THE CURRICULUM MATTERS
When choosing where to take private lessons, parents are usually ambivalent about the music curriculum from which their child will be learning. Instead, they decide if they like the teacher. Sometimes it is someone who they know and trust, maybe it is for convenience or price. When asked what curriculum their teacher is using, most parents don't even know its name - much less the philosophy behind it. However, especially for beginners, the curriculum matters more than the teacher.
The Conservatory Course is a result of years of research with thousands of students to discover a procedure for learning that works for everyone. By documenting results, we found a better in teaching students that is modeled after the classic methods of the past and is more effective than the modern methods of today. Let's compare some of these ideas for piano methods.
The methods used by most piano teachers in American are distinctly different from those used by teachers around the world. In fact, when thumbing through American methods, teachers who are trained from other countries are confused by them because they do not fit within the natural order of studying music. This universal and historical weaknesses of American methods is the primary reason we have developed our own curriculum. The most commonly used piano methods are: Alfred, Bastien, and Faber. Let's compare them with The Conservatory Course.
The Conservatory Course is better: Playing music is, in itself, an art form that stimulates imagination without the help of pictures. In The Conservatory Course there are no illustrations to distract from the meaning of the musical text and all the space on each page contain music to play. Students who are learning to play musically do not miss having pictures in their music book.
The Conservatory Course is better: The correct way to teach is to bring out all ideas at once, then gradually developed them for more understanding. Flip through the first few pages of any level of The Conservatory Course and you will be able to understand exactly what the student will be learning.
The Conservatory Course is better: Students in The Conservatory Course learn at lessons to read music like a book, and at the same time, react in precise time and touch on every note they play. Notes are not analyzed in groups until students have experience reading notes individually on the staff, and until the hand has been made strong to technically play note groups without collapsing. For example, In grade 1 of The Conservatory Course students learn to read and play single melodies, then quickly progress to two melodies hands together in parallel, contrary, and oblique motions. This way is the only way to build the mind and hand to understand music. Students who miss this process will, sooner or later, have to relearn to play music that is not written in positions.
The Conservatory Course is better: It is all in one, just as the classical methods of the past. You can look at just one book and understand what will be studied. The one music book contains these sections: Method, Etudes, Exercises, Repertoire, and Amusements. The Lesson Book is the lesson plan from which students get their weekly assignments, and it is a report of what was studied at the lesson.
METHODS IMPORTED FROM JAPAN
The two methods used in America that originated from Japan are Yamaha and Suzuki. However, it is interesting to note that neither method it widely used for teaching piano in Japan. They are surprising ignored by most Japanese piano teachers who primarily use the traditional German Beyer Method. It is also important to recognize that students who transfer from Yamaha or Suzuki to other teachers usually have to start again from the beginning.
The logic behind both Yamaha and Suzuki is that children should learn to 'speak' a language before they learn to 'read' it. For this reason, the music is taught by copying the teacher, parent, or a recording; and not by reading. The problem is that children naturally imitate musical sounds. Once lessons begin, developing hand-eye coordination and reading visually should be the primary concern. In Yamaha and Suzuki, the student imitates the teacher and a parent is often expected to sit in on the lesson so they can continue to help the student at home. More students fail with this method of imitation than succeed because once students learn a piece by memory or by ear, and rely on adult help, they are not going to make the effort to read independently. Plus, the relationship between the student and parent helping in this way is often strained.
The fundamental error in non-reading methods is that children are intellectually ready to read in kindergarten. An additional problem with Yamaha is that students are learning in a group. In a group, the teacher is unable to correct technique and many bad habits are formed during the first years of lessons that are very difficult or impossible to correct.
The Conservatory Course is better: From the first lesson, students learn to visually read musical notation that they will continue to read the same way all their lives. The lessons are private, so the teacher can help them learn the first skills of piano technique and the formation of the hand at the lesson. No help is needed from parents at home.
However, the problem still remains that students eventually resent learning to read what they can already play without reading. This is the major problem with any method that encourages playing by "ear". Remember, imitation is easy, learning to read is a long and complicated process that will be resisted by students who are not taught to read and play all at once. In addition, the demands put on the student and family create an environment that only the strong and dedicated can survive.
The Conservatory Course is better: Many of the standard pieces in the Suzuki method are the same repertoire as in The Conservatory Course. Even so, The Conservatory Course is more organized with a sequential plan for teaching reading and more variety of experiences. The Suzuki curriculum consists only of pieces to play with no explanations; and when it is time to start reading teachers have to seek out other methods. With The Conservatory Course students are taught right from the start to respond to written musical notation. Everything is taught at the lesson and parents are not expected to attend lessons in order to help at home.
THE ECLECTIC APPROACH
Common sense tells us that teacher should have a plan for progress. The worst possible plan is to have no plan. Look on any music lessons website and you will see something similar to this, "Our teachers understand that every student is an individual, with personal musical needs and goals. We make it a priority to tailor how we teach and what we teach to your individual needs." Giving a lesson by just telling students random ideas is not teaching. Teaching must have a method and objective goals. Using a variety of methods or using what the student brings is not a method. Frequently teachers go into the lesson not knowing what they are going to accomplish that day but reacting to what the student did or didn't do during the week. This also is not a method. These ways do not result in a coherent teaching strategy that can be proven to work. Organizing a lesson plan for study from many resources by one's self is an enormous amount of work and a great responsibility. It takes years of trial and error to know all the ways that information can be misunderstood by the student.
There are countless details for training students mentally and physically in music and there are countless errors that can be made. The following is a list of the most commonly used teaching errors that should alarm parents if they occur with your student: