Collected Tips for Suzuki Flute Lessons

Anke van der Bijl 2021
Collected Tips for Suzuki Flute lessons

Excellence in teaching is excellence in communication through Music.
Some guidelines to bring joy and inspiration to your Suzuki music lessons
Every Child Can & Every Teacher Can
All teachers bring extensive knowledge and expertise to their lessons.
1.Developing a pupil’s musicianship is not about the teacher’s journey. It is about the pupil’s journey.
The learning process is a fairly simple process which involves
  • Exploration
  • Instability (sometimes frustration, as perfectly normal component)
  • Internalization
  • Refinement
Followed by more Exploration, Instability, Internalization and Refinement

2.A lesson is not a showcase of your knowledge of teaching points
Teach the child not the repertoire. ( Do NOT feed your pupil the notes of a piece)
The repertoire is a
teaching tool. A vehicle for developing student’s musicianship.
This teaching tool is is meant to develop a student’s musical development- a process that uses the repertoire to take the student beyond the actual repertoire itself.
Distinguish between
  • Teaching to play the repertoire
  • Teach musical development ( teaching points) through the repertoire
HOW to teach not WHAT to teach
Using Suzuki’s principle of a one point lesson.
Main focus is always : The Pupil
When we do not know the pupil, then we start with the music
Start with
simplest possible warm up/tonalization for the chosen piece. ( Suzuki violin : Twinkle) Use this moment to check set up and posture.
Choose a
realistic and concrete goal for your lesson
Have a plan but be flexible
As soon as possible switch to need of pupil ( posture/sound during warm up, musicianship during piece)
Always focus on what pupils DOES know and develop this. Do not feed notes.
Avoid “fixing errors” . This can lead to students thinking too much (about what all could go “wrong”)while playing
Use demonstration -imitation and avoid explanation. Music is the main language here !

3.Pupils are the priority
Dedication to and focus on the child in front of you
Establish a friendly relationship of trust within the very first minute

4.Posture and tone production
At the heart of all levels .
Starting level 1 with basics of tone + how the body produces it
Students should be set up to play correctly every time they make a sound.
When advancing :
Develop a range of emotional intensities.
Help student experience that tone production changes with emotional intensity
Tone = Ability which grows, but the basics ( posture/set up) should be correct from the very start

How to teach musical development ?
  • Separate what the repertoire needs and what the student needs.
  • Teach tone and technical fluency as ongoing foundation of the student’s musicianship
  • Incorporate steps towards students independence
  • Zero in on musicianship in all levels whether virtuoso or beginner
  • Musicianship does not mean a fixed interpretation of the repertoire but as ongoing method of musical exploration and refinement.
5.Develop a sense of beauty
Well prepared students can “let go” and perform whilst trusting their abilities
Carefully setting kids up to be fundamentally excellent in terms of physical and artistic aspects of music making.
This requires that student learns from the beginning to make accurate discriminations about what is excellent and what not.
This requires lots of listening
And requires plenty individual playing, during the lesson
Only move on to new skills and repertoire if the previous have been mastered.

6.Music is communication
Suzuki repertoire is real music, with titles that suggest specific style and character. not only a title suggest a piece is Allegro, it is the structure of the music which suggest tempo, articulation, style and dynamic inflection.
Pupils should understand from the very beginning that the purpose of music is to convey something ( compare speeches and music at funeral) an idea or a mood. They can be asked how their playing can convey the idea behind this music.
Our goals are to have pupils play only repertoire that they can perform beautifully and expressively relatively quickly. Struggling your way through pieces is developing poor habits that will be difficult to overcome. We intend to devote the majority of the practice time to thinking about playing as beautifully as possible and to then refine the performance.
Priorities : Beauty and expressiveness. ( Suzuki : art/watercolor/flower arrangement/pottery etc.)

Repertoire is not learned yet when not played beautifully and expressively.
A bad sounding note is incorrect, an out of tune note as well.

7.Teacher’s attitude
The pupils should always feel the teacher is on his/her side. ( the trust in 1st minute)
Avoid trap of controlling every moment of a student’s learning process
Take pupil
slightly beyond his/her comfort zone. Learning is not an entirely frustration free process. It is NOT the teacher’s job to eliminate all difficulties from a student’s learning process. Better : prepare the student for difficulties.
Alternate between celebration and frustration

Setting standards of excellence for students at all levels
Focusing attention on tone development / musicianship
Structuring lessons to facilitate successful progress :
Use of tiny steps , identifying the appropriate time to move a step ahead.
One point lessons
Use of demonstration-Imitation
Use of imagery
Incorporate regular, productive review work in daily teaching and practicing
Incorporate ear training and learning by ear
Give productive, balanced, frequent feedback to students
Communicate effectively and working productively with parents
If you cannot fix it, leave it ( at least for now)

9.Never “point” at pupil.
Always direct that pointy finger at yourself !


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