"Don't Start the Car Until the Door is Closed"
How does this relate to piano? I often ask students "Are you ready?" Just as we do not start the car until the door is closed, we do not touch the piano keys until the body and the mind are both ready. Being physicall prepared allows the body to relax and play for longer periods of time without strain. Being mentally prepared ensures accuracy. This "getting ready" preparation for the body and mind are important habits for future development.
- THE GAZE - Prior to taking a bow at the beginning of the lesson, the child and teacher demonstrate respect for eachother with eye contact. When a child is able to make eye contact, he works to increase the length of his gaze by counting to five, later to ten, etc. The longer the gaze without looking away, the sooner the child is ready to begin his lesson. The gaze is useful for younger students to increase periods of concentration.
- THE BOW - represents a non-verbal framework of the lesson. This is a ritual that demonstrates respect, attention, and readiness to learn at the beginning of the lesson, as well as appreciation for each other and closure at the end of the lesson.
- GOOD POSTURE - A footstool on which to rest dangling feet is necessary for proper support. The soles of the feet should rest comfortably on the stool. Posture should allow for maximum freedom and relaxation in playing. There should be no strain to any part of the body. Sit with back straight and far enough away from the keyboard to lean slightly forward with arms hanging comfortably at sides. "Preparation" is a key word in beginning training. Not one note is played during instruction without careful preparation of posture and hand position.
- CONCENTRATION - Regardless of the child's age, maturity level will in part play a role in how quickly he progresses. This maturity we desire begins with paying close attention. This is a gradual process. Suzuki believes that the more one learns in this field, the concentration periods become progressively longer. In Japan, when it's the child's turn to take his lesson, his concentration is so intense that activity can be going on in the studio and he shows no sign of distraction. (In Japan, the piano studio is always full of students and parents during the lesson time of each child, so the atmosphere is more relaxed and often has more distractions with so many people observing the lessons.) The mother should consider that she is taking a lesson, a lesson to teach her what her "homework" will be. By making the most of our brief sessions together, moms do their magazine reading and needlework when their concentration is not required.
- REST & READY POSITIONS - After the first four steps, the relaxed hands are loosely placed on the lap. This we call, “Rest” position. When the child 1.) Demonstrates the ability to focus on mental preparations 2.) Demonstrates the ability to control his body, we call this “Ready” position.
- PATIENCE - Suzuki has said that the word "patience" should never be applied to the learning experience by either teacher or parent. Patience has the connotation of controlled frustration; yet the parent, in particular, should enjoy the learning process. The learning process of younger children is often slow, but every effort, no matter how small, should be a pleasure to watch. Very few parents show impatience when an infant is learning to walk or to talk. We realize that the child has an inner timetable and he WILL progress at his OWN rate. Yet when the child begins the learning of a skill, be it athletic, dance, art, or music, many parents become overanxious, which is no pleasant experience for the child. The result of an irritable and quick-tempered parent is a tense child who stands to lack confidence.
- PRAISE - In place of criticism, praise should be plentiful. Suzuki says that all mothers seem to find it difficult to praise their own children! A sincere "GOOD" in response to even small efforts can build confidence and, perhaps most important of all, stimulate a DESIRE TO DO BETTER.
- MOTIVATION - Suzuki feels that natural motivation is provided by the recordings and by the attendance of the child at lessons of other children. They are educational and motivating to the children. COMPETITIONS are not considered a source of motivation in Suzuki training. Yes, competition permeates every facet of life. But I believe a child's beginning should be rid of this. Any competition is only with oneself, and we must work hard to play as well as we possibly can by practicing. Listening to the recordings sets high standards for us to emulate.