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Generally speaking, people in our current society are forgetting to think about what will happen ten years from now as they pursue momentary fun. We have to consider what the results of our present actions will be ten years hence. We can apply this to learning to play piano, and we can apply it to learning daily discipline and manners at home.
I often find shortsightedness on the part of stay-at-home mothers who do not have close contact with outside community or society-at-large. When they are alone and isolated at home, their source of satisfaction is sometimes the result of a single experience. When their children do well, it brings momentary happiness and pride to such parents; however, I think it is very important for any parent to think about how her child will be able to live independently, even if he or she loses the parent. Teaching essential survival skills as an independent person to young children is, I believe, a reflection of true love. Even though the bond between parents and children is strong, the individual personalities we were given by God at birth are all different. I can point to concrete examples of this within my own family experience. So children's decisions should be their own. I do not think parents should impose on a child's own future once he or she has made choices according to his or her own personality, even though they may have wished for a different path.
Mr. Ototake's book, No One's Perfect, really touched me. (Translator's note: Mr. Ototake was born without arms or legs.) Of course, he himself has a wonderful message for us, but more than that, I was really touched by how wonderful his parents had been for him. They were always fully aware that a person's heart and soul are far more important than a body, so they focused on nurturing their physically handicapped son's heart and soul. They disciplined him just like any other child with a complete body. I imagine, though, that other people probably did not always appreciate the way they handled their son. These others always treated the boy as a handicapped person, which must have caused him his greatest mental and physical hardship and challenge on top of the really difficult work of learning to accomplish ordinary activities such as eating and writing.
The parents always kept in mind a time ten or twenty years in the future when their son would be an independent member of society as they were making tremendous effort to provide him with the support he needed. In the book, they mention their experience very pleasantly as if it were nothing. That really impressed me. They truly have class.
In my opinion, parents these days do too much for even "physically perfect" children. Parents do almost everything for them, and then the parents are happy just looking into their children's happy faces. This is, in reality, just self-satisfaction on the part of the parents.
There are two good Japanese proverbs: Even if you fall down seven times, get up on your feet again for the eighth time, and Failure brings success. I think parents should be a little more strict to children and let them experience failure. It is a good idea to make them help you more in your daily work so that they may have this experience in natural situations. In the old days, children had to clean the house and help around the kitchen. Not only that, we were taught how to clean the house and how to put away dishes very strictly. When I did not do a good job, I was always scolded. In Matsumoto City, children ride in the car instead of walking, and their legs and backs are getting weak. They also do not know how to take a train or a bus. In my memory, I was made to go places about an hour and a half away from home for errands. I had to take my younger brother with me, and I had to use a bus and a train. The old days were surely more peaceful and less dangerous than things are today, but I do remember that I felt very nervous about not dropping or losing important things on my journey.
I also know someone who had to do all the daily shopping at the market from the time she was six because her mother was sick in bed. This person is such a good shopper as an adult.
Please teach your children more manners in your daily life. (For example, how to say please and thank you.) If we do not teach them, the children will become self-centered adults without compassion. The strict discipline parents give their children now will create wonderful qualities in their lives ten or twenty years from now. Let us not just think about the short- term. Long-term goals are truly important.
It seems that every day incidents involving young people are reported on the TV news, terrible things which make us think, Even this? Even this? It puts me in a dark mood. We must think about why such horrible behavior from some of the young generation has come to be. As with any phenomenon, there is always a cause which produces an effect.
In the first place, humans are very different from animals in that it takes so many years between birth and full, independent maturity: roughly twenty years. Most animals mature in about a year. We are given a long time to cultivate a child's heart into that of an adult. This is a very important time.
Humans also have heart and spirit, not just body. A good heart does not just grow by itself. Just as the body needs something to eat, the heart needs to be nourished with an earnest education in the basics of human rules and a high level of the arts. If a body is given food and sleep every day, it will grow. The child grows taller and heavier, and we can see this with our eyes, so we get a sense of satisfaction. The heart, however, cannot be seen, and we cannot tell whether it is growing, so we may forget to cultivate it.
No matter how much our mechanized civilization advances, human beings are wonderful beyond compare. Machines are merely precise. The marvelous thing about humans is that, although we may lack precision, we still have our hearts and our spirits.
Age 0 to 20 is the time for learning. Children learn from all the objects and actions around them. It is a time of building, and everything should be built solid. When this is the case, the twenty-year accumulation becomes a resource for pursuing one's life. The quality of children's learning is determined by what they see in childhood, what they hear, how much endurance, effort, and concentration they experience, how much parents taught and sternly raised them with intensity and love.
A child with a good upbringing cannot do things like get angry and want to hurt someone when he does not get what he wants. Nor does he think that it is fine to disrupt other people when things turn out well.
Children built with bad material are truly pitiful. They do things that are unthinkable. Who raised this misfit? The parents, of course. Thirty years ago, after giving "It is a mistake to put children in prison. They should imprison the parents." But parents are not specialists in education. Looking around the world, we see people in high positions of leadership doing bad things for fame and fortune. Children learn from this too. If adults are doing this, it is inevitable that children will imitate them.
Quite a while back, I saw a report on TV about an American teenager who had committed a horrible crime. Instead of being put in prison he was sent to a youth reform facility. One of the advisors there said, "When teenagers are put in prison, they live with adult prisoners who have done nothing but bad things. They learn from the bad adults how to do bad things. When they leave at the end of their sentences, almost 80 percent of these kids commit another crime. At this facility we guide them with love to get in touch with their real heart, and to require them to reflect on their actions. This really brings down the number of future crimes." I was deeply impressed by how much teenagers are learning.
I think that children who study piano are fortunate. Playing a tune by Bach or Mozart is like getting to know Bach or Mozart as friends. The players are influenced by these personages who are truly worthy of respect. They learn from them. There is no way they can go on to do anything bad.
In the Suzuki Piano Method, we now have several different editions of the repertoire and the sequence in which it is to be presented. The repertoire and sequence were originally decided upon by three teachers, Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, Dr. Haruko Kataoka, and Mrs. Shizuko Suzuki.
Naturally, everyone knows Dr. Shinichi Suzuki was the genius behind the creation of the Suzuki Philosophy and the Suzuki Violin Method. However, not everyone knows what role Dr. Suzuki, Dr. Kataoka, and Mrs Shizuko Suzuki played in the formation of the Suzuki Piano Method. A clear understanding of the editions of the Suzuki repertoire is not possible without this information.
Mrs. Shizuko Suzuki was Dr. Suzuki's sister-in-law. When Dr. Suzuki first had the idea to adapt the Suzuki Violin Method to the piano, Mrs. Suzuki, a pianist, was the logical choice. Until Dr. Suzuki's death, Mrs. Suzuki's teaching was directly based upon his advice about piano teaching and technique. She did not claim to be the type of teacher who researches ideas and often deferred to Dr. Kataoka at conferences and teaching sessions when such topics arose (as witnessed by this author).
Dr. Kataoka's first exposure to the Suzuki Method began as an accompanist for Dr. Suzuki's violin students. For ten years she carefully observed Dr. Suzuki's teaching and researched ideas for the same type of piano methodology. Eventually, she formed a class of students and became the teacher-trainer at Dr. Suzuki's school, The Talent Education Institute, in Matsumoto. She continues teaching with a researching spirit and has helped teachers all over the world become better teachers and pianists.
The first edition of the Suzuki Piano Method was published in Japan by Zen-On. A few years later Summy-Birchard obtained all publishing rights for every country outside Japan. The most recent editions for countries outside of Japan are published by Warner Brothers.
Each edition has its own problems and discrepancies. The biggest problem is in regard to fingerings; however, all three editions have mistakes in other areas as well. As a result, Suzuki piano teachers are more confused than ever. This problem is the most obvious during workshops. Clinicians see so many different fingerings now that it is impossible to know whether the student is playing correctly or not. Fingerings for the beginner and intermediate level student are not a matter of personal taste; yet, teachers and students have become quite creative with fingering selections and beginners are not always learning basic fingering patterns.
The purpose of this new column will be to discuss some differences in these editions from a pedagogical standpoint and especially to clarify what fingering Dr. Kataoka teaches in these pieces. The column will begin with Volume I and progress through Volume 7 Whenever possible, especially for the upper-level books, facsimiles of original manuscripts and reliable urtext editions will be consulted. So, let's get started.
The beginning of Volume 1 in the Zen-On and Summy-Birchard editions contain an abundance of unnecessary finger exercises. These were intended by someone to be preparatory exercises for the Twinkle Variations and are printed for the Right Hand alone, Left Hand alone, and then Hands Together. For a fact, Dr. Kataoka has not done these exercises with her students for at least 28 years and probably never did. The Warner Brothers edition correctly deleted these exercises.
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star Variations
The biggest confusion in the Suzuki Piano Method has been caused by the way the Twinkle Variations were printed in the Zen-On and Summy-Birchard editions. These books show them to be played Hands Together. Dr. Kataoka has stated many times during past years that she never taught the Twinkles Hands Together because it would lead to poor technique and tone production. The Warner Brothers edition correctly prints the Twinkles as pieces to be played Hands Separately.
The next problem is that in all three editions the fingerings are incorrect. All three editions list the fingerings for the Right Hand as:
Do Sol La Sol Fa Mi Re Do Sol Fa Mi Re 1 4 5 4 4 3 2 1 5 4 3 2...
The Warner Brothers edition also lists an optional fingering:
Do Sol La Sol Fa Mi Re Do Sol Fa Mi Re 1 4 5 4 3 2 1 1 5 4 3 2...
The fingerings printed in all three editions for the Left Hand Twinkles are:
Do Sol La Sol Fa Mi Re Do Sol Fa Mi Re 5 2 1 2 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4...
The optional fingering in the Warner Brothers edition is:
Do Sol La Sol Fa Mi Re Do Sol Fa Mi Re 5 2 1 2 3 4 5 5 1 2 3 4...
None of these fingerings have been used by Dr. Kataoka for a very long time, if ever. For a fact, she has not been seen using the fingerings listed above with her own students for at least 28 years.
Teachers may wonder why these fingerings are unacceptable. Children can learn to remember anything, so why would this be an issue? It is an issue because the fingerings are inconsistent each time Sol is played in the piece. The students have to practice an extra amount simply to remember when Sol should be played by the Right Hand's finger 5 or 4, or the Left Hand's finger 2 or 1, and when to play the Right Hand's finger 4 (or Left Hand's finger 2) two times in a row. The inconsistency of these fingerings interrupts and delays the actual goal of teaching secure technique and tone production.
The fingerings Dr. Kataoka teaches consistently use the same finger on Sol which avoids confusion by the student or parent. The Right Hand fingerings are:
Do Sol La Sol Fa Mi Re Do Sol Fa Mi Re 1 4 5 4 3 2 1 1 4 3 2 1...
The Left Hand fingerings are:
Do Sol La Sol Fa Mi Re Do Sol Fa Mi Re 5 2 1 2 3 4 5 5 2 3 4 5...
Volume 1 will be continued in the next issue of the newsletter.
NVC Arts, Warner Music Division
(search under "video" on amazon.com)
This video gives us a great opportunity to see up front and close film clips of the great pianists we listen to every day. It provides a historical perspective, and includes revealing information about the pianists' lives.
The video opens with various artists spliced together for one performance of the Sonata No.23 in F minor Opus 57 Appassionata by Beethoven. It is fascinating to see the same piece move from Claudio Arrau to Myra Hess to Sviatoslav Richter and then to Artur Rubinstein!
The film continues to explore virtuosity as well as individual musical interpretation. It encapsulates the enthusiastic audiences, the various personalities, and history making piano performances of the last century.
Joseph Hofmann (1876-1957) Rachmaninoff: Prelude Number 2 in C# minor, Opus 3 - New York, 1945. This is the only filmed appearance of Joseph Hoffman, a student of Anton Rubinstein who was considered by his follow pianists to be the "best of the best".
Vladimir Horowitz (1904-1989) Bizet, arranged by Horowitz: Variations on a theme from Carmen - Carnegie Hall, New York, 1968. There is a great story on the video about this final concert at Carnegie Hall. This was Horowitz's first performance in twelve years. Tickets had sold out in hours. He arrived one hour after the concert was scheduled to begin. After being pushed onto the stage, "You were physically hit by the applause." Then as he went to the piano: "The silence was as loud as the applause," His look after finishing an astonishing performance of his arrangement of Bizet's Carmen "is priceless".
Emil Gilels (1916-1985) Rachmaninoff: Prelude Number 5 in G minor, Opus 23 - Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, 1943. This performance was filmed by the Russian Military and takes place during World War II on the front line". "The troops need to remember why the war is worth fighting." War planes are flying overhead. At one point as a plane flies so low you can barely hear the piano, Emil Gilels looks up, but keeps playing. This film clip is intense!
Glenn Gould (1932-1982) Bach: Piano Concerto Number 1 in D minor - New York Philharmonic, conductor Leonard Bernstein, 1960. This is one of my favorite pieces, and this performance is incredible. The video perpetuates Gould's eccentric image, and shows his total commitment to his work.
Claudio Arrau (1903-1991) Beethoven: Sonata in C minor, Opus 111 - Paris, 1970. The video ends here with a performer who may exhibit many of the qualities of the other pianists, but in my opinion is not their equal. Helene Perrakos says about Claudio Arrau in her article on the film, "The film exploration of the art of piano ends with Claudio Arrau, who seems to reconcile certain apparently contradictory trends: the art of flexibility, of free intuition, with the discipline, the gravity and the calm of a cerebral as much as a sensual approach."
Although being able to see some of the lesser recorded artists of the early part of the century (Joseph Hofmann and Francis Plante) is interesting, some of our important living pianists (Alicia do Larrocha and Andras Schiff) are missing. Hopefully, another video will pick up where this one left off.
From listening and watching this video you can see the application of the basics in the playing of the great artists. While my students noticed that some pianists were "sitting too low" (especially Glenn Gould), or "moving their head," I was amazed at how the basics were inherent to all of their playing. Highly Recommended
A lot of times you feel the need to blow off your practice. You're not in the mood; all those repetitions are too boring; and the list of excuses is endless. Here's what happened when I decided to get lazy about my practicing.
It was the day of an annual Spring Recital. While I was waiting for my turn to perform, an awful pit formed in the base of my stomach. The bad thing was, this feeling only occurred when I knew I hadn't practiced enough. When I got ready to begin my piece, I had no clue where to start. The keys on the keyboard seemed to be all mixed up. I was only able to begin after a teacher helped me. I wanted to die right there on the spot. I was so humiliated.
A few months later I was about to have a lesson. I had been practicing everything I was assigned to do for an hour each day. During my lesson my efforts paid off: my scale was nice; all my Czerny pieces were checked off; and my two current Book 6 pieces had greatly improved. Not only did this turn-around in my practice habits make me happier, but it made everyone else happier as well. My parents felt better because they knew I had improved, and my teacher was relieved to know that the time and effort she was putting into my lessons was actually having some effect on me.
I highly recommend sticking with your piano practices so you don't end up in a jam like I did at that Spring Recital. Not only will it make playing the piano more enjoyable, but it will make everyone else feel better as well.
Sarah Khatibzadeh is twelve years old and began her piano study at age five with Cathy Williams-Hargrave. She has attended several workshops with Kataoka Sensei and performed on the 10-Piano Concert in Sacramento. She has two younger sisters who also study the piano.
If you have not seen our web site, which contains past newsletters, a growing body of research material, and piano links, please visit us:
Piano Basics Foundation has recently been organized to support the method or teaching and playing the piano taught at the Talent Education Research Institute in Matsumoto, Japan by Dr. Haruko Kataoka. Piano Basics Foundation will provide its members with recordings, books and videotapes with free postage and handling. For complete listings see
An order form for books, videotapes and recordings (instructional materials) from the catalogue follows below. If you are looking for a particular recording, enclose a note with the composer's name, instrument, name of the piece and the name of the artist. We will let you know if it is available or not.
May 2, 1999
Harmony Hall, Matsumoto
The Suzuki Method 10-Piano Concert has grown to Include 250 students
ORDER NOW! PBF 5009
Member Price $100.00
La Campanella - F. Liszt "Favorites"
Consolation No.3, Hungarian Rhapsodie No.2, Liebestraume No.3 and others
ORDER NOW! ESP OO6
Member Price $17.00
August 6 1999
Sacramento Community Center Theater
ORDER NOW! PBF 5010
Member Price $40.00
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First Online Edition: 24 December 2000
Last Revised: 8 March 2012