Suzuki method - Good for beginners?

Discuss the pros and cons of various "methods" with other teachers

Postby 109-1082165152 » Tue Jun 13, 2006 7:02 am

I am researching on method books for all levels and wonder if the Suzuki Method will do the job. Any suggeestions of books for each level. Appreciate any help from all of you. Thanks!
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Postby Stretto » Wed Jun 14, 2006 8:24 am

I don't know much first hand about the Suzuki method but a few other teachers I know who use it or similar approaches just rave about how great it is. One of my students transferred from that method to me and had the level 1 book in the Suzuki method and as extra material wanted to continue to learn the pieces in the book. I may be mistaken but it appeared that most if not all the music in the level 1 book was written in basic 5-finger position and the music reminded me a lot of the style of songs one might find the the red John Thompson book method which is not a bad thing, of course. The student really enjoyed the songs and another student who listened to some of the Suzuki book songs at a student get-together was begging the next week to learn the same songs. So the kids apparently like the sound of the pieces.

There's the old saying, "there is more than one way to skin a cat". I may be incorrect but from what I gather, the Suzuki method has students learn to play the music first by ear (via listening to the pieces) and later does the student learn how to read music. Many other methods obviously start by reading the music simultaneously with training the ear and technique. I can see advantages to either way so I think it's a matter of choosing whatever way one wants to teach or learn. My students seem to be most interested in learning how to read the music from the printed page. Having an interesting piece of music or music book sitting in front of you that you've never played is likened to having an interesting book sitting around that you can't resist picking up and reading to discover it's contents. There's nothing quite like the excitement created from having a new piece of printed music and on the verge of unfolding it's mysteries as one begins to learn it. New and undiscovered music one has never played creates curiousity. One might look at a piece of printed music and ask, "I wonder if I could just play this?" "I wonder what this sounds like?", etc.

With beginning music, occasionally if the piece seems too watered down, I ask students if they would like to learn the piece by improvising some unwritten parts by ear or learn it as written. They almost certainly always choose to learn what's written on the page. Although I try to throw in some basics of getting started improvising, the student are at lessons for the purpose of wanting to learn to read music.

I can see the point of Suzuki, however. It sounds like it helps students train and focus on the ear/listening and technique first without having to learn to read the music "bogging one down" at first. I sat in on a group session of a teacher that taught the Suzuki method and I listened to very small children play some pretty complicated music and with great technique all without knowing how to read an ounce of music and it amazed me how they could do that. In the meantime, though, students aren't learning how to read the written music. I wonder how long one is in the Suzuki method before learning to read music although I'm not sure exactly how it works because they all had the music in front of them while playing but the teacher said they hadn't learned any of the basics of learning to read music yet.

Well, the great thing about learning to play an instrument like piano is there is more than one way to approach learning it and get to the point of playing one would like to be so one is able to choose which route suites them most.

mrcomposer, I noticed your profile said, "piano teaching, pedagogy". I would be curious your opinion as to what methods/approaches to teaching you think are best and have you used the Suzuki method?

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Postby Stretto » Wed Jun 14, 2006 8:51 am

p.s. One more thing about the Suzuki method is that it sounds like it requires parents to be a lot more involved, coming to lessons and involved a lot more at home. Of course, this can be a good thing. But unless the kids are really too young to learn to work independently, I'd hate to be in a place of requiring parents to be that involved unless they wanted to. Of course, I keep them informed and stay in contact with them regarding the learning process and they are welcome anytime to sit in on the lessons. It sounds to me that the Suzuki method would require the parents to be more actively involved in the process and as a teacher that means almost as though one is teaching two people, parent and student, rather than one. I guess for a teacher, it depends how closely one wants to work with the parent. I kind of like the idea of kids gradually learning to work independently.

Most of the parents of students I've taught are way too busy to have time to work with the student in the way the Suzuki method would require.
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Postby 109-1082165152 » Wed Jun 14, 2006 7:25 pm

I have taught in California about 6 years ago and used the Alfred method. I'm sure you are aware of this method but I am researching for another alternative. I am opening a new studio in the south pacific and have read so much about the Suzuki and just wanted to get some inputs.

No, I have not used the Suzuki method. That's why I started this topic. Still open for suggestions. My studio won't be open until I find a decent space, so I have a lot of time for researching.
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Postby drewnchick » Wed Jun 14, 2006 8:19 pm

There are so many methods to choose from nowadays, it gets confusing! I have not personally used Suzuki for piano, but if it is similar to the violin method, I have some insight on that (coming from my daughter's violin teacher). Her opinion, from 25 years experience, is that Suzuki is great for teeny tiny beginners, like 2-4 years old, but around 4-5-6 years old, they need to move to a method that stresses note and interval reading. She also likes the Suzuki books for the solos they have, after the student is reading comfortably.

So, from what I've heard, Suzuki is great for getting kids to just play the instrument, but it is not heavy on actually reading the notes, at least for beginners. I don't know if it changes later on...maybe someone else knows about later Suzuki books.

You might want to take a look at "The Music Tree" by Francis Clark, and "Music Town" by...Goss? (Can't remember :( )

I would like to see a thread on more unknown methods...or I guess I'll have to buy the PEP CD. *ka-ching*
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Postby Stretto » Wed Jun 14, 2006 11:39 pm

Well, from a few people who I've talked to who teach using the Suzuki method have nothing but good to say about it. I used the Alfred's for a long time and it had some advantages. But I started feeling a little trapped or stifled in one method. It wasn't so much because of it being Alfred's. I think I would have with other methods too.

The biggest advantage of using method books to me, though, is that they are carefully graded so as not to throw out too many new concepts all in one piece of music and also some sort of system of moving up by level seems to have been a huge motivator for my students.

I've not really settled on any one method that I could say, "this is the one". The methods that I've looked over at the music store have been Faber and Faber, Bastein, Bastein Piano Library, Schaum, David Carr Glover Piano Library, David Carr Glover Method for Piano, Noona, Alfred d' Auberge Piano Course, Piano Town, Hal Leonard, John Thompson's Teaching Little Fingers to Play, John Thompson's Easiest Piano Course, the red John Thompson books, and it seems like a few other ones I can picture the books but can't think of the names. Someone correct me if I'm wrong but when I looked these different ones over, it seemed to me that they either teach starting out in 5-finger positions like C position, G position, etc. similarly to Alfred's or teach starting with both thumbs on C learning notes up or down from middle C. Since these all seemed to use similar approaches, then for me if choosing one of these types of methods, the question boils down to the differences in repertoire and strengths one method may emphasize over another. For example, I like the way that Faber and Faber presents technique in their Technique and Artistry books. Also, there's certain books within each method that I like because of the music.

I bought a copy of "The Music Tree" Primer book after reading the review on PEP, but not tried it with any students and haven't looked at the rest in the series close enough to comment on it much. Again, it appears to have it's strengths over other methods but one might want to also consider what repertoire is covered over the course of all the levels. I would like to hear what teachers who have used it think or what students think who've used it.

I realize, for example, level 2 in one method might be slightly more difficult than level 2 in another method, but right now what I've been doing for about 6 months to a year is keeping students around their level in general and picking books based on repertoire (material I feel important to learn, and some that I think a particular student would like) and/or other strengths per book over sticking with one method. I still make sure in doing it this way, that wer'e not bypassing some of the concepts. I'm not sure yet if doing it this way will prove to be good or bad. So far my students have learned a lot more repertoire and it's been music that has stuck with them and appealed to them (and me) more than when they were in lesson books in one series.

mrcomposer, What are some of the things you read about the Suzuki method? At one time I thought about taking Suzuki piano lessons or sending my daughter just to see first hand what it's like.
Best wishes on your new studio!

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Postby Stretto » Wed Jun 14, 2006 11:42 pm

drewnchick wrote:There are so many methods to choose from nowadays, it gets confusing!

Tell me about it!! It's terrible trying to determine what to go with. I wish we could take what we like best about each one and what pieces of music we like best in each one and combine all that into one method.

When we talk about tailoring lessons to the individual on PEP, what about companies tailoring methods to the individual teacher? ???

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Postby mirjam » Thu Jun 15, 2006 2:04 am

I've done some research in the past looking for methods that suited the youngest beginners and learned something about the Suzuki method during private lessons, group lessons and Suzuki workshops. Most important is: the Suzuki books are not the 'method'. Suzuki is a different approach in learning and teaching music, called 'mother-tongue method'; the child hears the music over and over, knows it well before he starts playing it. In the private lessons child and teacher focus at only one difficulty in a piece, the child practices what is already known, with the help of a parent that follows the lessons as well. Developing a good technique is very important.

The great thing is that young children can play difficult music really well in a very short time. One thing I did not enjoy in the lessons was the fact that children are not so much involved in what music they play, the focus is on baroque, classical and early romantic music. I didn't see much teens in the lessons, a lot of them seem to quit playing age 13-14 and I have a feeling at that age the method becomes a little bit to dogmatic for them. That was my feeling too when I attended the classes.

By the way: a Suzuki teacher has a heavy training in teaching suzuki method, which takes several years. Using the Suzuki method books doesn't make one a Suzuki-teacher. I don't know if they should be used as a common method, they're mostly just repertoire pieces. It's definitely nót the pieces, but the teaching ideas behind them that make Suzuki method succesful.

In my opinion, for todays child, a method should be more than just 'playing well'. Understandig of how a piece is built, using the whole keyboeard from the beginning, exploring sounds, clusters, improvising, 20th century sounds and techniques are a part of modern education that are not a part of original Suzuki training. Of course, a good teacher will do these things in the lessons as well, but they are not in the suzuki books.

Succes with looking for a new method. If you want to see something quite different from Alfred, Bastien, Faber etc. maybe you could look for the German method "1,2,3 Klavier". I don't know if it you can find it outside Europe, but if you can, I would certainly take a look.
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Postby 109-1082165152 » Thu Jun 15, 2006 3:42 am

Thank you for your postings to this topic. It looks like the Suzuki seems to be okay for an early childhood program, then progresses the student to a different method.

All I read about Suzuki is what mirjam said and what stretto said about parents involvement. I think it's best to get the books and see for myself. But this doesn't stop all the great ideas about method books, so keep posting.

I will certainly checkout Music Tree and the German one. Thanks.
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