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Music education
Treble clef
Major instructional methodologies
Kodály Method - Orff Schulwerk - Dalcroze method - Suzuki method
Instructional settings
General music instruction - Extracurricular - Ensemble

Chorus - Concert band - Marching band - Orchestra

International organizations
International Society for Music Education
International Association for Jazz Education
Organization of Kodaly Educators
National organizations in the United States
National Association for Music Education - Music Teachers National Association - American Choral Directors Association - American String Teachers Association - American School Band Directors Association

The Suzuki method, (Japanese: スズキ・メソード) (sometimes called Talent Education, the mother-tongue method, or the Suzuki movement) is a way of teaching, or educational philosophy which strives to create "high ability" and beautiful character in its students through a nurturing environment. Its primary vehicle for achieving this is music education on a specific instrument (often violin or piano, but see below for a more complete list). The 'nurture' involved in the movement is modeled on some of the factors present in native language acquisition, such as immersion, encouragement, small steps, and an unforced timetable for learning material based on each person's developmental readiness to imitate examples, internalize principles, and contribute novel ideas. The term "Suzuki method" is also sometimes used to refer solely to the Suzuki repertoire of sheet music books and/or audio recordings which have been published as part of its music education method.


I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.

—Shin'ichi Suzuki

It was invented in the mid-20th century by Dr. Shin'ichi Suzuki, a violinist who desired to bring some beauty to the lives of children in his country after the devastation of World War II. Dr. Suzuki noticed that all children pick up their native language very quickly, and even dialects which adults consider "difficult" to learn are spoken with ease by people of 5 or 6 years. He reasoned that if a person has the skill to acquire their mother tongue, then they have the necessary ability to become proficient on a musical instrument. He pioneered the idea that any pre-school age child could begin to play the violin if learning steps were small enough and if the instrument was scaled down to fit their body. He modeled his method, which he called "Talent Education" (才能教育 sainō kyōiku?), after the process of natural language acquisition. Dr. Suzuki believed that every child, if properly taught, was capable of a high level of musical achievement. He also made it clear that the goal of such musical education was to raise generations of children with "noble hearts" (as opposed to creating famous musical prodigies).

The Suzuki method was first developed in Japan. It spread from there to other Pacific Rim countries, and then to Europe. The method has also begun to be taught in a few places in Africa. Although it originally used the study of the violin to achieve its goals, it has also been adapted for other instruments: flute, recorder, piano, guitar, cello, viola, bass, organ, harp and voice. In addition, there are a few "Suzuki Preschools" which have adapted Dr. Suzuki's philosophy to use in the non-musical disciplines of early childhood education.


...all children can be well educated...

—Shin'ichi Suzuki

The central belief of Dr. Suzuki, based on the evidence of universal language acquisition, is that all people can (and will) learn from their environment. Thus, the essential components of the method spring from the desire to create the "right environment" for learning music (he believed that this positive environment would also help to foster excellent character in every student). These components include:

  • Saturation in the musical community, including attendance at local concerts, exposure to and friendship with other music students, and listening to music performed by "artists" (professional musicians of high caliber) in the home every day (starting before birth if possible).
  • Deliberate avoidance of musical aptitude tests or "auditions" to study music (Dr. Suzuki firmly believed that teachers who test for musical aptitude, or teachers who look only for "talented" students, are limiting themselves to people who have already started their music education. Just as every child is expected to learn their native language, Dr. Suzuki expected every child to be able to learn to play music well when they were surrounded with a musical environment from infancy).
  • Emphasis on playing from a very young age, sometimes beginning formal instruction between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. (See Technique).
  • Using well-trained teachers. Suzuki Associations all over the world offer ongoing teacher-training programs to prospective and continuing Suzuki teachers.
  • In the beginning, learning music by ear is emphasized over reading musical notation. This parallels language acquisition, where a child learns to speak before learning to read. Related to this, memorization of all solo repertoire is expected, even after a student begins to use sheet music as a tool to learn new pieces.
  • The method also encourages, in addition to individual playing, regular playing in groups (including playing in unison).
  • Retaining and reviewing every piece of music ever learned on a regular basis, in order to raise technical and musical ability. Review pieces, along with "preview" parts of music a student is yet to learn, are often used in creative ways to take the place of the more traditional etude books.
  • Frequent public performance, so that performing is natural and enjoyable.

The method discourages competitive attitudes between players, and advocates collaboration and mutual encouragement for those of every ability and level.

Another important feature of the method is that the parent of the young student is expected to supervise instrument practice every day (instead of leaving the child to practice alone between lessons) and to attend every lesson so as to be able to supervise the practice effectively. It is not necessary for the parent to be able to play as well as the child (or at all); only that the parent knows from the lessons what the child should be doing and how the child should be doing it. This element of the method is so prominent that a newspaper article once dubbed it "The Mom-Centric Method" (Constance Meyer, LA Times, Sept 7, 2003).

Criticism and responseEdit

The most common criticisms of the Suzuki method from more traditional music teachers are that group playing, extensive listening to and copying of recordings, and early focus on memorization lead to:

  • Compromised sight reading skills
  • A tendency towards rote learning and 'robotic' group performance at the expense of individual musicianship (although a high degree of early technical ability is thereby produced)

Many Suzuki teachers have addressed these concerns by introducing sight reading exercises earlier and more often than was practiced when the method was first introduced in the West. Some also defend their emphasis on unity of musical expression in group performance by pointing out that this is a necessary skill "just like ... in the string section of any professional symphony", and add that although group performance plays an important motivating and ensemble role, and is a highly visible part of the Suzuki method, solo expression can also be encouraged, and individually tailored lessons are at the heart of the method (Barber, 1991).

Criticism has also sprung up from within the Suzuki movement:

  • Students may progress too rapidly and find themselves studying repertoire for which they are not yet emotionally prepared.
  • Baroque music is emphasized in the Suzuki violin literature to the detriment of other styles and periods.
  • "Older students can become overly dependent" on the support structure of recordings, parental note-taking and tutoring at home, and teaching styles appropriate for younger students (Barber, 1991).
  • Very young students, such as those aged 3-5, are often not ready for formal instruction, and too much emphasis on practising hard at this age may be counterproductive (American Suzuki Journal, 2005).

See also: Music lesson


Although Suzuki was a violinist, the method he founded is not a "school of violin playing" (like the French or the Russian school of playing) whose students are always easily identified by the certain set of techniques they use to play the violin. However, some of the technical concepts Suzuki taught his own students, such as the development of "tonalization", were so essential to his way of teaching that they have been carried over into the entire method. Other non-instrument specific techniques are used to implement the basic elements of the philosophy in each discipline.

  • Tonalization is a term coined by Suzuki, and is deliberately similar to the word "vocalization" (as it is used by singers when they talk about warming up their voices). Tonalization is defined as the student's ability to produce and recognize a beautiful, ringing tone quality on their instrument. While initially developed for violin education, the tonalization technique has been applied to other instruments such as the piano. Suzuki believed that a student must learn tonalization in order to properly reproduce and perform music.
  • Using sound recordings is another technique common to all the musical instruments taught in the Suzuki method. Records, tapes, and CDs are used to help students learn notes, phrasing, dynamics, rhythm, and beautiful tone quality by ear. Dr. Suzuki pointed out that great artists (such as Mozart) were surrounded with excellent performances from birth, and that the advent of recording technology made this aspect of their environment possible to achieve for large numbers of "ordinary" people whose parents were not themselves great musicians & music teachers like Mozart's father was.
  • "Adult" sized instruments are adapted to meet the demands of a small child's body in various ways. This lowers the age at which people are developmentally ready to begin studying an instrument. Scaled down instrument sizes are used for children studying stringed instruments. Curved headjoint flutes with displaced keys which are closer together than normal flute keys & holes are also available making it possible for children as young as 3 years old to study the flute through the Suzuki method. Height adjustable chairs, benches, and footrests are used for piano, guitar, cello, and string bass.
  • Suzuki Institutes were established to encourage a musical community, raise the quality of teachers, and provide a place where master teachers' ideas can easily be spread to the whole community of Suzuki students, teachers, & parents. These short term music festivals began in Matsumoto, Japan, where teachers & students came to learn from Dr. Suzuki himself. In the US, they often last for a week or two and include daily masterclasses; repertoire (group) classes; teacher training courses; concerts; discussion sessions; seminars; and various 'enrichment' classes in different musical styles, instruments, or non-musical (usually arts, crafts, or dancing) activities.
  • A Common repertoire for all students of an instrument was established. This body of music allows each student to participate in group classes, helps to foster musical community and camaraderie, and provides motivation for students to learn new music while keeping the 'old' pieces they have learned in top form.

Today, public schools often continue to teach from traditional method books, while private lessons are often conducted with the Suzuki method.


...If it is true that "everything in music is preparation" (Gerhart Zimmermann), then the genius of Suzuki is truly expressed in the scope and sequencing of the music....

Edward Kreitman

The core Suzuki literature is published on audio recordings and in sheet music books for each instrument, and Suzuki teachers supplement the repertoire common to each instrument as needed. One of the innovations of the Suzuki method was to make quality recordings of the beginners' pieces widely available, performed by professional musicians. Many traditional (non-Suzuki trained) music teachers also use the Suzuki repertoire, often to supplement their curriculum, and they adapt the music to their own philosophies of teaching. Suzuki deliberately left out the large amount of technical instructions & exercises found in many beginners' music books of his day.

Compiled and edited by Dr.Suzuki. In ten volumes, beginning with Dr. Suzuki's Variations on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and ending with a Mozart concerto. The first 3 books are mostly graded arrangements of music not originally written for solo violin, although book 1 contains several original compositions by Dr. Suzuki for violin & piano. These arrangements are drawn from composers such as Bach, Telemann, Dvořák, Beethoven, Schubert, Handel, Paganini, and Brahms. Books 4-10 continue the graded selection by incorporating 'standard' or 'traditional' student violin solos by Seitz, Vivaldi, Bach, Veracini, Corelli, Rameau, Handel, Mozart, and others. Audio recordings for books 1-4 are available in separate albums by artists such as David Nadien, David Cerone, and Shinichi Suzuki. Recordings for books 5-10 have been made by Koji Toyoda, although many of the pieces can be found separately on other artist's albums.
Compiled & edited by Doris Preucil. In seven volumes, the first 3 arranged (or transposed) almost directly from the first 3 violin volumes, and the rest differing significantly as they delve into standard viola literature. These volumes include works by Telemann, Casadesus, Bach, and others. Volume eight is set to be released soon, and is expected to end with Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata. Books 1-4 have been recorded on two albums by William Preucil, and the rest are available in separate albums.
In ten volumes, with some early pieces arranged from the early violin volumes. Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi performs volumes 1 & 2.
In seven volumes.
In three volumes.
Compiled & edited by Toshio Takahashi. In fourteen volumes, beginning with Mary Had a Little Lamb and ending in the Flute Concerto by Otaka. Also included are Concerti by Mozart, Cimarosa, Ibert and Quantz. Students also study music by Bach, Handel, Blavet, Fauré and other major composers.
Soprano Recorder
In four volumes.
Alto Recorder
In four volumes.
In seven volumes.
In two volumes. Repertoire for volumes Three and Four are selected, though the music is not published in a single book for each volume.
Recently developed in Finland (?), the vocal repertoire of the Suzuki method is not yet widespread in other countries, although a Book 1 class is scheduled to be taught in a US teacher training course in the summer of 2006.
In three volumes.

Supplementary materials are also published under the Suzuki name, including piano accompaniment parts, guitar accompaniment parts, duets, trios, and string quartet arrangements of Suzuki repertoire, as well as note-reading books and a few etudes.

Historical notesEdit

In the late nineteenth century, Japan's borders were opened to trade with the outside world, and in particular to the importation of Western Culture. As a result of this, Suzuki's father, who owned a company which had manufactured the Shamisen, began to manufacture violins instead.

In his youth, Dr. Suzuki chanced to hear a phonograph recording of Franz Schubert's Ave Maria, as played on violin by Mischa Elman. Gripped by the beauty of the music, he immediately picked up a violin from his father's factory and began to teach himself to play the instrument "by ear." He eventually began to take lessons with a teacher in Tokyo.

Later, Suzuki travelled to Germany to find a violin teacher to continue his studies. While there, he studied with Karl Klingler, and also met and became friends with Albert Einstein, who encouraged him in learning classical music. He also met, courted, and married his wife, Waltraud.

In 1945, Dr. Suzuki began his Talent Education movement in Matsumoto, Japan shortly after the end of World War II. Raising children with "noble hearts" (inspired by great music and diligent study) was one of his primary goals; he believed that people raised and "nurtured by love" in his method would grow up to achieve better things than war.

Eventually, the center of the Suzuki movement in education was established as the Talent Education Research Institute (TERI) in Matsumoto. TERI hosts thousands of people each year -- students, parents, teachers, (and teacher trainees). Other organizations have sprung up all over the world to help oversee the movement and train teachers. These include the Asia Suzuki Association, the Suzuki Association of the Americas, the European Suzuki Association, and the Pan-Pacific Suzuki Association. (Currently, the European Suzuki Association also assists with the beginnings of the Suzuki movement in Africa).

John Kendall of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville brought the Suzuki method, along with adaptations to better fit the requirements of the American classroom, to the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Vilem Sokol of the Seattle Youth Symphony hosted Suzuki in Seattle. The majority of American Suzuki pedagogues and teaching methods are grounded in the Suzuki-Kendall system. Other pioneers of the Suzuki Method in the US include Roland and Almita Vamos, Elizabeth and Harlow Mills, Louise Behrend, Dorothy Roffman and William Starr.


  • Barber, Barbara (Autumn, 1991). "Traditional & Suzuki Teaching: A Comparison". American String Teacher.
  • Bradley, Jane (Spring 2005). "When to Twinkle - Are Children Ever Too Young?". American Suzuki Journal Vol. 33, #3, p53.
  • Campell, Don. The Mozart Effect for Children. Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., New York, NY, 2000.
  • Kreitman, Edward. Teaching from the Balance Point: A Guide for Suzuki Teachers, Parents, and Students. Western Springs School of Talent Education Publications, Western Springs, IL, 1998.
  • Meyer, Constance (2003, 7 September). The Mom-Centric Method. Los Angeles Times, Classical Music.
  • Nurtured by Love: The life and work of Shinichi Suzuki [Video Documentary]. Produced by The Cleveland Institute of Music. Telos Productions, Inc.
  • Suzuki, Shinichi. Nurtured By Love: A New Approach to Talent Education. Warner bros. Publication, Miami, Florida, 1968

External linksEdit

fr:Méthode Suzuki nl:Suzukimethodesimple:Suzuki method sv:Suzukimetoden

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