With so many benefits for learning music and Hercules demonstrating a keen interest in music since he old enough to express an interest, I have decided to implement the Suzuki Method once he is through with the BrillKids Little Musician course. Although we originally contemplated the Suzuki Method for Aristotle, we weren’t able to make the commitment so we never ended up taking classes.
Instead of taking classes, I’ve decided to go it alone and do a partial implementation of the program. Why partial? Because the Suzuki Method also involves experience with group practice/learning and performance that I will not be able to offer Hercules unless I can find him a music group to join. However, since the intention is merely for Hercules to get more musical exposure and the opportunity to learn an instrument, I figure we can still achieve our goals this way.
Can parents teach their children music following the Suzuki Method? I’ve been pondering about this for some time. Since the Suzuki Method requires a high level of parental involvement, parents are effectively learning music alongside their child. While a parent with no music experience might struggle, I think that as long as you have learned to play the instrument you are intending to teach to some level of proficiency, I believe you should be able to teach your child music using the Suzuki Method, especially the earlier levels. There are also a number of books available for parents and teachers teaching Suzuki and structured book course for Piano and Violin to support a home program.
Why the Suzuki Method?
I’ve been reading How to Teach Suzuki Piano by Shinichi Suzuki and a lot of what he writes resonates with me, especially when I ponder over my own experiences learning music…
When I first started learning the piano, it was because my parents wanted me to. My music teacher was a lovely lady whom I bullied at every lesson because she was too sweet natured to do otherwise. Because of my defiance and unwillingness to practice, I was not ready to sit for the Grade 1 exams when my brother did. Realising that learning graded piano lessons were not working well for me, my parents changed my lessons so that I was free to learn whatever musical pieces I wanted. That worked well for a time and I got to a level where I could read music but not well enough to play by sight reading. I had to stop after that because my music teacher left and we were unable to find a suitable replacement.
During that break, I heard my cousin playing a musical piece that caught my interest. Inspired, I asked her to teach it to me and she showed me the opening on the piano (without the score). Once I memorised that part, she gave me a copy of the score and I committed it to memory because I couldn’t sight read fast enough to play the piece. I enjoyed the music so much, I asked her for more and committed another five pieces to memory. Once I had them by heart, I worked on my expression of the pieces. After that, my parents started up my piano lessons again and I started taking grades. I was allowed to skip two grades. I continued lessons until Grade 5 then I stopped.
Recently, I bought the boys and myself a digital piano – a cheap Casio with lots of gimmicky functions so we could have fun with it and so I wouldn’t feel like someone was stabbing me if Hercules was rough with it. I found I was still able to play the pieces that I memorised by heart. It was like getting back onto a bicycle – a little rusty at first, but I got there in the end. As for the pieces I studied for my Grade exams, it was like sight reading them from the beginning all over again. Well, maybe marginally better – just.
The Suzuki Method requires children to commit the music to memory so they can concentrate on the expression of the music rather than being distracted by reading the music. Suzuki’s belief is that if you are too busy reading the music, you cannot inject the true emotion into the music to create something beautiful. When you are too busy reading the score, you cannot hear the music you play. From my own experience, I believe he is right. My truest appreciation for the music I played came when I knew the pieces by heart and could listen to the sound I was making.
While I think it is great for a child to learn how to play an instrument, I think it is better if the child can truly appreciate the learning of the instrument and the music he plays. Although the Suzuki Method is not the only way to achieve this, I believe it is one way of doing so. Additionally, the availability of resources for teaching the Suzuki Method makes it a little easier for a parent like me who has some musical knowledge but no teaching experience.
Last but not least, the Suzuki Method follows the basic principles of Doman’s and Shichida’s teaching philosophy for young children:
- Keep the lessons short – stop before your child’s attention is lost
- Make the lessons enjoyable – do not force your child to learn
Because if a child is happy and likes what he is doing, he will inevitably excel at what he is doing.
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