The Suzuki Method was developed by Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998) in the mid-20th century. Suzuki believed music should be learned in the same fashion as language, which is why this methodology was originally declared the “Mother Tongue Approach.”
Exposure to Music in Early Childhood
Suzuki advocated for beginning basic musical exposure at birth, and adding instrumental learning—usually violin or piano—between ages three and four. By spreading out musical experiences over the first few years of a child’s life, this method allows parents and teachers to develop physical coordination and musical mental processes in tandem with traditional early childhood development.
Emphasis on Parental Participation
Suzuki believed that musical education and enjoyment should be a daily activity. He encouraged parents to attend music lessons themselves. By learning the instrument before their child, parents would be able to demonstrate and explain concepts as needed when the teacher was not readily available.
The Suzuki Triangle
Each leg of the triangle is equal in importance. All three work together to develop communication and foster community.
Child — learning, growing, practicing
Teacher — instructing, demonstrating, providing feedback
Parent — reviewing, collaborating, encouraging
A key part of Suzuki lessons, group instruction provides children the opportunity to learn with their peers. Children learn early the importance of listening to others when playing together, an invaluable skill for orchestral musicians.
Repertoire and Delayed Reading
The Suzuki method includes different sets of music books for each instrument. These books have exercises and songs that are written to be played in stages depending on the level of experience and skill a child has reached. Emphasis is placed on internalizing musical concepts by playing specific songs to contextualize the technique being taught. Additionally, children are taught technique before learning how to read standard notation, much in the same way we learn to speak before we learn to read and write.
Repetition and Praise
Finally, Suzuki placed great importance on the repetition of playing, or practicing, and giving encouragement to students. Incorporating musical practice into the everyday routine, and making it a fun family event, helps develop lifelong musical ability and music appreciation.