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#1940240 - 08/10/12 09:48 AM Memorizing versus Reading Notation
dmd Offline
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Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1775
Loc: Pennsylvania
When I first started playing piano I did a lot of memorizing of pieces (mostly pop) because it was "easier" to play if I could look at the keys while playing.

However, I have come to believe that learning to read music notation and also play while looking at the music enables me to keep pieces available for performing much longer than pure memoriation.

I also dabble in sight-reading although becoming a good sight reader is not necessarily a goal.

My question is this ...

Are there pieces of music that you would suggest to one of your students that they should probably just memorize because playing it while looking at the music will not be practical because of the difficulty level of it ?
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#1940410 - 08/10/12 04:06 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
Mrs. Akers Offline
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Registered: 02/03/12
Posts: 48
Loc: Kansas
In my opinion, memorizing is more desirable than reading. Being able to watch the keyboard is one advantage, but when a piece is memorized, the performance is enhanced much the same way as a dramatic reading of prose is better done from memory because reading it sounds mechanical. Furthermore, a piece in your head is more available for performing than a piece of sheet music you have to carry around with you.

Having said that, I would also recommend cultivating the skill of reading without looking at the hands. This requires knowing the keyboard very well, which enables a pianist to play fluently -- no pausing to check position, no losing one's place on the page, no bobbing the head or eyes up and down, etc. It develops confidence, which also affects fluency and allows for more freedom of expression.

You might want to reconsider improved sight reading as a goal. The better you can sight read a piece, the less practicing you'll have to do to prepare it for performance. Developing skill in sight reading pays off in a big way.

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#1940449 - 08/10/12 05:28 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
I focus on sight reading. The only thing I get my students memorize right away is Hanon.

Most students of average (or even below average) intelligence can memorize music without even trying. In my experience, students who memorize quickly are doing so at the expense of reading notes, and this is precisely the reason I dread Suzuki transfers.
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#1940461 - 08/10/12 05:42 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4741
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
I focus on sight reading. The only thing I get my students memorize right away is Hanon.

Most students of average (or even below average) intelligence can memorize music without even trying. In my experience, students who memorize quickly are doing so at the expense of reading notes, and this is precisely the reason I dread Suzuki transfers.

thumb
I have my students memorize skills with a big emphasis on chords. For everything else memorization is the icing on the cake, not the cake.
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#1940469 - 08/10/12 05:53 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
rada Offline
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Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
Memorizing definitely comes more easily to some learners but then there are those who memorize because the reading part is somewhat difficult and memorizing makes it easier to learn the piece. Wouldn't it be a happy meeting point if both skills were equal. Is that possible? I know the answer for me but not necessarily for you. Maybe that is a good goal.

rada

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#1940505 - 08/10/12 07:04 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: AZNpiano]
Mrs. Akers Offline
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Registered: 02/03/12
Posts: 48
Loc: Kansas
I certainly do not advocate memorizing at the expense of reading. Like you, I disapprove of the memorizing methods taught in the Suzuki method. In my opinion, memorizing can be done incorrectly -- and perhaps is a topic needing its own separate thread.

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#1940506 - 08/10/12 07:05 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
Exalted Wombat Offline
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Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 1194
Loc: London UK
Memorise exercises. Read pieces.

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#1940591 - 08/10/12 09:28 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1775
Loc: Pennsylvania
Well, so far ... it sounds like most (if not all) of you advocate reading pieces of music ... period. Memorizing is good but only after having mastered the piece while reading.

That also must mean that if I consider a piece too difficult for me to handle while reading ... then I should not be working on it, yet.
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#1940613 - 08/10/12 10:40 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: dmd
That also must mean that if I consider a piece too difficult for me to handle while reading ... then I should not be working on it, yet.

Of course! If you can't read it, you can't memorize it. Very few people can do what Nobuyuki Tsujii does.
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#1940650 - 08/11/12 12:37 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
piano2 Offline
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Registered: 10/26/11
Posts: 79
It is always fun to see the Suzuki method criticized over and over again!
Here's a question - doesn't memorizing a piece to the extent that Suzuki students do mean that the piece is a part of them? Suzuki students are able to play musically BECAUSE they are taught how to play musically and they listen to quality recordings. They are also able to listen to what they are playing because they know them so well.
They are also taught to read music, by the way.

The concert pianists are able to play from memory becaue they know their pieces VERY well and have played them for years. Is there something wrong with that?

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#1940662 - 08/11/12 01:08 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: piano2]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: piano2
It is always fun to see the Suzuki method criticized over and over again!

Well, if it's criticized over and over again, there must be a good reason. I've had good Suzuki transfers and bad Suzuki transfers, but the bad far outnumber the good. And the bad ones are truly awful. The students get frustrated. The parents get frustrated. And they all quit piano eventually.

Originally Posted By: piano2
Here's a question - doesn't memorizing a piece to the extent that Suzuki students do mean that the piece is a part of them? Suzuki students are able to play musically BECAUSE they are taught how to play musically and they listen to quality recordings. They are also able to listen to what they are playing because they know them so well.

What you describe here applies to non-Suzuki students as well. What good teacher wouldn't do that?

Originally Posted By: piano2
They are also taught to read music, by the way.

Yes and no. It depends on the individual teacher. And this is the heart of the problem. Most Suzuki students can't sight read. They take a long time to learn repertoire, and a lot of them can't learn anything until it has been demonstrated to them by the teacher.

Originally Posted By: piano2
The concert pianists are able to play from memory becaue they know their pieces VERY well and have played them for years. Is there something wrong with that?

No, there's nothing wrong with that. But how many of these concert pianists grew up using Suzuki method? Is there something wrong with that?
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#1940663 - 08/11/12 01:09 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: AZNpiano]
SoundThumb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/28/10
Posts: 334
Loc: San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: dmd
That also must mean that if I consider a piece too difficult for me to handle while reading ... then I should not be working on it, yet.

Of course! If you can't read it, you can't memorize it. Very few people can do what Nobuyuki Tsujii does.


Wait a minute. This doesn't sound quite right. If I only studied pieces that I could play by reading, I would just be playing the simplest of pieces. I can accept that those of us who play by memorizing are not real pianists, but please let me keep my piano, I enjoy played too much to give it up just because I can't play and read at the same time.

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#1940670 - 08/11/12 01:29 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: SoundThumb]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: SoundThumb
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: dmd
That also must mean that if I consider a piece too difficult for me to handle while reading ... then I should not be working on it, yet.

Of course! If you can't read it, you can't memorize it. Very few people can do what Nobuyuki Tsujii does.


Wait a minute. This doesn't sound quite right. If I only studied pieces that I could play by reading, I would just be playing the simplest of pieces. I can accept that those of us who play by memorizing are not real pianists, but please let me keep my piano, I enjoy played too much to give it up just because I can't play and read at the same time.

I fail to see the logic between what I wrote and what you wrote. You must have misread my previous post.

If you love your piano, please keep playing whatever and however you want.
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#1940677 - 08/11/12 02:04 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
SoundThumb Offline
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Registered: 03/28/10
Posts: 334
Loc: San Diego, CA
You are correct, AZNpiano. I can't see the logic in what I wrote either! However, I now see that I misunderstood your post.

@dmd: I think your conclusion is a little too restrictive. There certainly are people who learn to play pieces by decoding the score and memorizing rather than only playing what they can play and read simultaneously. That may not be optimum, may not be desirable, but is a way forward.

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#1940692 - 08/11/12 03:23 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4741
Loc: South Florida
Quick point: one of the huge reasons for learning to READ music well is to later be able to WRITE it. I spend a lot of time learning and working with music that either does not exist in written form or that is very poorly notated.

The fact that I write out music by no means says that I can only play what I read. It also means that I can put on paper what I hear, and that means that I do no have to memorize hundreds and hundreds of things that I would otherwise have to keep totally in memory, for all time.
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#1940693 - 08/11/12 03:32 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
ten left thumbs Offline
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Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
There is something wrong with *needing* to look at your fingers all the time while you play.

If there are Suzuki advocates here, perhaps they can tell us how Suzuki gets round this? It is one of my concerns about Suzuki, that a student starts by not needing to read, and may become dependent on looking at the hands.
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#1940694 - 08/11/12 03:36 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
Para Otras Offline
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Registered: 05/28/12
Posts: 309
The faster you can read, the faster you can learn.

First you look at the music. Learn it. Then you close your eyes. Learn it again.

After that, you can look at your hands. Now play it.

(Of course, this is a very broad and horrible way of going about it - it depends on the piece and student and section and so much more - but there is a lot of truth to it too.)

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#1940742 - 08/11/12 07:58 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: SoundThumb]
dmd Offline
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Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1775
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: SoundThumb
@dmd: I think your conclusion is a little too restrictive. There certainly are people who learn to play pieces by decoding the score and memorizing rather than only playing what they can play and read simultaneously. That may not be optimum, may not be desirable, but is a way forward.


I know people who do that because I was one of them. I am just trying to find out if I should quit doing that.

If I was one of your students, would you only prescribe pieces that you felt I could play while reading notation and then insist upon it ... regardless of how slowly I progressed with it ?

Or ... Is there a place for memorizing it FIRST and then work on playing it while reading notation afterward ? Maybe memorizing it first will help with this.
_________________________
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#1940748 - 08/11/12 08:27 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
piano2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/26/11
Posts: 79
Many students who are traditionally taught are also not very good at sight reading. It's not fair to blame a method (Suzuki).
One of the biggest reason for Suzuki transfer students who cannot sight read, is that sight reading is not started until a student begins Suzuki Book 2. Book 1 is devoted to developing the student's ear through listening, developing technique through careful practice, and making a beautiful tone on the piano. This includes the ability to play with a singing melody and a quiet accompaniment.

Another thought to keep on mind is that The Suzuki Method was intended to be started at a young age - 3 or 4. It is a mother-tongue approach, which means that student learn through listening and demonstration, with loving support from their parents.
When you have Suzuki transfer students, especially who were in Book 1, something broke down in the system. Most likely the parents didn't provide the environment that would allow the student to learn best.

Of course these students are frustrated when they start traditional lessons - the traditional teacher is expecting them to be able to do something they haven't learned yet - read. You have to provide an environment where they can succeed - start at the very beginning for reading, and allow the child to continue playing some pieces by ear. Or else do lots of ear training games at the first few lessons with these kids. They will be very good at them (if they listened to their Suzuki CDs) and feel good about themselves.

Or you can just complain about the fact that they can't read music yet and they've been playing for 1,2,3 years - then their confidence will be shattered. Then they will not progress very quickly with reading, when most kids will progress quickly in a supportive environment.

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#1940779 - 08/11/12 10:30 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
keystring Online   content
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Two things that I don't see mentioned here:

1. In regards to the taboo of not looking at the hands, ever, when reading. For distant keys and such, one can and does look at the piano. You want to have secure reading skills so that you glance at the piano and find your way right back to the sheet music. The instruction not to look at the hands is a way of getting a student not to depend on the hands and memory. I think a better instruction would be TO read the music because that's what the real goal is. Otherwise you get the quandary in the OP: if you should not (ever) look at the piano, then when the music gets hard should you memorize? That either/or should not exist.

2. Nobody has mentioned things like theory, understanding music, musical form and such. If you know there is such a thing as ABA form, can recognize patterns and repeating patterns, know where the music is leading to a cadence point and has reached it, recognize harmonic progressions, etc., then this will help both memorization AND reading. Part of playing is anticipation or knowing ahead of time where the music is going and where it came from.

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#1940791 - 08/11/12 10:56 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
i like Suzuki... it's very logical.. my only complaint is that once you are in the more advanced literature, it moves really fast. there are no pieces to reinforce what one has learned..you really need supplemental literature. I must have the perfect mother for this literature, because her kids have come to me well prepared. All i have to do is establish the music, hand, keyboard triangle and teach them to keep their eyes on the music. i love it.
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#1940851 - 08/11/12 01:35 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: piano2]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: piano2
When you have Suzuki transfer students, especially who were in Book 1, something broke down in the system. Most likely the parents didn't provide the environment that would allow the student to learn best.


I find it silly to blame the parents for their children's inability to read notes. I blame the teacher.
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#1940868 - 08/11/12 02:16 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
piano2 Offline
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Registered: 10/26/11
Posts: 79
AZN piano - pleae re-read my post (piano2), as I wasn't blaming the parent for the child not reading notes. I was merely explaining that in Book 1 Suzuki, note reading is not taught yet.
As I'm sure you know, for Suzuki method to work, the parent assists the child at home by playing the cd, and practicing with the child. The hardest job is to be the parent, and lots of them can't handle that role and take their child out of Suzuki as a result.
Then you get transfer students who can't read becaus they haven't been taught yet. It's your job to teach them since their parents have decided to go with traditional lessons.

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#1940891 - 08/11/12 03:22 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
ten left thumbs Offline
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Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
Does it become a problem that they are used to looking at their hands?
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#1940898 - 08/11/12 03:43 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: piano2]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: piano2
As I'm sure you know, for Suzuki method to work, the parent assists the child at home by playing the cd, and practicing with the child. The hardest job is to be the parent, and lots of them can't handle that role and take their child out of Suzuki as a result.

So you are blaming the parents.

Actually, the Suzuki transfers I've gotten are those who want to take CM, and then they find out that they actually have to (gasp!) do sight reading. I have several Suzuki transfers who have been doing CM several years, barely passing each year, and always getting "average" in the sight reading portion. BTW, "average" is the nice way of saying "you failed."

If most parents cannot invest that much time and effort in their children's Suzuki piano education, then maybe they are better off seeking traditional lessons. Do we agree there?
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#1940935 - 08/11/12 05:24 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
piano2 Offline
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Registered: 10/26/11
Posts: 79
So what are you doing, AZN piano, to help these students improve their sight reading once they come to you? Do you build their confidence by giving them sight reading that is easy and then progressively more difficult as they are ready for it? Do you allow them to learn their new pieces hands separately, section by section so that they can use their limited sight reading skills more easily? That is the way Suzuki students learn their pieces. Do you allow them to listen to recordings of their new pieces?

If they are Suzuki transfers and doing CM exams, then they aren't really "doing" Suzuki, are they? There are all kinds of Suzuki teachers - some take training, some do not. It's just like traditional teaching, in that respect.

If parents want only minimal involvement in their child's musical life, and think of music as something only for fun, then they should go with traditional lessons.

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#1940958 - 08/11/12 06:07 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: piano2]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4741
Loc: South Florida
There are ridiculous assumptions all over the place.

If parents do NOT help, the lessons are traditional. Whatever that means.

If parents DO help, lessons are not traditional. Whatever that means.

I teach scales, chords, foundation. I teach Bach, Beethoven, etc. I'm a fanatic about good fingering. And I absolutely insist that all my students begin reading music, in some manner from day one.

But I also insist that parents of my young students attend every lesson and help at home by learning WITH us. That's not traditional. That's not untraditional. It is just sane. I want educated parents.

In addition, the year is 2012. There are SO many kinds of music out there. I do not restrict my students to only one kind of music, so anything that is notated is fair game if they have the skills to learn the music. And part of being a fine musician is improvising, writing music. This is all TRADITIONAL.

Delaying teaching reading is not non-traditional. It is a mindset that justifies teaching one half of music, listening, playing from sound, exploring, without balancing it with the rudiments of the written part of the musical language.

So it's not traditional vs non-traditional. It is balance vs. no balance, where one aspect of music is hammered on while another is totally neglected. And when reading is neglected for two or three years, that part of music is hurt. The damage in tat area is often irreparable.

If, on the other hand, students are taught to reproduce written music like robots - even if said robots play "musically" - what in heaven's name is the good of that?

My point: don't talk about traditional. Talk about balance.
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#1940964 - 08/11/12 06:16 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
ezpiano.org Offline
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Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1002
Loc: Irvine, CA
Thank you Gary, you read my mind, I agree to everything that you said upstairs!
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#1940969 - 08/11/12 06:25 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: ten left thumbs]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4741
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
There is something wrong with *needing* to look at your fingers all the time while you play.

For Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?

Or for a Chopin Etude?

The issue is not about needing to look at the hands. The issue is that the looking takes the eyes off page too long, and then the eyes lose their location.

The solution is quick looks. The need to look often is insecurity about finding the keys without looking, and the cure for that is confidence. The confidence comes from better reading, and that automatically cuts down on the time the eyes are focused on the hands.
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#1940971 - 08/11/12 06:31 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
piano2 Offline
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Registered: 10/26/11
Posts: 79
Are either of you aware of the mother-tongue approach to music? It compares music learning to the way children learn their language. Most children learn to speak before they learn to read - it is similar with Suzuki piano. The students learn to play beautifully before learning to read the music.

Does this mean that children are "robots" because they repeat what their parents say when they learn to speak?

A little more education into what the Suzuki method is all about might be in line here.

I think there are many great methods for teaching piano. It's only the Suzuki method that is constantly put down. Why is that?

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#1940972 - 08/11/12 06:33 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: keystring]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4741
Loc: South Florida
Let me save some time:

Originally Posted By: keystring

For distant keys and such, one can and does look at the piano.

You want to have secure reading skills so that you glance at the piano and find your way right back to the sheet music.

I think a better instruction would be TO read the music because that's what the real goal is.

2. Nobody has mentioned things like theory, understanding music, musical form and such.

These are all 100% on target. Why any of these things need to be said is beyond me, but apparently they do need to be said.

The skill of reading DEMANDS looking at the hands as little as possible. Therefore reading itself automatically forces the eyes to spend more and more time looking at the page, and something else is rarely mentioned:

Over time peripheral vision allows us to see the keyboard much better than we realize. I have tested myself often by playing something, not looking at my hands for one second, eyes glued to the page, but I still see the keys. If I then play the exact same thing, eyes closed, my accuracy when the hands need to move is hugely decreased.
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#1940976 - 08/11/12 06:42 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: piano2]
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11556
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Originally Posted By: piano2
Are either of you aware of the mother-tongue approach to music? It compares music learning to the way children learn their language.

I am aware of what Suzuki calls "mother-tongue" and also how it is done. It may be an effective way of learning. However, it is NOT how children learn their language. Suzuki himself learned to play violin in his teens by listening to recordings, and incorporated that experience into his teaching. He assumed that this was how language is learned.

Here is what happens when a child learns his first language:
He explores how his body produces sounds, so he will squeak, growl, chant rhythmically, do "bronks cheers" . He probably gets a sense that sentences and gestures have a general meaning: a bottle being offered plus "DoYouWantYourMilk?" An infant seems to be programmed to learn things in particular stages. He also thinks and experiments.

If children learned through pure imitation, then the parent would model "I want some milk." and the child would repeat it. But the child says "Me want milk". An imitating child would not say "Me runned." or "I runned." This shows thinking, creativity, and looking for patterns.

So a true mother tongue approach seeking to imitate how children learn languages would proceed differently. You would have the child experiment what kinds of sounds he can produce on the piano, and be creative with it. You would have him hear general patterns in music, then specific things. You would let him discover and work with patterns, and be inventive as well as learning to play pieces.

Quote:
Does this mean that children are "robots" because they repeat what their parents say when they learn to speak?

Parents do a lot of modeling. But strictly speaking, that is not how children learn language. As per above. No, they are not robots, but this is also not what they do.

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#1941039 - 08/11/12 08:24 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
piano2 Offline
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Registered: 10/26/11
Posts: 79
I disagree. Children learn to speak the language that they hear in their environment. Sometimes it is more than one language - it is completely dependent on their environment.
Plus, when mom and dad get so excited about those first words and sentences - wow, what a lot of reinforcement and motivation to keep trying.

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#1941046 - 08/11/12 09:06 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: piano2]
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
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Originally Posted By: piano2
I disagree. Children learn to speak the language that they hear in their environment. Sometimes it is more than one language - it is completely dependent on their environment.

How does this relate to the process of learning that I described? How is this disagreeing with that process? You have stated that children learn to speak the language they hear. Have I said anything different? Only, I described how this happens.

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#1941095 - 08/11/12 11:03 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
piano2 Offline
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I'm sorry to hear that you haven't ever heard or worked with a good Suzuki piano player. Perhaps the teachers in your area aren't trained in the method.
I have heard lots of great Suzuki students, and was a Suzuki student as a child.

Anyways, I'm happy to agree to disagree.

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#1941358 - 08/12/12 11:53 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: ten left thumbs]
kck Offline
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Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 265
Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
There is something wrong with *needing* to look at your fingers all the time while you play.

If there are Suzuki advocates here, perhaps they can tell us how Suzuki gets round this? It is one of my concerns about Suzuki, that a student starts by not needing to read, and may become dependent on looking at the hands.


My 11 year old is an advanced Suzuki student (Suzuki book 6). He's been taking Suzuki piano for 6 years. I will also say our current teacher has a PhD, has taught traditional, and has taught at a college level.

Our teacher we had at the beginning and the one we have now start note reading right at the beginning. He encourages kids to be looking at their Suzuki music in book 2. The problem comes when 1) you have an extremely aural kid, who just has a hard time learning note reading. 2) you have a kid or parent who is enamored with racing through Suzuki repertoire and does not practice note reading. This does happen and there are teachers out there not doing a good job with note reading. There are teachers out there using Suzuki rep, but are not Suzuki trained and they often don't do a good job either. But often, I think it lies in the hand of the practice at home. Our teacher has some weak note readers, but he can't follow them home and make them work on it everyday.

Starting at book 2 and book 3, my kid started doing a bunch more outside repertoire. Like 2X-4X as much as just what is in the Suzuki books. Now, memorizing is more of a struggle than note reading and he could transfer to a traditional teacher without a problem. We also are working on some theory/scales/technqiue drills. He is given leeway in his own interpretation now. Looking at his hands too much is not an issue at all. confused

Anyway, I'm happy to share my son's youtube channel if people are interested (PM me). I think his earliest video I have of him online is at age 7 and book 2. The most recent is of him at piano camp last week playing a book 6 piece.
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#1941366 - 08/12/12 12:00 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: dmd]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4741
Loc: South Florida
Again, the problem is with the words "traditional" and "non-traditional".

There is nothing non-traditional about not teaching people to read music. There is nothing traditional about making sure that people do learn to read music.

I am extremely "aural", and I also read music effortlessly. I have at least two students right now who would have failed to read at all because their natural ability to play by ear is so strong. But they both read well.

If reading is not taught, people end up "blind". They play be ear, but they can't read music, or they read it painfully slowly.

If people are not encouraged to use their ears, they end up "deaf", unable to play what they hear but what is not written down.

It's really very basic, but not simple. There needs to be a balance.
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#1941377 - 08/12/12 12:29 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: Gary D.]
kck Offline
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I'm just a parent, but I don't disagree. At the end of the day, if you don't practice reading, you don't learn to read.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I have at least two students right now who would have failed to read at all because their natural ability to play by ear is so strong. But they both read well.


I don't understand what you mean here? They would have failed with a Suzuki teacher? My point was I have an advancing Suzuki student who is a strong aural learner AND a strong reader. I would say the majority of the more advanced students in our teacher's studio are the same. We go to a large music school with a few hundred Suzuki piano students, and this is the path the majority there are following should they choose to continue. In our experience, it is completely possible to develop ear training and develop note reading at the same time.

I think kids from all types of teachers can come out unbalanced or unprepared for a "career" in music. I don't understand why it seems all Suzuki teachers get grouped as "bad" in the piano world, but this doesn't happen to other piano teachers? There are good and bad teachers using various sorts of pedagogy.

Anyway - that's as long winded as I'll get. Just gets old hearing stereotypes about Suzuki kids when I know some really amazing Suzuki kids. I also know some mediocre Suzuki kids. The same goes for the kids at our music school using a traditional approach. It seems to come down to kids who practice vs. kids who do not practice.
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#1941382 - 08/12/12 12:37 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: kck]
ten left thumbs Offline
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Originally Posted By: kck


Our teacher we had at the beginning and the one we have now start note reading right at the beginning. He encourages kids to be looking at their Suzuki music in book 2. The problem comes when 1) you have an extremely aural kid, who just has a hard time learning note reading. 2) you have a kid or parent who is enamored with racing through Suzuki repertoire and does not practice note reading. This does happen and there are teachers out there not doing a good job with note reading. There are teachers out there using Suzuki rep, but are not Suzuki trained and they often don't do a good job either. But often, I think it lies in the hand of the practice at home. Our teacher has some weak note readers, but he can't follow them home and make them work on it everyday.



Thanks for this, kck. I am glad to hear your son is doing so well.

I am really interested in Suzuki, and still have a few questions. If you say the teachers started note reading from the beginning, then this is *not* what Suzuki method (as I have read about it) is all about. Everything is about starting out with listening, respecting teacher, posture, etc, and leaving note reading for later. So do the teachers depart from the method? Is that OK?

Now, if the teacher encourages students to look at the book from book 2, then this is already far in, possibly two years down the line, as there is a lot in book 1. And if someone starts to look at the book, they will have no idea what they are looking at. They will need to start out reading one note at a time. So, did you mean that book 2 was the beginning? Sorry, I'm just confused here.

This is my main problem with Suzuki. I understand it was a method developed for violin and now rolled out to other instruments. But reading for violin and for piano are very different. Reading for piano is more difficult because you have to read two clef, and often many notes, at once. Violin is one clef and mostly one note at a time. And the expectation of any pianist is that they can walk into a ballet class or a choir rehearsal and sightread. Now I'm not saying that violinists don't need to sightread, just that it's more of an issue for piano.

I quite hear what you say about the problem situations. tbh, those are problems no matter what technique is being used.
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#1941463 - 08/12/12 02:42 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: kck]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4741
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: kck

I don't understand what you mean here? They would have failed with a Suzuki teacher?

I am saying that with these students if I had not stressed reading from day one, their ears would have taken over, and they would have memorized everything. Suzuki is just a name to me. I don't care who uses it, or how. If reading is taught from day one, in some manner, very few people will fail to learn to read. If it is delayed, many students will become so successful at using ONLY the ear that their reading will never get fully on track.

It's that simple.
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#1941632 - 08/12/12 08:32 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: ten left thumbs]
kck Offline
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Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 265
Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs


Thanks for this, kck. I am glad to hear your son is doing so well.

I am really interested in Suzuki, and still have a few questions. If you say the teachers started note reading from the beginning, then this is *not* what Suzuki method (as I have read about it) is all about. Everything is about starting out with listening, respecting teacher, posture, etc, and leaving note reading for later. So do the teachers depart from the method? Is that OK?

Now, if the teacher encourages students to look at the book from book 2, then this is already far in, possibly two years down the line, as there is a lot in book 1. And if someone starts to look at the book, they will have no idea what they are looking at. They will need to start out reading one note at a time. So, did you mean that book 2 was the beginning? Sorry, I'm just confused here.

This is my main problem with Suzuki. I understand it was a method developed for violin and now rolled out to other instruments. But reading for violin and for piano are very different. Reading for piano is more difficult because you have to read two clef, and often many notes, at once. Violin is one clef and mostly one note at a time. And the expectation of any pianist is that they can walk into a ballet class or a choir rehearsal and sightread. Now I'm not saying that violinists don't need to sightread, just that it's more of an issue for piano.

I quite hear what you say about the problem situations. tbh, those are problems no matter what technique is being used.


I'm not a teacher grin, but I'll do my best. My kids have gone to national institute and I've sat through with some of the teacher training while my son participated in master classes, etc.

Reading introduction varies on what age a child starts. So a child that starts at 3 (haha! I just saw a 3 year old play at Institute), won't try reading until 4 or 5. My son started at 5, and started reading the same day because he could read text at that age. We had another curriculum for that (Alfred all in one, we used the Music Tree, we have tons of books we've gone through). There appear to be different thoughts about reading in the piano vs. the violin Suzuki world. I took Suzuki violin growing up and my youngest child that just turned 8 takes it too (she is in violin book 3). I think the piano teachers acknowledge the fact that reading for violin vs. piano is definitely different. Even so, this year my 8 year old will be attending note reading/pre-orchestra every saturday until next summer to help jump start note reading ability (she does do some note reading now and has for a while). The youngest pianists have group classes that are all early reading skill based. This is what a *good* Suzuki program looks like.

When we go to institute and are taught by the teachers who travel nationally to train and are highly qualified teachers to begin with (most have masters or doctorates), the teachers are highly frustrated by kids that are not well rounded and reading well by book 3 or 4, or probably after age 10 (given the child doesn't have learning disabilities). My son was 8 in book 3 and memorization more than note reading was the issue by that point too.

I think the method is most about parent involvement and encouraging the ear, and not at all about not allowing kids to learn to read. Suzuki students are learning to read at the same time more traditional students are starting, and as they are learning to text read(ages 5-8). When Suzuki was started he really advocated starting with 2 or 3 year olds and then it was more clear that note reading didn't make sense yet. Violinists that start after age 5-6 usually start note reading pretty quickly after starting too.

Anyway, hope that was somewhat helpful! smile
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#1941653 - 08/12/12 09:10 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: kck]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4741
Loc: South Florida
There are a couple things that stood out for me here:
Originally Posted By: kck

Reading introduction varies on what age a child starts. So a child that starts at 3 (haha! I just saw a 3 year old play at Institute), won't try reading until 4 or 5. My son started at 5, and started reading the same day because he could read text at that age.

That sounds right to me. Usually teaching reading before age 5 goes very slowly for me, and although I am not in any way involved in Suzuki, it is an absolute given for me that a parent will be in each lesson, learning with us. Normally that means the adult is far ahead of the child, actually teaching or assisting at home, and that involvement is incredibly important.

I do also believe that even when children are ready to begin reading music, there are all sorts of skills they can pick up that are non-reading. For instance, I like to cover intervals more or less by rote, things like 5ths to start out with, and very soon we get to major triads. "Simple" things for older kids, like a C major triad, are quite tricky for very small children. For instance, it is quite a tricky matter to get the 3rd finger to complete a major chord. C--G is normally no problem, CEG is very different. It involves getting that 3rd finger down without the 2nd or 4th finger going down too.

However, once a C chord is there, and it's hardly unreasonable to name that chord, the F and G chord are equally easy. D E and A major are usually very little problem to add to that.

I also don't think it is every to early to get a basic pattern like this started:

B 4321, E 321

This simple 7 note group is the essense of the C scale and later the concept behind all scales. If the hand does not cross but rather just picks up and moves to the second group, it will not take long for a child to get the hang of crossing. Going the other way, ascending in the RH, is about 10 times harder for my students, so we study inward motion first.

I would only say that by age six reading should be starting, seriously, for children who are developmentally a bit slower in that area (which has NOTHING to do with what they will eventually be able to do).

Age five seems reasonable for kids who are a bit more precocious. And there are those who read earlier than five (text), and certainly trying out some kind of recognition of how staff relates to keyboard is not unreasonable. If it is too early, you just stop that part of it and try in a few more months.

The other half, the ear, HAS to be developed somehow. If it is not, people retain the potential to pick out tunes, begin harmonizing, making up things, and so on, but they lose the belief that they can do these things and so may lose the interest in it or the belief that they can to it. Some people pick it up later (I did), but others do not, and I do very much regret not getting more guidance, early, in attempting to compose and play be ear.
Quote:

Even so, this year my 8 year old will be attending note reading/pre-orchestra every saturday until next summer to help jump start note reading ability (she does do some note reading now and has for a while). The youngest pianists have group classes that are all early reading skill based. This is what a *good* Suzuki program looks like.

Eight would be very late for a pianist. There are those who are potential readers, just waiting to explode, so if they start a bit later, they will still take off. But others by eight have missed a period of critial foundation.

I don't want to debate Suzuki, or any system, because good teachers tend to mix and match all sorts of concepts that work well.

I accept the idea that there are horrible teachers who claim to be teaching Suzuki. I have gotten some of their students, and when students come to us with horrible, crippling holes yet are able to fill those holes once they are intelligently addressed, it seems pretty clear to me where the fault lies.

But I have also heard many people say that they use some ideas from Suzuki, maybe even quite a few, but they do not follow the system blindly and feel free to add to it other things that are different. Again, I want to avoid the word "traditional".

I would wager that I am as non-traditional as any teacher most students will ever run into, but that does not stop me from blanket covering fundamentals.

I would prefer the terms "open-minded" and "close-minded". My motto is try anything reasonable, but abandon it immediately if it clearly is not working. Which means that exactly what works is never the same for any two students.
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#1941733 - 08/13/12 01:23 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: kck]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: kck
the teachers are highly frustrated by kids that are not well rounded and reading well by book 3 or 4, or probably after age 10 (given the child doesn't have learning disabilities). My son was 8 in book 3 and memorization more than note reading was the issue by that point too.

Are these all Suzuki kids you're talking about?

So what does the teacher do to address such reading issues?
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#1941762 - 08/13/12 03:21 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: kck]
ten left thumbs Offline
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Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
thanks kck, that is helpful. You may not be a teacher, but it is really helpful to have someone fill in the reality, as opposed to the blurb on the website - and to see it from a piano point of view.

Just to address one point:

Originally Posted By: kck

I think the method is most about parent involvement and encouraging the ear, and not at all about not allowing kids to learn to read.


I never once imagine that Suzuki would be about disallowing students to read. But there is a big difference between 'allowing' and actually enabling it to happen, which is what teaching is all about. I do take your point about supplementing with other materials, and about the age of the child. I also think, where Suzuki works, it is because of deep family commitment.
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#1942284 - 08/13/12 11:11 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: AZNpiano]
kck Offline
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Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 265
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: kck
the teachers are highly frustrated by kids that are not well rounded and reading well by book 3 or 4, or probably after age 10 (given the child doesn't have learning disabilities). My son was 8 in book 3 and memorization more than note reading was the issue by that point too.

Are these all Suzuki kids you're talking about?

So what does the teacher do to address such reading issues?


Yes, these were all Suzuki piano kids observed at a summer institute master classes. I've seen instances of master teachers pulling a parent aside and questioning their teacher choice. My kid has had 3 teachers. The middle one used Suzuki repertoire, but was not Suzuki trained, and did not teach sight reading or technqiue well, and was letting my then 7 year old fly through repertoire. It was clear to me that was a train wreck waiting to happen, and we switched after about 6 months. Actually, the first Suzuki institute we went to after leaving this teacher resulting in me getting grilled by a master teacher. Both our 1st and the 3rd teachers were educated to the PhD level, were Suzuki trained, and are amazing performers themselves. Both had us in supplementary reading material from day 1.

I totally feel like a poser answering questions about Suzuki here. grin I have been observing in a large Suzuki program for 6 years and my son has been to 5 Suzuki institutes (and has been in many competitions and master classes in Suzuki and non-Suzuki settings. He does piano guild every spring and has taken theory exams too).
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#1942353 - 08/14/12 03:29 AM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: kck]
ten left thumbs Offline
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Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
Originally Posted By: kck


I totally feel like a poser answering questions about Suzuki here. grin


Not at all. smile It's actually quite refreshing to hear your experiences, good and bad, without this turning into a Suzuki glorifying/bashing match.
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#1942556 - 08/14/12 12:50 PM Re: Memorizing versus Reading Notation [Re: ten left thumbs]
kck Offline
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Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 265
Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
Originally Posted By: kck


I totally feel like a poser answering questions about Suzuki here. grin


Not at all. smile It's actually quite refreshing to hear your experiences, good and bad, without this turning into a Suzuki glorifying/bashing match.


Thanks! I'm not saying Suzuki is the only way to learn piano well. I've hear many very accomplished young pianists that are not using a Suzuki approach too (I hear hundreds of kids a year). I just think it's much more complex than Suzuki = no note reading = bad. I actually think there is more overlap than not as kids advance. Good teachers that cater to students as individuals and a student that practices as asked who has a supportive family is a good recipe for success no matter what road you take. If our teacher retired or left, we'd look at non-Suzuki teachers at this point too. And I think my kid could have been successful with many good teachers. FTR, I did take piano lessons with a "regular" teacher.

A couple interesting links I had bookmarked for anyone super interested. Nice short article about what a typical Suzuki piano lesson looks like ...
http://www.jennymacmillan.co.uk/6%20Suzuki%20lessons%20Listening,%20technique%20and%20musicianship.pdf

This is a book put together of quotes from 10 of the bigger names for teaching/training in Suzuki piano. This links directly to the section on reading. My kid has had master classes with 3 of the contributors and we've observed a 4th.
http://books.google.com/books?id=drx3f7m...rpt&f=false
One thing that is interesting about this is it shows that even accomplished, successful teachers don't necessarily see eye to eye on how and when things should be introduced. But I certainly see it is a general theme here that teachers do consider reading an important skill for young pianists.

Wheew - ok done.
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