Frequently Asked Questions
Why start early? Just as children begin to talk as soon as they are physically and psychologically ready, formal music lessons therefore should begin as soon as the child is ready to start. This is the most receptive age for learning. In addition, the child who begins lessons at four or five grows up with music as an accepted part of his or her daily life. Playing a musical instrument is a natural activity like talking, eating and sleeping.
What is the parent’s role? The parent is instrumental in creating the environment that fosters the musical abilities of their child. The daily playing of the Suzuki CDs as well as other beautiful music, the provision of the finest acoustic piano the family can afford and a personal enjoyment of music will lead the child very naturally to an interest in playing. One of the child’s parents will attend all private lessons, taking notes and then supervising the daily home practice. The teacher will guide you in this process and you will develop confidence over time. Even the most musically inexperienced parent can become an excellent “parent coach”.
Why so much listening? Research shows that listening begins in the womb, well before birth. Children learn to say new words only after they have heard them spoken hundreds of times by others. The child should listen to a recording of the pieces in the repertoire each day and become thoroughly familiar with them long before learning to play them. Recordings of other classical music should also be played regularly.
Is there an individual lesson? The individual lesson is the foundation of the approach. Each student receives a “private” lesson once a week for 40 weeks in the year. The child’s parent should be present to take detailed notes, making sure she understand clearly the points to be emphasized during the week of practicing. The teacher will usually work on only one or two major points at a single lesson. The parent then reinforces this emphasis at home.
What is the importance of repetition and review? Children hear new words and sentences repeated by others many times before they can use them. Constant repetition, both in listening and in playing, is essential in learning to master an instrument. Children add each new piece to their musical “vocabulary”, gradually building on it and using it in new and more sophisticated ways through a process of continual, productive review.
What is meant by “observation”? This terms simply refers to the process of watching the lessons of other students. By coming a little early or staying for a few minutes after the scheduled lesson time students can learn in the relaxed atmosphere of observation. Parents can also learn from watching other parents and children, where it is easier to be objective. Even if the observed lesson is not at the same repertoire or age level, much can be gained.
Why a group lesson? Students are placed in group classes according to repertoire level. These are scheduled on Mondays. They provide a chance for solo performances and preparation for concerts, stimulate motivation through watching and listening to more advanced students and give training in listening skills and concert behaviour. This monthly group activity provides a sense of group identity and social contact for students of all levels.
Do you hold solo recitals? Children who attend solo recitals get accustomed to the routine and recognize solo performances as a normal and happy part of their musical experience. Each student performs in a recital at least twice a year, playing a well-polished, familiar piece so as to ensure a positive experience. Children develop confidence and poise through performing frequently in a number of venues throughout the year.
Do Suzuki students learn to read? Learning to read while playing the piano is delayed until there is a basic technical competence on the instrument. Many “reading readiness” skills are introduced from the earliest lessons. When the teacher decides the child is ready, music reading is introduced using a variety of supplementary materials.
Do you hold workshops? My Studio holds a one-day workshop with a different visiting teacher every year in the fall. Students are also encouraged to attend workshops at other Suzuki programs. These are wonderful opportunities for learning and are highly motivating, both because of the extra work required to prepare and the excitement, which continues afterwards.
Why go to summer institutes? A summer Institute provides a one-week intensive program which is one of the most successful motivational activities available for Suzuki students. Many of these are held in Canada and the US every summer. Excellent guest teachers from all over the world bring new perspectives and new ideas, and children and parents from many different Suzuki programs join together in a particularly exciting musical environment of work and play. Many families combine a trip and summer vacation with a visit to a Suzuki Institute.
How is the Suzuki Method different? Students studying piano in the Suzuki Method begin at a much younger age, usually around four or five. As a result, parents must take an active part in the lesson and then at home, as the “Parent Coach”. As in learning to speak their native language before beginning to read, children become comfortable playing the instrument before beginning the reading process. Through daily listening the child internalizes the sounds of the music. Pieces are learned and then reviewed thoroughly and refined in the process.
How to Motivate Students
The most important thing that parents can do for their children is to create a home environment in which their children will want to learn. Parental attitudes and actions have a crucial impact on a student’s motivation. They are the key in setting up the ideal physical, psychological and musical environments.
The physical surroundings are basic. The best possible instrument, kept in top condition, proper seating with a footstool, and a good collection of recordings for a fine stereo system are what is necessary for your musical environment at home.
There needs to be an atmosphere of encouragement and respect as well as family delight in music making. Practice must be a high-priority activity. There should be an appreciation of the uniqueness and capacity to learn of every individual. The music environment should be experienced in the same way that children experience their native language. They should live with the sound of fine music as a part of daily life. This will encourage their desire to make their own music.
Parents are key in helping children have productive and satisfying practice sessions. The amount of assistance required will depend on the age, level and temperament of the particular child. The parent will help each child to develop effective learning habits and concentration, under the guidance of the teacher.
By regularly attending concerts and other artistic activities, parents can make music an integral part of domestic life. They can also encourage musical friendships, knowing it is important to share experiences with peers.
Right from the beginning, when attitudes, habits and expectations are being formed, parents can help ensure a successful musical experience for their children. The home environment that they create will motivate each child to want to learn.
How Students Progress to Different Levels
Children progress at their own pace, moving to the next level in gradual steps. Instruction is carried out in a positive manner that reinforces accomplishments, builds confidence and is fun. The repertoire is designed to build skills in small sequential steps that are easy for young children.
Young, “pre-twinkle” students will work daily for short five to ten minute periods. A parent controls the practising process. Time spent practising increases as progress through the repertoire evolves and the lesson increases accordingly. Older students are expected to practice a minimum of a half-hour to an hour daily depending on their age, book level and length of lesson.