Traditional vs. Suzuki: Which works better?

July 11, 2005 at 05:34 AM · As we all know, there is the great Suzuki debate. There are ups and downs to both sides of this musical aisle. For those who don't know, Suzuki was a violinist who created a teaching method for students. It is a lot of playing by ear and that sort of thing. While on the other hand, the Traditional method is where the student is handed the music right off the bat.

So, I would just like to know what everybody's thought on this subject is. List pros and cons in your opinion for either side.

Thank you!

Replies (100)

July 11, 2005 at 01:03 PM · My preference is a mixture of both. I think it is important to learn things by ear because it helps develop the ear, however it's also good to learn traditionally because then you learn how to read music. Often times when people learn through Suzuki, they don't know how to read music quite as well, or it's more difficult. But that's just my observation.

July 11, 2005 at 08:54 PM · I think that Sevcik is one of the best schools, ok it's dry but extremely powerful. When you combine his bow and fingerboard technique exerecises with some nice piece of music(preferably romantic), you get very fast progress..

even if you started with another school, you can just select some exercises which solve your problem and you don't have to go through whole lessons

July 12, 2005 at 03:32 PM · I like the music (excluding the Bach Double Concerto at the and of book 4 and 5...I would suggest a different edition), but I only learned up to about half-way to book 5. Book 5+ I would start implementing the Bach Solo works for violin, etc... I don't really agree with the Suzuki method, particularly for piano...but if you have a very young violin student, it is probably best to start with just-by-ear training. I believe it's harder in the long run to learn to read the notes than if they originally learn to read the notes at the same time as the music. I learned to read music when I took piano (my first instrument, age 6) and so it was easy to do violin because it was only one staff.

IMHO, it's not best to learn to read music right when you're getting to the hard stuff, such as vibrato, shifting, and phrasing. Of course, you could say the same thing about when they first begin...(such as, "I don't think it's a good idea to just scare them all away with reading the notes, and holding the violin, bow, etc...") but, I think it would be better to do that first. At least it's natural. Face it, we're working on holding the violin/bow, phrasing,....all our life...why not get down what is always absolute first: reading music. Besides, we have it easier than pianists, who have to learn more than one staff, and violists, who sometimes have to deal with a moveable-C clef.

If you disagree with me, perhaps you should teach by ear, but point to the notes as they play and say the names of the notes as they go along.

Those are just my opionions...

July 12, 2005 at 03:58 PM · I think you just have to mix it up....Suzuki is great for developing aural skills and learning to imitate, then interpret musically while traditional method makes them secure in reading and helps solidify rhythms logically (rather than 'as you hear it'). I also think Sevcik books are great for putting those rhythms and shifting into context. I use whatever works for the student....I don't necessairally do the same thing for every kid because everyone comes from a different place with different previous musical experience.

July 12, 2005 at 09:37 PM · I started with traditional and moved into Suzuki, a rather unconventional way of doing it (my first teacher retired when I was 13 -- the options in my town were slim for another traditional instructor who I could relate to as well at that time). I joined our local Suzuki advanced group and it was a wonderful experience - I had lots of performance and ensemble playing that I would not have been exposed to otherwise (outside of the local youth orchestra). So, I say also that a combination, if possible, is a good thing to be well-rounded.

July 12, 2005 at 09:42 PM · I am a proud Suzuki Public School Trained kid!

My first teacher started me on a rote, Suzuki setting class. We started out playing basically from ear, and watching. All of our concerts were performed entirely from memory - which is so helpful in the future!

I have so many friends who struggle playing from memory, and it annoys me. My school's concerto competition winners all play with music, and it drives me crazy!!! They were all traditionally trained, per se.. and have been playing just as long as me in some aspects, and stuggle! I say ha ha ha

In the past few years, I've been switching over to the traditional training methods, which are just as suitable. I did stuggle for about two years really grasping reading actual music and such. It all works out. I remain loyal to the Suzuki editions (except for a few of the un-playable Japanese bowings). I use them constantly, and think they are awesome.

If anyone was at the Music Educators Conference in Minnesota a year or so ago, a former youth orchestra I was in (Stringendo Orchestra of the Hudson Valley) in New York... mostly all of the players were Suzuki trained as youngsters, and now are great players on Traditional methods.

Where I currently go to school, everyone snickers the Suzuki kids, because everyone says they can't sight read, but we can. As time progresses, Suzuki players are no different than anyone else, and play as good as anyone else who started in on a different approach.

July 13, 2005 at 02:11 AM · Personally, I think the Suzuki Method is a great way to START a child on violin. Every piece is carefully and cleverly (is that a word?) chosen and placed in order for the young student. The parent is present, which is a HUGE help (what 6 year old would practice without being guided?)

The tape helps immensely, and so do the group classes. Their ears are developed well via the tape.

I didn't stay through book 10, I decided I had to get out and play some other music, but starting is definately a good way to begin.

July 13, 2005 at 01:25 PM · The reason Suzuki delays reading music while playing is the student is encouraged to focus on the mechanics of playing the violin (i.e. left hand position, finger placement, right hand position, tracking of the bow, etc.). It is very hard to focus on all of these mechanical issues while trying to figure the note on the page and the proper corresponding fingering. As has been noted already, many (most?) Suzuki teachers suplement the material found in the books. We attended a Suzuki institute a few weeks ago and many of the teachers seem to be teaching students how to read music (i.e. flashcards with note and student gives name of note and appropriate fingering). But the act of playing music while reading is delayed until the student has sound mechanics.

July 13, 2005 at 03:39 PM · Flashcards really aren't teaching them to READ's just teaching them the note names. Sure, they might be able to identify the note on the page, but reading it is something else.

July 13, 2005 at 05:11 PM · I would disagree and say that although they may not be playing the note on the instrument at the same time they are reading the note on the page, they are reading music. They are taught how to identify the note and how to generate the note conceptually. However, I think we are splitting hairs. The reason Suzuki delays music is to make certain that the students mechanics are established.

July 14, 2005 at 08:36 AM · I learn both traditional(AMEB) and suzuki. I love the baroque and classical genres of suzuki, but the technical side of traditional improves your tecnique. I think both are important. I didn't start very young, but for those who start at at 3, suzuki is a fun way to learn.

July 16, 2005 at 07:27 PM · The summer camps I went to when I was much younger, they enforced the flashcards... almost a Jeopardy setup with teams. It wasn't a note teaching game for me, but it was more of basic rhythms that we counted and clapped. It was fun, and we learned a lot from it.

July 26, 2005 at 12:35 AM · I don't think that "Suzuki" vs. "Traditional" is a good way to catagorize teaching methods. There are so many variations within the ways Suzuki teachers teach, and to call everything else "Traditional" seems a little silly.

I started off with Suzuki. That is: I used the Suzuki books (mainly), my mother came to all my lessons and helped me at home, and I attended infrequent group lessons (of those, I mainly remember the one where I threw up all over my teacher's carpet) - probably it wasn't necessary to share that last bit. I listened to my tapes for all of my songs, memorized most pieces for performance, and didn't learn note names for a while.

The things that I like about Suzuki are: it encourages starting very young children on the violin, it builds memory skills, and it emphasizes parental involvement (this can also be a bad thing if parents are too pushy and music stops being fun).

I don't like how it puts everything together at once. Although teachers do prepratory exersizes and "pre-twinkle" songs to teach bow hold, bowing, left hand placement, posture, l.h. fingering, etc. seperately, the first song requires the use of all of these skills together. Also, a lot of time is spent on songs like Twinkle and variations and Perpetual Motion, instead of each lesson being an imaginative experience with new, exciting material being covered. Also, the use of fingering numbers over all the notes, although easier for young students, I believe is detrimental in the long run. Memorizing fingering patterns doesn't teach anything about note relationships, or give the young violinist an idea of how a piece should sound.

Recently I've discovered Adventures in Violinland, by Shirley Givens, and it is my new favourite method for young children. I think it is even more appealing for the youngest students than Suzuki. Rather than using fingering numbers, it uses the movable "Do" system to teach intonation. All notes are read with their do re mi names. "Sight Reading", with note names, is not taught right away, contrary to the general belief of traditional methods. Note symbols are introduced so that the child can learn to interpret visual symbols on a page and turn them into a tactile motion. They are easy to read and do not detract from the scrupulous study of technique and musicality also involved in these books. Memorization skills are also developed, as well as playing by ear with special well-known songs that students figure out how to play on the violin without any music. Dependence on mimicry is not a problem because students learn note relationships, and learn to analize their own playing for intonation problems, tone, and rhythm. Also (just one more thing :)) skills are learnt separately before being gradually combined. Basic posture is first established as well as introductory singing exersizes (high and low sounds, matching violin strings with the voice), etc. Next fingers one and two (re and mi) are taught on all strings, with short, fun songs - all pizzicato. At some point while students are learning these pieces captain thumb and the four sailors are introduced, and the student learns to sail his bow-ship across the strings. Finally the pieces are played with the bow.

July 26, 2005 at 06:09 AM · I loved learning with Suzuki, but it requires a good teacher. The main problem with Suzuki is teachers who use the books as repetoire and just play through them. The theory behind the Suzuki repetoire requires that you spend a lot of time on each piece to get the technique out of it that you should. If you rush through suzuki, that is like traditional method without Shradeick or Kreutzer or any technical exerciese. (compleatly pointless) Also, Suzuki students should be given many opportunities to perform (usually student recitals) and the Suzuki repetoire should be augmented with supplimental repetoire and the Suzuki technical exercise books (such as position etudes for shifting and a scale book). I have found among my friends and myself that Suzuki students that have been properly trained have superior tone and sight-reading skills (by encouraging performance and musical involvement, Suzuki teachers often involve their students in orchestras or chamber music, both of which drastically improve sight reading), and suffer less from stage fright. Furthermore they enjoy playing much more in their earlier years (just imagine showing a 5-year old Shradieck, they would quit in a week) Their weakness is technical stuff, like arpeggios, but that doesn't mean that they lack the finger agility or intonation. In fact, they tend to have pretty good agility and bow skills because the baroque basing of Suzuki covers all the bases. Of course Baroque has crazy bow crossings and fast arpeggios, but the Handel Sonatas that show up in Suzuki also develop bow control with their tied whole notes counted with eighth notes. Generally towared the upper Suzuki levels, I think that traditional exercises can be added.

What keeps Suzuki from being recognised all over for its fantastic methods are inferior teachers who don't implement Suzuki teaching philosophy. Especially for beginners, comparing the traditional students to the Suzuki students, the Suzuki students are MUCH MUCH higher level. At advanced levels most students also start Technical exerciese and Repetoire so they have the benifits of both worlds instead of just one.

Also, Suzuki isn't forever, at anywhere from book 6 to book 10, student's start drifting away from Suzuki a little and moving more toward traditional, so they don't miss out on anything.

Edit: oh my, I forgot memory, I know traditional students who don't bother to memorize the Mendelssohn concerto, or the Bach Partitas, or Anything. If they do memorize something (like a concerto to be played with an orchestra) they forget it almos immediately, which means that they have NO effective repetoire. Suzuki student's (theoretically) mantain a large repetoire by memorizing peices.

Edit no 2: I should point out that almost all of the Suzuki teachers in my area that I consider good have met Mr. Suzuki and studied with him, or met some Japanese Suzuki teacher and observed them.

In fact, one recieved a very intimate gift from Mr. Suzuki (a painting done by him). So maybe I've only experienced the very elite of Suzuki...My teacher was trained by very strict German teachers, and I think that she studied in Japan too so...and the teacher who does traditional with me studied in Japan, and went to conservatory at Juliard...

July 26, 2005 at 05:21 PM · I grew up with mostly Suzuki students. One of the best things I can say about the Suzuki method, is I have never met (nor heard of) a Suzuki student who became burned out on the instrument and ended up HATING music. The huge majority continue to appreciate the music because (I believe)the method focuses on patience and positive reinforcement.

July 27, 2005 at 04:44 AM · First of all, thank you for your input. I am not trying to offend Suzuki methods or students. I just am looking for a healthy debate.

It seems to me that most of the Suzuki students I meet can play, for instance, a Seitz in maybe the first grade or so. They are excellent players no doubt but once you put something like Twinkle or Lightly Row in front of them they can't read it and they get very discouraged. Then only later down the road to have more problems and quit. These players would be huge assests to youth orchestras but it would take forever to have each of them learn everything note by note. With only nine to ten rehearsals before each concert, that is not enough time. That is why it is important to imbed musical theory early on by having students attend classes and workshops and to take part in school orchestras and youth orchestras.

I once knew a Suzuki student who was playing for nine years. He was studying the Vieuxtemps at the time! But he COULD NOT read music for the life of him and he quit as a result of constant requirement of having to read notes.

Yes, Suzuki does help build many things, memory being one of them. But any traditional student who "memorizes" a piece but then can't remember it clearly just didn't put as much work into it as they could have. This does not prove that Suzuki kids are the only ones who can memorize worth anything.

To address Joseph, it does require an excellent teacher to properly teach the method.

I can agree that Suzuki is a great base for young children and it is a fun way to get them involved into what thery are doing. But let's get real here. If you're in a professional orchestra, they are not going to play each part of Beethoven's Fifth, put on tape and say go home and come back in a week. No! This is why it is crucial to learn to read music proficiently. I also agree that learning mechanics and technique at a very young age is important. But it should not replace note reading entirely. The two should go hand in hand. I can respect the fact that there are many, many approaches to learning music but typically, note reading is in all of them.

Once again, thank you for you comments and keep writing. I have nothing against Suzuki or Traditional methods. Most of it, I feel, is a personal preference. Thank you!

July 27, 2005 at 05:12 AM · Wooow, see those poor readers you're describing have just got problems. Suzuki students should have _superior_ reading skills because their local suzuki group puts together community orchestras and chamber groups. My teacher had a community orchestra and pushed me to join a youth orchestra as soon as I was ready. Furthermore she pushed me to get actively involved in the world of chamber music (which Mr. Suzuki loved). We also played duets in group or just between my teacher and me. That made by teachers students better sight readers than others of similar level. As an example, in my orchestra I find that sometimes only the first few stands of my section and I are still playing when we sight read. You see, my level is not very, so I'm towared the back of the middle of the firsts in my school orchestra and the very back of my youth orchestra (even though that changed this year :D), but back on topic, shouldn't the traditionally trained students that are sitting many seats before me sight read (much) better than me by your theory? And yet, they drop out if we hit long passages of sixteenth notes...

Actually this might be psychological. The traditional students are quicker to give in because music is boreing for them :D (this is a joke, don't get offended).

In either case, those students that you're describing need to ditch their teachers. I've only been playing eight years and I can sight read my way through most rhythems (the only problem is _sometimes_ I tend to miss accidentals when they are written in). I've sight-read all the way through chamber music, String Serenades, and occasional modern music with no problem. Since I'm a Suzuki student I'm assuming that most _properly trained_ Suzuki students can read fine.

I think the key is that in the middle of my first year my teacher made a point only to write in the 1,2,3,4,0 fingerings for open strings (0) so that I learned the relationships from open string to the other notes. Soon after that she stopped writing in fingerings entirely except in difficult passages (what I'm working on now has almost as many fingerings written in as when I was just starting :D)

Cheers on the theory thing, I'm (as a suzuki student) totally ignorant about theory. I know basic major and minor triads, I can read Bass, Alto, Tenor, and Treble cleft and...thats it, (dominant what? you mean the strings (jk)) but I'm taking music theory next year. :-)

Anyway, my youth orchestra at one point was almost entirely Suzuki trained and we did fine. We sight-read Night on Bald mountain fine (this was a few years ago at rehersal).

July 28, 2005 at 12:07 AM · Thank you for responding. Perhaps there just aren't that many good Suzuki teachers around here. I wasn't trying to make a generalization but from my past experiences most Suzuki kids have given up when they get discouraged. And I haven't heard of many (if any) Suzuki type get togethers to build note reading and things of that sort, so this is why during the summer I teach at a mainly Suzuki student populated "Presto" course to get music theory imbedded into them while they are still young.

Although, I see many Suzuki students who can't sight read but this doesn't prove my point. I know many students on both sides that are bad sight readers and good sight readers.

I agree that Suzuki is a great base method for begginners but I don't see the point in it after several months.

It works both ways. Clearly, Suzuki works for you and I am happy for you and your promotion seat-wise.

July 28, 2005 at 02:18 PM · I have to ask: since when is being able to read music more important than being able to PLAY music? I agree that reading is very important, and I start my students reading asap. I just don't think it makes sense to knock a student who can play Seitz in first grade because he can't read twinkle. The kids will learn to read music in time.

July 28, 2005 at 07:00 PM · No, as a Suzuki student I would agree that by the time you play seitz you should be able to read treble cleft with some competence. Not just, umm this is an A, this is above so thats a B. The student shoud read music naturally. Being able to play music is, of course, the most important thing, but what you said is akin to "What does it matter if they can read if they can speak?"

July 28, 2005 at 07:20 PM · What I said was actually more akin to why would you say a child who is a beautiful orator is a lesser speaker than one who can read the words he speaks?

Mke said: "It seems to me that most of the Suzuki students I meet can play, for instance, a Seitz in maybe the first grade or so."

and also said:"Perhaps there just aren't that many good Suzuki teachers around here."

It seems to me that any teacher who can have most first graders playing Seitz is a pretty darn good teacher.

July 28, 2005 at 07:32 PM · just because they play Seitz doesn't mean that they are a good teacher. The students might play horribly. In fact I find that the better teachers go much slower in the lower levels.

Alright, the problem is, an illiterate orator probably won't speak very well anyway. The brillian illiterate orator is an exception, not the rule.

July 28, 2005 at 08:41 PM · Joseph, any child playing Seitz in first grade is a great student and has a great teacher, period.

July 28, 2005 at 09:59 PM · This is an honest difference of opinion. I wouldn't measure the student by the piece they play, but rather by how well they play it. I could play the Pagannini or Bartok concerto right now, but I would sound terrible (I tried once :P). Would that make me a brilliant student? umm, no.

That being said, I do agree that Seitz in first grade is VERY impressive, and a first grader proabably is just starting to learn to read english, so the music reading isn't a problem at all. I wasn't necessarily talking about that student specifically, just the importance of music reading and not rushing in general.

Remember, I'm on the pro-Suzuki side! I'm just arguing the importance of sight reading since I feel that Suzuki should actually develop sight reading skills.

June 25, 2007 at 08:56 PM · hey well what i do with suzuki is i dont really use the method...i mean i dont listen to the song...and then play....i just read the music...and well i use both traditional and suzuki....i use sevcik double stops and shradeick along with wolfhart...and right now im concert master of the all state youth orchestra...just saying hey it worked for me

June 25, 2007 at 10:40 PM · My son started out with Suzuki and after a year and a half, around book 4, we switched him over to traditional teacher upon his Suzuki teacher's suggestion. I am glad he enjoyed playing by starting with Suzuki when he was young (6yrs old). His Suzuki teacher supplemented with sight reading book around middle of book 2 or so, so he knew which key is which finger, etc., but one thing he struggled was that he knew all the fingering in A-2, D-3 like a lot of Suzuki teachers teach young students on fingering. So when he started taking lessons from his new teacher, she just told him, "You need to learn how to read without A1 D2 stuff. Sight reading is very important. You have to be able to find where it is when the conductor tells you to start from C on bar###. No matter how great you can play if you can't sight read you'll be rejected." It took months for him to get used to ABC..., but she just told him to read music from the etude books she gave him and say each note when he practiced his scales. Now he can read fine. She was also concerned that there were just so many of baroque pieces in Suzuki book that are too mature for young children to even play. (She wasn't talking about notes, but music) She personally would not give young children pieces such as Bach, Mozart and Beethoven simply because children in general won't understand the depths of those pieces. "There is no need to hurry. They will be there when you are ready". I liked that. What are your thoughts on this?

June 26, 2007 at 01:09 AM · In my adult experience the key to doing Suzuki and doing it well is to take time to learn the pieces thoroughly, and to learn to play them well in all their subtlety. This requires that one not rush through a piece and that one take time to polish their technique and fully integrate the requisite skills needed as they advance in the work. I found myself beginning to take on the desire to rush through the Suzuki repertoire, and found I had to step back and slow myself down in order to really learn that which was meant to be taught. However, having said this I still feel the need to suplement Suzuki with another method of sorts. But, I do love the Suzuki method as it allows one to realize very real and enjoyable success in a rather short period of time, and it does build confidence at an early stage. This I feel is of the utmost importance for the average student who may otherwise find the violin somewhat daunting.

June 26, 2007 at 01:18 AM · I can only say this: the music should lead the way. Musical notation was an antecedent to the music. I personally was playing 'a bunch' of music before learning at first to decipher, then better decipher formal music to memorize as well. Even then, it was my confidence to interpret that which I learned that finished off the learning process with a piece.

The Suzuki:Traditional debate isn't moot, because anyone who takes this or that direction feels compelled to support that approach, as do I. But strict adherence to the little step by step formal approaches often creates disjointed not passionate interpretation.

Strict interpretation from the top down by ear, is limiting as well in adding new material at the same time. If anything from the formal arena of life has helped me, it's exercises and scales--a notion that is based on pattern recognition extraneous to notation generalization though somewhat related semantically.

And in the past, at least some genius (actually like Einstein a little) was based not on universal competence, but a more limited brilliance captured either through a period of the artist's life or in some uniqueness in technique. Einstein for instance had to depend on a mathematician friend more than once in forming his theories of bending space in relation to gravity.

So, it's one's courage in confronting the Promethean music in it's pure definition, along with any natural talent that will propel the musician 'towards' 'their' level of accomplishment--not any single method.

For those with talent, lucky enough to get in a formal school/method--well I'm jealous--but, they have few limits other than themselves; contrasted perhaps to the student relying entirely on nurture without talent. Even those with everything going for them though have no guarantees of being a Ricci. And those without innate talent who persist will sometimes reach very notable accomplishment.

So it's first about the music, and then persistence. How one gets there, or not, is really pretty flexible.

June 27, 2007 at 02:58 AM · As a child trained in the traditional method, I could read music and follow a conductor. The Suzuki students in my area had better technique and got the higher chairs in the youth symphony but couldn't read the music and couldn't follow the conductor. So as a child my impression was, Suzuki students copy technique but are not properly trained musically.

As a teacher I have had many "Suzuki" trained students come to me. Some have had terrible technique. None have ever been able to read music and none have known theory/key signatures. I had two brothers come to me from a Suzuki teacher. They were both in book 4. They had no idea what key they were playing in. They had merely copied their teacher in learning which notes to play I guess. They were both crippled players - droopy bow arms and bent left wrists. I tried and tried to help them but neither was willing to change or learn to read notes and understand theory.

I don't have a good taste in my mouth for Suzuki training because I have personally never seen good Suzuki players. I continue to hear good things about the Suzuki Method but like I said, I have never personally seen anything good come from it.

I looked for this discussion because I continue to be curious and wonder about it. I am not knocking the Suzuki Method. Maybe there are good things that I haven't had the privilege of seeing. I am merely conveying my own personal observations.

June 27, 2007 at 03:39 AM · The good Suzuki players are out there!

June 27, 2007 at 04:47 AM · That's interesting Cathy. I've heard of many teachers who were able to bridge the gap merging Suzuki with other methods. Your personal observations remind me of a teacher I know of who who tried to teach the son of a neighbor who was very troubled, who could not learn irregardless of the teacher.

The parents blamed everyone, but it turned out he simply had no aptitude for learning music. And it further proved true that the parents were enabling the situation.

Finally, I think it's as Laurie has noted that Suzuki is more about the teacher using Suzuki, than to look at it as a method.

June 27, 2007 at 05:58 AM · Mr Suzuki himself stated his method, so called by others, was an approach to teaching. A means to an end: not an end to a means.

June 27, 2007 at 05:57 AM · There are so many phenomenal, amazing violinists who started as Suzuki students, I can't even believe this debate still rages on. Brian Lewis, to name just one.

As it has evolved, at least in the U.S., the method is not so much a pedagogical method as it is a philosophical one: treating children with dignity, believing that everyone is talented and capable, doing everything possible to get through to everyone with a desire to play.

Yes, if all a teacher does is to teach the Suzuki Books, by rote, in a row, with nothing else, that's bad news. Not even Suzuki himself did that. But if you have a violin teacher, trained in the VIOLIN, and trained in Suzuki philosophy and pedagogy, consider yourself lucky.

June 27, 2007 at 06:08 AM · Greetings,

>There are so many phenomenal, amazing violinists who started as Suzuki students,

Yep. That would include most of the astonshing Japanes eplayers of the last thirty years.



June 28, 2007 at 09:19 PM · I'm a Suzuki method student myself (currently book 8).

The other stuff that my teachers made me do was always boring in comparison to Suzuki; nonetheless, half an hour of each of my hour lessons were devoted to other more boring books. Usually scales and annoying practice pieces that ruined my day by getting stuck in my head.

Aside from the scales, the non-Suzuki stuff I was taught didn't seem to serve me very well. In retrospect, it was always the Suzuki stuff that gave me the sense that I was progressing -- maybe simply because the difficulty levels are enumerated, but definitely also because I felt I was producing music.

That said, the Suzuki method was also an impairment. I was in the high school string orchestra and I had a problem keeping up with reading the music. I'd have to just sit and listen for the first few rehearsals of a new piece, after which I'd play the piece almost entirely by ear (which I often had to, as I had a habit of forgetting my music at home). Which sounds sort of cool but is actually a problem because it'd take me forever to discover that I was playing a wrong note or rhythm the whole time!

Also, I couldn't play outside the first violin section since it was harder to memorize anything that wasn't melody.

Oh, I nearly failed my basic theory course in college. I blame Suzuki for this :)

My mom was a piano teacher back in her day, and so recently she offered to teach me to play. I now regret not having learned piano earlier: it seems to make up for a lot of the things that the Suzuki method lacks, most importantly, reading.

So in summary:

-Suzuki probably produces a lot of soloist type personalities but isn't good for playing in groups.

-Suzuki alone isn't good; you end up like me, unable to read music or understand theory beyond simple intuition.

-Also teach piano in order to study reading and theory. I'd do this even at the expense of violin lesson time.

June 28, 2007 at 10:28 PM · I think this has been said many times, but i think suzuki is best for beginning violin, and it is particularly effective on younger students.

Having started with suzuki, and played it for about 8 years, i found that i wasnt being challenged as much as I wanted, the the repertoire wasn't wide enough (book 6 has 2 full handel sonatas, and only about 3 other pieces!). I also found, (this was probably just the teacjer i was with) was not really used to dealing with older students, and didnt give me enough supplementary materials, exercises, etudes etc. I therefore switched to a more advanced teacher, who was also familiar with suzuki method, but agreed that it was better for younger/beginners, so i have moved away from it completely.

However, when I teach myself, especially with total beginners, I do find myself using a lot of suzui material because its simpe, follow-on levels, easy to see the progress, and encourages good aural skills from the beginning. I find that too many young kids just focus on playing the notes, getting through the piece, without actually listening carefully to what they're playing and how it sounds.

whew.....went on a bit of a ramble there! apologies!

June 28, 2007 at 11:16 PM · Greetings,

>I think this has been said many times, but i think suzuki is best for beginning violin, and it is particularly effective on younger students.

With all due respect I don`t think this has actually been said many times at all.

I am quite happy with what I do with y7oung children and it has no connection with Suzuki whatsoever.

There are also other approaches such as Paul Rollands which are also worthy of the same respect as Suzuki.

What has been said over and over ad nauseaum is that it depends on the teacher first and foremost.



June 29, 2007 at 06:40 AM · The Suzuki approach is a huge success in America because it offers so many teacher training facilities thus it has marketed young starting out teachers.Those who have been through the system then in turn use the approach on their students.Young starting out teachers need to have guidelines and these courses offered by the Suzuki Association fulfill that need.If another equally succesful method was marketed so aggressively it would also rapidly become flavour of the month.

June 29, 2007 at 07:23 AM · I agree with Luarie's comment about the benifits of Suzuki method as a philosophy. In addition, Suzuki trained kids are often really great players-- particularly impressive to people with no musical training(just do a you tube search for something like "kid + violin"- almost all suzuki repertoire)

On the other hand, I have known plenty of adult, suzuki trained, players whose options are severely limited by their lack of reading abilities. I'm talking about people with beautiful technique and tone who have no problem playing orchestral or chamber pieces if they have a few days to go over the sheet music.

However, when it comes to playing studio gigs, pit orchestras, one off shows with touring groups or simply subbing for someone, these players are lost.

I have been called for gigs ahead of better players simply because they lack that deep reading ability that comes with having always associated those marks on the page with a sound-- more than a sound, actually, it's the whole feeling of the instrument's vibration and the movement of the body all intimitely and always connected to those little dots and dynamic markings and bowings.

This is not just a question of sight reading, but also of being able to look at a score and hear and feel yourself playing it immediately. I've known plenty of Suzuki trained players who can read fairly well, but none with that kind of intimate relationship with written music.

As far as memorization goes, I've found that traditionally trained players will memorize a piece just fine, despite themselves, when they have to.

June 29, 2007 at 12:24 PM · until some come up with a well designed study on this, trad vs suzuki, controlling as many factors as possible, following thousands if not tens of thousands of kids over time, this is kindergarten level of discussion at best. my dad's car is bigger. NO, MINE! reminds me of that fable where 3 kids are asked to touch an elephant blind-folded. one thinks of a tree because of the trunk, one touches the tail and thinks of a rope,,,i forgot where the 3rd kid goes for,,,,

if suzuki kids who cannot read the scores is all you know, well, that is all you know:):):)

June 29, 2007 at 01:25 PM · Contrary to what I think you just said (it was very confusing), I think it's important that this topic is brought up every few months, since it's got a lot of good points.

Randy-- right on! Suzuki method is wonderful for concertmasters who have concertos to play, as long as the soloist is given a few days to spend practicing (actually, I'm not sure how long it takes, but I'm sure it would take a bit of valuable time). "Traditional" method, as we're choosing to call it, allows for better sightreading AND pit performance. We could even take it a step further and say better improv as well, although I haven't ever heard a Suzuki student improv, so it would be hard to make the comparison there.

By the way...I had a wonderful time last night in Books 5 and 6 (especially La Folia and that one fast song with several movements in 5)and a horrible time last night in the second half of Book 4...I think Dr. Suzuki must have put some more difficult music in 4.

ON ANOTHER NOTE: Introducing the third method-- fiddle tab

I ran across this a few months ago when I was looking for traditional American fiddle music (bluegrass, Celtic, etc.):

This guy has invented a new method for learning to play the violin that he calls fiddle tabliture. Instead of presenting traditional notes, the four spaces on the staff represent each string on the violin, and where a note should have a head, a number is shown instead, corresponding the the finger with which to play it. Flags are still an issue, so you still have to be good at fractions, but overall, that's about it.

Before I share my opinion, what are your opinions on this method versus Suzuki/traditional?

June 29, 2007 at 02:18 PM · i think it should be brought up more often, like everyday because it has many good points:) why we blame kids for not being able to do something well when we do not teach well, with care with thougtfulness? oh yeah, we don't have to. suzuki comes to the rescue!

however, those good points do not include things like i had a great time with suzuki therefore it is good (for everyone else) or i had a great time with trad method therefore it is good (for everyone else).

the whole jist of bashing suzuki method is that kids are perceived to be not able to sightread effectively. if that is all people know, then it is good,,,to know.

have you taught half of your students the trad way and the other half of your students suzuki way to come up with some insight at the most elementary level? do you know anyone that did? confusing still? should be, because if you are familiar with one method more than the other, not both equally well, not well researched and studied, should you share the opinion on the preference with some basic disclaimer?

i think so:) becacuse some parents/students reading forum may form an opinion based on yours.

one way to get a glimpse on this subject is to do some simple survey in music schools, grad schools and among profs, to see what percentage of those have come up through suzuki. i suspect the younger generation has quite a few suzuki students.

a kid suzuki violinist not being able to improvise?,,,well, no one has bothered to teach the kid.

try venture out of this black/white world and look at all the colors.

June 29, 2007 at 02:15 PM · In some Suzuki schools the kids are taught reading from the time they start to read and write their own language .. ie around 6-7, (or earlier.) In some Suzuki schools they are doing applied harmony, chamber music etc regularly from an early age... these kids have NO problems reading at all.

June 29, 2007 at 03:22 PM · You're right Al, I admit that my "evidence" is completely anecdotal. I also wonder if it's not the Suzuki trained violinist who sometimes uses this method as a scapegoat for a lack of reading skills. It is frustrating to hand a piece of music to a professional violinist/teacher in a recording studio and have them shake their head, smile, and say "I'm sorry, I was trained by the Suziki Method."

Of course, if they can just play it on the spot, the question of their early training never comes up. Also, I'm certain that lots of ensemble playing at a young age improves reading skills- no matter how one learns to play an instrument.

Ron, the questions about improvising and tablature are also things this discussion brought to my mind. It struck me that the suzuki method has a lot in common with modern guitar lessons where students learn songs by repeating what their teacher plays and by listening to recordings of music. In fact, the vast majority of guitarists can never read standard notation.

It also strikes me that the suzuki fingering system D1, A3 etc. IS a form of tablature- you are relating what is on the page only to the physical reality of the instrument. Great, until you want to play the passage on the piano. In the end, it is severely limiting-- nothing more than paint by numbers.

As far as improvising goes, an early, deep understanding of the relation between scales, key signatures, and chords/arpeggios is essential. As far as I know, there is no violin method that gives students an adequate basis in these skills. In fact, these things are often left for violinists to learn in conservatory.

So, Al, though I haven't done a rigorous controlled study of specific violin methods with my students, I have, between all of the instruments I teach, inherited students who have been taught by what can be called generally "suzukilike" methods and "traditional-like" methods on their respective instruments.

For the Suzukilike students- learning to read music for them is like learning a second language. They can get it with a lot of study, but it is never natural and automatic- in essence, they always have an accent. Oddly, the better the kids already play their instrument, the harder it is to learn to read.

On the other hand, my students who have read music from the very first note they ever played on their instruments can usually sight read like crazy but their phrasing and articulation can sound like a wind up music box.

Again, I admit this is in no way a scientific study- but these observations are VERY consistent.

June 29, 2007 at 05:27 PM · randy, i appreciate your thoughtful and considerate post:)

putting aside the fantasy of having the luxury of having studies to validate either system, lets look at a common scenerio:

4-5 yo kid comes to your studio to study lesson. he simply has difficulty with reading comprehension at that stage but wants to play (or shall we say, his parents want him to play:). meanwhile, his twin brother goes to a suzuki teacher. now, many things can develop in time, but do we think if both kids turn out to be serious musicians, the trad vs suzuki beginning really makes a difference?

imo, in the end, the different beginning approaches may not matter because you will be focusing on what the kid needs at each juncture and A GOOD SUZUKI TEACHER will also teach accordingly. he WILL NOT DELAY SIGHTREADING. ( a dumb, lazy suzuki teacher is a different story:)

didn't julia fischer start off with suzuki and then go on to more individualized program corresponding to her progress? IS THERE ANOTHER WAY TO APPROACH THIS VIOLIN TEACHING OF THE YOUNG ONES??? why do we need to twist arms over common sense???

if i come up with a provocative statement like: kids in one of the most industrialized countries, usa, have literacy problems, depending on your perspective, you may see some truth to that and some false notion to that as well. but you will see the unfair general protrayal of all kids in the usa.

the same thing applies to suzuki. one simply cannot be convincing (at least to me) if one blankets suzuki students as non-creative, robot like beings. how a student performs depends on so much on the quality of the teacher, suzuki or not.

tradition method also covers a wide gamut. you just know it is silly to broadstroke that term, too.

June 29, 2007 at 06:23 PM · I think we're on the same page, Al.

You're right, what do we even mean by Traditional method? Flesch, Auer, Galamian? I think we just mean "not Suzuki".

This brings up an interesting question: If a Suzuki teacher supplements her Suzuki instruction with other literature/methods, is she still a Suzuki instructor? Likewise, if a "traditional" instructor uses elements of Suzuki philosophy to implement a traditional course of study, is that instructor not a Suzuki instructor?

I think we have to admit that there is an "Orthodox" Suzuki method of study, and this is what I'm referring to. Students who learn according to this method are often fantastic violinists who are not such great musicians.

A great teacher is a great teacher not because of the method they use, but because of an ability to individualize their methodology according to a particular student's needs. I believe that any GOOD teacher, living in today's world, will arrive at a lot of the same conclusions that Suzuki arrives at regarding teaching, whether or not they have any knowledge of Suzuki's program: Of course the majority of young students need direct parental involvement-- it only takes a new teacher a few colossal failures in trying to get a five year old student to remember anything for a week, without parental guidance at home, before the teacher figures this out. Likewise, the necessity of spending a LOT of time on simple bowing and posture exercises before moving on to try to play and read actual songs.

My goal with all of my students is not to simply make great violinists, guitarists etc., but to make great MUSICIANS, to have a sense that they are not just playing the violin, but, more importantly, they are playing music-- the particular instrument is secondary. I don't want technicians, but theoretical scientists.

BTW- I often find myself defending the Suzuki method to parents of prospective students, who, unfortunately, do see this debate in a very black and white manner.

June 30, 2007 at 02:00 AM · Sorry, I didn't read the rest of the comments. I just wanted to weigh in on this issue.

A method does not make a great teacher. A great teacher uses great methods. The child is first, the lesson second, the method third. (And that's my method--:) tee hee hee). How's that for saying a lot without saying anything?


This is getting very interesting, and definitely less tense, which makes me feel more comfortable continuing the debate! :)

Al and Randy, you both have some excellent points!

To clear things up a bit, while "traditional" is definitely very indescriptive, I believe the definition we're using (most of us, anyway) is the following:

Students are encouraged to keep a careful eye on the notes on the page. Memorizing is not required, or even encouraged.

And, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the Suzuki method is more or less the opposite:

Students are encouraged to memorize the music, so that they can play without looking at the notes.

MY OBSERVATIONS OF THE REPERTOIRE USED IN EACH SETTING (I have experience with traditional, not with Suzuki, so the Suzuki view is probably quite tainted and needs someone to completely reevaluate it):

IT SEEMS that by using a set of books, the repertoire is more limited to "whatever's in the book you're in" and the amount of repertoire is severely limited to about seven songs at a time (PLEASE CORRECT ME BECAUSE I AM PROBABLY WRONG). HA...I've already found a mistake in my argument...Suzuki students are blessed with more repertoire than traditional students, provided they belong to an orchestra. However, it is unclear as to which selections get the focus of the practice time. IT SEEMS that only the most difficult passages are covered at lessons, and this is only if the student thinks to ask for help on it (or the teacher is looking out for them). AGAIN, I'M STILL WRONG, SO CORRECT ME!

The traditional method, as observed in school orchestras, at its best, involves a particularly large selection of assorted repertoire, which is cycled through on a per-semester, per-concert, or per-year basis of two to eight months. A typical violinist in a middle school orchestra may have as many as 15 songs in his or her folder at once, and a high school student's folder may consist of anywhere from 30 to 50 songs, depending on how many concerts are performed throughout the year and how frequently the music is cycled out.

It's important to remember that whether a student learns to sightread is NOT dependent upon the traditional method, but rather, the amount of repertoire practiced on a regular basis. The student who practices only whatever they are currently playing in orchestra and/or lessons will not get the same experience in sightreading that will come from having a large selection of music AT HOME. By regularly attempting to play from various books that contain a variety of difficulties, a student will learn to associate a visual stimulus (a note in an unexpected place) with a physical response (playing the correct note, as opposed to the one which was expected). This is quite the opposite of playing from memorization, and hardly playing by ear (as in playing what you hear in your head).

A good selection of music for a beginner intending to learn to sightread would be a method book with at least 30 or so short (about 10-20 measures) tunes which are either unknown or have titles not generally associated with the song (e.g. "Go Tell Bill" instead of "William Tell Overture"), and a secondary selection of repertoire featuring several songs they know the tunes of but have not played before, such as a church missal, or other songbook.

A good repertoire for the more advanced student would include several books of different styles. My selection included the piano/guitar/vocal editions of two movie soundtracks, a pop book for violin, two books featuring moderate-difficult violin solos (with piano accompaniment), a book of flute sonatas (takes a good two or three hours to get through when played up to tempo), a moderate violin concerto in four movements, moderate-difficult instrumental parts to go with over 1000 church songs, two piano/vocal/guitar books featuring Christian contemporary and praise/worship music, and you can't forget Suzuki books 1-10 (minus 7...the store was out of those when we got them). While it seems like a lot of music, keep in mind that the purpose is to keep a different song on the stand every minute. It is EXTREMELY important to revisit each song soon, or you will forget how the song goes, and you won't ever get to work on the perfecting skills required to play well following sightreading.

Well...I think I just used up my posting privileges in this forum...and probably angered quite a few of you, both Suzuki and traditional, as well as any tab-readers who may be out there, laughing maniacally at our debate, wondering why we haven't even touched on that method yet...


June 30, 2007 at 06:53 AM · There have been many posts indicating that nowadays many Suzuki teachers supplement the Suzuki materials with note reading but as yet no-one has suggested the reversal.Supplementing a note reading base with some of the Suzuki ideas without neccesseraly using the materials.My basic foundation block in music is that students must learn to internalize sound, must recognise the printed symbol and be able to repeat it (in tune).In order to achieve this I use giant oversize notes for the tiny tots each on its own card which they can play about with and become baby composers by stringing them together.This is sometimes slow work with three or four year olds not the note recognition but the resultant tone production.I use this work with right hand technique as they first recognise open strings and then addd first fingers. However this does not exclude developing the left hand technique at the same time by playing short melodies by ear first on one string then across strings.To my mind Twinkle is a ridiculously long melody for a very small child and infact Laurie has said on other posts it takes about two years to perfect. Gratification comes much sooner if much shorter melodies are used.A lot of teachers ask students to memorise pieces so it is not an all exclusive to the Suzuki method.

July 1, 2007 at 05:54 AM · Two years for a three-year-old. And I absolutely agree, you'd better have a lot of other stuff to throw at the poor child....

I think "Twinkle" can sometimes be a deal breaker, if it goes on too long. Kids can develop Twinkle-itus. My daughter has a severe case of it, from a few too many false starts on the fiddle. Fortunately her guitar teacher is not requiring it!

You have to find the road that the student can walk down, and you have to know to STOP and change directions if you are just killing their love for music and their desire to play, or if they are just not getting it.

So if you want to be a teacher, train yourself in as many possible "methods" and exercises and philosophies as you can, because you will need them all.

July 1, 2007 at 06:47 AM · I spent a lot of time a few years ago reading all I could about Fritz Kreisler. The impression I got of him as a young student sounds a lot like the sort of training that Suzuki students undergo. He seemed to have an inclination to play by ear, from the very beginning. Before he could read notes, as a small kid, he sat in on a quartet rehearsal at home and then managed to play by ear some of the second violin part. Or something similar. I don't have the book where I read this with me.

As a young man he failed an audition because they said he couldn't sightread. As an older man he was asked if he used the violin part out of his concerto editions. He answered no and said he only learned the violin part from the piano part (doesn't remind me of the Suzuki method but I thought I'd mention it anyway). His memory was fantastic.

He came across to me as someone for whom a large aspect of his music learning was by ear. He may have even learned his music on the piano first, and then transferred what he had memorised to violin. Obviously he could also read very well, though, since he taught himself how to play the piano. I don't know how good he was at reading something quickly and reliably at sight. No doubt he could not have survived as a session player or an orchestral musician.

Top level Suzuki students presumably learn to read well if their lessons are varied with traditional training methods from an early age, as everyone here is advocating. Its interesting though. I think there is a lot going for a method of learning music where you learn at least partially by ear. I guess everyone agrees on that point.

July 2, 2007 at 09:01 PM · That is interesting that some mentioned leaving Suzuki in Bk 4, because in my opinion, without a great teacher, Suzuki blows up a little in Book 4 when you need to understand shifting and the D1, A2 stuff won't work anymore. Many students & teacher seem to leave a strict Suzuki approach upon reaching Book 4, Vivaldi. That in my experience is pretty smart for many students.

After 3 years Suzuki, I started to see it as as a violin teaching "franchise". A "branding issue". Like Starbucks, or McDonalds. How else can a child who in many cases, can't read notes, show up anywhere in the country, or the world, and play the same songs in unison with 200 other children with indentical bowing, dynamics etc.? Only the teacher really makes the difference as to how "deep" the child will go on any particular piece. Some teachers just grind kids through the books. Others keep students on Twinkle for a year! My son started Suzuki at 4. By the time he was 8 he was getting bored of keeping 50-60 pieces in short term memory to play in unison 3 times a year for the Suzuki institutes and was ready to think on his own more. He lobbied to leave Suzuki and it was hard to argue with him. It was a great decision to leave Suzuki and my only regret is we should have left after Book 2.

I still see these play-ins as marketing events to try to get more "customers" in many, but not all cases. Additionally, in my experience, the Suzuki teachers delegate too much work to the parents and then question the home environment if the child does not progress but will almost never question the method itself as a cause for a student not progressing. I had to teach my child to read notes, count with a metronome, theory, intervals, play duets, etc. with no help from the Suzuki teacher, who cared mostly about keeping everything memorized and doing recitals every month.

The only real problem with Suzuki is that many teachers will act as if it is the ONLY way to teach children strings, which is bunk. It has strenghts and weaknesses and needs a great teacher to make it into a high quality musical education.

July 3, 2007 at 06:27 AM · Suzuki advocated children learning to read music at the same time as they would learn to read and write their own language. (correct me if I am wrong) Basically this means in your ideal Suzuki school you are introducing reading and writing music as a seperate activities.

I suppose a lot of the problem is financial, logistical ...(and too time consuming since your child has to have three lessons a week ...

1)Individual lesson for Suzuki repertoire and violin technique etc

2) Suzuki repertoire orchestra

3) Music literacy... reading, writing theory etc class

.... I wonder how many Suzuki schools world-wide actually do this!???? Some do!!!!!!!!!

July 3, 2007 at 03:31 PM · My disclaimer--my wife has been a Suzuki teacher for 30+ years, has registered Suzuki training, and all 4 of our children have come up through Suzuki. Any teacher worth their salt does not limit themselves to just one method. That includes Suzuki AND any other method of teaching. You won't find any good teacher using ANY method that does not include a variety of different literature (with Suzuki, good teachers integrate other solo material AND technique books into their program). No "system of instruction" is an end all unto itself. It again boils down to the teacher--you can have a good OR bad teacher using ANY method. Regarding reading--Suzuki in Japan begins at age 3, and the "rule of thumb" is that the Suzuki music student starts reading music about the same time they start reading their language, which probably follows a couple of years later (maybe around BK 3). My personal assessment is that most American students PROBABLY start string instruction at age 5+ (unless they have actual Suzuki training, most teachers won't start American students at 3), when they are already reading the written word, but not music notation. Frustration sets in, and it's very easy for a 7-8 year old to rely on their ear rather than reading the notes. But good teachers handle the situation--bad teachers (that can be found in ANY method) don't. Compound that with the fact that many teachers that label themselves as "Suzuki teachers" may do it simply for the built-in marketing appeal that it gives their studio, but have never even bothered taking ANY training in the method--they just use the books for the literature, then they call themselves "Suzuki Teachers" without knowing the teaching aspects of the method. You can find lots of teachers that fit this catagory, even on the SAA Suzuki website where they list teachers by State. They just have listed that the individual has no registered training with SAA.

As far as the comment that good players don't come up through the Suzuki ranks, my daughter was at Juilliard a few years ago for her Masters. She said that basically all the string students she knew had Suzuki backgrounds--they just don't all wear a button that says "I Have Suzuki Roots."

July 3, 2007 at 06:28 PM · My questions as a teacher usually come in the following order:

1. Who is this wonderful human being in front of me, and what is his/her best and most natural state?

2. What is this great student of mine trying to accomplish and what does she need to find her way?

3. How must I help so she can learn and come to recognize the ruby slippers which are on her feet?

The child, the lesson, the method. If one puts the method first (even this method), one forgets the child and in so doing abdicates the responsibility of being a teacher and all is lost. As violinists, we should be more acutely grateful for our finely tuned ability to listen. Listening is the key to most everything in teaching. If I make a misstep, it is usually because I have not listened clearly enough to ask the right questions. And, yes, I love Dr. Suzuki's contribution, and I am so grateful for what I have learned from Flesch, Schradieck, Dont, Kreutzer, Galamian, Sevcik and Auer. They've guided me to the best version of "violinist" I've been able to create within myself thus far. While I continue to evolve I am content to listen and learn and help where I can with whatever is helpful. (And, personally, that has been a process of missteps and corrections and more striving--Heifetz was right. There is no top).

July 3, 2007 at 06:58 PM · "Listening is the key to most everything in teaching." that is so true kimberlee:)

that line reminds me of a highly respected physician/teacher who is known to have a great rapport with patients and students, because he is a great listener. he makes it look lazy and easy; all he does is saying "and?" "and?" "and?" in a soothing voice. before long, he gets the whole, unadulterated story from the patient who comfortably volunteers every pertinent thing with no influence and pressure. less is more.

one thing about music in my observation is that it can easily get on people's nerves:) music can turn the most patient, sane person/teacher into a raging nut:) all it takes is a bad note, a wrong phrasing, like a hawk catching a glimpse of a bunny:)

bless you all!

July 3, 2007 at 07:28 PM · Thanks Al. Long time no see! Yes, more missteps and corrections. We're all in a constant state of learning patience while time is running out!

July 4, 2007 at 07:46 PM · Ok ok I wasn't going to respond to this thread but I will now that I have read on...

My daughter started out with Suzuki method just shortly before her 3rd birthday. Being a music educator myself, I wanted to make sure that when the time came (when she was 6 ) that she would get a chance to read music. I had to struggle with the teacher to allow her to read music.

Because she learned at a quick rate, after about 3 years she was getting burned out from practicing all 38 songs for concerts, recitals, etc. Violin just wasn't fun anymore it was a chore of endless memorization.... yes some suzuki kids do get burned out.

A year later when she was 7 she wanted to start violin lessons again.. I didn't want to "open up that can of worms" The only song she could play by memory was twinkle twinkle. I thought that was so sad of the many hours she practiced.

She moved on to another teacher who used Suzuki books as supplemental and used other method books for note reading, but still made my daughter memorize all her songs.

I think Suzuki can be great with the right teacher and right circumstances. However, I feel that once the child is at a certain age, they need to move on to other studies and begin to note read or group situations like youth symphonies. I do know of high school students that don't know how to read music who have done suzuki for many years.. but that is just one teacher.

I know of many other students who have benefited from the Suzuki method... however I will never go back for any of my children.

July 5, 2007 at 05:09 AM · I'm going to come right out and say I'm not a big fan of Suzuki. Suzuki is to music (in my opinion) what Folgers (instant coffee) is to coffee.

I started on the method when I was around 5. Looking back on it, so much of what the method stresses is imitation (listening to tapes) and too little attention paid on learning how to do the most basic things like read or bow straight. I was talking about this very aspect of Suzuki with a friend of mine who attended Moscow Conservatory. This friend told me not only is imitating tapes over there frowned upon, teachers at the school actually go as far as to prohibit students from listening to tapes of the pieces they are learning until after the work is learned.

Also I couldn't remember working on anything technical like scales or other exercises during the time I studied Suzuki. Sure Suzuki pieces in the books can be fun to play, but does this method give the greatest musical/technical training or understanding? No, not at all in my opinion. Yeah sure, Folgers serves a purpose, but does it come close to a good French or Columbian brew? It depends on what you are looking for.

July 5, 2007 at 06:03 AM · A "crutch" is only a crutch if you are still using it after you've learned to walk. But if you have ever watched someone learn to walk, you'll notice, the baby holds on to a table or someone's hand, until he or she has the strength and balance to walk independently. You don't take it away before.

July 5, 2007 at 01:53 PM · There are wonderful teachers who call themselves Suzuki teachers. Those are the ones who use what they have learned from Suzuki tradition along with knowledge from other sources and their own teaching abilities and experience, to respond to each individual student's needs. This includes the possibility of rejecting some aspects of the tradition with which the individual teacher may disagree. What gives any tradition, Suzuki or other, a bad reputation are teachers who, with unthinking, robotic obedience, use it as a "method", as a way of putting every student through the same routine. Then the "method" becomes nothing more than a brand name franchise which allows incompetent teachers to acquire a false endorsement.

July 5, 2007 at 02:57 PM · Ultimately, the method should not be what is important. A good teacher will be a good teacher REGARDLESS of the method. A bad teacher will teach poorly, regardless of the method utilized.

July 6, 2007 at 04:52 AM · I think we've come to an agreement after all these years...time for the next great debate: What defines a GOOD teacher vs. a BAD teacher?


July 6, 2007 at 06:56 PM · It's already been done. The answer: a great student. Greatness is rare.

December 14, 2007 at 10:43 AM · Try this new basic method(russian school)

December 14, 2007 at 10:47 AM · good to see you around v dot com. How convenient,but I'm tired.

December 14, 2007 at 12:53 PM · Ok, so I was trained with Suzuki. But see, the problem was, I was with Suzuki for too long. When I switced from my Suzuki teacher to a much more advanced teacher, I had a hard time learning the pieces she wanted me to learn, because there were a lot more NOTES, and I couldn't process them. This would explain why it took me a year to learn the first movement of the Bruch concerto before I could even perform it. So I was on that piece for about a year and a half. Now, I'm on a piece for about... 6-8 months? Sometimes longer if I have to pick it up again for a competition or such.

But getting back on subject, I think there should be a way to combine Suzuki and Tranditional.

December 14, 2007 at 03:23 PM · I heard somewhere that 80% of concertmasters worldwide were Suzuki trained. The great value in the Suzuki method is that it doesn't require a musician in the household for musical children to develop. The teacher teaches the parent to teach the child.

EAR TRAINING: The ear training that occurs as one learns the first four books by ear is really a benefit. The traditional violin students I have observed do not play in tune unless they have a parent in the household who can point out the intonation inconsistencies. I know a Spanish violinist who was trained in Solfege until he was seven at which point he was allowed to begin the violin. He plays in tune but he also claims that he had difficulty learning to play violin from the music. For him it was the note to the fingers that posed the difficulty rather than the note to the sound.

MUSIC READING: Joanne Bath (Suzuki educator at Eastern Carolina Universtiy) was asked how to help Suzuki educated students learn to read music. Her answer was to have them learn piano beginning age six and this would take care of it. As rule of thumb, the Suzuki student should begin to read music in book IV or age seven whichever comes first. If the student begins at age 3, by the time they are seven they are able to play much more advanced music than they will be able to read for a couple of years. The best strategy is to have them continue to learn their Suzuki repertoire by ear, but to begin reading out of one of the standard books for this purpose. It is very helpful if the Suzuki student joins the school or community orchestra. It is even more helpful for the student to play quartet or other chamber music. My sons both were Suzuki trained until age 9 (book six) and had no problem transitioning to traditional method or learning to read music. I did start them both on piano at age six. They joined an orchestra at age 8 and formed a quartet at age 9.

TECHNIQUE: The difference in the approach to technique between the Suzuki teachers my children had and their traditional violin teachers is enormous. They were lucky to already have a nice set-up and a good bow hand in place so there was not anything in the way of remediation required. This being said, generally Suzuki teachers teach technique via the passages in the Suzuki literature. The pieces are sequenced for this purpose. There are lots of supplements the Suzuki teachers might choose to add, however the lessons are really repertoire based. When I sat in on the first lesson with the traditional teacher, I had the feeling it was much more like the Zen of the violin. He had my son examining minute details in the way the string feels against the fingers, the balance of the weight of the violin on the violin hand and the weight of the head on the violin etc... The bow was marked and the metronome set at a particular bpm in order to develop absolutely even bow speed. Our bookshelves filled up with lots of pedagogical works and etude books: Galamian Scales, Kreutzer, Dont, Gavinies, Dounis, Sevcik, Manoogian...My boys found the challenge thrilling rather than boring and they were convinced that this was the way they would continue to grow as players. My oldest son remarked that the advantage of serious technique study is that it generalizes well. He can pick up, for example Paganini Caprice No. 12, and get it in shape in a couple of days because he has developed a systematic approach to handling a wide variety of technical problems. Even traditional teachers will sometimes short-cut the technique studies in favor of the march through the repertoire. In my opinion this is something of a mistake.

I agree that the Suzuki method is wonderful for starting young students. Some Suzuki teachers are able to transition their advanced students to a more technique heavy approach. An ambitious young player can really experience a rapid blossoming following a change to a traditional teacher at the right time.

February 21, 2010 at 08:05 AM ·

I learned to read music very young on the piano.  When I started violin at age 8, I was taught Suzuki songs from the book, with no hint of any aspects of the Suzuki method.  In my early 20's, I decided to learn to play by ear.  Years of frustration followed, trying to learn fiddle songs by ear.  Finally I bought the Suzuki book 1 CD and began re-learning those first songs by ear.  That worked. 

What I discovered from this, was that if you want to utilize a new way of learning, you can't expect to learn pieces at the same level that you are at with your accustomed way of learning.  You have to go back to the basics.  The kids who play at a high level by ear but have little background in reading music have to do their music reading practice with a beginning book from a method that focuses on music reading.  (Beginning Suzuki songs are not chosen for ease of reading.)  They can continue to also play by ear the higher level songs that are at a more satisfying level.  Soon they will be able to read some fun easy songs, and in due time their reading level will catch up to their peers.

Corrina Barrett

February 21, 2010 at 08:24 AM ·

I honestly don't see the point of learning entirely by ear from the beginning.  In the beginning of learning to play the violin the student has nearly no technique at all, so why not build the technique by reading simple studies from Wohlfahrt, Sevcik and Dancla.  Studying etudes is better for your technique than learning lots of little pieces.  I don't mean to bash the Suzuki method, I have taught beginners using some of the Suzuki books because in general I think the editions are good, but there's just no substitute for scales and etudes when it comes to technique, and if developing a good ear is the concern, just set a Dr. Beat to drone in the key that you are playing and force yourself to play in tune.  A nice limber left hand with good basic technique is better for intonation than learning to play an uber-simplified version of a Brahms waltz from a CD recording in my humble opinion.

February 23, 2010 at 11:09 PM ·

I'm basically in the anti-Suzuki camp - but I must qualify this. My objection is not to Suzuki himself, some of whose writings I read a long time ago. My objection is to Suzuki-ism - a cult that's developed in the generations following the founder's good work and intentions. The very terminology of "Suzuki vs Traditional" sets my teeth on edge. The implication I get from this - though I know that many would say I'm inferring too much - is that "traditional" is old hat, while Suzuki (henceforth abbreviated "S") is innovative. Just what is "traditional" (henceforth abbreviated as "T")? Anything that is not S? I would argue that there are as many different forms of so-called T as there are non-S teachers - or there should be. Every lesson can be somewhat innovative in the hands of a good, creative teacher. On the other hand, S has been around for a long enough time to have become a tradition of its own. And in uncreative hands, this tradition has fossilized into routine at best, and indeed a cult-like influence at worst. "You must do this procedure. After step A must come step B" etc. You musn't ever not do S.

Years ago I was asked to take over a bunch of students in a small community whose previous teacher moved away, and was an S cultist through and through. The students were pretty open-minded. But the mothers were like Stepford parents. They were brainwashed with the idea that S. was the only way. They were absolutely panicked at the idea that I didn't want to continue S book 1 with S book 2, and instead wanted to offer more serious training with more comprehensive materials. They didn't care what my credentials were; it just wasn't done. It was scary!

At that time I started reading some of S's own writings. Boy, had the apple rolled far from the tree! He emphasized that teachers must be flexible and creative, and not just blindly apply materials and procedures. Anybody remember the Monty Python movie, The Life of Brian? "You can't just blindly follow me", says Brian. "You have to think for yourselves" "Yes!" shouts his crowd of unwanted followers in one voice, "We have to think for ourselves!"

I have some of the usual objections to S as it's very often practiced: the delaying of note reading, the stiff, robotic playing etc. On the other hand, who can gainsay the encouragement of children beginning at a reasonably early age, and having their parents play a positive role - up to a point - in helping to direct their progress? And let's not forget the importance of being nurtured by love. But I would argue that the positive aspects of S are not unique to S, whereas the negative ones bear that S brand.

I have no problem with teachers who want to use aspects of both. That's independence right there. I'm also aware that S-ists would say that the objectionable aspects of S-ism that I criticize are not the real S, and not what they believe in. That may be so. But the abuses have been too prevelant, and too particular and recognizable, to so facily dimiss them as having nothing to do with the "real" S. I think that sincere S-ists need to take a look at just why and how a well-intentioned approach has so often lent itself to such prevelant and distinctive distortions.

February 26, 2010 at 09:22 PM ·

> I honestly don't see the point of learning entirely by ear from the beginning.
> In the beginning of learning to play the violin the student has nearly no
> technique at all, so why not build the technique by reading simple studies
> from Wohlfahrt, Sevcik and Dancla.

A 3-4 year old starting violin for the first time probably doesn't read his/her native language at any reasonable level yet. Interpreting the symbols of music (or any language)  comes along later in a child's cognitive development, which is why even "simple" studies from those books are not useful at that stage. Take that statement and apply that to language...would one expect a child to even begin to *read* their native language before speaking it?

Of course, one of the big problems we have is that there are teachers out there who teach kids who are 12 the exact same way as ones who are 6, and that is the "epic fail" that accounts for most of the criticism of the Suzuki Method.

Now, if I had a 12 year old student starting out, I could probably make the case for establishing note and rhythm reading first, then incorporating those technical exercises fairly early on. That is what would be appropriate for a child of that age and cognitive ability.

I was a Suzuki student for the first couple years of my playing from age 6. I remember quite fondly my teacher that introduced theory concepts to me to "fill the gaps" not covered by the books and sent me off well-prepared to a "traditional" instructor some years later as she really was only interested in working with really young beginners. Personally, as both a classroom and private teacher I've done best with students ages 8 and up. While I do not teach the Suzuki Method, it is not because I don't think that it works well, it's that the students I teach are at a later stage of cognitive development and require a different approach to learn the materials.

February 26, 2010 at 09:46 PM ·

Thanks, Helen!

Meanwhile, I think I need to take another break, as I prepare for a recital at the end of March (which includes the Rondo Capriciosso!) and finalizing the production of my 2nd CD. I'll keep an occasional eye on this and other threads from time to time.

February 26, 2010 at 11:34 PM ·

In the old times, they did many things similar to the Suzuki without naming it Suzuki and it worked just find so I guess their is no "name" for a good teaching method and that it all depends on the teacher.  A favorite method??? Personally, as a student, I am very much for the Russian/soviet school and pedagogy since almost all my favorite violinists came from such teaching systems and I find the teaching of my teacher a very efficient way. But innapropriate for those who do not have a great amount of self motivation, discipline or are have too sensitive mind/ears to take direct critic... ; )   But anything that works is valuable!

Just my two cents,


March 6, 2010 at 04:14 AM ·

 I like Gene Wei's answer to the question.  Mine would be similar.  The age of the student, the ultimate goals of the parents and the student and the musical background of the parents determine the most appropriate method.  Two of the big advantages of the Suzuki Method are below.

Ear training:  The Suzuki Method is intended for the very young, and it is a very effective way to accomplish ear training in the early years.  If the child starts early enough, and if they really do listen to their music repeatedly and learn the repertoire through book 4 by ear, they will generally play in tune.  In some countries students accomplish ear training by way of intensive Solfege group classes prior to even starting the instrument.  In the homes of musicians these methods might not be necessary, because the attentive parent can correct incorrect intonation on the spot.

Comfort and correct position and posture:  When the student is playing by ear, he/she can pay attention to the mechanics of playing and musical expression without being caught up in the note reading.  If the teacher is competent, the student develops a comfort with the instrument early on.  Students who are trying to do it all at once: reading the notes, finding their way around the instrument and trying to play in tune are juggling a lot of balls and often look very uncomfortable with the instrument in the early years.  This I believe is a big advantage of the Suzuki method, but any method which requires memorization allows the student to focus on technique and musicality.

If the student and the parents are industrious, the student will likely be through Suzuki book 5 or 6 before they are ten and this is the natural time for a traditional, technique heavy approach.  An older child may appreciate a methodical, scientific, exploration of the mechanics and be able to incorporate this into their independent practice.  A traditional approach can capitalize on the exploratory nature of middle-aged children.  Certainly if the child has aspirations of becoming a violinist, it is important for them to have technique oriented instruction at some point.

Music reading should not be an issue since the rule of thumb among Suzuki teachers is that the child learns to read music when they are age seven or book 4 whichever comes first.  At age seven, most children are physically able to track music left to right.  They simply read music at a level below their playing level, while continuing to learn repertoire by ear.



March 5, 2012 at 02:24 AM · Now that the subject of the S Method has been introduced again I must say that I feel a bit sad as going down this road will not get anyone very far.

Obviously the people who use (or mostly were taught by this method) are going to support it. At the same time the so called traditionalists are going to defend their position.

I suppose the reason why I am anti-Suzuki is that I see some bad players come from this method, and I see alot of bad teaching too. But on the other hand there are some appalling teachers who use the traditional method as well!

I think I see it as good teachers use good methods. But bad teachers have no methods and no idea at all.

But I would say that if you want to play chamber music say, then you have to have good reading skills. If you are in a quartet and you get lost every 20 bars you are not going to be popular. This is also true in orchestra. A professional orchestra will do a concert on one rehearsal, with a conductor they have never met before.

But don't get me started on conductors!! Maybe there should be a Suzuki method to train conductors ...

March 6, 2012 at 04:49 AM · As an adult beginner, I struggled mightily learning to read music. Once I switched from 'traditional' to Suzuki method, my sight-reading skills have become noticeably improved.

I think the reason for this is that you must choose the method that will best suit the student's learning style. Having a number of public school teachers in the family, I often heard talk about how important it is to be able to present materials in multiple formats because different people learn things differently - I would presume the same goes for musical education.

For me, I am a natural auditory learner, but a 'slow' student in traditional format. My teacher has made a point to exploit the listening aspects of the Suzuki system to teach me and reinforce note reading - she often will require me to sight-read a piece BEFORE hearing it, and then use the recording to correct any errors in my reading. What this has done is increase my ability to select AND PLAY music outside of my lessons on my own, as well as participate in a Chamber Music camp this summer and keep up relatively well. My progress in this area has accelerated much faster than it did with traditional methods because she has used my ear to guide me through sight-reading, whereas I struggled when I was being taught using a method that relied on reading alone.

From personal experience I think the Suzuki method is a great way to learn, but again, one has to match the method to the student's learning style for best results. I disagree there is only 'one' correct way for everyone, but for me it works best.

March 6, 2012 at 06:36 AM · This reminds me of the "whole language vs. phonics" debate that is the eternal struggle of teaching reading.

Daughter #1 started violin with Suzuki. What else are you going to do with a 2 1/2 year old who wants to play violin! She had three Suzuki teachers over 8 or 9 years. Each one was just right for that stage. She learned to sight read at 6/7 years old, and scale and technique books began at 7/8 years old. The progression made a lot of sense for her age, strengths and weaknesses.

Daughter #2 is learning the viola at 8 years old. She isn't being taught by a Suzuki teacher. It's going just fine. I like the technique and progression. It fits her. We're adding in some Suzuki at home so daughter #2 will be ready to play at Suzuki summer camp.

We've been going to a great Suzuki summer camp for 9 years, that's the highlight of our year.

March 6, 2012 at 06:50 AM · "I have to ask: since when is being able to read music more important than being able to PLAY music..."

I would say as a professional that reading skills are required 100 to 1 in the everyday life of a musician. And just because one has reading skills doesn't therefore imply that one can't PLAY music.

One of my priorities in starting young students is to cultivate in them the ability to track music with their eyes. The later it gets, the more they have problems with this. It is MUCH easier to learn this type of focus from the beginning.

In reading through all of the above answers, I'm amazed that I continue to be the only one to question the desperate need to re-edit the Suzuki repertoire, especially in the later books. The fingers and bowings of the Mozart, Handel, and others are 100 years out of date and these pieces would have to be relearned to present a credible degree recital or professional audition. Perhaps the publisher sells plenty of books and people put up with it.

My biggest complaint about the method is that all students are theoretically taught the same fingerings and bowing, thus preventing them from thinking for themselves. There is nothing left to chance--every articulation and dynamic is prescribed, even if never used used by the composer. I use a Socratic method with my students: "what would be a better finger here? What about the passage could slow you down? Where do YOU think the high point of the phrase is?" Well-trained students should be able to make informed and musical decisions about fingerings and bowings. In this the Suzukin method tells the student exactly what to do, but does not encourage independent thinking.

If Suzuki were right that all students have an innate talent for music, then they should also have the intelligence to finger and bow their music with guidance.

One more pet peeve about Suzuki: the inclusion of the Bach double concerto. Such a rather silly inclusion--so many other selections from the repertoire could have been included.

March 6, 2012 at 07:06 AM · "There are so many phenomenal, amazing violinists who started as Suzuki students,

Yep. That would include most of the astonshing Japanes eplayers of the last thirty years."

Watch your logic. Japanese players likely didn't become astonishing BECAUSE of early Suzuki--it was just common in Japan. There are just as many astonishing Russian and Israeli (and others) who didn't learn Suzuki. One could, in fact, argue that there is a relative rarity of top-level Japanese players compared with other societies with just a few exception.

March 6, 2012 at 09:49 AM · I have to agree with Scott's logic in both of his recent posts.

In the end, for me, the case in favour of Suzuki, has not been made.

But I suppose people go down the road that suits them best, or appears to be the best option.

It's a pity that teaching standards in both Suzuki and Traditional methods are so universally poor.

It makes the really good teachers out their in short supply and in too great a demand. And the problem is that joe public generally does not know what a good and a bad teacher brings, so they have no way of using their judgement.

So in the end there are just a few good Suzuki teachers (whatever one may think of the method) and just a few good traditional method teachers.

March 6, 2012 at 01:03 PM · The print on sheet music is as far away from the music one brings to life during each and every performance as a recipe is away from the meal. Give the same recipe to ten different chefs and you will be able to taste what I mean.

The art of music teaching is very much about helping students not to be distracted from the music by reading sheets.

I would therefore prefer a good Suzuki teacher over a good sheet music reading teacher all the way. And stay away from all teachers who perform on low levels independent on their approach.


March 6, 2012 at 05:10 PM · One of the assets of the Suzuki approach is uniformity, which is supposed to be the "tide that lifts all ships" in terms of teacher standards, expectations for students, etc. And it does help that you can have "camps" and "violin groups" and other activities that organize around a common pedagogy and literature.

I believe the Suzuki method has achieved this worthwhile aim. But there is a potential downside. Homogeneity can become a liability. This is the fundamental problem with "standards of learning" in US schools: Homogenization has the effect of decreasing the total knowledge and skill set of the population. If every child in the US reads exactly the same 100 books before graduating high school, then the total knowledge of the population will be 100 books. If each kid reads only 50 books but they are not the same as the next kid reads, then it could be argued each student is only half as literate, but the total literacy of the population becomes enormous. Which is better?

So, while I am a fan of the Suzuki approach overall, I think the hidden reason why it has worked so well is because of the individualism and skepticism of violin teachers who mix in additional material such as non-Suzuki repertoire, books of exercises and etudes, listening and theory games, and so on. Some of them even change the fingerings, bowings, dynamics, and articulations in the Suzuki pieces, as heretical as that may sound.

March 6, 2012 at 05:28 PM · Paul,

I agree with your first point, but not the next two.

The problem with American education--in my experience in teaching from middle school through university--in not homogeneity of material, nor even with the system itself, but with the socio-economic and cultural baggage that the kids bring to school. Things like family chaos due to divorce and poverty, and the unwillingness or incapability of parents to educate their children outside of the classroom. All kids should be learning the same algebra, chemistry, syntax, etc. What our schools have is a PARENT problem.

Second, I attribute much of the success of Suzuki to the simple fact that it's one of the few classical music brands that parents recognize. So they ask for it.


March 7, 2012 at 07:55 AM · There's simply no downside to the Suzuki approach (when properly implemented), very honestly speaking. If/when it no longer suits the student, then perhaps it's time to move on, which is fine. Many of the Suzuki approach criticisms hail from a worst case scenario type of vision, which when applied to each and all other types of teaching, will yield similarly poor results.

And BTW, the whole edition is being currently revised, although not ALL fingerings and bowings are being "modernized" as it were (in any case, the teacher is responsible to change fingerings or any other musical elements as he sees fit for the needs of each student-the one size fits all element has been traditionally widely overblown). I believe that in many cases the newer editions present an improvement on the older ones (no offense to those who think that the older ones are better, of course.)

March 7, 2012 at 06:08 PM · > One more pet peeve about Suzuki: the inclusion

> of the Bach double concerto. Such a rather

> silly inclusion--so many other selections

> from the repertoire could have been included.

Such as?

I'm not a Suzuki teacher myself, but there's a lot of value in covering the technical and musical demands for the Bach Double, since those skills are also essential to many other works. Whether one teaches it or something else of similar requirements is really a matter of personal taste.

March 7, 2012 at 07:12 PM · Let me put it this way: had the Bach double NOT been included, I don't think the world would be clamoring for it. There are zillions melodious etudes and other pieces.

Also, by the time one gets through the first few books, one can really HATE gavottes. In general, it just seems to me to be a rather odd selection of works.

March 7, 2012 at 08:31 PM · I don't see any point in picking on one particular work in the Suzuki books. The Bach Double is an instructive piece. The question of whether baroque music is emphasized too much in the Suzuki repertoire is well documented and has been argued at great length elsewhere. There are rather a lot of gavottes though.

March 7, 2012 at 09:01 PM · A few thoughts from a Sukuki trainee in France.


Baroque music can sound great with a lively, resonant bow-stroke and little or no vibrato.

At least we don't get the wailing cat legato favoured by some teachers!


The aural-tactile-kinetic-gestual approach gets us off to a quick - and good - start, and lasts a lifetime, cutting right through the intellectual and social complexities of the fully trained musician. And the pupils love learning how to write and read what they have already done so well.

Even if we copy something or someone, it is still our own ears, eyes and hands that are doing it.

Suzuki had a lovely story of his minah-bird, who needed 500 repetitions to learn "Good morning!" but only 100 to add "Mr. Suzuki": it had learned to learn!


By using the set fingerigs and bowings, we become more, not less, capable of inventing new ones.

By following the Suzuki "syllabus" (especially the first 5 books), we are more, not less, equipped to try new repertoire.


The enjoyment displayed by many "Suzukists" sometimes hides - to the less discerning! - the deep thought, sensitivity, and precision that goes into this very demanding method.


Before the training, I taught best those who resembled me most (poor things!) Now I find I can teach almost anyone..

March 8, 2012 at 05:44 AM · time for a limerick?

`Now learn this Gavotti,

Or I will smack your botti.`

The Suzuki Mum,

Goes for your bum,

And then it`s the garrotti.


I think....


March 8, 2012 at 10:20 AM · Adrian - sorry but "At least we don't get the wailing cat legato favoured by some teachers!"

We instead get the surge on every bow stroke, particularly on up bows, so loved by the early musak crowd!

Buri - great limerick! You could apply that to Jewish mothers too!

March 8, 2012 at 09:50 PM · Dear All,

I can't pretend I read every single line of every one of the 92 entries, but the discussion seems to be all about which method produces the best violinists. Suzuki, however, is on record as having said that this was not his main goal at all; he talked about character training and educating good citizens.

It has already been said, but pitting Suzuki vs "traditional" doesn't make any sense at all. Many of the elements of the Suzuki Method, including the importance of imitating good models and his choice of repertoire would be labelled "traditional" in other contexts. One of the reasons the method has not really caught on in a big way in Germany (where Suzuki received most of his training on the violin), is that when it became better known there in the 1970s many German music teachers did not feel it had anything truly innovative to offer.

I wrote a bit about the roots of the Suzuki method in an article a couple of years ago:

As for Japanese violinists,I have examined quite a few biographies for the book I am writing, and although many professional violinists today did start with the Suzuki Method,they usually moved on to other methods pretty quickly. Many of the violinists who first attracted attention in the West in from the late 1950s did not study by the Suzuki Method at all. In my book I will introduce teachers who were far more influential when it came to training virtuosos.

But as I've said training virtuosos was never Suzuki's main goal.

Best wishes,


March 8, 2012 at 10:11 PM · I see a bit of a language issue here: In English we usually call printed notes on paper - music. This is not the case in any other language I am familiar with. There only something you can actually hear is called - music.

Another problem here: what does it mean "to train a virtuoso" compared with "to train a musician"? Because of the unfortunate double meaning of "music" in English it seems very hard to make clear that music is the goal, not virtuosity or reading notes.


March 9, 2012 at 10:49 AM · Peter, I still find the "bulging" stroke - resonance without undue pressure - preferable to a lifeless legato. I am thinking, of course, of very small beginners with very small violins (and very short bows.)

Buri, a Suzuki teacher often has to train the parents as well! And in the present climate, humorous references to posteriors or corporal punishment are "out"...

March 9, 2012 at 10:54 AM · Adrian - point taken about beginners and short bows, I was reffering more to seasoned HIPsters.

Posteriors - nothing like the good old fashioned Russian style where they beat the hell out of 'em!! (wink).

March 9, 2012 at 12:35 PM · Speaking of "nurtured by love", I've always been partial to the Russian approach, myself. It might be put like this: "For to be grrreat, mahst to sahffer. Zo, eez good idea myake piupil cry leetle byit at every lesson!"

Seriously, I expressed my real views on this subject some posts earlier back in 2010.

March 10, 2012 at 10:44 AM · A few more thoughts, after reading many of the other posts.


In a given Suzuki group, there will be a smaller percentage of future professionals than usual, for the simple reason that very few stop playing, and playing well, either in adolescence or as adults.


What convinced me to continue Suzuki teacher-training was the way the children played marvellously well together, while showing great individuality as soloists.


The Suzuki repertoire is designed to introduce techniques in a practical, logical sequence. Tricky passages are analysed like studies.

Those who find the Etudes of Wolfhart musically satisfying make me very worried for their pupils! Children are extremely sensitve to intrinsic musical quality until we crush their marvellous intuition with well-meaning rubbish..

We don't start our children's nutrition with vitamin supplements and junk food! Do we?...

March 10, 2012 at 04:40 PM · Going back to the OP's subject line -- "Which works better? -- I feel that a lot depends on the individual learner. What proves to be an excellent fit for one pupil can be very poor for another.

I didn't learn by Suzuki, and I'm not a teacher, either; so I remain neutral regarding the method itself. But it has clearly worked very well for a lot of top players -- a good number of whom are now world famous. "You can't quarrel with success."

Would Suzuki have worked well for Jim here? Although I can't go back to childhood and do a comparison tryout, I don't think it would have worked well in my case, given my individualistic, free-range -- and occasionally headstrong -- personality. The big hang-up for me would have been the degree of parental involvement and the need for a Suzuki parent. What was the old ad? "Mother, please -- I'd rather do it myself!"

Violin lessons were my idea; but -- be assured -- my parents were involved. They paid for my lessons and required me to practice. They got more than they bargained for -- I was a practice geek and, indeed, went overboard with it now and then.

March 10, 2012 at 05:34 PM · Yes, going back to the OP's original question: "whcih works better?" - better for whom, and for what goals? I don't want to repeat my entire post from a while back. But I would say that if the goal is to give a very young child a taste of music, Suzuki is fine. But if a child is really talented and serious, then more serious training is in order. And if the child is 6 and up, there is absolutely no reason not to teach note reading. It's a lot easier than learning to read English, which usually begins at that age.

Suzuki himself was a good man with some good ideas. But Suzuki-ism, as it is often practiced, can be far too standardized, rigid, intolerant of other ideas, and borders on a cult. It's at least as much of a tradition at this point as any non-Suzuki approaches that it likes to lump together and label as "traditional".

This depends on one's advancement and other factors, but I'd advise against getting too locked in and for too long to any "ism" - be it Suzuki-ism, Galamian-ism, Dounis-ism, or even Klayman-ism! At the final lesson with a girl who had been studying with me since age 11 and who was now going off to college, I said "I hope you continue with the violin, and do be open to other influences. If you retain about 50% of my teachings, that would be nice. If you retain 75%, it won't be as good as 50%. And if you retain 100%, God help you!"

A path is only a path. I'm reminded of the famous martial artist, Bruce Lee, who advised to take what is useful from this or that approach and discard the rest. In the movie, "Enter The Dragon", his character admonished a student: "I am like a finger pointing to the moon. Look at the moon, not at my finger, or you will miss all that heavenly glory."

January 29, 2016 at 12:36 PM · Suzuki is a good start. It gets a child interested in music. Speaking as a classical music lover, the more we could get children to get involved in classical music the better. In that sense, Suzuki has achieved its intention and objectives. However, to go further in the musicianship, I believe even Suzuki teachers will recognise that after 1-2 years (max), they would have to revert back to Classical training so they can get to sight read early.

Youtube may have been the worse source of information and representation. But where "suzuki method" search results show, the students had a great repertoire of pieces, often playing from memory. Wonderful. However, I noticed very few got their intonation correct, and none got their phrases right. If Suzuki needed students to listen before playing, then it will be challenging for the students as most of them (me included) do not have perfect pitch (hearing). I think that explains why the intonation errors were prevalent.

The way in which Suzuki values quantity over quality is alright if you were playing music just for the joy of it or to delight your parents and neighbours during a birthday party. Its like going to a karaoke, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it as long as you enjoy doing what you are doing. But to get one step further where a neutral audience will pay to enjoy your music then it falls short. Just Youtube "Suzuki method taiwan" and look at the 9-12 yo graduates. All had impressive repertoire like Rachmaninov, Mozart, Scriabin. But as an old school, I would much love if a musician could get one piece right than to play 100 pieces awfully.

Am I the for or against camp? In fact I would advocate all primary/junior schools from where I live to start with Suzuki as early as possible. There simply wasn't enough Suzuki teachers here and definitely not enough awareness and funding. And then move on after 6 months-2 years maximum to Traditional if the students want to get serious.

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