Switching from another piano method


said: May 23, 2006
 4 posts

Is it possible to switch to Suzuki method after using a more traditional piano course? I have two children who have been playing for 2 and 4 years—I don’t know if they would benefit from the switch or not, or even if it is feasible to do after working so long on such a different approach.

Also, do Suzuki lessons tend to cost about the same as other piano lessons, or are they usually more?

said: May 23, 2006
 103 posts

I teach Suzuki Violin, not piano so don’t quote me for sure.

However I do teach using a traditional piano approach. The main differences that I could see being a possible struggle for children switching from Traditional to Suzuki are the following:

* Traditional methods are based on reading from the start. (this includes pre-reading, rhythm reading, on the staff reading, etc.)
* Suzuki is based on the mother tougue method. Teaching the use of one’s ear, technique, posture etc. before adding in the sight reading.

So if your children are good at sight reading this could be a change, depending on how the Suzuki teacher handles the change over.

* Traditional method, the child gets instant “gratification” in being able to play short little tunes. Once a piece is learned it is often signed off and a new one started.
* Suzuki method, each piece builds on what was previously learned. Therefore the repertoire is “collected” as it is learned.

Again, this takes an attitude adjustment on both the part of the parent and child. If one is used to having pieces routinely marked off week after week and equaling this with accomplishment then there could be an issue with switching to Suzuki. However, if you can see it from the point of view that one piece can be used to teach many things, and if it is continued to be reviewed new techniques can be added to it later that are more advanced then it could work. In other words, you have to understand that if your child ends up playing twinkle for months, it does not mean that they are not progressing.

I suspect that it will also require more involvement from you as a parent. Though I could be wrong, as I don’t know what program you are in now.

The value of review and repitition would also be a change, however I think it is a good one.

Someone who teaches Suzuki piano will have to address this more. But those are my immediate thoughts.

Melissa said: May 23, 2006
 Piano, Flute
151 posts

Twinkle Rhythms hit the nail on the head! As a Suzuki piano teacher I couldn’t have said it better.
I recently had a traditional piano student come by for an interview (her original traditional teacher was moving and she recommended me as a teacher.) I had her play a piece that she was working on (from a Bastien book, I think.) I noticed she needed work on her technique and tone. I then demonstrated Twinkle A to her and gave her a little lesson on “getting ready”, then “go” and then playing the rhythm over “Do” and then on “Sol”, etc…. She loved it! Unfortunately, the parent didn’t. She could not understand how a child could learn without having the music in front of her and reading.
And so, on went the mom’s search for another traditional teacher to teach her child piano.
If you can find the right Suzuki piano teacher to teach your children, and if you want to make the switch as a parent and learn as much as possible regarding Suzuki philosphy and encouraged this switch in methods with your children, there should be no problem.
As far as tuition goes, it is all acroos the board. I don’t think it is determined by which method you teach, necessarily.

Melissa said: May 23, 2006
 Piano, Flute
151 posts

After reading naturalmoms post again, for the student that has been playing four years, depending on his/her level, it might be hard to go back and not read and to learn the basics of playing the piano.
One of the reasons Suzuki students do not learn to read music at the beginning is so the focus can be on technique, posture and tone. It is so hard to accomplish this when trying to read music at the same time.
How old are your children?

said: May 24, 2006
 4 posts

My oldest is 12, and the younger one is 9.

Melissa said: May 24, 2006
 Piano, Flute
151 posts

At what level are children, for example: what pieces are your children playing?

Why do you want to make the switch? Are your children having difficulties with the traditional method?

Sorry for all the questions, but this will help determine, if I would suggest a switch and if it would be good for them.

said: May 24, 2006
 4 posts

My 12 yos is using several books right now: Romantic Spirit and Baroque Spirit, both say early intermediate to late intermediate. He’s also doing Hanon exercises. Tales from Hungary by Martha Mier was a recent recital piece

My 9yod is in Level 2 of the Conservatory Method. She just played a song called Madeline’s Minuet for her recital, can’t remember the composer though.

First, I saw an ad in a newsletter I get for someone who will be teaching Suzuki this fall—but I’m not sure if she is even taking non-beginners. After reading a little about the method, I noticed some things at the recital last weekend…many of the students had “awkward moments” during their pieces where they suddenly stopped and obviously couldn’t remember how to continue. Most regained their place fairly quickly, but several were completely stuck for close to a minute, and kept trying to regain momentum. I began to think about the past year. My son spent a lot of time in the fall working on a recital piece—a piece that is a little harder than what he usually plays. He worked on it for a couple of months, played it, and then continued to work on it for a contest in January. Then he began working on another recital piece for the spring—again slightly more challenging than his normal lesson pieces.

He can’t play his recital pieces from last year anymore, and it made me wonder why we spend so much time working on pieces that he then plays for one night and then forgets. He often picks them up again after a few months, and is very frustrated that he can’t play anymore.

There are different issues with my daughter—she is not very happy with piano, but it is not an option for her to stop (though it is not easy to pay for lessons every month!). I thought it might help her to have me more involved. I used to sit in on their lessons, but then I always felt kind of awkward—no other moms walk upstairs to the piano room with their kids! I had to stop sitting in because I had a preschooler with me (dh doesn’t always have time to watch him).

Maybe I just need to work toward more involvement with her—but for my son it seems like he would progress more with other things if he didn’t have to spend most of his time working just on these pieces. I may be way off on that though, because I’ve never taken piano myself.

So there’s a really long answer to a short question!

Melissa said: May 24, 2006
 Piano, Flute
151 posts

Thank you! Your answer helps immensely.
If you approached me interested in having your children take lessons, I would probably not try to start from the Suzuki beginning especially with your 12 year old. I would have him learn to play Twinkles though, instead of Hanon or scales for awhile until he masters them. I would also apply this technique to the repertoire he is learning. I would have him listen to his pieces that he is learning. I would also have him review his pieces. At the level he his at, I would have him review at least four pieces, one from each period in music, while learning his new pieces. He should always have four pieces that he can perform at all times. It would be kind of Suzuki/traditional for him.
As for your youngest, I would probably start her at Book 1. Especially because you had mentioned she is not too fond of piano. She may really take off on the Suzuki approach. Book One music is also more advanced than most second year traditional piano repertoire.
By the way you had mentioned Romantic Spirit and Baroque Spirit… It just so happens, if it is the books I am thinking, my very good friend is the pianist on those recordings! Small world if those are the books your son is playing out of. He must be listening too, if it is.
Hope this helps. Of course every teacher is different. Perhaps the teacher you may approach may have other ideas on how the Suzuki method would work for your family, or not.
Best of luck!

said: May 25, 2006
 4 posts

We aren’t using recordings for those books—I will have to look out for those. And I will talk with the Suzuki teacher to see if it would work out for my daughter. It will depend on what she charges—I am getting a discount since I have two taking from the other teacher. So I would be paying more for my son to keep him there, plus adding another full price teacher—yikes! But I think making the lessons as valuable as possible is also important, so I’ll have to see if I can manage it.

Thanks so much for your help! I will start having my son review and memorize some more songs.

Laura said: May 30, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

I’ve had a few students with previous non-Suzuki experience. Almost without exception, the first things I wanted to correct were their technique and tone (which are actually interrelated so I guess that would make just one overall thing!). It has been challenging but I would say the results have been worth it. I’ll admit though, that all of these students have been on the younger side, with less than 2 years playing experience.

The biggest hurdles to overcome were: getting the parents onboard to Suzuki philosophy—attending lessons, actively practicing with the child at home, daily listening, etc.—and overcoming the child’s reaction to a new piano experience that involves correcting what they’ve always assumed to be adequate. (Emphasizing the importance of review can also be difficult, but I’d say that challenge has been across the board even if they started with Suzuki!) Oh, and showing them that they don’t HAVE to have their eyes glued to the music, particularly if it awakens how they understand their music and focus on their sound (which will in turn help them understand why it’s important to fix their technique).

One student absolutely HATED piano from the previous experience, but his parents didn’t want to give up and sought out the Suzuki approach. After only a few months, this student is not only smiling during lessons, but progessing very well and proud of what he is playing—and deservedly so, since both he and his mom have been working very hard on turning his technique around and having him become more sensitive to the quality of his own playing.

While I don’t want him to forget how to read music, I am letting it go for now, trusting that it will be easier to re-introduce later when he’s ready. One reason for his frustration before was that everything he was expected to learn was simply too hard because all of the note reading and theory involved, and he wasn’t able to play it properly either. Something had to give… and in his case, it seemed like everything, to the point of his own frustration with piano.

I think your older child might be best with only a pseudo-Suzuki approach, since at that age there is a much different approach to learning than for younger children. There is more intellect, logic, and self-conscious behavior involved, less “learning from osmosis” characteristic of true Suzuki. Definitely introduce daily listening of repertoire and of well-played Classical music in general, to encourage musical sensitivity and sense of relevance.

As someone has mentioned, Twinkles can be introduced as exercises to (re)establish technique (rather than risk possibily humiliating the child with the thought of starting with the first song in Book 1—keeping in mind that there is definitely a switch in philosophy when adopting Suzuki’s accumulative approach to repertoire). Then use the new technique to apply to already familiar repertoire—your child will be amazed at the improvement in his/her own playing already.

Good luck!

said: May 30, 2006
 104 posts

I would like to chime in, as my daughters all study Suzuki violin and traditional piano. The conservatory where we study traditional piano uses the Faber books, and although we have always used traditional piano materials, the girls are not thrilled with the Faber books. They find them relentlessly boring, and my oldest one says the Faber pieces all sound the same. The Suzuki repertoire (for both instruments) is just more enjoyable, in my opinion. The children get to play REAL pieces, and they look and sound like real musicians. When my daughters work in their Faber method books, they are truly just working, but we do have the Suzuki piano books as well, and they all play those pieces for the fun of it (the two oldest are fluent readers of music (ages 7 & 9) and the youngest (almost 5) can read her piano books (she uses Thompson’s Teaching Little Fingers to Play—which she loves), but she cannot read her Suzuki violin materials (beginning book 2).

Naturalmom, you might also start thinking about breaking the mold and just start participating in your kids’ music lessons, regardless of what the other parents do. Our piano lessons are traditional, and I just go in with the kids, although the other moms are sitting in the hallway or running errands. Our piano teacher loves that I come in—we have applied the Suzuki principles of parent participation to a traditional method quite successfully.

When my oldest one started piano lessons, I wasn’t familiar with Suzuki piano but if I knew then what I know now, I would have definitely started there. We love our current teacher, and we wouldn’t consider a switch at this point, but if she was not able to teach us, I would definitely seek out a Suzuki piano teacher.

said: May 31, 2006
 103 posts


the girls are not thrilled with the Faber books. They find them relentlessly boring, and my oldest one says the Faber pieces all sound the same.

Sorry to side track the conversation a bit, but I find it interesting that they feel this way. I also use this method when teaching piano, I’m curious to know what level of Faber & Faber books they are playing in.

I love the Faber material for many reasons, but I won’t get into that. However, I could see that if they are farther in their musical awareness and development in their other instruments that the Faber books could seem boring.

Anyway, there are certain Faber Levels that I like more than others, so I’m just curious to know which they are working in.

said: Jun 1, 2006
 104 posts

Twinklerhythms—I didn’t mean to imply that there is anything necessarily lacking in the Faber materials. I’m not qualified to speak on the merits of any particular piano pedagogy approach, so I’m just really sharing my own daughters’ reactions, and comparing those reactions to their different reactions to the Suzuki choices.

Basically, they are working in Faber levels 2 & 3 throughout the school year. The issues arise, I believe, because of the nature of traditional piano study—as discussed here, the kids tend to work on short pieces that they simply “check off” every week. There’s no emotional investment, no desire to retain any piece for memory. My own daughters object to the titles and graphic design of many of the Faber pieces, actually! Enough with the “Green Frog Hop” and “Dinosaur Stomp” and worst of all “Video Game Blast”—my second daughter refused to play that last piece. I told her just to re-name it in her own mind, but she insisted that the composer wrote it with video games in mind and there was no way to change that.

They also don’t like that there are four books for each level and lots of it is redundant material—why couldn’t the pieces be longer, or selected to include several teaching points instead of so many, many pieces?

Maybe because of their experience in Suzuki, they prefer to work on longer pieces over a longer period of time.

I do believe both girls play at an ability above their Faber levels, but because of the focus on recital pieces and Federation competition, the Faber books get set aside for long periods of time each year. It doesn’t bother me, because I feel they are getting what they need from those other pieces (the oldest one is now learning Martha Mier’s Concertino in the Classical Style). I also believe the Faber books did put them above and beyond in their music-reading abilities, so I’m not saying Faber is without benefit.

I don’t know if that’s enlightening, but you asked! Our piano teacher isn’t necessarily sold on Faber, and that’s why she agreed to let my youngest complete just the Faber primer, and then go over to Teaching Little Fingers to Play. The conservatory where we are asks the teachers to use Faber, but they are free to make changes as they feel necessary.

said: Jun 4, 2006
 103 posts

Interesting. I recently took a pedagogy course in which I compared some of the “popular nameâ€

Rebecca said: Jun 13, 2006
23 posts

I have had a number of transfers, from various “methods” and backgrounds, and very various in thier playing ability! Some caught up quickly, others not so much. But all six of them (so far) made the transition beautifully—i see and hear that their new experience of Suzuki PLUS their other background makes for a very strengthened student, musically and mentally, and i make sure to tell the student so.

Unlimited Expectations!!!

“Life without music would be a mistake.” -Nietsche

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