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Some constructive criticism

05 Oct 2017 13:52 #27048 by telu
Replied by telu on topic Some constructive criticism
First, a general disclaimer to all those who have commented (wisely) in this thread: It has become popular nowadays to call upon neuroscience in order to support one’s claims, for better or for worse. Neuroscience is sometimes mistreated. I’m not saying that this is the case here, nor am I making any accusations, however one should be cautious about the popularisation of this science. To take but one example, there are many scientific articles showing the benefits of using a soroban to strengthen mathematical ability as well as memory. I don’t doubt the benefits of the soroban, but really, there is not enough scientific evidence to say that the soroban is a better way of learning than other methods, such as Mortensen, which some schools do.

The same thing would apply to music, or anything else. To sum up what is known by today’s neuroscience, the only scientifically proven way to make a child more “bright” (I’m using a very wide definition of the word here) is to increase working memory. (For academic research about this I recommend: cognitionmatters.org/ .) This can be done practicing with a musical instrument, with the soroban, educational toys or whatever. It really doesn’t matter that much. However, the effects that playing a musical instrument can have on a variable such as self-esteem is another matter. But I think we should all try not to use general phrases like “neural connections” or “neural pathways” in order to make some kind of statement. At least, we should be more specific.

To take one specific example: Suzuki teachers say that not learning the right fingering from the beginning is comparable to hammering a nail deeper and deeper into a wall. The deeper the nail goes, the harder it will be to pull it out eventually. The teacher who said this is actually a medical doctor, however I don’t consider him an expert in muscle memory. Still, his statement sounds logical to me. As little as I know about piano playing, I think it would be possible to compare it with a person who is learning how to type on a typing machine or computer keyboard. Surely, this person could learn how to type very rapidly using only his/her index fingers, but eventually a need would probably arise for systematic fingering. I only learnt how to type rapidly using correct fingering when I was an adult, but since I had already been typing incorrectly for so many years it is still hard for me to use correct finger positions unless I am thinking actively about doing it. I am writing this text now using incorrect fingering, for instance.
Therefore, it would be very interesting to see what solid, peer-reviewed, scientific papers have to say about muscle memory. Is there enough support for the claim that little children could start by “playing around”, then switch to more correct fingering by learning from parents who have themselves learnt from Youtube videos or some other visual fingering system such as Yamaha’s Flowkey (which I would never try myself), without muscle memory putting up later obstacles for future performance?

If somebody could post links to peer-reviewed scientific papers in support of such a claim I would be grateful.

“Suzuki school is the worst thing that ever happened in music education. It heavily relies on muscle memory and echoic memory (Solfeggio) with no consideration to eye-sight. You mechanically learned the pieces upon finger numbers and after that had to re-learn everything again, because the music wasn't fully imprinted in your mind - just sequence of muscle movements. From outside it looks legid, but in reality it is your waste of time, money and efforts. Bottom line is: you didn't collect any valuable skills, but one complicated and absolutely useless skill to recite one piano piece with certain finger numbers… The eye-sight of any learner should be trained to sight-read notation, but Suzuki students have no opportunity to do that. When, after a lot of singing and mechanical playing they finally introduced to lines and spaces, they start memorizing piano pieces rather then sight-reading them.”

Yes, this is the most common criticism of the Suzuki method. This is also why I will continue to use SM (during the 1,4 year or so that I have left on my licence) in conjunction with Suzuki. Then we’ll see what works best. To repeat what I said before: I think SM/Gentle Piano is a great system, and you are of course right in what you say about visuals, multi-sensory learning etc. With a finger notation system in GP that could be turned on or off, SM could become the ultimate system: a flagship in musical education. Unfortunately, you don’t seem to be willing to introduce such a feature? Not even as a competitive advantage against Yousician, KinderBach, Flowkey, etc?

Forgive me for pointing this out, but I look at things as an economist. SM may be the incumbent on the market now, but it is very easy to get overrun. (Remember the story about the hare and the tortoise?)

To give you a good advice, you should pay more attention not only to competitors, but also to product innovation. If you did, crowdfunding/fundraising would also become easier. Somebody above *cough* *cough* has given you one tiny suggestion of a feature to introduce that would be easy and cost efficient and still have a big impact.

”Кстати, о Судзуки. В своей книге "Воспитание талантов" "Взращённые любовью" в одной из глав он удивляется, как так, все японские дети осваивают без проблем сложнейший язык в мире - японский! Выссказывает такую мысль:

"Если бы в школах применялась методика, схожая с обучением родному языку, то мы добились бы превосходных результатов. Например, часто приходится слышать: «Этот ребенок не блещет способностями, у него от рождения низкий уровень интеллекта». Но как же тогда соотнести это высказывание с блестящими способностями ребенка в освоении японского языка? Может быть, лучше поискать более подходящий метод обучения?"

Вот в этом месте я подумала: "как же близко он здесь к методу Хайнер". Азбучный подход при обучении музыкальному языку - и соответственно, результаты не заставляют себя ждать!)”

Soglasen s vami! Overall, I don’t understand why there is so much hatred against the Suzuki method. I even remember having a violin teacher when I was in my twenties who always used to complain about the “bloody Suzuki shit method”. And then, more recently, there is the O’Connor criticism of Suzuki. I haven’t had the time to dig further into O’Connor’s criticism, but I understand much of it has been refuted already? Maybe Ms. Hiner could help us out and write something about it?

But all of this has many dimensions, of course, and I think, just like you, that the Suzuki and Hiner method have many things in common. One philosophically interesting aspect is the “what is music and what is noise?” question/problem by Ms. Hiner. Humanoid robots who can play the piano have been available for some time, especially in Japan, and they are getting better and better due to advancements in AI and digitalization. Still, we call Suzuki students, who are sometimes accused of playing like robots, virtuoso’s, but we call robots…well…robots. Can a robot play with “feelings”?

Another aspect when comparing various systems of music education for children is peer pressure. Having friends and playing in a group environment is definitively very important for them. There are no SM schools in my country, unfortunately. However, there are Suzuki schools. It is possible that my daughter is going to like the Suzuki method better because of this even though she is used to SM, who knows? Only time will tell. For sure, this is going to be an interesting experiment.

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05 Oct 2017 15:21 #27051 by hellene
Replied by hellene on topic Some constructive criticism

I am glad that you have GP and can experience many things on your own.

If to take not touch sensitive keyboard with piano stickers on it vs the same keyboard with no stickers, but key guides (that are placed behind the piano keys), you will see how numbers in GP (mode 1-5) in timing bar will change.

To glance under tips of one's fingers and glance and slide from the fingers to vertically standing key guide's pictures are already different tasks. This subtle eye movement 'cost' learner additional seconds on the time bar.

I call it science, because we are able to measure this changes in exact numbers. Observe how the numbers work and you will discover a lot of important information about how beginner learns and what slows him/her down.

If you have not touch sensitive keyboard and a digital piano with weighted keys, the same player also will have more changes. Most likely it will be more mistakes in more time.

You can try many combinations with playing R, L, P, RH, LH, PH on pianos with different touches, with more or less or even no visual support and compare the numbers. I had a chance to do it many times during 15 years. Moreover, I had been watching many beginners. It helped me to understand that skills development have some certain graduate stages and these stages are applicable to all beginners.

If you watch thousands of SM videos on YouTube you also will find answers to a lot of your questions. You will see when and how children start having enough place in their mind for fingers management.

I gave a lot of thoughts to fingering part of learning. To add the fingers number = to welcome pushing the beginners to deliver some skills prematurely. It is better to be save then sorry. This is exactly why we give a lot of essential exercises and our lesson plans (if you follow those) offers classical piano exercises, scales, etudes. Playing such exercises in predictable sequences helps beginners to experience all different combinations. When time comes (and numbers on time bar will be lower then amount of correct notes played), you will be amazed with results.

Here is the very interesting video of our student:

Impressive fingering?

Here is her beginning, Listen how she was following fingering suggested by her mom/teacher:

Suzuki... once you develop ears and memory, you eyes will always be behind in the learning process. I call it the rule of the stationary bicycle. Students pretend reading, but their ears and memory work faster.

Here is a short article about it:


My method is around for just 15 years. Our organic growth is huge for this time period. If you play and all the family involved in music making at home with SM, your child will be always motivated. Here we have recitals and kids looking forward to participate in the Butterfly Balls and Graduation recitals.

Peers are peers. They are excited about something at the beginning, but lose the interest in the long run, if their investment of efforts don't pay. It is better to have SM in family environment and do not worry about 'popular' approaches. What works is going to prevail.

Back to the Mozart

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