Just as the typical young parent will forever cherish the first words spoken by the typical child, so might the parent of a young piano student come to cherish the strains of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star as learned by their child using the Suzuki Method.
Psychologists and parents have long marveled at a child's prodigious learning ability during its earliest years. Such was the preoccupation of Japanese musician Shinichi Suzuki when, during his nation's difficult post-World War II years, he was struck by children's great facility to learn spoken language at a very early age.
Suzuki reasoned that whatever innate qualities children possess that enable them to learn their native languages so easily might likewise aid them in learning another skill—playing the piano—so set about devising a method of teaching music that mimics the innate procedure followed in the learning of one's native tongue. Today in worldwide use, teaching every common musical instrument including the human voice, Suzuki's philosophies and techniques are followed by thousands of Suzuki piano teachers formally trained in the method.
Suzuki imitates nature
Suzuki piano lessons stress elements that correspond to what he believed were at work in the early acquisition of language:
- start very young
- provide child-sized (or otherwise adapted) musical instruments
- encourage repetitive listening to recorded performances
- encourage supervised imitation of them
- correct the imitation
- emphasize "song-playing" over repetitious mechanical exercises
- heavily involve parents.
Suzuki piano teachers, their students and students' parents are networked to thousands of others through Suzuki Institutes and Festivals worldwide, dedicated to perpetuating and refining the method, training teachers, facilitating group recitals and nurturing a musical community.
Piano for the rest of us
Parents considering Suzuki piano lessons for their children should be prepared for heavy participation, as the method demands daily practice under parental supervision. Additionally, critics warn that the method may lead to a more mechanical style of play, as well as potential difficulty sight-reading.
Naturally, we recommend an even-handed evaluation of this or any teaching method prior to making a personal or financial commitment, but proponents of Suzuki piano lessons believe the isolated criticism to be of little significance compared to the millions of competent piano players the method produces. Not every student is destined to become a concert pianist or even to devote a significant portion of his or her life to the study and performance of music. But the extent to which Suzuki piano lessons expose so many young students to music, giving them the tools and the ability to actually play recognizable songs well and with confidence more than makes up for a slightly harder time sight-reading music.
We have every confidence that the budding geniuses among us will rise to the top, will become concert pianists. Suzuki piano lessons are for the rest of us who simply wish to love and share music, and to acquire a life-long competency versus early frustration leading to failure.
About the Author: Mark Buchanan
I am an avid musician with 20+ years experience. I have performed live in the Midwest area with various bands performing mainly as a sideman. I enjoy all types of music and approach the study of music with an open mind. Though my performing schedule is heavy, I have a small group of students I teach when time allows. Music is a lifelong journey and I'm proud to be a part of it!