Would you recommend Suzuki as a teaching style for an adult beginner?

March 13, 2017 at 06:03 AM · Hey all,

Going through the rather involved process of trying to settle on my first teacher. I'm a total beginner in my late twenties. I have absolutely no experience with music or instruments (aside from a brief stint with the guitar in my early teens).

I think I've narrowed it down to a couple teachers and they all proclaim to utilize different styles. As a complete beginner, it's hard for me to really decipher which one would be best for me, especially for an adult beginner. I'd love to hear your guys' take on it

- One teacher utilizes Suzuki

- One teacher utilizes this:

"My method is one that has been passed down from teacher to student from Joseph Joachim to Karl Klingler to Alice Schoenfeld. . . My personal approach is to find the most efficient motions to solve technical problems."

- And the last just says they use

"traditional methods which involve note reading from the very first lesson"

I should mention that the end game goal is not to be a concert soloist. What I'd like to be able to do is be able to play proficiently enough to have fun playing some music I enjoy. Classical, film/television scores, maybe some folk at some point, possibly electronic/pop. I basically just want a solid foundation so I can go forward and experiment with different genres for fun. *Maybe* at some point play with other string players but not in a professional setting. However, that being said, I want to jump into this 100% with both feet and while I know violin is an extremely difficult instrument to learn, I'm hoping with the right teacher and dedicated practice on my end that I'll be able to progress more quickly.

So ya, any input or advice you guys could offer would be great! Thanks so much! Really excited to start lessons soon!

Replies (22)

March 13, 2017 at 06:52 AM · I think the method is less important than the teacher. I'm inclined to suggest that you should take one lesson from each of the teachers you're considering, then make a choice.

March 13, 2017 at 07:25 AM · Think about what are your strong points so far, can you read music, do you have a good note memory or are you a complete beginner? What are you like as a person, do you want to concentrate on small details or the big picture more?

In a sense I have had both approaches, as a teenager I tried the traditional method and it just didnt work for me, I quit after a half year having learned essentially nothing and as an adult suzuki method with my child and it works better. I grew up thinking that Im useless with violin and it turns out Im not. Im a person that is eager to get on with things and I tend to think using the big picture more and only after that go to the small details, so playing one note for a week just doesnt work for me, I just dont get that kind of approach. The traditional method of my childhood was probably a kind of russian method, there are others for sure.

But the personality of the teacher is the most important, maybe you could listen a lesson first before commitment?

March 13, 2017 at 08:15 AM · All methods are roughly the same. It's how the teacher implements them that matters.

Find a teacher you click with, and their method book won't matter. They should be able to play well, though.

March 13, 2017 at 09:15 AM · Mark is right - try them all. And if none click, try some others.

I'm 'm a little more than an adult beginner now, but the most important thing for me has been finding a teacher that I "clicked with" - as a busy adult you need a teacher who will inspire you to practice. For me this meant someone strict enough to make me take violin seriously, but with a good sense of the ridiculous so that I wouldn't be upset about making mistakes and unable to take risks (which imho is what learning's all about). Learning seems much scarier as an adult than it was at school.

When I took a few singing lessons to improve violin intonation, I had such a great teacher that I asked to do couple of grade exams and even writing songs to sing at them - pretty amazing for someone consistently thrown out of choir at school!

If you have a specific type of music you like, you might also look into the sorts of music they perform. It doesn't sound like you're after the sort of teacher who pushes you through exams to force your technique or teaches technique through building up classical repertoire. You might find a classically-trained fiddle teacher, for instance, or someone who does lots of recording work. They're likely to set you a different pattern of learning that sounds more like where you want to go. The important thing is what world's for you.

Btw. The biggest drawback for adult learners is the lack of people to play with (super important for developing musicality and, I think, for intonation). Keep this in mind if you find someone who has other adult learners. Or look for a folk session (where you can join in as soon as you know g d and a scales).

March 13, 2017 at 11:55 AM · I discuss different paths with the student. The various "methods" available to me are most definitely not alike; but then violin pedagogy here in France is designed to discourage..

The Suzuki materials have the advantage of mastering mostly classical music in a spirit similar to folk fiddling.

March 13, 2017 at 01:29 PM · I find teachers are very dissimilar and I think you will agree once you try each teacher. I have a friend who takes from two teachers because they are so different in approach. It's odd that a teacher says they use methods descended from Joachim; some practices have changed since then...I wish you the best of luck!

March 13, 2017 at 01:29 PM · dup deleted

March 13, 2017 at 02:07 PM · Methods aren't important. Individual teachers are. Discuss your goals with your potential teachers, take a trial lesson from each, and see who you click with. Personalities and teaching styles vary, and you may well want someone who enjoys teaching non-classical styles with a grounding in classical technique.

Suzuki is designed to teach young children, and it's not generally used to teach adults; even if you choose a teacher who usually uses the Suzuki Method with kids, they are unlikely to use it with you (at least not with extensive modification). However, the Suzuki books of repertoire are really popular even with non-Suzuki-Method teachers, as the books start with easy folk tunes and then begin to present real music in simplified form, and eventually in its original form. And there are multiple recordings of the repertoire, so you can listen to how good professional violinists render this music. But there are also plenty of other method books out there, and many teachers mix-n-match.

Side note: The Joachim-Klingler-Schoenfeld descent skips no steps -- someone Schoenfeld-trained is a direct inheritor of the German tradition. I can see why someone would highlight that heritage, much like someone would highlight an Auer or Ysaye heritage. (By the way, Klingler also taught Shinichi Suzuki.)

March 13, 2017 at 03:44 PM · As an adult learner myself (began when I was 45), I have very much enjoyed using the Suzuki books so far in my strings education. I'm currently beginning book 4. There is a steady progression of skills built with each new piece. I felt pretty satisfied that by the end of book 1, I could play some "real" classical music vis-a-vis Bach's Minuets 1-3.

My instructor is not a dogmatic Suzuki teacher. We are using the books at my request, as that is what my kids use, and I wanted to be involved in that same musical environment.

As mentioned above, the most important thing is getting a teacher that is a good fit FOR YOU. I got lucky in that department.

March 13, 2017 at 04:39 PM · As usual, I agree with Lydia. I used the Suzuki books in my teaching starting around 1979. For 15 yeas before that I had used the more conventional methods by which I had been taught beginning in 1939. But around September 1979 I suddenly found myself "gifted" with several teenage "troublesome" students from the local (very excellent) Suzuki School. They felt their needs were not being met by the Suzuki School and the school really had no place for them - for example one HS sophomore wanted to play the Wieniawski Concerto Op. 22. That S School did not hang on to students longer than it thought necessary - many were sent to other teachers quite far away for more conventional classical pedagogy around the time the were into book 6 to 8 (Anne Akiko Meyers, for example, but there were others who later went on to earn degrees in violin at various universities after weekly 300 mile round trips to LA teachers through their high school years). The fact that these particular students were sent to me (around the corner, so to speak) told me they were not among the outstanding ones - even before my own direct experience with them.

At that time I recognized in the Suzuki books some of the music that had been part of my learning 30 - 40 years earlier. So I started to use those books on my new beginning students and also slipped my existing students into them as appropriate, whatever their age. I did not use the "Suzuki Method." For one thing I had not been trained in it, and I thought that spending so much time on the early short-stroke part of Book-1 would probably turn off many students (even the babies) unless they had the rest of the Suzuki ensemble program and the trained teachers to support them.

I felt I had success with adult students using this program, supplemented by other music and etudes I thought they needed and music within their grasp that they wanted to play (z.b., Ashoken Farewell, Amazing Grace, Devil's Dream - whatever they came wanting to learn to play). I really liked the way Suzuki Book 1 (the old one that I used) starts with only the 2 upper strings and only 3 fingers - I thought it was better than going over the whole geography of the instrument's first position from day one. I only brought two of my students through the the entire 10 books - and I did not use the Susuki books for the Vivaldi and Mozart concertos because I thought other editions were better.

I think every student and especially adults should learn to associate written/printed music with the geography of the instrument and "time" as quickly as possible. It opens up so many opportunities for music making throughout life.

One thing I never did and I wish I had done it was also concentrate on teaching improvisation (I wish I could do it myself). If you can find a teacher who can do it all: teach you to play, teach you to read and play, teach you to memorize and play and teach you to improvise while playing - go for it!

March 13, 2017 at 05:29 PM · The Suzuki material is not appropriate for a beginner. There has to be some other material first for teaching the basics, especially if you don't yet read music.

It's probably more important to be set up correctly with correct bow grip and left hand posture. I'll bet 2 of the three will not give you good posture.

March 13, 2017 at 06:19 PM · It's not about the material, it's about the teacher's ability to perceive your needs and match the intensity and volume of instruction so that you can meet reasonable short and long-term goals.

Certainly you could start with some of the Suzuki material, for example the Tonalization exercises are definitely useful as part of a regular routine to develop a characteristic tone quality and effective yet personal bow hold. Learning all that Baroque repertoire first really does make a difference in the quality of your articulation and ability to learn new bow strokes, as much as people like to gripe about it. However, an instructor would not use teaching strategies for a four or five year old on you!

In the end, the goal is to learn the technical aspects of playing the instrument so that you can be expressive, and interpret works of music. Whatever path you choose, make sure that your instructor is aware of your goals!

March 13, 2017 at 06:53 PM · This is the truth Gene wrote:: "It's not about the material, it's about the teacher's ability to perceive your needs."

Some teachers are more resourceful about trying different ways to correct student faults, while other teachers have no more than one way to bring the student around to understanding and correction. The perceptive teacher with a good bag of tricks is the one you want.

March 13, 2017 at 07:03 PM · I agree with most of what's been said above. It's not the method but the teacher; and I would add your discipline to practice and allocate enough time.

I have started about 2.5 years ago. I work in Saudi Arabia and didn't have access to a good teacher. So I went online with www.reddesertviolin.com

So far the experience has been great and I just started with Suzuki book 3

March 13, 2017 at 09:31 PM · I think Mark nailed it right out of the gate. For an adult beginner, the key is to have a teacher who is (a) an excellent violinist, (b) experienced at teaching at all levels, preferably including other adult students, and (c) genuinely and actively supportive of your circumstances and your musical goals. I'm very lucky to have found a teacher like this. I was not a beginner as an adult, but I was less advanced than I thought I would be based on having studied for 12 years as a child.

Be prepared for the possibility that the "solid foundation" you are after may take anywhere from two to six years of fairly committed work. So if you aren't going to enjoy the journey -- but only the outcome -- it's not the right hobby.

March 14, 2017 at 04:10 AM · In my case I started at 17 and was practicing and advancing at a fairly steady rate. About 3 months into playing and being in the midst of Suzuki 2 I just got bored of the monotony that I felt the music possessed. Been working with my teacher to find more enjoyable music ever since. I think you should just follow what you enjoy because at the end of the day if you aren't enjoying what you're practicing then what's the point. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the suzuki method but I think it probably comes down to an individuals choice.

March 14, 2017 at 12:50 PM · Craig, how many years have you been playing violin? I also started with Suzuki books and played until the beginning of Book 5. Now I'm picking my own repertoire (songs I really want to play and within my reach) as I continue to learn.

March 14, 2017 at 02:44 PM · I have found that the Suzuki materials are highly suitable for an adult beginner provided the student accepts the approach.

If we want a more classic, reading-based approach, there is Doflein or Sassmanhaus.

March 15, 2017 at 05:16 AM · D and S are both great. For an older student, I would think note reading from the start would be better since you need quite a bit of practice at that, so the sooner the better.

March 15, 2017 at 08:28 AM · Probably best would be to get a suzuki teacher that teaches note reading from the beginning too and supplements suzuki.

March 15, 2017 at 11:41 AM · Suzuki has worked well for me. My teacher graduated at the Suzuki School in Japan, has been a performing professional and teacher ever since, and in the process of teaching me also taught me how to teach myself.

March 16, 2017 at 02:11 PM · @Dexter- I've been playing about 4-5 years. We're still workinh through book 4, but we are currently taking a detour via Bach cello suite 3 (on viola)...

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