Japanese violinist, Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, observed that children all over the world learn to speak their native language with ease. Wait. Isn't that incredible? If they are capable of such potential, why not teach music modeled after the same principles of language acquisition? This is how the "mother tongue method" was born.
Children succeed at learning their native language for a variety of reasons, but the primary one being that they are surrounded by a support network that is constantly reinforcing their development with positive feedback. It is crucial to have supportive and engaged parents in music study, highly involved in the process and creating a joyful learning environment for home practice. In Suzuki lessons, the parent is trained to be the assistant teacher and guides the student in successful home practice.
Would you ever learn a foreign language without hearing it first and hearing it often? Listening to the Suzuki recordings on a daily basis is the single most important secret to success in music learning. Not only do the children hear high level playing to model their tone after, but they are able to internalize the music they are about to learn, becoming so familiar that the process becomes effortless. Daily listening is not limited to the Suzuki recordings, but enhanced by a diverse palate of musical genres.
We all know repetition is essential to producing an ability with efficiency and neuroscience has proved it time and again. For children learning to speak, this means they will continually build their vocabulary rather than discarding the simple beginner words. For music students, this means they will continually play their known repertoire and build a vast and comprehensive database of repertoire they can produce.
Just as children begin to speak their first words, their efforts to play an instrument should be met with sincere praise and encouragement. Corrective feedback should withhold judgment so that learning from mistakes can be celebrated. Individuals learn at their own pace and within their own learning style. With patience and a positive attitude, students will excel.
The pieces in the Suzuki repertoire are established in a very logical sequence to develop a solid technical foundation. Additionally, we believe that technique can be learned within the context of the source material rather than studied in exercises.
Children are motivated by seeing other children excel. They learn quickly by observing others and can do so in the context of a group learning environment. With our shared Suzuki repertoire, we can easily play together to develop ensemble skills.
Just as we learned our native language, we learned to speak long before we could read. Eventually our reading literacy caught up to our speaking ability, and that is the model that is used in the Suzuki method. First, we develop a strong foundation of technique to produce beautiful sounds so that when the mind is asked to interpret musical symbols and notation, the execution at the instrument will not falter.
It is wonderful to take advantage of the formative stages of mental growth and body coordination when children are young. While children should be exposed to a musical environment from birth, they can also begin music lessons at the age of 3 or 4. However, it is never too late to start.