Suzuki Method

April 9, 2009 at 06:16 PM ·

I see other folks here discussing "Suzuki" Method.  What is that?


April 9, 2009 at 06:35 PM ·

Go to and search for "suzuki violin method"

Read over a number of the responses you get and then come back here and restart the periodic controversy about this subject. But the controversy will not infoorm you, so you should look it up first.


April 9, 2009 at 06:56 PM ·

 "Suzuki" is a brand name, like Stradivarius or Steinway. It's something parents can ask for if they know nothing else about strings. It's like looking at a Thai menu, trying to figure out what everything is, and then asking "uh...maybe some pad thai.....?"

April 9, 2009 at 07:28 PM ·

 I can't believe that anyone, these days, doesn't think to do a quick google before asking questions.  I think Ann Marie just wanted to start a fight.

By the way, who holds the 'Stradivarius' trademark? 

April 9, 2009 at 07:44 PM ·

Suzuki- A method of learning how to play the violin and bad bowing habits simultaneously! It is named after the violinist who invented it. He died in 1998...... I think.

2) a brand of motorcycles not endorsed by 1%'er Motorcycle Clubs.

April 9, 2009 at 08:18 PM ·

Shinichi Suzuki was a Japanese violin teacher who developed a method of teaching music that is modeled after the way children learn to speak their native language.  But there's a lot more to it than that!

If you want to learn more about Suzuki, a great place to start is the SAA website (Suzuki Association of the Americas.)  I also highly reccomend Shinichi Suzuki's inspirational book Nurtured by Love.

April 10, 2009 at 10:37 AM ·

I think is just as good a place to find information as google, especially if it has anything to do with the violin. 

I do not recommend suzuki.  If one insists on suzuki method I would not recommend it for more than a year or 2.

April 10, 2009 at 10:55 AM ·

Marina, we agree! AMAZING

April 10, 2009 at 11:16 AM ·

Sam, I didn't know we disagreed a lot.  Do we?

April 10, 2009 at 11:50 AM ·

Thanks for your replies!  As an adult beginner, I had never heard of Suzuki method, which is discussed here in various threads.  I have had it explained to me, so now I have a better understanding ot it.

April 10, 2009 at 03:49 PM ·


- the 3rd most common name in Japan

- a brand of (not too shabby) motorcycles

- a music teaching system centered on rote learning, strong dependence on teacher, inclusion of DCFS-avoiding parents, massed ensembles of motorized children in concert (Kim Jong Il, anyone?), choppy sound esthetic, questionable musicality, delayed note reading, badly edited music (with covers but not much content endlessly "revised" to sustain sales), and not very well graded at that, accompanied by expensive CDs, to be listened to incessantly (not unlike party slogans).

Suzuki supplemental materials have attempted to plug the many holes in the method for decades, keeping music publishers and retailers very happy. Method started on violin, expanded to all strings, piano, flute, harp, etc. Soon coming to the accordion, perhaps...

Beware, (hardcore) Suzuki teachers subscribe to what can only be described as a personality cult, making Piaget very jealous, his comprehensive work with children never quite receiving such teary adulation... 

Party faithfuls (Suzuki association members) gather annually to seek certification, as well as oftentimes bash traditional method teachers, that oddly seem to have produced the vast majority of the great players and pedagogues of the past and present...

Seemingly millions of kids worldwide start on the Suzuki method every year, many giving up when confronted with such concepts as note-reading, phrasing, articulation, style, polyphonic ensemble playing, sight-reading, individual sound personality, and independent work habits...

My $0.02...

April 10, 2009 at 12:29 PM ·

Just to be fair, Suzuki helped me a lot in my learning journey. Without the help of suzuki method, I would have suffer along the learning journey. I can play songs like monti czardas within a year (though, I've been a pianist for many years).

Of course, it's just a method. Like Yamaha J-Courses (JMC JEC and so on), it teaches a lot of singing and hearings, and play by ear. Not a perfect method, but I can see how much Yamaha can benefit the kids in their hearings, where the regular piano lessons cannot give.

And finally, it's all depends on the teacher. Suzuki method is just a, method, and written materials. How far you can go, always depends on the teacher, regardless which method.

Of course, how much students are willing to practice, and how much talent they got, that's another story...

April 10, 2009 at 01:21 PM ·

I am a little scared to enter this discussion!  My kids have learned with Suzuki, have expanded to other repertoire and sight reading along with Suzuki, and are both very musical!  They play at quite a high level for their ages.  The memorization aspect does not create robotic playing in the hands of a good teacher!   As an adult player of 4 years, I am using the Suzuki books and supplementary materials also.  I am really surprised at all the negative comments.  Isn't it all about learning to play?  Easy folks! 

April 10, 2009 at 02:57 PM ·

I can't believe that anyone, these days, doesn't think to do a quick google before asking questions.  I think Ann Marie just wanted to start a fight.

Rex - Sorry you feel that way.  As I stated, I am an Adult Beginner.  An older adult beginner, actually, and I have even worst experience on using a computer, so NO, I did not think of using a Google search beforehand. 

April 10, 2009 at 03:23 PM ·

Andrei, Piaget probably got more adulation than he deserved, but Suzuki would have done well to study him a bit.

Ann Marie, I bet I'm older and more of a beginner than you are. :)

April 10, 2009 at 03:50 PM ·

Ok, well nonetheless, I didn't mean to offend anyone.  My humblest apologies.

April 11, 2009 at 02:34 AM ·

Shinichi Suzuki was a great man, with a beautiful and inclusive philosophy: that every person possesses innate musical talent, and that if it is properly cultivated, this talent can be a source of lifelong joy and music-making.

The disagreement lies in "properly cultivated."

Suzuki observed that all children learn to speak their native languages, and he sought to apply the way children learn language to the way children can learn to play the violin: immerse the student in an environment with music, reward their efforts, learn the physical and aural aspect of playing  before you learn to read (as you learn to speak before you learn to read), get people together and have fun playing together (speaking is about communication, it doesn't happen, alone in a room), repeat what you know so that it becomes fluent, etc. He called this the "mother tongue" method.

I find no problem in any of this.

The problem, really, was that this method worked all too well, and so it was adopted by people who actually didn't know how to play the violin fully, but found that they could get results by applying certain aspects of the mother tongue "method" to students.

Imagine learning how to speak a language from someone who didn't really speak that language fluently. Worse, imagine if your teacher actually didn't KNOW that they didn't speak fluently.

Your violin teacher needs to know how to play the violin, first and foremost. Second, your violin teacher needs to be able to communicate. Third, your violin teacher needs to have faith in your ability to learn.

After that, you have to trust your teacher's methods, whatever they are.

I have taken a lot of Suzuki training (all 10 books) and I have found some of the most wonderful teachers teaching Suzuki, and using incredibly creative ways to get the message across. I have found this to be a source of creativity and inspiration in my teaching. But so, too, is my general journey as a violinist.

I think that to completely dismiss the Suzuki method is just ludicrous. I've seen the results of setting a person straight in front of music, the slouching, un-musical student who never really gets the feel of it. A little rote learning can be a VERY good thing in the beginning, as long as the reading happens at the proper time (which in my opinion, is no later than halfway through book 1, if you use Suzuki books!).

Argue on, friends...;)

April 10, 2009 at 04:19 PM ·

Laurie: BRAVA!

April 10, 2009 at 05:49 PM ·

I will say that the best decision made by the Suzuki corporation was to have David Nadien record the CD's.

April 10, 2009 at 06:39 PM ·

Marina and Sam, I agree! lol

The one who sarted this method was quit smart...   He wanted to make the students very aware of the musicality as well as the technique.  This is the why of all the recommanded Susuki recordings.  If well applied it can probably be as good as anything else.

The problem is that Susuki lessons are often group lessons...  If you can afford private lessons, it would be the best gift in the world for you!  Such group lessons, even if given by a good teacher can not remplace private lessons and the amout of attention/coaching you get is very little.  This is the why of bad habits, intonation and the abuses of tapes on the finger board.  This is also the why of all the jokes on Susuki students.   The principles are probably not bad but be aware of all this...

In addition, as an adult starter, you can make your own Susuki program.  Take theory lessons, listen to much music to develop your violinistic ear (ask for suggestions to your teacher) and I believe you can develop the wonderful musician in you with this!

Good luck!


April 10, 2009 at 08:17 PM ·

I agree with Laurie. The Suzuki method is a very effective way to teach the violin. I have taught young kids and adults. The biggest problem with my older beginners is convincing them that by learning to play these "simple" little songs that they are actually learning to play the violin. It seems so simple that they invariably want to skip ahead to "the hard stuff" and of course they waste time and falter if they don't master the basics first.

I think it is by far the best way to start young children. For older children and adults (and of course for the little ones as well) the most important factor is the teacher.

April 10, 2009 at 10:19 PM ·

Honestly, does anyone really believe that the Suzuki method is responsible for muscians giving up when confronted with such concepts as note-reading, phrasing, articulation, style, polyphonic ensemble playing, sight-reading, individual sound personality, and independent work habits? Come on! Go to any youth orchestra and, as in life itself, those qualities and the exact opposite, can be found in all learning methods. Really!

Laurie, well stated and i like what you said, except the part about reading in the middle of Book 1. My son was in the midle of Book 1  as a 4 year old and was in no postion to begin reading. Now @ 8 in Book 4, his sight-reading is wonderful.

Anne-Marie, i disagree with the claim that most take lessons are only in a group. Suzuki students take a weekly private lesson and, up to youth orchestra age, take a group lesson weekly or bi-weekly. Music lessons of any kind are very expensive and as a single mother, i spend a tremoundous amount of resources into my boys musical education.  I cannot think of a greater investment.

April 10, 2009 at 11:04 PM ·

Yes, while I think more I should have said that those I have mostly seen were group lessons but I would not be surprise that they are other formulas. My mom cello teacher taugh the Susuki privately but it was not "official"...  Thanks for telling me that!  Of course, money issues is not something easy to deal with either these times....  This frighten me very much as a futur worker and surely you have to make choices in many things. 

Good luck,


April 11, 2009 at 01:15 AM ·

it's a violin method.  I think it only works if you have a teacher who is phenomenal, and only uses the books to get student level pieces out of. consider reading the book "Nurtured by love".  In general I think it can be good for beginning discipline in young children in regard to practicing..that could have just been my amazing teacher though. best of luck!

April 11, 2009 at 02:29 AM ·

Also, it's not true that Suzuki students are taught in groups; in the traditional Suzuki setting, students have a private teacher and they also attend group class.

Birdie, you are right, a four-year-old will not learn to read notes until he/she learns to read words! But, theory concepts can be started very early, if done in an age-appropriate way.

On that topic, when one is teaching public school, the ability of children to read is something to bear in mind. It is becoming popular to start the kids younger and younger, but if you are starting first- or second-graders, you can't just plop "Essential Strings" in front of them and expect anything to happen. They are still new readers! Yet you can teach them a TON about playing the violin (position, rhythm, pitch, notes, singing in solfege, etc.) and even a ton about theory, before they read notes.

April 12, 2009 at 07:25 AM ·

There are a lot of misconceptions about how the material is taught in the Suzuki Method, and unfortunately there are plenty of people out there waving the Suzuki banner who have absolutely no idea what the philosophy behind it is. We see time and time again that regardless of the source of the material being taught, the critical factor is in the ability of the teacher to teach, not what specific texts they draw their materials from...I've met plenty of "traditional" teachers who can't explain the difference between a sautille and a spiccato bow stroke!

Personally, I don't teach Suzuki material, but mainly for the reason that I don't work with students that are three and four years of age. It works really well when the musical skills taught in the method parallel language development in the child. It's just asinine when the same exact techniques are used on students who are eight, ten, and older. Those kids are no longer at the same stage of cognitive development, and require a different approach (again, we look to Piaget on this subject). The revisions and research that have gone into improving the beginning stages of the Suzuki books have yielded a lot of success, but beyond those it simply makes far more sense to seek out other editions of the big works (especially the Mozart Concertos) than use the over-edited and somewhat-dated fingerings found in the later books.

A common occurence out here is with private schools seeking a "suzuki program" for their elementary age kids (because they've heard good things about it), not grasping that while it is perfectly fine to teach "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" to 4th graders, it's NOT okay to teach it to them using the same methods that one would use with pre-school age children.

April 12, 2009 at 02:41 PM ·

Of note: many of you may know this, but Suzuki books 1-4 have been revised, with fewer fingerings given (more sight-reading) and an earlier introduction to shifting.  Some of the bowings have been changed as well, and the actual book is larger and easier to read.  The CDs have also been re-recorded and are very nice.

April 23, 2009 at 06:47 PM ·

It makes a lot of reflexion and we can not say your posting is all false either... 

For the "every child is gifted with a musical inborn talent (or something similar)"... I also disagree.  We are not all Hilary Hahn even if we would all have her training.  I agree that a good training can produce more excellent players but they have to have the ability to be an excellent player and not everyone is equally gifted with this.  Morover, you can have the head, but not the proper body, the perfect body but no musical head, the two of them (scream Hurrah if it is your case because you are lucky!).  This is one of the main Susuki statement I disagree with.  But could I just give what is only an hypothesis.  The population is huge in asian countries and maybe this kind of training is to train the maximum number of students possible.  (the more people you train, the more chances you have to find a few national hero violinists...)  Maybe I'm wrong too!!!  And there are pros and cons to everything in life. But I liked the analogy with the brand!!!  It was funny.


April 23, 2009 at 07:25 PM ·

I think the Suzuki method is to music/violin playing what miniature golf is to the actual game of golf.  Sure you can get kind of good at putting from playing miniature golf but you won't win the US Open or even a city tournament if you have only played mini-golf. 


April 23, 2009 at 08:04 PM ·

People certainly seem to come out swinging (and I don't mean a la jazz) when Suzuki is discussed. If only there were this much energy in lessons!

Since when is the method MORE important than the teacher--I don't care if is is Galamian, Suzuki, or Rolland... Suzuki just seems to work for youngsters. Don't make it into something more--even Suzuki knew it isn't an end-all. Kids automatically move out of it into something else at a higher level--otherwise there would be 3,000 books, NOT 10. And just like all methods, there are good Suzuki teachers and bad Suzuki teachers.

Find a good teacher. That is the trick.

April 23, 2009 at 08:31 PM ·

To the few who are implying that the Suzuki method is incapable of producing viable players:

As has been mentioned, a good teacher, using any method, can help a student achieve great things, granted that they are immersed in an environment that nurtures their development as a musician. I began with an amazing teacher who worked with Dr. Suzuki and followed the methods and ideology very consistently. I studied with her from the age of five until the end of my last year at high school. We covered all ten books (I've since reexamined the two Mozart concerti with better editions, different cadenzas, etc.) and other important material in preparation for university auditions (solo Bach, Paganini, a few romantic concertos). Every piece in the books covers an important skill, and as such, we skipped nothing--by this I mean that every single piece was prepared to a level suitable for public performance. We had weekly group class, in which we reviewed the repertoire of the first four or five books, and into which was incorporated theory exercises, some small ensemble playing, and also some time in which the more advanced students gained experience teaching groups of younger students. For several months in my last year of high school, I took private theory lessons as well to catch up a bit and work on my keyboard skills. 

Four years later, I am finishing a performance degree, and I am competing in my first international competition next month. I'll be starting my Master's degree at a major American conservatory in the Fall.

Clearly, one can't expect that a Suzuki student will stroll through the books and suddenly be a top-tier soloist. However, I would have to say that for me, it's a plain fact that my background as a Suzuki student with a good teacher prepared me very well for the traditional "next step" on my way to a career as a musician. It wasn't just "mini-golf" for me, and I have no regrets following through with the method. 

April 24, 2009 at 02:42 PM ·

I started using the Suzuki books four years ago as an adult beginner when my then 4 year-old daughter started playing the violin.

A bit of background:  I could sight read going in, from prior childhood experiences with the piano.  However, I have only now begun to hear, most of the time, when I am out of tune and I cannot hear even a simple piece and play it.  I rely on reading the notes and bowings in the Suzuki books (and others) to play.

My daughter is the opposite.  She has, from my perspective, an amazing ear. If she hears a tune just a few times she can play it on her violin, our piano (she does not take piano lessons) or whistle it.  However, even though our teacher is encouraging it, she is reluctant to read the music.  She relies on her ears.

I don't think either of us, at the extremes of the sight reading or playing by ear spectrum, would do well if our teacher did not adapt his teaching to our strengths and weakness, regardless of method.  He gives me plenty of opportunities to work on playing by ear, both with Suzuki and with traditional Irish fiddle music.   At every chance, he challenges my daughter to read music.

I second all those who say it is the teacher, and go further and say it is how the teacher adapts any method to the needs of his students.

April 25, 2009 at 04:24 PM ·

Nate...well said: A picture is worth a thousand words but a metaphor is worth 1000 pictures. .

Also to anyone who knows.What kind of "doctor" was Suzuki? He is always called Dr. Suzuki. When I read about him all of the sudden they call him, Dr. Suzuki. The way it is used in marketing materials leads one to think he was doctor of education or pedgogy or something like that. Anyway, it suggests some kind of authority on the subjects which is never specified in what I have found on the subject.  Possibly some honorary degree or something but it is less than clear yet the marketing really throws it around.

While the jury is out in my mind about the genius of Suzuki or the Suzuki violin approach, I can not deny his genius in the area of product development or the genius of this branding since his passing.

April 25, 2009 at 04:44 PM ·

It's like anything. Yes I am sure some good violinists started with this to go to another "school" after. Ex, Alexander Read (see postings above) and Ben Chan!  Is it absoluntly necessary? No since other good violinists succeded with non-susuki training. But even if in the process, it could have been a kind of propaganda/marketing machine (NOT always, I say maybe sometimes), I'm sure the initial intention was good.  Often things start with good ideas/intentions and when it becomes too big.  It's hard to be all as good depending on many factors (the most important beeing the teacher).  Do teachers become Susuki just for having more students?  I don't know what to say anything about this one. 

I just find a few of their sentences a little illogical.

"If properly trained... every child has a musical petential etc" beeing the cherry on the sunday (IMHO) No, we do not all start = with the same gifts by mother nature! It's cute idea but non- musical or talented kids do exists too.But I already talked about this.

But everything comes back to the teacher, I know!


April 25, 2009 at 05:28 PM ·

Certainly, just because Suzuki said so, does not mean that everyone actually does have the same potential in music. However, this idea is talked about by plenty of others who are not affiliated with the school (i.e. Levitin in "This is Your Brain on Music" refers to research on the subject.) It would seem that most of the evidence, if not absolutely conclusively, points to it being much more common for musicians to succeed through hard work and proper instruction rather than because of innate gifts.

At the very least, I think it's beneficial for the student to believe this. Won't a person be much more likely to succeed if they aren't held down by thoughts of "maybe I'm just not as talented as so-and-so" or "I'm just not meant for music"? If someone believes that they have just as much potential as the next guy, I think that they would be much more likely to seek out solutions to their problems, and set higher goals for themselves.

Also, much of what we perceive as talent could easily be the result of environment from an extremely young age. As an opposite example, it is pretty rare to see children of say, symphony players, who have absolutely no interest or understanding of music.

Suzuki received honorary Doctor of Music degrees from Oberlin College, New England Conservatory, Eastman School of Music, Louisville University and the Cleveland Institute of Muisc.

April 25, 2009 at 07:50 PM ·

Yes I know what you mean and I believe philosophy and such sentences are also what it takes to pick the curiosity of people.  Hope is really important but as an older "late" starter, I find that when I read articles on Susuki (which I did because I am interested in any pedagogical stuff), I see so much words like "potential of every child is unlimited", "everything is related to heart", "you will (not you can or might) change the world" that I wonder if it is a kind of a dream method.  I mean such emphasis on this when other important taboo things such as physics, genetics, luck, physical ability are part of a musician too... I find the damn reality is sometimes so wonderful too give you the kick in the ... you need! If I would be a totally ignorant parent who would go on a few Susuki sites, I would see only the pink side of the violin! Sure, I imagine teachers must be more practicle, down to earth to teach the mechanics and the physical components. I know these are just basically nice ideologies to describe the method.  Maybe It's my scientific side and my life experiences who make me believe these sort of texts are too nice to be true or not always realistic.  Well, don't worry, I must somewhere believe to these pink ideas too since I am still playing violin when we have some very slight to severe body coordination problems in our family!  I'm the only one who do not has neck, back, tendonitis problems so far!!!  Don't think my intense love, mental affinity or will for music will cure me... But I am 20 not 5!  But,  different sentences bugs different people. This is life.



April 25, 2009 at 09:35 PM ·

Even looking at the premise that every child learns the mother tongue - some people DO NOT have the same fluency, articulation, vocabulary, ease of sentence structure and phrase as others.  Not everyone is a charismatic speaker (even among so called artists - I recall seeing David Sedaris, whose writing I enjoy, and as a speaker he is just so listenable and pleasing in the way he phrases. Unfortunately, the host for the evening, some Australian bird that I don't even know but who obviously felt that she was well on a par, was a dud who had no such ease). 

The variation in skill is depsite the 'mother tongue' being utilised constantly, in everyone's every day life, and most children except those from Backwoods Mountain, Inbreeder, have ample opportunity to model and learn from at least advanced speakers and maybe even virtuoso speakers.  But they don't all come out being advanced to virtuoso.  

April 26, 2009 at 04:37 AM ·

I was born in an industrial town in North West England to German parents who emigrated there after the war.The English that I learnt to speak was not the broken English with strong German inflections of my mother but rather the broad Lancashire accent that I heard in the enviroment around me.When I was at elementary school in the 1950's there were many childran from families who had moved to England from other places in war torn Europe and non spoke English with a foreign accent.I hasten to add that German was a banned language in my household and I was not brought up bi-lingual.This rather widens the equation.I suspect that the use of groups has a large role to play in the success of the method.Most teachers that I know who have students play regularly in groups have more success with their students.Peer group pressure is a very strong force even at three years of age.

April 26, 2009 at 05:40 AM ·

As a teaching method, it's not commonly used in the UK. Over here it's better known as a brand of motorbike or sewing machine.

April 26, 2009 at 06:15 AM ·

Suzuki, the philosophy on child learning in music, and Suzuki, the manufacturer of motorsports, are unrelated organizations. Insomuch as they share a common name, that really has no bearing on either the value of the teachings of Shinichi Suzuki nor on the quality of  motorbikes by Suzuki Motor Corporation. To make any sort of judgment call on their value based on a simple name-relation (with no other support) just doesn't hold any water.

This happens all the time with another company, Yamaha. There's people who can't believe that a company that manufactures everything from musical instruments (their original product) to electronics and sport vehicles could produce anything of quality. That argument has largely been put to rest by the large number of performing artists in all genres that use their equipment on a daily basis. And at least in this case they're all a part of the same actual company!

Any sort of resource used for teaching depends on the insight and ability of the teacher to communicate that information. The books themselves do not a violinist (or artist) make. A good teacher can take *any* of the beginner material out there currently in print and teach a student to play. The great thing about having the breadth of material available that is available to use these days is that we have the option of solving the same problems hundreds of different ways.

April 27, 2009 at 05:24 PM ·

Although a truly great musician is born, not made, the Suzuki method has managed to commoditize the teaching of a very essential skill to children. I agree with the basic philosophy that the ability to learn music and language are not different. My kids learn the violin and I have seen it happen first-hand with them and others. Also, I see as much a reason for children to be taught music as they should be taught poetry or art, and these latter two subjects are never questioned in most public schools. I am a proponent of mandating music as a required part of school curriculum.

One may question why there are so few world-famous soloists who claim to have gone through Suzuki training. I suspect this has to do with the fact that any child who exhibits talent very quickly shifts to alternative methods of instruction, even if he or she had started off with Suzuki training. Frankly, music pedagogy probably has a much more entrenched legacy (going back hundreds of years)  for non-Suzuki instruction. Moreover, there is far more material available for  traditional schools of training. After all, no one claims or advertises that they followed the Sevcik school of violin techniques or the Auer method when they refer to their own schooling. Mayhap some of the older books being out of copyright has something to do with it.

Suzuki managed to create a very systematic way of mass producing musicians. But learning music, Suzuki method or not, is not easy. Still, it is possible for parents who have themselves not had musical training to let their children learn music and to relate to the amount of work involved in learning music. In times past, music was knowledge passed on by or because of family tradition. Suzuki is unique because it has effectively broken the spine of the traditionalists. Yes, one may find issue with the fervour associated with the Suzuki industry, but one does not have to get involved more than necessary. Also, doing Suzuki does not mean you should not do Wohlfart, Sevcik or Kreutzer. As others have pointed out, a good teacher knows how to tailor a course of study for a particular student, and there are all kinds of those.

Being born with talent alone does not guarantee success. No matter what your vocation, it takes a combination of hard work, talent and a small amount of luck to be acclaimed at anything you do. The most talented child will still have to put in 10000+ hours of work at a single activity to achieve excellence. For a musician that amounts to 3 hours of practice every day for 9-10 years. Throw in the talent, encouragement, the ability to have fun and you'll have a virtuoso. The great thing about music is that you can start very young and musicians only get better with age. Luck is needed for all these ingredients to occur together. Before anyone speaks up, I think Paganini's father is a bad role model.

The next revolution in music education should occur in schools. Think of the number of audience members existing musicians would create if all children were made to learn music. Even better think of the number of children who would grow up to be competent musicians if the pool from which they were being created was increased a hundred or thousandfold. Think of how many children, rich or poor or middle-class, would shape up if they had a difficult musical instrument to practice every day, instead of hanging out and potentially getting into trouble. In fact, why not play music when you hang out!

My point is, there is no use in getting religious about the matter.

April 27, 2009 at 08:14 PM ·

For schools, I agree to make the children attend one compulsory course to try music but not force them to take some other ones if they hate it.  Not all children like music...  My brother is not even able to play gazoo correctly and he always faked in his compulsory music classes.  He really hates it and we should not force such children to do music after a "initiation" course! IMHO


April 27, 2009 at 10:55 PM · ...

April 28, 2009 at 11:08 AM ·

kumar wrote "a truly great musician is born, not made"

not to pick on you or trying to pick a fight or something, i understand music can be very romantic or things like that, that people are entitled to their own opinions,  but can we say things with more substance and less generalization?   

April 28, 2009 at 04:28 PM ·

I didn't think it was disputed that genes as well as environment have a role to play in bringing out genius; in case it did not come though, I was trying to distinguish genius from mere talent. There are many talented mathematicians, but there was only one Euler. There are many talented scientists, but only one Hawking (lest someone complain I am only naming dead people) or Einstein. There are large numbers of talented musicians but there is/was but one Ashkenazy or Gould or Heifetz.

I did not intend to offend: I did point out genes in my first paragraph and environment in another.

As to the other comment about Suzuki soloists: I knew about Joshua Bell and Sarah Chang. From a Strings magazine article on Leila Josefowicz, you see her quote

"I was never in a very strict Suzuki program," she continues, "and that was good, because it can be very ‘by the book.’ Technically, my playing had never really been by the rules—the way I fingered certain things and the way I sometimes used my bowing arm weren’t always in the style they wanted. In those days, of course, I spent most of my time developing technique. But ‘technique’ is a strange word to use, really, because it means something different to each person. To some people it’s dexterity; to others, including me, it’s the ability to convey emotionally exactly what you want to. In the end, technical conventions don’t really matter as long as you get your point across."

And so, I'll give you Josefowicz as well, even if she does not seem like a true believer. Not knowing about the others, I cannot comment, but it is good if they are Suzuki trained. It underscores my point that these facts seem such well kept secrets.

My point in the entire post was just this: don't get religious. Use the method that works and let the results count. If Suzuki gives the best results, by all means ... that does not obviate anything I stated. Both my children use the Suzuki method. I have nothing against it and it works wonders for a parent who is untrained in music himself, apart from making parenting itself seem worthwhile. Perhaps the industrialization of music as practised in Suzuki training makes some people uncomfortable, but can we say it is all bad? One can never dispute that the method has brought music within reach of a larger section of the population.

April 28, 2009 at 09:25 PM ·

On the contrary, I was under the impression that the general scientific consensus is that "genius" is far less determined by genes than it is by a myriad of other factors. Consider how many factors must come together to create a "genius", even if the individual was somehow predisposed: just a few would be environment, education, and let's certainly not forget sheer luck. And by this I refer to the impact of luck at all different levels: happening to choose the right discipline, which would lead to a situation where a discovery (for instance) could be made, or being noticed by the right people who would end up furthering their opportunities for higher learning, or choosing what would end up to be the right path to the major discovery, etc. 

One can't forget the occurrence of multiple simultaneous discovery; that is, a major breakthrough made by two or more scientists independantly of one another. Some great examples are Newton vs. Leibniz (calculus) or Darwin vs. Wallace (evolution). And an explanation for this is that these people came onto the scene at the precise moment when the overall motion of science was leading to a discovery, and as such, it happened for more than one of them. (See the Wikipedia article on Theories and sociology of the history of science, which also makes interesting comments on Einstein's Theory of Relativity and the events leading to its formation.) In a way, we inflate the importance of the one person as it relates to other factors, and assign them something like hero status.

And as it applies in the music world, a very good explanation as to why we have only so many Oistrakhs, Rostropovich's, Heifetz's and so forth is that there just isn't room for too many at the top. Society dictates that there can only be so many superstars--as do record labels, competitions, teaching positions at major schools, etc. It you listen to concerts at smaller universities or in smaller music festivals, you begin to notice that there is some serious talent that goes largely unrecognized. Perhaps the artist just had the bad luck to make their debut at the same time as a large number of other talented players, and failed to land a major career.

April 28, 2009 at 10:02 PM · ...

April 28, 2009 at 10:03 PM ·

Alexander, you are right in so many things!  I would also say that since the violin is like a sport, to have a genius in violin, a  super head in a super body is required (and when I say super body, I don't mean a sex symbol with a ton of shaped muscles.  Just someone who has the right agility for violin.  This in itself if not an equally distribuated gift).  A scientist (which is really admirable too) must have the head but if he/she is 3" or 8", weak, missing one arm, clumbsy etc he/she can steel be a worldwide talented scientist!  If you count that those two things + the whole context must be there, it is not a surprise too see that generally speaking violin geniuses do not live at the next door from yours if you know what I mean :)


April 29, 2009 at 07:57 AM ·

I had the pleasure to see

  1. Arabella Steinbacher
  2. Julia Fischer
  3. Lena Neudauer (winner of the Leopold-Mozart-Competition)
  4. Korbinian Altenberger (leader of the Cologne Radio Symphony)

plus a couple of "ordinary" orchestral players and motivated amateurs coming out of one and the same Suzuki class here in Munich. The odds to have so many "geniuses" living within a radius of about 10 miles from the Suzuki class room are so minimal that it is obvious: Suzuki is the most productive and (I guarantee you) fun! way to learn making music on the violin.

Ofcourse provided you've got a good teacher. But this helds true for non-Suzuki style teaching, too.

Only if facts don't matter one can really start questioning the extraordinary value of Suzuki-style teaching.

However, as we are all humans we just love to exercise our brains detached from reality. Results of such "placebo" thinking may be: some poetry, snake oil therapy, all sorts of religious schemes, sheer madness or even Suzuki bashing. No problem with that as long as we agree on the foundations of our discussion: ignore results, facts, reality.


April 29, 2009 at 05:02 PM ·

Thanks, Frank-Michael for weighing in as well as setting facts in perspective.

If there is one fact that did not get mentioned in my previous posts, it is of course the value of the teacher in the entire process. You are of course right that good teaching has a very important role within the environment in which a student thrives, no matter what system of learning is followed. I take it for granted out of personal experience, but that is wrong.

There are many legends about Suzuki training that seem to have infused the body politic.   I suppose people feel a need to form these mythologies, to either love or hate, no matter whether such is spurred by personal experience.




August 13, 2012 at 04:54 PM · I think I'm a little behind in replying to this thread, given the original date it was started... but I shall respond none the less.

Firstly, phew! I am relieved to see that by the end of this somewhat heated debate, a consensus seemed to be reached that the Suzuki Method isn't such a "bad thing" afterall.

I will say that I am not someone who came through the Suzuki program (though I went through the books - not the same as the method at all!) and I am just starting to learn about the teaching method (just took the first course!). I have always been curious about it. I have heard a lot of negative comments, quite similar to some that were posted in this thread, and wanted to really see things for myself before passing any judgement. With what I do know so far (and I have read several articles and books including "Nurtured by Love") it would seem to me that anyone bashing the method simply does not know enough about it.

For example, the comment was made "a music teaching system centered on rote learning, strong dependence on teacher, inclusion of DCFS-avoiding parents.."

Firstly, the method does not avoid parents. In fact it is quite the opposite. Parents are a HUGE part of what makes the method work. Having come from a family where I was the only one really involved in my learning to play the violin, I would have LOVED for more parental involvement. Sure, I had lots of support.. but I was essentially on my own. No one made me practice, what I did was all a big mystery. I always had my mother to cheer me along.. but always professing to not have a clue about music or the violin.

"Strong dependence on teacher" No more than in any other learning situation as far as I can tell.

"Rote learning..." and "avoiding note reading" This is a big one. Probably the biggest complaint I have heard. One article (and I apologize for not having the biographical details on hand) suggests that it works better in Japan than in America because note reading is already taught in schools. Therefore, the transition to note reading on the violin was a smoother process. How true that is is unclear to me.. I recall learning a little about musical notation growing up. In any case, the goal is to teach very young children (ages 3-5) how to play the violin. If you think about the stage of cognitive development of a child this age, you realize that they cannot possibly learn to read music AND play a complicated instrument like the violin. So, it is to get the child playing, understanding music intuitively and developing their ear (sense of pitch) as well as getting their basic posture set up before throwing in the note reading aspect.

I think it's true that the strong emphasis on MEMORIZATION has also proven to be quite helpful. I'm sure we can all admit that when we get to a point with a piece that we can step away from the page, that is when we truly begin to express something beyond notes. I am totally willing to admit that memorization is a challenge for me becasue I simply have not had the practice.

I think Suzuki did something wonderful. He made something that is often thought of as being available only to the "elite" and "priviledged" accessible to everyone. It is true that it has a market value.. but that is not the fault of Suzuki or his method. That is simply the world we live in.

As a final comment (before I ramble on all day) I will reiterate that which has been said by nearly everyone on this thread; it's all about the teacher and the child's environment. :)



August 13, 2012 at 07:26 PM · Since this thread came out, I have written a little FAQ about the Suzuki method, and here it is:

Also, please check the September 2012 edition of The Strad magazine for an article I wrote early this summer about the Suzuki Method worldwide.

August 13, 2012 at 09:38 PM · Should have known that there would be such great writings on the subject out there already.. just had to get into the discussion. ;)

Thanks for sending the links and also for writing such wonderful articles on the Suzuki Program!

August 14, 2012 at 02:23 AM · Actually the Strad article is not out yet! But you of course are welcome, and everyone is welcome to continue the debate. I hope to add some good information to it, that's all!

August 16, 2012 at 02:57 PM · If talent is in evidence, it is there! If not in evidence, we don't know. Every single child is worth the trouble of finding out..

Talking, singing and walking are sufficient preparation of ear, mind and body, to begin the violin..

If I copy a drawing, (as opposed to tracing it) it is my eyes, my mind and my hands that draw;

If I copy my teacher's playing, it is my ears, my mind and my muscles that play, and I aquire the necessary skills to express my own sensbilities..

If I copy my teacher's teaching, I acquire the necessary skills to diversify my own..

Laurie has said (and above all, done) it all, but here are my two cents worth (deux centimes d'euro, as I live in France!):

- becoming a goo-ey father dispelled any doubts about rote teaching to tiny children;

- during Suzuki training in Lyon, I heard children play wonderfully together, with a rich, warm sound (despite the cheap trade fiddles), but with total individuality when playing solo;

- nine out of ten ex-pupils still play - very well, at different levels - in adult life, be they amateur or professional;

- and very many of today's stars started this way..

It is an immense privilege to play even a tiny part in this adventure.

August 16, 2012 at 08:48 PM · I notice it, too: during recital time at Suzuki group class, no two children play the pieces alike; they always have their individual touches in there.

August 16, 2012 at 09:53 PM · I really held off a long time on this one.

I lived in Ridgecrest, CA from 1962 to 1995. During those years a really marvelous Suzuki Violin program was developed under Shirley Helmick. The programs I heard them present were in every way the equal of any similar programs that have been presented on PBS - or were shown in the movie "Small Wonders." A "school" developed around Ms. Helmick with other teachers, who may not have been as good individual players as she, but who also achieved the same level of pedagogical results.

I played string quartets virtually every week with Shirley Helmik (she played viola in that) for about a decade, so I know what kind of musician she was. She was also a pianist and organist, and we played publicly in that combo for verious events (weddings, funerals, etc.)

The finest violinist to emerge from that program was Anne Akiko Meyers. I was there when that was happening for her concert of the Vivaldi A Minor Concerto with the Desert Community Orchestra when she was 7, for the Bach Double with Sharon Towner when she was 8 (Sharon was about 6 years older). And for the Mendelssohn E Minor (I was CM for the orchestra for that) when she was 12 and had already performed it with the LA Phil: .

By the mid-1980s many of the violinists in that Desert Community Orchestra were high school students who had grown up in that Suzuki program and had been taking lessons in LA to develop further (or who had studied with (the late) Robert ("Bob") Walters, who had moved to town in the 1980s - see pgs. 171-173 of the book "Sounds of the River," by Da Chen, ISBN: 0060199253 and

The Ridgecrest Suzuki "people" dropped several of their teenage "delinquents" on me around the early 1980s, and it was then that I got exposed to the Suzuki books and started to teach from them - adding more conventional etudes, etc.) When I started to pick up new, very young beginners I was pleased to see that the music in the Suziki books was the same that I had been started on in 1939. I read all the books available about and by Suzuki, and realized that I would have to study to teach that way - so I did not!

So, I never "taught Suzuki," but I had and have the greatest respect for the entire program as I have seen it done and the results that have emerged. And I have used the violin, viola, and cello books as a way to introduce new players to these instruments.

I think it is foolish to argue about the Suzuki program. It has been one of the successful ways to start people playing musical instruments, and I suspect the retention rate with this program has been greater for "starters" than other programs. What could be better? Of course, it only goes so far in training, and that is what is intended.


August 17, 2012 at 03:32 PM · one thing not yet mentioned and i think it's im-portant - and that is that Suzuki has given rise to many wonderful questions regarding the salient issues - how does a child learn? how does an adult learn? is it different? what is music? what is creativity? Suzuki philosophy ultimately humanist and pro-life in a world which often isnt. and who cares if he's a 'real' doctor or not?

August 18, 2012 at 05:03 AM · Holy Cow, Halleluia, OMG and a myriad of other responses filled my mind as I read the encyclopedic responses to a simple question. How does anyone expect to grow a forum when the newbs ask newb questions and get shot down so vehemently. Gheez louise is another one I forgot to mention. The most succinct thought regarding Suzuki is that its a method of learning by ear training similar to teaching someone to speak. That being said, any bad teacher can ruin any teaching style. I love the Suzuki method, I think the songs are fun to play and offer an increased difficulty that keeps the challenge level high. I think done properly it allows any child the oppourtunity to advance at their own pace. I think all the tenents of the teaching philosophy are sound and all you haters out there, need a better hobby. JMO. :)

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