5 votes

What the Suzuki method really taught


  1. nacho
    I started learning a string instrument with an adapted/improved Suzuki method at four. A couple years later I started tennis with a coach had a very similar approach to learning the stroke...

    At the same time, there was always a tension within Suzuki’s method. On the one hand, it celebrated spontaneous effusions of sensibility; on the other, it rigorously enforced discipline.

    I started learning a string instrument with an adapted/improved Suzuki method at four.

    A couple years later I started tennis with a coach had a very similar approach to learning the stroke techniques through rigorous practice.

    There's something amazing in seeing young kids who've practiced technique this way. There's something effortless, elegant, efficient in the movements. They strongly replicate swings, strokes, bowings and movements of trained professionals who've honed their craft for years and years.

    Those who start practicing as teens or adults have to spend so much time getting to that same point, if their swing, bowing or form ever becomes as pure

    The strategy in sport that you need to win, putting the small techniques and strokes together, managing pressure and all those other things that are on a higher level, you don't get any of that through Suzuki.

    Just like you don't get musicianship, or the interplay between members of an ensemble, band or orchestra through the Suzuki method itself.

    But you get the building blocks: all the wrote technical skills are there that you can either build on if you catch the interest and want to build further. You learn to learn through systematic practice, hard work and good habits, routine.

    That's a gift a parent can give their child, just like a second or third language from a young age.

    4 votes
  2. skybrian
    From the book review: [...]

    From the book review:

    There was a built-in ambiguity in Suzuki’s approach, which persists to this day. On the one hand, he didn’t think that musical prodigies were a special class of children, with some special innate gift. On the other hand, he believed that kids learned music not by drill and repetition but by exposure and instinct. All you had to do to activate the music instinct was expose them early to the right input. This ambiguity proved fruitful as a public-relations tool—he could point to this or that wunderkind who had been trained by his method as proof that it worked. But he could also insist, in the face of all the kids who would never play at the concert-hall level, that the point was not to make wunderkinder but to make kids wonder, to allow the power of music to expand their emotional repertory. No bad result was possible.


    Most linguists and psychologists these days are inclined to think that the direct connection Suzuki saw between learning language and learning music is not much more than an appealing metaphor. We are all Mozarts in our native languages—fluent, endlessly inventive, able to produce new sentences effortlessly and without conscious premeditation—but, Mozart aside, even the most dedicated of music students progress in fits and starts. Kids don’t learn to talk by being assembled in groups, and they certainly don’t learn language by repeating the same phrases over and over. Still, it’s a mainstream view in cognitive psychology that music and language share certain mental processes. Some psychologists even believe that music effectively piggybacks on the same mental capacities that enable us to learn language—musical pitch, for instance, may evolve in parallel with the varying tones we employ when we talk. The argument is not that we learn music in the same way that we learn language; it’s that we can learn music because we can learn language, “exapting” the software for a different purpose. Indeed, a humanist might argue that music is not an epiphenomenon of language but a better phenomenon, not a free rider on our capacity for language but, as Walter Pater maintained, the higher state all words aspire to.

    Yet it’s hard to quarrel with Suzuki’s practical idea that small children are surprisingly capable of learning difficult things if they’re motivated by their own curiosity and someone else’s enthusiasm. Kids, unimpeded by too much interference, will learn through constant exposure, getting good at an instrument the way they get good at Minecraft. Not a few parents know the moment when a kid, bored by piano lessons and having to be coaxed into practicing at all, suddenly gets turned on by music—whether by wanting to play a Strokes song or “Für Elise”—and then the hours fly by on the keyboard and the sounds come pouring out, astonishing no one more than the child. Wanting to do something and doing it seem like consecutive bases touched on the same trip home. Suzuki’s real purpose was to make the wanting-to stronger in order to get to the doing-it sooner.

    2 votes