Suzuki method - why so used in American teaching?

December 29, 2005 at 06:01 AM · Hi, I only really joined this site a few weeks back and i have been noticing a strong thread of Suzuki method learning and playing. I never learnt this way, and in Australia i'm not sure how its regarded, but its not used much. I was just wondering why there is such a strong thread of teaching in America and why its suzuki?? Any thoughts feel free to comment. Thanks, nat

Replies (62)

December 29, 2005 at 01:27 PM · I think the popularity of the Suzuki method is mainly due to the people who have put great effort into creating the Suzuki Teachers' organizations around the country. I guess it's sorta like a support group. :) But these groups help teachers with supplies, self-promotion, methodology, etc.

I suggest this because there are tons of other equally valid methods out there. Suzuki is a good, well-structured method that approaches the learning process in a particular way, but taken objectively it's no more or less useful than any other method.

That said, the Suzuki books are easy from a teacher's perspective, and challenging to the student. I learned Suzuki as a kid and I teach Suzuki (pretty informally) now as an adult, and as my students delve further into the early books, I recognize just why the pieces are in the order they're in and what each song will teach the student. Aside from some extra note-reading exercises for kids of reading age, you really only need to work out of the Suzuki book to cover the important techniques.

December 30, 2005 at 06:31 AM · Suzuki method teaching has become very prevalent in America because the results are generally good: not to say that are not good and bad teachers in any "method", but as Patty said the progression of pieces has been well thought out, and the individual skills that are explored in each new piece cover the basic technical needs of any violinist. It is difficult to go wrong with the material, even if you only use it as a springboard for other materials and methods.

However, I would say that the principal advantage of the method is that the organizations and individuals who developed the training programs in different countries (like the SSA and the ESA, BSI)created a framework for excellent training of prospective teachers in both the philosophy of Suzuki education AND the pedagogical principles behind the method. They have produced a body of teachers who are able to look at violin teaching as a succession of small but very possible steps toward mastery of an instrument which could be adapted and taught to any student. My experiences as a student of the method, watching great teachers, trying out ideas

and being encouraged to explore each individual's needs in order to create the possibility for them of enjoying music as an active participant has been more valuable for me as both a player and a teacher than most of the pedagogy that I learned at either university or conservatory level. I would encourage Patty to do some formal teacher training (there's a lot to learn looking from another corner of the student-parent-teacher triangle!)and also would encourage you, Natalie to ask about teacher training through the Australian Association. There are some very good teachers and programs in Australia although it is not as ubiquitous as in North America.

December 30, 2005 at 11:01 AM · I'd also add that the Suzuki Method allows for a certain degree of accountability in terms of tracking student progress, especially for those that are totally unfamiliar with music instruction. It's very simple to say "oh, he/she is working on book 3" and already based on the past half century of students we already have a reasonable idea of the level the student is at (regardless of the amount of time it took to get there).

December 30, 2005 at 01:46 PM · Although I am not personally up to date with either the AMEB or the Suzuki method today in Australia, many years ago both had been generalised to have opposing strengths. The Suzuki Method was considered to develop strong aural skills as violinists were encouraged to listen and replicate. On the other hand unlike the AMEB, it did not encourage strong technique through scales or studies.

As I have previously mentioned, these were opinions held many years ago and I have last heard that both methodologies have changed to cater for their weaknesses. The lack of technical skill in many Suzuki students at a later age might have caused the possible negativity towards the method, but I strongly advice that even though such methods do exist, a violinist's development is more dependant on the teacher. A good teacher using either the Suzuki, AMEB or any other method could assist any beginner violinist to become a successful professional.

I myself have experienced both methodologies and strongly advice that any training that strengthens your awareness to what goes on when you play the violin, whether it be through sound, feeling or thought is crucial.

December 30, 2005 at 03:52 PM · I'd echo what Jen said- one of the greatest things about the method is the openness of teachers and parents alike to share ideas: what works, what doesn't work, and how to improve. Most Suzuki teachers have an "open door" policy allowing anyone to come watch their lessons and classes. As a teacher, I have benefited tremendously from this. I still go observe other teachers whenever I can!

In the past (way, way past!) there was the idea that there are "studio secrets" that should not be shared with others outside of the studio. The essence of the Suzuki Method embraces the exact opposite philosophy.

December 30, 2005 at 09:42 PM · And I think because of that openess you mentioned, the method proceeds itself in terms of reputation.

Not to mention many teachers who are not neccessarily textbook Suzuki teacher incorporate elements and philosophies (and very commonly, the graded repertoire) into their teaching. So a little bit of it lives everywhere, it seems.

December 30, 2005 at 11:00 PM · Hi,

The Suzuki method works and is popular for a number of reasons - involvement of parents, group classes (kids like being with other kids), emphasis on music from the beginning, and having fun and sometimes good ears are trained.

There are drawbacks too - defects in setup, lack of a thorough technical foundation because of the attention to music rather than technical material, and poor reading because of the emphasis on ear rather than reading.

In North America, most people look for stuff that is easy and fun. The Suzuki method does just that. However, in the long run, the violin isn't just easy and fun always - sometimes it's serious business. So... like everything, there are good and bad points.


December 30, 2005 at 11:05 PM · > There are drawbacks too - defects in setup,

> lack of a thorough technical foundation because

> of the attention to music rather than technical

> material, and poor reading because of the

> emphasis on ear rather than reading.

That's a result of poor teaching, and exists in all methods of instruction. It's not unique to Suzuki.

The aural stuff is great for kids who start playing at age 3 or 4. Obviously, competent teachers know that kids who have already started reading (or at least, identifying the symbols of the alphabet and simple words) in their first language are capable of learning the symbols of music (ages 5+).

Admittedly there are a number of teachers who claim to teach "The Suzuki Method" but don't have any grasp of the philosophy in the slightest who neglect to introduce supporting pedagogical material as necessary.

December 30, 2005 at 11:52 PM · "There are drawbacks too - defects in setup, lack of a thorough technical foundation because of the attention to music rather than technical material, and poor reading because of the emphasis on ear rather than reading."

Honestly Christian, I'm really tired of having this conversation over and over again. Like Gene said, there is nothing unique to the method that would make any of the above true. There are good teachers and there are bad teachers...period. I don't say that the "traditional" method sets up students to play badly. That would be a narrow and unfair generalization. Once you have heard the students of the most notable modern Suzuki teachers/trainers (Ronda Cole, James Mauer, Terri Einfeldt, Ed Kreitman, etc.) and you still feel that these students play poorly, then come here and make your generalizations. Do some research beyond your own backyard before you malign the entire method.

December 31, 2005 at 12:09 AM · In agreeance with what has been said, its important to focus on the abilities of the teacher rather than focus on the teaching methods.

Methodologies are much like brand names. Choosing a good brand doesn't necessarily promise high quality and any careful consumer will research their product before they go and spend large amounts of money.

Don't try and kid yourself either, spending money on GOOD violin lessons aren't cheap in Australia either. I am certain that the amount of money my parents spent on my lessons was easily enough to put a deposit on a house.

One bit of advice which was told to me when I was searching for a dance teacher, is to look for teachers, watch how they dance and if that appeals to you, then go to them. Obviously this is a little different with violin.

One suggestion I can give is to go to some local competitions and watch all the violinists there. See who the good ones are and ask them who their teacher is. This is actually how my mother found my teacher of 10+ years. (I might add though am I no longer learning.)

I have to admit that even after 19 years of playing violin, choosing a teacher or picking methdologies is incredibly difficult. Even if you think you have the right methodology, you still have to get along with your teacher as a person too!

Oops, I think I've definately floated away from the topic, but I just wanted to stress that the focus should be the teacher than the methdology.

December 31, 2005 at 02:59 AM · Suzuki epitomizes the "sound before sight" theory of music, and to me, this is not bad at all. After all, didn't we learn to listen and speak before we could read? Suzuki managed to harness the body's natural progression and use it for music. For young kids and beginners, I strongly reccomend it because it helps them grasp concepts instead of just blind acceptance. I was half trained in the Suzuki method, and feel that one of its main benefits is that I can transcribe very easily. Listening to music and playing it only by ear is a great way to teach students to have faith in their own musical self. Another aspect that I really like about the Suzuki method is the parental involvement aspect. This reinforces the idea to the student that he is not in this alone, and that if he/she has problems at home, the parents can at least try to help.

I think the Suzuki method starts to break down when the student reaches their teen years, and the rebellion that normally kicks in isn't quite accounted for. To this, I would say the teacher should always keep an open mind and start exploring repertoire outside the Suzuki graded system. At this point the teacher should start to individually tailor the repertoire to fit the student's personality. One interesting observation about Suzuki - once the students can read music, I see less and less room for ear training. I think that it actually benifits the student to give them a recording of a piece they like and ask them to try and learn it by ear. It won't seem like a chore if it is a piece they want to learn. Improvisation is so essential to the learning process and really is the benchmark test of whether a student is fully conscious and aware of what he is playing or not.

I think that the Suzuki system is so popular in America because of its ideals - anyone can learn music, and anyone can be a musician. To a parent, this is very encouraging. Suzuki was right on the money with that - everyone CAN learn music, and they can have fun doing it. Every system has its advantages and flaws, and I tried my best to point both sides out. To blindly praise or dismiss Suzuki would be foolish, and we must see that every system is a double edged sword.

December 31, 2005 at 08:23 AM · The success of the Suzuki method is primarily centred on the parental support.Irrespective of the method if you have a parent who attends the lessons and then does a daily back up at home you will achieve good results.This method however rules out children of disinterested parents.It is a 'middle class' method.If you were to teach a child whos parents didn't attend the lessons and who didn't encourage daily practice it wouldn't work at all.However it is possibile to make substantial progress using more traditional methods working only with the child and knowing that they will not practice at home.There are many of us working in community projects in working class districts who have to be far more inventive than relying on the parent to work for us during the week.Children who come from broken homes,who have both parents that work,come from large low income families should also be given the opportunity to learn the violin.

January 1, 2006 at 01:52 PM · Yep, having a parent attend lessons is vital. Not to be pessimistic but very few young children would have the discipline to do the practice, concentrate or even remember what happened during the lesson. My teacher even had a tape recorder to let me listen to the new pieces just to familiarise myself with them.

My mother was always at my lessons right from day 1 until about I was 16-17 years old. Dropping your kids off at lesson then going to have a coffee isn't a smart option!

January 1, 2006 at 06:17 PM · There is a huge amount of support available in the United States for teachers who become involved with the Suzuki method. As my friend (who got me started with Suzuki) told me, "It teaches you how to teach." The attitude of sharing what works with others benefits all who become involved with the method in any way. That attitude shouldn't be limited to Suzuki. Those of us who teach almost always benefit from watching someone else teach. Who hasn't struggled with teaching a technique and been happy to learn something that works from another teacher?

I have done Suzuki teacher training and use it in my studio...I require a parent or guardian to be at every lesson. Many Suzuki teachers won't even work with the student at the beginning of lessons...they work with the parents only and then add the child when the parents have been properly trained to be good 'Suzuki parents'. It's true that children shouldn't be denied the opportunity to play the violin just because their parents aren't involved, but they will have a different experience than they would if the parents were a part of the process. (I heard Ed Kreitman say once that his own mother would probably not have been a good 'Suzuki Mom'.) I work with students who don't have good parental involvement in a youth orchestra setting and spend extra time with those students teaching them how to be their own practice 'bosses'...teaching them to be aware of their own posture, intonation and tone each time they play and to make necessary corrections.

Ed Kreitman's students are set-up extremely well...other teachers in 'the method' have students who aren't set up as has been stated, it's the teacher, not the method.

Whether you use music or technical studies in your teaching, the key is to use the music or the technical studies to teach a student how to play the violin. I never teach Suzuki music to my students...I teach my students how to play the violin, using the Suzuki music as a tool.

January 1, 2006 at 08:25 PM · Hi,

I apologize for offending anyone. However, I get a lot of kids with that background and those problems. This does not mean that everyone is like that. The same is true of any teachers of any method. Perhaps your students Mariam and Gene are not like that. Perhaps I have not dealt with true Suzuki kids. This is just my own experience with many kids having taught in many different cities and regions. I am not saying that traditional teachers are better. There are a lot of poor teachers too. I also found like I said that there are qualities that are important from the Suzuki method. But frankly, I cannot vouch for anyone outside my own experience. I am sorry.


January 3, 2006 at 05:00 PM · Christian, apology accepted. :)

Just so you know, I do believe you when you say that there are teachers in your area that teach "Suzuki" with lots of bad habits. Before I became interested in Suzuki myself, I used to hold the same opinion as you. What changed my mind was seeing some of the most legendary Suzuki teachers in action. Their students play with the highest level of technique and musicianship, and it truly inspired me. It made me realize that I could ask for so much MORE from my own students. I can't speak for every Suzuki teacher in the world, but my goal as a teacher is to achieve the highest level of artistry possible, which in turn also creates noble human beings. I know that many of the other Suzuki teachers on this board feel the same way.

January 4, 2006 at 09:03 AM · Marium,there are undoubtably many very able and dedicated Suzuki teachers around and certainly any one who wants to teach regardless of the method they eventually adopt can benefit from attending Suzuki training courses.However the response to the original poster would be that Suzuki teaching in the States is more prevelant because it has a 'middle mentality' and an economic structure that allows it to flourish.At the end of the day the first lessons are primalrily aimed at teaching a parent rather than the child and not many other countries have a culture where the parents involve and immerse themselves so completely in the activities of their children.This is a fundamental reason for not applying the principles of the method in other countries.

January 4, 2006 at 02:43 PM · Janet,

I certainly agree that Suzuki does not work without involved parents. But I don't believe it true that it is not popular in other countries. It is obviously very popular in much of Asia, as well as South America. I also don't think that the reason it is popular in the US is because there are more involved parents here then in the rest of the world.

Economic times are tough, and the majority of families need to bring in two incomes in order to pay their mortgage. There are so many Americans that are necessity. Obviously a family where both parents work full time makes it difficult (but not impossible!) to partcipate in a Suzuki program.

Although it seems like Suzuki is very popular, I believe that many people who report that they are "Suzuki students" have actually just been using the books, and are learning the violin in a more traditional method. I base this on the fact that almost every transfer student I receive that has played pieces in the books is under the impression that they are a Suzuki student, despite the fact that most have never worked with a parent, didn't have group class, don't play by ear, etc.

Some of the most amazing families I have ever had the pleasure of working with had both parents working full time, or were single parent households. Somehow, they made it work. I'm certainly not saying that *anyone* can do it if they really want to. The Suzuki method is clearly not for everyone.

However, every child does deserve the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, regardless of parental involvement. They just can't do it when they're three! This is why there are other programs in place to teach those children, and those programs need to be expanded upon.

January 5, 2006 at 03:56 AM · Hey everyone.

Thanks for the detailed answers, i didnt really expect that response. Well, after reading what everyone said, i'm kind of amazed. I never learnt by suzuki method, but my parents were an active - actually too active - part of my music life. From the age of 6 they were at almost every lesson - until i went to uni last year. i was grantful for the fact that i could finally just have music for me, and not them. I know and realise that you guys think that it is great have parental involvement, but my experience with it has started to make me resent the violin. I am a violinist, i love practicing - when i am not constantly hounded and pushed by my parents to practice. I think that music is for everyone but not everyone is for music (hmm, hope that made sense.) Well, ill try and explain what i mean. Some people are just not meant for music, their mindset is more business like, or workforce or even sports. I have very strict and controlling parents, and they believe that i am "rebelling or being cheeky towards them." But really, i am very thankful for what they have given me, all the opportunities but there is a point in a music life, in my music life i should say when they need to back away. So with everything you guys have said, i would like to look into the Suzuki method, but for me parental involvement is not the key for a child to succeed at music. I know this disagrees with alot of your point of views, but i only know what i know and have been brought up around. Thanks for the interesting read. Have a great 2006 everyone.

January 5, 2006 at 05:36 AM · Sometimes it's useful to look at sheer facts. One rather strict Suzuki teacher, Helge Thelen, currently working in Australia, had a class with the following students: Arabella Steinbacher (prize winner of several competitions, record award for Milhaud Violin concertos, Julia Fischer, Lena Neudauer (winner of the Leopold Mozart competition), Katja Lämmermann (prize winner of several competitions) plus a couple of concert masters and more. This was end of the 80ties.

I cannot recall any other class of 4 to 8 years old violin kids with a similar turnout. So why would one think there is a better way teaching children music on the violin than Suzuki?

Therefore no wonder the method is spreading.


January 5, 2006 at 06:19 AM · Logically that doesn't say anything about Suzuki, because naturally there are as many or more Suzuki examples to the contrary. Hypothetically, for instance, she might have been only teacher available, was a good teacher or lucked into good students, and happened to use Suzuki. Somebody does win the lottery, you know.

As for why it's popular in the U.S., I can say that it had the news media's attention full time when it began here. So it was very hip to have little Johnny or Jenny "in Suzuki." Among people who don't know anything about music, the largest pool of parents of potential students, they do know that name and it sounds like quality to them and in that context if they decide they want "serious" violin lessons for their child there's a good chance they'll seek out Suzuki. There's also the element of starting very young, which sounds like a head start, and Suzuki is the obvious way. Also, a lot of teachers capitalized on the craze by becoming Suzuki teachers.

January 5, 2006 at 06:10 AM · Helge Thelen is a "he". So, show me a teacher anywhere with a class of 30 little students with such turnout. Logically you are right, the only thing it proves: Suzuki does not prevent you from successful teaching. But the odds that Suzuki supports successful teaching are pretty high, aren't they?

BTW I have been sitting in many lessons of this teacher, I've also organized concerts and tours with all of the mentioned violinists, so it's not just statistics in favor of this method, it's a very personal experience.


January 5, 2006 at 06:40 AM · Sorry, Mr. Helge :) Maybe he is a phenomenon, who knows. It's probably likely. It doesn't say anything about Suzuki. I'm not going to locate a Suzuki teacher with commensurately crappy results in order to prove it doesn't :)

But I'll say again, it's not popular here because it's good or bad. It's popular here because it's a recognizable name with attractive associations, to parents who wouldn't know Ludwig van Beethoven from Emperor Hirohito. This isn't a comment on the pedagogical nuts and bolts of Suzuki, which I know very little about.

January 5, 2006 at 06:55 AM · I still don't get why suzuki students have the steriotype of being poor sight readers. If the proper method is implemented (especially the group lessons) the students should be forced to sight read and eventually learn. I mean, I did. (Yes I can read ~_~) My teacher also would make me play the piece from the book without playing it first (I'd listen to it before hand, but how many of you could take dictation of an entire piece, memorize it, and play it without the assistance of the sheet music when you were first starting out?)

I have to confess my weakness in intonatin and technical aspects as a Suzuki student, but...the large number of baroque pieces means that I was forced right away to work on the grace of my bowing (I still lack bow control, but you HAVE to develop it or the handel sonatas get you) and the dexterity of my fingers. Trills were popping up all the time so I learned those very well (I can trill to my satisfaction, I can't say the same of the rest of my techniques). In contrast, I didn't develop riccochet, false harmonics, sautille, and more modern developments in technique until later.

The repetoire is organized well. You just KNOW that the chorus in book two is meant to be for vibrato practice. Every piece has a technique you're meant to learn and since pieces are performed often, you work the same piece over and over until you can play it smoothly and well, and therefore you master all the techniques necessary to play the piece.

Suzuki is also attractive. I mean seriously, what would you have done if, within the first few weeks as a student your teacher introduced shradiek? You're this little 3 year old or 5 year old or 8 year old or 14 year old...and the teacher goes. I want you to do this every day. 01234321012343210101010201010103010101040101010320201010202030301010202030301010242414142424343424241414...aside from carpal tunnel, you'd develop a SERIOUS hatred of the violin. At least, I know I would have...

Suzuki's not exclusive, it's pretty much implied that you're supposed to be doing scales and double stops and shifting exercies and sight reading exercies and other pieces and other such when you're a Suzuki student. It's not like you are allowed to ONLY DO SUZUKI AND NOTHING ELSE, most good teachers throw in a scale book and some double stops. ~_~

January 5, 2006 at 07:10 AM · Strange, noone is mentioning the strongest point of Suzuki at all: They teach you the perfect posture and violin and bow handling for endurance, good health and easy! intonation. For this very purpose kids use "silent" violin boxes for a while to develop movements and posture without being disturbed by ugly scratching and nervous teachers and parents who do not have the patience to wait for proper tones.


January 5, 2006 at 10:22 PM · Hi,

Frank-Michael - I think Jim is right. The confusion is that you are talking about a good teacher who happens to use the Suzuki method. All the qualities you mention are the result of good teaching. I have seen a lot of the opposite cases as I mentioned above.

Jim's point is good - marketing is important, especially in the U.S., and Suzuki is a well marketed good.


January 5, 2006 at 05:14 PM · I think it's fair to say that there are good Suzuki teachers and bad ones. There are opposite extremes within the method as far as quality goes. But the really good Suzuki teachers are among the best in the world, known for producing top players. I'm sure marketing has something to do with it (you can buy the books and recordings in any music shop!), but it is also undeniable that a large number of top players have a Suzuki background. One or two students of a teacher go to Julliard, Curtis, etc...maybe that's a fluke. But dozens? Then that teacher is doing something right.

My point is that the teachers that START students who go very far in music are almost all Suzuki. I can think of a few exceptions, but not very many. (Obviously, I'm referring to the last 20-30 years or so.)

January 5, 2006 at 03:58 PM · Well said, excellent!


January 5, 2006 at 05:50 PM · After everything was normalized I don't know what you'd see. There are lots of Suzuki teachers here, and they are each at least geared up to handle lots of starters. It might be an interesting study to do seriously. It would take some really skilled data collection and analysis. Don't forget to define "going very far in music" in the study. Mark O'Connor probably records more than anyone, and he started at age 11 taking lessons from a girl just a couple years older (or facts close to that). Might have been Suzuki, but I doubt it :)

January 5, 2006 at 08:19 PM · Jan -- I'd *love* to take some Suzuki teacher training. Trouble is, it's expensive, and right now I can't take on enough students to make back my money. If I have few hundred bucks to spare and a couple of extra weeks off of work, I'd do the teacher training for fun. Anyone got a few hundred bucks and spare weeks to give me? ;) Suffice to say it's in the long-term plan. I enjoy teaching, I enjoy teaching beginners, and I like the "anyone can do it" philosophy of Suzuki.

One thing I've noticed about the various critics of the Suzuki method: if you see some students with good results, well, they must've lucked upon a rare good teacher who happens to use the Suzuki method. This is in contrast to their opinions of the "traditional" method -- where if you see some students with good results, it proves the worth of the method.

My experience with students of the "traditional" method is that they are certainly no less dependent upon the quality of their teacher. I keep quoting "traditional", also, because there are many methods -- and most aren't codified. Every teacher makes decisions on what books to use, what repetoire to string together in what order, what techniques to teach at what particular time. I can't see, therefore, that some students with good results prove "the traditional method." Rather, they only prove the worth of each of their individual teachers, because there really is no such thing as a standard traditional method.

In Suzuki, and especially if you do attend the Suzuki teacher training courses, there really is a much more standardized method. Even so, you can't get away from depending on the quality of the teacher. I'm very picky with intonation, for instance. I actually like to hear my students make music. Others are pickier about posture, or about note-reading, but they leave the intonation for another day, and they perhaps figure the phrasing will come with age and maturity.

I've seen very poor results in beginning students of more traditional methods. School orchestra could be torture for me, because the second violins never played and the first violins scratched out-of-tune. The bass players were the best players in the orchestra, because the orchestra teacher was primarily a very good bassist. He even used the Suzuki books, but he didn't use the Suzuki method. Most students didn't continue past high school -- they were obviously only playing to get the music credit for graduation. Their parents felt that renting an instrument for $5/month was plenty of parental involvement.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Suzuki method is primarily a method in which to start beginning students at a very young age. Dr. Suzuki recommended, for instance, that students begin reading notes around the time they begin Book 4 -- the Seitz student concerti and the Vivaldi A-minor. Most people would say that's awfully late, no? But Dr. Suzuki assumed that the student would be around 6 or 7 years old at that point. Most kids aren't any good at reading letters before that age, either. If you start a kid playing the violin at age 3, can you really expect the kid to learn to read music first?

Another benefit, and perhaps drawback, of the Suzuki method is the idea that talent isn't something that's innate, only given to a few lucky kids. "Talent" is just learned skills. If you hear a child playing a beautiful rendition of a Seitz concerto at the age of six, is that because the child is talented? Or is it because that child started playing at three, and has had lessons two or three times per week, and has had Mom and/or Dad encouraging them to practice and to play correctly and in-tune?

The reason I suggest it might be a drawback is that you'll get all kinds studying Suzuki. You'll get kids who have good ears and bad ears, and sure, they'll progress at different rates, but they'll both progress. The one with the good ear might cover two books per year. The one with the bad ear might cover one book in three years. If you listen to the first student, you'd think the method is worthwhile. If you listen to the second, you'd be unimpressed.

That's about enough for one post! :) Sorry to ramble on.

January 5, 2006 at 10:20 PM · What a great contribution, thanks! BTW, if the tuition fees are the issue, nobody can prevent you from using Suzukis methods and books and even telling the world you are doing it. You may teach yourself using all the tools around. As has been lined out (rightly so) having a formal type Suzuki certificate does not give any kind of guarantee for teaching quality. Just apply Suzuki's philosophy to yourself: Everyone willing to learn can teach this way! Another idea: contact some of the successful former Suzuki students and ask them to setup a foundation to support the training of Suzuki teachers.


January 5, 2006 at 10:31 PM · Hi,

Mariam - that is an excellent point and well said as FMF said. Question therefore - do you think that the good teaching is the result of the method or the individual using the method?

It is true that it is a good beginner method. I guess I come from a different perspective. I don't teach beginners but teenagers and older kids (mostly) at a Conservatory from Pre-College to end of Grad.

My other questions to you and FMF are then this: do you incorporate other material (scales, Sevcik and Études) along side the Suzuki stuff or do you advocate the pure method, wherein, if I understood well, the technique is supposed to be included in the process of learning the specific repertoire recommended by Suzuki.

Now, it has to be said that the approach does work. Many teachers seem to combine now Suzuki elements (and some pieces) with other material in derivatives of the method - Mimi Zweig and Rebecca Henry come to mind among more famous names, and seem to have quite some success doing that.

I look forward to your thoughts...


January 5, 2006 at 10:35 PM · Greetings,

>Strange, noone is mentioning the strongest point of Suzuki at all: They teach you the perfect posture and violin and bow handling for endurance, good health and easy! intonation.

Also true of other methods such as Adventure in Violin land by Shirley Givens. This is a question of teache rcompetency rather than the method in question.

I also know students of Suzuki himself who do have these attributes in any great measure,



January 5, 2006 at 10:49 PM · As you might know, I am not teaching myself, I am and have been just a very close and intense, almost professional observer of literally a hundred or so violin students of all ages. From failures and successes I have seen that the most promising approach seems to be NOT adding anything to the Suzuki repertoire. However, make sure, that the Suzuki method stays strictly limited to the first 2 - 4 years of a violinist's training. Actually I have not yet encountered a top level violinist who had been educated longer than that on Suzuki.


January 6, 2006 at 08:27 AM · The approach used by Shirley Givens is used in many other beginning violin methods and will surely build up a good understanding even in very young children as to tone production,intonation and good posture.Some teachers involved in the Suzuki movement tend not to look outside the Suzuki material aside from going to training courses.I would hazard a guess that the really successful Suzuki teachers are those that have attended courses on alternative methods or have at the very least researched them.I can think of several extremely good and popular courses such as Colourstrngs by the Silvay brothers,Sheila Nelson,Egon Sassmanshaus and a new but very precious find for me are the books by Mary Cohen.No one should ever get stuck in one groove the world is constantly changing as does the didactic material available.I personally would be exteremely bored teaching the same repetoire over and over again and I'm sure many Suzuki teachers must incorporate other pieces.Infact a teacher should also be in a constant learning situation forever trying new approaches after all teaching is an art as well as a scienze.

January 6, 2006 at 03:51 PM · Janet, for the most part I agree entirely!

As far as getting bored teaching the same pieces (especially in the beginning), my philosophy is that it is not about me, but about the student. This may be my 3,000th time teaching the Twinkle variations, but it will be this particular child's first time learning them. They are not bored unless I am. And I don't get bored because every child is so incredibly unique. It doesn't really occur to me that I am teaching the same pieces over and over again, because I don't really feel that I am! As a teacher, I see it as a benefit that I am gaining such a thorough understanding of how different children learn the same piece. It really keeps me on my toes to figure out what new and innovative way we are going to play Twinkle in group this week!

Having said that, my students do prepare a "by ear tune" every week which can be anything not in the Suzuki books. And I start branching out into other rep (Kreisler, etc.) around Book 5.

January 6, 2006 at 08:54 PM · I consider myself a "Suzuki" teacher. I have had some teacher training at institutes and my wife is a suzuki teacher (violin and cello) so I get advice from her all the time and she has had lots of teacher training.

We both supplement with lots of scales, some etudes and with lots of fiddle tunes and other music. I also teach all three movt. of the Bach double. other words we, as do most of the "Suzuki" teachers we know, use lots of other materials. We also change our teaching style and content quite a bit depending on the age and motivation of the student. I have used the Suzuki material for adults (as old as 70) with just as much success as the young kids.

Most of my motivated students have progressed to playing major concertos by the end of high school with one girl, now in her second year at college, getting ready (with her college teacher) to start the Tchaikovsky. She was exclusively Suzuki trained since age 3.

Yes, the method does work, it works great to start very young kids, it can take them to the big concertos but only if the teachers and students are motivated and work hard. It is no quick and easy trick to learn to play.

January 7, 2006 at 01:28 PM · I would be interested to know if the postures as displayed by the students in the web site for the American Suzuki Academy in Florida would be considered a good posture by the members of this board.I personally do not think it is a very good advertisement for the Suzuki movement and it was the first site that came up when i logged into 'violin teaching' on Google

January 7, 2006 at 05:40 PM · Hi,

Janet, I agree - those are not good examples of good posture. Look posture is a reflection of the teacher not the method, though some students are also to blame - you can't seem to set them up no matter what.


January 7, 2006 at 06:08 PM · Christian I agree wholeheartedly with you but I certainly would't post examples of those students on an internet site advocating my teaching method

January 9, 2006 at 02:45 PM · Hi,

Janet - What can I say... seeing is believing?


January 9, 2006 at 02:32 PM ·

January 9, 2006 at 08:23 PM · Makes it all the more surprising

January 10, 2006 at 07:55 PM · Are you folks seeing photos that I'm not finding? Sure, the 13-year-old boy at the top seems a bit overbalanced, but that's probably a function of motion while playing and a strange camera angle. Looking at that photo and the other home page photos too at the elements of the students' postures, the violin is held solidly at a decent angle, parallel to the floor; both hands are relaxed, the arms are relaxed; the left arm is pulled in far enough to allow access to higher positions, while the right shoulder is relaxed, the arm high enough for the string being played but not high enough to cause stiffness. Sure, one boy has some flying fingers going on, but what violinist doesn't from time to time?

If I'm looking at the same photos you are, I see a good foundation posture that won't cause injury over the long term. I guess I don't understand the "obvious" problem... please enlighten me?

January 10, 2006 at 10:13 PM · It would be unfair to the children to do a thorough criticism but there is an obvious problem with the bow holds.This is most clear in the second picture where the fingers are clearly too straight and stiff.It would be impossibile with that hold to do any kind of flexible bowing.The flying fingers are not only obvious on the picture of the boy.This is very surprising as Suzuki was insistent about keeping fingers down and had many little excercises where in order to place a third finger you should also place the first and second thus reinforcing the finger pattern as well as achieving a good hand shape.I only bring this up because of the constant insistance that Suzuki students are well set up.Infact as in every other method some students have little difficulty in aquiring a good bow hold and a fluent left hand and others are less well co-ordinated.I'm sure whoever taught those children is a dedicated teacher but the faults in the bow hold and left hand position are clear to see.

January 12, 2006 at 04:00 PM · I think you're finding some different pictures than I am? The 13-year-old boy at the top of the home page doesn't have a great bow-grip, true. (You'd be shocked at the ad-hoc bow grips of some awesome fiddlers. However, the best fiddlers have great bow arms and wrists). I know I went through plenty of stages where my pinky finger flew off the bow; it took years to get it down! However, the hand doesn't appear stiff, considering the angle of the arm and the place where he is on the bow -- you'd have to see a video of him in motion to really tell. It looks like he was taught the standard Suzuki bow hold, and is developing it into something he likes. Of course, he's playing Ziguenerweisen, so he doesn't really count as a beginner anymore.

The other photos really don't show much of a bow grip at all. Maybe bow grip is a weakness of that particular school. It doesn't appear that the blurry bow grips shown are Suzuki at all. At least they're basically relaxed.

I guess it depends on each person's priorities. For me, I look first and foremost for relaxation in the shoulders, arms and hands, the violin atop the shoulder at a good angle, and a supportive torso. If those things are in place, the kid probably won't have too many problems later on. Same with adults or advanced students.

There's a poster above that noted that his(?) bow use wasn't as good after learning with Suzuki; I agree, I'm definitely lacking in advanced bow technique -- probably because I was a stubborn kid and liked my Suzuki teacher, and had no idea why I should ever need another teacher (despite the fact that she suggested it to my mother). I studied with her for about ten years, going all the way through the Suzuki books (and adding in things like Accolay, Beethoven Romances, etc.).

Basically, if I'd known then what I know now, I would've started Suzuki and then, at about the Beethoven Romance in F, gone on to a teacher for more advanced students. Coulda-woulda-shoulda, eh? :) I still think my teacher was fabulous, and I certainly have a fantastic grounding in basic technique. I just never knew what Sautille was.

January 14, 2006 at 11:12 PM · I consider myself a Suzuki teacher, but only because that's what has worked for me in my own studio. However, I do incorporate some aspects of traditional method in my teaching as well because they also work for me. The few aspects of Suzuki that I dislike I do not use in my teaching. Whatever method you choose, it needs to be what you honestly believe in and can implement successfully. But if you're a bad teacher, your students will play badly and if you're a good teacher, most of your students will have success. Everything is dependent on the quality of the teacher. Most of us are probably somewhere in between, but unfortunately, there are a lot of bad teachers out there. That's really the issue.


January 15, 2006 at 01:03 AM · i actually had a conversation with my teacher about this recently. suzuki seems like the perfect tool for younger violinists. it accelerates well and builds foundations for the children that will be vital as they grow out of suzuki.

when you're younger, the songs are just plain fun. book one: twinkle twinkle little star. everyone loves that song! you can play it for family gatherings and all will enjoy it! by the end of the book, you are starting to get into some of the more serious repetoire, including a slightly watered down minuet in G by bach.

suzuki claimed that his books do not require any sort of accompanying etude/bowing technique stuff. in my experience, and in the opinion of my teacher as well, this is true up to about book 4. by this time, the student should know how to read. furthermore, the student should be starting some more basic studies.

book 8 ends with vercini's e minor sonata, a rather pretty piece. book 9 starts off with mozart 5. clearly, there are some steps missing. my teacher and i "built" up to the mozarts with the accolay and haydn G concertos. also, about this time, i was starting kreutzer and perhaps double-stop exercises.

among the long-term benefits of the suzuki method: memorization, ease of knowing how to start a new piece, early introduction to listening to CDs, and so forth. one criticism of suzuki is that most of the repetoire is in the baroque style. this will make it tough at first to learn romantic violin concerti, but you catch on.

it's interesting to see that, as we watch the first generation of suzuki kids join the great symphonies, how they compare to the other professionals who used some of the other methods, such as the applebaum method. these professionals are doing rather well. let's face it: suzuki is here to stay.

March 1, 2006 at 03:30 PM · this conversation died about a month or two ago...but I still have one big question.

Suzuki teaches you to play songs over and over until you memorize them. It scares me to see little kids half my age (I'm 19) get up and play really hard music that I've tackled before and couldn't play. I mean, yeah, it does make you look first.

Then someone puts a new set of music in front of that same kid, say, a musical, and they freak out because it's hard for them to read new music.

Whereas, I, having left the orchestra in sixth grade and reentering in seventh, was able to adapt in a couple of months to the difficult repertoire. Never had Suzuki...except for like three songs, but that was later...

Pretty soon I was a first violin, and the following year I was principle of the seconds (second best in the orchestra). Somehow having to adapt to more difficult music made me excel at a faster pace than the other students.

Today, if you were to put a whole musical in front of me, I would be able to sightread it right away. But my friends who learned the Suzuki method just sit there and freak out, trying to figure out how it goes.

Sorry if I'm bragging...I'm only trying to use personal experience as a backup for my argument!

March 1, 2006 at 05:37 PM · May be we got a little misunderstanding here: The Suzuki method is not at all about playing the memorized way. You will find - even in some institutions for the mentally ill - plenty of people who can memorize the notes, the rythm etc. But there are plenty of music playing people around (I hesitate calling them musicians) who have - after all the "successful" memorizing - no idea what music they are playing.

We are running into a problem the English language has got here: In most other languages you would never call a sheet of paper with written or printed notes on it "music". So in these other languages you may play music without "sheets with notes" or with. And you may play some non-music or poor music without the "sheets with notes" or with. In any case: having - English now - the music in front of you or memorized does not say a thing if you have really memorized the music or "the music".

Sound confusing, doesn't it?

Anyhow: Suzuki method is about making music you have got inside yourself and which wants to get out. How you get this music inside you, doesn't matter. Just the experience shows many, many times that sight reading is about the most secure way reproducing what your read and not what music you HEAR inside yourself. For the average gifted child it is very hard to cope with sight reading and still having music flowing through its soul and mind. Therefore: One plays what one hears inside, that's Suzuki.

My wild guess is that during the transition from the pure Japanese Suzuki method to a wider Anglo-Saxon one this important difference got lost in translation with too many Suzuki teachers.

Therefore the confusion.


March 1, 2006 at 07:55 PM · "One plays what one hears inside, that's Suzuki."

So what you're saying is my jazz improvving is Suzuki?

March 1, 2006 at 08:26 PM · Heh, heh! Nice one Rob!

March 1, 2006 at 08:30 PM · Certainly, if you call your inner ability to "refeel" and "reinvent" the music "Jazz" then that's it! Even pure Jazzers are not always (not even most of the time) genuine in their inventions. And they certainly to do not care whether their inventions come from "sheet music" or from what they had heard somewhen in the past.


March 1, 2006 at 09:00 PM · So then the entire concept behind Suzuki is to be able to play what you feel, which is something I've learned through being a jazz violinist?

Correct me if I'm wrong...sometimes I wonder if everyone agrees with me just to make me feel good...which it doesn' just confuses me more...

And so that means that Suzuki does teach you to play by ear...but it doesn't prove that it teaches you to play by sight...

March 1, 2006 at 09:14 PM · "And so that means that Suzuki does teach you to play by ear...but it doesn't prove that it teaches you to play by sight..."

If you look at previous comments on this thread and also search the archives, you'll find that there has been a lot of discussion about teacher vs. method...I believe that the consensus was that a method is only as good as the teacher.

There is a huge variety of approaches to music reading, etc. amongst the Suzuki community. I will share the way in which I teach it (as I learned from Ronda Cole), as well as many other teachers in the DC area...

At the very first lesson, the student learns to sing an A. I draw an A on the staff onto a notecard. In later lessons, they learn to sing E, F# , etc., and receive notecards for all of these notes. They learn to ID them by singing and playing them on the violin. So at this point, they are reading music, but they aren't actually playing from printed music that is on the stand.

This progresses throughout Book 1- every time we learn a new note, they receive a new card. When they start Book 2 (average age is 6 or 7), they are able to read well enough to play a Wolfheart (sorry, I always spell it wrong!) etude every week. They also begin 2 octave scales and arpeggios, which they initially read from the music, but subsequently memorize. In addition, they begin the Starer Rhythmic Training in Book 2, which involves conducting, marching, and lots of eurhythmic type activities.

The students that are taught from the very beginning in this way have very little problems reading. But most importantly, they are not just "reading", but are also playing from their inner ear.

March 1, 2006 at 09:38 PM · I just wish I knew how to teach this ability to equate the notes on the page with an "audible" (to the mind, not the ear) tune that would be played by ear...that probably made no sense...but it seems like being able to "hear" music as I see it helps me to sightread. I have found, when helping my mom learn to sing a new song for church, that 99% of the time she asks me to sing it, and I don't have a violin handy, I can accurately guess the tune and guide her through it.

March 8, 2006 at 05:14 AM · I am just so tired of the Suzuki students can't read argument. Many students can't sight-read--Suzuki or not. And some can. I have two arguments here--one, when do you really have to sightread? Couldn't you have gotten the music ahead of time? And if not, seriously, what are we making the kids do? My other argument is that it's not true--I taught myself how to read music based on my Suzuki training--putting together two and two together on what I was hearing and how it looked on the page (My mother claims I did some reading training, but I have no recollection of this--I merely recall "sightreading" the rest of the songs in Book 1 around the level of Perpetual Motion) and I can sightread better than most people I know. My sister, also a former suzuki violinist, sightreads almost as well as I do (or better sometimes). Are we talking about the sightreading ability of professionals who grew up in the Suzuki philosophy, or are we discussing third-graders who can't sightread something that they should have had in advance to practice anyway? Does sightreading skill matter when someone doesn't have the skills to play it well without practice?

Also--just for the record--Suzuki's philosophy was originally to help children become better people, not violinists. I try to make sure in my teaching, that even if it's someone who will never be a good violinist, that they are having a good time and learning something, and getting a positive impressive of the violinist, and classical music in general. I'd love to have only super-serious talented musicians, but until then I'll settle for a bunch of great kids who somewhat enjoy playing the violin, love lessons, occasionally practice, and hopefully will be better human beings when they're done with it. And I don't teach Suzuki.

March 8, 2006 at 04:55 PM · Brava, Hannah.

Yeah, there do seem to be some strange misconceptions about the method. I have to laugh when people say that learning by ear first means that you won't be able to read music. So,(to use Suzuki's own argument)did learning your native language "by ear" keep you from learning to read? Now, I'll grant that it may have kept some of you from learning how to write...

The deal is that you're supposed to use this method with LITTLE kids and then teach them to read AFTER they have some expertise and knowledge of what violin (or flute or piano) music should sound like. By the way, Suzuki teachers also do a great job of systematically organizing and using the home environment to help the child learn violin, thanks to the emphasis that Suzuki put on the involvement of the family in creating a musical environment for the child.

So it really doesn't seem like rocket science to me, just developmentally appropriate "best practice" which can be used as a medium to convey any specific type of technique you choose to teach.



March 8, 2006 at 07:59 PM · "when do you really have to sightread? Couldn't you have gotten the music ahead of time?"

I have to sightread all the time, being a member of my church music group. Every week we get some new song the congregation gets to learn and we have to learn it and teach it to them. Usually I see my music the night before or the morning of the mass...and this happens yeah, sightreading is a major issue if you play at church.

It's also an issue for any musicians we invite to join us (they never look at the music in advance, even though we give it to them a month early)

March 9, 2006 at 08:46 PM · So really what you're saying, Rob, is that you don't really need to sightread, as you have the music at least a day in advance (and sometimes as much as a month). You could instead stay up all night and memorize all the songs you'll need for Mass the following day, so that you don't need to use the music at all...

March 10, 2006 at 03:16 AM · I think that's definitely the point--you don't choose to practice ahead of time, but you could. I rarely prepare in advance for work, but I usually get sent music 2 to 3 weeks in advance so that I could. Most of the time, though, it's hardly sightreading because I've already heard the pieces before, whether or not I've actually played them.

March 16, 2006 at 08:34 PM · I will agree (sorry...I kind of lost touch with for about a week there...) that I COULD stay up for hours on end and practice the music, but with the sightreading skills I've developed, I sound better to sightread it the next morning than to play the next morning while sleeping because I stay up too late...sleep is one of those things I don't get enough of...and it's not because I'm up late practicing...I lead a very busy life.

I will also agree that most of the church music I play is recycled from previous masses...I'm getting VERY good at Marty Haugen's Mass of Creation...that's all we ever do anymore...

However, we got a new music director at my church...and she likes to introduce new songs to us about half an hour before!

As far as where my time is could say I spend way too much time preparing music for the other musicians...I've been put in charge of arranging the music for any instruments we invite to play...the only exception is my brother takes care of anything for horn or trumpet, since he plays those instruments. About once a month we invite two eighth grade girls to play fiddle with the group, and that means I get to use the piano, vocal, and guitar music to arrange a second instrumental part (the girls still double each other). Yeah, my music arranging job is fun, but it takes a lot of time...on top of college, work, giving lessons, teaching, jazz band, and the puppet could call me slightly busy.

(You wonder where I find time to use this site so much? At work, I install Windows on computers, and there's a little downtime between button pressing. Not a good time to practice violin...)

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