I have been teaching a young violin student for quite a while now with the Suzuki method, and she is now about to take 'Bourree' in book two. But recently I started reading the stuff on the pages other than the songs, and it's saying that I should be teaching her strange scales before she learns the song. She knows the basic G major 3 octave scale, but nothing else so far. And the only thing I've given her for theory and note reading is the 'I Can Read Music' book by Joanne Martin.

Every once in a while I've given her a passing, "This is forte, it means loud", but she hasn't learned much else. Any advice of what she needs to know at this point would be greatly appreciated!

  • 1
    Are you a trained Suzuki teacher? This sounds like something they would teach you in those Suzuki courses.
    – Neil Meyer
    Oct 23, 2015 at 6:46

4 Answers 4


This may or may not help but what you're suggesting sounds similar to how I learned the violin. Did you get to the Tonalization exercise yet?

I believe I learned music theory (or started to) in group classes with games. If your student doesn't have that opportunity perhaps you should look into having a theory section of the lesson. You could teach your student how to identify what key each piece was in, although I doubt you have very many to choose from.

I ended up learning most of my music theory when I started taking piano also from my violin teacher. I worked through the Music Tree Books. From a google search it looks like there are theory method books for violin as well so I would suggest looking into those! But it is hard to learn theory if you aren't very advanced at reading music. Some of my peers who played string instruments did not learn music theory before coming to college and ended up doing okay in the class so I don't think it's universal for violinists to learn theory, but it is definitely a useful skill.

  • If the first theory lesson you take is at college then it is astounding that a college program was willing to accept you.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jan 31, 2016 at 7:03
  • 1
    If you mean me, I already had music theory before college via my piano lessons. There was a music theory test to get into my college. I assume most of my peers (violin) could at least read treble clef and identify key signatures and time signatures but I don't know how much more they knew.
    – Alex
    Feb 1, 2016 at 1:47

If you are trying to teach with the Suzuki method, then you should check with a certified Suzuki trainer on this. Hopefully you are working with a mentor or trainer as part of your training.

I see no benefit of using the Suzuki books if you're not going to use any of the Suzuki pedagogical techniques.

General remark about the pages in the back of the book: some preparatory exercises are included that make learning the piece go much more efficiently and smoothly.


I'm a violin teacher and use the Suzuki books as well, but do not use the Suzuki approach. I teach my students to read music right from the beginning, so by the time a student reaches Suzuki Book 2 this is what they would most likely know theory wise:

1) A, G, D, and C scales (at least 2 octaves) and their corresponding arpeggios

2) They would have gone through all the songs in Suzuki Book 1 using the following approach: a) Tap and say rhythm b) Tap and say note names in rhythm c) Pluck the song d) Bow the song

3) They would know what both numbers of their time signature meant and how it relates to tapping and saying their rhythm

4) They would be able to name the sharps (or flats) in their key signature and tell me why they're there and name the key of the piece

5) They would know all the dynamic markings presented in Suzuki Book 1 as well as accents and staccato marks, etc.

Basically anything that's written on the page in the Suzuki Book 1 songs the student should be able to identify, explain and execute. If your student has trouble in any of these areas you may need to go back and work on those skills before progressing forward, or start adding them in as you work in Suzuki Book 2.


There are already two fantastic answers here, but I thought I'd add my two cents.

As a Suzuki student myself, I realize I didn't actually really start learning theory -- and understanding it -- until my fourth year or so, when I started actually enjoying violin. The thing, I realize now, that really made me start grasping theory was having to cram for the Certificate of Merit test, which includes a played portion, sight-reading and, of course, theory.

I notice that in general, pianists tend to be really super good at teaching theory. I guess having all the notes laid out in front of you makes it easier to grasp, as opposed to the rather abstract fingerboard. My current violin teacher insists that it's "really the pianist's job" to teach theory... While I may not agree with that, it does show that there certainly is something to that piano! I started taking piano lessons during the summer, just for the theory, and having that experience really helped in the future.

Hope my experiences are helpful!

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