Suzuki Method For Piano

The basic premise of the Suzuki method is to teach young children how to play an instrument in the same way that they learn to speak their native language.  I’m a traditional piano teacher for the most part, but I do use the Suzuki method occasionally.  The Suzuki piano books are great for choosing recital pieces and finding longer songs that allow students to practice new techniques.  With this method of teaching and learning, students will start playing standard piano repertoire much faster than the traditional way of teaching piano.  
Below are some of the major components of teaching and learning Suzuki style:
  1. Parents are encouraged to sit in on the lessons and take notes so that they can assist their child with practicing at home in between lessons.  This is very beneficial for the younger children who aren’t able to read well enough to understand teacher notes written in their lesson notebooks.  Sometimes parents feel overwhelmed with the additional responsibility of being their child’s at home music coach since they also have to learn the lessons well enough to assist in the learning process.
  2. Students are welcomed to start as early as possible – even as young as 3 years old.  This is why parent participation is necessary.  
  3. Teachers will move the students along in small steps at their own pace.  The Suzuki piano repertoire sequence should be followed chronologically from book 1 to book 7.  Each song is a building block for the next song and should be mastered thoroughly.  Going through this process gives the students confidence as they start to work on progressively harder pieces and creates excitement for learning.  The Suzuki books contain arrangements from prominent composers which are included in the standard cannon of piano repertoire.  It’s a big plus for students to get this exposure sooner rather than later.
  4. Parents are requested to create a home environment that is conducive to music immersion.  Students should listen to and play along with the recordings of their assigned piano music on a daily basis.  Outside recordings should also be introduced at home to assist with the student’s artistic development.
  5. In order to help keep students motivated and enthusiastic about learning music, parents and teachers should provide positive reinforcement by praising the student whenever an accomplishment is made….no matter how small.
As a teacher, I find that I have to do more outside preparation work when I teach using the Suzuki method since the repertoire books don’t explain underlying theory concepts such as time signatures, key signatures, dynamic markings or style markings.  I have also discovered that the younger children can grasp the concept of reading the lines and spaces on the staff starting from book 1 as long as the information is presented in a fun and interesting way.
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