What is review?
Once a piece of music is learned well and to a high degree of facility and committed to memory, Suzuki students are expected to regularly play over the piece so that it becomes known even bettern. Regular repetition of the pieces already learned develops technical and musical competency as well as to builds a repertoire of music which can be played at any moment without fuss or stress. When learning a language as children we don't stop using words, in the Suzuki Method we never officially stop playing a piece of music. Every piece is added to a constantly growing repertoire.
As an alternative to finger exercises
Many teachers following a more conventional approach will assign from the beginning, a "finger exercise" book, these exercises are often quite boring and not a little patronising, especially if you don't start your study at age four. They are normally played without musical or artistic intent and encourage mechanical playing which is not directed by the brain.
The purpose of finger exercises is to give students an opportunity to practice technique and to learn new techniques out of context.
Every piece in book one has a technical purpose, to play softly, to play smoothly, to play with a certain articulation (touch), by regularly reviewing each piece students are revisiting the technical challenges that they have learned and their fingers and brain will not forget them.
A means of increasing playing time
To gain proficiency in any physical skill you need to do it. If we are to master the piano we have to play the piano. This can be difficult and tiresome if we only ever have three pieces that we can play. By having a bank of music they can draw on and by playing through that bank regularly, children start to rack up playing hours without even knowing it. A child who plays through book one every day will have spent nearly two hours at the piano each week without even knowing it. This time adds up and the more we play, the better we get at playing.
So that nothing is ever really new
The order in which the pieces are arranged in the Suzuki repertoire is such that each piece follows on from the last and the techniques learned in previous pieces are revisited. If a child has been regularly reviewing their repertoire each new piece will contain about twenty percent of new material and the rest will be stuff already learned in a previous piece. A good teacher will choose the difficult passages and isolate them first so that the child practises them first and then the rest will come naturally and easily.
To build a repertoire
Musicians survive on their repertoire. Professional concert performers don't learn a new programme for every concert they give, they have a pool of repertoire at the ready and they put the programme together from pieces they know. As new pieces are learned they are added to the pool but it is rare that a concert artist will learn an entire programme from scratch for a specific concert.
There is nothing sadder than the child who "has been playing for four years" and can, at most, play half a dozen songs - often fewer. By reviewing, we build up a vocabulary of music which can be played at any time, anywhere and without stress or fuss. Children with a repertoire are always happy to try out pianos or to play for friends - indeed it's sometimes more difficult to stop them than to get them started!
If your children are financially motivated then point out that if they have a fifteen minute repertoire they can go busking make some pocket money out of their playing - in Wellington at Christmas time you can't move for small children in town playing their keyboard or violin and the game for me is to "spot the parents in the crowd" because there is always a parent somewhere nearby keeping an eye on things. Income is directly proportional to cuteness and inversely proportional to age.
NB if you are interested in going busking please check local by-laws and make sure that you do everything by the book - some councils require buskers to be licensed.
To practice new techniques with old notes.
When I teach a child, the first time I suggest they use their reviews to practise something new is when I say "try playing that song with your left hand" in the very early stages of book one. They are faced with a (rather difficult) technical challenge but not with an intellectual one because they already know the notes they have to play "use your right hand to teach your left" is a phrase I often use when this first review moment appears. Later on in the book I might be trying to teach a particular sound or think that a child needs a lot of practice on a particular technique. Instead of assigning new pieces with those techniques in, I will modify old pieces so that they can practice every piece with that technique through reviewing.
Everything in book one is leading to book two which leads to book three and so on. There are things learned in book one that we use in book six, if a child has forgotten how to do those things he or she will have to re-learn them when they get to book six, this is not an efficient use of time.
To keep things going over a break
I never expect anyone to learn anything new by themselves – this is unfair. If people DO learn new things this is fantastic and I never discourage it but if all that happens over a break is that things are the same at the end as they were at the beginning, I feel that we’ve won. Keep playing all your reviews daily over holidays and we can pick up in the new term where we left off.
Review your old pieces, they make the new ones easy, they make new techniques and ideas easy, they make performing easy, they make playing the piano easy.