a piano player

Piano lessons: Suzuki vs. Traditional

The Suzuki method vs. tradional method of piano teaching is an interesting topic. It is a debate that has no correct answer. That said, the two methods of teaching do differ in several respects, and their approaches differ significantly, particulary at the early stages of a piano students development.

The Suzuki method takes its inspiration on the different ways and different times on when humans learn language from a speaking perspective and a writing perspective. People learn language through hearing it spoken by those who are around them, and by repetition. On the other hand, writing and reading is learned much later than speaking a language. Writing and reading is learned through study, and repetition. It does seem logical that one needs a grasp on a how a language sounds and how it works, prior to learning how to write it or read it.

The Suzuki method starts with hearing and mimicking what a student hears, similar to how humans learn to speak. It encourages the piano student to listen to music from the Suzki books, and then in lessons, attempts to teach the students the pieces from book 1 by mimicking the music they have heard. It puts much less emphasis on how to read music, or write music.

On the other side of the debate is the traditional method, which puts an emphasis on reading music from day one. The methods in terms of technique of playing a piano, such as wrist position, hand posture and overall posture are the same in both methods. The difference isn't so much in how a piano is played technically, more of how a student learns to play a piece of music. The Suzuki student will play the piece and learn the piece from memory and mimicking what they have heard, the tradional method piano student will play the piece of music from reading the music on a sheet.

Interstingly and logically the time at which a student should start to learn piano differs between the two methods. The Suzuki method encourages kids as young as 3 to start their lessons. Conversly the traditional method doesn't encourage kids until the age of 6 to start to learn piano. The difference is logical, as again if we go back to how we learn language, a three year old can speak, but probably not write or read well. A six year old has a good grasp on the spoken language and is fully capable of learning the finer points of reading and writing.

In the long run, the consensus is foggy at best. While it does seem logical that a Suzuki player may be better at hearing and playing by ear, but less skilled at reading music. Conversly a traditional student in theory should be better at reading music and less skilled at playing by ear, these results are not concrete. There are many examples of both methods creating wonderful piano players. In the end, the comfort level and bond between the student and the teacher is of greater importantance than the method in which playing the piano is taught.

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