Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.” —Shinichi Suzuki
What an incredibly wonderful idea. The Suzuki method is a technique for teaching and learning music that has gotten much attention over the past several years. People like it because it is an alternative to other “traditional” options, and it seems to work fairly well. But how?
History of the Suzuki Method
Shinichi Suzuki (pictured at right) was born in Japan in 1898. His father was the owner of the biggest Japanese violin manufacturing company, but he never learned to play as a child. When he got older, though, he decided to teach himself. Which he did. When he was 22 he moved to Germany to study violin under the incredibly famous musician Karl Klinger. While he was in Germany, he was struck by how easy it was for the young German children to master the language, something that he had been struggling greatly with. On returning to Japan, he noticed this in Japanese children as well. They could learn Japanese, a highly complex language, almost effortlessly. Suzuki realized that, if children could learn their mother tongue so easily through listening, imitation, and repetition, it seemed plausible that they could learn music the same way.
Suzuki’s method for teaching music was more then just simply learning an instrument. He taught by using the concept of “character first, ability second.” He embraced and nurtured the whole child, not just the musical part of him or her. He believed that music can make someone a better person. His method was about so much more then music. Also, in Japanese, there is only one word for “talent” and “ability.” They mean the same thing. Suzuki knew this.
Musical ability is not an inborn talent but an ability which can be developed. Any child who is properly trained can develop musical ability just as all children develop the ability to speak their mother tongue. The potential of every child is unlimited.”
How It Works
Suzuki firmly believed in the ability of the child to learn music in much the same way as he or she did her own language. He believed it all started with listening. Even as a child begins listening to their parents from day one, so should a child listen to music from day one. The more they listen, particularly to well played music, the more they learn.
I have no doubt that people are born with hereditary physiological differences, but I believe that a person’s abilities grow and develop depending on the stimulation from outside.”
Just as with young children, after listening comes repetition. A child learns to speak his or her native tongue in much the same way. For most children, they may go from their very first words, to fluent in four years or less. Suzuki believed the same could be accomplished with a musical instrument.
Suzuki took great care in developing the repertoire for the various instruments. Each piece of music builds on previous ones, providing solid foundations and allowing the student to master the finer techniques of the instrument.
Suzuki also knew that reading language does not come until a child has all but mastered the use of the language verbally. He believed the same about music. For some children, it may be years before they learn to read the music. At the very least, a student must learn the absolute basics before progressing to the reading of music.
Suzuki also believed that parents were an incredibly important part in musical education. The parents are there to provide support for the child, help them when they had problems, provide a loving atmosphere, and learn along with them. Parents of children learning with this method are also supposed to attend all of the lessons, play recordings for the children, and attend workshop and concerts. Suzuki believed that this was crucial for the growing musician. And that it makes a huge difference in the long run.
An unlimited amount of ability can develop when parent and child are having fun together.” —
Suzuki’s method is an incredible idea. Music education is unfortunately very lacking. In general, we learn music through the teaching of the mechanics. Although this is possibly the best way to teach a adult or older child, our young people can learn it differently. Any one can be a great musician, he or she just has to be taught right. We must nurture our children, and, if done right they can become all that they can be.
When love is deep, much can be accomplished” –Shinichi Suzuki