Dear Parents,
The boys really enjoyed the class this week. They have gotten much better with the rhythms, singing the solfege and are recognizing the pieces. Being able to recognize and name the pieces is very good for sound discrimination.

On Practice time:
Some students are now able to figure out the notes of the songs on the piano. Please continue to let them do this as it develops their ability to hear sound patterns and find them on the piano. It also drives their motivation to play. So, this independence is important for their overall progress even as it reinforces some physical habits we are trying to evolve. Three points are important to make this activity beneficial:
1. They need to hear the disc many hours a day so that the tone on the recording is the internalized sound they are trying to produce on the piano.
2. They are doing it on their own without instruction. In this way they will not go too far beyond what they can naturally do.
3. Separate this free time to figure out songs from the structured practice time. You can do this simply by taking a bow before and after the actual “practice”.

Learning Suzuki method enables a child to play in the “Flow” without words in the way of the experience. This happens if we do not give them too many instructions.
So, anytime you can use a physical que this helps. Please use a soft hand to help them find the correct posture. Then, you can speak softly with a few key reminder phrases that you get from the lessons. This way your voice does not interfere with the sound of the piano.

On the Bow: Please continue to improve the bow by asking for one point such as “please look down when you bow”, or “eyes at the end please”.

On the Twinkles: Please have them listen for different kinds of sounds.
Twinkle A is all short sounds. When the finger releases the sound the hand relaxes. Teaching short sounds first imprints the physical movement so that the hand does not hold stiffness after the sound is played. Playing the short sound with a good tone is like throwing the dart into the very middle of the dart board. Playing becomes focused and accurate from this practice.

Please ask your child to listen for every sound to be short. When they finish that one pattern ask them if all of the sounds were short. If they say no, please affirm that they have very good hearing! This listening and knowing what has been played develops concentration and discrimination.

Twinkle B
the first step is to listen for the long sounds, and practice long sounds. Through this practice they will begin to relax on the long note and not hold the note down with tension. Notice when the sound is really good.
After they are playing the rhythm with the long sound you can direct their attention to the short sounds. Was the first note really short? “I thought so too.”

If you practice Twinkles this way they will not become boring. They are of course work. But they will remain interesting. The key is that the practice is affirming what the sound was, how the finger moved etc. in a neutral way with non-judgment about the child. By involving the child in the process of this knowing we are enabling them.

Dr. Kataoka says:

Tone is the basic element of music. If we do not completely learn how to produce tone in our childhood, we become people who are uninterested in tone, and then we can allow ourselves to play piano with a terrible and noisy sound. People who play like this gradually begin to dislike playing the piano. But if we play carefully with soft fingers, making a resonant sound and avoiding a crashing noise, we can give our whole minds to the tone we are playing.

Here is a link to a great article written about the Twinkles by Dr. Kataoka:
Dr. Kataoka’s article on Twinkles

Below is a video of Marc-Andre Hamelin performing the Hungarian Rhapsody #2 by Liszt with his own original cadenza.

Following is the same piece performed at the 2007 10 Piano Concert in Sacramento. You may recognize parts of it as the “Bugs bunny/Tom and Jerry song.

Andrew Loo who you have seen in previous posts is performing on this video as well as my daughter Bria. The 10 Piano Concerts are a very special part of studying Suzuki Piano. This is a very fun piece and is a wonderful opportunity for the children to “play with one heart”

Again, thanks so much for taking the time to read these posts, to watch the videos and to work with your children daily. This is a big job, perhaps more than you previously imagined. The benefits will be seen many years from now, but also please enjoy the process too. As a mother of two grown children I have felt how long a practice time can be and how short a time it is from childhood to adulthood. They are both true. You are all doing a wonderful job.

Leah Brammer