The heart of the Suzuki Method's success lies in listening to the professional recordings. Not just hearing but listening to the CD provides the example and the incentive to play the piano. The following education was taught by Peggy Swingle:
Patterned after mother tongue learning
In much the same way a child learns his language through absorption of the environment, a child learns the new language of music through listening! Just as it takes 2-3 years of listening to language before a child starts to speak fluently, so it takes many hours of listening to the CD for the child to be able to reproduce a tune. A child hears language about 14 hours each day. Similarly, the more your child hears the CD the faster he learns the pieces. In the beginning, listening to the CD about three hours a day provides a clear mental and aural picture of the goal.
The object is to have the child know the piece so well by internalizing, that the teacher's job is to show how to play, not what to play. The child's ear becomes a self-corrective mechanism, and he becomes a real partner in the learning process. Ideally, prior to starting lessons, the child has heard the CD for many months, maybe years in the case of younger siblings.
"WALLPAPER MUSIC" Suzuki listening is passive listening. The CD plays in the background so that it is part of the environment. Since children's ears are sensitive, it's important that the CD not be played too loudly. Normal conversation should be able to be carried on while the CD is playing. This is learning through absorption. Sometimes we refer to the subliminal ever-playing CD as "wallpaper music."
Each child learns at his own pace
Each child is different. Some require more listening, especially at the beginning. If your child has enough listening in the first two years, he will learn the pieces quicker. If your child has difficulty learning a piece, it simply means he has not listened sufficiently. It is really that simple. If learned in the correct sequence, with enough exposure to the music, no piece should be difficult to grasp. Set your CD player to "track repeat" for just that piece for 30 minutes for three days. You'll notice an incredible improvement in the ease and attitude with which the piece is learned.
Parent's Responsibility - Turn on the CD
The Suzuki parent's most important job is to put the CD on every day. This is not the child's responsibility. As the child matures, he will begin to take on parts of practicing himself, but it will be the parent's job to put on the CD until the student is 18 years of age!
Three Levels to Listening
- The first is simply to get the correct sounds in the right order of the melody, or the right-hand tune.
- The second is to also hear the left hand harmonies and how they go with the melody. These two levels take lots and lots of listening in the first two years.
- The child later notices musical aspects such as the dynamics, phrasing, tone quality, how the hands are voiced, etc. Some children who listen much also use the correct fingerings because they can hear how the phrase should be played.
Tips on Listening
- In a nutshell, you can't listen enough!
- Play the CD in the background when you are eating, having a bath, reading a story, getting dressed.
- Make a copy of the recording for the car. Many of us spend much time in the car, (remember to play the music softly).
- Occasionally, play the CD a little louder and dance to it, or draw pictures about the pieces.
- Parental attitude is very important. Comment on which pieces you like and which ones make you feel lively, quiet, etc. Never suggest, even in jest, that you're tired of hearing the CD. Children take what you say literally.