lots of questions!

said: Jan 28, 2010
 13 posts

A friend of mine wants to learn violin; being that there is no one else available to teach her I said I can try—— but I am still in Book 4, and never received Suzuki teacher-training.
So any advice you can offer (besides “Don’t!”—although that too may be good advice) would be most welcome.

And I have a few specific questions.
These stem in part from the fact that I have never seen any method other than Suzuki.

1.) Age ~~ This board is full of excellent information, and I remember the methods my violin teacher used when I started (a box violin, finger-tapping exercises, &c.). But ~~ how much of this is advisable or necessary in teaching a very dignified teenager? Can you give general guidelines about adapting the Suzuki method for beginners of her age?

2.) Harmonic minor ~~ The music in our culture is mostly in the harmonic minor or some variation thereupon. It seems to me advisable to start with Suzuki anyway, since it follows the familiar scale and I’m unfamiliar with any other method; but as soon as the student is advanced enough to pick out tunes on her own she will want the harmonic minor.
How might one lay a foundation for that from within beginning Suzuki? The extent of the formal instruction in it that I got in Book 1 (as far as I know) was Rhody’s world travels, which is good but not great when you end up almost never using the major to play for your friends.
Or, if there is an easy way to start with harmonic minor instead of the major scale, please tell me about it.

3.) Purpose of each song ~~ What does each song in Book 1 introduce, review, or preview? I have some ideas but you all would know better. This will help me get an idea of where we are headed and how to improvise on the given curriculum.

Sara said: Jan 28, 2010
191 posts

First, if there is any possible way to get training ASAP do it! Anything that is said here will make much more sense after training ~ But with that I will say a few things that hopefully will be helpful to you until you can be trained.Right now I have ages 3—73 and everywhere in between.


But ~~ how much of this is advisable or necessary in teaching a very dignified teenager?

I usually only use box violin for very small children -3 or 4 yrs old. 5 and up we start right off with the real thing.
Yes finger tapping exercises are great for hands at any age. It will develop the agility and speed. I don’t know what finger tapping exercises that you do—But what I do is after they are comfortable and stable with just holding the violin, I have the student tap very lightly over the finger tapes. Doing it lightly hopefully melts out any tension they may have. Watch for tension in the hand when they begin playing at any age
As far as adaptation—I still have older beginners listen, listen listen to the the CD. Book One is still taught by ear no matter the age. I find older beginners still appreciate any imagery and fun kids words to songs.
As far as harmonic minor ~ I believe as long as she is listening to the CD it shouldn’t matter what the cultural songs are. The major is just easier to begin with. In later books she can start exploring minor.
For the techniques in each song, consult the revised edition of book one. It has a lot that information in there.
Even though you don’t have a child as a student, reading any books of Suzuki is helpful in understanding the philosophy and this will help with any age student.
Hopefully this makes sense to you!
Just ask again if not. Hope it all goes well. Do you have a teacher you are studying with now that you could ask these questions to?

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Alie said: Feb 6, 2010
Columbus, OH
21 posts

Mimi Zweig has an absolutely wonderful website! Check out http://www.stringpedagogy.com
There is an annual fee for access to the website but with all the detailed info and step by step videos, it is well worth the $!!!!

said: Feb 10, 2010
 13 posts

Silverstar- thank you very much for your time & advice; I am considering it seriously as I continue to imagine how this might work.

Perhaps you already answered this thoroughly, but I reiterate just in case:
Imagine that one day someone walks into your classroom and says, “Please teach me, from scratch, how to play Middle-Eastern fiddle music.”
How would you, as a teacher trained in Suzuki, go about it? Would you still start her in the Suzuki books, and with the major scale?
If so, how would you adapt the Suzuki curriculum? If not, what would you do instead?

What is it about the major that makes that easier to start with?
And: does that still apply when nearly all the music around—what the student has grown up dancing to at weddings, and singing with her friends, and hearing as her school-bell, and closing the windows to block out when the construction workers next door put on the radio, and what men hum in the street and errand-boys whistle—is in the harmonic minor?
There is a lot of music in this country but it is not Bach and it is not Aunt Rhody. The student’s starting point and end-goal are both in something like Phrygian.
So- is there some way to create a curriculum which parallels that which Suzuki designed for the West, but in the student’s native ‘language’?

Jennifer Visick said: Feb 10, 2010
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Now there’s an interesting pedagogical question. What did Suzuki do?—he started with a lot of music in a certain finger pattern (1-2^3, meaning “-” is a whole step and “^” is a half step). Then he introduced 1^2-3, and etc., etc. … and always chose very carefully when and how to introduce a new finger pattern.

If you want to use Suzuki ideas and introduce a non-Major mode first thing, you have to answer the question:

is the order of the finger patterns Suzuki chose the order in which it is physically easiest (in a motor skills, physical therapy kind of sense) to introduce them? If I had to give a quick “physically easiest to hardest” order of finger patterns, I would run through them like this:
1-2^3^4 (Suzuki essentially starts here, because 4th finger is not used in the beginning)
1-2^3-4 (Suzuki’s starting pattern, with a 4th finger added)
1^2-3-4 (The second Suzuki pattern—starting in “Etude”)
1-2-3^4 (The third Suzuki pattern, used sparingly in Late book 1)
1^2-3^4 (you could make a case to say that this pattern is used in late book 1, but it isn’t in a practical sense, only in a theoretical sense)
etc., etc….

IF the order of the finger patterns is not the main thing, then does the main genius of the Suzuki repertoire lay in the fact that he chooses to introduce one pattern only, and “cement” it with a certain number of songs, before introducing the next finger pattern?

OR is it because he starts on the highest two strings (the physically easiest strings to play on as far as the right AND left arms are concerned) and doesn’t introduce the lower strings until a certain amount of ability is acquired on the upper two? (My answer: it’s some combination of the order, the length of time spent on the first pattern, and the order in which strings are introduced and the length of time spent introducing the first two strings). So you’d have to decide which of these are the most important.

If you want to keep the order that the finger patterns are introduced in Suzuki’s books but still introduce songs in Phrygian mode, you could arrange tunes that only cover one octave and you would need to introduce the D string from the start, using F# Phyrigian,

OR if you want to keep to the idea of using only the top two strings at first and still use the same order of introducing finger patterns, you’d have to arrange songs in C# Phrygian but only use tunes that use the first 6 notes of the scale until you decide to introduce the next finger pattern.

If you were willing to introduce 4th finger right away, you could then use tunes that stay on the top two strings, in C#Phrigyian, and you’d gain the use of the first 7 notes of the scale.

If you think it’s merely the time allotted for each finger pattern that makes Suzuki work so well, you could introduce A Phyrigian right away … (a 1-2-3 pattern in half position). (…The more I think about this option, the worse it looks for a beginner. I guess I definitely think the 1-2-3 finger pattern is significantly harder than either 1^2-3 or 1-2^3).

If you think it’s OK to introduce a low 2 (1^2-3) finger pattern first, you could try arranging songs in B Phrygian—there again you’d have to content yourself with the first 7 notes of the scale.

OR, using B Phrygian, you could keep the 1-2^3 finger pattern by introducing the lower three strings first.

That last option may be the easiest, since an older beginner will not usually need to spend as much time on the top two strings as a pre-school beginner would. (this has partly to do with the already developed motor skills of older beginners, and partly to do with the larger amount of time they can spend on focused practice time, and partly to do with the fact that a larger violin is easier to play on the D string, if the bridge is properly shaped, than a little tiny violin (even with a properly shaped bridge).

P.S. All this assumes that you are familiar with the songs and musical genre that your student wants to learn. If I were asked to teach Middle-Eastern fiddling, I would send the person to someone else—or tell them that I need to learn it myself first before I can teach it!

Cynthia Faisst said: Feb 18, 2010
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

Keep in mind that even Suzuki started learning and then later returned home and taught starting with the in Major keys to a culture that was dominated by pentatonic scale patterns and intonations.

Yet, he prevailed.

When he went to study in Germany many Europeans asked how can this young Asian student play so naturally in our musical idiom. Einstein had a few things to say about that in his defence.

There were many times when I observed Sensei listening to a Japanese student struggle with the intonation of piece based on a diatonic scale. He would look into their eyes and say “Did you listen enough?” “Listen more.”

He had great confidence that if they kept listening to their recordings they would begin to hear the new intonation and start to trust their ears.

I think it would be much easier to go from a minor scale, even a harmonic minor scale to a major scale than it would be to come from a Pentatonic scale system to a diatonic scale system. Try playing with Melodic Minor scales and then turn them upside down for fun. So much depends on where you start the scale.

I have a student of Armenian decent who learned Suzuki using Major scales. When we got to the Harmonic minors she just sailed right through. She needed the learn them all anyway. The sound of the Harmonic minors were already stored in her head all she had to do was teach her fingers.

Children are amazingly adaptable. Give them a rich listening environment and they will make use of it when they have the opportunity. If a child lives in America but has a Grandmother who speaks to him in Spanish when he is small, even if he learns and speaks only English from the age of 5 he will never forget. When he learns to speak Spanish as a 2nd language later in life it will all come back to him because his ear has stored it in a secret place.

I am also teaching young children of Latin American decent using the Suzuki Method I know they are also hearing Mariachi and many other kinds of Latin American music at home. I know one day when they decide to learn that music on their violin, it will be waiting inside of them. They will also have the added freedom and advantage of everything that they learned from the Suzuki Method in terms of technic.

My Chinese or South Asian students however, just have to listen like crazy to everything on their CD. Yet, western music is much easier for them than it was for their parents.

For these children it is like being bilingual. They need a lttle more time in the beginning to sort it out and make sence of it. But once they do they are soon running faster than children who didn’t have to work as hard at it.

My toughest students are piano students. Piano intonation is so close but so not in tune. Not on a violin. This is like learning to speak in another dialect. It is so close that you can’t believe your still not really right.

They just have to listen to lots of string music.

Ms. Cynthia
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Sara said: Feb 19, 2010
191 posts

Imagine that one day someone walks into your classroom and says, “Please teach me, from scratch, how to play Middle-Eastern fiddle music.”
How would you, as a teacher trained in Suzuki, go about it? Would you still start her in the Suzuki books, and with the major scale?
If so, how would you adapt the Suzuki curriculum? If not, what would you do instead?

  1. If someone came to my studio today and asked me to teach them Middle-Eastern music, I would probably have to say that I can give them a start on playing the instrument, learning the basics, but for actual Mid-east style, they are on their own as I don’t play that genre yet. I’m sure I would love to learn it ~ it is fun to listen to.

  2. Yes, I would still start with the Suzuki books. I would probably only take a student like that up through book 4 as their interest most likely wouldn’t hold all the way through book ten. I would introduce a lot of fiddle tunes (genres I’m familiar with) along the way.

  3. As far as that being her only atmosphere of music, I would think that as long as she listens to the Suzuki CD everyday (ideally for three hours a day as background) she should still pick it up just fine. As was mentioned on another post, later her Mid -east music will blossom b.c. she has that in her head as well as has developed the Western/classical approach. In Aunt Rhody I teach my students the eastern version where we flat the b on the A string. They love that. We play around with making other western songs sound eastern by arranging them differently. Ultimately a student would want to have the tools to make any song sound whatever genre they choose.
    When we really stop to think about it, I’m not sure how many students were really all that familiar with classical music to begin with. I think most of our American culture listens to country, rock, pop,—but I really don’t know too many people that listen to classical music on a regular basis before they started Suzuki training. I’m sure there are people out there that do but on average probably not. So, if we taught on the basis of what the student is already familiar before starting lessons, we wouldn’t get far at all in the Suzuki books. I think much of our beginning would be “Hannah Montana” and that kind. So we start students off with what has worked around the world for over a hundred years. It is true, tried, tested and proved to work.

  4. As far as finger patterns I agree with the post by RaineJen.

Have fun with this! I am curious how this will turn out for you! Keep us posted!

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

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