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Learning Methods: Suzuki or Traditional?


youngviolinist

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Steve is right, this subject has been covered many times. But I was just thinking about it in a different light last weekend, so I'm glad you brought it up.

We were visiting friends whose 12 yearold had over 4 years of traditional lessons. She has now quit lessons but continues to play with her school ensemble. Her fiddle was unplayably out of tune, the bridge was leaning forward (about 10 degrees), the chin rest was on the wrong side, and the bow was so tight it was convex. And both she and her parents were blissfully ignorant of their situation. Regardless of the relative merits of which approach makes the best violinists, a good Suzuki program would insure that the parents know the basics of tuning, bow tension, etc. so that that couldn't happen. (That said, my son always hated bowing to his teacher before and after Suzuki lessons, and we switched to a more traditional teacher after a couple years.)

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I was taught traditionally, so I have no direct Suzuki experience. The one negative I have heard is that if someone doing Suzuki does not learn to read music early on, it becomes very difficult to do so. I do not know to what extent this is a real issue.

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I took suzuki lessons froma different teacher for about 3 months. I dont know if it was the teacher or what, but it was not a very enjoyable or productive 3 months of lessons.

However, I think different methods of teaching do different things for different people. For me, an age old traditionalist boot camp style of lessons is most enjoyable and productive. But i am not saying that works for everybody.

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Quote:

Her fiddle was unplayably out of tune, the bridge was leaning forward (about 10 degrees), the chin rest was on the wrong side, and the bow was so tight it was convex. And both she and her parents were blissfully ignorant of their situation. Regardless of the relative merits of which approach makes the best violinists, a good Suzuki program would insure that the parents know the basics of tuning, bow tension, etc. so that that couldn't happen.


A good private traditional teacher would ensure that the student (especially a 12 year old with 4 years of lessons!) would know that those things shouldn't happen either...

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I am still amazed at the comments that are made when it comes to Suzuki--the same things I have heard since I was student teaching in 1975! Comments today (this includes another forum) have ranged from "they can't play Paganini", to a Suzuki student (or a Suzuki teacher) doesn't even know when a bridge is tilted (or on backwards), to "all Suzuki students play like robots," and "no Suzuki student can read music."

Good teaching is good teaching, period. A good teacher can occur in ANY method. Bad teachers also occur in any method (perhaps someone should come up with a method that only bad teachers will use to train bad students--I'm sure there is a market for it). The only difference between bad teachers in either camp is that one is just identified as a bad teacher, and the other one is--gasp--is a SUZUKI teacher!!--and you KNOW about Suzuki... A specific method doesn't guarantee success in anything (be it "Traditional" or Suzuki). If we want to look at levels of success, I would say that there are undoubtedly, just in sheer volume, more "lousy" traditional teachers (and therefore, more bad "Traditional" students) than there are "lousy" Suzuki teachers and students.

Suzuki just happens to be a lightening rod for many--it is threatening, if as a teacher, you might have an 8 year old student playing a piece called "My Bicycle," when a Suzuki student (age 6), studying for the same amount of time, might be doing the Bach Double. "Well," you say, "they can't even read the music they're playing." That might be the case. But if they have a GOOD teacher, that isn't the case.

There are excellent teachers in all methods! I happen to know Suzuki can be a very powerful influence and method, and I wouldn't have our own children doing anything else! I also know some absolute wonderful "Traditional" teachers that are outstanding (careful though--if they are 40 or younger, they might have been a Suzuki kid!). With nearly 30 years of watching our own children and students in our studio, I can vouch for the effectiveness of Suzuki. Our oldest daughter started with my wife at 3, and she just finished her Masters at Juilliard. That indicates that she must have had a fairly good foundation through 16 years of Suzuki. That doesn't mean every Suzuki student goes to Juilliard (although I have been told that many of them do have that background!). Traditional students are not the only accomplished players out there. The secret is to find a good teacher, however they teach. But, you will probably be hardpressed to find any traditional teacher who is equipped pedagogically (or even willing) to take a student aged 3-7, and there is a huge amount of learning that can take place during that time (especially in developing aural skills).

Go observe some lessons and recitals by different teachers. You'll soon figure out which teacher is good and which one isn't, and it isn't determined by the method.

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Hi,

I am a suzuki student and I would agree with the other posts here about getting a "Good" teacher. I really LOVE "Suzuki", and I really enjoy the music (especially the Bach Double).

Now for sight reading, while I was doing bk.1 I started doing "I can read music" by Joanne Martin....and that book really helped me a lot. Before, my teacher would "white out" the fingerings and I had trouble, (I would go home and have to study for a while), but after doing Joanne Martin's book I can sight read SOO much better.

I don't believe it is ever'to late' to start suzuki.

P.S. sorry if I wastn't much help.

Maybe some suzuki teachers/students could help you here

http://www.suzukiassociation.org/suzukiforum/

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I have to disagree with you comment that Suzuki is a more productive method then traditional.

Like I said before, I took suzuki lessons for 3 months a made very very little progress. But when i found my 43 year old techer from Hungry, I made as much prgress in my first lesson as I did in 3 weeks with my Suzuki teacher.

I am not puting the suzuki method down, but I just think that it is a little unfair that you said that.

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Hi Austen,

Would it be that your three months' Suzuki background got you ready for your Hungarian teacher?

For 10 different indivduals, there are 11 ways to learn things. Don't jump to conclusion so easily, especially at your age. I love seeing new talents emerging and I sincerely hope that you are one of those rising talents. It is a great pity if you shut yourself up and finally lose the ability to see the beauty of things that you don't like instinctively.

Here is my personal experience: I am a self-taught adult learner and a Suzuki father. My 5-year-old daughter's teacher, a young man with a 100% traditional background (he was a graduate from Julliard, and once the concertmaster of the Juilliard Opera Orchestra, you can see his profile at http://www.hkpo.com/eng/orchestra/player.php?id=22) prefers and uses the Suzuki method. My daughter started some 9 months ago and has just started Suzuki Two. Her teacher has never formally taught her to read music and, save one or two hours of not so helpful music theory from me, she has never learnt how to read music. But she has somehow acquired some reading skill and can now play some simple un-taught songs, doing the reading work all by herself. I discovered that when one day she picked up my dust-covered Maia Bang Book 1 and tried the songs in it. My daughter is by no means alone. There are (and there are many) Suzuki students who can read. Judging from what I have heard and seen, the belief that Suzuki students cannot read is a pure myth. It may be that they are not given reading lessions in the first one or two or three years. But, Suzuki method works best in keeping students motivated and carrying them into their fourth, fifth and sixth years of learning. There isn't a single method that works for all. Don't condemn the Suzuki method so easily. Quite a number of young boys and girls who have declared war agaisnt their violins after a period traditional learning might well have been saved by the Suzuki method (or other methods) if their teachers were liberal enough to try different ways.

Good luck.

Regards,

Warren

Hong Kong

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My impression about Suzuki method is its advantage to

start really early, say 3 or 4 years old. If someone for example, is 12 who can read then why bother. Practice is the key of the whole thing about playing a violin, Suzuki or not Suzuki. Read the notes play the notes (at least on an elementary

level). Please comment by all mean.

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I've taught using the Suzuki books for about 25 years. Before that I used the more "conventional" literature that I was brought up on starting 1n 1939.

The main attraction of Suzuki in this context is the attractive music presented for the stuudents to learn to play. This tends to be motivating. Another attractions is the graded approach that tends to add one new feature of technique with each musical piece. For students with problems I will add studies from the conventional literature. Every one has problems at some point!

Students seem to learn to "read music" when they are ready - and for some it happens really fast - like "next week!" Thge Suzuki books do cater to learning to read by gradually removing finger numbers above the notes as one progresses through the course.

Some fingering is always a useful part of music for sightreading (first time you play) to direct you toward the best position for playing the music to come.

Now "learning by the Suzuki Method" is a completely different thing - an entiire school of training with spcially trained teacher. I do not do that, but I have known people who were certified Suzuki teachers and they did a wonderful job of creating the kind of musical groups one sees on PBS from time to time (of the kind of playing in the documentary movie "Small Wonders" - only better). I have seen some really fine young violinists come out of the Suzuki Method program - they have usually moved on to more conventional teachers (in the big cities) some time before getting to book 9. One of these young ladies is now a renowned world-class virtuoso (I have some of her CDs) who performs all over the world - still getting fvine reviews in the STRAD magazine (she left Suzuki at about age 6 or 7 - I think), performed with the LA and NY philharmonics and appeared at least twice (that I saw) on The Toniight Show (with Johnny Carson) when she was 12. She became a student of Dorothy DeLay at Julliard a la vintage Sonnenberg and Midori.

Suzuki can succeed!

Andy

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SteveLaBonne, I was just saying that my experence with suzuki was not a good one. I made it very clear that I was not bashing, or puting the suzuki method down. So my hope for you is that you will learn to not take everything so personally, and to not insult people becuase of their opinions.

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As a violin teacher, first I used Suzuki for 4 years( and received specific training for that, directly with a japanese pupil os Suzuki). Then I researched a lot, trying to find other good books, and found some more "traditional" ones. Then I started to use it and compare, and found out that sometimes( well, most of times) I could achieve better results using other stuff.

Im my opinion, the ideal teacher would be someone that knows several options and how to use them, so he could choose the right book for the right pupil. For beginners with less than 8 years old, I still use Suzuki 100%.

About the issue of attractive music as an pro-Suzuki argument, I found out that there's not always the case. A lot of students simply do not enjoy the songs, and others feel that there are too much songs(!!!) and ask for technical exercises and more theorical lessons.

In the end, I feel this choice is merely a matter of taste. There's no magic book/approach for the violin, you will always deal with the same basic things.

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Not only is there confusion between "Suzuki Method" and "Suzuki Books" (does anyone call themselves an 'All for Strings' teacher just because they use the book?), but there is a real problem when anyone can call themselves a Suzuki teacher--when they do, everyone assumes they know all about the method. Unlike groups like MTNA where a teacher can meet certain standards and obtain National Certification, SAA (Suzuki Association of the Americas) has no certification for it's teachers, so if someone suddenly decides their studio needs a "kick start" with young students, they just pick up Bk 1, hang out their Suzuki shingle, and start teaching out of it. The only problem is that it doesn't come with a teachers manual--that is why teacher training is SO important when looking for a Suzuki teacher.

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This is interesting. I am looking for possibilities for a 'plan' for the fall with my teacher. Apparently he uses Suzuki methods, as the student after me comes with his Mom and has an armload of Suzuki books.

As I am mature (usually!) adult, but still relatively new at this, my teacher has been very accommodating as to what I would like to learn.

I feel however that I would like some structure and a 'plan' so that I feel like I am achieving specific outcomes. So I am intrigued by the Suzuki books that I have leafed thro at the music shop. There seems to be a progressive structure to it all.

Would you recommend that I suggest Suzuki books to my teacher? Reading music isnt an issue in my case. There is also the RCM program here. I feel like I want some definite measurable plan for the fall. Thanks for any input. Pat.

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It sounds like you think your lesson assignments have had no structure. Please describe what you have been playing over the past year. But regardless of that - you should certainly have the discussion with your teacher that you want.

A "load of Suzuki books" is an indiication to me that the "Suzuki method" is not being used, although the Suzuki music may be followed in order. Also, if a teacher were really a Suzuki teacher, that would be the method used - and you would know it.

But then I'm not a Suzuki teacher and know that I don't use the method, even though, as I said, I've been using the books as the basic teaching "track" for at least 25 years.

Andy

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Patrewski: if you want a more structured, organized plan, the RCM exam system is probably the way to go. Obviously it depends a huge amount on the teacher, but getting ready for the exams ensures that you tackle a variety of pieces, studies, scales, and musicianship things like eartraining and sightreading. Then you get the feedback from the examiner and a mark as well. If you just want to learn music in a (somewhat) progressive order, Suzuki books are good.

Talk to your teacher- see what he suggests.

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I'm an adult returner to the violin...I started private lessons for the first time last Oct. (had group instruction as a child). Since my daughter is doing RCM piano...I just picked up the RCM violin books for me...but my instructor (a former Suzuki kid) also has me playing from the Suzuki books...which has a great, tuneful, selection of music. I also want to fiddle a bit, and she's incorporating that desire into our lesson plans.

There's nothing wrong with clearly laying out your goals in front of your teacher and then finding whatever materials you need to reach that goal.

I have no desire to test, but I'd like to know what level I'm playing at, so the RCM material (also a nice selection of works) is good for me to work through.

My goal is to play 2nd violin (or viola) in some ensemble as soon as I'm ready - and there are certain technical skills I need to master in order to do that.

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