The Suzuki Method - Nurtured by Love

"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

Introduction:

guitarLet's face it; learning to play a musical instrument is hard. There's no escaping that fact and anyone who claims otherwise is not being completely truthful. Every instrument comes with it's own particular challenges and the guitar is no exception. It's tough going and, in my opinion, one of the most difficult instruments to play really well.

The correct positioning of the instrument, the left and right hands and even the head; tone quality; finger position; the synchronization of the left and right hands and much more. All of these factors are of vital importance in producing the sweet, enchanting and above all immensely musical sounds of which the guitar is capable.

The Suzuki Method does not claim to make the guitar easy to learn, but does make it much more enjoyable.

I think, at this stage, it's important to clear up a few things and advance understanding with regards to the Suzuki Method. We'll start with bullet points and, if you're still with me, I'll expand on each point later.

Key Points:

  • This method is best suited to younger children, starting at about 6 years of age.
  • The parent(s) are a vital element in the child's musical education. One parent is required to attend each half-hour class and take notes on what is discussed in the lesson.
  • The child will be learning classical guitar. This will provide and excellent foundation to branch out into other styles at a later time.
  • Initally, the child will be learning by ear and through listening to the CDs provided. Traditional musical notation will be gradually introduced and the aim is to have the child fully competent in reading music in due course.
  • Although weekly classes are on a one-to-one basis, there will be group classes once a month in which all students will participate.

Age:

The basic principle of the Suzuki Method is learning through environment and younger children (six to eight) at this stage of development are particularly receptive to ear-training and ambient listening. After all, it's how we all learn to speak. This is one of the key elements of the method- that music should be as easy to aquire as a native language.

Parental Observation:

Parental involvement is absolutely essential. In fact, for the first three lessons, I don't teach the child at all. I each the parent and the child observes! This gives the parent a unique insight into the challenges facing the student and also equips them to be able to navigate any difficulties that might be experienced during home practice.

Furthermore, seeing the parent engaging in the activity fires the child's interest and provides strong motivation to imitate the activity.

Parental observation during the lesson is also very useful in that the teacher, when trying to explain a difficult concept, may speak directly to the parent and ensure that the point is understood. This means that the lesson can operate on two levels simultaneously and thus, more efficiently.

The Classical Guitar:

Classical guitar is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, it is a much more enjoyable and natural way to learn the instrument. Each of the pieces in the repertoire are designed to be played either as a duet or a self-contained tune. There is always a melody and the pieces are graded according to difficulty with new skills being encountered each time. In this manner, a 'toolbox' of techniques and skills is being constantly built up, sometimes without the stundent even being aware of them.

Games are used to aid practice and repetiton and very often, the student won't even realise they have performed something ten or twelve times. Positive reinforcement is also a key factor in the child's success.

In my opinion, chords and songs are far too difficult to start off with and are a major reason why so many people give up the guitar. It's hard enough to train one finger at a time, let alone three or four! The traditional 'folk' method can also alienate students who, for whatever reason, do not wish to sing along. Thousands of songs are written using the same three chords and very similar rhythms. This can be very monotonous and tedious for both the student and (particularly) the listener!

Ear-training:

Ear (aural) trining is also a cornerstone of developing good musicianship. The student learns their first few pieces by ear (CDs provided) and then replicates what they hear on their instrument. This approach has a two-fold benefit- most traditional music is passed on by ear and the basis of good interpretation and performance is the ability to 'make the piece your own' as it were. Secondly, a good ear is essential in producing a good tone and ensuring a rounded sound.

Musical notation is obviously very important too and reading music is a very real goal of the Suzuki Method. The idea is to be able to accurately read the music, but not to be too slavishly bound to the notes on the page. Where appropriate, improvisation is a wonderful skill and assists in the development of music in many ways.

Group Class:

The purpose of group class is to give the students some sort of idea how the musical community around them is progressing. When gathered together, the spirit of healthy competiton is often awoken in the children and group class can spur them on to even greater acheivement.

Group classes will be held once a month and there will also be an end of year concert- nothing too stressful, but a great goal to work towards.

Is Suzuki for You and Your Child?

One of the most attractive elements of the Suzuki Method for me is it's inclusive nature. The time spent with your child in that half-hour lesson is pure quality. The group classes are fun and highly sociable. At all times, we encourage the spirit of the child and, in many subtle and positive ways, educate the child in music and beyond.

The habits and techniques that are developed by students of the Suzuki Method extend far beyond the realms of musical education. The child is encouraged to appreciate the benefits of practice, accuracy, diligence and attention to detail. Lessons which I'm sure we'd all like our children to learn.

And Finally....

Individual classes will be one half-hour long, with group classes 45 minutes. The individual lesson will be €200 per ten week term (€20 per lesson) and group clesses €5 per child. It is very important that the child's instument be the right size for them and therefore, I would advise against purchasing an instrument before coming to class,unless you can get some advice on the right size guitar for your child. If you buy a half-decent guitar at the outset, this can be passed down to a sibling or sold on to an up-coming student. No purchase need be wasted.

Going Forward:

If your child wishes to learn the guitar and you feel the Suzuki Method appeals to you, please do not hesitate to contact me for any further information.

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