Dear Parents,
Dr. Kataoka,co-founder of the Suzuki Piano method said:

“The beginning is most important” (1)
 The sound is being absorbed, the physical movements are being imprinted, and the emotional habits are taking form as well.
In his book “Where Love is Deep” (2) Dr. Suzuki answers questions in an interview:

Hatano: So your aim is to bring the violin into children’s lives and to foster their ability while letting them enjoy their lives. Suzuki: Yes. And we always keep our eyes on the growing ability. Take sound for example. We watch the development of the child’s sound: how his sound changes to finer sound, how refined his motion can be, how musical he can be. Suppose we grow plants, we plant a seedling and watch it’s root rather than it’s leaves and branches. We watch the invisible expansion of it’s root, water and fertilize the root. To foster what we can’t see– that is our aim. If we do that, a fine root can grow, though with few leaves, on a single teaching material and eventually it will become a larger tree. So, although we may use limited teaching materials, we aim at sturdy growth. If instead the basic stage is handled roughly, the growth may be smooth to a certain point, but then it will curve and stop after that, since the root is small.

Dr. Suzuki’s development of the Twinkle Variations for the beginning steps is a crucial part of the Suzuki method. By using an international folk song upon which he developed the variations containing the basics of rhythm and tone production, Dr. Suzuki set out both a method and a philosophy of learning in the same piece.
All of the skills necessary for advanced playing are part of these variations, they are the roots upon which the ability grows.

Dr. Suzuki discusses the importance of the “preparation” habit (3). This preparation or “ready” allows the student to find the natural physical position, and to become ready inside by quieting the mind. Little by little this preparation time becomes shorter, and then immediate or without mental thought. Ultimately when the student plays without stops, the concentration and body balance are learned from this practice of preparing for each note, and the fluency of playing becomes natural and without tension.

When the student practices with the “ready-go” method they are able to put their whole concentration into the physical-aural connection of making tone on one note. They do not have to think about the reading or even the sequence of the notes. Because they are playing only one note, they can learn to balance the body without tension and listen for the tone rather than thinking about which note to play next.

If the student is engaged to listen for subtle differences in the sound and how their body works to produce the sound, they will be absorbed in the process. This is an an observation of what is happening rather than a judgment about whether they are right or wrong, In this way the child is naturally concentrating and a lot can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time.

On the assignment:
Finger numbers: Please continue even if it seems easy. Please do both hands. It needs to be repeated until it is 100% memorized without thought. This is the prerequisite to playing notes in a sequence as it develops the awareness of each fingers individual capacity.

Ready Position:
This is getting easier now as the physical position is memorized and the mind can become still. It is a very good beginning to the practice. Please continue.

Twinkle A
-Sing the rhythm for your child to set a tempo if they are playing too fast and not hearing each note. Too slow is just as difficult as too fast, so experiment with this. Basically slightly slower than the recording at this point is probably good. You can also use the tempo from the video recording of the lesson.

Twinkle B:
It is good to keep the long note practice. This is a listening practice. Notice when your child begins to have a relaxed hand after playing the note rather than continuing to push the key down with extra pressure. The sound will be better. Bring their awareness to this.

Twinkle C:
This rhythm is slightly more difficult than Twinkle A and is good for discrimination. Last week one of the students was mixing up the two rhythms when I began teaching Twinkle C. So, please put the Twinkle recording on repeat. Clap the rhythms and name them “Twinkle A, Twinkle B, Twinkle C, Twinkle D or Twinkle Twinkle.

Following is a recording of Walter Giseking performing a set of Twinkle Variations written by Mozart that I have been listening to while writing this blog.

Please keep teaching the basic points, keep fertilizing the roots.
Leah Brammer

Bibliography-
(1) Sensibility and Education – page 25
(2) Where Love is Deep-page 122 (out of print)
(3) The Suzuki Concept -page 44 (oriented more for violin study)

Book Recommended for further reading: