I firmly believe that there is no one right way to learn a new instrument. Just as there is no one right way to lose weight, study for your midterms, or eat a block of cheese (where every way is the right way), the experience of learning a new instrument varies from person to person. The Suzuki method offers a methodology for children to develop their musical ability and creativity by using a number of techniques including musical recordings, parental involvement, musical integration, and focus on memorization. The following is a discussion of the background of the method, as well as pinpointing a few of the key techniques that this method uses.
The Suzuki method was developed by a Japanese violinist who had an interesting idea. The idea was that music is a language, and all children have an innate talent for acquiring languages. And much like a child learning a language learns to speak before they learn to read, the Suzuki method does not focus on note recognition at first. Rather, it focuses on playing and mastering the instrument. First, become comfortable with the instrument and music. Then, learn to read.
So, how does one become comfortable with an instrument without knowing how to read music? Well, the Suzuki method first focuses on learning music by ear, that is, listening to a piece of music and then imitating it. Along with ear-instrument training, the Suzuki method also prioritizes memorization of music. You can imagine that these techniques have led to some controversy over the effectiveness of the method. Some may (and do) argue that a child taught using the Suzuki method may not acquire the skills necessary to become a well-rounded musician.
Despite these types of arguments, supporters of the method argue that the method is most effective when used with very young children. It facilitates the process of learning the instrument, and focuses on musical notation when the child is mature enough to remember and apply musical theory. It does not eliminate musical theory completely, only shifts the initial focus.
The Suzuki method requires a lot of parental involvement. In fact, it encourages parents to be active participants in their child’s musical education to the point of supervising every practice and every lesson. Some may even be encouraged to learn the instrument themselves in order to more effectively coach their child.
The last key philosophy of the Suzuki method is musical immersion. The method encourages children to attend concerts, listen to music at home, talk about music, and perform in public often. This is intended to ensure that the child develops musicality and musical creativity, as well as becoming comfortable with public performance.
Like any other method, the Suzuki method has pros and cons. Ultimately, it is up to the parent to decide if the method is right for them and their child.