Dear Parents,
The bow is much better! The body balance is improving. The ready positions are becoming more still. We will continue to work on these -for about the next 10 years!

Developing ability continues in a spiral so that we always come back to the most basic points as we advance.
At the same time that this is true, we are now able to focus more attention on tone.
Think about what you do when you seek to hear something -you become still. This is a kind of “focusing” with the aural sense. So, developmentally this is the place we are now. It is interesting that the students know which is the good tone immediately when I ask them. So, they can already hear when the tone has tension in it, just as babies hear and respond to tension in a person’s voice. How do we “teach” tone?

Dr. Kataoka says this in her writings about tone:

“Let us consider the matter of tone on the piano. With strings and wind instruments, and with respect to the human voice, sound may not continue unless we continue to breathe or to move the bow. Those musicians can actually maintain an interest in tone throughout their bodies because of this. How about piano tone? First we produce the sound (resulting in the initial “attack” if you will), and then we must do nothing but stay on the key in order to hold the sound. We really do not do anything. But in fact, just as with other instruments, we must listen intently to our sound as it is being sung, and breathe into it with our heart of hearts. However, it seems that it is not easy to find a teacher who teaches this from the very beginning. Consequently, most pianists think only of the initial attack as the tone of the instrument. This is a mistake. From the point of the attack, musical tone rings for a long time, gradually decreases, and dies out at the end. It is a most beautiful process when tone decreases and dies out. It is the essence of the beauty of piano tone. Please, pianists, enjoy beautiful tone.”

We have been listening for short sounds in Twinkle A. We are beginning to listen now for long sounds as we learn Twinkle B. The practice of playing one sound and listening until it stops is very useful. Once they put their whole attention in it they probably will hear the piano sound longer than you do.

You will begin to notice the difference in how the note is sustained when it is played with a “hit tone”, or with a relaxed moving finger. The hit tone is very loud at first and then dies off quickly. The “heart tone” has more of a bell shape to the sound.

Dr Suzuki says:

“Music is the language of the heart without words.” and also: “Beautiful Tone, Beautiful Heart”

Parents often want piano lessons for their child because it will make them “smarter”. Of course this is true, but it is not just the brain that becomes smarter.
It is the heart.

Last week I posted two videos of Andrew Loo.  I remember his lesson with Dr. Kataoka on Dr. Suzuki’s Allegro at the end of Book 1 before his level 1 graduation concert. As promised to Dr. Kataoka, he practiced his down-up spot 200X every day for about 2 weeks before the concert. When he played his tone was so beautiful that the sound filled the entire hall. This week I found this recording of his performance in my old 8mm tapes:

On the assignment:
Please continue. Please help your child to have balance in the posture and in the hand without tension. Next, focus on the sound. Affirm when the sound is good without tension. Speak softly so that the sound of the piano becomes the focus and not your voice.
Thanks so much for this opportunity to teach your children!
Leah Brammer

*Three articles written by Dr. Kataoka about tone can be found in these online issues of Piano Basics:
Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation News -March/April 1998
Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation News – May-June 1998
Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation -July-August 1998