I have identified seven stages of learning related to acquiring the ability or skills for each repertoire piece. Some of the following topics are areas that are learned concurrently with each other, but there are times when my student and I have to break down the learning process into more concrete parts. The following list and the order of items are generally the model that we consider.
(1) Left Hand Skills
This area involves the notes to be learned. The notes need to be in the correct order and in tune with the appropriate fingerings. Some songs in book 2 are more difficult to play in tune because they present some major new left hand skills. I am careful to teach particular specific fingerings in some songs because of the importance of that fingering in the overall ability development of learning to play the violin. I maintain a careful eye on the student's posture throughout the learning process to ensure that certain new technical left hand concepts do not encourage the student to lax into bad posture habits. This is a big issue in book 2 where new skills often interfere with previously learned posture. In book 2 the student needs to learn how to play new notes without losing the perfect posture learned from book 1, and this is a challenge for students. It takes time to develop precision, accuracy, and confidence.
(2) Right Hand Skills
This area involves learning the correct bowings and making the best possible sound or tone. The bowings must be correct with the indicated slurs, up bow staccatos, good tone, rhythm, and bow "catches" on string crossings. The students learn basic bowing skills in book 1, but bowing skills in book 2 are quite important because these skills set up the student for the bowing skills and demands made in much later Suzuki books.
By the completion of stages 1 and 2, the student should have everything memorized. Most beginning Suzuki students have songs memorized as they go. An older student though might be learning the piece via reading the music, and so must now memorize the piece. In the event that the student has memory issues, this is the time that we focus on this. I have a suggested rule that a student not plan to perform a particular piece unless the student has memorized the piece at least a month or more in advance of the performance date.
This area refers to the quality of sound in the presentation. Every composer has a particular "style" that stems from the historical period of the music of the composer's time. Bach may have short eighth notes, while other more Romantic period composers such as Schumann might have longer, more sustained notes. I generally teach these various styles "by rote" while the child is in the earlier books. I tell the student that certain songs are played short or long until the student is more advanced and more versed in music history. Also, as the student progresses in technical level, I show the student how to improve the earlier learned skills with more advanced refinement. For example, book 3 will be all about completely full bows, right hand finger motion (if the correct bow hold has been maintained up to this point), and musicality in expression, although I encourage musical expression in the earlier books.
This refers to the little points of "decoration" in our music. The composer asks for some things to be loud, soft, accented, sweet, legato, sustained, cantabile, brillante, and more. Students begin to notice these things themselves in book 4, but I teach my students about these things from the earliest Suzuki volume. I talk about these things in group classes too.
(6) Test Drive
After my students learn the items in the above-described stages, it is time to test everything out to see if there are any remaining "sticky" spots. A test drive could include a home performance, a performance for other students during group class, a school or local community talent show, or some other more informal setting.
By the completion of the above steps, the technical and musical skills for each piece should generally be in place and occur correctly and consistently. The student and I then consider that the piece is "polished" and ready for more formal performances. However, the student will add more levels of advanced refinement skills to the piece later as the student progresses in his or her studies.