Listening importance in later books

Michael & Joanne said: Sep 12, 2013
 Violin, Piano
4 posts

I get a lot of comments from University professors that are critical of the site-reading skills of Suzuki taught children. I realize pendulums in education swing back and forth and Suzuki was not the first method to stress ear training, but should I have my daughter learn more by site reading after book six then by listening to the songs repeatedly? Should I cut down on the listening? Thanks!

Mike M
Homeschool Dad

Jennifer Visick said: Sep 12, 2013
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Suzuki instruction is based on the model of how you learn your native language.

Would you cut down on listening to people speak your native language in order to learn to read it better? I’m hard-pressed to think of a circumstance where that might be the case.

On the other hand, the KIND of things that get said in the presence of (and to) babies, toddlers, children, who are still learning new vocabulary, are sometimes different than the conversation a teenager or adult hears. Maybe it’s not cutting down on the listening, but changing the kind of listening as students advance which is a better idea.

There are, of course, plenty of things that your daughter can use to practice sight-reading without having heard them first, while still continuing to listen to all the pieces of music that she is learning for advancing her technique & expanding her repertoire.

…Another thought. While it is possible to read a word you’ve never heard or seen before, you may end up mis-pronouncing it, due to various different spelling rules and possible pronunciations, borrowings from other languages, etc. The same thing happens in music: there are different possible “pronunciations” for various different articulation marks, tempo marks, even pitch, depending on the style & influences & genre of the music.

But after having heard/learned how to pronounce it, listening to it repeatedly isn’t really going to increase your learning, unless maybe you are working on pronouncing it with a different accent.

So the answer is it depends—There are still plenty of musical things to learn how to make your instrument “prounounce” after the book 6 level, which your daughter should hear / be taught before trying to sight-read;

But if she’s having trouble sight-reading things that only use techniques she already knows how to play (say, at the same level as Suzuki books 1-4), and she doesn’t have trouble learning that level of a piece of music by ear, then you’ll probably want to practice sight-reading skills for music at that technical level.

Mary said: Sep 12, 2013
 39 posts

Jennifer gave a terrific response explaining why listening remains important even as students move into the later books. I would just say that if you’re really concerned to talk with the teacher about adding more sight reading training that stands apart from the Suzuki repertoire. This could mean having separate sight reading homework that takes no more than 10 minutes per day. The pieces would vary every day so the student wouldn’t have a chance to memorize it. There are also apps and websites dedicated to sight reading music that may be useful. I would also suggest putting your daughter into a chamber ensemble where she’ll really be motivated to work on her counting and reading if she sees other kids doing the same. For kids with really great ears, it’s very tempting to cheat or fake reading so you do need to find ways to show them the importance of reading and make sure that they really are reading and not just memorizing or imitating what they just heard. Once they have the ability to do both—read music and play by ear—watch out! They are a musical force to be reckoned with.

Michael & Joanne said: Sep 13, 2013
 Violin, Piano
4 posts

Thank you! Both of those reply’s make a lot of sense. I think adding some site reading material that’s fresh makes a lot of sense and continuing to listen to music she is learning in her Suzuki repertoire. I love the fact that Suzuki has helped her to develop such a good ear. It’s not that she can’t figure out how to read the music it just isn’t real quick, which I don’t have a problem with but a lot of auditions test that skill today. I don’t get why that is considered such an important skill, but I can’t change everything I don’t understand! Thanks Again for your thoughtful response’s!

Mike M
Homeschool Dad

Mary said: Sep 13, 2013
 39 posts

Sight reading is an important skill for ensemble playing. If you liken playing in an ensemble to acting in a theater production I think the importance of sight reading will be clear. In theater cast members are given a script to perform while in an ensemble the musicians have their individual parts in the form of sheet music. The first time the actors gather to run through a new production, cast members read their lines and note the written cues for when to come in. It would be hard for someone who didn’t know how to read to do well in such a situation.

Similarly, in an ensemble such as an orchestra or chamber group, each person has the responsibility to be able to read and play their part as well as count the rests and read the cues to know when to come in. If they can’t do that, it will be very frustrating for them as well as the rest of the group. Just pure listening to learn the piece won’t do it either. In early rehearsals, the piece is often being played under tempo so it won’t resemble any known recording and the conductor starts and stops constantly to address mistakes. So one has to know how to read their sheet music to stay with the group and not just count on their ear to navigate the piece. Otherwise, the child will get lost easily or depend too heavily on the person next to them to figure out where they are in a piece. This might be ok in an orchestra where there are lots of violins to hide in, but not in a chamber group where each person is responsible for a single part. And in my son’s chamber group his coach frequently pulls out new music for them to try on the spot and often the kids have never heard the piece before but have to make an effort to read and interpret so sight reading skills matter.

Jennifer Visick said: Sep 14, 2013
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Oh definitely, I agree with Mary. Reading—the same way you’d read a book or an article you’ve never read before, shouldn’t be very slow; not, at least, in order for it to be enjoyable and useful in everyday work and play.

Obviously everyone starts out reading slower than they play or speak. (Think Kindergarten…) but we don’t stay that way. I think a majority of literate people eventually learn to read their language at least approximately at a normal speaking pace, if not a bit faster?

Also, if a student ever does want to become a professional musician (and who can predict the future? Which of us can say for certain who will do this or that thing in life?), they will need to be able to read new works that have never been performed before, as well as be able to play works by ear that haven’t been written down.

For example, the music that you hear in films or on tv is mostly performed and recorded at-sight, by musicians who’ve never heard it before.

Besides, it’s FUN to sight-read (chamber music and new music and film music), once you’ve gotten good enough at it to make it sound passably decent)

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