Vol. 12.2 March/April 2007

To facilitate, promote, and educate the public
on the way of teaching and playing the piano taught at the
Talent Education Research Institute in Matsumoto, Japan by Dr. Haruko Kataoka.

Piano Basics Foundation News

Editors and Layout
Dr. Karen Hagberg and Teri Paradero
Mayumi Yunus - Translations
Phyllis Newman - Proofreading

Web Editors
Carol Wunderle - Volume 12.2
Kenneth Wilburn, Senior Web Editor

Hard Copy Illustrations
Juri Kataoka

Leah Brammer - Media
Rita Burns - Workshops

Production and Distribution
Linda Nakagawa, Barbara Meixner, and the Sacramento Teachers Research Group

Send Articles to:
Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation
67 Shepard St., Rochester NY 14620
Fax: 585-244-3542

Linda Nakagawa
242 River Acres Drive
Sacramento, CA, USA 95831
Phone: 916-422-2952

Next Deadline: April 1, 2007

To Achieve Something Worthwhile, Do It Over and Over Again

By Haruko Kataoka

From the Matsumoto Suzuki Piano Newsletter
Vol.7 No.1, June 1, 1997
Translated by Chisa Aoki
Teri Paradero
Edited by Karen Hagberg
Illustrations by Juri Kataoka

From the moment of birth, human beings begin to accumulate the performance of repetitive tasks. First of all, are the basic abilities that necessitate the mere feat of existence: sleeping, waking, eating. [We think nothing of doing such things repeatedly], however, when people are ordered to do something over and over, they begin to question the value of this: "Do the same, monotonous thing over and over? It’s stupid and pointless. I’m bored to death, and it makes me want to quit doing this dull, uninspiring stuff. I’d rather start something more difficult and sophisticated."

So what is the reason to do the same thing over and over?

To answer this question, first, people must absolutely be able to differentiate between what they know intellectually and what they can actually do. When I was young I believed in the mistaken notion that understanding something meant that I was able to do it. When my mother persistently reminded me of the same things over and over, I would think to myself, "I know this already! You’re annoying me! Why do you have to keep repeating yourself?" However, when we go into the world as adults, with adult responsibilities, we come to realize what a tremendous mistake it is to think that way. For example, we discover that it really is good to rise early, not to be lazy, to work hard, etc. Yet even though everybody may agree on these values, they are not easily accomplished.

The answer is easy. You must actually do things over and over, without thinking about them too much. You must use not only your intellect but also your body, whether you are cleaning the house, or practicing the piano, or cooking. If you do the same thing over and over every day, little by little, gradually your body will learn something about the movements within the context of a given activity. Eventually you will be able to perform that activity at its basic, first level, automatically without even thinking. At that point, you can begin to be able to realize the second level. If you continue to repeat this activity further without finding it tiresome, then you will reach the third level. The result of all this repetition is that you begin to nurture an ability, and you may then continue to build up to the next higher level. It is not possible to accomplish such things by intellectualizing or with fleeting thoughts. This principle applies to any area of study or work. There is no one in the whole world who is able to develop an ability by merely thinking about it.

The one physical activity that we all practice perennially, month after month, day after day, is something that will remain with us for the rest of our lives. This is our native language, the mother tongue. Since birth we have been listening to it constantly, and we have developed the fluency that comes with speaking the same things repeatedly, countless times, [without even giving it much thought]. It is not something we ever forget, as long as we are alive. [It is a true ability.]

I saw a program on television a while back that featured an artist considered to be a human national treasure. He spoke of the time when he helped to do chores at a temple when he was a student. Every morning, his routine was to clean the long path leading from the gate to the main temple. He said that the repetition of this daily task had been very valuable for the creation of his outstanding ceramics throughout his career.

Please, everyone, require your children to do many boring and monotonous chores every day. Let us nurture our children to be able to do laborious, sweaty work without complaint, resentment, or resistance. Unlike adults, children are unconcerned with planning for the future. Adults who are part of children’s lives (parents) should provide them with repetitive work until they become proficient at being able to accumulate enough repetition to nurture the very ability to do repetition. We must help them to achieve this. Please do not forget! The ability to use the body to do cumulative, monotonous tasks repeatedly is a crucial element for future success.

Message from Our Web Editor

From: Kenneth Wilburn, Greenville, NC, USA Date: 20 February 2007

This is a pianississimo reminder from your web editor to ask you to add your city, state, and country to your postings in the format given above when you want to post to:
Thank you.

Plan Ahead for Sacramento

Here is the program for the Sacramento International 10-Piano Concert, scheduled for Saturday, August 18, 2007 at the Sacramento Convention Center Theatre. Recording artists are listed for pieces above Book 3 and editions are listed for pieces not in the Suzuki repertoire. Note that, in several cases, students are being asked to listen to the performance on a previous 10-Piano Concert in Matsumoto, rather than to a solo pianist.

During the two weeks leading up to this concert (beginning on Saturday, August 4), observing teachers will have the opportunity to hear these pieces being rehearsed repeatedly. This is the best way to understand how to teach the basics of these works. We hope many of you will plan to attend for the entire rehearsal period.

The concert will be performed by students from Japan (23 students), in addition to the Netherlands (3), Canada (1), Arkansas (1), Florida (6), Georgia (2), Nebraska (2), New York (3), Oregon (4), Pennsylvania (3), Virginia (3), and Washington state (9). In addition, three groups of ten will come from Orange County, California and one group of ten will come from Omaha, Nebraska. All of these will be joined by students from Sacramento and from other parts of California to perform together in this gala international event.

Teachers from Japan, the Netherlands, Canada, and from all the states listed above will attend, many of whom will participate in the directing, the stage management, the public relations, and the general effort of mounting such a vast, international endeavor.

If you wish to attend the 10-Piano Concert and do not have registration materials, please contact Linda Nakagawa


1. The Bow
2. Twinkles A and D
3. Cuckoo
4. French Children’s Song
5. Little Playmates
6. Adieu
7. Allegro
8. Ecossaise
9. The Happy Farmer
10. Minuet 2
11. Minuet 3
12. Minuet (last in book 2)
13. Sonatina, Op. 36 No. 1 - Vivace, Orange County students
14. Sonatina, Op. 55 No. 1 - Allegro
15. Diabelli Duet #6 (Japanese edition/Matsumoto 10-Piano video, 2006)
16. Mozart K. 240 duet (Japanese edition/Matsumoto 10-Piano video, 2006)
17. Musette, Orange County students (Matsumoto 10-Piano video, 1997)
18. Sonata, Op. 49 no. 2 –Allegro ma non troppo (Friedrich Gulda)
19. Two Minuets (Dinu Lipatti)
20. Gigue (Dinu Lipatti)
21. Sonatina in F -2nd mvt., Orange County students (Matsumoto 10-Piano Video, 2000)
22. Grieg Puck, Op. 70, Omaha students (Applause edition/Valerie Lloyd Watts)
23. Fur Elise (Friedrich Gulda)
24. Sonata, K. 330 -1st (Lili Kraus)
25. Beethoven Six Ecossaises (Japanese edition/FriedrichGulda/Matsumoto10-Piano video)
26. Mozart Turkish March (Alicia de Larrocha/Lili Kraus)
27. Debussy, Golliwogs Cakewalk (Japanese edition/Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli)
28. Chopin Nocturne in c# minor Op. post. (Henle/Maria Jiao Pires)
29. Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody for two pianos (Schirmer/VladimirHorowitz, solo)

Gearing Up for Philadelphia Workshop

As we go to press for this newsletter, plans are in place for the Philadelphia Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop in Philadelphia this weekend. Thirty-three teachers from 13 states and the Netherlands will attend, as will 27 students from nine states. The Friendship Concert on Sunday, March 4 will feature seven students from the Philadelphia area and thirteen from out-of-town.

The workshop has reserved 100 tickets to the sold-out performance of the Philadelphia Orchestra on Saturday evening, featuring Martha Argerich performing the Beethoven 2nd Piano Concerto, conducted by Charles Dutoit. This will be Dutoit’s first performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra since he was named their new conductor last week, so it should be an extra special event for him as well as for us.

The workshop will feature sessions of teacher research, a practice that was begun at the Sacramento workshop last summer, in addition to regular teacher and students lessons in the usual format.

The Philadelphia teachers have arranged lots of hospitality for us all: a dinner at a Chinese restaurant, daily lunches, and lots of opportunities to meet with colleagues from around the country. Greetings from Philadelphia!

Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation General Membership Meeting

Our General Membership Meeting for 2007 will be held during the Louisville Institute, June 4-8, 2007 (exact day and time to be announced in next newsletter).

Ann Taylor has been appointed Chair of Nominations again this year. Please contact her if you wish to place a name in nomination for this year’s election

Please send agenda items to Karen Hagberg before April 25 to be included in the agenda to be published in the May/June newsletter.

Also, please contact Karen Hagberg if you are willing to volunteer to perform ongoing duties on the Suzuki Piano Basics web site, or want to serve as Chair of a Scholarship Committee charged with developing a program of distributing scholarship funds to our members for their efforts in continuing education. We are also still looking for a member who will format Volumes 3 and 4 of Dr. Kataoka’s series How to Teach Beginners for publication (remuneration: $10/hour)

Change of Phone Number and Address:

Pam Werner

Phyllis Newman

Betty King
37 Calumet Pkwy Suite F101
Newnan, GA 30263

Koko Yee
17280 Cardinal Ct.
Castro Valley, CA 94546

How Fluent Are Your Twinkles?

General Remarks on Teaching Suzuki Piano The world behind the Twinkles and their accompaniment

By Huub de Leeuw, Utrecht, the Netherlands

If you want to become fluent in a foreign language, the best way to learn would be by using the Mother Tongue Method and immersing yourself in the natural environment of that foreign language. The least good option would be to choose a teacher whose ability in the language is poor.

What applies to mastering a foreign language applies, in the same way, to Teaching Suzuki Piano. It is all about finding the best learning environment and guidance possible. The best is not always right around the corner, so you might have to cross a few borders once in a while.

The essence of Suzuki Piano Teaching lies in understanding and being able to play, demonstrate and teach the Twinkles and their accompaniment well. Teachers who teach Suzuki Piano will gradually discover that the Twinkles are not merely the technical part of a bigger picture, they are the bigger picture and understanding this is crucial. When teaching Suzuki Piano, you will find yourself doing never-ending research and redefining the basic principles compressed in this wonderful set of simple variations. Teaching Suzuki Piano is basically an urge for continuous research of universal principles in piano playing.

The Twinkle Concept

Teaching Twinkles is, before anything else, to question why you are playing and teaching them in the way that you do. If anything, the piano Twinkles are not dogmatic. The concept is totally free to change, discarding what was wrong and keeping what is right, this being the true meaning of tradition. At the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto, however, the word traditional, with regard to piano playing, was mostly used in a negative sense, referring to teaching and playing methods based on gradually frozen or dogmatic concepts. It is only natural that the teaching of the Twinkles shows a long history of changing and deepening from the very start to what it has become now and how it continues to move on. In the beginning, the Twinkles were supposed to be played hands together. The hands together idea was based on the adult way of thinking that reading unison is easy. For a very young beginner, though, combining finger 5 in the left hand and thumb in the right hand, 2 left, 4 right, etc. is extremely complicated. Naturally, this idea disappeared from teaching a long time ago.

Also the fingering: 1454-4321 5432 5432 1454-4321 was abandoned because, although it follows the musical phrase nicely, it is far too complex for a beginner. Always playing hands separately and making Twinkle more accessible through the new fingering, were changes that remain. Also ideas about posture, how to sit and approach the keyboard, have been periodically changed, adjusted, changed back again or even dropped completely. Of course this is not done for the sake of change, but while researching the playing and studying the body posture, gradually concepts do change and redefine themselves.

This process took place for many years in Dr. Kataoka’s class, directly affecting the teaching of the associated teachers in Japan and abroad. These changes in the Twinkle concept through the seventies, eighties, nineties and the beginning of this century, were fascinating to follow, always allowing us to get a little closer to what it is basically all about.

I recall playing Twinkles in Matsumoto in 1979, using an extreme low wrist, pulled down even more by a bag hanging down from it. At that time Dr. Suzuki was experimenting with low elbows, using heavy bags to lower the bow arm, and briefly the experiment was applied to piano. The idea made no sense for piano whatsoever, so it disappeared as quickly as it had come. There have been times when “walking” into the keys was a common thing to teach, but over the years the teaching has moved on to a different approach.

Witnessing all these changes, every teacher was to discover for him- or herself why the change was made and if it were to last. Change is opposed by most of us because the body refuses to leave the trodden path. One must make oneself do it for quite a while in order to find out if something is right or wrong or ready for change or improvement.

The idea of letting your arm follow the long middle note in Twinkle B, has been abandoned for decades now, and replaced by a much clearer and more beautiful approach based on arm support and finger action. This coordinated with the same approach for the Theme and legato playing in general. The moving of the arm seemed to work for a while, but also could easily turn into becoming a really bad habit, so the idea was dropped and changed.

Now the question might arise: "How up-to-date is my teaching?"

A Suzuki Piano Teacher should be very much aware of the fact that teaching Twinkles for a long period of time does not mean that the understanding as well as the ability to play or teach the Twinkles is always deepened. In fact, the teaching and playing of Twinkles can gradually lose its meaning, not being the solid base anymore for anything that follows after, as it should be. Repeating movements and concepts which, by lack of research, are not basically understood, will cripple the development of both teacher and pupil.

If studied in the right way, the Twinkles will provide the basis for understanding the following points:

• Beat: up or down
• Tone production
• General posture and particularly arm posture
• Awareness of inefficient movements

These four points are based on universal principles and the understanding of coordination of mind and body.

Common mistakes in piano Twinkles are:

• Wrong Posture The posture should be slightly forward and down into the chair.

• Wrong Posture of Arm Often due to the fact that the arm follows the finger touching the key. Instead the arm should carry, allowing the fingers to play freely.

• The arm should not move forward in Twinkle B and in the Theme, especially not on the thumb. This mistake has become so common among teachers in Europe that by democratic vote it seems to have the right to stay.

• Wrong understanding of accompaniment movements, both in the down and up movement for the first 3 Twinkles and in the Alberti Bass for the Theme. The down and up beat are played from the centre of the body and have to be practiced a lot from the very beginning. This is basic knowledge for a starting Suzuki Teacher.

Also playing the Alberti Bass means not making the same mistake as in Twinkle B or the Theme. The arm does not move forward and the hand does not tilt towards the thumb or towards the little finger. In fact this is a most difficult movement to master.

The Suzuki Piano Twinkles plus their accompaniment in the form of down and up beat movements in the left hand for the first 3 and the Alberti Bass for the Theme, form the key to a far more complex understanding of piano technique as a whole, including chords, arpeggios and scales. When the research of the above is not deeply part of a teacher’s conscience, he or she will not be able to find the deeper value behind it and may belittle the importance of the Twinkles and their accompaniment movements as no more than starting off Book One. The Suzuki teaching will be more and more falling back to the negative Matsumoto definition of "traditional" teaching.

Is there a need to agree on Twinkles in every aspect?

The only thing we might, as teachers, want to agree on is, that in order to understand how to play and teach or even how to be able to discuss Twinkles, one must continue the research and be prepared to let go of old stuck concepts. Looking for cooperation and study with teachers who form a living link in passing on the Twinkle tradition is a sure way for Suzuki Piano Teaching to keep refreshing itself and to avoid falling into the same old trap of teaching stale concepts. However, discussing Twinkles in a conference once in a while, comparing opinions in a so-called democratic way is just an empty shell and can only create false hopes.

Teaching Suzuki Piano is about committing oneself to the living tradition.


Holiday photo of Huub de Leeuw

Piano Basics Foundation Upcoming Workshops/Events

March 9-12, 2007

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Linda Nakagawa
Contact: Clare Sie

March 16-18, 2007
Laguna Niguel, California

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Cathy Hargrave
Contact: Aleli Tibay 949-495-3518

March 23-25, 2007
Atlanta, Georgia

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Karen Hagberg
Contact: Robin Blankenship 770-426-4967

April 20-22, 2007
Reston, Virginia

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Cathy Hargrave
Contact: Gretel von Pischke 703-860-5654

May 19-20, 2007
Laguna Niguel, California

Suzuki Piano Basics Workshop with Rae Kate Shen
Contact: Aleli Tibay 949-495-3518

June 4-8, 2007
Louisville, Kentucky

University of Louisville Suzuki Piano Institute
Contact: Bruce Boiney 502-896-0416

June 10-14, 2007
Irvine, California
Concordia University

Suzuki Piano Basics Teacher Research Workshop
with Keiko Ogiwara and Keiko Kawamura
Contact: Aleli Tibay 949-495-3518

July 15-18, 2007
Tacoma, Washington
University of Puget Sound

Suzuki Piano Basics Summer Festival with Bruce Boiney
Contact: Jacki Block

July 23-26, 2007
Cambridge, England

Cambridge Suzuki Young Musicians Summer Workshops 2007
Contact Betty & Stephen Power (01223) 264408

July 30-August 3, 2007
Saint Louis, Missouri

Suzuki Piano Basics Institute
with Bruce Boiney and Joan Krzywicki
Contact: Patty Eversole 314-837-1881
Registration information online at

August 18, 2007
Sacramento, California

Suzuki Piano Basics International 10-Piano Concert
Inquire before December 1 for student participation
Contact: Linda Nakagawa 916-422-2952

To add or change items on this list and on the Suzuki Piano Basics website, contact
Karen Hagberg, 585-244-0490.

Please send corrections to Kenneth Wilburn, Senior Web Editor

To the Kataoka Sensei Memorial.
To the Suzuki Piano Basics Home Page.

First Online Edition: 2 June 2007
Last Revised: 9 March 2012