Music Mind Games
As well as being a fully qualified level 5 Suzuki Violin teacher, I am also a trained music mind games teacher, and use the Music Mind Games system to teach theory, musicianship and sight reading. For more information please see https://www.musicmindgames.com/
The Suzuki Method
Please read the information below to find out what the Suzuki method is all about.
Group lessons twice per month, and individual lessons every week are an essential part of the method.
Group lessons are held on Mondays at New Malden Methodist Church.
What is the Suzuki Method?
Suzuki said that if the word method was to be used with regard to his approach to teaching the Violin, he would rather it was called the Mother Tongue Method.
What is the Mother Tongue Method?
One day nearly 80 years ago now, Dr Suzuki realised something. All (well nearly all) children learn to speak their native language! And fluently! It had been a general assumption that if a child was doing badly at his written work, he was “Brainless and dull witted” (The Suzuki Violinist p1). But these same children were speaking fluently in their native language of Japanese. Could a Brainless and dull witted child learn to speak fluently and proficiently in a language such as Japanese?
Why could the children learn to use their Mother Tongue with ease, but fail at learning simple arithmetic? Suzuki came to the conclusion that it was not inborn ability which made a child fail or succeed, but the method in which they learnt. Every child can be educated. Based on this he started to develop a method of teaching the Violin.
Here are some of the things that influence a child in a positive way, and help them to learn to speak their native language successfully:
Environment – As a baby the child listens to the sound of his native language spoken by his parents.
Repetition – The parent repeats simple words for the child and the child tries to imitate the sounds.
Positive attitude - of parents and others towards the child after he/she starts to speak.
Progress – Through using the language and practicing every day.
Enthusiasm – Built up in the child by parents.
This method of learning is completely natural. As Suzuki says ‘What child would refuse to learn its ‘mother tongue’, that is, quit this means of communication, because they found the routine dull?’ (The Suzuki Violinist p1)
The parent should begin to learn the Violin before the child. Yes that means you! You will be taking part, but don't worry, it will be fun! The child watches the parent’s Violin lessons, and hears the sound of the CD everyday, and of the parent practicing at home. The child becomes familiar with the sound of the Violin and the pieces of music, and wants to be allowed to play the Violin himself because it is part of his life and is natural to him. (If the child is older, they may begin learning straight away, but the parent will still learn for the last 5/10 minuet of the lesson in order to be able to help the child at home). Listening to the CD is very important and is one of the distinguishing points between the Suzuki method and other methods. By listening to the CD every day, the child memorises the music without trying and will adjust his fingers to reach the sound he wants to reproduce from the CD. To start with, reading the music has been taken out of the way, and there is one less thing between the child and the music.
Suzuki gave the example of the little parakeet that learnt to speak. To teach the bird to say ‘Peeko’ (his name, and first word), took 3000 repetitions! A seed grows underground where you can’t see it for a long time, and suddenly, one day, a shoot comes out into the open. This is what happened after the 3000 repetitions. Progress is being made without being seen. However, when the shoot comes out, it begins to grow faster and faster. To teach the bird to say ‘Miyazawa’ (his second name), took only 200 repetitions. Eventually the bird could learn words by himself. ‘Ability breeds ability’ (p6 Nurtured by Love). This is what happens to a small child that tries to speak, or to learn the Violin. The beginning stages may seem very slow and laborious and much repetition and patience is needed on the behalf of the parent.
Think back to when your child was learning to speak, when he stumbled over his first words and did not pronounce them as clearly as you do. Did you think that this was unusual? Did you ever doubt that he would be able to acquire the skill of speaking his native language to a high level? I expect you did not doubt but praised every effort that he made and became excited about those first stumbling words. In the beginning progress is slow. Suzuki says, when a child plays badly, parents must not say, ‘What piece is this? I cannot recognise it. You must play better’. The child will be discouraged and will not want to play for you again. Instead say, ‘Good, now can you play much better?’ (The Suzuki Violinist, p14). Try to make constructive comments while giving honest praise, and as little criticism as possible.
Good practice = Progress.
The Suzuki method differs from some other methods because it involves the child at a very young age, which means that the parent has to be involved in coming to lessons and taking notes, and in practice at home. The parent becomes the home teacher. Traditionally in some western style teaching, a child would start to learn an instrument at a later age, and the parent would not be involved in practice. Using the Suzuki method, a good relationship between the parent and child is very important. Practice cannot easily be done without the co-operation of both.
Suzuki suggests that practice in the beginning need not be longer than a few minutes at a time, a few times a day. The length of time can grow as the child learns more music and more concentration is acquired. It is better to practice regularly for short periods of time than to practice for a long time the day before the lesson. Suzuki did not believe that it was right to force a child to practice every day. A parent must use their imagination to inspire the child. If you are having a particularly difficult day, why not choose to have a home concert instead of a practice session.
Suzuki says ‘The child’s practice is easier for him and much more effective if the mother calls attention to only one point at a time. Sometimes mothers give too many instructions at one time. ‘Your elbow is too high; please raise the violin; your bow is crooked; your third finger is to low, etc’, this is very bad. The child feels that he cannot change all of these things at once and becomes discouraged.’
The main aim in learning through the Suzuki Method should be the happiness of the child. A great deal of commitment on the behalf of the parent is required in order to make this happen. It is not possible to enjoy learning the Violin without arranging time for regular practice every day, listening to the CD, and participating in group lessons. If this commitment is made, the results will be very rewarding and enjoyable for years to come.
Why start so early?
The age of 3 is considered to be the age that a child most wants to please his mother or father so it may be easier to get into good habits of practice at this age. Also, the earlier you start, the easier and more natural it will seem when you get older.
Will the children take exams?
Again this is up to the teacher. Some teachers may put children in for exams. There is a graduation concert at the end of book 1 but this is not an exam. A tape of the child playing must be submitted, and will be sent back with helpful comments.
When do the children start to read music?
Suzuki advises that children do not start to read music until book 4. However, it is up to each teacher and varies greatly between them. It is also dependent on the age of the child and their reading ability. Some teachers may start almost straight away with reading rhythms and notes and introducing sight reading, but the Suzuki music will still always be played from memory.
Will my child be able to join an orchestra?
Suzuki students have the opportunity to play as a group with the other children from the beginning. Through this they gain the experience of playing as an ensemble with added awareness of others as the music is not in the way. Great friends will also be made.