Tips for Pre-Suzuki age?

Sara Hunsley said: Jun 12, 2012
 1 posts

Hi, everyone,

I had some questions about getting my daughter interested in an instrument. She’ll be two in August, so she’s not quite ready for Suzuki lessons yet, but I wanted to get her started on getting interested in something. There are lots of Suzuki teachers in our area so I’m sure we’ll be able to find a teacher for her when the time comes. My husband played the viola through high school and I played the violin, so both of us are willing and able to learn with her.

So what should I be doing to work on her interest? I listen to music with her frequently and am starting to try to listen to single-instrument music so she can learn the different sounds (e.g. “This music is played on a piano. This is how a piano sounds. This song is played on a violin. Do you hear the difference between the sound of a piano and the sound of a violin?”) I was thinking of looking up some performance videos on YouTube or something and letting her see the instruments played, and also am wondering if I should pick my violin back up and let her see me playing (I really don’t have the time to play studiously, but I could let her watch me a little). She has one of those LittleTikes toy pianos and we play on that a little, but more just to hear the noise than any attempt at music.

For the record, I’m not set on having her play any particular instrument. I think she should have one that she is interested in, but one of my lifetime regrets is that I never got started on an instrument early (I started in school at age 9), and I’d like my daughter to have the advantage I didn’t.

So, what do people recommend for her age? Any special thoughts or ideas?

Paula Bird said: Jun 12, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
404 posts

Since she will likely want to play what you play, start with that. Start role modeling a practice routine for yourself, even if it’s only 5 to 10 minutes at the start. This is the Suzuki way: to pique the child’s interest by watching the parent play and having music in the environment. Read the first few chapters of Dr. Suzuki’s book, “Ability Development from Age Zero,” and many of your questions will be answered. I have 2 y.o. siblings in the studio now, so it may not be too early.

Why not sign up for Suzuki lessons yourself, and have your child with you watching!? Then wait for that magic moment when she asks to play too.

I like starting with the violin because it’s easy to make small enough for a child. Sometimes kids add another instrument, like piano or viola or a band instrument, but later. Notice I used the word “add” and not “supplant.”

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio (blog) (podcast)

Barb said: Jun 12, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
685 posts

Great advice from Paula. I might just add…Contact those Suzuki teachers and find out about attending performances, observing lessons, asking them directly for their advice. It will give you a chance to find a good match for your family as well as give your daughter more exposure to other kids playing as well as you. There might also be a Suzuki Early Childhood Education class in your area that you are not aware of. How nice that you have several teachers in your area, and that you are already looking for a great start for your daughter’s musical life. Best wishes!

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Nancy Brown said: Jun 13, 2012
Nancy Brown
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Charlotte, NC
8 posts

I think you are on the right track, and would certainly encourage listening, even to different instrument Suzuki CD recordings, as much as possible, softly in the background. You playing the instrument even a little, or taking lessons yourself, will be a great way to start. I like that idea. Also, as a Suzuki ECE teacher myself, I would hope that there might be a Suzuki ECE class you could both attend weekly and have lots of fun while learning much about the Suzuki philosophy, and basic music and even reading and math readiness skills solidified. Also, use your own voice and sing with her often, use fingerplays and she will pick them up. Check out the website Repetition is essential and will help her so much, even when adults tire of it so much more quickly. Small steps and just getting more into her environment musically, sounds like you’re on the path to a great early beginning.

Have a great time, and while the interest is high, go with it!

Lori Bolt said: Jun 13, 2012
Lori BoltPiano
San Clemente, CA
262 posts

Sara~ You’re doing a great job so far :) Paula and Barb have very good suggestions.

Have you heard of the Creative Ability Development series by Alice Kay Kanack (Summy-Birchard)? The first, “Musical Improvisation for Children”, comes w/ a CD which is used in various kinds of activities….listening, moving, talking about the music, drawing, etc. Ms. Kanack was called “Mozart’s Mother” by Dr. Suzuki. Her aim is to develop creativity in children. The first book is meant for age 2-older. The subsequent books are according to instrument (piano, violin, viola, cello). I have not yet used these, but am using the first in my group class and I think the students (age 5 older) are enjoying it.

Lori Bolt

Sue Hunt said: Jun 14, 2012
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

Super advice from all. Lots of listening, observing and finger games. Your daughter is lucky to have 2 musical parents. Get your instruments out every day and enjoy a few minutes of music. I know that this sounds silly, but it really works. Praising yourself out loud for your focus and good work while you are practising will nurture a wonderfully positive mindset.

I would add one word of warning. If you decide on a string instrument, resist the temptation to let her try it out before lessons start. Your new teacher won’t want to have to undo a whole lot of unhelpful habits.

Kim said: Jun 19, 2012
 39 posts

Both my kids attended a mom and me group music classes at toddler/preschool ages that was great prep for later music lessons. They’d sing, march, clap, play with rhythm instruments, work on small motor, etc. They also introduced instruments. If you can find a program like that local to you to do for a year or 2 before lessons, I think it’s a great lead in! Good luck!

Anita said: Jun 20, 2012
 40 posts

We had no idea we would get our children into Suzuki when they got older, but I understood that they each instinctively responded to music. By age 6-weeks, they were each in library “Babytime” story times—a weekly 35-45 minute free program at my local library, which featured bi-lingual music and rhymes, hand games, puppets, board books, etc. The story times extended through to pre-school level. Never underestimate your local librarians as vital resources in your child’s musical education! Through our local library, we came to love the music of Jose Luis Orozco, John Lithgow and others. I wish I had known about Suzuki then, as we could have listened, but by the time my oldest picked up her box violin for the first time—age 5—and my youngest, age 3—they could each carry a tune and clap in time to music. It’s never too early to start!


Carmen said: Jun 21, 2012
 13 posts

We didn’t know about the Suzuki method until this past year.  Our experience is that even very young children can recognize a great recording when they hear it —in our desperation while on a long car trip one time, DD (then 5.5 months) was crying and nothing worked, that is until we put Kleiber’s Beethoven Symphony Number 5 on.  Our thought was that she was crying like “life is knocking on the door”.  We didn’t expect it to work, but she calmed down, not quite asleep immediately.  Since then, we would put on that great recording whenever she cried hard in the car, and it would work 9 out of 10 times to calm her.  By 10 months, she would “ask” for the recording by humming (well, more like baa-ing) the first 3 notes of the 4th movement (it was unmistakable with the FORCEFUL do-me-so).  

My kids also come to love Vivaldi’s Four Seasons listening to an older recording by Marriner’s St Martin-in-the-Field.  Other pieces they really like include the Sousa Marches, Bizet’s Carmen and L’ Arlesienne Suites (when DD was barely 2, she would ask for Bizet’s Carmen by calling it the “sad story”, which in turn became “calming” music to our youngest baby).  They like to dance to great piano music from Gossec’s Gavotte to Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag.  WeeSing’s Folk Song collections are fun to have too.

Videos that work for us include the Canadian Brass—a Christmas Experiment, Yo-Yo Ma’s Inspired by Bach—Falling Down Stairs (Cello Suite #3), Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake (we have the Kirov Ballet version), and Julie Andrew’s the Sound of Music.  Strangely, Disney’s Fantasia never caught on.

It’s never too early to start listening to great recordings.  There are lots of good ones out there, and it really pays to research for the best ones.

P.S. Music Mind Games are fun for the 3+ (we love the blue jello cards).  And the song books from the Metropolitan Museum of Arts are also big hits with my kids starting from toddlerhood, linking music to great art pieces.

Now I am curious to hear what works for other people!

Jodi Stewart said: Aug 19, 2012
2 posts

I was wondering what you had decided…it has been a few months since your original post.

I recommend purchasing several Book I CD’s and listen to them many, many times. Many of the pieces will be the same, but there will be a few differences and the sound will obviously be very different depending on the instrument. In time, if you observe your child carefully and look for her reaction to the different instruments, you can choose an instrument for her (one that you are willing to learn, too). She will have a good foundation in hearing quality music on that instrument and will be more prepared to begin.

I personally can’t hear the same music all day long, so our house is full of Suzuki music and we listen to a lot of the same songs on classical guitar, piano, violin…

Good luck.

Jennifer said: Nov 16, 2012
Jennifer Louie
Suzuki Association Member
Tuscaloosa, AL
9 posts

Music programs such as Kindermusik, Music Together or Musikgarten are a great way to spend time with your child and they are learning. I have an 11 month old and we attend Kindermusik classes at the music school that I work at as well. He will start the violin at 3 years old and I will be his Suzuki teacher and mom.

Jennifer Louie

Kiyoko said: Jan 22, 2013
 95 posts

Thanks for the great tips! I’d love to see more posted for early Pre-Twinklers, 0-1 years. I’d also like to hear about other parents’ experiences.

I have a 14 month old who has a great affinity to music. He loves to listen to music and often dances and moves to the beat. Even when he drums or dances without music, his tempo seems to me spot on. He often will play with his musical and rhythmic toys on his own and will give himself his own background music if there isn’t anything playing or he isn’t keen about the music he is hearing. My son already easily concentrates 15-30 minutes or longer on activities he is enjoying and picks up on the technical and mechanical too. I often only have to show him how to do something once, maybe help him try it a few times, and he will sit and practice it. (lol, he loves paying with iPads and shocked me by showing me he knew how to scroll a web page at 3 months.) We are a bit concerned with his speech development because of persistent ear infections, but luckily it hasn’t changed his enthusiastic response to music and music making. Unfortunately, I can’t get him to an ECE program for him right now.

So far, we’ve been listening to Suzuki Volume 1 (violin) since he’s been born and lots of other music (he loves Ziggy Marley’s Family Time album and any song to the tune of Twinkle -ABC song, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and made up ones), dancing together to music, playing with xylophones (Hohner Kids makes reasonably priced ones with decent pitch in its Toddler Music Band kit)—I play early Book 1 songs on it, playing rhythms with egg shakers and other rhythmic instruments, watching toddlers on YouTube play music and anything else we can think of. Oh, he is just starting to do thumbs up and pointing, so we can start playing some thumb games.

I was a Suzuki kid too. I started at 3 and stayed with Suzuki teachers until I was 14 and then moved on to traditional teachers. I remember teaching my sister the foot positions (we made her her own manila folder), bowing, how to hold the box violin (flat margarine box and ruler), and how to hold a bow (chopstick with a block eraser) from when I was young. She wanted to start at 2 because she was watching me, but she had issues with tantrums so she didn’t get to start until she was 4. She was always begging me for “play” lessons. Anyways, I still remember what was taught to me and what I taught her. (Yep, the mother tongue training truly works… and it is not in my use it or lose it part of my memory unlike my site reading which I didn’t learn until late.) I’m fairly confident of my young training, as it was reinforced year after year watching Pre-Twinkle group lessons at workshops and what not. Is there any harm in teaching my son some of that on my own? He is not quite ready, but will be soon.

I’ve also asked my one of my former Suzuki teacher who still teaches here in town for suggestions. I’ll post anything that might add to this topic.

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