The Why, What and How of Listening to the Suzuki Repertoire
Listening to music is integral to your little musician’s growth as a musician. As participants in the Suzuki method, we are blessed to be part of a method that relies so heavily on the listening component. As a former Suzuki child, I count most of my musicianship skills on the fact that EVERY DAY, my mother had me listen to the Suzuki CD. She wasn’t a die-hard Suzuki method enthusiast, in fact she had never heard of it until I started asking for violin lessons in the 90’s. But she recognized that listening to the repertoire would add a little something extra to my skills that she never got in her traditional music lessons.
There are two types of listening: passive and active. Passive listening is when you just play the music in the background and go about your activity without paying very much attention to it. Active listening is when you sit and concentrate on the music, or it can be clapping or tapping your foot along to the music.
Why we Listen:
Children learn words after hearing them spoken hundreds of times by others. Dr Suzuki realized the implications of the fact that children the world over learn to speak their native language with ease. He began to apply the basic principles of language acquisition to the learning of music, and called his method the mother-tongue approach. Listening to music every day is important, especially listening to pieces in the Suzuki repertoire so the child knows them immediately. Listening is the number one thing you can do as a parent to make your child learn quickly and easily. Without listening, you’re not learning the Suzuki method. Listening to the Suzuki CD is one of the foundations of the Suzuki method.
When little musicians are constantly listening to the repertoire they will be learning, their minds are soaking it up. They might not be listening attentively, but they are listening! Dr Suzuki recounts in one of his books how a younger sibling who had never played a specific piece (she had listened to the CD constantly and her older sibling playing it), at a lesson one day picked up the violin and played the piece note for note the first time through. There is so much potential in the little musicians we nurture!
How to Listen:
It is important (and encouraging) to remember that the Suzuki Bk 1 CD is at the most 30 minutes long. Listen whenever possible and make it as accessible as possible. Put the CD on your cellphone and listen to it as you/your child moves around the house, so it is always an option. Play it while driving in the car and eating breakfast! Fill your little musicians ears with the Suzuki CD on repeat and I promise you will see so much progress!
Note: there is a parent in MN, USA who uses “night listening” as a tool. Her children listen to their respective Suzuki CDs all night while they sleep and the progress has been astounding. If anyone wants to experiment with this, we would be interested to see the end result!
What to Listen To:
Of course listen to the Suzuki Cd’s! I ask my students to listen to the whole Suzuki Bk 1 CD at least once a day. If you have gotten to the point where you are just. so. sick. of “Lightly Row”, buy the Suzuki Bk 4 CD and listen to that for a bit instead! I promise that this will be one of the most helpful and encouraging things you can do for yourself and your little musician if you just want to throw in the towel because your whole house is sick of listening to “O Come” on repeat.
It is important to remember that little musicians need to also hear music outside of the Suzuki repertoire (or the core repertoire of whatever method you are learning). Here is a list of suggested supplemental repertoire to listen to. This is by no means the be all and end all of “good” repertoire, there is so much more out there that is amazing music! I have simply listed the music I remember listening to as a young student, that I now consider instrumental in my formation as a musician. If you feel like this list is lacking, definitely supplement it! I have tried to include equal parts instrumental and orchestral repertoire. We also have a blog post series on listening to classical music (not the Suzuki repertoire), the first of which you can find here.
Sarah Murley-Hauser is a Suzuki violin teacher at Upper Beaches Music School and is currently in her last year of studying violin and music at the University of Toronto. She is passionate about the Suzuki method and making music learning enjoyable, effective and accessible for all. When she is not playing the violin, Sarah enjoys reading, knitting and spending time with her husband.