Frequently Asked Questions

 

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Q. What is the Suzuki method?

A. Suzuki teachers can vary greatly in how they apply the method, but the basic elements include parental involvement, an encouraging environment, listening, and playing by rote in the beginning with note reading introduced later.

Q. What are the differences between Suzuki lessons and traditional lessons?

A. With the traditional method, most students begin with reading in a method book series. The parent may or may not be expected to attend lessons and practice with the child at home, depending on the teacher's requirements.

With the Suzuki method, students begin with learning to play by rote, starting with the variations of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and proceeding to folk songs and classical pieces from the Suzuki method books. A parent is expected to attend lessons and assist the child with practice at home. Also, the child may begin at a younger age than most beginning traditional students, although I've heard the quote that "a child is never too old to Twinkle."

Both methods can be highly effective in teaching students to play piano. I have taught by both methods, starting as a traditional teacher. Although I prefer the Suzuki method, I acknowledge that both approaches are used successfully.

Q. Is it possible to switch from traditional lessons to Suzuki lessons?

A. Generally, I do not recommend leaving the traditional method, unless there are compelling reasons, such as the child is not succeeding in that approach. There is a continuity of the process that is lost when switching methods.

Even when transferring to a different teacher, there are adjustments, especially in the beginning years. Sometimes, there is a certain amount of "backing up" to fill in gaps. This is not because the former teacher was ineffective but because teachers each have their own timeline and view on when to present concepts and skills. The study of music is huge! As teachers, we have to make choices and prioritize what we will teach and when we will teach it.

Q. How do I know if my child is ready for piano lessons?

A. This is an important question. In response, I ask parents, "Are you comfortable expecting your child to practice daily?" You will need your child's cooperation, and you will feel better about expecting it at times when he is reluctant, if you are confident that he is ready.

Another question I ask parents: "Do you see signs of your child's ability to concentrate on tasks for a period of time?" Your child will need to be able to focus for at least short amounts of time to be able to practice, and to learn at the lesson. If your child is attending school, and there are no issues of concentration there, you have a positive indicator of readiness for lessons.

Q. At what age do you start taking students? Do you take adult students?

A. I have started students at age 4, and in rare cases, even at age 3, especially if talent and interest on the part of the child are very evident. However, I find that if the child is 5, 6 or 7 years old, progress is likely to be at a more satisfying rate for the parent and the student.

Occasionally, I have had adult students. Personally, I prefer the traditional method for adults.

Q. I want my child to have lessons, but she is reluctant. Should I let her decide for herself, or make the decision for her?

A. There is no doubt that an enthusiastic student is going to make the piano experience more enjoyable for everyone. However, it is not unusual for a child to be reluctant about beginning something new and unfamiliar. As the parent, you have the maturity and life experiences to decide what is best for your child.

Learning to play the piano offers many advantages. It develops concentration, academic performance, character, coordination, artistry and a life-long hobby. It is also a commitment of time, energy and resources. If you believe that music lessons are important to your child's development, and you are willing to make the commitment, you as the parent are responsible to make the decision in the best interests of your child.

Realistically, most children will experience reluctance about lessons (and practicing!) at some point, no matter what their attitude was about starting lessons. Their interest will fluctuate. However, I've observed that if children can experience success at learning to play the piano, motivation and self-esteem will grow. If they can stick with their practicing, they will find playing piano rewarding.

Q. I have a busy schedule. Do I need to attend my child's lessons?

A. The parent's presence at the lessons is very important. The parent's role in the lesson as the "home teacher" is to take notes, recording instructions and assignments for the week of practice. At home, the parent is needed to help the child with practicing. Eventually, the child does more on his own, but in the beginning, the parent is needed and will be a great help and encouragement to the child's practicing.

Q. Do I need an acoustic piano for my child? Is a digital keyboard acceptable?

A. I prefer that students have a well-maintained acoustic piano that is tuned once or twice a year. Sometimes, parents already have a digital keyboard when they contact me about lessons. I do not ask them to purchase an acoustic piano, but the digital piano should have 88 weighted keys and be capable of making dynamic changes according to the amount of pressure used on the keys.

Electric keyboards are not adequate. Generally, they do not have weighted keys, and they do not have the dynamic capabilities of an acoustic or digital piano.

Many families cannot afford a top-of-line acoustic piano, but they do need an instrument that is functional and has a decent tone.

Q. How much do your students need to practice during the week?

A. There is a saying among the Suzuki community: "You do not need to practice on the days you do not eat." Practicing should be a part of a student's daily routine. Length of a practice session depends on the student's age, level, and maturity. The teacher will determine this on an individual basis. Establishing a consistent routine is what is especially important to the student's progress. Without progress, motivation suffers.

Q. I would like my child to take lessons, but I can't play the piano. Is that a problem?

A. A parent who does not play piano can learn right along with the child. As long as parents feels free to communicate their questions to the teacher, the parent can be a significant help and support for the child.

Q. How do I contact you if I am interested in my child taking lessons?

A. You can email me at judy.boyum@gmail.com or call me at (507) 285-9912. I can send a parent information packet with more details about my studio.