What is Suzuki? (Not the motorcycles…)


I get this question a lot.


Suzuki is a method of teaching music that can be used with students of all ages, but is especially effective for children ages 3-6. For children, it also requires the active participation of a parent or caretaker to be truly effective.


As the owner of a music school and a parent, I understand that all parents believe their toddlers to be amazingly gifted. And they are. Babies and toddlers have unending potential and learn amazingly quickly (especially things you don’t want them to learn).

Starting at age 3 your child is eligible to start Suzuki lessons. We ALWAYS recommend that you check the credentials of any teacher you are considering, and only use a teacher who has taken Suzuki Teacher Training courses, not just someone who “uses the books.” There is SO much more to Suzuki lessons than you can get out of the book. To date, here’s the list of courses I’ve taken:

Every Child Can
Early Childhood Education Level 1
Violin Book 1
Violin Book 2
Violin Book 3
Cello Book 1
Cello Book 2
Cello Book 3
Cello Book 4
Suzuki Principles in Action

Each course requires a certain amount of class time and a certain amount of lesson observation time all with a certified teacher trainer. When I started my training in 2005 you could actually tell which of my students I started before training and ones I started after. There was that much of a difference. Just having a music degree, or music training, doesn’t necesarily make you a good private lessons teacher. There’s no classes in music school that teach you how to be a good lesson teacher. And unless you specifically get a music education degree, you don’t even take any education classes as a music major. (And of course the education classes are geared toward classroom teaching, not private lessons.) Because of this gap in a music degree, I have found all my teacher training to be invaluable. So much so that I help fund teachers who work at Notable Beginnings and are interested in Suzuki Teacher Training.

As a parent you need to know that a Suzuki Teacher has this specialized training, and knows how to apply it, especially to young children. Suzuki training involves learning about how preschoolers and young children learn and specific games to play to keep them involved. This is why the training is so important. You want to make sure your child gets started on the right foot, otherwise they may end up hating music because of the bad experience. Not all teachers are cut out for young children with short attention spans.

There are many different styles of Suzuki Teachers. I classify them as “hardcore” and “modified”. Personally I am modified, but can be as hardcore as the family wants. Most American families today are too busy to be hardcore Suzuki families.

Hardcore Suzuki lessons require daily practice and listening in addition to weekly private and group lessons. The parent is also required to be in the lesson and learns what the teacher is doing. The parent is then expected to be the home teacher and assure that the student is doing things correctly every day at home. It’s a big time commitment. BUT you get out what you put in. These students are usually fantastic players in a relatively short amount of time.

Modified lessons are less time consuming, but of course, progress is often slower, especially if there is not daily practice and listening. Also, often in modified lessons, a parent doesn’t always sit in, so you don’t have that accountability at home, either, which can also slow progress (especially in the case of a preschooler who won’t remember what they are supposed to practice once they put their instrument away).

Honestly, though, no matter which path you choose, the outcome is the same. The child will learn to play the instrument.

I hope this (relatively) brief spiel was helpful. I’m happy to explain anything further!