Fantastic Repertoire

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One of the most simple and elegant ideas that Suzuki discovered to develop talent is the continual review of all pieces that have been learned previously.  This is modelled on the way speech is learned, where words are added onto an existing vocabulary and first words continue to be used.  By grade one, a child can speak approximately 6000 words and continues to use even the most basic along with the most recently learned.

There are many ways review of pieces benefits a child’s development.  The most obvious at first glance is that a whole repertoire of beautiful music is at the child’s fingertips ready to play or perform from memory.  Without revision, a child will gradually become unable to remember the pieces they have learned.  A Suzuki student will never have the experience of having nothing ready to perform, and being able to play for others is a wonderful gift.  Children love to feel successful and the more they perform for family and friends the more successful they will feel.

But a much more fundamental reason for maintaining a repertoire of songs is that this is one of the best ways to improve technique on the instrument.  When we play music we can only focus on one thing really well at a time.  When we are learning a new song we are focusing on the most basic level: the notes, rhythms and bowings needed to make the song sound right.  We can’t really improve our technique or mastery of the instrument until this basic level is confidently memorised and we can free our attention for something else.  And once we do this, there are so many more important things to learn, such as bow control, beautiful tone production, fluency and ease of playing, and artistic phrasing.

And to even further leverage the value of review pieces, each piece in the Suzuki repertoire has specific technical challenges focused on improving your child’s playing.  So at every stage of learning, the early pieces can be used as a study in a particular technique.  And even better than a traditional study or etude, they are already securely in the memory and so the child can concentrate solely on improving a very specific point of technique.  So review pieces become a very powerful tool for learning, refining and reinforcing these skills so they become a secure part of the child’s ability.

Learn one thing, then practice and polish it every day for perhaps three months… listen continuously to the best performers in the world on records. Soon you will improve, playing more and more excellently, until a new, higher level is born. By this time it is no longer technique only but the possession of spirit and heart.

- Dr.Suzuki, Nurtured by Love. P.47