When Shinichi Suzuki developed his teaching method in post-WW II Japan, he did not call it the “Suzuki Method.” His original term was “mother tongue method” because he modeled his approach on the way an infant learns to speak his native language. This process follows these steps:
- Listening: Just as infants listen to the sound of people talking for many months before saying first words, Suzuki students listen to a reference recording to develop a clear idea of what they can say on their instrument.
- Imitating: Suzuki teachers receive special training to break down the complexities of musical performance into small steps that are easily attained by young children. When students imitate the teacher, and they recognize the result due to their previous listening, they are eager to do more. In the same way an infant is eager to repeat a word that is recognized as speech by other people.
- Praise: We praise infants for making sounds that approximate words (ma-ma, da-da, etc.) Suzuki teachers and parents praise students when they approximate the sounds on the reference recording, and these first steps are recognized as leading to a bigger goal.
- Repetition: When an infant does say that first word, the first thing we usually do after praising them is to ask them to “say it again!” Repetition builds confidence in students’ ability.
- Review: In the same way that an infant will use the same word in many different contexts, Suzuki students review old pieces to build understanding and skill.
- Communicating: Suzuki students develop the ability to express themselves fluently through music, just as we all learn to express ourselves fluently by speaking our native language.
- Reading: Children don’t usually learn to read until their understanding of language helps them recognize the symbols on the page as representing something they already know. In the same way, Suzuki students wait to learn to read musical scores until the symbols on the page represent something they already know how to do on their instruments.
In the same way that parents teach their children to speak easily and naturally, Suzuki parents practice the instrument along with their children. Practice encompasses all of the elements of the “mother-tongue” approach.
Following this approach leads to students who develop a high level of ability to communicate through the art of music, just as they learn to communicate by speaking their native tongue.
For more information about the Suzuki Method for music instruction follow this link to: the Suzuki Association of the Americas website