Recordings OTHER than Suzuki school

said: Aug 12, 2006
 104 posts

I was wondering if anyone recommends or chooses to listen to recordings of Suzuki-repertoire pieces other than the Suzuki School recordings. For example, I’ve found some lovely recordings of Lully Gavotte, Humoresque, Witches’ Dance and other obvious ones like the Bach Double, recorded in different keys and with entirely different interpretations, than the Suzuki school recordings. I have played them for my children and they are very, very interested in these. They will comment on extra grace notes, different tempo, dynamics, etc.—what do you think of the practice of seeking out these recordings and including them in the “listening repertoire?” Are there any pieces that you recommend your children/students listen to, as supplement to the Suzuki recordings?

Gabriel Villasurda said: Aug 12, 2006
Gabriel Villasurda81 posts

Regarding non-Suzuki recordings:

It all depends on your rationale for listening in the first place.

Listening as an aid to learning: Students who listen to the “future” repertoire will learn the pieces faster. They know already how the piece “goes”—pitch, rhythm, style, dynamics, etc.

Listening as an aid to fluency: Students who can play their piece(s) with the CD (up to tempo, with dynamics and good articulation, etc.) are really in command of their repertoire. Fumbles and slowing down to negotiate difficulties are not acceptable.

Listening as an aid to ensemble playing: Any number of students who can keep together with the CD, listen to the piano, and be aware of how to start and stop are going to be able to play very easily together with other students, even those who study with different teachers (as at an institute or play-in). Being able to play with others “at the drop of a hat” is one of the great strengths of the method.

Listening as an aid to thorough review of old pieces. Over time, it is easy to forget details, ranging from ritardandos to D.C.s. It is not OK only to remember the notes. We have to remember everything. Ability is never lost if review happens.

These are HUGE pillars of the Suzuki philosophy. Other Xchangers may want to point out other reasons.

So what goals are you serving by embarking on this quest for different recorded versions? When do you present a different version of, say, Humoresque? Certainly not when the child is learning the piece for the first time.

It is helpful always to come back to language, which is where Dr. Suzuki started. If you are teaching a small child a new word, you will repeat and repeat it many times, using it in sentences that convey the meaning of the new word. We wouldn’t dream of teaching a new word and then follow on with multiple synonyms, even French, Spanish and Russian versions! In due time, when the child’s experience (through reading or conversation) presents a synonym, then the opportunity will present itself to expand vocabulary.

Generating musicality “outward” from the Suzuki repertoire is, nevertheless, important to do. We want to move beyond the basic repertoire. Of course, listening is a factor in this growth.

I guess my point is for us to be sure we are first serving basic “bread and butter” skills and understandings. I have found over the years that good solid teaching pays off later in fast and broad learning. We have all had students that can learn a new piece every week or two. This is possible in large measure when we don’t have to do any remediation—fixing engrained bad habits and when the student is self-correcting. Students who move forward efficiently have probably found the magic balance of review, listening, and problem solving (how to practice). In short, they have learned how to learn.

I’d be glad to hear your reaction to these ideas.

Gabe Villasurda

Gabriel Villasurda
Ann Arbor MI

said: Aug 13, 2006
 44 posts

You know, Mr. Villasurda, I think you are underestimating the ability of children to learn. Let’s use the language model as you did. An infant does not hear one peron repeating the same word over and over. He or she hears many different people saying that word: a mother with a high voice, a father with a gruff voice, perhaps a grandparent whose native language is other than what the baby will be raised in, maybe a 2 year old sibling whose pronunciation is a little rocky. He or she also pulls the same word from the cacophany that is radio and television, or what he hears at daycare, church, or in the grocery store. In our area is a large community of Laotian families. Many of the young children act as interpreters for their parents, who speak only Laotian or perhaps a little English that is heavily accented. Yet the children speak perfect, unaccented English! How do they instinctively know the correct pronunciation? They hear many versions of the same word from birth.
They also learn two very different languages at the same time.
I can just see profcornelia’s daughter putting an extra grace note in Humoresque. Do you see the gleam in her eye? She has created new music, just as a toddler creates new language from what he hears. He says, “Hold me,” to his mother. He has not heard people repeating over and over to him, “Hold me.” Rather, he has heard, “Do you want me to hold YOU?”
Certainly it is less confusing to a 4 year old beginner to hear Lightly Row only played one way, but he or she could listen to it on several different instruments. Also, there are going to be an extremely limited number of recordings of many of the early Suzuki pieces. However, one of my own children had a toy that played Lightly Row ending on the key note instead of the 3rd. She always commented on it, but never played it wrong on the violin (she was 5.) I would think that by the time they are playing the Bach minuets, that listening to other recordings in addition to the Suzuki recordings will only make the musical experience richer for the students. In fact, there are no Suzuki recordings of the Mozart concertos in Violin book 9 and 10 because there were already so many good recordings.
I say to profcornelia, “Seize the day,” or as it were, “Carpe Deum.”

said: Aug 16, 2006
 104 posts

Kidadvocate—your post was uncanny—I thought a lot about Mr. Villasurda wrote, but the same analogy came to my mind—that children do not learn words by hearing one person repeat them over and over the exact same way. Since Dr. Suzuki refers to the Mother Tongue approach, we have to assume the analogy holds true in all areas.

A few thoughts: I agree with Mr. Villasurda that the bread-and-butter needs of listening should be met with the Suzuki School recordings. I’m not playing the other recordings as a substitute for the School recordings—but we listen to a lot of recordings, and I don’t think it would be very enriching to ONLY listen to the school recordings. My children have no trouble learning their pieces. In fact, because they do listen to one another practice as well, I always count that as listening time (the older hears her review pieces when the younger ones practice, and the younger ones hear “ahead” when the older one practices). I wonder if listening to another person play a pice in your presence is even more powerful a tool for learning than the recordings. Remember that Dr. Suzuki’s students’ mothers learned to play as well—likely they listened and watched their mothers practicing. I can do that for piano, but alas, not for violin.

Regarding our listening habits, I will admit that we don’t listen to the beginning of Book 1 anymore—we pick up at about Etude and continue through the end to Gossec when we listen to Book 1—I can no longer subject myself to recordings of the Twinkle Variations. That’s not to say my kids don’t play Twinkle variations (because they do) but we don’t listen to the recordings of it anymore on Suzuki school CDs. Is that bad? I think my children would leap from the car if I put that CD on from the beginning (and I KNOW my husband would!).

We really, really enjoy our supplemental listening. I will never forget the first time my youngest daughter heard Perlman’s recording of Paganini Caprices—she was just four years old and her jaw dropped and she asked “How does he?….And which strings?…..and….” she was just flabbergasted. Everything she’s heard so far on the School recordings (through Book 5) she cannot yet play, but when she hears it, she can at least assimilate HOW it’s done…the Paganini Caprices blew her away and I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to expand a child’s mind that way for anything in the world.

said: Aug 16, 2006
 44 posts

My three older children all finished all the Suzuki books on their respective instruments and child #4 is in Book 7. I always tell new families in our program that listening to the recordings is absolutely the most important part of practice. We have been diligent listeners at some points through the years, and casual listeners at other times. I have seen what an incredible difference it make in how fast they learn a piece and how well they memorize it.
My 2 middle children were in the car once listening to, I think, one of the Vivaldi concerti on the radio. Of course, it was not the Suzuki recording. They were making comments about the piece to each other like, “He plays the open A there instead of the 4,” and, “He shifted at the wrong spot!” (Of course, they thought the way they learned it was the only correct way.) I think they were 5 and 8. I was stunned that they could hear such subtle differences. I asked them how they knew the performer was playing an open A in such a fast passage. They said, “Mommy, it just sounds DIFFERENT.” Kids are incredible. I never underestimate what they can do.

Jennifer Visick said: Aug 17, 2006
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1068 posts

why not listen to different recordings?

I have a CD of Mischa Elman playing “encores”; it includes Ave Maria (I speculate with my students: perhaps this was the very recording Dr. Suzuki heard which first inspired him to learn to play the violin!)—it also includes Humoresque, and Gossec’s Gavotte—in highly differing versions from the “standard” Suzuki recordings.

I also think it’s an excellent idea to expose children to the “original” setting of the music if it’s been arranged—or to different interpretations of concertos & other solo pieces for their instrument. It’s fun to think about where Dr. Suzuki learned of the various different pieces he chose to put in the books.

Of course, if you’re going to play something in groups, everyone needs to phrase things together—wildly different phrasings, ornamentations, octave changes, etc., will not make very good music when played in “unison”.

said: Aug 18, 2006
 44 posts

My kids were absolutely blown away when they heard Perlman play the original La Folia. Recently we got a Rachel Barton CD “Instrument of the Devil,” that has the Paganini Witches’ Dance. It is absolutely unbelievable. It makes the repertoire so much more fun to play when you can hear such great artists play the same pieces (although you might not recognize Witches’ Dance.)

Jennifer Visick said: Aug 18, 2006
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1068 posts

true—we call it Witche’s Dance for short, but it’s really only the Theme—nowhere near the entire piece.

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