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#944343 - 05/21/06 11:34 PM Russian vs Suzuki etc.
Captain Obvious Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/13/06
Posts: 182
I'm a newb working through Teach Yourself To Play Piano. I contacted a teacher today, and she told me she uses the Russian style of teaching. I can't really find out much about this. I've also heard of the Suzuki method, but from what I could find, it sounds like that is more geared towards small children.

How many major types of teaching methods are there? Are some better suited for adults than others? What is the most popular or most common?

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#944344 - 05/22/06 10:35 AM Re: Russian vs Suzuki etc.
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
Some of it depends on the styles your interested in learning or what you want to gain out of learning piano.

I've heard nothing but good things about Russian teaching. I assume it's geared toward classical training.

I don't know enough about the Suzuki method except bits and pieces from teachers I've read in other threads on this forum.

Then method books like, Alfred's, Bastein, Faber and Faber don't seem to have a huge difference betweeen them in teaching approach so if choosing one of these, I would choose the method with the music that most appeals to you.

There's several other good methods, Glover, John Thompson, Francis Clark . . . In looking over quite a few method books several times at the music store, I haven't really ran into any I wouldn't advise. There's a few that get are more challenging from the start beyond 5 finger positions. I think a lot of it depends mostly on which method has music that seems most appealing to you.

Obviously, I don't know the teacher who you've found, but it might be a good choice as from what I've heard of Russian teachers, they teach excellent technique. Again it depends what you want to learn - styles, etc. I had an instructor that only taught classical music and when I first started I inquired about learning pop arrangements, etc. - his reply was, "learn to play classical music first, then you can go on to play the pop, etc". If it were me, I'd try the Russian style teacher, because I would want the serious, classical training, with the best tips out there on correct technique. Perhaps ask what kinds of music you would be learning - what music the teacher would start you out on.

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#944345 - 05/23/06 10:14 AM Re: Russian vs Suzuki etc.
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
Others will be able to comment more exactly than me, but I have spent many, many hours with my Russian teacher and I would sum up the classical Russian training like this:

very close attention to the score
very close attention to fingerings, timing, tempo and dynamics
a great deal of attention given to touch - exactly how a key is struck. This is dealt with in great detail and is what gives huge dynamic control at will. It requires a great deal of practice to learn well
extremely robust and well founded technique
this is developed with both repertoire and exercises
very strong work ethic

I have benefited hugely from this approach and have learnt a great deal from this young woman who has a far more piercing and incisive style than any teacher I have encountered before. Her day job is as a concert pianist, not teaching.

However, a word of caution. I am not a beginner. I don't have any experience of Russian teaching methodology for new students.

Teachers vary in their ability to covey their method.

Good luck

Adrian
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#944346 - 05/23/06 11:14 AM Re: Russian vs Suzuki etc.
Piano&Violin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/06
Posts: 356
Loc: Frankfurt, Germany
My teacher is not Russian and did not explicitly say that he's teaching according to the Russian method, but his emphasis is very much on what Adrian described. And as I want to get the classical training and like to go for detail, I just love it.

Before I met with my teacher, from all the piano schools available, I had picked the russian piano school which says that it's a German edition of what's used in piano schools in Russia, because I liked that best. And that's what we've been working with, plus a few additional pieces my teacher chooses.

Here as well, Russian teachers and method have an excellent reputation and if you wish to learn the classical method and are ready to invest some time and effort, I'd go for it. If you prefer something else, you may not like it.

As that teacher specifically stated that she'd be teaching the Russion method, I'd not try to convince her to teach something else because she may not like it and then not be good at something else, if she would be willing to use another method I mean.

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#944347 - 05/24/06 03:52 AM Re: Russian vs Suzuki etc.
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
The Russian method, as taught to young children
in Russia, is something of a mystery. From
what I can gather, it is just plain hard
work on fundamentals, in the old-fashioned
way. Plus, there would apparently be
a lot of screening for superior talent (the
type of student who takes to the piano
like a fish to water and thus facilitates
the learning process at every step--this
might actually be the key ingredient in the
so-called Russian "method"), with the best
prospects channeled into the best schools
with the best teachers. Thus, this method
would not be available to an adult beginner.

The Suzuki method, from what I gather, is
an intensive ear-training method in the
early stages. The beginner first plays
by ear, imitating recorded piano pieces,
then only later starts to read sht. music.
Apparently, the Suzuki method originated
with the violin and was later adapted to
the piano, but here is where there might
be some problems, because the violin
and piano are fundamentally different
instruments. It's much easier to play
by ear when you're playing a single-line
melody, as on the violin, but with the
piano you're playing multi-part music,
and that's harder to sort out by ear.
I would think any age could be taught
by the Suzuki method, although it probably
is easier with pliable youngsters.

The most common method, at least in the
US, seems to be the so-called traditional
method, with a classical orientation. The
method would be the same with children
and adults. In this method you are trained
as though you are a budding concert pianist,
even if you're a senior citizen. I guess
the optimistic American attitude is behind
this, since, for example, the American
educational system teaches all students
as though they are going to go on to college.

In this traditional method you are taught
to memorize all of the substantial pieces
you learn, which you would then play at
recitals. Thus, memorization is emphasized
at the expense of everything else, since
this is how concert pianists perform.
Musically important things like
sight-reading, improvisation,
transposition, theory, etc., would be
given little or no emphasis. Thus, classical
students will typically know little or
no theory and will not be able to
sight-read, improvise, or transpose well.

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#944348 - 05/24/06 05:40 AM Re: Russian vs Suzuki etc.
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
Gyro - with respect, your last paragraph is utter nonsense!

I don't agree with para 1 either. It is not how it has been described to me - by Russian pianists and teachers. Cant see the mystery about it either.

:-)

Adrian
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#944349 - 05/24/06 10:43 AM Re: Russian vs Suzuki etc.
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2837
Loc: UK.
 Quote:
Originally posted by AJB:

very close attention to the score
very close attention to fingerings, timing, tempo and dynamics
a great deal of attention given to touch - exactly how a key is struck. This is dealt with in great detail and is what gives huge dynamic control at will. It requires a great deal of practice to learn well
extremely robust and well founded technique
this is developed with both repertoire and exercises
very strong work ethic


Adrian [/b]
Sounds good to me. What more could you want?
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#944350 - 05/24/06 10:56 AM Re: Russian vs Suzuki etc.
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
 Quote:
Originally posted by Gyro:

In this traditional method you are taught
to memorize all of the substantial pieces
you learn, which you would then play at
recitals. Thus, memorization is emphasized
at the expense of everything else, since
this is how concert pianists perform.
Musically important things like
sight-reading, improvisation,
transposition, theory, etc., would be
given little or no emphasis. Thus, classical
students will typically know little or
no theory and will not be able to
sight-read, improvise, or transpose well. [/b]
Although there are teachers out there probably who don't emphasize all the "musically important" things mentioned here and mainly concentrate on reading music from a score, obviously it can't be said as a general assumption of all teachers. A person just has to ask a prospective teacher if they include these things in the lesson. I try to include as much of these areas as possible: extra work on technique, theory, music history, ear-training, sight-reading,try to help with compositions occasionally. That is my ideal anyway but in reality there is no way one can fit all these aspects in to a 30 min. lesson. I even extended my lessons to 40 min. to allow more time to cover some of these areas. Without adding more lesson time (which would mean a higher fee for the student), the students have to almost work on some of these areas via home assignments especially theory, and music history and many young students at least (I haven't had adults but would like to) fail to complete the assignments in these areas at home. To include all these aspects in a lesson really would require AT LEAST an hour lesson time, which means the student has to be willing to pay more. A student can't expect to learn about all those areas in a 30 min. per week time frame. I think the main thing is to ask what the teacher includes, don't be afraid to ask at the lesson about something you're interested in learning the teacher isn't including. If you start out with a teacher emphasizing classical training, for example, give it a fair shot - you can always change if you decide it's not your cup of tea. I think the reason different teachers emphasize different areas is because it's almost impossible to cover every aspect there is to music. Do any readers have or know of teachers who cover a lot of these aspects in teaching and how do they go about it? I try my best to teach a wide variety of styles and aspects of music and teach where the students interests are but it is difficult to cover everything that is important.

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#944351 - 06/01/06 01:04 PM Re: Russian vs Suzuki etc.
Jan-Erik Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/18/05
Posts: 1302
Loc: Finland
I have been tought by the old Russian method since I was 7 to the age of 17.

I did not learn music theory but practised much many types of finger exercises, thus I became familiar with basic harmonies and got a tactile feel of the keyboard to some extent.

I learned how to read a score and to respect the music and the composers. When playing in public you had to be well prepared - no mediocrasy was allowed.

My teacher did not teach me improvisation, although she had got top scores herself in the Moscow conservatory in improvisation.

She made the choice of music for my repertoire. For some reason I never played Chopin (which I do nowadays). She said I was not mature for Chopin's music...

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#944352 - 09/11/06 04:40 AM Re: Russian vs Suzuki etc.
buxtehude Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 499
Loc: Copenhagen, Denmark
Yes, Jan-Erik, precisely: "no mediocrasy allowed".

I had the opportunity to ask the founders of the Suzuki-violin school in Denmark the question. They were brought up in Hungary in the 20's and 30's, when the 'Russian method' had been implemented everywhere. And they said as Gyro does: "(...) it is just plain hard work on fundamentals, in the old-fashioned way. Plus (...) screening for superior talent (the type of student who takes to the piano like a fish to water and thus facilitates the learning process at every step) (...), with the best prospects channeled into the best schools with the best teachers." They fled in '56 and has rebelled against this method ever since.

Know your Hanon by heart, practice four hours a day, and stay away if you are no good. That's the Russian 'method'.

Se also the thread: "Rachmaninoff interview" somewhere on these pages.

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#944353 - 09/11/06 08:02 AM Re: Russian vs Suzuki etc.
WKS70 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/04/03
Posts: 186
Loc: GA
AJB's summary of Russian teaching is exactly the way my teacher goes about things. My teacher is from Brazil, and my impression has been that it was more of a European style of music education, not that it was "Russian". Whether it's called European or Russian, it's been a wonderful, learning journey, and I can't see how anyone could go wrong with it. It's certainly far stronger than a traditional, American approach. Go for it, Captain Obvious!

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#944354 - 09/12/06 06:07 PM Re: Russian vs Suzuki etc.
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 538
 Quote:
Originally posted by AJB:

very close attention to the score
very close attention to fingerings, timing, tempo and dynamics
a great deal of attention given to touch - exactly how a key is struck. This is dealt with in great detail and is what gives huge dynamic control at will. It requires a great deal of practice to learn well
extremely robust and well founded technique
this is developed with both repertoire and exercises
very strong work ethic

[/b]
These sound wonderful! Given my little experience in piano I wouldn't be able to tell whether these are Russian style or just what any good teacher would do. My son's Russian teacher does fit some of these descriptions so far. One of the things that he says frequently is "don't give me notes, give me music", and I like it very much...

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#944355 - 09/13/06 02:43 AM Re: Russian vs Suzuki etc.
buxtehude Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 499
Loc: Copenhagen, Denmark
 Quote:
Originally posted by AJB:

very close attention to the score
very close attention to fingerings, timing, tempo and dynamics
a great deal of attention given to touch - exactly how a key is struck. This is dealt with in great detail and is what gives huge dynamic control at will. It requires a great deal of practice to learn well
extremely robust and well founded technique
this is developed with both repertoire and exercises
very strong work ethic [/b]
Well, perhaps it is because my son's teacher is half russian, that I too think that this is what any good teacher would teach. It's certainly what I've seen tought at work shops, master classes etc. I still think though the secret is in last paragraph: "very strong work ethic".

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