Volume 9.3, May/June 2004

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

Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation News

Editors and Layout
Dr. Karen Hagberg and Cheryl Kraft

Web Editor
Kenneth Wilburn

Hard Copy Illustrations
Juri Kataoka

Leah Brammer - Media
Rita Burns - Workshops
Renee Eckis - Translation Coordinator
Cathy Williams Hargrave - Editions

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

Deadline for Next Issue: 30 June 2004

Please Tell Your Students How to Practice

By Dr. Haruko Kataoka

That is right. In any endeavor, when teachers teach how to do something they teach how to do it and what to do from the beginning. When you watch a cooking show on television, for example, you will learn first how to prepare, then how to cut, cook and so on. The instructor explains everything very precisely. Even when the actual cooking starts, the instructor tells you what temperature to use for the cooking. He or she might give you some tips to make the dish better. It is very kindly taught and easy to learn. Instructions for daily living and also in the world of sports are usually very clear and precise in this way.

How about the world of classical music, however? I do not think that the basics are explained enough in the beginning. Students are only told by the teacher, "Please practice until next time," and they go home and practice on their own. If their own way is wrong, what will happen? The more they practice, the worse they will become. If they do this for many years, they will become hopeless.

I have been teaching many years and have taught many students. I have seen many students who are hopeless not only in Japan, but also in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia. And yet no teachers would say that they are trying hard to make the students very bad.

I think this is the reason why there are students who are hopeless. In Europe, where classical music began, there is a long history of western music. People have believed that only students who have talent can study music. They have not believed Dr. Suzuki's wonderful philosophy that says all children have wonderful talent and can learn music in the same way that they learn their mother tongue in a good environment. This is why people do not do any research or study the question of how to teach students how to practice from the very beginning. Dr. Suzuki always told students to listen to the recording and learn the music first in that way. After learning the music, the study will begin. At this point, begin to study how to practice the piece. This is the correct way.

Learning music is just like preparing food. You do not begin by cooking. After preparation, you study how to cook step-by-step. It is the same when studying music. First learn how to use the body to make different sounds, how to use the fingers to make different sounds. That is the most important thing for studying. After that, we can make a performance which is tasty and heartfelt by anyone's standards.

Teachers are the forerunners of the students. They know many things, such as how to practice the difficult parts, how to study crescendo, how to sing out a melody, how to play an accompaniment, and so on. Please study how to practice. Just playing is a waste of time.

After many years of teaching, I really think we have to teach our students how to practice from the very beginning with patience. If students learn how to practice breaking the piece into small sections and practicing many times slowly, they will be able to do those kinds of practice without any effort. If they do not learn to do that until they grow up, they will not be able to do it easily. The beginning is the most important for learning and teaching. If you learn good habits in the beginning, you will be able to use them throughout your lifetime. Once you learn the wrong way, you will have a hard time in life. I always think this. Children are not guilty. Adults and teachers who surround them must study and research every day.

If you would like to leave a beautiful world to our children, you need to change how you think.

Translated by Mayumi Yunus
Edited by Dr. Karen Hagberg
Hard Copy Illustrations by Juri Kataoka
From Matsumoto Piano Teachers Newsletter
Vol. 13, No. 5 (October 2003)

Reconciliation of Editions

Cathy Hargrave's very useful columns reconciling the fingering and other editorial markings of the various Suzuki Piano Method editions will no longer appear in the newsletter. They are available on our website as Suzuki Piano Method: Reconciliation of Published Editions, Book 1 and Book 2 . Cathy will add new ones there. On behalf of all of our members, we thank Cathy for doing this tedious and important work.

Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation Website:

Suzuki Piano Basics Discography:

To access this new resource go to the address and click on the Suzuki Piano Basics Discography link on the tool bar at the top of the page. You will be taken to the Suzuki Piano Basics Discography website starting with Volume 4. Volumes 1-7 are available as well as selected books and DVDs.

When you click on an item's description you will be taken to where you have the opportunity to purchase the product and/or research through reviews and sound clips of the recordings, books and DVDs.

The Piano Method That Allows Anybody to be able to Play Well
Part Three

By Dr. Haruko Kataoka


The hand consists of the palm and the fingers. We have the ability to grasp with our hands the moment we are born. We possess this ability as a survival instinct. This is the ability we use to play the piano. It is easy to understand if you watch a baby touch the piano keys. No babies hit, poke, or push the keys with stiff fingers. They try to grasp something on the keys to make sound. This is the correct and natural way to use the fingers.

The same principle can apply to each finger individually. Using the sense of touch, gently touch the keys to make a musical sound. Grasp quickly with the hand, while at the same time pulling the tip of the finger along the key, without hitting, poking or pushing on the key.

Fingers 2, 3, 4, and 5 move the same way, but the thumb is different. Although it is also made to grasp easily, the thumb moves sideways to produce a sound.


Unlike the brain, the human body cannot learn easily. We need extensive repetition in order for our body to learn. Please remember this, and do not try to move through pieces with stiff fingers even when you are just beginning. As I have often said, learning the notes is not difficult if you are listening to recordings of the piece. It is amazingly easy.

The most important thing is to concentrate on keeping the body and hands free of any excess force. Always make musical sound with the ears, and make a habit of being able to distinguish between good and bad sound.

Whenever things crash into each other, especially if they are hard objects, the shock will create a bad sound. This is noise. It cannot be used to make music. Every time you touch the piano, please make sure to listen to determine whether you are producing musical sound or noise. It is not a matter of learning pieces. It is a matter of the quality of the sound. Always choose your sound.

In traditional thinking, teachers teach this principle only to advanced students. This is completely wrong. Even three-year-olds can choose sound very well if they are taught to do so in every lesson. Children have no desire to learn pieces. Both adults and children can become pianists if they learn to choose their sound from the beginning. The body never becomes stiff when producing a musical sound. The most important thing is to stay relaxed when you play.


If you concentrate only on your fingers, your body will become stiff and tight. When human beings use only a single part of the body, the rest of the body will get tight and tired. We need to use a part of the body with the rest of the body being relaxed. To do this, we need good form, good posture, and good balance. When you are able to keep this in mind at all times, your fingers will move smoothly. This is good for your health also. If you want to move your fingers smoothly along with the notes of a piece, all you have to do is to listen to the recording every day with just very low volume. Surprisingly, this will help. To grasp means to move the fingers. However, if you concentrate just on moving fingers, they will get stiff. Please be careful. The natural way is the most important. (This planned series of articles on piano pedagogy was interrupted by Dr. Kataoka's death in January, 2004.)

Translated by Mayumi Yunus
Edited by Dr. Karen Hagberg
Hard Copy Illustrations by Juri Kataoka
From Matsumoto Piano Teachers Newsletter
Vol. 12, No. 12 (October 2003)

Mothers are Wonderful

By Dr. Haruko Kataoka
From Matsumoto Piano Teachers Newsletter

During a practice for the 10-Piano Concert, the students sounded a little lazy. I was trying to explain to them how to play an accent in a forte section with real oomph. When their mother gets very angry at home, that kind of force.

When people get angry, they are serious. It is easy to praise someone without putting your heart into it, but when you get angry, you must be serious. You need lots of energy to get angry.

I asked all the students if their mother is scary. I thought that at least two or three of them would say that their mothers were kind and gentle, but all ten students said their mothers were scary.

This is wonderful. Mothers are wonderful. I was moved by that reaction. Mothers who have helped the advanced students from the beginning to the end of high school have to have that kind of force.

Children must experience the harshness of life. During a long lifetime, there are many difficulties. For parents it is easier to treat children just like pets and to give them an easy time, but for the sake of the children they try to raise them in a more serious and tough way.

I am so glad to know there are so many mothers who really consider their children. Mothers are tough and wonderful.

Teacher Training Without Kataoka Sensei:
Plans for Summer 2004

By Karen Hagberg
Rochester, New York

By now you have all read Huub deLeeuw's moving article published in our last issue, expressing his feeling that Kataoka Sensei has left us with the tools we need to carry on our research, an extension of her own research, in order constantly to improve our teaching for the sake of our students. We are all meeting life without her in our own way.


The other teachers in Matsumoto, although they were invited, chose not to travel to the United States this summer. They have expressed to us that it was Kataoka Sensei's wish that we continue to research both on our own and together. Thus, they have said that they want to participate in future American workshops and 10-Piano Concerts in partnership with American teachers.

Just now, three teachers from Phoenix, Vicki Seil, Karen Nalder and Kathy Huseby, have traveled to Matsumoto for a few weeks to study and observe the teaching there. There will be a report about their trip in an upcoming newsletter. It is important to know that we are welcome to visit Matsumoto as in the past, and that the schedule of concerts and teaching there remains active and vibrant.

The organizers of this summer's workshops and institutes are also providing various ways in which we can research together. Each venue has come up with its own unique version of teacher study and research.


In Louisville, each faculty member will teach a group class (on six pianos). It will be an experience similar to multi-piano rehearsals, where all six students will be given the same basics to practice in order to refine their ability to play naturally and easily together. Such experiences illuminate the process of polishing pieces for students, parents and observing teachers. Faculty are available to give individual lessons to teachers, and teachers may choose which faculty member they want. In addition, the teacher's recital this year will consist of ensemble performances on six pianos. This will be a unique experience for all teachers who have never had the opportunity to perform in a multiple-piano setting. This will, no doubt, be a sobering experience, one in which we can appreciate just how difficult it is to achieve a good ensemble performance.


In Irvine, teachers will arrive a day early to spend time with each other doing mutual research. Teachers may have a lesson with a faculty member of their choice, as in Louisville. During the institute, teachers may observe the teaching of the various faculty throughout the week. There will also be a Friendship Concert in Kataoka Sensei's memory.


In Sacramento, all teaching will be done in a single room so that all present may observe everything that happens. Those who have studied with Kataoka Sensei extensively may enroll as "teaching" teachers and will be assigned student and/or teacher lessons. We may all observe all of this teaching, and will have the opportunity to discuss what we have observed. There will be a solo teacher's recital in Sacramento that will be videotaped and critiqued by all participants on the following day. A memorial Friendship Concert will be held in Sacramento as well.

Whatever we do, we will keep the quality
of children's education as our primary goal.

There will be reports from all of these events in upcoming newsletters. These various creative responses to Sensei's absence are a first step in developing a path for our future research together. Whatever we do, we will keep the quality of children's education as our primary goal. Those of us who have spent a long time in Japan realize how far we can go to improve our teaching. It is an inspiration to realize that Kataoka Sensei constantly improved her teaching throughout her lifetime. She always said that we have the best job in the world. It is so important that we take it seriously and constantly make it better, the way she taught us. I look forward to seeing you all in Louisville, Irvine and Sacramento.

Now On-Line: Suzuki Piano Basics Discography

Dear Piano Basics Teachers,

I'm excited to announce the launching of our new Discography web-site. This resource site links our discography products to, providing us with nationwide, around the clock access to our discography items for our students and us!

To access this new resource go to the address: and click on the Suzuki Piano Basics Discography link on the tool bar at the top of the page. You will be taken to the Suzuki Piano Basics Discography web-site starting with Volume 4. Volumes 1-7 are available as well as selected books and DVDs.

When you click on an item's description you will be taken to where you have the opportunity to purchase the product and/or research through reviews and sound clips of the recordings, books and DVDs.

Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is a Suzuki Piano Basics teacher from Tacoma, Washington. He teaches at the University of Puget Sound through their Community Music Department, and at a private music studio on Snag Island. Benjamin began his Suzuki piano lessons with Jacqueline Block and in 1999 he studied Suzuki piano pedagogy with Dr. Haruko Kataoka in Matsumoto, Japan.

Suzuki Piano Basics Home Page:

Dallas, Texas
2nd Southwest Suzuki Piano Institute
July 11-20, 2004
Cathy Hargrave, Director

Student Institute: July 12-16

Masterclass Faculty: Elizabeth Armour, Lori Armstrong, Gloria Elliott, Robin Blankenship, and Cathy Hargrave

Additional classes: Chorus, Reading and Sight-Improvisation, Creative Movement, Line-Dancing to Suzuki Repertoire, Handbells, Stomp, Parent Class daily, Cartoon Sketching, and more.

Additional Faculty: Wayne Krigger, Teresa Conkel, Collie Grey, Diana Cooley, others

New Introductory Course: "Every Child Can"
July 11, 2004
(For teachers, parents, educators. Non-instrument specific)

Teacher training: Volume 1 Unit, July 12-20
With Cathy Hargrave

Memorial Concert for Dr. Haruko Kataoka
(Co-Founder of Suzuki Piano Method)

Sacramento, California
Teacher Piano Basics Workshop,
August 8-12, 2004

Linda Nakagawa, Director

The workshop is open to both new and experienced teachers. It will feature teacher and student lessons, teacher group research, a student friendship concert and a teacher's concert.

Please send corrections to Kenneth Wilburn, Web Editor

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

First Online Edition: 18 September 2004
Last Revised: 9 March 2012