SUZUKI PIANO BASICS
The mission of Suzuki Piano Basics is to facilitate, promote, and educate the public on the way of teaching and playing the piano taught at the Talent Education Research Institute in Matsumoto, Japan by Dr. Haruko Kataoka.
A dictionary definition of "basics" is the essential facts or principles of a subject or skill. On one level, the word might seem to indicate something that is taught solely to beginners, in a beginners course of study before one graduates to a higher level. But while it is true that the beginning stages of skill development are critical in laying the foundation for future success, Suzuki Piano Basics posits that the essential skills of piano playing and the core principals of music should be our primary focus at every level of development. It is the responsibility of teachers to continually monitor and address these abilities in lessons so that students can find freedom to express their own personalities and the spirit of the music in whatever they play.
What are these basics? The most important is to listen to every sound that we produce at the piano. A big problem for pianists is that we tend to not listen to the sound we make because it seems all that is required of us is to press a key with the requisite amount of volume and hold it for the required amount of time. String players, by contrast, are required to maintain pitch, add vibrato, etc. throughout the length of the note. In reality, however, if ten pianists all play the same piano, it sounds different for each one. The primary ability to control our sound begins with actually listening to our sound.
If listening is the first step, playing with a relaxed, unforced, natural technique is the second. They are actually more like two sides of a coin. Listening guides us to a more efficient technique and better use of the body gives us room to hear better since we are less busy and stiff. In a time long before YouTube, Dr. Kataoka watched laser discs of the world's finest pianists to research what they did that helped them play with ease and grace.
In addition to listening and natural technique, there are basics of music that must be observed at every level of musical development. We must, for example, be able keep a steady tempo. Melodies should sound like melodies and accompaniment like accompaniment. Chords need to have a vitality that comes from voicing and playing the notes precisely together. All music needs a sense of rhythmic vitality that comes party from observing the natural meter implied by the piece's time signature. Since singing is the most natural instrument, piano playing needs have breath and phrasing as well.
It is impossible to condense these basics into just a few paragraphs because they comprise the work of a lifetime. They are at once simple and yet difficult to achieve. We know the result when we see and hear it--a person who plays with ease and heartfelt expression. Our life-long endeavor, for all who have been impacted by Dr. Kataoka's vision of piano education, is to help every child we have been entrusted with to have this wonderful experience.