
I haven't really compared myself, but I was told that the revised edition CDs (w/ William Preucil on the violin) are supposed to be a bit slower than the old CDs. My impression of the Book 3 CDs -- I have both Nadien and the revised for this -- suggest the revised does seem slightly slower, but again, I didn't compare closely at all.
We do let the kids play some along w/ the CD accompaniment in preparation for their usual solo recitals, but we don't do that all that often otherwise. When we do use it, we also let them know that it's only to help them work on their tempo and familiarize themselves w/ the piano part (and also work on playing pass whatever potential issues might arise during recital) and should not dictate how the actual (live) performance should go. Of course, our kids aren't preschoolers either, so YMMV...
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