July 25, 2013

Recognizing the Trade-Off, Part Two

Posted in music and writing, Revising at 1:30 pm by Rebecca Hein

As noted, problems in our writing pop out even when we try to improve it. For years I fought this reality in both cello playing and writing, and didn’t progress in my understanding of the problem until I began to think seriously about music pedagogy and the difference between various approaches.

All are designed to smooth the early path of technique and performance, and all have their limitations. For example, the Suzuki approach delays music-reading until the student is comfortable with the instrument and can play in tune and with good tone. By contrast, traditional study introduces basic technique and music reading all together at the beginning.

I really thought the founder of the movement, Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, had solved the problem of laying a strong foundation for good pitch and tone, until one of my junior high cello students told me, “Suzuki students can’t read music. In school orchestra, my Suzuki-trained stand partner watches me and copies what I do, a split second after I do it. It looks like she’s reading the page of music, but she’s actually faking it.”

This was an early clue that there’s always a trade-off. With the Suzuki approach, in pursuing good technique first, the important question of how to teach music-reading was not solved but delayed.

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