Has anyone ever actually completed the Suzuki method?

July 1, 2013 at 09:43 PM · I was not raised on Suzuki, I was required to go through the standard etude progression. So far, none of the Suzuki people that I have seen ever actually bother to finish the method. They all quit it somewhere around the middle and then catch up on their technique, so I'm just curious if anyone here either finished it or witnessed someone else finishing it? I know that the last two books are Mozart concerti but I'm not asking if anyone has played those concerti, I want to know if they actually stuck with the specific Suzuki method itself all the way through the last book and finished it in Suzuki.

I can't remember which edition I used when I played Mozart 4 but like I said, I wasn't a Suzuki kid.

Replies (37)

July 1, 2013 at 09:52 PM · Yes! I laugh sometimes thinking back to those last days, learning Mozart 5 and 4 (or Books 9 and 10!) and starting scales and arpeggios, all with my first teacher. But she was great, and I got her take on such things. Later, of course, I learned the pieces (and scales) again and had a lot more to think about. But I was 9 or 10 then, and my greatest joy was listening to the Perlman recordings of those concerti every day on the bus rides to and from 4th grade. I loved those pieces! I'm sure I would roll my eyes at the fingerings and bowings in the books though.

I did a graduation recital just after I turned 11, when I changed to my second teacher, who would take me through to conservatory. If I recall correctly, the recital had something from each of the 10 books.

Looking back, my parents and I wonder when we might have switched had we done it over again. Certainly not before book 6 or 7. Possibly shortly after that point. But I was having a good time with my teacher and enjoyed playing. So nobody wanted to rock the boat.

You're right with your original question though; I can't think of very many people I've met who actually had to do all 10 books!

July 1, 2013 at 10:05 PM · I completed the Suzuki violin school with a registered suzuki teacher and in an active suzuki program through book 8 and then I learned Mendelshon's violin concerto and did a "graduation" recital for the suzuki method. I would say that yes, i completed the suzuki violin school but honestly I did not learn the Mozart's until college.

Laura

YMS

July 2, 2013 at 01:20 AM · I think a fair number of Suzuki students go through Book 8 faithfully. However, at that point, you really would expect a good teacher to assess the student's skills and predilections and then choose repertoire accordingly. It would seem odd if two particular Mozart concertos were "the" pieces for every single student at that level to play, satisfactory though they may be in terms of the pedagogy.

I wonder if there aren't a fair number of students who, upon finishing Book 8, are not even close to being ready for Mozart 4 or 5, either because they were not assigned other challenging repertoire (or scales, studies, and the like) along the way, or because they slopped through the later books as fast as possible without polishing the pieces and thereby demonstrating thorough mastery of the underpinning techniques. I know from my own experience as a young student (30+ years ago) that working on pieces until they are highly polished is grueling, tedious work that does not appeal to most teenagers. My teacher back then never made me polish my pieces or even memorize them. But if he had, would I have quit? It's possible. Where would I be then?

July 2, 2013 at 03:35 AM · Thanks for the replies! It's really interesting reading about other people's experiences. I always wondered what it would have been like to learn from a more repertoire-oriented perspective. I like etudes fine, it's just that there were so many! It wasn't until after Mendelssohn that I had a teacher who balanced the etudes and scales with some repertoire as well.

July 2, 2013 at 05:36 AM · My wife studied all ten books when she lived in Nagoya, Japan, by the age of ten. She also had a lot of supplementary material during that period, including the traditional scales, etudes, Kreisler pieces, etc. After emigrating to the US, she studied at Colburn. She credits her early childhood experience in the Suzuki Method contributing to being well-prepared for the pace of learning and memorizing concertos and solo pieces.

One of her teachers mentioned to her that Suzuki himself loved Kreisler's works, but was unable to secure copyright permission to reproduce them in his method books.

I'd venture though, as a non-Suzuki teacher myself, that one doesn't really "complete" the Suzuki Method. Rather, it is a philosophy of learning music starting in childhood, and you do what you will with the philosophy. I only went through the third book myself before I moved into "traditional" lessons, but my first teacher Lori Franke taught me really wonderful things about music and playing the violin that I strive to communicate to my own students today. When I hear her current students at her Suzuki Academy play, I'm always thrilled with their tone quality, ensemble unity, and expression, from the oldest ones in high school to the little ones who aren't even in school yet.

July 2, 2013 at 01:04 PM · I use the Suzuki books and have a fair amount of S.training, but Ie add a note-reader by the end of Book 1, and branch out into other literature at least by mid-Book 3. I don't commonly use Books 7 & 8. The literature in 5-8 is all quite of a level,imo, and continues to be heavily Baroque.

July 2, 2013 at 05:13 PM · As a teacher, with training in all the books, I definitely do a lot of off-roading after about Book 6-7, just according to the students' emerging needs (perhaps to focus on a certain technique like spiccato or cultivating a better vibrato, etc.) and interests (tango music, jazz, more Romantic music, etc.). I think students of the violin should study the Mozart Concerti, but they may not be ready for them quite "in sequence."

July 3, 2013 at 05:22 PM · I started with Suzuki and I have not gone through all the books. My impression is that some of the concerti are not accurate representations of the composers original work. That being the case, then I think the more appropriate question would be WHY would anyone go through all the books? If you are going to play a Mozart concerto, then wouldn't you be better off getting an edition that is more faithful to the original composition?

July 3, 2013 at 08:36 PM · Did you hear about the Suzuki violin student who died and went to Hell. After a long period of arduous practice he finished book ten, at which point the devil congratulated him and gave him book 11, which he completed and was given book 12, and so on....

July 4, 2013 at 01:03 AM · Well, the pieces are "not accurate representations of the composers original work" for a reason.

When we begin teaching children science, we don't start with molecular biology. We use simpler concepts that only in part resemble the more complex idea, so that a child at a certain cognitive stage is able to understand it.

As far Suzuki's books go, he used the repertoire he was familiar with (having studied in Germany) to teach a variety of playing skills. Some of the editing to accomplish those teaching goals do not currently align with our understanding of the period performance practices of those works. As teachers, it's important to distinguish between material we use to develop skills vs. material that is polished for concert performance. I teach Sarasate's "Malaguena" using some very funky Yost-inspired fingerings to all my students to develop shifting and vibrato, but I don't ever expect them to play the work in public.

However, there's plenty of material out there in the "traditional" world that doesn't make much sense either...ever look at all those concertos published by International? The Schott-Nachez edition of Vivaldi's A minor? The stylistic guidance given by fingerings and bowings in the Peters editions of the Beethoven string quartets? The Schirmer editions of the Mozart concertos are no better than Suzuki Book 9/10...no one plays that many natural harmonics all over the place anymore! I prefer the Barenreiter...

July 4, 2013 at 01:35 AM · Dear Bruce,

you may not be aware of this but after book fifteen the Devil couldn't take anymore and emigrated.

Cheers,

Buri

July 4, 2013 at 04:02 AM · Both Ray Chen and Robert Gupta finished all 10 books.

July 4, 2013 at 07:14 AM · Paula Bird is not a regular contributor here, she mentions teaching book 10 students in her blog

http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com/2011/12/suzuki-pathway-books-1-10-general.html.

IMHO the changes in fingerings/bowings in Suzuki book were done for pedagogical reasons to give kids access to work otherwise inaccessible to them or to introduce a technical point. Gene already explained above.

July 7, 2013 at 09:11 AM · Suzuki is a pedagogy, and as such the "method" is perpetual. Certainly, it is NOT a school of violin playing. The books are simply a collection of pieces to aid the teacher, and should be supplemented as necessary to develop a student to her/his best potential.

I believe what you mean to ask is whether anyone has completed all the pieces in all the books published under the Suzuki name. The answer is yes, many people. But this is not to say the Suzuki "method" was completed or even attained, for Suzuki is a philosophy and not a collection.

June 11, 2014 at 06:17 PM · I have a student who had been playing out of Suzuki for quite a while with a different teacher. She was in book 3, but I realized that the pattern in Suzuki was not challenging enough and very bleak. I pulled out book 4 and decided to do some Vivaldi, and eventually the Bach double so she could actually use the techniques that were being exercised, especially at her school orchestra. I want to push her more musically since she puts in time and effort just about every day. She's afraid to play loudly, but the Book 3 was just more of the same. . . I'd like to know what other teachers have had their students play after that "middle-of-the-Suzuki-method".

When I was learning, I learned in public schools and pretty much just played any music I could get my hands on (no teacher and lots of playing by ear, and understanding key signatures successfully!). At some point I got the occasional lesson (1 time every couple of months) where my teacher had me play Carl Flesch and Mozart 3. In college we continued that path with Kreutzer, Schriadick, and some other things. Mendelssohn, Bach with some very good teachers. I still play, focusing on chamber music at the moment.

Since I have an eclectic learning history, I wonder what some of the other ways to fill the holes and other recommendations that teachers have?

Thanks for any suggestions!!

June 11, 2014 at 06:42 PM · "She's afraid to play loudly, but the Book 3 was just more of the same...." So, to build her confidence you jumped up to the end of Book 4 -- did that work?

I've heard a lot of criticism that the Suzuki pieces are redundant and too much of baroque. But honestly, the fundamentals of clean articulation, accurate intonation, and the ability to play with elegant simplicity are essential to so much of the repertoire.

Sometimes I do wonder, however, whether Suzuki deliberately threw in a few pieces to make sure students would take a breather from the learning curve and build some confidence. The Martini Gavotte seems to be such a piece.

June 11, 2014 at 09:26 PM · Ron, I'm sorry , but the Suzuki method is indeed a "violin school": the pieces are not just supplements to technical work, they contain that work if you know how to use them. The analysis and constant practice of each element replaces many musically stupid studies.

Imposing weak or ugly music on our children is a disgrace. I refuse most studies until they can play Kreutzer's. And I prefer good "baroque" to poor, mindless imitations of classical or romantic styles. In my long and varied experience, I find children are not fooled, only corrupted.

There are no duds in Suzuki's Violin School (except, to my ears, the three Seitz movements..

Scales? Of course, but remember that scales are already a composite of many techniques, rather than the means to acquire them.

Yes, there is a huge gap between Vol.8 and the Mozart concertos. At this stage the children have sufficient physical maturity to bring to life more romantic works, e.g. Kreisler's salon pieces.

I find that Suzuki's apparently pioneering way of using real music can be applied to other repertoire.

June 11, 2014 at 09:36 PM · I think the one piece in the Suzuki books that is a "must" if you want to get real concerto experience before proceeding to the contents of books 9 and 10 (or alternative pieces elsewhere of a similar standard) is the Bach A minor. I'm currently working on it but am using the Barenreiter edition rather than Suzuki's.

By a useful coincidence my chamber orchestra in Bristol (UK) is giving two performances of this concerto in a couple of weeks time with our new conductor Dennis Simons as the soloist. Dennis is using the Barenreiter edition.

June 11, 2014 at 10:09 PM · I quite agree about replacing the Nachez Vivaldis, the Joachim Mozarts and the musically impractal Bach A minor; but we then need to "retrieve" their technical benefits with e.g. Kreutzer's studies...

June 12, 2014 at 01:35 AM · How is the Bach A Minor "musically impractal"? I don't know what that even means. I think that's a fine concerto. Why is the Suzuki edition bad? Can this be articulated?

Someone above wrote that it's the essential starting point in preparing for the Mozart concertos. To that I would add the three Handel Sonatas that are in Books 6 and 7. If you cannot play the Handel D Major Sonata cleanly and up to tempo, then Mozart is not within your grasp.

I don't particularly care for the Seitz concertos either, but I don't agree that all studies "below" Kreutzer are terrible. However there are some "schools" where students plow through every single one of those study books "one study per week" and that's not a good approach. Especially with Wohlfahrt, Kayser, Alard, Sitt, Schradieck, etc. the batting average for musicality is relatively low. Somewhat better with Mazas I think but still rather formulaic. Still, as a student, I kind of enjoyed working on my studies, even though with the one-per-week routine it was kind of relentless, and they can be helpful in isolating aspects of technique. Scales are not particularly musical, do you not recommend them to your students?

June 12, 2014 at 01:42 AM · And honestly, there's not a problem in playing "too much Baroque repertoire."

I see quite a few students who have problems in orchestra and chamber music at the junior high and high school level, primarily because they never spent enough time learning the basic bow strokes in pieces from the Baroque period before progressing on to Classical and Romantic period works.

June 12, 2014 at 03:11 AM · I am not, nor ever have been, a Suzuki student but I have always used the books because they are great value for money. All that Bach...fantastic !

June 12, 2014 at 05:55 AM · For the Bach A minor, I find certain of Suzuki's bowings too long for outward-going, concerto-type tone, and often across the beat in a way that masks the rythmic impulse. It's true that these bowings are great for building technique: "impulse" accents during a slur, good bow-length distribution, etc..but I feel they make for a rather "soupy" Bach!

For easier studies? I rummage around in the amazing Doflein method (Schott) or Sandor (Budapest) for tailor-made studies, study extracts, and well-chosen scales. And I often invent my own, as hands (and minds) are as different as faces!

Pre-Kreutzer? Kayser, Dancla, but no Wolfhart or Dont. Heresy, I know, but I insist on coherent harmonic progression and real melodic motifs to form our pupils' musicanship.

I do a lot of "basics", though, the key to Suzuki training. Short exercises ("games"..) repeated many times, rather than ploughing superficially through too much material.

June 12, 2014 at 10:23 AM · "Scales are not particularly musical"

I wouldn't agree with that for the simple reason that scales (and arpeggios) are the building blocks of almost all music. Scales can, and should imo, be practiced as miniature pieces of music in their own right, with different bowings, rhythms, speeds, tonal textures and articulations, ad infinitum.

There is enormous scope here for developing skills in sight-reading and improvising. I wouldn't restrict scales merely to the keys of the "48" but also explore the richness of other scales found in Celtic and Eastern European cultures.

June 12, 2014 at 01:34 PM · I find there's been a lot of Seitz bashing over the years...and I don't understand why. I love them...

Someone willing to enlighten me?

June 12, 2014 at 06:26 PM · So, Trevor, if someone published a CD of just scales, you'd listen to that, like a concerto?

June 12, 2014 at 07:48 PM · Depends on what thought has been put into them and how well they're played. You can learn a lot from just listening to a top violinist warming up with a few scales and arpeggios.

June 12, 2014 at 07:58 PM · Seitz bashing - that's for those who don't see his student violin concertos in a specific 19th century context -- that of a teacher introducing his pupils to playing extended not-too-difficult works in public (mostly friends, relatives and fellow pupils, probably) as he guides them up the path to greater heights.

If my memory serves me correctly, Goltermann in the same general period did a similar service for his cello pupils. I remember working on a couple of his cello concertos in which there are quite attractive passages.

June 12, 2014 at 10:06 PM · I've nothing against the principle of student concertos; they bridge the gap between small-scale and large-scale works, as Trevor rightly implies.

What I strongly object to is their musical quality.

O.K, I was very spoilt: I was brought up on the Baptist Hymn Book, then Tudor anthems, with fully harmonised psalms and responses. So I can't abide studies and "Concertinos" with aimless harmonic struture. Eg. Rieding's little Concerto in B minor is a gem, but his Op 25 in D is utter rubbish to my ears. I could churn out stuff like that myself, but my students deserve better!

Yes, I would buy a disc of Perlman or Hahn playing scales, for the sheer beauty of tone and intonation.

June 12, 2014 at 10:32 PM · Adrian, I agree with you about the musicality of the Seitz concerto movements in Suzuki. But therein lies a challenge to the student - to find music in something that is apparently uninspiring and breathe interest and drama into it. A student who meets that challenge head-on and overcomes it will be making real progress. Indeed it may even be useful for a more advanced student at Suzuki Book 7 or 8 to take a little break and look at the Seitz pieces of Book 4 with a fresh insight.

June 12, 2014 at 10:51 PM · Trevor, I see what you mean, but I feel that this a very "adult" spirit, seeking out the best in second-rate material, and bringing it to life with our own resources. I teach only 11-14 year olds at present, and I find theme so authentic and uncompromising; they react spontaneously to the inherent "Quality" of the music.

Difficult to pin down Quality, but a close look at Mozart vs Stamitz, Joseph vs Michael Haydn, gives us the difference between genius and great talent.

Mediocrity is way down the scale.

June 12, 2014 at 11:58 PM · Adrian, you're quite right. I was naturally looking at it from an adult perspective, and the point of view of students in their early teens never occurred to me.

June 13, 2014 at 03:06 AM · Re: Seitz. I can agree that is mediocre compared to, say, Bach or Vivaldi but I think some of it is charming in its own right. I find the D major fairly uninspiring, I'll admit, but the G major quite enjoyable. Same with some of the others, as you said Rieding b minor (and to an extent the G major op.24) but some of they others are lackluster. And I have never enjoyed Accolay. But I guess they are not suzuki so that's a different conversation :) overall, I would agree: suzuki fills his material with very fine pieces. But a little variety can be nice too even if it's "pedagogical level" ; didn't necessarily mean is junk :)

June 13, 2014 at 02:18 PM · By the way, Kathryn, your blogs just ring so true!

June 14, 2014 at 02:03 PM · Thanks Adrian!

June 14, 2014 at 02:22 PM · I think Michael has raised a good question.

I started teaching violin in 1964 using the conventional approach that I had studied starting in the USA in 1939 (no Suzuki here then). I started using the Suzuki books around 1979 and taught (with supplemental material) for the next 30 years.

I had only 2 students who went through all 10 books, one man about 5 years younger than me, and my granddaughter, 54 years younger. I did not use the Suzuki music for either the Vivaldi A minor of the Mozart concertos.

The town I lived in until 1995 had a marvelous Suzuki program (of which I was not a part - I got some of the dropouts who still thought they wanted lessons). Most of the good students in that program were transferred to other teachers (by the head of the Suzuki program) before they finished "the course," depending on their abilities. Many had to be driven 160 miles each way to get to their new teachers. Anne Akiko Meyers got started in that town's program. She was one of those "shipped out" fairly early.

Andy

October 8, 2014 at 05:35 PM · I just turned 16 and it is now three years since I finished all the suzuki books. I finished it when I was thirteen, yes maybe late, but now I have so much repetoire! When I turned 14 I played the Mendelssohn, and Bruch violin concerto without any problems and I did not use more than two months on the first and the second movement of Mendelssohn .Suzuki is a really good methode, and I have learned so much!!

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