Please know that I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty about how much time is or is not spent listening to the recordings. My goal is to only make everyone aware of how vital listening is to the musical growth of our children and help all our students reach their full potential.
Again, how many hours a day do your children hear English? It’s constant and the same should be applied to our listening of Suzuki recordings.
Music is first and foremost about sound, and by listening to high quality recordings of the repertoire we are to play, we are given an example after which to model our playing. Listening to our pieces also allows our children to teach themselves the notes of the piece as opposed to the teacher or parent. Listening enables a child to learn their piece with greater ease and cuts down on the amount of corrections a teacher or parent needs to make. I don’t know about you, but Delaney would much rather be corrected by the music than me. For our young children who do not yet know how to read music, listening is the primary way they are going to learn their piece.
Learning the notes to our newest piece is only one small benefit that comes from all the listening. It also increases memorization skills, improves intonation, rhythm and tone production, teaches dynamics, articulation, shaping of phrases and so on.
Not only does listening teach us how to play the piece, for me, it served(s) as a huge motivational tool. I will never forget listening to Humoresque early on in my violin playing and for so long that was my goal - to play Humoresque. Then, it was the Bach Double. Listening to quality recordings always inspires a person to play better and practice harder.
One of my favorite contributors to the American Suzuki Journal, violinist Joseph Kaminsky, said, “I am convinced that one hour of concentrated listening to your solo piece can perhaps cut two to three hours of practice time needed to learn the piece…” Would anyone like to cut a couple hours off the total time needed to learn a new piece? I would! I am not saying that you should spend one solid hour listening to Lightly Row or Go Tell Aunty Rhody, but I am saying you need to be listening to you newest piece more than all the others. In order to achieve this, why not actively listen (I will talk more on this later) to your current piece as a part of your practice routine 4 times in a row. You can listen several different ways. Maybe one time you just listen, the next you clap along to the beat. Another time you air bow along on your shoulder. Can you listen and sing the note names and numbers? Try implementing this strategy into your child’s practice routine and see how much more easily they learn the piece.
What should my child be listening to?
In addition to the Suzuki recordings, it is very beneficial for your child to listen to other good quality music of any instrument and genre. It is also a great idea to attend live concerts and events to see the music in action!
You can also change things up by playing the recordings from the next level of books in the Suzuki Method. For example, if your child is in book 1, listening to the pieces from book 2 and book 3 can add more variety and is also quite motivating for students to hear what is to come.
When are where should listening take place?
The great thing about listening is that it can be done just about anywhere! Ideally your child should be listening to their Suzuki recordings several times a day, but once a day at minimum. It is easiest if you pick a time and place and make it part of your daily routine. In my house, we do our listening first thing in the morning while I am making breakfast, the kids are eating breakfast and through clean-up and morning play time. This usually equates to an hour and a half depending on the day. Add some time listening in the car and you easily have several hours of listening in a day.
Here are some ideas for when and where to listen:
· At meal times
· In the car
· While doing homework
· Before nap or bedtime
· While getting dressed for school
· While getting ready for bed
· During story time
· During play time
· During practice (concentrated listening of current piece)
One of my students does her listening in the car and one day her mother told me about how her son caught her listening to the recordings even when her daughter wasn’t in the car! Yep, that’s what happens! Another student who does a great deal of listening along with singing the note numbers has a 3 year old brother who can also sing the note numbers along with all the songs the sister is playing. I think her brother is going to fly when it comes time for him to learn the violin. In case you haven’t already picked up on it, this violin thing is a family thing. We practice together, we learn together, we celebrate together, we cry together and we even listen together. No part of this experience was meant to be done alone and that’s one of my favorite things about the Suzuki Method: it brings families together!
How should I listen?
Some of you might not know that listening can be done in several different ways. One way, called passive listening, is to have the music as part of your environment. It plays softly in the background while you carry on with your daily activities.
Another way is called active listening. Active listening requires an individual to be purposefully and mindfully involved in the listening. Remember, earlier I challenged you to add concentrated, active listening of your current piece to your practice routine? Here are some ways your student can actively listen to their recordings:
· Sing note names or finger numbers along with the music
· Listen for specific things in the music like dynamics or rhythm
· Move or clap to the music
· Make a drawing that reflects a piece
· Write a story to go along with a specific piece
· Track along with the music in the book (once students are reading music)
· Air bow along with the music
As we begin a new year of lessons I hope you feel challenged and motivated to up the listening in your house. Just as listening is essential to learning a new language, so is listening central to the Suzuki Method. If we want our children’s music to become second nature, just like speaking, then we must make listening to our recordings a priority. Now go ahead and dust off your recordings, press play and listen over and over again. When you think you’ve played them enough, don’t stop, go ahead and listen to them some more. Shinichi Suzuki once said, “Listening until we remember is not enough. We must listen until we cannot forget.”