The Suzuki method was developed by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998) and was strikingly different from other teaching approaches of the time. Many of the things that make the Suzuki Method different can be summed up by the epiphany Dr. Suzuki had when he realized that every child in Japan learns how to speak Japanese. This epiphany led to the mother tongue technique where most of the pieces a student learns are listened to before attempting to play them, sometimes for several months in the beginning stages. Dr. Suzuki also believed that if every child could learn Japanese, they could learn to play an instrument as well. This was in stark contrast to most of the teachers at the time who held auditions for students to make sure they had “what it takes” to learn an instrument.
Other elements of the Suzuki method include the Suzuki triangle or the relationship between the student, teacher, and parent. The students and teacher’s role are usually well understood, but the Suzuki method greatly enhances the role of the parent. At my studio, I take students as young as four years old. Many students this young, especially when they are first starting, are unable to complete a 30-minute lesson. I will usually start with the student and go until the student starts to lose focus. I will then work with the parent on many different elements of teaching the guitar. I don’t require the parents of my student to play, but we do work on some of the fundamental of holding the instrument, fretting a few notes, and properly plucking the strings with the right hand. The parent is then able to take this knowledge home and help their student practice. This is a critical part of the process because practice makes permanent, not perfect. If a young student is told to go into the other room and practice alone, they will most likely be learning improper technique which moves their playing backwards instead of forwards. I also work with parents on techniques for motivating students such as games they can play, and how to make the practice time a positive experience for all.
Another important element of the Suzuki method is the group classes. Group guitar lessons are once a week, and group classes are once a month in addition to that. During group classes, students get the chance to play in ensembles, work on repertoire, and learn how to read music. Group classes also provide the student a chance to be a part of a community that is all on the same journey which help tremendously with a student’s motivation.