Necessary Equipment & Materials
Proper equipment in the home is essential for progress, because the home is where the student learns piano and voice six days out of seven.
- Could a student learn to play soccer or tennis with exposure to a real ball once a week, and only a Nerf sponge ball for home practice the rest of the week?
- Could a student learn to read literature with exposure to real books once a week, and only cereal boxes and mailbox flyers at home the rest of the week?
A Real (Acoustic) Piano, Either a Grand or an Upright
Fine acoustic piano technique — which is what this school teaches — is all about learning how to make a felt hammer hit a metal string and produce a beautiful tone. Also, learning to sing is much easier with a real piano, because of its full, resonant tone and the overtone series it produces. Therefore, every student enrolled in private instruction must have a wood, acoustic piano at home.
Note: Pianos are an investment, but they don't need to be exorbitantly expensive. The instructor will gladly help you find an appropriate piano within your budget. Teachers have a vested interest in making sure students have good pianos — because good pianos make happy students, and happy students never want to quit piano lessons!
If possible, please talk with the instructor before purchasing a piano, so you can make wise use of your money. For instance, imagine how helpful it could be to have the teacher or another advisor help you detect pianos that were poorly made, or that need costly repairs.
A piano that sounds beautiful and is easy and sweet to play is a joy to your student. A good piano is the best investment you can make, because your student will be able to enjoy piano lessons and want to stick with them long term. Why pay money for a good teacher, while giving your child a piano that is hateful to play at home? You want a piano that will make your child enjoy practicing.
It is best to avoid electric keyboards. Not only does their monetary value depreciate immediately upon purchase: Electric keyboards, even those with weighted keys, are a different instrument. Over time, students with electric keyboards become frustrated with the way the keys move. Also, I believe the lack of physical vibration in the instrument explains the reason students with keyboards often have trouble developing their ear skills and singing skills. In my experience, students with electric keyboards typically quit somewhere within one to two years of beginning piano lessons — just as the students were beginning to reach their full potential.
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Of course, the tuition their parents paid was not necessarily money down the drain. There are many benefits we derive from music lessons: academic enhancement, brain plasticity, hand-eye coordination, and so on. But how sad that, just when the effort would pay off...just when the students could begin to enjoy the beauty they could produce from their fingertips...that was when they stopped.
Why is it that electric keyboards are different from acoustic pianos? It's because electric keyboards produce only one, pre-programmed sound. The student has no control over that sound — only how loud or soft that pre-programmed sound will be. We are not speaking of volume, or the different instrument voices found in the keyboard's settings. We are discussing what actually happens when the keys are played.
With an electric keyboard, it does not matter whether the student pushes, pokes, or bangs. Even if the sound produced is louder or quieter, the sound will always be the same: the sound that was recorded once and for all time when the keyboard was programmed. This means that the students on keyboards never gain control over the sound themselves. They can never make the sound do what they want it to do. They can never receive the joy and satisfaction of learning how to make beautiful tone on their own.
Incidentally, it is fun to observe little children in a room with an electric keyboard and a good quality, freshly tuned, acoustic piano. Every small child I have observed in this situation preferred the acoustic piano, and left the electric keyboard alone. The younger the child, the better the ears. They use all that fine sound discrimination to learn languages. And those fine ears obviously prefer real pianos.
Ergonomic Seating Equipment, Both a Seat and a Footrest
This is a serious issue, because repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis, are very common in pianists and students who don't modify the piano to fit their bodies.
Thankfully, there is an easy solution:
- Use an adjustable chair to bring the arms and wrists up to the correct level, and
- Use an adjustable footrest to bring the floor up to support the feet and minimize stress on the small of the back.
Because every student needs these, including adults, we sell the height-adjustable seating (approximately $175, including shipping) and adjustable footrest ($150, including shipping). Students may order these through us after enrolling.
So, we need to adjust the seat (using an adjustable seat) and the floor (using an adjustable footrest) to fit the student to the piano.
- Young piano students are happier about practicing their piano homework when they are comfortable—an added benefit!
- Adult piano students need proper seating to avoid repetitive stress injury.
Comfortable seating leads to happy students of all ages!
*All pianos have their keyboards approximately 29" from the floor. The length and overall height of the piano do not matter in terms of ergonomics for the person playing the piano. This is what we mean when we say, "There is only one size, and one size does not fit all."
Length and overall height do, however, make a difference in the sound-quality of the piano. If you would like a good-sounding piano (it will be more rewarding to play!), choose either a very tall upright (about 44" or higher) or a long grand (5'10" or longer).
Tuning matters as well. Please see the PDF on the Resources page, Who Tunes Your Piano_.pdf.
Music / Materials
Note: These materials are available from the school, as a package, for a discounted price. Please ask your instructor for details.
For parent reading:
Nurtured By Love, by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki. Summarizes the Suzuki Philosophy, tells how Dr. Suzuki developed this method of teaching children in a very natural way.
Thoughts on the Suzuki Piano School, by Haruko Kataoka. Describes Suzuki Method as it applies specifically to piano study and technique.
For piano practice/listening use the following. Voice curriculum will vary according to the student.
Suzuki Piano School, Book One, Music score. (Order without the accompanying CD.)
Suzuki Piano School, Book One, CD, recorded by Haruko Kataoka. (There are several different performers who have recorded this CD, but this is the one to get; please check to be sure you order the Kataoka version.)