Teaching Methods

August 29, 2005 at 03:56 PM · I am very interested in the Suzuki methods and considered doing a course but was afraid of being limited to one particular teaching style.

I think there are pros and cons of Suzuki, as with Kodaly and 'traditional' more Western methods. I want to develop my own personal method by drawing on different perspectives.

Would it go against the Suzuki ethos to train in Suzuki yet not fully practice as a Suzuki teacher?

Replies (18)

August 29, 2005 at 04:23 PM · To the extent that a method could be defined as a mill through which every student is put, it's best not to have a method. I hear, in your words, that you are concerned about that. I think you would be doing the noblest thing if you would follow up on that concern by aiming to respond to each student in the most individual way, rather than seeking a method.

August 29, 2005 at 06:04 PM · If you mean to say that you want the pedagogical theory offered by the Suzuki method and intend to practice it but don't like the Suzuki books, I say toss the books. They're one suggestion for what repetoire to choose.

The methodology -- the idea that any child can be "talented", and that people learn music in the same way in which they learn to speak, i.e. primarily by ear (among other principles) -- can be taught using any repetoire. It just happens that the Suzuki books are laid out in small technical increments and have the recordings available for the whole of the repetoire, making it easier on the teacher.

August 29, 2005 at 07:58 PM · Well put Patty.

August 30, 2005 at 03:59 AM · I have trained through Suzuki Book 8 and teach with a combination of Suzuki, traditional, and the Laurie method. ;) The Suzuki training gave me valuable ideas and insights, plus many hours observing extremely creative and effective teaching. Shinichi Suzuki himself was an innovator who was constantly reworking things, so anyone who is using the "method" as a recipe is really not doing justice to Suzuki's philosophy.

As far as I'm concerned, pedagogy training is helpful. You are simply learning about teaching; that shouldn't threaten your individuality and creativity as a teacher. Hopefully it just gives you more tools to work with.

August 30, 2005 at 05:33 AM · I second that. That's exactly what I have found to be true. =)

August 31, 2005 at 10:37 AM · Thanks everyone for reassuring me - you've confirmed what I was thinking. Of course the more pedagogies I'm exposed to and learn from the better equipped I will be to help students, and I shouldn't feel constricted by them.

September 3, 2005 at 12:33 AM · I think Suzuki's repitoere is carefully selected. They're exercises within a piece ^_^

The idea of practicing Suzuki without fully doing it is crazy. If you don't use the whole Suzuki methodology, the books are pretty much useless. Augmenting the repetoere is a good idea, with other books and some exercises, and some enseble playing. (hmmm, Barbera Barber's solo's books, her scale books, trotts double stop books, the suzuki position etude book, and around book 7 Mozart 3 comes to my mind. The Accolay and Viotti are in the Barber books) Ensemble playing and frequent performances make more confidnet players.

By not doing it fully, do you mean skip pieces? I know some of them seem pointless, but all of the students I know who skipped pieces are, no other word for it, terrible violinists, without fail. Also, I'd suggest that you be careful to gather all you can from a piece before you move on. There's more to a piece than what you can sight read. Once you can play the piece perfectly without thinking you will have, of necessity, mastered all the bow crossings and finger agilities in the piece. Just blowing through the piece will not get you these techniques. Finally, don't skip the tonalization exercises, most suzuki students have strong tone, but these exercises are important

my two cents ^_^

September 3, 2005 at 04:55 AM · Joseph, I understand your perspective. Suzuki has worked well for you, and you don't see any other successful examples among your peers. And certainly, the Suzuki sequence is well thought out.

But, for example, I was taught traditionally, as were many of my colleagues in orchestra. That's because we're OLD. Okay, not that old. But the "method" was not so fixed when I was a kid. That means that I learned mostly traditionally, which included many of the music that happens to be in the Suzuki repertoire. Also, I played a few pieces straight out of Suzuki Book 5 and 6. I'll add that my childhood teacher was Jim Maurer, who is now a well-respected Suzuki pedagogue who has trained Suzuki teachers all over the country, including me.

So it is possible to thrive and flourish as a violinist, without the Suzuki method. Or without playing every single piece, or without playing them in order.

You can play other things. You can learn other ways. My greatest peeve with the whole Suzuki movement is when people get cultish about it and get to preaching that the sequence, or some other aspect of Suzuki, is The Only Way.

And maybe that's not what Joseph meant!

But I just want to emphasize that it's not the only way, popular as it is. Shinichi Suzuki certainly did not have only one path he took for every student he had, neither should any of us! If you truly know the violin, you will teach the violin first, with methodology helping you reach your student.

If the student wants to be part of a Suzuki group or participate in Suzuki workshops, he/she should know all the repertoire. That is one really neat thing about having that standardized repertoire, that any Suzuki student can play with any other student around the globe because they know the same music!

Personally, I haven't skipped around the Suzuki pieces with my students, but I do begin supplementing the Suzuki books starting in Book 1.

September 3, 2005 at 05:28 AM · oh, the supplementing is definately necessary.

personally I think Suzuki is the best for very young students...but I think proper use of the traditional method is perfectly fine too. The real failures I've seen is trying to do traditional method with just the Suzuki repetoere. @_@, >_<, the pain. It's developed for the method, you can even combine the two methods, but whatever you do, it has to be planned out carefully, not just arbitrary cutting. The most important part for me is spending enough time on a piece that it can be played well, as opposed to just played.

My teachers were both traditional trained, and very good. I respect traditional very much, just advocating my preferred method. ^_^

September 3, 2005 at 09:15 AM · I don't love everything in the books (some of the fingerings are just not very efficient nor musical, especially beyond book 3). Also, beyond a certain point in their development, students can no longer just work on an ordered set of pieces, but need an individual repertoire tailored to their needs as players (so if a kid can already do something *consistently* well, there's no need to waste time on an etude that is supposed to develop that particular skill).

However, the quality of their ordering and the numerous teaching possibilities in every single piece (no matter how simple) make them very effective. As much as I could probably assemble my own set of works to teach a beginner, I don't think it's necessary to re-invent the wheel. Suzuki's introduction to the instrument has stood the test of time, and the majority of my beginners who study the works, supplemented by additional materials for ear training and theory just plow through them, and develop a musical understanding and technical skill set in a relatively short amount of time.

I find that Dr. Suzuki's philosophies (especially the concept of talent being created in people) are simply his take on the fundamentals of great teaching, which are fairly universal and we can observe in great teachers everywhere regardless of their "method."

September 3, 2005 at 01:18 PM · joseph-

'I know some of them seem pointless, but all of the students I know who skipped pieces are, no other word for it, terrible violinists, without fail'

are you sure about this comment?

do you really think that every student needs to play a handel sonata after handel sonata after handel sonata? what about contemporary music? and what about the student that advances so quickly that they are ready for more difficult repertoire before having finished the book?

i'm not bashing the suzuki books or the methods- i was taught at a music school that worshiped suzuki, and i use the books for some of my students- but it's really not one size fits all- and especially not 'without fail.'

i skipped many pieces when i went through the suzuki books. it sucks to hear that i (along with countless others) am a terrible violinist.

September 3, 2005 at 05:01 PM · Hi,

I second Sharon on this one. Flexibility is something that is always important.


September 3, 2005 at 06:38 PM · Hmm, ok, here's how it is IMHO. Teachers who were only trained to teach the traditional method sometimes arbitrarily cut pieces. They have this idea that their student should already be beyond this piece, and so the student misses out on the content of that piece, whether it be musicianship, style, or technique. Now, a good teacher will fill the gap with exercises or another piece, or something, but the failures I've seen are Suzuki students that had no augmentation to fill the gap, and so they never acquired that technique or skill. I'm assuming you went to a music school that used typical traditional exercises, like...Kreutzer and Don’t and Pagannini and such. Then it’s perfectly fine to skip quite a few Suzuki pieces, assuming you even use the books, but if, say...as student were to skip one of the twinkles, cause their teacher thinks so many twinkles are a waste of time. At such an early level the different rhythms and bowings of the twinkles are necessary to develop basic skills, despite the fact that they are repetitive, unless the teacher replaces them with...say clapping out difficult rhythms for long periods of time and doing bowing exercises from the very beginning (trust me, I would have quit if the teacher told me that I'd be clapping and bowing an open string without any sort of melody for long periods of time back when I was in elementary school >_<)

As another example lets say that the third Handel sonata is cut out from the books. This would be perfectly fine if it were replaced with...a Bach Partita, the Franco Cadenza for Mozart 3, and the Accolay Concerto, but if the piece were just skipped the student would really miss out. Or let’s say that that really simple Mozart at the beginning of book 6 or 7 were skipped (can't think of a name right now...). The student is definately more advanced than that piece at that point, but if they skip it they miss out on the stylistic element of playing a Mozart piece. Of course, this can also be overcome, but it’s difficult to overcome, unless the student is pretty much a traditional student who uses the Suzuki repertoire in addition. The purely Suzuki students I’ve seen that skip pieces are really bad, and in my town I’ve seen about 70 or so, it’s not a arbitrary statement.

but like I said, it's just my opinion. I like disagreement, because it leads to debates ^_^

October 14, 2005 at 11:22 PM · IMHO, Suzuki books are ok, the pieces are fine for traditional teaching as well. However, the method tends to leave students unable to sightread very well. I learned this from personal experience being taught in the Suzuki method.

October 15, 2005 at 02:54 PM · Two problems I found with using the Suzuki books, are; first, it is difficult to learn to read music with them, and second, some pieces require a 'jump' in skill training without laying a solid enough foundation. This led me to write my own additional repertoire, which after some time, led to the creation of the 'Smart Violin Method'. I've had much success with the books and my students ability to read music has increased tremendously, as well as having fun while learning. Please email me for free sample pages, and see the books on amazon.com

just my humble opinion, and thanks for considering my material.

October 15, 2005 at 05:35 PM · Would it go against the Suzuki ethos to train in Suzuki yet not fully practice as a Suzuki teacher?

It really depends on who you ask. If you ask a diehard Suzuki teacher, then Yes. It wouldn't be called the Suzuki method, if you don't fully practice it.

But,....I do it. And I consider myself a Suzuki teacher. I do everything except group lessons. I don't have a place to teach them, and my students are at different levels and technical abilities.

About it being difficult to learn to read music, what I do is supplement the Suzuki book with a notespeller and rhythm book, right away. Of course, real Suzuki teachers will just want to focus 100% on the hearing/listening at the beginning, but I say that 10 minutes a day of their workbook/notespeller & rhythm clapping certainly can't hurt.

October 16, 2005 at 08:57 AM · I feel that there are always "fundamentalists" in any system that feel that to use any elements of their philosophy without taking on the whole pie is not permissible. That being said, I think it is critically important to understand *why* something is done in the learning process, regardless of whether one deems it necessary or not. The Suzuki books themselves have a wealth of knowledge, but like any subject, they have to be taught in an efficient and well thought-out manner.

The most stinging criticisms of the method, especially concerning the inability of students to sight-read, are not a flaw of Suzuki, but with poor teaching in general. With many high school students I see these days, their issue isn't with recognizing notes, but their ability to interpret and play rhythms is shockingly poor (which accounts for their problems in sight-reading).

October 16, 2005 at 12:02 PM · Please don't teach Suzuki exclusively. It is a fantastic method but I firmly believe that it should be used alongside other methods. I was suzuki trained for one year (the first year of lessons) and then stopped because my teacher moved to Edinburgh (I was 11 years old and lived in the Scottish Highlands with my parents at the time). That year of Suzuki, listening to the pieces on tape every day gave me a fantastic ear which I still have today. It also went in my favour that teachers after my suzuki instructor were heavily into sight-reading and liked me to take lots of pieces home and play through them so that I could pick out ones for study. Of course it is a good idea to use suzuki, just not on its own. A good ear is vital for other musical activities such as improvisation, dictation (done a lot in the early years of music degrees should the student wish to pursue that) and whilst sight reading itself, recognising mistakes. Listening and sight reading should go hand in hand so that when we see the notes, we hear the music.

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