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In my post about Suzuki vs. the traditional method, I mentioned that I have made some minor adjustments to the pure Suzuki Method in order to address some of what I consider to be problems with the Suzuki approach.

I still believe that I am being primarily true to the Suzuki Method, and that my departures are necessary to achieve the long term goals of my students, which include winning music scholarships to colleges, becoming mature musicians, and assimilation into the musical world instead of remaining separated as “Suzuki kids”.

The main departure I have made is to introduce note-reading much earlier than most Suzuki teachers. I begin to introduce note-reading at the beginning of Suzuki Book 2. I do this for several reasons. First of all, by the time a student of mine has made it through Book 1, they have a SOLID technical foundation and they are ready to take on more “brain tasks”, because their technique is now a matter of habit and no longer requires much concentration.

I continue having my students learn the pieces in Book 2 by ear to further train their ears,  but by starting to learn to read music in Book 2, students can begin to participate in school orchestras and other social musical venues, which further accelerates their note-reading. 

It also gives students an extra tool to avoid the dreaded “Suzuki Slop” which can happen when a student is learning a very difficult piece by ear and misses some notes or “vaguely imitates” what they hear.  If a student can be fairly good at reading music by Book IV, then they have another tool to verify what notes they are supposed to play.

My favorite book for teaching students to read music is “I Can Read Music” by Joanne Martin.  I love it because it treats PITCH and RHYTHM completely separately at first! Genius! Later, the two are combined gradually. Every student who has used it thought learning to read music was a cinch! It comes in 2 volumes.

I find Book 3 to be the perfect opportunity to introduce certain advanced techniques such as Shifting and Vibrato. The pieces in Book 3 are not particularly demanding, but Book 4 makes a sudden leap into some big, demanding pieces. Therefore, I like to slow down Book 3 somewhat to prepare my students for Book 4 and allow them time to get the more advanced techniques under their belt BEFORE they need them.