The essentials of the Suzuki method are an early beginning, parental participation, and rote learning. The children look, listen, and imitate. There are regular private lessons and periodic group lessons. Children as young as two-and-a-half or three years old are accepted without any pre-selection, and introduced to music one step at a time. It is a highly individualistic method in that no child proceeds to the next step until the previous one has been fully mastered, no matter how long it takes.

Children trained in the Suzuki method learn to play the same way they learn to speak, by hearing a sound and then reproducing it. This is what Suzuki calls the mother-tongue method. The pupils imitate not only their teachers but also their peers, and find confidence in the common enterprise. Parents are essential to the success of the training and are involved directly as home teachers. Parental participation is inversely proportional to the age of the child - the younger the child, the greater the parental involvement.

Suzuki first applied the method to the violin, but subsequently it was adapted to other instruments, as well as to pre-school and elementary education. Apart from the violin, there are viola, cello, string group, piano, flute, harp, and guitar methods available. It is anticipated that it will eventually be adapted to all orchestral instruments.