The Classical/traditional School

In general, there are two main schools of thought when it comes to teaching piano. The first school centers around a classical background, and having the student become technically proficient. This emphasis is born out of college-level auditions and admissions where a tremendous emphasis is placed on how well you can technically wow the audition panel. It is very rare for an audition to ever ask the pianist to create or do something musical on the spot, which is too bad - because that is actually what happens in the real-world. (But of course, we know that all college professors live in the "real world" right? ;) )

We long for the day when conservatories ask a prospective student to create a composition based upon a melody that the auditioner whistles to them while they are on the stage. Or for the panel to ask the pianist to play the melody of their performance piece in another key. But alas, they still seem more interested in repeating music composed 100-300 years ago.


 Some of the weaknesses of this classical training (which is the majority of all piano teachers) is that the Audiation training is very weak, or in many cases completely non-existent. Also, students gain little or no knowledge of the actual Music Theory behind what they are playing.  And because theory is glossed over, the student has difficulty recognizing the patterns in music, and hence memorization of the piece becomes a very difficult and time consuming process because students are trying to remember individual notes instead of basic patterns in the music. We have included an illustration about the importance of Pattern Recognition as opposed to individual notes when learning music. In essence, we can sum up the weaknesses of a Classical/Traditional teaching by the auditions/interviews that we have frequently with many potential teachers...they can play some dazzling music, but unfortunately cannot do a whole lot else musically. At its worst, Classical/Traditional teaching creates students who are technically proficient, but musically pretty illiterate.


However, some of the benefits of Classical Teaching are that students typically have above-average Dexterity and in many instances they also have a good ability to Sight-Read. Being a good sight-reader can be an extremely useful and needed skill in many musical settings. Also, having good Dexterity also allows a pianist to have access to a much larger dynamic range when playing music, which can help make passages and music far-more interesting to listen to than someone who is still basically "pounding" all the notes out at mezzo-forte or forte.


The Suzuki Method was actually developed and designed for violinists in the 1800's by a Japanese Violinist Shin Suzuki but then was transplanted to the piano, as well as to many other instruments. The Suzuki Method has been a source of substantial debate and criticism. But like any method, it has strengths and weaknesses.


In general, the Suzuki Method delays substantially the ability for students to read music. Whereas the Classical Method has a large emphasis on technical proficiency and note-reading, the Suzuki Method has a large emphasis on audiation. It also helps the students develop a better sense of music theory than the Classical Method. The Suzuki Method also focuses on exposing children to a greater musical collection early than is typically found in the Classical Method.  For a more detailed and through analysis of the pros and cons of the Suzuki Method see this blog posting.