Information For New Suzuki Parents
Welcome to my studio! I am looking forward to working with you and your child! This sheet will give you information about the Suzuki Method and will hopefully answer some of your questions. It will also give you an idea of what you can do to help your child learn to love music through playing the violin or viola!
The central idea behind the Suzuki Method is teaching music (in this case specifically violin or viola playing) in the same way children are taught language. Some of the ways this is accomplished:
- Parental involvement in daily practice and weekly lessons
- Learning by listening
- Internalizing knowledge and skills through repetition
- Using review pieces to build new musical skills
- Delaying reading until basic playing technique is established
Listening: One of the most important concepts of the Suzuki Method is that children learn better and faster the more they listen to the pieces they play. It is absolutely essential that your child listens to the current piece, piece they are polishing, and next piece, at least twice every day. The whole current book CD should also be played at least once each week. If you ensure that your child listens to the CD in this way, you will be amazed at the progress! If you think of this concept in terms of how children learn to speak a language, it makes sense: if children don’t hear the language around them all the time, they have a much more difficult time learning to speak themselves.
Some of this listening can be passive, meaning the music can be in the background while the student is doing something else. This type of listening can be done in the car, during meals, before bedtime, in the mornings before school, during play time, etc. Some of the listening should be active listening during practice time when the student focuses only on listening to the CD, with directions to listen for a specific thing or with the student singing along. When you and your child feel you cannot possibly endure another repetition of the same CD (and I say “when”, not “if”, on purpose!), listen to the next book’s CD and get a jump start on future pieces! As your child progresses, I will also assign listening outside the Suzuki books.
Parental Involvement: The Suzuki Method is based on a learning triangle made up of the teacher, student, and parent. The parent serves as the at-home teacher, reinforcing the instructions given in weekly lessons. In order to accomplish this, it is essential that the at-home teacher (or practice parent) be present at all lessons and actively participating by taking notes.
Practice: I expect my students to practice at least six days out of every week. As the parent, you are responsible for making sure that happens. The bottom line is that practicing any skill makes that skill easier, and violin playing is no exception. If your child does not practice consistently, he or she will most likely get frustrated with how difficult each skill remains, and ultimately will not enjoy playing their instrument. Obviously, you and I both want to avoid that!
For many families, practicing in the morning before school is a great way to fit a daily practice in before the child and parent are tired and before the day gets hectic. If your child is having trouble concentrating for a ten to twenty minute practice, you can divide it into several shorter practice sessions.
Whenever you decide to practice, make it a daily routine that happens without fail. If your child knows when and for how long they will be expected to practice, it is much easier to get them to do it without complaint. If you make practicing a priority in your own schedule, your child will too.
One of your biggest challenges will be getting your child to practice on those inevitable days when they do not want to do so. Please know that this is normal! As the parent, however, you know that practicing will be good for your child, just as doing homework or brushing teeth has benefits your child will only appreciate later. If you are having trouble with practicing, please let me know and we can discuss some strategies for improving the quality and consistency of practice time.
Progress: One of the dangers inherent in the Suzuki Method is the tendency to judge progress based on pieces. Real progress, however, consists of learning skills, not repertoire. In other words, a child playing a piece in the middle of Book 1 with good tone and posture has actually progressed farther than a child playing a piece in Book 2 without good tone and posture. If you have concerns about the rate of your child’s progress, please let me know so we can discuss it.
Review: Review pieces are the Suzuki student’s tool to achieve greater mastery of the instrument and to develop musicianship. Again, think of this in terms of language learning: once a child learns a word, he continues to repeat it over and over until it is so familiar that he or she can use it in other contexts, and does not stop using that word when new ones are learned. Similarly, reviewing pieces your child has already learned will allow him or her to use the skills learned in each piece when they appear in new pieces.
Reading: In the Suzuki Method, music reading instruction begins after the basics of violin playing are mastered. Usually, this occurs around the end of Book 1 or the beginning of Book 2. If your child is planning on participating in an orchestral program either at school or through the Symphony, please let me know and I may begin reading instruction slightly earlier.
Here are some tips to help you and your child get started:
- Before the lesson begins, share pertinent information with me about your child and the week’s practicing.
- During the lesson, be an active observer but keep interruptions to an absolute minimum. This will allow me to establish a working relationship with your child and will encourage self-motivation.
- Take detailed notes about the specific instructions being given to your child. After the lesson, ask me about anything that was unclear to you, and ensure that you have the week’s practice instructions written down in enough detail that you will remember once you get home!
- Enjoy watching your child learn! If your child feels that you are enjoying the process of learning, he or she will feel more comfortable trying new things.
- Play the Suzuki recordings every day. You should play the song your child is working on at least two times every day, the song he or she is working on next at least three times every day, and the entire book he or she is working on at least twice each week. This isn’t a huge time commitment since the entire Book 1 is only 20 minutes long!
- Practice with your child every day. On the occasional days when it’s just not possible to fit in a practice, have your child listen to the recording even more than usual. But remember, there is no substitute for daily practice!
- If you feel I assigned too much work for one week, please do as much as you can, and let me know at your next lesson. Conversely, if you feel like you don't have enough to do, let me know that!