Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Suzuki Method?
Dr. Shinichi Suzuki was a European-trained violinist who offered a new method of studying string instruments to children in Japan following World War II. He believed that every child could learn to play an instrument at a satisfying level. Dr. Suzuki utilized the “mother tongue” method, in which the child learns to play by mimicking the parent and the sound of music heard around the home. Distinctives of the method are an amazing skill level displayed by very young children (starting as early as 3 years old), a significant involvement from a parent, and an initial emphasis on learning by ear (without written music). For more information, read the book “Nurtured by Love” by Dr. Suzuki or visit suzukiassociation.org
How do I acquire an instrument?
String instruments come in a wide variety of sizes (1/32 size up to full size) and values ($17 per month rental up to millions of dollars). Buying a cheap instrument online is usually a sure way to make a big mistake! For a beginner, a rental makes the most sense, unless you already own a family instrument that might be adequate. Most music companies have rent-to-own offers that will help your family toward a purchase if the student continues to play. Currently, SHAR Music is the recommended provider of instruments for the DGSP and they can answer most questions about sizes and values. Other options include Guarneri House and Marshall Music. The DGSP teacher of your student’s program is also an invaluable resource in knowing what type of instrument to acquire.
How do I protect an instrument from damage?
Students will be taught how to transport and care for their instruments during their class/lesson. String instruments are complex and easily damaged. They are made out of wood and are held together by a combination of glued joints and a balance of tension. They are particularly sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity. It is extremely important that you never leave the instrument in the car (both for security as well as potential damage), whether because of winter cold or summer heat. The instrument case usually has knobs/feet that should be what it rests on when on the floor or a table. A “turtled” violin case (upside down) is problematic because the weight of the instrument resting on the “bridge” can cause damage requiring a visit to the violin shop. The bow is especially delicate because the wood is so thin and repair so difficult. The student should take care to loosen the hair every time they finish playing and to only leave it in the case when not in use. Body oils will cause long-term damage to the bow hair and the instrument varnish, so nobody should touch the bow hair and care should be taken to minimize contact with the instrument body.
What do I do if my instrument is damaged?
Do not try to fix it yourself (that includes you, parents!). If you own the instrument, consult with the teacher about the best strategy for having it repaired. If you are renting the instrument, notify your teacher and the company you rent from. A teacher (or Dr. Reimer) may have a back-up instrument that you can use until yours is adequately repaired. Some repairs are minor and a teacher may be able to fix it on the spot at no charge. f you own your own instrument, it is valuable to have a current insurance appraisal of the value of the instrument and include it in your insurance policy.
How do I schedule individual lessons?
Contact Dr. Reimer at firstname.lastname@example.org to determine the appropriate location, teacher, and lesson length and time for you. Lesson teachers may have limited availability, so we cannot guarantee you will be able to study with any particular teacher listed as our faculty. Suzuki lessons may also include group lessons and two sessions per week for young beginners. Depending on the age of the student, parents may be required to be present for lessons.
What if I have a schedule conflict?
Regular attendance is a very important part of your child’s study. Each class, lesson, or rehearsal is intended to result in progress on the part of students, so an absence means a student misses out on that progress. If you know about an upcoming absence in advance, please email Dr. Reimer at email@example.com.
If a late-occurring situation comes about (illness or family emergency), please contact the teacher directly or Dr. Reimer at 616.828.8321. Please give the teacher at least 24 hours notice so the instructor’s time is not wasted. If you do not provide sufficient notice, you will be charged for the lesson. If sufficient notice is given or the teacher is unavailable, rescheduling can take place through the teacher or through Dr. Reimer.
Is there one correct way to play a string instrument?
The best methods in playing and teaching a string instrument have developed over hundreds of years and are intricately detailed. In some details, there are multiple pedagogies that are considered credible. For instance, some violinists believe in using a shoulder rest while others are adamantly opposed to using them. Bassists are faced with decisions between standing or sitting when they play and between which type of bow technique they will use (German or French). Many musicians have been very successful utilizing either method. Many habits common to students are considered “wrong”, however. Bad habits may cause physical tension or injury, may violate the instructions of the composer or simply prevent a student from producing an accurate, pleasing performance. The DGSP employs highly accomplished teachers who will guide their students in the direction that will best assist them in reaching their potential – trust us!
How do I practice? How much? How often?
Consistent, quality practice is what helps a student become proficient at playing an instrument. But bad practice can have the opposite effect, forming habits that can be very difficult to correct. Beginning students should make a goal to practice at least 10 minutes each day of the week, while more advanced students may aim for up to an hour each day. As you plan your practice time, here are some general guidelines that may be helpful.
Your teacher will provide you with much of the material and skills that you are to practice. If you are uncertain of how to practice it effectively, ask the teacher for ideas. Your teacher has practiced for MANY hours during their life and will have good suggestions for you.
Try to plan your practice time at a consistent time each day, perhaps linked to another regular part of your schedule (i.e. every night after dinner). Having a routine is very helpful to being consistent.
Parent support is very helpful. No musician (including professionals!) always wants to practice, but reminders and encouragement from a parent can make a big difference. When your student plays well in a concert, you will see that it was worth it and take some credit for helping them reach that destination! The DGSP has a program-wide practice challenge during the winter with prizes, but parents may also want to provide incentives at home for their child to develop consistent practice habits.
You will tend to practice best when you are rested, relaxed and are able to concentrate. Practicing a string instrument requires physical endurance to learn physical skills while also needing mental focus to read the music, evaluate your success in playing it accurately and decide how best to fix the parts that are not yet up to your satisfaction.
Make a plan for how you will use your time. What skills do you need to spend time working on? How long will you work on them? What methods will you use? What music have you been assigned to learn? Do you have any pieces that you previously learned and could review or is there a new song that would like to figure out? If you have a plan, you are less likely to reach the end of your practice session without achieving your desired goal.
Many students think practicing means that you start at the beginning of a piece, play it through to the end, then play it again. There is a value in playing from beginning to end, but great practice is often different. Ask yourself which moments in this piece of music don’t sound as good as they should. Those moments could be a whole line or even four little notes. When you identify the problem, then figure out how to solve it. Usually, you try to understand how to play it correctly, then practice it very slowly so that your hands learn the correct skill, repeat it numerous times until the correct way becomes a habit, then gradually speed it up until it is at the appropriate tempo. Once you have corrected the problem (and it may take several days before it is fully fixed!), you can put it back into the context of the larger piece of music.