The Suzuki Method

Who was Shinichi Suzuki?

Shinichi Suzuki was a recognized and prolific teacher and educational philosopher of the 20th Century. Suzuki was one of twelve children and spent many an hour in his father’s violin shop. At 18 years of age Suzuki began to teach himself the violin. Not having access to professional instruction, Suzuki took to listening to recordings and imitating their sound and requisite technique. This experience served as a cornerstone of his music education and subsequently became a cornerstone of his pedagogy and the Suzuki Method.  


After some time in the West, Suzuki returned to Japan with a burden to teach children the joys of music. In his pursuits he eventually taught at the Imperial School of Music. But that was not to last long. With the advent of the World War II, the family violin shop was sequestered under the war effort. During the War the shop was bombed, and continued luthier work became impossible. After the end of the war Suzuki was once again called upon to teach music and he agreed to do so under one condition, that he be allowed to teach the very young. His request was granted. It was at this time that Suzuki honed his craft as a music teacher and as a result gave rise to what is now called the Suzuki Method.

What is the main philosophy behind the Suzuki Method?

Suzuki understood and taught that children first learn music like they do their own language. First, the child listens to the phenomena of language happening around them. This stage is then followed up by acts of imitation. The child speaks words she hears and she speaks them in the way she hears them. That is, the child not only speaks the word but also speaks the word with a similar tone and cadence as the word they heard. After participating in this give and take, hearing the phenomena of language and repeating those sounds, only then does the child begin to learn the intricacies of their respective language.


The same goes for music. Children first hear the sounds, the phenomena of music, and if given an instrument, they can with little direction begin to find those same sounds on their instrument. Once they begin to find the sounds, they are able to put those sounds together. In fact, like in the phenomena of language, once a habit of finding the sounds on their instrument is firmly established the student can begin to play songs they hear, improvise on their own or in a group, and begin to compose their own music.


Though Suzuki’s method yields a superb music education through listening and imitation, that is not to say that Suzuki advocated for neglecting the disciplines of theory and proper technique. Rather the opposite is the case. Sound theory and proper technique are essential to the Suzuki method and curriculum so of course we teach it here at Sarah Strings. Where the Suzuki method shines is the online medium which so fills the current educational landscape.

Why does the Suzuki Method work in an online setting?

One of the primary challenges facing any online teaching and/or teacher is the fact that the teacher and the student are not in the same room. In fact, in the case of a recording the challenge is greater it seems in that the student is listening to something at a different time and place. But if you recall, this is the very beginning of Suzuki’s musical journey. He had recordings and through recordings was able to learn the violin. We have an advantage that Suzuki could only dream of. We have the internet and instant access to not only the sounds but the images and performance of the requisite techniques. 

How will the student find the note without the teacher putting the student’s finger in the right spot? It is a good question, and the answer is a beautiful one. While the teacher is not in the room with the student and certainly not live with the student, the student can hear the note on the video or in their recordings. Then, just like they learn language, they are able to imitate that sound on their instrument. Using the Suzuki method the student will listen, identify by ear, and imitate that sound in the appropriate order and at the appropriate tempo. 

Sarah Van Kleeck has been teaching violin and the Suzuki Method for over 30 years. She has taught hundreds of students over thousands of lessons. In 2017 she began teaching students online via LIVE classes through Given her considerable success in that medium a new vision was cast for a more flexible and self-paced learning experience. In keeping with that vision was born.

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