The Suzuki Method

How Suzuki Piano Lessons Work

Lessons taught according to Dr. Suzuki’s precepts are offered by trained Suzuki teachers. When pianists embark on a career teaching Suzuki piano, they take teacher development courses from Teacher Trainers, certified to offer this instruction. Seven books of repertoire have been compiled to develop the technique and musicality of students. Teachers take training by unit: Unit 1 refers to Book 1 Suzuki Piano School.

Early Lessons

Suzuki Piano lessons with young students and parents begin following a period of observation. New students and parents are invited to watch a few lessons of students who started the previous year. In this way, the new students- and parents - see what happens at piano lessons. They learn how the students behave and how everyone listens to the music being played. At the same time, children and parents develop the listening ‘habit’: daily listening at home or in the car to the recording of repertoire of their current level.

Books one, two and three

Throughout Books 1 and 2, students and parents benefit enormously from experience of having the weekly lesson with another student and parent. Both families ‘grow’ together.

Once children are in Book 3, lessons are longer, so often a student will not stay in the studio to observe for the entire lesson of a lesson mate. Based on the age and maturity of each child, the parents and teacher begin to evaluate if the students are able to do some practice by themselves. From the very first lessons, the parent has been building the foundation for practising efficiently and effectively.

Students from Book 4 onward

As students become independent and practise on their own, a new dynamic develops between the student and teacher. Students take ownership of their music study. Gail comes to know each and every student in a different way from when the lesson consisted of the Suzuki triangle: parent, teacher, child.

The fourth stage of the Mother Tongue method

By late Book 3, it is important that students come to understand the musical language as it is written. Students should familiarize themselves the musical vocabulary of scales, and chords, and their role in the works of the great composers. Gail does not teach theory lessons but works closely with a local colleague who teaches rudiments classes.

Suzuki Piano with Gail Lange

The Suzuki approach is often called the ‘mother tongue’ method. This method emulates the natural learning process of infants as they learn to speak their mother tongue. Babies first listen to adults around them for many months before they speak. Toddlers put words together, which develops their desire to read. Eventually, children can write music symbols with understanding.

Dr. Suzuki’s unique gift to the music world was to realize how the ‘mother tongue’ method applied to the learning of a musical instrument. Create a musical environment for children to motivate them to want to learn to play an instrument. The child’s natural instinct will be to learn first by ear with the guidance of a teacher - as well as the parent.

Piano lessons for children

Dr. Suzuki also recognized that children learn better when they are with other children. “Create an environment where children can learn”. Moreover, he often stated that “one child, one parent and one teacher is a bad environment”. In Gail’s studio, each child has an individual lesson with the teacher, but another child (and parent) is observing that lesson.

Role of the parent

Parents come to the weekly lesson with their young child. Gail works with the student to develop piano technique and musicality, AND instructs the parent how to carry out the assignments at home. Even before lessons begin, parents have orientation sessions with Gail so they are comfortable with their part in the learning process.

Parents nurture the value of repetition in learning physical skills, and help their child develop perseverance. Parents learn a lot from each other as they exchange stories about how practising happens at home.

Over a period of years, the role of the parent will diminish in daily practising, but the most successful students are those whose parents continue their support and interest in their child’s ‘piano’ life throughout the years.

Group Lessons

After class snack

Individual piano lessons are initiated in a group setting with two to three students and parents coming together each week for instruction. After a few months, students of similar level and similar age come together on a different day as a group. There may be 3-6 children in a group.

The group lesson reinforces concepts introduced in the individual lesson, or can be the most efficient way to introduce a new idea that can be further developed at each child’s weekly lesson. Activities carried out at groups include:

Parents do not attend the group classes, because of space limitations, and Gail develops a different rapport with the students in the group. Group lessons continue throughout the student’s career. As the student advances the program changes to suit the level of the repertoire and the ages and stages of the students. Probably the favourite part of group class is what follows: popcorn and treats in the kitchen!

Special Events

The Fall Concert and the Spring Concert are the highlights of the music year.

Every student has an opportunity to perform for every other student – and the parents! Everyone is inspired.

Concerts are a goal and a reward. Students traditionally work hard to prepare their concert piece to the best of their ability. They are rewarded by compliments from other students and parents – families they do not see on a regular basis.

Parents enjoy compliments too. Concerts are their reward for the moral and financial support, that they offer their child(ren).

Every pianist in Gail’s Studio has a Book I recital. What a special moment! Students who complete the program for Book 1 of Suzuki Piano School work to perform the entire book at their home for their friends and family. Gail comes, too. And, there are treats for all.

Pianists may have the opportunity to perform with string students of the Suzuki String School of Guelph. Gail meets with the String Faculty each autumn to identify the string and piano students who would like to participate in string/piano duos or trios. A special recital is organized to hear all ensembles, who may also participate in Chamber Music classes of the Kiwanis Music Festival.

Multiple Piano Concerts happen from time to time. The last one occurred in 2010 when Guelph and area teachers organized Three Pianos –Six Hands. It is a unique learning experience for pianos students when three students play the same piece together – like an orchestra! Many pieces of the Suzuki repertoire were rehearsed, and performed at River Run Centre in Guelph to the amazement of a large audience. The grand finale of the concert was the performance of the Concerto for three keyboards BWV1063 by J.S. Bach accompanied by “Concorde” the senior string ensemble of the Suzuki String School of Guelph.

Guelph Suzuki students enjoy participating in the Kiwanis Music Festival of Guelph which is one of the finest festivals in Ontario. Non-competitive classes offer opportunities for Suzuki piano students to perform their Suzuki pieces, and repertoire from other publications in front of adjudicators selected by the Kiwanis Music Festival organizers. Adjudicators are always very impressed with the quality and level of performance of the ensembles.