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Mixed feelings. DS15 started with Suzuki piano when he was 6. The ear-training (everything is learned by ear for the first couple of years, no note reading in pure Suzuki) was great. However, the extreme focus on technique and hand position and playing the same song over...and over...and over for weeks or months until it was perfect killed some of his joy. When we moved (after 2.5 years), there was no Suzuki teacher in the area, and we transitioned to a more traditional program/instructor. He was appalled that DS could play a few particular songs beautifully by heart, but couldn't read a note of music. DS ended up frustrated being so "behind" - he knew he could make lovely music (if he just listened to a recording often enough), but he couldn't recreate it from a printed sheet. It took 2 years before he liked piano again. Now, he reads music well, can tackle the difficult pieces his instructor gives him, and can pick up fun music (think music scores) and play them easily.

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All my dc have done Suzuki programs (violin and classical guitar), which included both private and group lessons, as well as music theory classes. There definitely is an emphasis on playing by ear and memorizing songs, as well as keeping all previous songs in the current repetoire. Our teachers also supplemented with learning to read music, and included more scales and technique drills, but this is specific to the teacher.


Having had a traditional approach in my piano education, I can see a real benefit in learning to read music well earlier on in the training, as numerous notes in both treble and bass clefs must be learned and played simultaneously. That takes time as it can get very complicated. I believe that this is often sited as the weakest component of the Suzuki piano program. Suzuki developed his teaching approach for violin, where all the music is written in treble clef only, and on a violin only 2 notes can be played simultaneously with the bow (there are infrequent strumming/pizzicato a chord on several strings). This makes learning even quite difficult songs by ear a lot easier.


One of the wonderful things about Suzuki programs is the group classes. If your child has that opportunity with Suzuki piano, I would look into it. The benifits of being in an ensemble as an emerging musician is very motivating and provides many new learning opportunities in music not possible with private lessons alone.



Now, the other aspect of music education is the age to start. It's very common in Suzuki to start at age 4 or even younger. That can be fine, though be prepared to be working on the same Twinkle variations for many months, and probably being in the first book for a good year. I'm not sure I could do that. I waited until my dc were at least 5.5 before starting piano (and three of my dc began traditional piano lessons before switching to strings).  The level of readiness for formal music training, learning proper technique, and the level of focus is usually much higher in a 5.5 or 6 year old. It really depends on your level of patience, level of commitment as you'll be involved in both lessons and all the practicing with a child at age 4, and the money to spend (lessons cost the same for every student, though the lessons will be shorter for younger students).

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I wrote a couple of posts on similar threads in Dec 2013, so I thought I'd just repost those here and link to the threads in case you are interested. DS9 is still going strong a year and a half after I made these posts, and DD5 is now enrolled in Suzuki Piano, too. DD was born with a musical heart (the exact opposite of DS!) and Suzuki method is working just as beautifully for her as it did for DS. I will tell you, though, that Suzuki is a *lot* of work. You really do have to be committed to it. In our house we treat it just like we would any academic subject - they don't have a choice, just like they don't have a choice about learning to read or do multiplication tables or brush their teeth... It is not always easy, but the payoffs for both DS and even already DD have already been huge. And they have both grown to LOVE it, which is amazing to me, considering how much hard work it is/has been!


From Piano Lessons for a 6 yr old :


I cannot say enough good things about our Suzuki piano experience.  We started DS when he turned 4, and he is now 7.  He had absolutely ZERO musical interest or ability when we started.  Maybe even less than zero!  But I believe in music instruction for a lot of reasons, and so I begged DH (from whom DS inherited his complete lack of musical interest and ability, LOL).


Three years later, we are *amazed* not only at the progress he has made - he plays very well, imho - but even moreso by how much he truly LOVES it.  It was hard in the beginning, but he has grown to truly love it because he has learned to play beautifully, and he has a wide memorized repertoire he can play anytime, anywhere (he can probably sit and play lovely pieces from memory for at least 30-40 minutes). 


We have a wonderful teacher who has rounded out his Suzuki repertoire with other skills (music reading and such), but his musicality, and his true enjoyment of music is what really brings me such joy to see.  Those are 110% learned - not innate - and that is why I'm so happy to see it.  I can only imagine how much moreso those would be present with a child who is already showing musical ability before even beginning!


ETA - I took organ as an elementary student but never really made much progress in about 2-3 years of lessons... and I'm generally quite a musical person!  So I contrast the progress and enthusiasm DS has with the progress I made, and I'm even more amazed and convinced of the wisdom and efficacy of the Suzuki method.


And from Suzuki vs. Traditional piano instruction :


Our Suzuki piano experience has been amazing, truly.  To be able to take our completely UNmusical DS (seriously, I can't express how unmusical he was!) and turn him into a *musician* has been amazing to see.  And, he *loves* it.  He doesn't just play piano, but he really plays beautifully and has learned so much along the way - far more than just the Suzuki repertoire.  But, as PPs have said, that depends on the Suzuki teachers.  I imagine some teachers stick strictly to Suzuki repertoire; ours does not.  After learning all of Book 1, our teacher started DS on Book 2, but also on some music reading books and technique books.  He learns pieces from those books every week, which requires sight reading.  While he is progressing through Book 2, he is also looping back through Book 1 and learning to transpose every single piece in it into every other key (yes, *every* key!). 


During the Christmas season, she had him learn an entire book of Christmas carols through reading the music.  He is about 1/3 through Suzuki Book 2, but learned nearly the whole Faber Funtime Piano Christmas Level 3A & 3B book in less than two months (basically, about two new pieces a week).  Now, those pieces are "easy" to him in comparison to the technical difficulty of some of the Suzuki pieces he is currently learning, but he is learning the Faber pieces and playing them very musically in just a day or two usually (compared to several weeks to learn a Suzuki piece).  He has also learned a couple of level 4 Faber pieces just for fun on his own (through reading the music).


I have found that Suzuki's emphasis on playing by ear really just means that the child's early playing is not limited by his early music reading ability.  A child shouldn't be stuck playing boring simplistic music just because he is a beginning music reader, any more than a child should be stuck listening to or sharing boring simplistic stories and books just because he is a beginning phonics reader.


Some parents and teachers would say that unless a child can read and interpret a fancy poem or verse, he shouldn't memorize it. I disagree strongly with that, and our schooling method shows that; our children have memorized and recited far more complex language and vocabulary in the context of poetry and Bible verses than they are capable of reading yet... The fact that we are putting that rich language and vocabulary and expression inside their young minds gives them so much more material for creative and articulate expression later.  But at the same time, just because they can recite a beautiful complex poem doesn't mean that they don't also have to learn to read those words and analyze the language when the time is right.  To me, Suzuki is like teaching your children beautiful poetry that they are fully capable of memorizing and reciting expressively, even if they don't fully understand everything they are saying yet.  But the payoff is not only in Suzuki repertoire, but in all the music they encounter - this Christmas DS never heard any of the pieces in his Christmas book, and yet he immediately played them very musically (accurate rhythm and lovely dynamics and expression), because that is what he has been taught to do.


I'd call your local Suzuki piano teachers and talk to them about your question and see when they introduce music reading and sight reading and theory and all of that.  I think their answers will tell you a lot.


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I have not done suzuki piano (my kids who do piano are doing traditional instruction at an older age as a second instrument), but I've got 5 kids who have done suzuki violin. It's a great philosophy, and a fabulous way to do music and build your relationship with your kids. It is super time intensive. I don't practice with my oldest any more (his new teacher is traditional and he's well ready to be independent) but I'm currently spending about 2.5 hours/day practicing with kids. That gets old fast. Last year, it was more than 3 hours/day. My kids are heavily involved in group lessons, performance groups and orchestras, so this takes a huge amount of our time. But, it's a wonderful social group, and the kids around here are great! Several of my kids have special needs, so this is a huge opportunity for them to shine and make friends. 


Like all music, I really think it depends on the teacher. The instruction will only be as good as the teacher, so find out all the good and bad from some of her/his students. Go to a recital and see how the kids play. Ask to observe a lesson or two. One of the challenges with Suzuki is that some kids don't get good sightreading skills. It really depends on the teacher and the local program. Our program starts them sightreading about the end of book 1 (usually about 3 years into study) and works them intensively through an orchestra program. Most of the kids end up pretty good readers, depending how diligent they are, natural ability, etc. S reads better than I do at this point. T struggles, but we work on it every day because I think it's important. D is also a very good sightreader. 


Anyway, we all really love Suzuki. Good luck with it all. 

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The only big drawback to Suzuki is that if you move to an area where there are no true Suzuki teachers you will find your child very behind in sight reading which will frustrate the new teacher and make you student hate piano for a while. Because Suzuki is so different from other methods there are many many areas where teachers just don't exist. Contrast that to traditional lessons where there is almost no place on the globe that you can't find a good teacher.


My other caveat is that for piano, an instrument which requires sitting down, and sitting still, Suzuki is of less benefit. One of the very reasons it was designed for violin is that the violin is portable and comes in many sizes allowing tiny children to move or fidget as necessary while practicing. Your student begins with a shoebox and rubber band and many games and finger exercises and then moves to the real violin.


So personally if you do find a Suzuki teacher it makes more sense to me to start your child on violin! Violins are also portable, less expensive than a piano, take up less space, and also are included in more numbers in orchestras ans symphonies whereas if a piano is included it is only one pianist.


I love piano but with Suzuki I think violin is the way to go. 😀😀😀

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