Teaching and learning violin: 'The Suzuki Violinist' by William Starr

April 27, 2006, 11:40 PM · Some of us are teachers, and some are not. Some of us teach by the Suzuki method, and some of us don't. However, all violinists have something in common: We are all teachers of ourselves, and we all learn from ourselves. I have just finished rereading a great book that can help all of us: The Suzuki Violinistby William Starr. Starr was a disciple of Suzuki, and he is an accomplished teacher in his own right. His book has a wealth of insights, as well as some fun photos of three year old violin students.

Suzuki's teaching method is based on the principle that children learn music the same way they learn language - by listening over and over again and then repeating. Suzuki had students learn intonation by listening to their teacher and then playing along, matching their pitch to their teacher's. Today students buy CDs along with Suzuki music books, and they can practice with the CD at home just as they can play with the teacher at lessons. Rhythm can be taught and reinforced the same way.

Some aspects of the Suzuki-Starr method of teaching violin which I find very helpful with my students, who are beginners of all ages, include:

The more I use Suzuki's books, the more I understand and appreciate them. They are great for nitty gritty details and, perhaps even more important, for nurturing each student as a person and a musician.


April 28, 2006 at 02:25 PM · Yes suzuki is indeed a good method, although it almost completely neglects sight-reading, which is something that should be instilled too. Also I get my students to keep their thumb opposite their middle finger where possible (left hand) because it's far more relaxed that way.

April 28, 2006 at 07:26 PM · Suzuki's method is often criticized (and rightly so) because it does not emphasize reading sheet music. I will address this in another blog entry. Stay tuned.

April 30, 2006 at 11:40 AM · I am an adult beginner, and I was taught via the Suzuki mehtod at first in a group class. I learned largely by imitating my teacher's excellent brilliant tone when he played, and I also studied and copied the way he moved and held the violin. Moving through Suzuki Book 1, I tended to memorize pieces and then played them over and over again until I was happy with the tone, rhythm and musicality. I continue to do this with my Wohlfhardt etudes. My new teacher who is not Suzuki trained emphasizes sight-reading. I focus on sight-reading more, but still fall back and memorize pieces when I can.

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