TOKYO (AP) _ Shinichi Suzuki, who pioneered a method used worldwide for teaching toddlers to play musical instruments, died today at age 99.

Suzuki developed what became known as the ``Suzuki method'' of music instruction in the 1950s and founded a world-renowned music institute.

He died of heart failure at his home in Matsumoto in central Japan, said Hiroko Yamada of Suzuki's Talent Education Research Institute. Suzuki had been bed-ridden in recent years because of various ailments.

The Suzuki method is based on the concept that by listening and imitation children can learn to speak any language _ and play music _ by the age of 3. Originally conceived for the violin, the method of instruction has been expanded to include other instruments.

Yamada said more than 300,000 children in 34 countries are currently learning music with the ``Suzuki method.''

Born the son of a violin manufacturer in 1916, Suzuki went to Germany in 1921 to study the violin under Karl Klingler.

After returning from Germany in 1928, Suzuki began his career as a violinist with the Suzuki Quartet.

He founded a music institute in Matsumoto in 1946 and later reorganized it into the Talent Education Research Institute.

In 1964, Suzuki went to the United States with 10 children and introduced his method.

Suzuki's funeral will be held at the Matsumoto Catholic church Wednesday.

Suzuki is survived by his German-born wife Waltraud, 94. He had no children.