Shinichi Suzuki

Edited: April 23, 2020, 10:15 PM · Hello everyone,

Now I am pretty sure most of us are aware of the Suzuki method for children which is very popular, but I was wondering about some things on the man himself, Shinichi Suzuki.

Was he a great violin player? Are there any recordings of him playing well known classical music like Tchaikovsky or Bach? Or was he more towards playing more "children" music (By no means any disrespect) and teaching children?

I'm aware that he started playing the violin at around when he was 18, but did he ever become like a almost "professional performer"? It seems very intriguing that we know a lot about the method, but not so much about the man himself

Any thoughts?

Thank You

Replies (65)

Edited: April 24, 2020, 5:16 AM · The Suzuki method isn't just for children -- it works excellently for students of all ages.

Do a web-search for "Shinichi Suzuki biography" and you will learn a lot about the man. A friend of mine got into teaching the Suzuki Method and attended conferences where Suzuki himself attended and got to meet him. He was apparently a very special person with a lot of charm and charisma and a lot of love both for the music, the instrument and for the students and teachers. Listening to her describe her meeting with him makes me wish I had met him.

Edited: April 24, 2020, 8:02 AM · Comparing Suzuki to cult leaders (Jim Jones or David Koresh, for example), is in poor taste. Suzuki believed in his approach. As far as I know he didn't take children for wives and he didn't lead people to their deaths.

Say what you want about Suzuki -- that he wasn't a "real doctor" or he wasn't a great violinist, or that he claimed authorship of German beer-drinking songs. But his method has done more to "raise the bar" both in terms of the number of kids involved in music AND their general level of skill at early ages than anything else in the history of violin playing.

Edited: April 24, 2020, 8:04 AM · Thank you, Paul.

As someone whose life was changed by Shinichi Suzuki’s approach to teaching children, I cringe when another round of Suzuki - bashing threatens.

I don’t believe he was a great violinist and I also don’t believe he ever claimed to be one. He was a humanitarian and a great educator.

Many professional and amateur violinists of my generation and younger got their start in a Suzuki class. I can think of several in my orchestra alone, including me. Among well-known soloists, Hilary Hahn is a notable example.

Edited: April 24, 2020, 10:34 AM · Gordon, words have connotations outside of their definition when used as jargon. Perhaps you should try meditating on the difference between conversational meanings and technical meanings?

Suzuki made the first recording of the suzuki books himself - they're quite competent. No idea how he was with harder repertoire. From all accounts he was a lovely man, and sincerely interested in making the world a better place and making music learning available to all children, not just those who seemed "talented".

April 24, 2020, 12:09 PM · Gordon,

I suspect you are well aware of the inflammatory nature of your language, and are now arguing semantics to cover. I'm a chemist, like Paul, and I'd say that the accepted, colloquial use of a word is what matters, not the technical one.

I didn't use the Suzuki method as a kid, and I don't now that I've returned to the instrument, but the affinity people feel seems to be for the method, and its profound impact on string music education. Suzuki's whole goal was not creating concert-level soloists. It was to teach kids an accessible instrument, in a unique methodology, to create beauty in their lives. The context of post WWII Japan makes total sense.

Andrew Bird, who is a great example of musical career outside of classical music, did a nice interview for the Suzuki program (he was a Suzuki kid), and talks about how it instilled his sense of playing by ear and improvisation.

You don't have to like the Suzuki method, but don't be coy with your choice of words.

April 24, 2020, 12:58 PM · Gordon, could you go into more detail about why you dislike Suzuki?
Edited: April 24, 2020, 1:57 PM · I don't dislike Suzuki. I'm not using cult in a bad sense.
What I didn't make clear was that I don't think Suzuki set out to be a cult leader: I think that some people's attitude resembles that of cult members.
I underestimated the amount of conditioning other people have undergone by their media as a result of Koresh and others.
The media insist all cults are bad. Psychiatrists recognise some cults as good and some cults as bad.
Jesus founded a cult, which became a religion upon official acceptance. AA uses Christian cultic methods to achieve good ends.
April 24, 2020, 1:32 PM · A friend of mine who went to the Paris Conservatory was a student of Suzuki when he was a child and young adult in Matsumoto. I just asked him the op's question.

He said that Suzuki was a very musical violinist but not an excellent technician. He says that he has a recording of Franck and remembers a rec ording of Mozart. He also says that the brothers had a quartet, but did not concertise professionally. He also said that he does not know of any large concertos that he recorded.

April 24, 2020, 3:05 PM · As part of Suzuki's stated inspiration for defining a new approach to teaching violin playing was his own frustration with learning violin at a later age and contrasting that with the ease with which every child learns their own language, which went so far as to use 'mother-tongue' as part of the name of the method at one time, we can suppose that he wasn't satisfied with his own learning on the violin, and need not get hung up on how great a player he was in considering the value of the approach he promoted.
April 24, 2020, 3:15 PM · I think Suzuki was a competent violinist playing at a professional level, but he was certainly not a soloist-class virtuoso, and never claimed to be. Suzuki's recording of the Franck is available on YouTube, and is certainly an artifact of his time, and neither the pianist or violinist are perfect: LINK. By contemporary standards, to judge from that recording, he plays at a decent standard for a music educator but he probably wouldn't be winning a full-time orchestra position; the technical standard of Suzuki's time for performers was nowhere near as high, though.

His career as a violinist was entirely disrupted by World War II, and he seems to have been affected emotionally by the war in a profound way. We're probably lucky, since he turned out be an exceptionally gifted educator. Not only does he seem to have had a personal way with children (which you can see from numerous videos of the man teaching), but he also successfully influenced others to re-think how and why music is taught.

As a teacher, I think he passed on his own German-style technique to his own students, but the Suzuki Method is non-prescriptive as to a physical approach to the violin. Different teacher trainers have different opinions about the best physical approaches for beginners (for instance, there are some that believe that the German-style low elbow is easier to avoid the syndrome of beginners doing "chicken wing" bowing from the shoulder) but teachers trained in the Suzuki method will generally bring whatever technical approach they use themselves.

We actually know quite a lot about the man himself, given that he lived in modern times. He wrote a book that contains a partial autobiography, his wife wrote a book about him, numerous people who studied with him have written books about the experience, and there's still active lore in the Suzuki community from the teachers who trained with him. There are documentary films. You can find masterclass videos of his teaching on YouTube. If you want to go hunting for information, there's no lack of it.

April 24, 2020, 6:30 PM · You can hear him playing a Bach Gavotte on the first CD of The Recorded Violin Vol 2. I am afraid that this recording doesn't really suggest that he was a great concert artist, though he never claimed to be one. (I have nothing but respect for the man as a teacher and great human being, but, well, let's just say this CD doesn't exactly do him a favor by placing him alongside the likes of Vasa Prihoda and Nathan Milstein.)
April 25, 2020, 12:21 AM ·

How would he have the time to develop the "Suzuki Method" if he was a professional performer...…?

April 25, 2020, 9:47 AM · My violin teacher, Jane Harbour, was at the Suzuki School in Japan for several years during which, in her later years, Shinichi Suzuki was her personal tutor for 6 months.

The School then had (perhaps still has) a tradition of a Monday morning concert given by pupils to an assembly of teachers and other pupils for the edification of both parties and the training of the player in performance on stage.

Here is an anecdote:
Suzuki had been working one week with Jane on the first movement of one of the Bach concertos (the A minor?) and last thing on the Friday told her that she would be performing that movement, from memory, in three days time in the Monday concert. Monday came and Jane was on stage performing the Bach, with Suzuki standing next to her and observing her closely as she played. She told me many years later that if you can survive that you can survive anything on stage! On returning to England Jane didn't go down the classical route but preferred to concentrate on folk music, mostly British, setting up her own successful 4-piece band Spiro.

Suzuki's violin teacher in Germany was Karl Klingler, a star pupil of Joachim; hence a foundation of 19th century Germanic violin technique which has probably filtered down to me via Shinichi Suzuki and Jane Harbour. Joachim was also the first President of Bristol Music Club (in England), of which I am happy to be a member.

Edited: April 25, 2020, 11:15 AM · Now that the dust has settled a little on this thread, I will mention that I have met a lot of "Suzuki teachers" because my kids' teachers have used Suzuki books and some of the methods, and they have attended various Suzuki camps where we have met a lot of teachers -- all of them wonderful people, with zero exceptions. I have noticed a wide range of "reverence" for Dr. Suzuki. On the "very reverential" end of the spectrum are teachers who, when asked a question about violin playing or practicing, are likely to start their response with, "Dr. Suzuki would say ..." followed by a statement paraphrased from Suzuki himself. There are also teachers who expect parents to undertake some training in the Suzuki philosophy (usually minimal to trivial, like reading a short book).

But that's about as reverential as I've seen, and I've observed this kind of thing in a very small fraction of Suzuki teachers, maybe 10%. It seems pretty benign to me. In the Suzuki camps, the most reverential Suzuki teachers interact with the other teachers with seamless collegiality. There aren't any strata or castes that I can detect. Maybe all of this "reverence" was more intense while Suzuki was still alive and training teachers himself -- about this I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to make an opinion, but it has been 20 years since his death.

Earlier in this thread I made the opinion that Suzuki has done more to raise the level of engagement and quality in violin pedagogy than anyone else in the history of violin playing, and I stand by that.

Does Suzuki deserve to be called "Doctor?" His doctorates are all honoris causa. Meanwhile I have a PhD. And yet, my lifetime scholarly impact is nowhere near Suzuki's and it never will be. Maybe I'm the one who shouldn't be called "Doctor."

Does Suzuki deserve reverence? Does King? Ghandi? Washington? People quote them all the time too. I'll tell you what: I wish we could take the Nobel Peace Prizes back from Yasser Arafat and Aung San Suu Kyi and give them to Suzuki and Ghandi.

Edited: April 25, 2020, 12:31 PM · I think it’s possible that the “Dr. Suzuki” comes at least in part as a direct translation from the Japanese “Suzuki-Sensei.” Teachers in Japan at any level are treated with much more respect than is typical here in the US, and are addressed with the honorific “Sensei” which literally translates to “teacher” but which conveys the level of respect that in the US is more specifically attached to “Dr.”

Editing to add that my grandfather, a college president in Michigan and Indiana in the 1920s - 1940s, was always addressed as “Dr. Spencer” despite his highest earned degree being a masters from the Sorbonne. He did hold at least one honorary doctorate. Perhaps this was more the practice in that earlier era.

April 25, 2020, 1:19 PM · My grandfather was a mid-century Suzuki teacher in Tokyo. My take on it is that Suzuki’s motivation was similar to that of El Sistema- to raise cultured citizens. IMHO, a very noble liberal education, even Jeffersonian ideal. To even think his goal was to be compared to the traditional pedagogues, Galamian, Flesch, Auer, Delay, or even Fischer today, totally misses the point.
April 25, 2020, 1:42 PM · My grandfather had an Italian gardener who addressed him as ‘Doctor.’ A sign of respect.

His son, who later became our gardener, was growing up American at that time and just figured his dad worked for a lot of doctors. So he enjoyed calling my parents that— as they both had MDs.

Practice varies in Europe. There are very few endowed professorships in UK universities, so faculty get called ‘Dr’ quite normally. On the continent, I believe that Austrians in particular will make sure everyone uses their most senior academic title, even if it is honorary. Perhaps especially then.

April 25, 2020, 2:03 PM · Jeewon, your point on Ghandi is well taken. Still a better choice than Arafat. :)
Edited: April 25, 2020, 7:54 PM · Jeewon, I don't know if you meant to post other links, but those don't even mention Gandhi. I don't think you lay blame for domestic violence at the foot of someone who died 80 years ago, unless you are trying to illustrate some kind of butterfly effect. He had his issues in terms of his family life, and he had prejudiced views towards the South Africans around him in his early life (which he seemed to reckon with), but I'm not sure how those would relate to the work he did for his fellow Indians and to-be Pakistanis. I mean, if we apply the standard that a Nobel Peace Prize winner has to have delivered permanent world peace, then I guess there are no winners.

I do think it's good to be able to see the darkness in our heroes, lest we gloss over their humanity and make them seem remote and make doing good in the world seem unattainable.

I mean, MLK cheated on his wife, and racism is alive and well, but that doesn't cheapen his work and accomplishments. Even the conservative movement in the US has been doing its best to whitewash him and rebrand him as a conservative figure, instead of someone that was clearly, in his own words, and unequivically, calling for socialism. The world is strange and propaganda is everywhere.

April 25, 2020, 9:24 PM · My intention wasn't to divert a thread about Suzuki into a discussion about the pros and cons of Ghandi. My apologies to the OP.
Edited: April 25, 2020, 9:37 PM · I would have to see more about whether his liberation movement had anti-women tenets. I know he had bizarre and abusive ideas and practices, specifically when it came towards sexuality, women and his family, but his salt march and clothes boycott very much empowered women economically, and I could very well be wrong, but I don't know of him coming out against women's rights or anything connected with his political organizing. It's unfortunate that his "canonization" means that a lot of his abhorrent personal views are put on display and might be used to push a lot of bad views, practices and laws, but I'm comfortable separating his personal views (even if they did spill over into the public) from the very public work and sacrifices.
April 25, 2020, 9:36 PM · Jeewon, no doubt Gandhi did some really odd things. I don't think that detracts from his accomplishments but that's debatable. However I find it hard to believe that this proponent of nonviolence advocated fathers killing their daughters. Is there a legitimate source for this claim?
April 25, 2020, 10:06 PM · To India's credit, they did have a female head of state, Indira Gandhi, (no relation to the Mahatma) for sixteen years (starting in 1966). That's something that in 2020, the US, Japan, and Mexico cannot claim. But the center left Congress Party of Nehru and Gandhi has been diminished in terms of influence over the years. Indira Gandhi's daughter in law, the Italian born Sonia Gandhi, is currently the President of the Congress Party (I believe she could have been Prime Minister if she had wanted the job).

Indira of course knew Mahatma Gandhi although I'm not too familiar with their relationship. It would be interesting to explore.

April 26, 2020, 1:44 AM · My daughter went through the Suzuki Books up to Book 6, I think. Her teachers basically used them as repertoire books and the only problem we had was that by the end of Book 5, she decided she had enough of Bach. She still isn't too crazy about Bach and perks up every time she gets a new piece that is not Bach.

We have some dedicated Suzuki teachers in town but it doesn't really affect us in any way. It's one of those things, you know, you can leave it if doesn't work for you.

April 26, 2020, 5:31 AM · A note has to be well prepared and played whether it is part of a scale or a piece of music. And my beginners never sounded "dreadful"!

Suzuki had the simple but apparently shocking idea of beginning with what small children can do: short, swinging strokes, and visual clues for the left fingers...and learning by ear!

Open strings? Of course, so they can follow the left hand which must "lead the dance", even for poor right-handed folk!

Edited: April 26, 2020, 6:02 AM · Playing an open string musically is an essential skill. I think I saw a Tchaikovsky Romance or something recently which had a long low G in it. Screw that up at your peril.

My musical diet is mostly Bach and Corelli at the moment.
What better to teach fast détaché (the double concerto)? And they also contain great lyrical passages. And my teacher likes the use of open strings in baroque music.
I wouldn't like to spend a year playing just open strings, though (don't they die of boredom?). Part of the musicality involves playing them to homogenise with the rest of the music - i.e good control of dynamics and tone, and good intonation of the stopped notes.

Edited: April 26, 2020, 8:13 AM · “However, I don’t think people should play music before developing technical ability via scales and etudes.”

Why not? Is there really that much difference between beginner violin music and beginner scales and etudes anyway? Perpetual Motion, for example, is barely dressed up scales. Not to mention that motivation in the early stages of learning an instrument can make or break a student’s success.

In addition to developing technical skill, it is also necessary to learn how to make music. One does this by....making music.

“Beginners sound absolutely dreadful when they play anything.”

You have to recalibrate your standards and expectations when working with a beginning violinist. Do they sound like Perlman, of course not, but a properly taught beginner sounds good in the context of beginners.

Edited: April 26, 2020, 8:22 AM · Open strings? Sounds like a great idea. Maybe that's why a significant fraction of the notes in the first piece in Suzuki Book 1 are open strings.

Scale studies? Another great idea. Twinkle is a scale study. The only non-scale interval in Twinkle is a perfect fifth played on open strings (see previous comment).

Want to know what happens to students who only get scales and studies to do until they're intermediate players? They quit before they become intermediate players. Or, if they're old enough to participate in, they come on here, tell us how depressed they are, and ask us how they can get their teachers to assign them something else. Didn't that happen just a couple of weeks ago?

Edited: April 26, 2020, 12:01 PM · If you happen upon the Leopold Auer method books (and they are currently in print and available), you will see that the entire first book is on open strings. I think that students should be encouraged to think about any note they play as music, even something dry like Schradieck - Of course, there are limits to the time anyone should spend on something like that.

Jeewon, I don't want to default to a "man of his time" argument, but I think if you look at the conditions of women in India at the time of Gandhi, the things he was specifically fighting for in terms of expanding women's rights and fighting against a very patriarchal system are things which we now take very much for granted. I can't access the website that you posted, but if you look at his comments and ideas here, you'll find a mix of views that look at times completely egalitarian, at times like an idealized puritanical view, and at times like victim blaming. I'm not sure, with the abject poverty in India, that a true woman-led feminist movement was really possible in his time. It looks to me like on-balance, his contribution to furthering the status of women in his society was decidedly positive, and I still think it's a bit pat to hold him to contemporary standards, but I see where you're coming from and I'm fully settled on his legacy myself.

And Jeewon, if you're up for more rabbit holes, here's an interesting article about Gandhi meeting with feminist and contraception advocate Margaret Sanger, who has (perhaps unfairly) been maligned by the anti-woman right as being a racist and eugenicist, and after, there's an interesting article that argues that that particular framing of her legacy is a propagandist smear, and that it takes her completely out of context. Some of her words don't look great in our modern context, but between her and Gandhi, he looks obtuse and she looks prescient on the subject of birth control - People rarely leave uncomplicated legacies, huh?

Edited: April 26, 2020, 2:19 PM · Remember, Suzuki method was developed for young children. Imagine telling 3 year old preschoolers that they have to learn scales and etudes before they can play Twinkle Twinkle? The counter argument will be, kids that young do not need to be playing violin but I think that decision should be left up to each child, family, and teacher.

My daughter was 3 when she started so she couldn't read notes until she got to Minute #1; until then, she played by ear. She still can play back anything she hears and it is a useful skill to have especially during lessons because her (non-Suzuki) teacher demonstrates things for her and expects her to play it back on the spot by ear.

My little one discovered Bartok duets on Doflein books as a 4 year old and she still really loves his work. I think the most important thing a teacher can do is to focus on each student's needs and foster the love of music and learning. Everything else is really a distraction.

April 26, 2020, 5:41 PM · Maybe now we know why the Suzuki approach got millions of kids playing the violin and the Auer method didn't.
April 26, 2020, 7:18 PM · they have to learn scales and etudes before they can play Twinkle Twinkle?

They do learn scales and etudes before Twinkle Twinkle, but they are disguised as songs; 'pre-twinkle songs'. They consist of open string bowings, and in rhythms, all presented as games. When the time is appropriate the left hand fingering is introduced with carefully constructed one string melodies. This preparation is imperative to developing the skill for playing the descending scale in Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

April 26, 2020, 8:05 PM · I've heard of pre-twinkle, and my cello-daughter did a year or so of that (she was 4). But my violin teacher starts even the tiniest children on Twinkle and seems to do just fine with that.
April 26, 2020, 8:16 PM · Henry, I was responding to a poster who thought students should start with scales and etudes.

Paul, that was the case with my daughter's 1st teacher. It took a few lessons on setup and hold the bow (that is still ongoing, really) but then by the end of the month, she was learning the first variation.

April 26, 2020, 9:53 PM · I was responding to a poster who thought students should start with scales and etudes.

And I'm agreeing with the poster, but we aren't going to tell the preschooler, "you must play scales and etudes", no, we are going to say" "lets play games and songs."

But of course, as would be predicted, there are always exceptions, as in the case of Paul's teacher. They must be only accepting the most brightest, and most dexterous of pupils to tutor.

April 26, 2020, 10:05 PM · I do think there is some kind of interview to make a determination whether the child is ready, but I really don't know.
April 26, 2020, 10:41 PM · One of my local Suzuki programs wants a kid to be able to sit still for the 30 minutes of another kid's lesson before they are deemed ready to begin. Plenty of parents can't do that without fidgeting. Ultimately we chose another program when my son turned four, rather than waiting to begin.

Suzuki did a terrific job of choosing early pedagogical repertoire. If you're going to teach a kid how to play, keeping it fun is important. Also, it's worth remembering that for a lot of parents, the point of music exposure might not really be learning to play the instrument per se. My son is very interested in music, but to me, his learning to play the violin builds discipline, self-control, attention span, patience, and perseverance, and these elements are far more important to me than his actual eventual skill.

Edited: April 27, 2020, 2:55 AM · Twinkle is crucial.
Kids like to see magic happen.
They like to see how things work.
April 27, 2020, 6:48 PM · I agree that although technique and all those things are very important, but boring, that it is very important to incorporate fun into learning or else they lose interest and/or motivation quickly. It's tough sometimes doing carl flesch thrids and sixths constantly over and over again :/
April 27, 2020, 9:56 PM · Yes scales in thirds are hard. But they're VERY good for you. Do them very slowly and pay close attention to your hand positions and your sound. We're not little kids any more -- we know we have to put in hard work if we're going to see improvement.
April 27, 2020, 10:06 PM · I think the open strings method actually makes a lot of sense, and you can make music out of fifths - Just don't tell the kids that it isn't music!

One day those lucky kids will play the Berg concerto and they will have completed their enso and become one with all the vibrations.

April 28, 2020, 1:15 AM · Lydia, I don't think my daughter can sit still for 3 minutes and she is 9!

A local Suzuki teacher will take children as young as 2 as long as they are potty-trained. Her studio has a long waiting list (despite $100 per hour rate) but I have a feeling that she picks and chooses which parents she wants to work with.

I think the open strings method could work well for cleaning up RH issues for older students but for little kids, you want the RH/LH coordination going sooner rather than later.

April 28, 2020, 7:21 AM · Kiki makes a good point. Screening the parents is probably just as important as screening the children. Maybe more so. I think we've had threads on here before about what Suzuki teachers are looking for in a good violin parent, but it's been a while.
April 28, 2020, 6:28 PM · In Japan, the parents are much more involved with the Suzuki Method than they generally are in the US, so it isn't surprising that a GOOD Suzuki teacher auditions the parents as well as the player.

I'm still trying to figure out when and where Ghandi and Suzuki met. Sounds like the back story for an interesting play.

April 28, 2020, 6:32 PM · Screening the parents.

Some teachers don't have that option, they are required to teach anyone who walks through the door. Ideally everyone wants "RH/LH coordination going sooner rather than later", but when a student has no supervision at home it maybe necessary to focus just on RH for an extended period until the time is deemed appropriate to introduce LH.

When a teacher is lucky enough to have a "good violin parent", the student may fly through 'Suzuki One' within a year.

April 28, 2020, 7:31 PM · Older kids are going to see "going back" to open strings as a punishment. They have already eaten from the tree of knowledge, and their technical issues are now ingrained, and will require a much greater amount of time and energy to undo. If you teach something the right way the first time, it builds the kind of foundation that everything else rests on, and then needs only minimal correcting along the way. If you build something on a rickety foundation, then every new element you add is liable to crumble at any moment. I have taught zero children!
April 28, 2020, 8:01 PM · I have taught zero children!

You don't need to, it's obvious, solid foundations are imperative.

Because children are like wet cement.

April 28, 2020, 8:50 PM · Christian, when I say young children, I mean preschoolers. If you want them to get RH "right" before you introduce LH, then you'd be waiting for many years and chances are, they'd quit before they ever learn how to have a perfect bow hold and a relaxed, fluid bow arm.
April 28, 2020, 9:56 PM ·

There is also 'pretwinkle box violin'.

Which, I am sure is to develop the RH technique, because there are not any strings on it.

April 29, 2020, 10:45 AM · Kiki, I guess I'm out of my depth on the Suzuki philosophy, but I don't understand why a 4 or 5 year old would have more success dealing with both hands at once than just working on holding the violin up with the left and focusing on the right before adding the left in. I don't see how getting the bow hold would need to take years, but again, I have taught ZERO children. I'm not caught up on the idea of getting the right hand perfect, but it certainly follows to me that the bow hand is more foundational (because you aren't making a sound without it), and that one should be careful to not introduce two new feats of coordination at once, and that working in an iterative fashion is going to be more successful than tossing a kitchen sink at someone.
April 29, 2020, 11:45 AM · as far as I understand, the point of box violins seems to be mostly to practice posture and get kids excited to get their real violin / teach them how to treat it so they don't bash the real thing into objects when they get it. There might be some bowing through a toilet paper tube etc in pre twinkle to get the feeling of the motion, but you can't really perfect a bow hold with a 4 year old anyway because most of them don't have the coordination to hold the bow in the adult position (same reason preschoolers use chunky crayons / markers) - they're holding the bow with the thumb outside the frog.
April 29, 2020, 5:39 PM ·

…….."Third, the box doesn't make any musical sound, although it does make rhythmic sounds. This is helpful because the student doesn't get distracted from the tasks we are working on during lessons -- usually posture and bowing rhythms. If we had to factor in good tone production and eliminating squawky sounds at the same time as we are focusing on good posture and rhythmic impulse, the student would go crazy with all the things to be handled at one time. Using the box helps the parent and me break the skills learning into a smaller set, which keeps the student from becoming overwhelmed by too many points to think about. We can continue to build concentration and focus, instill good posture habits, and awaken the inner rhythmic pulse...…."

Edited: April 29, 2020, 6:10 PM · Paul, I live with two Chins from Myanmar and I disagree with you about Aung San Suu Kyi. She has very little power and much is still going wrong, but things would be even worse if she were not there.
She could have taken the easy route, left Myanmar, and joined her husband, but if she had, she would never have got back into the country, which would be in a worse state if she hadn't made massive personal sacrifices.
Gordon, the first I knew anything about Suzuki was reading an introductory article about him in the Strad. That article called him a Messiah, "suffering the little children to come to him with their violins" - you can't get more cultic than that! But that wasn't down to him, that was down to the nth-rate journalist, so you have a point.
April 29, 2020, 6:09 PM · Apropos of John's comment, I know the pendulum swung back against Aung San Suu Kyi in the last few years, but I'll be curious to see how history will ultimately judge her - I do wonder if it will be more that she just never really had the power to do good, or if it will be that she either did not care about the Rohingya or actively participated in their destruction. It's hard to know if you're getting the full story as it happens.
April 29, 2020, 6:41 PM · Many Suzuki teachers don't use box violins, anyway. The pre-Twinkle stuff evolved post-Suzuki himself, as far as I know, and is effectively lore passed around the Suzuki teacher community for "how do you get a three-year-old with the attention span of a gerbil on meth to do something vaguely violin-related for three seconds by making it sufficiently fun".
April 29, 2020, 8:36 PM · Lydia: which is exactly why I will never be a Suzuki teacher lol!! I decided long ago I'm not cut out for attempting structured learning with 3yo gerbils :) :) Props to those who do! I'll stick with my 7 and 8yo beginners who can hold a thought and self-direct at least a little. But still, I owe quite a lot of my teaching philosophy and practices to Suzuki influences. Some of it's just plain good sense, and I wouldn't be able to trace how much was original to Suzuki, but there really is a wonderful body of ideas and teaching philosophy both in the training and materials, and in the broader community of Suzuki teachers. Though I admit all the orchestra students I had from that line drove me a little crazy... :)
April 30, 2020, 3:44 AM · ROFL Lydia.

My daughter could handle 30 min lessons when she was 3 but there were times when she ended up on the floor whining or running around in her poor teacher's living room. I don't know what possessed us to pay for private lessons when she was 3.

Still, no regrets. We may have taken a lot of wrong turns but at the end of the day, she loves playing the violin and it is keeping her happy even when everything else in her life has turned upside down.

April 30, 2020, 8:11 AM · I'm aware of the Suzuki books but is there some kind of handbook for teachers? Obviously the Suzuki method is not in the workbooks, or at least not much of it. What is the definitive source for teachers wishing to know the basics of the method without getting accreditation? Maybe somebody can sum it up here?
April 30, 2020, 8:40 AM · There is no handbook, accreditation OR certification. I don't know where you are located--US? There is only registered training from a Teacher-Trainer, which is obtainable at Institutes around the US (usually 1 week), with lots of training by a Teacher Trainer, and many hours of observation of lessons by registered teachers.Or you can arrange for some individual training with a teacher trainer, one-on-one, short term, or long term. Probably a large number of Institutes are cancelled for this summer, but we shall see how everything opens back up. You can see the Suzuki Association of the Americas website for Institute information.
Edited: April 30, 2020, 11:34 AM · Suzuki is not "defined by" using the books, teaching pieces or technique a certain way, doing certain activities with 3 year olds, etc. even though there are certainly common things that teachers do. There is no "certification" (no exams, no review board) but you take training which is then "registered" with the association. There are plenty of teachers who call themselves "Suzuki" without having taken/registered courses, and even among those who have, there are still plenty of differences in the nuts and bolts of how they work.

I would say the "definitive source" for introductory knowledge is the 6-hour "Every Child Can" course (note that individual trainers still bring their own views and experience so there is not going to be a "standard" delivery). However, so far there is no word on the offering of this course, or the subsequent short-term unit courses on book contents, online. I know of a program that will offer online this summer a shorter, "unofficial" intro to Suzuki course and seeing as the trainer taught ECC for many years previously, I'd call it sufficient for a basic intro. Training is meant to include interactions between trainer and participants, so I think that is part of why it's not simply read a book or watch a lecture.

I've already seen individual summer institutes cancelling and/or deciding to proceed online although the SAA doesn't seem to have posted any central decisions. I assume they were first busy with rearranging the national conference, which would have been Memorial Day weekend, and hope that they are now getting into planning on how to move forward under crisis. (Long-term training in university programs is a separate but related story.)

My 50-word summary, cut down from my actual summary: Suzuki is known for the young age at which children can learn to play musical instruments ... a teaching philosophy that extends to other areas of child development ... application of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki’s principles of music education ... also making use of training and experience in "other" methods. [Followed by a statement on how I view "Suzuki approach for older children and adults"]
(and yes I use "Doctor" as an Americanization of how a Japanese speaker might use "sensei")

I know it sounds nebulous, but I think many of my Suzuki colleagues would agree that the mechanics of what we do won't fit cleanly into a handbook, and even if it did, there would be a revised edition next year, and the next year, and the year after that, etc.

April 30, 2020, 1:04 PM · I have the greatest respect for Suzuki and and the Suzuki Program.

I really never gave Suzuki a thought before Anne Akiko Meyers soloed the Vivaldi A Minor concerto with our community orchestra in 1976 or '77. You could tell, even then, at age 6 that she had the "real goods." She was studying in the local Suzuki school whose founder and leader was our orchestra's principal violist, a violinist, pianist and organist and the violist in my string quartet. It turns out that several of the adult violinists in our orchestra were also teachers in the school. The next year Meyers performed the Bach Double Concerto with our orchestra and a 13 year old girl who unseated me as CM 9 years later after she graduated from college with a degree in music education and violin performance and returned to town to teach music and orchestra at the local high school.

Shortly thereafter Meyers started commuting the 300 mile round trip to LA for lessons. (The local Suzuki school was very good about advising their best students when to leave Suzuki and seek more conventional pedagogy.) When she was 12, Meyers returned to our town to perform the Mendelssohn Concerto with us as a thank you to her first teacher, who was still our principal violist. You can't imagine what a thrill it was for me to sit in the "first chair" while she played that concerto after having performed it with the LA Philharmonic. (Of course I had already seen her on the Tonight Show a couple of times before that.) But there is nothing like being that close to a great violinist, even when only 12 years old.

Not much later several of the local "finished Suzuki" teen students were dumped on me and I got to experience some Suzuki results close up. I especially remember the "boy" who wanted to work on Wieniawski's D Minor concerto, which he would not have gotten from Suzuki. Since my interest was now piqued I bought Suzuki book one and realized what a marvelous progression of technique development was embodied therein - so I bought all 10 books and started to use them on all my other students. I continued to use the Suzuki books with the all my students (adding the Suzuki cello books when I started to teach cello about 15 years later) for the next 25 years (when I stopped teaching)

I think what first charmed me about that first Suzuki violin book was that it started with "Twinkle," which was also the first piece my first violin teacher gave me at my first lesson almost exactly 81 years ago (today). He promised to reward me with the small jeweled matchbox cover on his sofa's end table when I would finally learn to play it - and he did.

When I started to teach cello in 1996 (on which my lessons had started in 1949, 10 years after my violin lessons started) I naturally depended on Suzuki books again and found that when it got to "real" cello music the progression followed my own learning experience from a professional cellist 47 years before. I always supplemented with appropriate etudes (or "exercises") as I did with violin studies.

When I wanted to improve my viola sight-reading chops about 15 years ago, I checked the Suzuki viola books to find a good starting point (for me) and bought books 4 -7 (as far as they went at that time). It worked pretty well.

So, in my opinion, the program Shinichi Suzuki started has great validity both as a pedagogical method through the certified teachers and schools and as a set of music books around which any teacher can build a pedagogy in conjunction with older more conventional elements of technique development.

April 30, 2020, 1:13 PM · "Doctor" in its Latin origin means "teacher", as does "sensei" in Japanese, both with an underlying stratum of authority.
Edited: May 5, 2020, 3:13 PM · My childhood teacher gave "traditional" lessons. As I said earlier, his only criterion was that I could already read (printed words, not music, but I could read both because I had already studied the piano for a year). I had a short attention span and my parents were paying for half-hour lessons. So, my actual lesson lasted about 15 minutes, and for the rest of the 15 minutes, my teacher would play his violin -- passages from pieces that demonstrated various techniques. He would show me very up-close what he was doing with his hands to make things sound a certain way even though all of it was years off. I think what I took away from it was the range of what is possible with the violin.
May 4, 2020, 8:55 PM · Thank you all for the wonderful responses. Though it may have taken some terms, I guess I have more general knowledge of who this man actually was. Thank you
May 4, 2020, 9:01 PM · Suzuki started on A major. Lots of teachers I know had chosen another beginners book over Suzuki in the first few chapters, then continued on Suzuki.

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