Is there a Suzuki Method for 0 to 3-year-olds?

Infants Are Like Seedlings

Suzuki said that infants are like seedlings. We don’t let a sprout whither and then give it a lot of fertilizer, sunlight, and water, thinking that is the right time to grow. It’s too late for the withered sprout. Likewise, we don’t set children aside until they enter kindergarten saying that’s when education begins.

Suzuki said you don’t expect a bumper crop when you plant nothing.  What you will get will be whatever seeds happen to land in the field.  Likewise, parents should not leave education up to chance. If they do, they won’t get what they hoped for.

Plant early enough in the season! Suzuki told a story about Darwin who was asked by a mother when she should start educating her one and a half  year-old son.  Darwin told her she was a year and a half too late.


Suzuki observed how children learn by watching the way they learned to talk. Children begin to talk a lot between the ages of 2 and 5.  They seem to learn to speak almost overnight once they begin. He says a young baby learns one word at first, which is repeated by the adults around him or her.  Then later another word is added, but the first word is not dropped. He based his teaching Method on the way a baby learns language.  He says to start with listening to music. Immerse the infant with good music.

Very, Very Early Suzuki Training!

Start your Suzuki training from the time of birth. Not because you want your child to be an Einstein.  But because you really do know it is the right thing to do.  Surround the infant with good music. Since infants hear and absorb the sounds of their environment, play good music softly in the background.  Play it at home and in the car. Learning to play violin, for a baby, is simply listening to music.

MVbaby2From birth to age 3 is the best time to develop an ear for music.  Play one piece repeatedly during the day. The music should be played softly.  Just loud enough to know it is on. Suzuki says that if you play a five-minute piece of Mozart, for example, every day, by 5 months old the baby has learned it.

He says test this:  play a different piece of music for the baby; then switch to the familiar piece.  Observe the baby’s response.  For the 1st piece, the baby will listen intently and his or her eyes will be absorbed.  As soon as the music switches to the familiar piece, the baby will smile, look for his mother, and may even shake his or her body to the rhythm of the old piece.

Suzuki says the piece has become the baby’s music—a comfort.

Eventually add more pieces, one at a time.  The result is “a heightened musical sensitivity” similar to that of the acquisition of language.

Choose Beautiful Music

Select beautiful music from the European masters. It has sophistication and intricacy which appeals to children. You wouldn’t put off looking at beautiful masterpieces and only focus on simple sketches. Likewise, babies shouldn’t have to listen to simple melodies only, without the opportunity to hear masterpieces.

Babies don’t need to understand the music.  Music is sensed, not understood. Adults don’t necessarily understand music, but they certainly can feel it.  So it is with infants.

Suzuki Early Childhood Education

Following the ideas of early exposure to good music, Dorothy Jones created an early childhood education program in 1993 which was approved by the International Suzuki Association.  Suzuki Early Childhood Education is developed on the same principles as that of the Suzuki Method for teaching children to play a musical instrument. Our studio introduces SECE classes in September 2017 for ages 0-3!

And when baby is around 3, a good Suzuki Violin Program for your child would be:

1.  Begin as early as possible

2.  Create the best possible environment

3.  Use the finest teaching method

4.  Provide a great deal of training

5.  Use the finest teachers

“The fate of a child is in the hands of his parents.”  Shinichi Suzuki


Which has a greater impact: music lessons, dance, or sports?

“There are strong differences in terms of cognitive and non-cognitive skills between adolescents who learned a musical instrument during childhood and those who did not.” *

Of course, there are many benefits from participating in dance or sports, but only playing a musical instrument is associated with higher grades and superior cognitive skills.

Compared to children who participate in sports or dance, children who take music lessons have substantially greater gains in several key areas.

  • intellectual development
  • school grades
  • wide interests, being imaginative, & insightful
  • organization, thoroughness, making plans
  • using time wisely

More than twice as much

According to a 2012 German study, the effects of studying a musical instrument are much stronger on cognitive skills, school grades, and conscientiousness, than the effects of sports and dance.

As  a matter of fact, the research found that music improves cognitive and non-cognitive skills more than twice as much as sports or dance does. This research finds that improved academic performance truly is a result of musical training.

While the researchers acknowledged benefits of sports and dance, the strong impact of music lessons on cognitive skills was not replicated for children doing sports or dance. This is not to say that children should not participate in sports or dance.  In this study, there certainly are benefits to both activities.

But for substantial cognitive gains, music lessons win.  Why would you want substantial cognitive gains for your young child? Because cognitive development includes such things as information processing, intelligence, reasoning, language development, and memory. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Goals of the study

Because the motivation for the research was to know the long-term effects of music training on children, all of the students in this study took lessons for 9 years

They tested for the effects of music training in 5 categories:

  1. cognitive skills
  2. school achievement
  3. personality (openness and conscientiousness)
  4. use of time
  5. ambition

Results of the study

  1. cognitive skills: scores are more than twice as high as what would be obtained from playing sports
  2. school achievement: much higher achievement than those who didn’t take music
  3. personality: much greater in openness [having wide interests, and being imaginative and insightful] and conscientiousness [organized, thorough, and planful] 
  4. time use: 13 % less likely to watch TV every day
  5. ambition: 15 % more likely to plan on obtaining an upper secondary school degree and 18 % more likely to apply to university.

Earlier start, greater results

The study was based on 372 German teens who began to take music lessons outside of school before the age of 8 and continued for 9 years. The control group consisted of about 3000.  Outcomes were measured at age 17.

The effects of beginning to play a musical instrument later than the age of 8 were still positive, but weaker than those of children who start to learn a musical instrument earlier. For those who started later,  the effects on cognitive skills, openness and ambition are still relatively strong, but effects on school marks and conscientiousness were not significant.

A summary of other studies that illustrate the unique benefits of music lessons can be found here.

 Photo credit: takacsi75 / Foter / CC BY

“Parents who recognize their child’s potential ability are good parents.” Shinichi Suzuki

Was our brain wired first for music or for language?

What Came First: Music or Language?

Our brains may be “wired” first for music.  But the music part of the brain is also the language part.  Could it be that we are made for music?  And language is just an interesting add-on?

Charles Limb, an otolaryngological surgeon at Johns Hopkins and a faculty member of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, decided to map what was happening in the brains of musicians as they played.

What the research team did

An article in the Atlantic, reports that Dr. Limb put a musician in a functional MRI machine with a keyboard where the man played a memorized piece of music followed by a made-up piece of music as part of a jazz improvisation with another musician in a control room.

What the researcher team found

They found that the brains of musicians who are engaged with other musicians in spontaneous improvisation show a lot of activity in the same brain areas traditionally associated with spoken language and syntax.

In other words, improvisational jazz conversations “take root in the brain as a language,” Limb said.

“If the brain evolved for the purpose of speech, it’s odd that it evolved to a capacity way beyond speech,” Limb said. “So a brain that evolved to handle musical communication—there has to be a relationship between the two. I have reason to suspect that the auditory brain may have been designed to hear music and speech is a happy byproduct.”

Dr. Lamb’s Ted Talk about this topic is available here.

Photo credit: Jan Krömer / Foter / CC BY-ND

“It turns out that playing a musical instrument is important.” Nina Kraus

Hard Evidence for Music Study Effect on Language and Reading

How, not just where, the brain reacts to sound

Researchers at Northwestern studied the brainwaves in both musicians and non musicians. This differs from MRI readings because brainwaves are how the brain reacts not where. We can see how accurately and thoroughly the brain reacts, transcripts, or processes sound. I have always believed that music should be studied because it’s good and beautiful, but even I am amazed by these studies.

Click on the image to watch the slide show from Brainvolts

at Northwestern University.


NW study


Sound as the basis for language and reading

These results indicate huge implications for correctly deciphering sound which is the basis for building language skills and then reading. If I have a poor processing of sound, it will take me longer to repeat that sound back, or in the case of reading, if I don’t have a rich enough transcription of the sound, I will have trouble “hearing” in my head the sound of the word I’m reading.

Further, the researchers are suggesting that musicians are better able to hear emotional intonations and inflections in speech, and thus more correctly interpret the speakers intentions. We might conclude that children or adults with Autism may do well to study music which can train the brain to more accurately interpret sounds.