Suzuki Method at TEC
Music is Movement
Children learn by moving. From the very
beginning at the PreTwinkle stages to advanced level violinist all
students learn through motion. Playing the violin is a very
physical activity that needs to be experienced with the entire body.
From the very beginning we learn that 'Bowing is breathing'
'Bowing is balance' and 'Bowing is walking'
The body needs to feel music as a complete physical
impulse. Before birth our children were already responding
to music with movement. The sounds in the womb with mothers
heart rate playing in the background resemble a drum circle around the
campfire. The unborn child's first impulse is to dance with in.
Toddlers continue to express themselves at a deep impulsive level to the
music we put in their environments. If the PreTwinkle Class is
filled with movement we can start a child as young as three years of
One day, Dr. Suzuki was seen standing
outside a classroom door, his eyes closed. When asked what he was
doing, he replied, "I am mentally preparing myself for the
five-year-old mind. I want to come down to their physical
limitations and up to their sense of wonder and awe."
Listening is magic
Suzuki used to say to us "Did you open the door" in reference to
listening. If we do not listen to the music first how can we
even begin to start learning its language. Each piece of
music has its own dialect. Just as with learning a
language the brain needs to have enough experience with music to
recognize its many components. Even when we are sleeping the
brain is listening. Through listening are learning at a deep
Listening to pieces repeatedly every day can help us develop our
memories for music in a deep intuitive place that allows us to be more
spontaneous in our musical expression. Suzuki children who
are confident with instruction of new pieces have already been listening
to their newest pieces months and years ahead of the first time they
attempt to play them. They listen frequently and daily.
A child is already listening to his mother tong before birth.
He is almost two years old before he first begin to form in his mouth,
the first words that he can solicit his environment with. It
is not until age 5 that most children spill over the rim with
conversation about the world they know. We now know that they need
a rich listening environment of listening to do this. We can not
possibly teach them every single word they know. They learn from
everything we put in their environment. By listening day in and day out
for months at a time language seems to appear from them like a magical
Start with Large Motions
Preschool children do not detect small motions. They are
finding control of their fingers for the first time. We
start out using large swinging motions to feel the motion of a bow.
Bowing needs to be felt with the whole body from the bottom of the feet
to the highest reach of their arms over their heads.
If we start by expressing the quick rhythms which their ears can
detect using small motions on the violin they will not be able to feel
or remember them. We start teaching the feeling of up and down
with large motions using the ball so that the motions stick to them all
the way up and down their bodies.
Start with Quick , Lively Rhythms
Dr. Suzuki recognized that young children were very responsive to the
music of Vivaldi and Mozart. In particular to the fast
movements. Children love speed. As toddlers they learn to
walk by running. Their hearts even beat faster than ours. One
minute is an hour to them.
The 4 Twinkle Rhythms can be found in the Vivaldi concertos. We
teach them up to temple so that young ears can hold them together in
small units. If we slow them down children will shorten each
rhythmic unit for us leaving the end off. We want them to
hear them as complete units even though their hands are not ready to tap
them to the recording. It is better to do a short segment up to
tempo than a long segment slowly. This gives young ears
access to very compact and rich auditory piece of information in
every Twinkle bite.
Before we introduce the instrument their are so many motor skills
that the child needs to get control of. We start with
the feet and work our way up the trunk of the body to the fingers.
Children need to move before they can stand still and find their
balance. They learned to stand still by running as toddlers.
It is very difficult to keep ones balance while standing still for long
periods of time.
In addition to that we are asking them to balance an instrument on
their shoulder under their chin. They need to feel weight in
their feet and their bodies before they can feel how a violin can float
from their shoulder. We take advantage of the fact that children
love to play games by moving and labeling parts of their body.
Foot charts and box violins give the child opportunities to develop
those skills before having to worry about dropping the real instrument
to fall to the floor.
Unlike adults who are stiff and must learn to relax muscles children
are very flexible. They may seem to be very wobbly and week.
The foot chart and the box violin provide manipulatives which can be
used to create games of balance and endurance. Running and
jumping stimulate the vestibular system and make the child more
sensitive to balance.
Before we can bring our hands up to hold a bow and balance fingers on
the finger board of the violin the child needs to develop his core
strength though out the trunk of the body. This allows the elbows
to hang comfortably from the body. The bow is balanced on the
strings of the violin not forced into the string. Tone of the bow
comes from the ability of the arm and the fingers to balance the bow on
each string. Even the intonation and vibrato is achieved by
balancing and rolling the arm and fingers around the finger board, not
by squeezing the fingers against the neck as a guitarist needs to do.
Tone is made by allowing the bow and the string to move freely.
It must breath with the movement of the whole body.
Everything we have done up to this point to
prepare the body is for the purpose of making a beautiful tone. The
first experience of putting the bow on the string has been awaited with
eager anticipation. We want the first sound that the child makes on the
string to be one that inspires many future attempts. All the work that
has been done to bring a child to this moment should be rewarded with
When the real violin
is introduced, it is very important that the size of the instrument is
correct for the child. The elbow must remain comfortably close to the
body so that the fingers can be relaxed when the time comes to use them.
I tell parents that their "child's body is a delicate musical
instrument." Any unnecessary tension caused by placing a violin on the
child's body is likely to affect their bow arm as well as the
flexibility of their fingers in the violin hand. This will be heard in
the tone and limit one's musical sensibility. It is difficult
to hear what one is playing when the body is distracted by tension.
When it is finally time to obtain an instrument for
your child we have a special way of measuring the arm against the
instrument that no one else uses that is parent and child friendly.
In most cases Ms. Cynthia will be able to check your violin size at a
group lesson when their are other instruments available.
Reading in language comes many years after much listening and a good
bit of speaking. Children at age 5 need and chance to do some of
their own story telling before they have the skills to read someone
Suzuki children have been listening to and then playing as many
pieces as possible with great posture and a well developed tone before
they are ready to read the notes they are playing from memory. We
want them to have spontaneous control over their tone and intonation
before we add additional task for their busy brain to take on. A
student who is still struggling with basic skills of playing the violin
will be over whelmed if asked to add the complex activity of reading.
Their playing will become mechanical.
To start reading music before this is like asking a child who just
learned to speak his first words to start learning them by reading them.
Their ability to speak would immediately slow down. All of
their attention would leave listening and speaking and be focused on the
difficult process of reading. Small children may learn
to recognize basic symbols and shapes but we would not confuse this with
the ability and readiness to read. There are many factors that go
into the process of reading, the command of verbal language being only
one of them.
We usually know when children are ready to start musical literacy
when they become curious about the musical symbols in the music books
that their teacher and parents are making notes in. This often
occurs when they are near the end of Book I or when they are
experiencing success with reading books at school. We start with short
lines of large notes, rhythms and symbols they are already using when
they play from memory. We are also careful to set them up next to
a music stand that is properly adjusted with their best posture.
If we want our child to excel in reading we read lots of books to
them. We fill their lives with lots of conversation.
Our best music readers are always the children who have been doing the
most listening to many kinds of music. They have great
memories of musical information to draw from as they make attempts to
decode the notes on the page.