John Kendall’s 1959 Trip to Japan

John Kendall and Dr. Shinichi Suzuki in 1962

Read John Kendall's observations and report:

Talent Education: The Violin Teaching Methods of Mr. Shinichi Suzuki, based on his trip to Japan, June 24 to August 7, 1959.

John Kendall’s Ideas for Teaching Violin

Kendall Logo

A Selection of Pedagogical Points from Corelli to 2000
Original notes by John Kendall, 1991

Note: John Kendall was the first American string teacher to observe and study the Suzuki Method in Japan. The following are excerpts from the original text accompanying these videos.

The ISA gratefully acknowledges Ithaca Talent Education and its founder Sanford Reuning for making these videos available for posting on the ISA website. All rights reserved by the ISA, April 2021.


These videos were filmed in 1992 in the upstairs attic of the old String House at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville… We all recognize that violin teaching ideas reach back through history to Arcangelo Corelli, or even before… The medium of video, however, may provide a way of encapsulating, preserving and clarifying certain actions and the unfolding of process.


The focus of these videos is on simplicity, clarity, informality, even improvisation… They are not intended to be a complete curriculum or a method, and they do not tell when the teacher should implement the ideas. These practical ideas are presented as one workable teaching alternative and should stimulate experiment rather than codify or finalize ideas… [T]he intent is to deal with broad applications and principles rather than rules… [I]t should be understood that in every instance, the technique must be a means to better musicianship, without which all efforts would be sterile… [F]or problem solving, we may separate the technical from the expressive, but it is never to be completely isolated and should not remain apart for long.

Dr. Suzuki and John Kendall in Japan

Tape 1 -- Running time approximately 1:45

Part I General Pedagogical Points

  1. Train the Big Muscles First
  2. Calisthenics for Violinists
  3. Body Movements
  4. Working with a Child Physically and Psychologically
  5. Basic Practice Steps
  6. Reducing a Passage to Teach Rhythm and Bowing

Part II The Right Hand

  1. Three Families of Bow Strokes
  2. Straight Bow -- the Elusive Necessity
  3. String Crossings
  4. Driving the Left Hand with the Bow
  5. Chords
  6. Four Approaches to Bowing

Tape 2 -- Running time approximately 1:30

Part III The Left Hand

  1. "Simplifying the Task"
  2. The "Beethoven" Exercise
  3. The "Dotzauer" Exercise
  4. The Walking Fifth Exercise
  5. Fingerings: Independent, Block, Anchor, Prepared
  6. Five Steps to Velocity
  7. Shifting Exercise
  8. Practicing Scale Shifts
  9. "Business" Shifting
  10. Expressive Shifting: Vocal, Old Finger, New Finger, Mixed
  11. Establishing the Octave Frame and Strengthening the Fourth Finger
  12. The "Galaxian" Exercise
  13. Vibrato
  14. Double Stops - Thirds

The ISA is indebted to Dr. Brian Buckstead for permitting his research on the teaching techniques of Suzuki Method pioneer John Kendall to be posted on this website. His illustrations provide a valuable visual resource to the aural presentation in the Kendall Teaching Videos.

Brian Buckstead ASTA Presentation from 2024

Background on Simplfying the Task: The Violin Exercises of John Kendall

My dissertation, A Maverick Pedagogue: The Teaching and Ideas of John Kendall, submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the DMA degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was created in two parts: the first part was an extensive interview I conducted in person with John Kendall in August 2001 in Takoma Park, Maryland. The purpose of the interview was to create a well-rounded portrait of John Kendall, one that would provide a context for his motivations, ideas, and pedagogy.

In the second part, I transcribed the text and notated all the exercises found in Mr. Kendall’s series of videos called Ideas for Violin Teaching: An Unexpurgated Selection of Pedagogical Points for Corelli to 2001. My goal in transcribing Kendall’s series of videos was to create a written compendium of his pedagogy. The content found within Ideas for Violin Teaching is an aural phenomenon. Other than the videos themselves, all this information only exists as passed from teacher to student. Because John Kendall retired in 1994 and passed away in 2011, there was a chance that this wealth of information could be lost. My hope is that the videos, in tandem with my transcription, will benefit students and teachers today and in the future who are interested in this great American pedagogue.

Finally, as a performer and teacher myself, I am greatly indebted to John Kendall and Professor David Perry for introducing me to these wonderful ideas. I find it invaluable to have a source readily available to consult, as I hope others will too.

Dr. Brian Buckstead
Assistant Professor of Violin and Viola
Music Director, Hays Symphony
School of Visual and Performing Arts
Fort Hays State University