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by Mary Ann Hill

“Listening until we remember is not enough. We must listen until we cannot forget.”

Sinichi Suzuki

Listening is a huge part of the Suzuki method of learning. As the mother tongue approach suggests music can be learned the same way language is learned. We hear our language around us constantly as a child before we ever attempt to speak it. Hearing music around us constantly as a student is an obvious starting point because music is “first and foremost about sound”. By listening to the Suzuki CDs daily the child has a perfect aural model of the piece in his “ear”. With this aural model the child can self-correct while playing a song. When he makes a mistake he’ll know it “just doesn’t sound right” long before he can technically explain his error. Having an aural model allows a student to become aware and sensitive to the nuances of a piece and incorporate such subtleties into his music without being dependent on visual symbols. Listening to music is vital to learning this new “language”.

There are so many advantages from the simple task of playing the recordings of your child’s pieces. Daily listen with your child to the entire CD of the book in which your child is studying. Feel free to listen to the CDs of the other Suzuki books as well. Some families get all 7 CDs from the very beginning and let the student listen to and anticipate the songs which he will get to learn. The CD can be listened to during meals, while doing homework, while driving, or while doing your morning or evening routine. Truly most of the time listening to the CD can be an environmental experience - the CD is playing somewhere in the background - occasionally, though, it should be a participatory experience. Participatory listening could involve:

Listening for specific elements in the music

Singing with the music

Making a drawing of the sound

Moving to the music

Following the score

Make listening to the music a natural part of your daily routine. Listening to and speaking your native tongue isn’t a chore and listening to music and “speaking” music doesn’t need to be either.

Surround yourself and your student with an assortment of great music. I have some CDs and orchestras listed on my website as a place to start. Listen to KDFC. Take your student to live concerts. In the Bay Area we are surrounded by innumerable opportunities to attend live concerts - symphonies, operas, choral concerts, ballets, musicals, even country and pop concerts. Expose your student to a variety of fantastic musical styles. Envelope yourself and your student in your new “tongue” - listen, listen, listen!

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