Since I decided that I was going to teach Hercules how to play the piano using the Suzuki Method, I have been looking at books to help me implement the program at home. Although Hercules isn’t starting just yet (I plan for him to complete the Little Musician course by BrillKids first), I figure I should start researching how to implement the method so I will be ready to teach when he is ready to learn.
I first read “Nurtured by Love” by Shinichi Suzuki which talks about the ideology behind the Suzuki Method and talent education. While it was a good introduction into the philosophy behind the Suzuki Method, it lacked the offer of a structured methodology for implementing the program.
“How to Teach Suzuki Piano” by Shinichi Suzuki is the first book I have read on the methodology of implementing the Suzuki Method. I chose it because it was written by Suzuki himself. I figure that if you are going to attempt to DIY then the best person to follow is the person who came up with the method. I bought the book online from The Book Depository for US$6.64 – fairly cheap for a “how to” book, I thought, until it arrived in my post. Clearly, I missed the description of the book – 20 B5 pages of basic notes.
That said, while the book appears to lack substance, the information contained within is succinct and to the point. If you’re looking for a beginner’s guide on how to teach the Suzuki Method, then this would be it.
In a nutshell, the basic principles of the Suzuki Method are:
1. Every child can learn.
Just as children around the world have been able to learn their own native tongue to a high degree of proficiency, they are also capable of learning music to the same level using the same methods.
2. Learning by listening.
Play good recordings of music for your child to learn from because you want your child to learn how to express music beautifully rather than mechanically. In the early lessons, your child will learn how to play music by listening. Learning how to read the musical score comes later (just as a child learns how to speak before he learns how to read).
3. Practice makes perfect.
Focus on playing each piece well before moving onto the next piece. The music should be learned by heart so that your child can concentrate on the expression of the music rather than being distracted by the need to read the music.
4. Musical expression.
Help your child develop musical sensitivity so that the feeling of the music can be conveyed through accurate tone, rhythm and tempo.
5. Short and sweet.
Young children have short attention spans so teach only as long as your child can concentrate.
6. Motivate, motivate, motivate!
Help your child look forward to lessons by making them enjoyable. Praise often, and do not scold or push your child.
7. Technique first.
The order of learning starts like this:
- listen to the recordings of the music pieces (your child should listen to the recording for at least a month before your child even touches the instrument)
- learn how to bow correctly
- learn how to sit at the piano with proper posture
- learn how to position hands correctly at the piano
Only after all this is mastered can the child learn to play music.
8. Reviewing the music.
Even while the child is learning the pieces, it is important to continue listening to the music records. If you need to correct your child’s weak points, return to the easy pieces previously mastered in order to do so. If your child is playing a piece of music that he is already comfortable with, he is better able to focus on correcting the problem.
9. Group practice.
The Suzuki Method encourages the gathering of students who are at the same level so they can motivate each other to play better. Especially if there are exemplary students in the group, these students will help to pull up the level of the other students. This sounds oddly reminiscent of the radar effect that Shichida talks about in Right Brain Education.
10. Role of the mother (or father).
This is in reference to the fact that most piano playing takes place at home, therefore mothers (and fathers) play an important role in ensuring that the child listens to the records frequently and practices diligently.
This is my interpretation of the book. I highy recommend reading the book yourself to get the full message straight from the horse’s mouth.
Further reading and resources:
- Nurtured by Love
- Ability Development from Age Zero
- Studying Suzuki Piano: More than Music
- Suzuki Piano School Books