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James Plattes

Quick read/overview of Suzuki Violin method for prospective parents

August 26, 2010 at 8:34 PM

I have designed and posted a website dedicated to giving prospective students and parents a quick overview of the Suzuki violin method.  In this site, I have compared and contrasted traditional violin teaching methods with the Suzuki method.  It's a five minute read and it can give parents a resource to quickly learn some of what's involved in the Suzuki method.  The address is:

It is my hope that this can be a valuable resource to parents of young violinists, and parents considering violin lessons for their child.  Hopefully this site presents an unbiased overview of these two violin learning approaches.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on August 27, 2010 at 10:06 AM

Thank you.  I have been searching for a long time for an article that explains the Suzuki method to parents of prospective Suzuki students.  I couldn't find anything anywhere on the Internet that gave this kind of information.  Your article fills a real need.

From Marijke Welch
Posted on August 28, 2010 at 12:08 AM

 Thanks for that! As a teacher myself, I have to explain to parents the difference between the two methods. I am considering getting Suzuki training at some point, so it's always great to reaffirm my beliefs that suzuki can be a really great thing with the right type of student :D

From Jim Fellows
Posted on August 28, 2010 at 8:46 PM

I'm not sure 2 lessons a week is a Suzuki "identifier." Group lessons as part of the study, yes. But I don't know of any studios that currently mandate a group and private lesson in the same week. If so, they certainly are not in the majority.

I am also leary of identifying Allegro in book 4 as THE place to start reading. Remember that Dr. Suzuki was living in a different culture--one very different from the US. While it is SOP to begin 3 year olds in Japan, that is also not the norm in the US. Different environment, different culture.--like you, most experienced teachers in the US probably start children more often around age 4. Dr. Suzuki started students at age 3 and younger, and reading around book 4 because they were starting to read their own language at the same time--these children were probably in book 4 by the age of 5 (and I doubt many teachers in the US have kids in book 4 after 2 years as Dr. Suzuki did). I think the developmental idea was to start children playing at age 3, and reading music about the same time they started reading their own language--and that just happened to be in book 4 in Japan. 

From James Plattes
Posted on August 28, 2010 at 11:32 PM

"The Suzuki Violinist" by William Starr quotes Dr. Suzuki as saying note reading should be taught as the child reaches Vivaldi A Minor Concerto, depending on the child's age.  Page 141, published by Kingston Ellis Press.

MacPhail School of Music had one group lesson and one private lesson each week for Suzuki violin students when I was observing there.  It's in Minneapolis.  Thanks for your comments.


From Ann Miller
Posted on August 29, 2010 at 3:55 AM

 I liked your last sentence about the best string teachers taking the best of both (many?) approaches and adapting them to the individual student.

As the parent of an incredibly independent child, I truly appreciate how our teacher has adapted the Suzuki method to a child that can only take limited advice and instruction from a parent.

Thanks for your article.

From Jim Fellows
Posted on August 29, 2010 at 5:29 AM

Thanks for mentioning Bill Starr's book, which was written in '76 after observing Dr. Suzuki for 10 years.  What an exciting time that must have been! His careful choice of words at that point in the book is critical--he wrote that Suzuki mentioned "reading should be taught as the child reaches the Vivaldi A Minor..." but closes the very same sentence with the qualifier "depending on the child's age." He supports what I was suggesting in the very next sentence when he wrote that many Western children start later than children in Japan, and that Western children need to be able to read before they get into Book 4. Star doesn't say where in the repertoire it needs to happen--just that it needs to happen earlier. I think he is purposefully being vague, specifically so a hard and fast "rule" isn't set. It could be a great dis-service to a child to hold off reading until they reach a specific selection of repertoire, and I question holding off reading until the Vivaldi A minor should be used as an accurate identifier of the method.

Starr mentions on page 27 that Suzuki recommended groups meeting bi-monthly or monthly "at the least." I think it is great that some studios can have groups weekly, and I know those programs offer a real benefit to the children involved. But again, I just question whether the facet of "weekly groups" should also be used as a hard and fast  identifier of "The Suzuki Method," or if it is simply, as Starr wrote, "Group lessons are an integral part of the Suzuki approach." Perhaps what would be more accurate is that 2 lessons per week in your studio is different from the traditional studio.

It is so easy to everyone to settle into "hard and fast" rules that were never intended, because everyone wanted/wants to duplicate the great success of Dr. Suzuki. So people try to copy everything he did. I remember a discussion at Stevens-Point probably 10-12 years ago, and the subject of the mistake of teaching a "very low elbow" on the bow arm came up--something that many teachers at the time thought Dr. Suzuki was promoting at one point in the 90's, and that many found to be "very counterproductive" down the road with their students. I remember Mark Bjork reflecting that he felt that philosophy came about as a mistake on the part of US teachers, because at about the same time, Dr. Suzuki had suffered a stroke. Following that, his bow elbow was unusually low--so everyone thought he was stressing an elbow at the same level his was. It was just that he physically couldn't raise it up any higher, but teachers began copying his movements. Consequently, many teachers started mistakenly teaching a very low elbow.

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