Frequently Asked Questions - from parents
How is the Suzuki Method different from the traditional method of learning an instrument?
Please see the History page and the Philosophy and Practice page. In a nutshell, the Suzuki method imitates language learning: listening, repetition, and support. Learning is by-ear, nurtured in an environment of listening to music, and is ideal for young ages. Parental involvement is crucial. The traditional method focuses on finding the talented few, works primarily with older students, and is encumbered by written music early on, making it difficult to learn proper technique and become proficient on the instrument itself without the distraction of reading. Imagine if your young child had to learn to read before they were allowed to speak!
I'm not a musician. Will the Suzuki method still work for me?
Absolutely! In the early lessons the parent learns right along with the child. Learning is incremental and the parents are invited during lessons to make bowholds, set violins, and any other activity they'd be expected to do during home practice. Prior musical knowledge is not a prerequisite.
What is the Suzuki Triangle?
Parent(s), Teacher and Student form a triangle of relationships to create a successful learning team. Parents are involved in lessons and serve as home teachers for their children.
Children learn best in a nurturing and positive environment. Many of the ways that Suzuki teachers present learning activities is through the use of games and stories. While this might seem childish and frivolous to the outside observer, Suzuki teachers and parents understand these activities to contain many opportunities for children to learn in a fun way.
How old does my child need to be?
Ideally, children should begin the Suzuki program at the same time they are learning language skills, but also have the coordination to facilitate playing an instrument. This usually happens around 4 or 5 years of age. Some children will be ready a little sooner or need to wait a little longer, but generally, the younger they are, the more natural playing the violin will be for them. Older students are welcome to start, and depending on the student they will receive Suzuki lessons, traditional lessons, or a mix of the two.
What if my child is older and wants to begin lessons?
They are welcome, but probably would receive a mix of Suzuki and more traditional type lessons by learning to read sooner, working with a variety of repertoire, and not involving the parents as much.
I want my child to have violin lessons but I don't understand the point of group class. Can you explain?
Students who only take private lessons tend to experience a kind of isolationism. They don't have any idea of what's possible, what other kids their age are doing, and they're not part of a community of learners. Learning is much slower, more awkward, and more difficult. By contrast, group classes expose children to their peers. They work together, they learn together, and they're encouraged by seeing students more advanced than they are. They learn basic ensemble and chamber music skills, review pieces and learn technique and flexibility, develop rhythm and basic music theory skills. Group classes are an essential part of the Suzuki method. I will consider taking advanced high school students without involving them in group class, on a case-by-case basis.
How quickly will my child progress?
That is up to a number of factors. One is simply how quickly your child learns. I don't expect all children to progress uniformly, so though I will push your child, I will always work at his or her pace. Another factor is how much they listen to the CD. The more they hear and internalize the music, the more natural it will be for them to produce it. The final factor is the role you, as a parent, play in their development. The more involved, dedicated, and positive you are, the more your child will stay engaged and be eager to learn. It is very important that no matter how slow or fast children progress, they never be put down for not moving quickly enough; their success depends on doing their very best at their own pace.
Another child in my child's beginner class is moving much faster than my child. Why is this?
Every child learns at different rates. This is normal and okay. Additionally, some families practice or listen more consistently, and you will notice that those children advance much faster. You may sometimes feel during the first year that I'm playing favorites by moving one child faster through the pieces than your child is moving. You don't have to trust me - you don't fully know me yet - but I trust myself, and I know I don't play favorites. I want your child to succeed and learn as much and as fast as they can.
As a parent, I feel that preparing review pieces for recitals slows down our progress, because we spend lesson and practice time on old pieces and not as much time on new pieces. Can you explain why you structure things this way?
One of the key elements of the Suzuki method is the focus on reviewing old material. Again, the analogy to language learning is important. What would happen if we mastered a word or a sentence - and then felt that we never had to use it again? It is through repetition and use - over and over again - that we become proficient communicators, and the same is true on violin. By reviewing older pieces, we have a chance to develop a level of technique that wasn't possible the first time the child struggled through that piece. When pieces show up again on a later recital, we have a chance to develop flexibility - another way of playing the same thing. And above all, we must remember that playing an instrument is a performance art - the point is not to learn many new pieces as fast as we can, but to share and communicate with other people. Professional concert violinists perform the same piece many times in a concert season - with different audiences and different people. The point is fluency in communication, not getting to the next piece as soon as possible.
What if my child doesn't want to practice?
The best way to combat this is to make practicing a non-negotiable part of the child's routine. Just like going to school, doing homework from school subjects, eating meals, etc. Please check out the Recommended Books and DVDs that may help you. Most importantly, look forward to your time with your child. In a busy day, take advantage of the chance to spend 30 minutes a day one-on-one bonding time with your son or daughter, and they will look forward to it as well.
What if my child wants to quit?
All children go through ups and downs of any activity they are involved in, but the more they are encouraged to stick it out, the more they will develop a sense of accomplishment and perseverance. Learning an instrument takes dedication, so not allowing a child to quit at their first whim teaches them that they can make it through rough patches with a sense of pride and determination. This will follow through with just about anything in life.