The Philosophy Behind Suzuki Piano Lessons

“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

The Suzuki method of teaching how to play musical instruments dates back to the mid-twentieth century. It was Shinichi Suzuki, a well-known Japanese violinist and teacher in the late 1800s, who conceptualized and popularized the Suzuki method of music education. Suzuki believed that if taught correctly, every child can achieve a high level of musicality and can be well-educated. He modeled his teaching method based from his observation on how quickly children of age 5 or 6 are able to learn their native language. Suzuki developed theories of natural language acquisition which he modified in order to teach children how to play the violin. Just like in teaching language where basic words and sentences that are suited to the learning capacity of a child are introduced first, in teaching violin, scaled-down sizes of instruments that can fit the young hands of children must be used. Also, Suzuki acknowledged that “we learn to speak by being immersed and imitating;” so he believed that lots of repetition and listening must likewise be practiced in teaching musical instruments.

The Suzuki method has the following elements: 1. immersion in music, like listening to music daily and attending concerts or musical plays; 2. ear training that allows children to identify tones based from hearing; 3. repertoire that provides reviews for students; and 4. performance which means that students must be encouraged to play regularly so that they may be well-practiced.

Although the Suzuki method was originally developed to teach violin, this method has already been widely used from the start of the millennium up until now in teaching other musical instruments, especially the piano. A number of music centers that teach piano lessons adapt the Suzuki method because of its philosophy that has resulted to well-educated and well-taught young pianists of today’s generation. What people have to keep in mind regarding the Suzuki method is, it is a pure philosophy of a teaching method, not a medium of instruction. You cannot be a Suzuki teacher when you merely read or buy volumes of books about the Suzuki method. A Suzuki teacher must understand the philosophy in its entirety and come up with his or her own techniques based on this. Children must be taught in a manner which they can easily comprehend, in a joyful environment that retains their youthfulness even when learning, in methods that will gradually develop them into skilled individuals, and that is what the Suzuki method is all about.