Frequently Asked Questions about Suzuki music lessons and the Oakville Suzuki Association
What is Suzuki, and how does it differ from other methods of music training?
The Suzuki method of musical instruction was developed by Japanese violinist, Shinichi Suzuki. He based his method on a toddler's ability to learn his or her mother tongue through listening and repetition and determined that the same could be done with music. Suzuki focuses on giving children an early start in music, stressing the importance of listening to music, learning to play before learning to read music, and committed parental involvement and participation – all in a nurturing and positive learning environment.
Suzuki Method vs RCM Conservatory (PDF download)
At what age can my child take lessons?
The Suzuki Method is particularly suited to young students. The ideal age to begin studying an instrument is around four years old, although it is not uncommon for younger siblings of existing students to begin studying music at three years old. This enables children to establish a good foundation in music prior to starting other organized activities and sports.
Parents play a crucial role in the early musical education of their child. A typical Suzuki lesson will see a teacher devoting 10 to15 minutes to the child, and the remainder of the lesson training the parent on how to work with their child at home. Some teachers offer early stage training as semi-private lessons. Students six years and older also benefit from the presence of their parents during lessons.
A pre-Suzuki Early Childhood Music program is also offered to initiate babies to four-year olds to music. There are numerous benefits to starting a musical education early. This is a wonderful opportunity to have fun with your child and meet other parents.
That seems young – are Suzuki kids prodigies? As such, do Suzuki parents have to be musically trained?
Fortunately, Suzuki students are normal children whose parents may or may not have musical experience. They have simply chosen to introduce their child to music through the Suzuki approach, a unique philosophy of music education developed over forty years ago by Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki.
Is the Suzuki Method a group method?
People often get that impression when they see large groups of children playing together in concerts. Some studio lessons for the youngest students (aged 3-4 years) are offered as semi-private or small group lessons. For students 4 years of age and above, weekly private lessons are essential and the children look forward to them.
Group lessons help to reinforce the curriculum and provide a fun atmosphere to practice using repetition and games. Playing in a group teaches ensemble playing, and creates friendships among students. Group lessons are important in motivating students to learn.
How can I find a teacher?
Do you offer trial lessons? Can I observe lessons?
The Oakville Suzuki Association does not offer trial lessons however it encourages new parents to observe group lessons and/or private lessons. Please contact the Registrar and ask about observing a group class or for the teacher nearest your home. Contact the teacher and ask when it would be appropriate to observe classes.
What are the fees?
How do I know if my child has musical talent?
The Suzuki Method fundamental philosophy is that every child can be educated. Talent in children is a skill that develops over time. When a child first laces up a pair of skates, parents do not know if that child has skating ability. It is through countless practice sessions that the child develops their talent to skate.
Developing musical talent is no different. If parents believe in the ability of their child, and if they provide the support and proper environment to learn, their child will develop their talent to play an instrument gradually.
How do we decide which instrument to learn?
For young children, you as a parent can determine which instrument you would like your child to learn unless he/she demonstrates a keen interest in a particular instrument of their choice. It is suggested that you attend a concert where your child can be exposed to a variety of instruments. See the Oakville Suzuki calendar for upcoming events or visit the Oakville Arts Council website for a listing of concerts offered in Oakville.
The energy necessary for daily practicing with a child is easier if the parent is motivated. Suzuki often points out in his writing that a good learning environment helps the child's learning ability. If you love listening to your favourite instrument every day, your child will likely enjoy it too.
The Oakville Suzuki Association offers instruction in the following instruments: Cello, Flute, Guitar, Piano, Violin, and Viola
What about learning two instruments?
If you are planning on your child learning two instruments, it is advisable to study one first and be firmly established in playing this instrument before beginning another. Learning two instruments at once can be overwhelming and may prove to be too much for both the child and their parent.
Where do I purchase an instrument?
We recommend that parents meet their new teacher before purchasing or renting an instrument. A poor quality instrument could affect your child’s learning.
Some instruments can be rented through the OSA’s affiliated store, The Sound Post , which also returns half of your accumulated rental fees back should you decide to purchase an instrument through the store when you are ready to purchase an instrument. Some other stores offer instrument exchange or rent-to-buy programs after purchasing an instrument from them. The OSA also offers a classified ad service for the purchase and sale of used instruments.
Can I attend my child's lessons, or should I leave?
One of the unique aspects of the Suzuki Method is the direct involvement of parents in their child's education. It is required that you attend the lessons.
Teachers will insist at the beginning that you follow a training period before your child starts formal lessons. During those sessions you will learn how to create a proper learning environment in your home, the basic technique of your chosen instrument, and how to practice effectively with your child.
Do I have to keep practicing with my child forever?
A parent’s presence during lessons gradually phases out as the child matures and develops practice skills of their own. The goal of any good musical method is to teach the child to take ownership of their instrument and to enjoy the process. Before your child can practice independently, however, your presence and your support is critical. It is proven that the most successful students have the most supportive parents.
Both my spouse and I work all day - can we still find time for Suzuki lessons?
The Suzuki Method encourages parents to develop a good relationship with their child. It can be difficult to find time for musical studies if your child is involved in too many extracurricular activities and sometimes prioritizing is necessary.
That said, practice does not need to become an onerous part of your family life. Parents are encouraged to find at least half an hour every day to supervise a quiet and relaxing practice session, but that may mean practicing more on one day and less on another. How much your child practices will directly reflect their dedication to, and progress through, the curriculum. You may also choose to enlist the help of a Practise Buddy who are advanced Suzuki students specially trained to assist younger students with their practicing.
How should we decide which parent will be the active one?
Consideration should first be given to the parent who can attend the lesson and is ready to help with the practice. In some families it is the mother, in others, the father - sometimes both attend. It doesn't matter whether one is more musical than the other; what is important is that there is continuity between the lesson and the home practice.
We have two children. Can we start them both at the same time?
Time management becomes trickier when you have two or more children studying instruments. It is recommended that parents share the responsibility in attending lessons and helping with practice.
You should also consider sibling rivalry. If you start two children at the same time on the same instrument, one may learn faster than the other. It may be more difficult to keep the student that takes longer motivated. Starting children on different instruments is often a good solution, especially if the children are close in age.
Do you offer lessons to advanced students?
Many of our teachers hold Bachelor or Master's degrees in music performance. They do teach advanced Suzuki repertoire and prepare students for Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) exams. Many of the pieces listed in the advanced Suzuki Method repertoire can be found in the RCM syllabus as well.
How long can you continue to learn the Suzuki Method?
Many people have the impression that Suzuki is a "starting" method, to be replaced later by a more "traditional" method. They think the Suzuki Method is a kinder way of starting off musical instruction, while a stricter teacher is required to get down to serious work. This is far from the truth.
Repertoire and technique are presented in small steps easily understood by students. To succeed in learning these small steps, a student has to be disciplined to study these small steps daily. The repertoire is constantly reviewed, thus providing the building blocks for more advanced repertoire.
Although scales, arpeggios and studies are taught, skills learned in previous pieces help students understand more complex techniques. Studying an instrument the Suzuki way means learning the same repertoire and instrumental technique as more traditional methods. The practice discipline is just as rigorous and reading skills are nurtured. The difference is that the process is more enjoyable for the student.