The Suzuki Method - Criticism and Response

The most common criticisms of the Suzuki method from educators outside the various Suzuki associations are that group playing, extensive listening to and copying of recordings, and early focus on memorization lead to:

  • compromised sight reading skills
  • a tendency towards rote learning and 'robotic' group performance at the expense of individual musicianship

Other criticisms include:

  • teachers are often low-level performers, and are not required to hold a degree or have had any formal training on their instrument
  • if music is to be learned from audio recordings, the quality of the recorded pieces must be questioned in terms of style, integrity, and its positive or negative traits. The resulting views are subjective and may differ between people.
  • any reliance on listening to a single piece in order to learn it is not sufficient for instilling a sense of the style of the work (where the style refers to the traits of performance that are common to many similar works), since a style can only be acquired by listening to a range of works of common style (including listening to works for enjoyment, rather than with only the goal of copying them).
Criticism has also sprung up from within the Suzuki movement:
  • students may progress too rapidly and find themselves studying repertoire for which they are not yet emotionally prepared.
  • Baroque music is emphasized in the Suzuki violin literature to the detriment of other styles and periods. Some of this literature includes note errors and 19th-century editorial changes that are not in keeping with historically informed performance practice. (The International Suzuki Association is in the process of addressing this by revising the violin repertoire).
  • "Older students can become overly dependent" on the support structure of recordings, parental note-taking and tutoring at home, and teaching styles appropriate for younger students (Barber, 1991).
  • very young students, such as those aged 3–5, are often not ready for formal instruction, and too much emphasis on practicing hard at this age may be counterproductive (American Suzuki Journal, 2005).