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Suzuki vs traditional for piano

(39 Posts)
Manoxlon Mon 03-Aug-15 16:43:23

I am keen on getting my 3y old started on the piano, and hopefully she would carry on with the music theory exam. I have read great things about the suzuki method but one drawback seems to be that one does not learn to read music? any one had any views to share on this topic ?

NewLife4Me Mon 03-Aug-15 16:49:42

3? Theory exam? are you for real.
Just let the child play with the piano like a toy until older , starting them younger can only put them off or if they take to it, become little robots taking grade after grade.
Give it a few years and start at about 7, then the child will be ready to read music and take it more formally after having 4 years of learning about music, the sounds, the rhythm. Maybe having composed some little things first will give a far better musical education than reading music at 3.

LavenderLeigh Mon 03-Aug-15 16:52:49

Agree, three is to young and seven is probably the best age in terms of ability to control finger movements precisely and be able to read music.

Ferguson Mon 03-Aug-15 20:02:19

Our DS started on electronic organ aged two, when DW and I were both learning ourselves. By five he was starting to read notation, and was getting to understand chords; (organ and electronic keyboard use chords in a different way from piano, and there were illustrations of the fingers for each chord, making it easy to learn.)

But we never really 'taught' him; the organ was there, and he absorbed it for himself. I would agree with others that 'teaching' at three, unless it is very gentle and informal, could put a child off.

There is a 'pictorial' system, Dogs and Birds, for introducing piano, but personally I don't like these gimmicky sort of things. I don't know anything about Suzuki really, but I will look up more and come back sometime.

As a primary TA I taught informal music for twenty-five years, keyboard, recorder and percussion, but only in a 'fun' way, not for Grades or anything. The danger is some parents, who 'failed' at music themselves when young, want their children to succeed better than they did, and I am tempted to wonder if you might fall into that category?

Worriedandlost Mon 03-Aug-15 20:12:08

If your 3yo can read and count go for traditional as he/she will be able to sight read too. But as a parent, whose child started lessons soon after 4yo being a fluent reader and counted very well, I don't recommend to start so early. Personally would not do Suzuki because of tiny repertoire and absence of sight reading though I have heard that some teachers deal with this problem.
My understanding that theory exam involves a lot of maths concepts (like child presumably has to understand fractions?), so it may not happen for a while too.

Worriedandlost Mon 03-Aug-15 20:33:49

Another thing to consider - a teacher - there may not be many teachers around who are keen to teach 3 yo, therefore you may find yourself in a situation where you don't really have any choice....

Manoxlon Tue 04-Aug-15 07:41:02

Thanks for all great posts! I have recently started to play and my dd is all over the piano, hence why I started to look into teaching her. To clarify I meant for her to do Theory a few years down the line, not at 3 (ofc not!). But the essence of my question is whether learning "by ear" which is what Suzuki focuses on is better than sight reading.

AliceDoesntLiveHereAnymore Tue 04-Aug-15 07:52:37

Essentially if you are just letting her play on the piano without "lessons" at this point, she is learning "by ear."

3yo is really young to start any piano training, but you can always start preparing her in more play based ways.

- show her that the higher sounds are on the right and the lower sounds are on the left and let her experiment using the whole keyboard, not just the middle

- play simple melodies on the piano for her to sing along so she connects the piano with familiar and fun music, rather than something she "has to learn"

- teach her the do-re-mi song, as a way of introducing the idea of different notes. She'll just look at it as a fun song with actions, but the concept will still be there.

- play clapping games and use them as a fun way to introduce rhythm

Worriedandlost Tue 04-Aug-15 12:03:30

All children are getting keen on instrument and making sounds at some point but I would not use it as a reason to start formal lessons. The fact you have started to play sets up a positive example for your dd and will keep her interested. You can use her interest to introduce basic concepts and play the games as suggested by Alice.
Sorry, I understand you did not mean theory at 3 yo, but what I meant was that depending on her maths skills theory exam may not be on agenda in a foreseeable future.
Another thing to consider - if she progresses quickly you may get stuck at some point as her physical and emotional development may be behind the complexity of pieces. Something my dd experiences now with her piano lessons.

Manoxlon Tue 04-Aug-15 14:51:36

Great, thanks for all advice. I will definitely get started on the games suggested by Alice!

Worriedandlost Tue 04-Aug-15 17:25:55

I saw this in bookshop today, this is smth I would start with

Ferguson Tue 04-Aug-15 20:43:21

Hi again Manoxlon - thank you for clarifying the situation regarding DD and her piano 'performance'!

Can you clarify a bit further: are you starting from scratch yourself, or had you played a bit previously?

Is it an acoustic piano, or an electronic/digital one?

And, yes musical 'games' are an excellent way of getting a young child involved. Depending on your level of proficiency, there are probably tunes that would be suitable for YOU to play, and for DD to add a contribution. "Pop Goes the Weasel" springs to mind, and she could either have a prescribed note (or group of notes for the POP), or if she has a little drum or tambourine that could be used.

There must also be 3/4 waltzes that could be suitable for DD to add her part to (though I can't think of examples off hand!)

I have looked at some people's Suzuki vs Traditional evaluations, and most that I saw favoured Traditional. But you could always buy the first Suzuki book, and adapt it to your own requirements. Also, I like the John Thompson series of books, his "Easiest Piano Course" or his "Teaching Little Fingers to Play", rather than the Usborne Sam Taplin one, which seems to use colour-coding, which I don't like.

The main thing however, is that you both ENJOY learning and playing.

UptoapointLordCopper Wed 05-Aug-15 20:24:06

I taught my DC (about 4yo onwards) with a mix of Suzuki and traditional. By ear first for a while and then notes. But they are both readers of everything (including toilet paper packaging) from a young age. hmm Five years down the line they learn by ear as well as read notes. Better than me - I'm not great at learning by ear ...

Worriedandlost Wed 05-Aug-15 23:36:54

I sometimes wonder if learning by ear has something to do with perfect pitch...

UptoapointLordCopper Thu 06-Aug-15 07:56:15

I don't think too much about that - it's a matter of training. You train your musical memory as you go along. I don't know about perfect pitch... DS2 picks out tune by ear (he was rendering the Classic FM theme tune the other day grin) but it's not clear how much of that was because he's got "a good ear" and how much of that was because he's been taught to have "a good ear".

StompyBlueNose Thu 06-Aug-15 08:56:21

My dc learn suzuki violin and it is a absolutely wonderful method. Dd(11) just scored 144 in her grade 7 violin exam, including achieving a high mark for sightreading. Although dc don't start at age 3/4 with music in front of them, it isn't long before they are encouraged to start reading the music and also exploring other music. My youngest Dd is about to start suzuki violin at age 4 and I would have chosen suzuki method of we had gone for the piano for her. Have you seen the list if suzuki teachers online?

UptoapointLordCopper Thu 06-Aug-15 09:41:54

I've heard many negative things about the Suzuki method, but personally I think it's very well-designed and a miracle!

StompyBlueNose Thu 06-Aug-15 16:26:52

I agree. Having experienced suzuki method with my own children for the past 8 year, it has been nothing but fantastic!

Worriedandlost Thu 06-Aug-15 21:42:46

UptoapointLordCopper, my dd can pick up tune by ear and she did not have Suzuki training, in fact she could do it in her first year of learning music. On the other hand I know a child who is at the end of her second Suzuki book and cannot do it. So, I really believe it is smth to do with one's pitch.

UptoapointLordCopper Thu 06-Aug-15 22:04:43

I see. But there are so many variables. Not all Suzuki teacher teaches the same way either. As a teacher (of my DC) I take the position that the child can be taught and just set about it without thinking too much of the talent vs training business...

I think a good teacher in both "traditional" and Suzuki methods will probably cover similar bases.

Worriedandlost Thu 06-Aug-15 22:39:08

This is true.... But I would not discount musicality of the student too... smile
Perhaps your Ds2 has perfect pitch. You can check it like this for example - you play a note without him seeing it (sorry, I missed what instrument he is playing), and he will know immediately what you played if he has perfect pitch (will play or name it).

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 07-Aug-15 07:42:41

Sure, but so what if he has/has not perfect pitch? There are many other factors much more important in a musical education ...

TBH he's probably got it. But it's not very important so far.

Worriedandlost Fri 07-Aug-15 12:00:06

Mmm, I don't know smile I was talking about this particular aspect-playing by ear, and not about global advanategs/disadvantages of having perfect pitch smile

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 07-Aug-15 12:13:18

Perfect pitch may not be perfect pitch

I myself hear notes 1 semitone out most of the time ...

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 07-Aug-15 12:14:26

That is, out of context. But after a few bars I'll hear if you play them out of tune. Useful for supervising string practice (after a few confused first minutes). grin

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