If you are a parent who would like your child to learn the Suzuki method and are wondering if it is possible to teach your kids some of the Suzuki concepts yourself, we have found some helpful resources.
Having a music instructor is the ideal way to go if you want your kids to learn Suzuki, but unfortunately for a lot of families private lessons are not an option. Luckily there are some great online video lessons, books and websites that can be used to teach Suzuki to children.
Suzuki method is a philosophy of teaching music created by Sin’ichi Suzuki. The main idea is that all children are capable of learning music from their environment using the same basic principles of language acquisition. In the same way that a child learns his or her mother tongue, Suzuki method focuses on starting a child early, listening, parent involvement, encouragement and constant repetition.
Generally the Suzuki method is used with beginner violin; but you can also use it to learn viola, cello, bass, flute, guitar, harp, piano, organ, voice, recorder and early childhood education. We are going to focus on resources for learning violin, as it is the most common Suzuki instrument for children.
If you would like to learn a bit more about Suzuki, there is a really nice short documentary about a Suzuki class at the Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center that gives a great overview of a lot of the concepts.
The Basic Principles of Suzuki
If you would like to help your kids learn an instrument using the Suzuki philosophy you will need to follow some of the basic principles:
- An Start Early- Suzuki students generally start at a very young age, sometimes as young as two, but more typically between the ages of 3 and 5.
- Listening -Children will learn to play music by listening, they don’t learn to read music until much later. Parents will need to play the Suzuki CDs repeatedly to help children become familiar with the music and make it easier for the child to play.
- Loving encouragement- One of the more difficult principles to follow is finding ways to make practicing fun, so that kids look forward to it. Parents should praise their children frequently and try not to push them. A couple of books that can be helpful for finding creative ways of keeping practice fun are Step by Step 1A: An Introduction to Successful Practice for Violin and I Love to Practice! Kit for Suzuki Violin Book 1 . Step by Step 1A focuses on age-appropriate practice habits including listening, singing, and dancing to playing music. The CDs that come with the book include pieces from the Suzuki Violin School. I Love to Practice has over 60 practice games for Suzuki violinists and other games that parents can play with their children during practice.
- Parental Involvement- Parents play an active role in the learning process by guiding music practice and encouraging and motivating kids. It’s important for parents to be involved when their child is practicing each day.
- Repetition – Through repetition children will have to master each piece before moving onto the next lesson. They will also have to constantly go back and play every piece of music they have learned on a regular basis.
- Learning with other children and Performing Often – These two principles are believed to help children elevate their own skills. If you are teaching your kids Suzuki at home it will be difficult to follow these ideas unless you know other children who are also studying Suzuki method. A couple of ways to get around this is by taking your child to local concerts and listening to classical music at home to help elevate your own child’s skills. You can also have your kids perform for relatives and friends to help encourage their musical skills.
Before Learning to Play
Suzuki students don’t start to learn to read music until they have learned to hold the instrument well.
- Holding the Violin and the Bow Jason Barber has a really good video lesson for parents to show them how they can teach themselves and their kids how to hold the violin. He also has a good video on how to hold the bow properly. If you want some hints on how to make this more fun check out some of these fun bow hand games for kids.
- Posture – Be sure your child is using appropriate standing posture while practicing.
Suzuki Books for Kids
If you haven’t already got it, you will need to get the Suzuki Violin School Revised Edition Violin Part Book & CD Volume 1 This is the first volume from the Suzuki Violin School. There are 10 volumes in total that take many years to work through. This book covers the fundamentals that you will need to go over with your child, you can use it in conjunctions with some of the free online Suzuki lessons listed below to help get through some of the more difficult concepts. It is useful to get the CD for the child to listen to. If you are teaching your child piano or one of the other instruments there are Suzuki School Editions for all of the different instruments.
If you would like to learn a bit more about the Suzuki Philosophy and the parent’s role in encouraging a child the most popular books are
- To Learn With Love: A Companion for Suzuki Parents considered by some to be sort of a handbook for Suzuki parents. It covers topics like supervision of practice, how to nurture a positive self-image, tradition, nutrition, and how to work with your child.
- Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education was written by Suzuki and it goes over the philosophy and principles of his teaching methods.
- Ability Development from Age Zero is the sequel to Nurtured by Love that focuses on parenting and nurturing a child and why parents need to be a good role model for their kids.
Free Suzuki Online Violin Lessons
The McKinley School has an amazing roundup of a seventeen week Suzuki class with links to YouTube videos. Scroll down to week one.
Here is a simple Suzuki lesson with a small child. Parents can use some of the same techniques to teach their own kids.
Naperville Lessons has a Book 1 Suzuki Violin School lesson in two parts. It’s not an easy lesson to follow along to, as he goes very quickly. If you stop it as you go through you should be able to pick up some good tips.
Suzuki Violin Lessons has a really good list of practicing and learning resources.
If you would like more resources to help children learn the violin check out our post on teaching kids violin.