Just as children learn to speak words before they learn to read, Suzuki students learn to play an instrument before they learn to read music.
There are several very important components to the Suzuki Method of instument study; when they are all utilized to their full potential, students experience the greatest success.
Listening: Every student must listen to the Suzuki recordings every day. Listening to these pieces assists in developing musicality, memory, and the appreciation of tone quality. When a child knows how something is supposed to sound, they will strive to capture that tone in their own playing. Hearing a piece played with gorgeous tone, beautiful intonation, and heart-felt feeling makes a child excited about playing a specific piece or working toward a more advanced work in the literature.
Parental Involvement: A parent attends each lesson with his/her child(ren), and takes notes during the lesson in order to be able to better assist the child(ren) with home practice. The parent is the "home teacher". Dr. Suzuki often spoke of the studio triangle - the parent, the teacher, and the student. Each is equally important in the development of a child's musical education.
Practice: Dr. Suzuki used to tell his students that they should "only practice on the days you eat." Regular practice, with lots of repetition, produces results. The idea of daily review of your past repertoire is also unique to the Suzuki Method. Continuing to polish and perfect past pieces is as important as learning new repertoire. I give each student an individualized practice plan each week, which begins with one or more tonalization or intonation-building exercises, includes technique exercises and review, and will also include new repertoire.
Group Classes: Group classes are a part of the Suzuki community, and have been a part of this learning style from the beginning. During these group classes, children come together to review repertoire, rehearse for upcoming concerts, work on technique, and practice reading skills. Group classes for my students are held once a month, and I expect each family to make them a priority in their schedules. Not only do group classes help students with their overall progress, but being around other students produces a supportive bond and encourages friendships within the studio.
Reading: In my studio, music reading for children over the age of six is introduced when a student has a solid grasp of their intonation (playing in tune) and technique. By the time we get to reading music, I will have already helped a student understand rhythm, notes, and musical theory concepts.
The Suzuki Repertoire: Every piece in the Suzuki books was masterfully chosen and placed in a specific order for a reason. The pieces build the musician through gradual introduction of technique - piece by piece. Starting from Book 4, my students will also purchase and study scale and technique-building books in aaddiition to the Suzuki books.
Dr. Suzuki did not set out to produce a mass community of concert artists. Although many Suzuki students go on to professional careers in music, Dr. Suzuki had a much more lasting hope and vision. His desire was to create good and kind people through the vehicle of instrument study. His ultimate goal was to use the univeral language of music to create world peace. As Dr. Suzuki said, "when love is deep, much can be accomplished."
For further information on this topic, read Nurtured By Love by Dr. Schinichi Suzuki.