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Average time required to finish Suzuki Book 1 ??


techfiddle
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Hi: There is a lady on USENET who is "about" to finish the first Suzuki book in violin, who says it has taken her 17 months. She seems to be of average or above average intelligence, so I'm wondering: isn't that an excessive length of time? Or, more to the point, what is the average time it takes most students to finish?

I have students ranging from age three to 72, and though it may take the three year old a year to finish the Twinkle, in the age range of say, six to 72, I would say it takes anywhere from six to eight months, max, for students to finish the Book I materials and move into Book 2.

I have lots of middle-aged people like this lady, and none of them took 17 months to be able to play all those pieces, and move on, and most of them never played before or read music, or had any private lessons before.

Your input appreciated!

T.F.

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It's probably 5 months too long, as I see it as being a time when everything is being formed, bow hold, adjust that shoulder rest, etc., plus some scales, Applebaum or other, and small etudes from other books.

One year should be average.

Also: Does the lady say she has a teacher, or, is she watching TV some nights and busy with other activities and not doing her lessons faithfully every day?

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>>Does the lady say she has a teacher, or, is she watching TV some nights and busy with other activities and not doing her lessons faithfully every day?

She does have a teacher. I don't know how effective her teacher is, or how much this person practices, or how effectively. I just think 17 months to "about" finish Book 1 was too long..

Thanks!

T.F.

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As an earlier poster mentioned, she might also be working on other material that require her to move slowly.

One of the worst aspects of Suzuki (bearing in mind that I have one child still in Suzuki because of its many virtues) is the grouping according to book level. I've heard good book I students with excellent tone and real musicality and absolutely awful book III students who rush through the songs thrilled to be able to 'at that level'. Yuck.

Hannah

Back from 3 weeks in Cape Breton!

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Oh: and please understand, this is not meant as an affront or a criticism of anyone. I don't remember who it was -- all I saw was "17 months" and Suzuki Book 1. I think people get to move at whatever pace they wish and there are all kinds of factors involved.

The reason I brought it up is because I'm trying to determine if I'm pushing my own students too quickly. I posted this to SuzukiChat, and hundreds of teachers on there, I suspect, so I'll probably hear a lot about it. The main thing, of course, is to respect and honor the progress of anyone, at whatever pace they wish to move.

Also, someone else rightly pointed out that the primary factor is probably how well each piece is learned. I expect my students to play the pieces pretty perfectly, with correct intonation, dynamics, bowing, phrasing, articulations. But I don't insist that every piece be memorized. Maybe that's the distinction.

I have a lot of adult and young adult students, some of whom have been playing in public school orchestras, or have done in the past. So it really takes a lot of sensitivity to teach them; they already have enjoyed praise and the sense of being good players, and they're not happy if treated like beginners. So, for the sake of their development and happiness, it's important to honour them, and not talk down to them.

And yet, a lot of mistakes have to be corrected. So in some ways, it's much easier to teach total beginners.

T.F.

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I'm getting rocks thrown at me on SuzukiChat. They're really purists when it comes to stretching this out, and they also don't like me teaching music reading.

You get the whole spectrum, actually. People like me, who are Suzuki/traditional, and the Suzuki purists, who aren't. But how many teachers with advanced degrees teach Suzuki? Seems like a lot of these purists can only play, say, the first four books -- this is true in piano especially -- by they do things all Suzuki perfect and according to Hoyle.

<running and ducking>

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Nothing wrong with taking 18 months to finish Suzuki Bk1. Now there may be a 'problem' if it took her 18 years. Also has nothing whatsoever to do with her 'average or above average intelligence' (whatever that is), unless there exists, and you're certain of, some physical or mental barrier that is holding her back, relative to your other students. Have you heard her play? Is she any good? Does she understand and appreciate the components of violin development and has her own standards - that is key.

Regarding your other comment 'The reason I brought it up is because I'm trying to determine if I'm pushing my own students too quickly' - you cannot be unsure about the level of pressure you are putting on your students. As long as they can demonstrate technique and repertoire per your standards, per your mutual expectations, and in keeping with their long term goals and your teaching methodology, you're OK.

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Interesting...I have over fifty years on the piano, decided to study the the violin and have become obsessed with it! I have a concertmaster as an instructor and wanted to focus on technique...he has brought me a long way with just the three Bach pieces dealing with minutia. The time frame has been around ten months...we've played around with different pieces for technique, even into Book II and III, but the basics has centered on the Bach pieces. Seventeen months as stated with other posts, depends on the student and time available to practice...I shoot for three hours a day but sometimes with a busy day, it's hard to do! Dr. R.

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Well, I finally found someone who is slower than I am. As a 50-year old beginner, it took me from September to May to work through Book 1. My 9-year old who started the same time I did, went through it much quicker. After four years, I am playing pieces he could do his second year. It isn't a matter of intelligence, by the way. In my case, lack of a sense of rhythm and less than nimble fingers were my primary impediment.

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In Japan, a lot of time ago, Suzuki classified the students in 5 levels, marked by "graduation" pieces. If one could play Gavotte by Gossec, level 1 was completed. Bach's Bourrée, level 2. Vivaldi G minor concerto, level 3. Bach a minor, level 4. Mozart D major, level 5. Each level was supposed to correspond to a year( average time).

This information is on an old book( I don't have it) that was one of the first ocidental books about Suzuki, and it's not very known, I suppose.

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In my experience, 12 months is not uncommon, longer is. A student starting at about age 6, I find might take a year or a little longer. I have had students about 11 or 12 years old who came to me after a year of public-school "orchestra" string training, and they can take a long time to make it through book I. Three have never been able to jump some of the hurdles.

If I have students who are not making progress at what I consider an acceptable rate for them, I will supplement with other music to help develop the slowly acquired aspects of techniqu - to help make the slow progress more interesting.

I have actually had two students who got through book one in one week. One on violin and one on cello (a roughly equivalent amount of technique). Both were very talented musically and had had experience on piano and one on guitare as well. But I should add that even these "speedy" students finally meet some point in the Suzuki books where their progress slows abrubly and they have to work as hard as every one else. I think of it as their natural "stop." I recall from my own teen-year cello studies (I was to young to really remember my violin lessons that ended when I was 12, although I resumend serious violin work the next year) that when I got to the really hard parts I would work so long and hard that I wore out one gut A string every week - but I would practice those parts so slowly until I got them in my hands and brain - that's what it takes

Adult beginners can have more trouble with the posture required on violin - so getting that fourth finger working right can be a problem. Adults also have a bit of trouble with cello posture, too, but not nearly as much as violin.

But as long as a person is enjoying the process and making music (and playing Suzuki is definitely making music) it's OK.

Andy

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I think it really depends on a variety of things. Adults have busy lives and may not get as much practise or lesson time in as a child. Someone who has not played an instrument before will also take longer in the early stages. I had played guitar, piano, flute before starting violin in my mid 30s and I got through book one in about a month. I was into book four in a year and a half, but starting to slow down due to learning more difficult techniques (vibratto, shifting positions etc.). At that point I had to quit lessons due to work and have since been playing on my own, but I have switched to Irish fiddle music. I'm hoping to take lessons again as I find I have forgotten a lot of things without someone there to remind me.

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I think it's important (for most of us) to feel like you're moving forward. That's why I like the RCM program - and my daughter is steadily moving through the piano program...and feeling good about it. The testing can be stressful, but I also think it's good to let them test early (and make it a fun experience) before they get too 'nervous' (like one does as one gets older and more self-conscious).

I've purchased the Suzuki books for playing material...and I really like the rep! Very tuneful and fun...which is great. Grade-wise I'm playing RCM Grade 4 - 5 material...and Suzuki-wise I'm in Book 4 (don't know if they compare). I also have Suzuki CD for Book 4 and find it very helpful to be able to listen to the pieces as I'm learning them...otherwise I find I tend to slow down at the difficult bits, and then get used to playing them that way...thinking it's right when it's not...

Point is...as long as you're moving forward...and happy with your progress...I don't think it matter too much how long it takes or what system(s) you're using...

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Quote:

People like me, who are Suzuki/traditional, and the Suzuki purists, who aren't. But how many teachers with advanced degrees teach Suzuki? Seems like a lot of these purists can only play, say, the first four books -- this is true in piano especially -- by they do things all Suzuki perfect and according to Hoyle.

<running and ducking>


Speaking as a Suzuki parent I must say that I haven't personally encountered any of these weak-playing "purists", and it ought to be easy for a parent who takes the trouble to do a little homework to avoid teachers who don't have strong instrumental backgrounds. I just got back with my daughter from a terrific Suzuki institute (International Music Festival in Berea, Ohio). Two of the teachers who have regularly returned to IMF over the years, Stanley Chepaitis (also an outstading jazz violinist and a talented composer) and Terry Durbin (who is one of the most renowned and sought-after Suzuki clinicians in the US), are really superb violinists by any standard and would be wonderful teachers even if they've never heard of Suzuki.

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Absolutely, Steve! I would never, ever, suggest that there are not outstanding teachers who are also Suzuki teachers. I hope I am one, myself, in fact. No, I'm speaking about some teachers who have (well, okay, one locally here) ..she called me up to find out who I was, I suppose (having seen my name at a local music store)..anyway, she's a piano teacher, and she told me that she has 50 students, and had a hard struggle to play the fourth Suzuki piano book, in order to take the training. [The fourth Suzuki piano book doesn't represent much technique on piano!]

I don't know if she actually has 50 students, or not, but I do know she has one student that has been with her for 10 years, is not in any way learning disabled, and is only playing in the fourth book, himself.

It's none of my business, of course, but I think there is a lack of integrity, if a teacher does not gently move a student to investigate working with other teachers if that student has come to play beyond the teacher's level. Don't you think so? And while I've encountered brilliant teachers in Suzuki programs (I taught in the program at Rhodes College in Memphis, for example, with some extraordinary teachers), there are also those who are not good players and yet have taken the training for several books.

I don't know how I feel about this, exactly. Is it okay if the teacher doesn't play at a high level, if they're only teaching beginners? So much depends on the teacher's sensitivity and emotional/spiritual development also. I just think it's safe to say that there are "Suzuki" teachers that may be so focused on having large numbers of students, and the financial gain thereof, that maybe their motives are not pure when they criticize teachers who have stronger playing abilities...?? You know, I can play all the Suzuki books on four instruments (violin, viola, cello and piano), I can transpose scores on piano; I have a lot of skills -- and I practice a lot!! (You probably have the same or probably better skills, and so do tons of people on here).

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding: my students all do well, play well, good intonation, good articulation, and they know about music history, conducting, theory. I work like the dickens to make sure I cover all this stuff. And am I a better teacher than someone who has taken summer courses in Suzuki method (making those little violins with cardboard?) I mean, excuse me, but I think I am...:)

T.F.

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Quote:

It's none of my business, of course, but I think there is a lack of integrity, if a teacher does not gently move a student to investigate working with other teachers if that student has come to play beyond the teacher's level.


Absolutely agree. One of the things I like about my daughter's teacher is that she herself, early on, brought up the topic of referring my daughter to a teacher in the CIM prep department someday, should she reach a level where that would be indicated. I would even go a bit further, though, and say (as I'm sure you'll agree) that the popular notion that a bad amateur turned "Suzuki teacher" is "good enough for beginners" is a serious fallacy, since a solid techncal background is essential for knowing how to establish good physical habits in young students. I would have to agree that SAA does not set high enough performance-training prerequisites for teacher trainees, and that's one of the things that has given Suzuki a bad name in some quarters.

As with selecting any teacher, due diligence on the part of the parents is indispensible. Nobody should use lack of previous exposure to string playing as an excuse for just settling for the little old lady down the street- any parent can educate him/herself by asking questions and doing some homework. Any real Suzuki teacher will of course welcome prospective students and their parents to attend class recitals, and normally also to observe at least one actual lesson before signing on.

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I do want to point out one thing though...there's a big difference between planning lessons, or even shopping for instruments in a big city vs. a smaller centre or even (*gasp*) rural area.

We live 20 minutes away from a small city. There are very few violin teachers. Most new students are lucky if they can find a spot with ANY of them, never mind evaluating different teaching philosophies. In other words, there might not be a choice of teacher at any one moment...so you really do have to take what you can get.

Same with shopping. Although the population of our city is 200,000+...we only have 1 music store chain that caters to strings...and then we have a guitar shop that takes the odd violin on trade and a small one-man repair shop that will also take strings on consignment...then I believe there are one or two others who work from their homes...

So all the good advice about going out and trying out a kazillion different violins in combinations with a kazillion bows is fruitless...you're lucky if you can find more than one instrument and bow in your price range...same goes for cases...

And from reading on this, and other music boards, I find there is a significant percentage of people in similar situations...

...LOL...sorry...just rambling...

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You do have a point about availability of teachers in many areas- Suzuki violin teachers are in especially short supply in a lot of places. People who are really serious about their kids' studies have been known to drive 90 minutes or more to lessons in such circumstances, and my hat is off to them for making that sacrifice for their kids. As to equipment, nowadays those far from shops are more fortunate than they were in the past in that the top mail-order companies have very good trial / return policies, particularly for bows- they'll ship several at a time for evaluation.

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"I think it's important (for most of us) to feel like you're moving forward."

AMEN to that. Some kids (and big people, too) can get tired of a tune long before they have mastered it to the teacher's satisfaction. In the upper books, I know there were a number of tunes that my son never liked from day one. A wise teacher will sense when that point is reached and throw in some variety. Afterall, if you don't like the music, why make it. That strict adherence to the order and mastering of the pieces can be a problem with orthodox Suzuki. (To the tune of Twinkle: Doctor, Suzuki, says never, be lazy, just practice, and practice, until you, go crazy.)

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Again, who are these mythical "orthodox Suzuki" teachers who don't use plenty of supplementary material?? After almost 8 years as a Suzuki parent during which I've attended several workshops and institutes, I've never so much as heard of one, let alone encountered one in the flesh. Just to give one example, almost every Suzuki institute has fiddling classes, and my daugher's teacher has performed professionally as a fiddler and teaches an Irish fiddle group class (in which my daughther enthusiastically participates). As far as supplementary classical material goes, not only does every Suzuki teacher I've ever heard of assign plenty, there are very good graded collections of pieces (like Barbara Barber's) published specifically with Suzuki students in mind.

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I don't think it would be appropriate for me to name examples, Steve. (Send me a private message if you like.) For sure, there are many gradations of orthodox. All I know is that my son's first teacher was what I would call very orthodox. That included a strict adherence to Suzuki materials. That said, students and parents come in many gradations, too. And I can point to kids who did quite well studying with her. Our current teacher made extensive use of the Suzuki books up thru about Vol. 7, but my son always had a lot of say in what they would be working on next. My only metric for success of a teaching method is whether my son continues to learn and continues to enjoy.

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If you mean by "strict adherence" that, whatever else is done, the Suzuki repertoire must be mastered, then that's required if you're to call yourself a Suzuki teacher and rightly so. (The pieces are chosen to teach specific skills, and nobody, including a "traditional" student, can learn to be a useful musician by studying only things that they happen to like at the moment- who actually likes practicing Sevcik?) If you mean that you really enountered teachers who teach nothing but the Suzuki repertoire I'll take your word for it, but I know for a fact that's neither normal, common, or encouraged by the Suzuki movement.

P.S. I want to make one other point. Of course I want my daughter to have fun now. But I also want her to be able to continue having fun 20, 30 or 40 years from now, by being a competent enough player to hold her own in a good community orchestra and in quartet playing with other good amateurs. Otherwise, what's the point? (I'm not saying that's any different from what you want for your kids, I'm sure it's not.)

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"The pieces are chosen to teach specific skills"

Yes, but they were chosen a long time ago in a far away place. And they undoubtedly reflect Suzuki's personal likes (who else plays Fritz Seitz these days). The enduring strength of his books, in my humble opinion, has been his great selection of tunes. For the students who don't like a particular Brahams or Mozart (and why should everyone like everything), a good teacher should be able to find other individual pieces that would help teach the same specific lessons AND keep the student happy.

We've been away from Suzuki for nearly 10 years now, so my recollections may be fuzzy. Plus, the approach may have evolved. Do you still have to take off your shoes and bow to the teacher?

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