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Suzuki Method, or rhythm=Mississippi Hot-dog?


Gwagi
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While we're bringing up the merits of the Suzuki Method, I'd like to air a problem I've had with this method for some time. I realize that people are trying to make the early days of study more fun. To acheive this goal, the humdrum of 1234 is replaced by catchy phrases such as Mississippi Hot-dog. Note-reading is unimportant, and some teachers won't allow it until they think the student is old enough. But doesn't this just save the problem for later, and make it that much worse, when the student suddenly has to learn the rhythm and reading? Also, the later you start work on these skills the harder it becomes to develop them. I've been in orchestras where the conductor would have to make up words to the pieces to get the rhythms. Tone will even out very quickly, but aren't we leaving Suzuki students at a great disadvantage when it comes to counting and note-reading skills?

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As a suzuki student for 13 years, i can say that my sight reading skills (especially rhythm) are below par of some of the other "traditional" around here. This used to hinder me in auditions to a large degree, but within the past year, I think i have made up lost ground quite well. Regarding the mississippi hot dog bit, ( I actually learned with Charlie Brown and Snoopy!), it is not a substitute for 1234, but a musical pneumonic device to help young children learn rhythms. Kids can relate to silly rhymes better than they can relate to numbers. Also, by using these rhymes, it can keep young children's attention better than numbers can, as numbers can get awfully monotonus.The suzuki method definately has a place, especially with ear training, (the suzuki people here have far better ears than non-suzuki people), but the sight reading capabilities should be stressed a little earlier on.

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: While we're bringing up the merits of the Suzuki Method, I'd like to air a problem I've had with this method for some time. I realize that people are trying to make the early days of study more fun. To acheive this goal, the humdrum of 1234 is replaced by catchy phrases such as Mississippi Hot-dog. Note-reading is unimportant, and some teachers won't allow it until they think the student is old enough. But doesn't this just save the problem for later, and make it that much worse, when the student suddenly has to learn the rhythm and reading? Also, the later you start work on these skills the harder it becomes to develop them. I've been in orchestras where the conductor would have to make up words to the pieces to get the rhythms. Tone will even out very quickly, but aren't we leaving Suzuki students at a great disadvantage when it comes to counting and note-reading skills?

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Who says we don't think note-reading skills are important? We just don't take a three year old and try to do everything all at once together. My three, four and 5 year olds start by learning the usual bow holds, violin setting, bowing, rhythm patterns. However, they also are gradually given note cards and learn to sing the letter name of the single notes on pitch and check themselves on their violins. This trains their ear along with their note-reading eyes. Most of the Suzuki students I know are good sightreaders. It's just that to take a very young child, hand him a violin and bow, say play and read the notes all at the same time, is an open invitation for extreme frustration. Again, my son started at 4. He didn't start out with the notecards initially, but did look at notes on the printed page when he wasn't holding the violin. As he progressed, he practiced some notereading on his own. When he switched teachers at the end of his 2nd year, he was assigned the notecard project and gradually eased into reading. We didn't really have to "teach" him to read, it just occurred naturally as part of the process. As a by-product of this notecard/pitch training, he can, some years later, pull any note out of the air and sing it on pitch. Some of the Suzuki students do practice sightreading skills with etude books such as Wohlfardt or Whistler, but this is done after the preliminary steps are solidified.

All this talk, though gets back to the point that Suzuki is a philosophy as much as it is a method. I know a number of Suzuki teachers, and every one approaches the technical aspects a little differently. The Suzuki training, however, provides them with the opportunity to make use of the learning channels available in very young children. The group aspects provide a social experience which is stimulating and motivating for both the very young students and even the older teenagers.

As for the catchy rhythms in Twinkles, they are all very common bowing patterns found in traditional repertoire. As an example, Mississippi Hot Dog is practice for the opening rhythm found in the Bach Double Concerto. I think a lot of the rhythm pattern practice early on makes recognition of similar patterns in later pieces much easier.

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It sounds like your son is having a different experience than I did. As I said before, I started with a certified Suzuki teacher. She studied with Mr. Suzuki in Japan, was one of the method's pioneers, and started her own Suzuki institute at the local university. When I started, I was 4 years old. My teacher wouldn't let me near the music, she said note reading was secondary, and would interfere with tonal and musical development. She also mentioned that it was too difficult for such a young child to comprehend everything at once. Because of this, none of her students were allowed to begin note-reading until they passed book 4. Our association didn't last long. My next teacher was traditional. I was able to handle everything at once - I learned to note-read in two weeks, although my rhythmic skills weren't polished until I began to study piano. By the way, I do have perfect pitch. Suzuki doesn't hold the corner on ear-training, it is essential to playing a stringed instrument.

Question about the rhythm: It seems like you're infering that the students learn to associate the rhymes with the written patterns. If this is so, wouldn't they have to memorize a rhyme for each pattern that exists? That's not possible, so when is real counting introduced? I'm asking this, because most of the Suzuki students I know have a lot of difficulty sight reading music unless they have heard it before. Are the students you're refering to sight reading music that they've heard before, or are they reading "cold"? Just curious, because I ran into one of my first teachers students in a student orchestra a couple of years ago, and he could barely read the notes. He was an extreme case, but most of the Suzuki students I knew were less proficient sight readers than those who were trained traditionally, especially on harmony parts.

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: It sounds like your son is having a different experience than I did. As I said before, I started with a certified Suzuki teacher. She studied with Mr. Suzuki in Japan, was one of the method's pioneers, and started her own Suzuki institute at the local university. When I started, I was 4 years old. My teacher wouldn't let me near the music, she said note reading was secondary, and would interfere with tonal and musical development. She also mentioned that it was too difficult for such a young child to comprehend everything at once. Because of this, none of her students were allowed to begin note-reading until they passed book 4. Our association didn't last long. My next teacher was traditional. I was able to handle everything at once - I learned to note-read in two weeks, although my rhythmic skills weren't polished until I began to study piano. By the way, I do have perfect pitch. Suzuki doesn't hold the corner on ear-training, it is essential to playing a stringed instrument.

: Question about the rhythm: It seems like you're infering that the students learn to associate the rhymes with the written patterns. If this is so, wouldn't they have to memorize a rhyme for each pattern that exists? That's not possible, so when is real counting introduced? I'm asking this, because most of the Suzuki students I know have a lot of difficulty sight reading music unless they have heard it before. Are the students you're refering to sight reading music that they've heard before, or are they reading "cold"? Just curious, because I ran into one of my first teachers students in a student orchestra a couple of years ago, and he could barely read the notes. He was an extreme case, but most of the Suzuki students I knew were less proficient sight readers than those who were trained traditionally, especially on harmony parts.

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I think that these students establish the rhythm patterns very clearly in their heads, then later identify them with the note patterns on the page and that must transfer to good sight reading ability. The students in my son's program also do rhythmic training exercises from an early age -- clapping out rhythms from the Robert Starer(sp?) book. This is just additional reinforcement. In the better youth orchestras in our area, it is my understanding that the Suzuki students often are in the principle positions and that their sightreading skills are excellent. Again, though, there are good and bad Suzuki programs, just as there are good and bad traditional programs. My son happens to have had the benefit of a very excellent Suzuki program -- his teacher didn't study with Suzuki, but is well known nationally and also has a pedagogy program at a large university. Students from this program stand out in our area. Not only that, but several over the past few years have been accepted at Curtis, Cleveland, Julliard,...

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Thank you for answering my questions! I finally went to your link, and now I understand. Guess what - you're actually in a traditonal type program! It's admitted on the page, where it says that you graduate from playing by ear to a traditional type program. So the only difference is that when you start, you're playing by ear and listening, and that it may take longer to get to theory. (But as Kreisler13 said, it could be started a little earlier, some of the students in my teacher's program didn't start reading until they were 12, and as I said before, the later you start, the harder it is.) That's not all that different from what has been done before for centuries! It's just fancy packaging, with some cute philosophies. I still object to the rhymes - I don't feel that the mathmatical relationships necessary to working with a metronome can be learned that way - and I also object to the idea that everyone has a "genius potential" as in everyone can be a spectacular performer. I think that a different interperation of this statement may have been intended that what most people are taking. But if we continue down this path, we're going to get into the nature/nuture discussion, and I don't want to go there!

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