Can we use the Suzuki violin method books to label students?

October 8, 2010 at 02:11 AM ·

Say a student is working with Suzuki 1, 2, 3. – can the teacher say,, that student is a beginner, and like wise with Suzuki 4,5,6 – can the teacher say, that student is an intermediate, and so on.


Replies (24)

October 8, 2010 at 08:02 AM ·

The trouble with all such methods is that they focus on the technical aspects of playing note sequences and not on the full range of playing the violin.  For example, my technical ability is middling but I think my tone production is quite advanced (OK a bit of credit to Gravitas :) ).  Also, how do you add the ability to play in a group, to sight read and intonation? 

Perhaps we should have a multi-factor scale.  I mean what is the actual purpose of grading?  For me its mostly to figure out who I can play with and who is either not advanced enough or too much so.  With a mulit-factor scale you could see what the match is.

October 8, 2010 at 09:30 AM ·

I think (as per a comment on a different thread) it's more a question of how well you play them. Quality over quantity.  My previous teacher moved me on to book 5 when I was still having lots of problems with the Bach double. But I think she must have had her reasons.

Playing well with others is definitely something that could be measured separately. I know I need to find an opportunity to do this!


October 8, 2010 at 12:45 PM · Agree with above. They can be a reasonable approximation and a useful way to communicate if you can safely assume that they play what they play well. Book 4 is an early-intermediate level book. But depending on quality of teaching and achievement, a book 4 student may range from solid intonation, great tone, goos bow use, fluent reader, nice vibrato, comfortable in positions.....or out of tune, no vibrato, guessing at bow placment, little/sense of rhythm or accuracy in reading etc. Of course I would posit that a student such as the latter is not really intermediate level and probably needs to go back and do some foundation work... but have seen both ends!

October 8, 2010 at 07:29 PM ·

 I do understand there are many variables that are considered when evaluating on whether or not a violin student is considered to be a beginner, intermediate, and so on. I should of asked my question in another way. 

Would you consider the Suzuki books 1 – 3,  beginner level material, and Suzuki books 4 – 5, intermediate level material, Suzuki books  6  - 9,   advanced level material, and so on?


October 8, 2010 at 09:53 PM ·

Per your other post, I asked my teacher about this in my lesson today. She showed me some repertoire lists that she uses. One list had pieces organized into for example, intermediate I, II, III - more refined than the general title of 'intermediate'. This made more sense to me than a straight cut-off based on the book number. She said that the Bach concerto in book 7 for example, she considered Advanced, while some of the other pieces in the same book would still be (high) intermediate. Her lists had the Suzuki repertoire weaving around, not in order.

But I agree with previous posters, I really think it does depend on the individual player. And in my opinion/experience, playing in an ensemble/orchestra requires a different set of skills that can't necessarily be accounted for/categorized through solo repertoire.

October 9, 2010 at 08:15 PM ·

Don:  I think you may have hit upon a quick way to get rid of 70+% of members ....

October 9, 2010 at 08:44 PM ·

Indeed!  Looking at the list of membership categories in the Members register, the last two would have to go, and there would be a significant culling of the next two above, leaving just the pros and the teachers :-) 

October 9, 2010 at 09:23 PM ·

Don, if you click on Violinists at the top of the screen, more or less in the middle, you will be led to the section where you can find where all the members here are.  First, you are invited to click on one of 5 boxes (the ones I called "membership categories") in order to define the type of member you're looking for, and then you'll be choosing the country or State in the USA that you're interested in.  The 5 membership categories are, reading down,  
    1 Professional performers, teachers and/or luthiers
    2 Violin students
    3 Amateur players
    4 Parents of violin students
    5 Fans of the violin
Presumably, since one is allowed to click on only one category, "Violin students" and "Amateur players" would seem to be mutually exclusive for the purposes of the classification, which feels a little odd since I would class myself as both. I chose "Amateur players", of which there are a few in Bristol UK.

October 10, 2010 at 03:17 AM ·

Yeah, i'm not listed either. Hmmm...

October 10, 2010 at 03:17 AM ·

October 10, 2010 at 08:20 PM ·

If you find you are not listed, go to your profile, and find the line that says:

Would you like to be included on our Find a Violinist directory page?

If that is set to 'No', you will not be listed.

October 11, 2010 at 07:19 PM ·

robert, in response to your clarified question:

Approximately, yes. 

October 13, 2010 at 07:18 PM ·

Hi Robert,

I just visited this page again:

which is a nice list of repetoire linked from another topic here (just lost it).  in that they use a similiar characterization to what you suggested.  However, you can get a far better idea from the pieces listed associated with each level.


October 13, 2010 at 07:36 PM ·

 Thanks everybody for your help and the good information.

October 13, 2010 at 11:36 PM ·

 As others have pointed out before, a great deal depends what was emphasized when the student was learning the piece.  Quickly going through the rep or technique.

But if you want to give some sort of "ranking" to the students using the Suzuki books, I would definitely take a step back and look at what they are actually playing.  

Pretend for a second that you didn't know the which piece belonged in which book.  Twinkle, obviously, is a beginner song.  But the Vivaldi a minor concerto?  If you heard any violinist play that proficiently would you say they are just an intermediate player?  I would definitely say it was advanced considering that the vast majority of violinists could not play it.

I would say book 1 is beginner.  2 through mid book 3 is intermediate (some of those end pieces get rough) and then anything book 4 and above is advanced.

October 14, 2010 at 12:16 AM ·

That's well thought out.  I think you've got it right.

October 14, 2010 at 12:55 AM ·

Thanks Danielle - and what you don't (modestly no doubt) point out is that (from your profile) you are a qualified Suzuki teacher so you really are in a position to know.

Besides, I kinda like the tag 'advanced'.  Trouble is even though I am learning at ~6 (Bach double; A minor; Mozart 3rd) I see a lot more stuff that is beyond me than below me.  Doesn't that really keep me in the intermediate level?  I mean if I am advanced then what is the average performance student, let alone professional orchestra or chamber group player?

Wait a mo, maybe you mean 'advanced student'?  There's a whole new can of worms....

October 14, 2010 at 01:42 AM ·


I find these terms, with all due respect,  both utterly useless and in many ways a psychological hinderance t both students and teachers alike.   They set vague goals which don`t make sense in the overall schemme of music making.  An advanced player is, in my book someone with a poslihed technique and musicality. Somewehre around the later stages of music college or in the profession.   If you call thes eplayers advanced then it is already difficult and menaingless trying to define the super advanced beings from another palnet players.

Further more although the Suzuki system is systematic people learn differnet things at differnet times simply because we are human rather than robots so a player may be good in one area and weak in another and yet sufficiently capable to justify a higher lael than a more balanced technique.   At best we can use the labelling clarified as `Advanced in relation to the Suzuki Materials.` And if we do that we then have to specify down to the nth degree what this definition requires IE `the ability to shift smoothly bettween positions up to fifth osition at tempos bettween xyz;  the ability to use a wrist vibrato with a variety o speed sand width and so forth....

Fortunatley outside the purview of these books ASTA and similar organizations,  taechers have classified materials numerically accordng to the demands they make on one`s technique. this is the only truly valid way of discusisng the level of pieces and on top of thta it does not inlcude the sanme works when they are discussed in relation to a player who is genuinly `advanced.`  Such a player will understand why Mzart cocnertos are really so difficult taht even Heifetz stated they were among the most difficult to perform.

The labels are psychologically damaging because they encourage a competitive drive IE to move from beginner to intermediate (perhaps before studnet xyz) which is a goal unrelaed to the music itself.   The only goals which actually have any cvalue for studnets are those which clealry state which kinds of mastery are required and provide ffedback when that mastery is reached.  In this way the studnet aways has a clear focus in their short term practice and longer term aims which ultimately leads to much better learning and teaching.



October 14, 2010 at 02:05 AM ·

 @ Danielle Gomez  - Thank you.  I think you said it well.

When I started this thread, I was only asking to label the average violin student as beginner, intermediate, or advanced in very general terms.  I have read all the good information, and thank you all for your thoughts..



October 25, 2010 at 06:06 PM ·

 What makes things more difficult is that within the Suzuki books there isn't a very clear progression of technical difficulty.

Looking at book 6, for instance, you start off with "La Folia" which is technically very demanding and much more difficult than most of the rest of the book..




October 25, 2010 at 06:19 PM ·

 The Suzuki books are laid out pedagogically.  Everything builds on itself.  A large part of Suzuki teacher training is discussion on what the teaching point is for each piece.

La Folia is a cumulation of all the skills required to play pieces in book 5.  It's sort of like a final exam.  If you can play it, you were paying attention in book 5 and book 4. 

October 25, 2010 at 08:17 PM ·

 "if you were paying attention" .. the pre-requisite to that is that you have a teacher who knows what to teach!

October 25, 2010 at 09:00 PM ·

 Yes.  Which is why it's important to go to Suzuki teacher training if you intend to teach from the Suzuki books.  All too often people will try and teach from the books with not a clue about the methodology and philosophies behind them.  Thus leading to some not so flattering stereotypes about "Suzuki students."  The Suzuki method is not a set of books, it's an approach to teaching.

October 26, 2010 at 12:48 AM · Thanks Danielle!

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