What exactly is the Suzuki Method?

January 4, 2012 at 06:02 PM · I was reading another thread and it got me wondering... what exactly is the Suzuki method? I believe I was taught the Suzuki method when I started violin about 2 million years ago. But I can't even tell you what it is exactly. I know it goes through a series of books, but what else is involved? I have heard that some Suzuki students are not able to read music; at least they are not very proficient anyway. Perhaps there is more "playing by ear" hence the lack of sight reading ability. But, I think I am a decent sight reader, so it didn't seem to hinder me in any way. Besides going through the books, what is the "formal" definition of Suzuki and what are the pros and cons?

Replies (78)

January 4, 2012 at 06:40 PM · It is also referred to as the "mother tongue" method, based on the idea that just as small children learn very complex languages, such as Japanese, by immersion rather than formal instruction, they can learn music the same way. The child is to listen to the piece he/she is studying over and over and over, not necessarily consciously. I have seen a photograph of a young Japanese child, circa 1960, riding a tricycle with a tape recorder strapped to his back, undoubtedly playing Twinkle over and over again.

Suzuki also disregarded the notion of talent, believing that any child could learn to play well. They all have their own pace of course, but he felt that comparisons were not to be made.

The parent is taught to play before the child is, and all practicing is done with parent and child together. The theory is that a preschooler eagerly wants to do what their parents do, and learns by imitating the parents. The child isn't taught to read music until many of the basic technical skills are in place. Exactly when is up for debate. Early teachers in the US erred by waiting too long, many would say.

The child has a private lesson each week, which the parent must attend, should have a group lesson each week, and is ideally encouraged to watch other kids' lessons. (Not sure this happens regularly in the US.)

Each piece introduces a new skill. Students are usually expected to memorize and polish a piece before going to the next one, and are expected to keep all the old pieces in good shape.

That's the perspective from someone whose kid learned through this method. Others will soon be along with additional comments, I'm sure. Shinichi Suzuki wrote several books, as have people who worked with him. They are an interesting read regardless of what you think about his philosophy.

From what I have experienced, Suzuki, like any other pedagogical method, is only as good as the people teaching it. Some teachers are absolutely by-the-book-orthodox, others combine it with other methods or use outside materials from the beginning. I was in it more for the learning music aspect than some of the other baggage that can come with. Luckily, my son has had teachers who are excellent musicians, and they have taught him well.

January 4, 2012 at 07:41 PM · Good post!

I started violin just before the Suzuki method became popular...and I'm still a big fan of Appelbaum to start beginners! :D

However, I know several younger adults who've gone through the Suzuki system, quite accomplished for the most part. The couple that have gone on though - did RCM programs later on as well. The ones that didn't do so well were hampered by their lack of ability to read music. I don't know that that's the fault of the program or a too by-the-book teacher.

I like the RCM method because it takes you through defined steps and you can measure your progress. The Suzuki books, much less so. But what I like about them is that you get larger pieces to work through - vs. the shorter excerpts in the RCM books and you feel more like you're playing 'real' music. I also like the CDs that come with the books -they're clear,well-played and you can 'read along' with them (as well as play along with them if desired). I believe RCM has changed now and you can also get CDs for their strings programs.

My daughter plays piano...but I chose to put her in the RCM program vs. Suzuki. Her ear-training might be a bit lacking, otherwise I am happy with my choice not to put her in the Suzuki method.

However, in the end, a modified approach might be the best answer for the most students...

January 4, 2012 at 11:52 PM · That is a good question. What is the Suzuki method? A bit of a con?

January 5, 2012 at 12:38 AM · Oh, I have to jump in!

My kids began with Suzuki teaching, and then have incorporated other methods with a WONDERFUL teacher, sensitive to their styles. But mostly Suzuki...and guess what? THEY READ MUSIC JUST FINE!

They started at 3, and now play in the TYO (youth) full symphony, attend camps, with SIGHT-READING EXCEPTS, and do great. At the moment they are sight-reading a whole book of wedding duets in the bedroom. And because of Suzuki, with an EXCELLENT teacher, they are playing the beginnings of standard repertoire too.

It does bother me when people say Suzuki kids cannot read music, because they can. They have to learn however. The new Suzuki books have fewer fingerings, and now the kids do scales, Wohlfardt, Dont, Trott, Kreuzter, Bach cello/violin solo works, concertos, etc. Suzuki is just a wonderful starting place for a beginner and there is much to learn, and I see how beautifully that has happened. Again, our teacher is amazing...so that helps.

January 5, 2012 at 12:41 AM · Here is one more plus....you play something for a Suzuki trained student, and they can play it back to you...they play by ear really well, which comes in handy.

January 5, 2012 at 01:22 AM · Not a big fan of the Suzuki method , too many gimmicks and eye hand coordination techniques that are used on every student.


I prefer molding, tactile and "hands on" techniques

January 5, 2012 at 02:37 AM · Charles, I am not aware of ANY gimmicks that were used on me or my kids, and I don't have any idea what eye/hand coordination drills you are talking about. I hate to see something that was so wonderful being put down.

If it gets people to play, it's great. Any method that gets people to play is great. And it can be integrated with other approaches.

It certainly is not a circus approach. Have you read Dr. Suzuki's book "To Learn With Love?" And my experience is certainly NOT hard-core Suzuki, but enough so that I will defend it.

January 5, 2012 at 04:34 AM · With any system, the key is a good teacher :)

January 5, 2012 at 05:34 AM · One thing I'll say about Suzuki. He really understood the value of good PR.

January 5, 2012 at 05:52 AM · Charles,

I read the book you linked to and I don't see how this relates to your post. First, the book stated that Suzuki used 'gimmicks' as a last resort, not that he used them on every student. The word gimmick is an unfair characterization as well. It implies to me that he was using tricks. The list of 'gimmicks' that was provided looks to me like nothing more than paying careful attention to posture and mechanics. I don't see anything gimmicky about this, just a detailed and creative approach to teaching. I've observed masterful teachers of the Suzuki method and I don't see how anyone could say that it isn't "hands on".

The Suzuki approach has produced thousands of violinists of all different ability levels. For every Suzuki-trained violinist that I could point to playing with a major orchestra, you could find another who is unable to read music and incapable of functioning in a group. The same is true for any systematized method of instruction.

The common criticism about music reading of Suzuki students just doesn't make any sense to me. I read my daughter a bedtime story almost every day until she was 7 or 8. Now we'll often lay down, each with our own book (okay, Kindle) in hand, and read quietly together. Should I have been concerned that she wouldn't develop the ability to read because she was only listening those first few years? Of course not. Reading music is no different. In the first years she learned to play the violin with good posture, a strong sound, and with good intonation. Obviously her technique is ahead of her music reading, but she is making strides in reading. It does need to be practiced like any other skill. She also has a variety of tools that she might not have developed (including nearly perfect-pitch) if her attention was divided between the instrument and the page.

Peter, a con? How so? What false promises do you see in the Suzuki method? I don't think it was ever devised as a system to build world class performers, but such as system cannot exist. It provides a progression from playing rhythms on open strings up through Mozart concertos. I don't think every teacher is well suited to teach this method, and there are teachers in every city who have no relationship with the method and simply mine the books for repertoire. While I'm on the subject, I think at least half of the violin teachers out there don't have the aptitude to teach, but there is a market out there for their services so there it is.

January 5, 2012 at 06:58 AM · Suzuki's philosophy has withstood the test of time. It's helped produce many of today's finest violinists, and it's trained teachers to be resourceful in their teaching and kind to their students, who tend to make tremendous progress. Gimmicks? Who cares. Do what works. There is no "right" way to learn to play correctly. As long as your teacher has his/her eye on the goals (good posture and technique, ability to play, ability to read, musical sense, motivation, ability to work in a group, ability to follow a leader, a million things) you can get there how you like. Don't knock Suzuki for being inventive and incredibly resourceful!

January 5, 2012 at 07:32 AM · My own teaching activity has been almost zilch. But I can't fault the philosphy. Humans sang and played instruments long before our modern notation was invented - and kids learn to speak and to understand their mother tongue before they can read or write.

January 5, 2012 at 07:48 AM · Greetings,

well, love it or loathe it there is one crucial point that has to be acknowledged. It has, in my opinion, done a great deal to raise the standard of teaching young children by making available to any teacher a n approach which can be discussed /ahared with thousands of other teachers under a reasonably profesisonal looking umbrella. Such a resource is very significant and does much to raise the standards of less competent/confident teachers of young children.

This is not to be sneezed at.



January 5, 2012 at 09:15 AM · I have to admit that I don't have a lot of knowledge about Suzuki, and when I said "con" it was with a question mark, so in other words I wanted to hear the arguments in favour.

My opinion for what its worth (not much probably) is based on my local knowledge which has not yet shown me any reason by observation of Suzuki players to think too positivly about the method. I've also come accross one or two top Suzuki teachers who I have not found to be that impressive, but maybe I've just been unlucky. I'm trying to keep an open mind.

I hear that there may be big time soloists out there who were Suzuki trained. I would be interested to know who they are.

January 5, 2012 at 10:38 AM · Peter:

Joshua Bell, Midori, Sarah Chang, Janine Jansen, Julia Fischer, Hilary Hahn all started with Suzuki Method.

Queen Elisabeth competition winner Ray Chen finished all 10 books, so did LA Philharmonic violinist Robert Gupta, who was appointed at 19. Here are quotes from them:

Chen: "I started with Suzuki Method, which was fun and made me want to play. Every Saturday there would be a "group lesson" where all of my teacher's students would gather and have a lot of fun. At the time, there were two things that were important to me about those group lessons: the part where I played in front of everybody, and the break where we would snack on cookies and cordial."


"My teachers back in Australia have included the Hawkins Family. I studied with them for five years. They were very involved with Suzuki and emphasized the "having fun" part of playing music. It seems like a lot of players these days are forgetting this important aspect, especially as they get older and become more self-conscious."

Gupta: "Some of my earliest memories are of playing and going to my lessons. I started with the Suzuki method. It was developed by a very gifted psychologist in Japan, who had the idea that music should be learned like children learn language. It should be something that is so ingrained and so automatic. You think about a child learning a language, like Japanese, or my mother teaching us Bengali. If we wanted to learn those languages today it would be so difficult, but starting young it's easier. Same thing with music. I remember going to Suzuki lessons and having group lessons and feeling an enormous amount of joy from playing. There was no questions of me not playing. It was something that was as natural to me as breathing. It just happened."

17-year-old Taiwanese violinist Yu-Chien Tseng (Tchaikovsky Competition prize winner at 16) expressed similar sentiment in an interview with a Taiwanese newspaper.

There is no doubt that Suzuki Method contributes to a large degree of the phenomenon that so many young violinists are playing at an incredibly high level nowadays!

January 5, 2012 at 11:30 AM · Thanks for that information, Joyce.

My next question would be, after these players started on Susuki and had great fun, could they have developed into soloists, competition winners and such, if they had continued with the Suzuki method? How many years did they then have to have with more conventional teaching? Has there ever been a known soloist that started with Suzuki and continued say for ten plus years and then without going to another method then won a competition, or became a known soloist?

Sorry to be asking so many questions.

January 5, 2012 at 01:44 PM · Even after many years of hearing the same, to me, shop-worn arguments and assumptions about Suzuki philosophy and methodology, I weigh in once more. There are many positives to using a Suzuki approach. The basic premises obligate teachers to teach humanely & humanistically. The philosophy is about growing better human beings through music. That so many very young children play well, and so many go on to play or teach as a profession is a bonus. Until they are quite advanced, many Suzuki students don't read at the level they can play, especially reading at-sight. This is by design, so that how to play and how you sound are the focus. As a rule, taught well following the books, exercises & premises, Suzuki kids have admirable playing position, solid bow work and a characteristic deep tone. There certainly are folks out there calling themselves Suzuki teachers who have not taken training courses, studied the materials thoroughly or read the books available. This is more common in the USA than elsewhere in the world, since Suzuki International does not have a licensing program here like they do in Europe, for instance. Sue

January 5, 2012 at 02:10 PM · I've seen some of the course materials for the teacher trainer classes for Suzuki book 1 and there is a lot of imagery to make things fun for little kids. e.g. bunny bow hold, slides, rabbit hole, windshield wiper movement with the bow, songs that go with all of the pieces, etc.

And then there is the emphasis on positive reinforcement in everything. And group classes for motivation.

Then there's the books of course that Suzuki developed.

The most important is a positive, loving relationship between student and teacher.

I think that sums up the Suzuki method, in an obviously highly abbreviated form. Apart from 20 bazillion hours spent on articles and studies and everything else, am I missing something?

January 5, 2012 at 02:10 PM · Peter: the final two Suzuki books are Mozart concertos. You have to begin using other repertoire at some point. But the Suzuki concepts and training still shapes your learning...

I think many teachers incorporate other materials in the their teachings, especially around book 4 or 5...

Responses by Tim, Laurie, Buri, Joyce and Sue are much appreciated. :)

January 5, 2012 at 03:40 PM · There are a lot of people waving the flag for Suzuki, so there could be something in it. Of course when I started there was no such thing, and so I have only experienced more conventional teaching.

I suppose I have been put off by all the dreadful examples of Suzuki teaching that I've come across - the pupils with unmusical bowing - and poor sound etc. I will however, next time I meet a Suzuki teacher, try and find out a bit more about their teaching methods, but as I don't mix much in these circles these days I am not likely to succeed. But I might strike lucky.

(None of the instrumentalists I know personally have ever had any Suzuki training as far as I am aware).

January 5, 2012 at 03:44 PM · Peter, in response to your last question, the Suzuki method books only go up to the early advanced level and is designed especially for children. It's more of an approach to laying solid foundations than a method to take one all the way from beginner to concert artist. Also, if I remember my teacher training correctly, he didn't actually design it to be a comprehensive, stand-alone curriculum; more of a core philosophy and method that can and should be supplemented as appropriate.

For the record, I've seen both ends of it. I started on "Suzuki" in jr. High, didn't learn to really read till about 10th grade, and got to college thinking I was good as a book 5 player with rotten technique, redeemed only by my natural musicality. However, having taken the teacher training, I can tell you that that may be using the books but that is not Suzuki Method. What's been written above by erica and others are much more apt descriptions of suzuki as suzuki designed it. (For the record I am not a suzuki teacher as such, and probably never will be just due to personal preference and style, but I have taken two levels of training and have learned a ton that I do apply to my own teaching)

Good discussion btw! I saw the title and thought "oh no, here we go" but it has really been to the point and informative!

January 5, 2012 at 03:45 PM · My perspective is a bit different from most people on this website. I think that Lisa's comment above, that like any method it is only as good as the teachers who teach it, is right on. My experience was with a child for whom a Suzuki approach didn't work.

I very much like the general idea of fostering a loving, positive relationship between student and teacher, but our experience wasn't like that. The main problems seem to have centered around practicing (as in, my daughter had plenty of days when she ate but didn't practice), playing by ear--which she didn't like, not being allowed to move on from pieces that she disliked and/or found boring (We got to the point where another round of Mississippi stop stop was less appealing than a root canal), and the emphasis on performing. The expected "parental involvement" on my part resulted in battles of wills that often culminated in further whining and tears (she was 7). After about 6 months, she dreaded going to violin lessons, cried at her lessons, made excuses for not playing or practicing, and wanted to quit.

It was around that time that I, in some desperation, found this website. My own violin had been sitting, unplayed, at the back of a closet for the previous 8 years. I took it out and started fooling around with it again. I decided I wanted to do more with it again myself. I even took my violin to one of my daughter's lessons once. Then I rented a viola for myself.

A little more than 5 years later, I'm still playing and so is my daughter. I let her quit Suzuki and I coached her a little bit on my own for several months by going through some Adventures in Violinland (recommended by v.com's Emily Grossman) until her school program started in 3rd grade. Then she started taking lessons from a new, non-Suzuki private teacher whom I met in the community orchestra I play in.

My daughter has tried a few other instruments including piano and flute, but those didn't stick and she actually came back to the violin on her own because she likes orchestra. She's now thinking about trying viola and/or French horn. As violinists go, she is on the slow track--she still, at age 12, doesn't play as well as your average 6-yo Suzuki star. But I don't care about that and I try to discourage comparisons. She is in the solid middle of her school orchestra and enjoys the experience socially and musically. Just this year she chose for the first time to do an audition, for a district orchestra. Any audition or solo playing is way out of her comfort zone, but she wants to challenge herself and this is a challenge for her.

When I was first on this website, I was overly negative about Suzuki, based on this experience with my daughter. I blogged about it here. And I wrote in another Suzuki thread, the following:

"particularly as a mother, I find that the way the method has been implemented in the US has put even more pressure on family life, especially on mothers. Suzuki's comments about American mothers in _Ability Development from Zero to Three_ were written in the early 1960's and it shows. I support parental involvement in kids' musical education (and I walk the walk, practicing with my daughter every morning and with one of her friends), but I do believe that there can and should be reasonable limits, and his comments about mothers and their role just weren't reasonable--they were sexist and demeaning.

And, I think the way the method has been implemented has focused too much of the wrong kind of attention on prodigies, virtuosos, and children. The typical violin player in the American public imagination these days is a preternaturally mature Asian-heritage child. I think this stereotype is damaging to everyone, including the the most visible demographic group."

I stand by those comments, even though I wrote them in 2008.

On the other hand, if you have one of the kids it works for, it's probably great. Mostly at this point I hope that diversity in violin instruction will continue to flourish for those whom need something different, even in the face of the Suzuki juggernaut.

January 5, 2012 at 05:16 PM · Peter, the transition from Suzuki to other lessons is pretty much of a non-issue. The last books are standard repertoire, and most teachers are using plenty of other materials by that point anyway. The emphasis on listening to the pieces you are learning continues, the parent has been phased out long ago, and the relationship between child and teacher continues to be warm and supportive.

Karen, you raise some interesting points. If your daughter was 7 when you started, the parent/child relationship is a little different by then. Especially if your kid is a somewhat independent sort, she may have chafed a bit at the expectations. I wonder how it could have worked when she was four or five.

The emphasis on performance has been very positive for my son. The first time he was supposed to play (in a holiday concert) he dove under a heavy piece of furniture and wouldn't budge! He gradually overcame his natural shyness. Now, at almost 17, he earns his spending money by busking on the plaza, he has successfully auditioned for youth orchestras and All-State, has performed chamber music, and auditioned for (and was accepted into) a performing arts high school. He has also started doing a little acting. When he was younger I never would have dreamed he would be so calm and cool about auditions and performances.

Your other point, about maternal involvement, is the potential "dark side" of Suzuki. It can feed into the whole helicopter parenting, tiger mother syndrome. The first time my kid and I went to a Suzuki Institute, bootcamp as we called it, we were surrounded by highly competitive mothers. They were horrified! scandalized! that my then-7-year-old attended PUBLIC SCHOOL!! Why wasn't I homeschooling, or at least sending him to a Waldorf school? We steered clear of that situation and went off-campus to the local Indian restaurant instead of the Institute cafeteria for lunch! Luckily the studio here doesn't play into that attitude, but it's out there. For the record, I do know a couple of families where Dad is the Suzuki parent.

January 5, 2012 at 05:30 PM · The last three posts have been very informative and have shown another side to Suzuki.

I'm not here to bash any method - and maybe Suzuki works for many, but perhaps for some we have seen the other side of the coin!! (terrible phrase that - sorry!! I'm cliche ridden today).

As for me, I'm looking at the Ruggerio Ricci method at the moment and it's sort of paying off. (Rode Caprices are looking to be much easier).

January 5, 2012 at 06:31 PM · There will be "tiger" parents in ANY activity...not just violin, or Suzuki in particular.

BTW: Because of Suzuki, I am also a violin student, going on my 7th year, and working on the Bach Double.

There is competiveness in other music activities: youth orchestra, all-state, seating in the school program...this is not just a Suzuki camp thing, and it's not just the tiger moms...it's the musicians too...

January 5, 2012 at 07:33 PM · Unhealthy competition is certainly nothing new or unique and it transcends ethnicity, class, and age. I'm inclined to broadly agree with the argument that Tiger Mother Amy Chua misunderstood and misapplied the Suzuki philosophy. In her own words, Chua says she likes clear goals and “clear ways of measuring success,” and she chose the Suzuki method because “the bottom line is that some kids go through the Suzuki books much faster than others.”

Sometimes I wonder what Suzuki himself would have thought of all this, and what he would have said to Amy Chua if they'd been able to meet. I'd like to think he would have found a kind, compassionate way to teach her a different attitude.

But her interpretation isn't completely unreasonable or stupid or illogical. I think it does have some basis in the reality of what Suzuki wrote and did, and I don't think that other parents or teachers--especially those lacking Chua's resources, or those from very different cultural or philosophical backgrounds--can be blamed for having the same misinterpretation. Which is what I meant by, like any philosophy or method, it's only as good as the teacher teaching it.

Lisa, you may be right that things might have been different if we'd started earlier. But I waited until my daughter expressed interest in playing the violin on her own. I didn't want to choose it for her and impose it on her. She said on her own that she wanted to play the violin when she was about 6 3/4. And then we started lessons. She turned 7 soon afterwards, and yes, she's always been independent and what some parenting experts call "spirited." This may make her a good lawyer, or journalist, or any number of other professions that she's interested in. But it didn't make her a good Suzuki violinist. While it's great that there are more kids getting involved in violin at young ages, I do sometimes wonder what the cost of that is. I think the Suzuki need to start early does effectively shut out the late bloomers, or at least shunts them to different, "alternative" musical paths that aren't what we conceive of as classical. This isn't necessarily a bad thing--I love "alternative" musical paths and styles--but by requiring a particular speed of development and childhood temperament for success in classical music, it does shape the world of classical musicians in a particular way.

All I want to say is that as time passes and things change, and the next generation tries to implement and interpret, we be mindful of getting too dogmatic or turning any particular way of teaching into a religion or a single true path. These days in some places it's hard to find kids' violin lessons that aren't Suzuki. And if there isn't a viable alternative, some significant number of kids are going to be left behind.

January 5, 2012 at 11:06 PM · I think the intent of the Suzuki method is to teach really young kids, starting at 3 or 4. If your child starts at 7, then Suzuki isn't really necessary. A 7 year old child doesn't need to have bunny bow holds, choo choo trains, slides and windshield wipers. A 7 year old child is significantly more self motivated and capable of focusing to a greater degree.

A Suzuki cellist friend of mine suggested that if I wanted my daughter to start at 4, that Suzuki was the only way to go. In her opinion, if I didn't want to go Suzuki method, then it probably made sense to wait until she was 7. At that point, I or someone else, could teach her.

That's a Suzuki viewpoint. But I've seen other nonsuzuki trained people teach their children before age 7 with success. So it's only one viewpoint.

January 5, 2012 at 11:30 PM · Karen, while the issues you raised are valid, they are not the fault of the Suzuki method. Any method can be misused in the wrong hand, so again it comes down to the right teacher (and the parents)!

I remember that in this old thread, you were surprised that adults are in Suzuki anything. I can attest that revised Suzuki method works wonderfully for me. I have been working with three excellent teachers. When it became painfully obvious that it's not sustainable, I decided to stick with the most "Suzuki" of the three, and just go to the other two for occasional consultations. If my aspiration were to become a professional violinist (:p), then my decision might be different, but Lisa just makes lessons more fun and inspires me to practice more. As a highly analytical person myself, I can identify with the other two more, but I love her spontaneousness and instinctiveness, which I have little. She also sees the big picture rather than just drills in technique. That doesn't mean that her students are deficient in technique - she brought me to where I am right now, and the other two teachers couldn't believe that I have only been playing for 2.5 years, despite all the physical difficulties I have. I attend group lessons with kiddo students - I have so much fun, and we all learn a lot! The monthly performance lessons also transformed me from someone who resisted to play for anyone to someone who is not afraid to play in front of people... Suzuki's motto is "Nurtured by Love" - adults can use some too. :)

Now if only my mom would make me practice... :p

January 6, 2012 at 12:01 AM · Brava Joyce! You go girl! :)

We Suzuki-adults (who ALSO do other stuff and DO learn to sight-read) gotta stay together!

January 6, 2012 at 12:16 AM · I'm a teacher who uses the Suzuki method, and while I'd probably teach a five-year-old a bunny bow hold (if that worked for that five-year-old) I'd probably use a different metaphor with a 40-year-old. So no, the Suzuki method is not actually "about" bunny holds, choo-choo trains, etc. It's about applying language-learning pedagogy concepts to music learning, as described in the first answer to this post. Those concepts actually do work at any age.

January 6, 2012 at 12:40 AM · Joyce, I was trying to make that point, that the tiger mother excesses are a misuse and misapplication of the Suzuki method, not a necessary consequence of it. Nonetheless, in my experience, they are at least a somewhat common consequence of it, and I think it's worth being aware and prepared for what could happen, rather than simply glossing over it or blaming the victim (or the victim's parents).

One unfortunate consequence of the "Nurtured By Love" framing, in my experience, is that if you do fail at Suzuki, all sorts of emotional baggage and fallout can occur. If you believe this experience was being "nurtured by love," you start to question the nature of love, or at least of your own understanding of what love means. You start to feel that your failure was a consequence of not loving enough, or of some dire character defect on your part. If you believe the Suzuki philosophy isn't just about making you a better violin player, but also about making you a *better person* (emphasis mine), and you fail, then you've failed not just as a violinist but as a good person. And your child failed at that too.

I know this isn't true, and is not what Suzuki intended. But nonetheless that's how I felt after the failure. It was heartbreaking beyond words to see my daughter who had started out so enthusiastically become so whiny, weepy, and fearful (and has been correspondingly gratifying to put that behind us). Since she's become aware of the whole tiger mother phenomenon, she's taken to calling her old teacher "the tiger" (when she talks about her at all, which isn't very often).

It sounds as if you have found a great teacher for you and that's wonderful. I actually agree that I was too negative about Suzuki back then in the immediate aftermath of quitting and then trying to find something else, etc. The long-term consequences of that quitting were actually almost completely positive. My daughter found a better teacher for her, and I started playing again myself--which soon became about a lot more than just helping my daughter through a tough time. Your viewpoint is certainly valid.

But I think that both opinions can and should co-exist and both should have an airing. In a thread that asks for the pros and cons, it's legitimate to point out some cons. I'm not trying to bash Suzuki, I'm just trying to make what I hoped was a rather obvious argument that it doesn't work for everyone and there are some potential downsides.

January 6, 2012 at 12:41 AM · Suzuki method actually HAS a pedagogy. A teacher who has done the training has spent a lot of time talking about how to teach. Not all teachers have that.

January 6, 2012 at 01:06 AM · Many fine players entering professional orchestras have come up through this method. Bill Preucil, concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra and Erin Keefe, concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra learned to play originally through the Suzuki method.

January 6, 2012 at 03:30 AM · First, to weigh in on the reading... the first generation of Suzuki kids in America pretty well did get to book 4 without learning to read music because that was that the early adapters saw in Japan. In Japan, the children learned to read music in school so it wasn't really Dr. Suzuki's problem. Culturally, Japanese society highly valued "rote," the idea of the student learning directly from the master by listening and imitating. So it was not unacceptable then in Japan for his students to learn a Mozart concerto by ear. That idea is heresy in the West. It was really up to us/the international community to figure out how and when to introduce reading and music theory according to Western traditions. As a Suzuki teacher who introduces note reading concepts in the first lesson, I will admit that it is STILL difficult to truly teach Suzuki kids to learn to read music because their ears are so darn good. Their innate sense of musicality may lead them to finish a phrase better than the composer did! The flip side is that they have such a strong ability to internally "hear" the music on the page that when they DO eventually develop strong reading skills they are unbelievable.

I think that the Suzuki Method, even more than it's a well-thought out pedagogy, has it's value in the philosophy. The idea that the music serves the child's needs as they develop into a noble human being. That the child need not depend on talent to experience the joy of music. That even the most untalented child still deserves the opportunity to develop their musical ability and the beautiful heart that comes with it. That the child is nurtured through the music and their music study - no rulers across the knuckles, no hitting the child over the head with a bow. When a child finishes the Suzuki repertoire, their need to be nurtured is not finished. So as other posters have said, at that point whether a Suzuki environment will continue to serve the student does depend on the strength of the teacher and whether they have the skills to teach beyond the books. In the traditional world as well, there are plenty of teachers who can't or shouldn't teach beyond an intermediate level so this is not unique to Suzuki. There's just a label to pin on it.

January 6, 2012 at 02:36 PM · One other point i'd like to make: The common stereotype of Suzuki OR traditional teaching, as diametrically opposite ends of the spectrum, is highly mistaken. Good teachers use good teaching principles. Good teaching principles are pretty consistently applicable across the board, though their use may be adjusted to different teaching styles, teaching priorities, or student mentalities. While the details and order of approach may vary, essentials are essentials: good technique, good tone, good student/teacher relationship, finding ways to teach so that the student understands, finding the right marriage between technique and musicality, etc.

A case in point: I'm kind of a middle-of-the roader on the whole Suzuki thing. My pedagogy prof was a Mimi Zweig protoge, with a lot of Suzuki-type qualities-the little kid affinity, the metaphors, etc. I am originally a by-ear player but my mentality is much more concrete and I just don't naturally teach well at the super-little-kid level, so I tend to start my students older and teach more concretely but still do the step-by-step thing and introduce ear training right off the bat, etc. Early in my teaching I came up with what I thought was an original way of teaching notereading, only to find out that both my Suzuki training teacher and my Suzuki-hating colleague did it exactly the same way. The only difference: she introduced it separately from actual playing till around bk 2 (age 5 or 6 with her kids); he introduced it very first thing with his 5 and 6 yr old beginners :) She showed me bow "tricks" and games to use with my little kids. He showed me some of the exact same ideas that he used with his little kids. They both loved shoulder rests. (Ok, ok, maybe that's beside the point... :)

So-is there really this huge difference? I'm not sure that there is; I think the main difference is that Suzuki codified not just a teaching sequence but a set of principles; he was one of the few to do that, and it took off. His set of principles included several features unique to a specific audience; not all teachers have realized that and adapted as necessary, and those things have become the negative stereotypes. But on essentials, most of us are on the same page, and the biggest differentiator is probably personal style and order of approach.

(Side note: I think the differences in order of approach are what drive most people nuts-but this is already too long :)

January 6, 2012 at 04:43 PM · There is probably no more sparkling example of what can come out of the Suzuki Program than Anne Akiko Meyers ( http://www.anneakikomeyers.com/html/about.html ). I was CM of the orchestra in Ridgecrest, CA that she soloed with at age 7 (I had remembered her as being 6) with the Vivaldi A minor concerto. She already had that incredible bowing technique that might predict future success. The next year she did the Bach Double with us. At that point (and before she had completed all the Suzuki music) her teacher (a violinist/violist/pianist/organist who played viola our our orchestra and in my string quartet) recommended she go to the big city (in this case, LA) for more conventional pedagogy. The rest is all in the bio I link above.

I watched both of "Tonight Show" appearances. And when she was 12, after her solo appearance with the LA Phil, she came back to our town and performed the Mendelssohn Concerto with our orchestra. She was fantastic (even on her 3/4-size violin), amazing sound and perfect performance in any way.

Ridgecrest had an outstanding Suzuki Program and a number of the kids who started in it eventually became members of the community orchestra (even while still in high school) and a number went on to earn college degrees in violin performance. The annual concerts of the massed Suzuki kids in Ridgecrest were as good as any similar concerts I ever watched on PBS TV.

A Suzuki Program is a lot more than just following or using the Suzuki books. As a teacher (not a Suzuki Teacher) I moved to using the Suzuki books around 30 years ago (when the leader of the local Suzuki school dumped some of her "delinquent" teenage students, who wanted to do things way beyond what was in the Suzuki books, on me) and later found them a useful way to get people (young and old) into string playing.

But I would never pretend that I was a Suzuki Teacher. I found it useful to get the parents involved for beginners who were less than 6 years of age. But I found that if things went right, the kids would pass their parents by after about 6 months and the parents would drop out of playing or criticizing their kid's progress (if they had good sense).

Anyone who wants to learn what the Suzuki program is all about has only to read Suzuki's books about it.


January 6, 2012 at 08:41 PM · I don't teach the Suzuki method, but I do teach transfer students (from all over the US, and overseas) that were taught Suzuki method. I have encountered several approaches:

1. Using the Suzuki sequence of repertoire as a self-contained method, without utilization of supplemental material. Reading music is not taught.

2. As above, but music reading is taught.

3. Using the Suzuki sequence of repertoire, with supplemental technical material such as scales, technical exercises, and etudes. Music reading is taught.

There also seems to be several types of lesson structures, including only private lessons, only group lessons, or a combination of both.

Also, sometimes the parent is expected to learn violin with the child, sometimes not.

And finally, sometimes the CDs are listened to faithfully and carefully, sometimes not.

The franchise seems to have some variety...

In fact, the only thing I can count on if a student is a Suzuki student is if they have worked out of the Suzuki books.

January 6, 2012 at 08:45 PM · Here's something controversial: I think all kids should learn to read music at school!

January 6, 2012 at 09:03 PM · Laurie, I was surprised that it has not been the case in the U.S. Kids in Taiwan have music classes from elementary school through high school. (These are mandated classes with exams and grades. Orchestras, bands, choirs, etc. are optional, and not offered in all schools.) The curriculum includes sight singing, theory, music history, music appreciation, etc. (Similar to Japan) I don't remember when reading music was introduced, but I learned most of the music theory I know in elementary school.

January 6, 2012 at 09:25 PM · Laurie: Great thought! What if music was a "real class" with "real grades" in elementary, not just an extra or with automatic a's. I totally understand all the logistical issues that might present in most schools, but imagine the difference in music literacy!

But, someone says, you can't make it required or tthey'll learn to hate it! Well....I was required to learn to read and I still love it-I am thankful for the opportunity! In my experience, those who did not like something they had to learn either 1) had a bad teacher, 2) just didn't have an affinity for the subject (but we require things all the time that not everybody likes simply because they're important to functioning in society!) Or 3) didn't like it then but retained and came back to it/enjoyed it later (kind of like me and science classes...)

Might be worth a separate thread?

January 6, 2012 at 10:46 PM · Laurie, I volunteer in a middle school string program. These kids have had general music classes from first through fifth grade. I have yet to work with one who knows what an octave, whole step or half step is, unless by chance they have had piano lessons. What do you think the chances are of kids actually learning to read music in schools?

January 7, 2012 at 12:28 AM · The Suzuki method is something that I don't personally like, but I try to remain as unbiased as possible. Like it or don't, the truth is that the Suzuki method is not enough by itself. It must be supplemented with other material or the students miss out on a lot of technique and skills that they will need to succeed.

January 7, 2012 at 05:55 AM · I'm Joyce's teacher!

Joyce - if your goal WAS to become a professional violinist, do know that I would run your lessons in a much different way from what I do now!

Becki - I have so many fond memories of summers at the Suzuki Institute your mom ran. Good times!

I began lessons as a Suzuki student when I was four, and switched to a more "conventional" teacher in high school. While I never became a famous soloist (thank goodness, actually!!!), I did win a position in the Oregon Symphony, and played there for seven years until I decided to resign. I gained a lot from my experience with the method, but agree that it all depends on who is teaching it. I have had Suzuki training, and now teach privately, but I do not consider myself necessarily a "Suzuki" teacher.

I believe Dr. Suzuki did not mean for there to be "Suzuki" teachers - it was each teacher's job to take his principles and make it his/her own, because everybody teaches differently. Therefore, I suppose I am a "Hansen" teacher, with strong Suzuki influences.

Interesting thread!

January 7, 2012 at 08:27 AM · Greetings,

`Here's something controversial: I think all kids should learn to read music at school! `

Hear hear! They do In Japan.



January 7, 2012 at 10:02 AM · I believe Dr. Suzuki did not mean for there to be "Suzuki" teachers

My teacher is absolutely right: :)

“First, to set the record straight, this is not a ‘teaching method.’ You cannot buy ten volumes of Suzuki books and become a ‘Suzuki Teacher.’ Dr. Suzuki has developed a philosophy which, when understood to the fullest, can be a philosophy for living. He is not trying to create the world of violinists. His major aim is to open a world of beauty to young children everywhere that they might have greater enjoyment in their lives through the God-given sounds of music.” (*Hermann, 1971)

(*I'm guessing this quote belongs to Dr. Evelyn Hermann)

January 7, 2012 at 11:58 AM · Well there are certainly lots of opinions about the Suzuki method. But I still don't have an answer to my question. What exactly is it?

The best I can gather from the above is the Suzuki method consists of a set of books that systematically builds technical proficiency on the violin. Some 'more orthodox' teachers require parent involvement, have weekly group lessons, require playing by ear (at least in the early stages), and incorporate silly animals in their lessons. But it would appear that the vast majority of teachers, even those that use the Suzuki books, are not orthodox in the 'Suzuki' sense. That is, they follow the books, but everything else, including teaching proper technique, is up to the individual teacher.

January 7, 2012 at 12:04 PM · Perhaps I should pay a visit to Ronda Cole. I purchased my violin from her and she teaches Suzuki pedagogy at the University of Maryland. If anyone knows the answer to my question, it would be her.

BTW, I attended one of her group classes, and she was having the students recite poetry as part of the class. Is that considered a core piece of the Suzuki method?

January 7, 2012 at 02:29 PM · Does the method really matter if the results are achieved? Some teaching methods work better for some students and vice versa.

I'm not interested in hearing or reciting poetry during a violin lesson. That sounds like some sort of flaky, liberal b*******.

("Smiley Sue?" Phonetic pronunciation of your name. Hope you didn't attend American public schools. Like me you would likely have been bullied, even if dinosaurs were roaming the land at the time.)

January 7, 2012 at 02:56 PM · I'm not crazy about the poetry idea either, but Ronda explained to me that in many ways it is just like performing. You have to get over your nerves and present yourself to the audience. Sounds like it might have merit. And her students seem to be pretty at ease playing in front of others. During the group class they were quite willing to demonstrate passages individually. Getting over performance jitters is something I never have and probably never will get over.

At any rate, she has some really exceptional students -- not sure if it is because she is such a great teacher, or because of her reputation, she attracts the best talent.

January 8, 2012 at 11:10 AM · `Here's something controversial: I think all kids should learn to read music at school! `

In my school pretty much everyone could read music by 7 or 8. There was some formal instruction, but mostly it was by osmosis - we did a lot of singing. It's perfectly doable.

(Mind you - it's an unusually musical school - we had 4 symphony orchestras! Seems the tradition has continued - they just won the BBC Small Choir of the Year competition.)

As far as Suzuki goes, I don't really understand the strict no-reading concept. My piano teacher had me reading by around 6, and I can't see that it stunted my musical development. Read while you are learning a tune, play by ear once you have memorised it. What's the problem with that?

Suzuki's language learning analogy only really applies to infants. I also learned ordinary reading by osmosis by the age of 4 or 5 - my parents played reading games with me during my bedtime stories. I can't see what damage it can do to introduce reading quite early - kids can handle it just fine, and it develops important capabilities.

Though I do believe there should be more emphasis in the classical world on picking up tunes by ear and on improvising - no musician should be dot-bound. It's all a question of balance.

January 8, 2012 at 12:06 PM · "(Mind you - it's an unusually musical school - we had 4 symphony orchestras! Seems the tradition has continued - they just won the BBC Small Choir of the Year competition.)"

Our school had 5 symphony orchestras, six full blown choruses, four band directors, and a partridge in a pear tree.

January 8, 2012 at 06:21 PM · Geoff, Suzuki is not anti-reading though some teachers misinterpret it that way. However, in very early years the ear training is prioritized and the reading is just not pushed.

Smiley, I think the closest you will get to a definition is those first few entries that listed the characteristic points. Most methods seem to be defined by their method books, which self-contain technique, progression, and a little philosophy. The Suzuki method books contain some of that, but much of the method core is in Suzuki's other writings and is more about the general approach, which is why it's harder to crystallize. :)

January 8, 2012 at 07:30 PM · Becki said:

That the child need not depend on talent to experience the joy of music. That even the most untalented child still deserves the opportunity to develop their musical ability and the beautiful heart that comes with it. That the child is nurtured through the music and their music study - no rulers across the knuckles, no hitting the child over the head with a bow.

These sentences really touched me! I studied piano with a teacher that would scold me and smack my knuckles with a pencil whenever I played something wrong. Needless to say, I hated playing the piano, and after 6 years, never developed much in musicality or technique. As an untalented adult, I'm very thankful for the Suzuki philosophy that has been instilled in my teacher - every child can learn, so can every adult. Few teachers of her stature would take on starters, let alone adult beginners (Hats off to Sarah too!)... Seeing young children learning with joy in my group lessons has been a great treat!

January 8, 2012 at 07:44 PM · Evelyn

You're having a go at me, but I'm just expressing my gratitude to a wonderful teacher, Brian Head of the Edinburgh Academy, who inspired me and thousands of other kids to achieve high choral and orchestral standards. In fact the standard was so high that Benjamin Britten chose one of our choirs to record with. But there was also room for less gifted kids to grow through music.

The recent competition win suggests that his legacy has lasted for over 30 years.

Not an achievement on the scale as Suzuki, perhaps, but in thread about teaching is this not something to celebrate? It was quite a stuffy academic school with no great musical tradition. I think his example demonstrates what one inspiring and determined teacher can achieve, even in unpromising circumstances.

January 8, 2012 at 08:09 PM · Suzuki method was designed for children. But does it work with adults? Would like to hear some indeas on that.....

January 9, 2012 at 02:07 AM · Does it work on adults? Pay attention to good posture and beautiful tone. Listen to violin music endlessly throughout the day. Nevermind the part about not reading music, but spend some time playing from memory and focusing on the music and your physical playing. It will work with anyone. Will a non-Suzuki teacher get more out of you sooner? Maybe... couldn't say honestly.

January 9, 2012 at 02:36 AM · Yes, it works for adults. :)

I have played for 6 years, and am in book 4. I also use etude books, do scales, and play in a chamber orchestra. I can read music (it's still difficult).

January 9, 2012 at 03:30 AM · Di, again, it's not the method that matters - it's the teacher. Having Suzuki training just means that the teacher has more tools at his/her disposal for teaching young children, but a good teacher would be sensitive to the student's goal (as my teacher has demonstrated), ability, personality and learning style, regardless of age.

Of course, Lisa would not use those animal metaphors and cutesiness on me, but there are still Suzuki elements in her method:

1. Suzuki repertoire (along with scales, arpeggios, etudes, exercises, and solo pieces from other books). Since she has the Suzuki training, she knows what skills each piece is designed to teach.

2. Listening to the recording of the Suzuki book I'm in.

3. Each piece must be memorized.

4. Sitting on a piece until it's polished.

5. Reviewing old pieces.

6. Positive reinforcement (Adults probably need more than children).

7. Group lessons (Optional for adult students).

I believe that the student's attitude is also important - once I shed the self-consciousness for being an adult beginner in a kiddy land (some kids are quite talented and/or advanced), I got more out of being a student in Lisa's studio: I have participated in practice challenges, group classes, performance classes (where everyone performs and also critiques others' playing), and a recital, beside my private lessons. These activities not only helped me grow as a violinist but also as a person.

January 9, 2012 at 02:31 PM · Like Joyce, I happily play in group classes with the kids, and most recitals. I am just another "big" kid in the group at this point.

January 10, 2012 at 07:04 PM · A few observations / comments.

1. @Lisa, "I do know a couple of families where Dad is the Suzuki parent." I resemble that remark! But us dads are clearly in the minority. We have two daughters, ergo two Suzuki parents. Our other daughter studies the cello in a Suzuki studio. It works well so far.

2. Most teachers supplement traditional Suzuki with other stuff -- Barbara Barber is common and there are countless other things. That's one of the best features of the violin: an endless repertoire.

3. Kids can learn to read music any time. My daughter is in Book 4 and we are sight-reading our way through the Pleyel Duets together. She started reading music right from the beginning because she started at age 7. Our other daughter started the cello at 5 and she cannot read any music yet even though she is halfway through Book 1. She can play a lot of the later tunes by ear, though, which is a skill that the older daughter does not have, and arguably is harder to teach than reading music, so maybe delaying the onset of reading music is a good thing after all.

4. The idea of learning to read music in public school is a good one. But ANY language in addition to English would be valuable, and it hardly matters which language it is (but precisely that question will prevent it from ever happening, so maybe the language of music is the best choice because it will not be controversial). I think elementary school students should spend half an hour a day on chess. But "accountability" and "standards of learning" preclude such innovations despite a demonstrated correlation with other desired outcomes.

5. Doing the Suzuki method does not protect a child from having a bad teacher. Therefore you may find Suzuki kids with bad bow holds. However, "Suzuki Method" is a trademark, and I believe a teacher is required to have endured a certain amount of training in order to advertise that he or she uses it. (Can anyone confirm?) As Buri pointed out the effect, integrated over many years, is a very steady and significant elevation in overall pedagogical standards. The reason my daughter is learning faster than I did is because the Suzuki pedagogy is MUCH better than what I had (mostly Whistler books). Her attitude and industry are quite similar to what mine were at the same age/level.

6. Some studios really drink the Suzuki Kool-Aid more than others. I wonder if there is a correlation between that and whether they tend to attract the homeschooling vegan families. There is a certain "new age" aspect to Suzuki. He was ahead of his time.

7. I think Suzuki deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. I really do. I know he was nominated for it more than once. 1994 would have been a good year, four years before his death. And instead of Arafat, for goodness' sake.

January 11, 2012 at 05:01 AM · What I have found over the years is that there are only a few intermediate teachers out there. You either can teach or you can't, you either can teach intonation , or you can't. You can either teach good left hand technique or you can't and you can either teach good bowing techniques or you can't. There seems to be no in the middle teaching level. Teachers have the talent and a method is , IMO, a list of exercises and melodies, anything more than that, than I think we are kidding ourselves. It shouldn't be a religion. It's not our job to nurture or love our students, this is a parent's job.

Proper learning concepts will help a method become more than a list of melodies , but the Suzuki concepts in book 1 are flawed.

January 11, 2012 at 05:32 AM · Smiley,

If you aren't understanding, this is what you need to know to understand: Suzuki had a very effective teaching philosophy that built music learning around the same concepts as language learning. That's basically it. And people already explained it. The books aren't the big accomplishment, it's the philosophy. The philosophy involves creating an environment with music, learning the physical part of playing before the reading part, then learning the reading part (just like we learn language before we learn to read it), repeating the things you know, positive reinforcement, etc..

About 'it's not our job to teach with love,' well, Suzuki was coming from an environment and a time where people taught with terror, and it's not a great way to teach a very young child, or anyone, for that matter. He also was caught up in two world wars and wanted to see children learn music instead of operate guns. Patience is a kind of love, I'd argue, and teaching the violin requires it. Unless you prefer anger and fear. Also effective, but no, not part of the Suzuki philosophy. If you apply it to language learning it often produces a stutterer.

Also, learning the piano is an entirely different endeavor; the physical part of it is simply not as complicated, and thus you can read sooner. If you learn to hold the violin while simultaneously learning to read, you basically get droopy violin, slunched back, out-of-tune notes, collapsed wrist, you name it. It's a total nightmare.

January 11, 2012 at 05:12 PM · @Laurie, I agree that reading the music while practicing can exacerbate certain physical and technical problems, but if you have a piece that might take some weeks to polish (the Vivaldi A minor movements in Book 4, for example) then one way to minimize the damage is to memorize early in that cycle. In addition to the physical unfettering there is a mental liberation too. Visual processing consumes a lot of bandwidth.

Memorization allows the student to focus all of his or her brainpower on the technical and musical issues instead of "what's the next note."

@Charles, I have to wonder if you have spent any time teaching young people. Skill at presenting the technical aspects of a discipline will never trump genuine personal and professional concern. When students feel that you care about them, they are much more likely to absorb what you are teaching them. Remember that teaching is not what ultimately matters; learning is. To this end, a teacher should ideally be more like a guru, someone one can trust and admire on many levels including the personal (and some would say spiritual as well). Thus there will always be some amount of "in loco parentis" at every level of education.

January 11, 2012 at 06:21 PM · "If you learn to hold the violin while simultaneously learning to read, you basically get droopy violin, slunched back, out-of-tune notes, collapsed wrist, you name it. It's a total nightmare."


Can you explain what you mean by "collapsed wrist?"

January 11, 2012 at 07:32 PM · "Skill at presenting the technical aspects of a discipline will never trump genuine personal and professional concern" > I think I had this argument in grade school, what came first the chicken or the egg.

Peter a collapse wrist is also called the pizza pan hold.

My philosophy in life and technique is "that extremes are generally wrong".

January 11, 2012 at 09:17 PM · I think you need to break the egg and let the chicken out.

P.S. I've gone off pizzas as they are no longer Italian. They have been compromised.

January 12, 2012 at 09:35 AM · I was only asking about the collapsed wrist as I was not sure if that was left hand or bow arm. In my opinion (and Ruggerio Ricci's)it is bad when it's the bow arm wrist.

But if collapsed wrist means the palm of the left hand coming towards the kneck so the fingers point along the string, then this is reccommended by Ruggerio Ricci and others.

If you watch Mr Perlmann on film you will see that this is exactly his left hand technique. And I think he plays not too bad either ...

January 14, 2012 at 07:42 PM · OK, as long as this thread has resurfaced, I'm going to ask. A few posts above, in his point #6, Paul Deck refers to "drinking the Kool-Aid." Many of us know exactly what he means. Does anyone have any insight into how and why the Kool-Aid aspect got started? When my kid first started I remember one of the books I was asked to read- I think it was by William Starr- had a chapter on what to FEED a Suzuki student. (Being an unredeemed iconoclast, my reaction to that was that if I wanted to feed my kid Cheetos and beer for dinner, it really wasn't any of the author's business.) When did the idea of "Suzuki" turn into a lifestyle?

January 15, 2012 at 12:08 AM · Lisa, I find myself asking the same thing around Steiner/Waldorf education. These types of harnessable pedagogies lend themselves to being taken over and morphed into covens. and those who know least will be the most stringent on having superfluous details adhered to.

January 15, 2012 at 12:34 AM · Peter, I'm talking about a collapsed left wrist. Yes, I've read Ricci's book, talked to him about it and also seen how he plays. He can play the way he wants, he's at the top.

But it doesn't work for most people, which is why few people hold the violin that way. It tends to create tension and lack of mobility in the left hand as well as an inability to shift and do vibrato.

It's kind of like U.S. football player Tim Tebow's throwing form. Okay whatever it works, and I'm glad the Broncos are in the playoffs. But would you teach everybody to throw a ball that way? No way.

January 15, 2012 at 12:50 AM · The more power we give to people the more power they have to do harm with. These expectations of how teachers should behave with children are way too high. Hopefully there are only a few extremist out there.

Wow, alot of religious/cult overtones in a thread about educating children, a Jonestown massacre metaphor, nice.

January 15, 2012 at 01:00 AM · It's worth noting that a number of the most celebrated improvising violinists in the alt. strings world were also Suzuki starts - Regina Carter, Tristan and Tashina Clarridge, Alex Hargreaves (if you don't know who these folks are, you should definitely check them out), and many many other great fiddlers...I started on the Givens Violinland method and that's what I teach, as it has many benefits too, but it seems that Suzuki kids get a head start on alt. styles due to the strong ear training component of the method...

January 15, 2012 at 09:18 AM · Laurie, thanks for your response.

I'm actually wondering if it does work for quite a lot of people, as when I observe some fine players I see that they are tending to go that way. Perlman is one example and Ehnes another. James Ehenes left hand thumb comes up so high that it looks like another finger and indeed it is possible to play a note with it. A friend said that seeing the video/DVD about the Strads etc he would not want to reccommend that to a pupil, but I'm not so sure.

I will be seeing James at a concert and a masterclass in just over a weeks time and if the opportunity arises I will ask him about this subject and maybe he will even demonstrate it.

As far as creating tension I have found rather the opposite. It has not had any effect on my vibrato and shifting is much more secure as one should push along the string going up and pull when coming down.

As far as I'm concerned personally this technique of Mr Ricci's has revolutionised my playing and only last night I read through most of the Bach D minor Chacconne (a piece I've never much looked at before) and found the chords etc. to be much more playable. This I've found with other pieces and passages that have irked me a lot in the past. So although I agree with you that it is not (yet) a common technique I think it has merits.

There are one or two things I probably disagree about though in "Glissando" - but much of it makes good sense and can work.

EDIT: I would add though as an afterthought, that other methods also work, and it is much a matter of what works for you. The other extremes (as demonstrated by people such as Tossy Spivakovsky ... remember him?!) are extreme, but it obviously works for him!!

Another player who seems to me to demonstrate what Ricci is on about is for example, David Oistrakh.

January 20, 2012 at 06:17 PM · - Charles

The chicken come first. Using Darwin evolution theory and other complicate biology stuff, we know that everything start out as 1 strand of DNA that continuously multiply, because of that, the chicken come first.We also found that a protein found only in a chicken's ovaries is necessary for the formation of the egg, The egg can therefore only exist if it has been created inside a chicken.

Sorry about that, I'm a science nerd :P

Any who...

As a re-starting violin student, the method I'm learning now is traditional. My first lesson was like 6 years ago and the only thing I get perfectly is the bow hold and position. I also have perfect pitch (yay Vietnamese bloodline) so I'm a mix between both. My teacher only teaches me the traditional but I took on the Suzuki by myself.

With an exceptional I.Q and plenty of reading/praticing, in approximately 6 month, my note reading and playing skil rival a well trained 1 years player. I still have alot to improve obviously, but I think that if you try and incoporate both method. Your progress will rocket.

January 20, 2012 at 06:21 PM · Ha ha ha

January 20, 2012 at 08:07 PM · I find with Suzuki you neeed to slip the clutch.

January 20, 2012 at 09:26 PM ·

January 20, 2012 at 09:34 PM · Good point very scientific

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Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine