Suzuki Rhythm Mnemonics in Pedagogical Theory and Actual Realization
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The Suzuki Violin School volumes begin with variations on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Each variation consists of a repeated rhythmic figure. Suzuki teachers use mnemonics to teach these rhythmic figures. Two of these variations are pedagogically problematic. Both comprise six onsets: one consists of two triplets; the other repeats a figure comprising an eighth note and two sixteenths. Teachers have been observed using mnemonics for one variation that others use for the other variation. This study examines the rhythms produced and identified on reading 9 mnemonics that Suzuki teachers commonly employ. Thirty participants were asked to speak the mnemonics and their responses were recorded and measured with Audacity software. Twenty participants who were either Suzuki teachers or trained musicians were also asked which notated rhythm each mnemonic corresponded to. Interonset intervals in the recordings were measured to determine the timing of the syllables in the spoken mnemonics. These timings were compared with the notated rhythms that had been identified by Suzuki teachers and the other trained musicians. Among the results, some mnemonics that Suzuki teachers have regarded as representing one rhythm were actually recited in a manner that more closely corresponded to the other. Two of the mnemonics were rendered closer to “swing” rhythm, and one of the mnemonics was often realized as five syllables rather than the anticipated six. This study has implications for Suzuki pedagogy, as well as music education more generally, as using verbal mnemonics to teach rhythms is a widespread teaching technique.
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