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#1232584 - 07/16/09 04:58 PM Various issues with pupils
hola151 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/14/09
Posts: 2
Loc: London, UK
Hi there other forum users,

So...first post!

Basically I am having a couple of issues with pupils that I'm asking for advice on. I should say that piano is actually my second instrument, 'cello being my first, and I have only recently started teaching piano (I have fairly extensive experience as a 'cello teacher). The issues are as follows:
I have one pupil who is, although not a complete beginner, not yet at a standard I would describe as "intermediate." I am actually teaching him on a keyboard. He had some lessons before starting with me, and his previous teacher appears to have taught him by putting stickers with the note letters on the keys and teaching him songs by ear using the note letters. Reading notation is a real struggle for him. I should also add that he wants to go more in a gospel/r'nb direction rather than classical. My impression is that he would like to develop the ability to improvise harmony parts and basslines to popular songs, however he does not have the technical and musical grounding to really develop this ability. I have discovered all this from trying to work from notation with him, and the process being laboriously slow (he does read notation to some extent but seems to have had little tuition in notation). Basically my feeling is that he wants to be able to take on the role of, say, a keys player in an r'n'b band, but does not realise how much he needs to develop his technique to get to that stage, and also would not, at this point, have the necessary motivation. He's twelve years old i.e. at the age where lack of imput that he feels is catering to his needs could easily result in a give-up, so I'm reluctant to force him to do scales and studies etc...help!!!
I have another pupil (7 yrs old) who is a total beginner, and also does not yet read notation very well. I am trying to teach him music theory whilst teaching piano technique and am trying to think of good, integrative ways to do this. So far I have written a couple of little tunes for him to illustrate note values in practice, and done c and g major scales. How does one explain the circle of fifths to a seven-year-old child? And what about the fact that one note appears in a totally different place on the stave in the bass clef than in the treble clef? Any ideas anyone??
I have a third pupil (adult) who is around grade 2/3 (ABRSM) standard. She does not have very much confidence, and I can tell that, where she plays wrong notes, she often knows the right notes, but a lack of confidence and the resulting nervousness means that they then come out wrong. At the moment I find myself telling her that, after thoroughly learning the music, one has to tell oneself that it is actually all "there" and the less we worry about making mistakes, the better the playing will be and the higher our confidence level will be. But I feel that this is not helping her at the moment. Can anyone recommend any practical exercises for overcoming nervousness and increasing confidence?
At the moment I am not using any teaching books, but if anything I've said prompts a recommendation of a particular book, that would be great...

I would very much appreciate any advice on the above issues!

Many thanks

Matthew.

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#1232598 - 07/16/09 05:27 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: hola151]
tommytones Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/13/09
Posts: 167
Loc: Northeast America
Matthew,

I've had success with using John Schaum's note speller with students ages 5-15. They are fun excercises, and students learn much by completing the excercises. I would all the students you've mentioned go through these books, as the basic foundation of musical rudiments seems to be lacking from them.

Also, regarding student number two, it seems that teaching the circle of fifths to a student at that age would be over their head. Try the note speller and the theory speller from the aformentioned author. It goes through theory, without being over young students' heads.

Hope this helps!
_________________________
tommytones
Mus. B., Classical Piano Performance
Kawai No. 600
Roland Digital Piano Model No. HP 147
Wurlitzer Electronic Piano Model No. 200A
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#1232645 - 07/16/09 07:32 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: tommytones]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11427
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
For student #1, I'd get him to agree to certain conditions. You will teach him what he wants to learn, if he practices what you tell him he needs to learn. I had a boy around this age who anted to do Jazz, and refused to work on anything else. Before I took him, I let him and his mother know that I was not a jazz pianist, and while I could help guide him in playing some jazz tunes, he'd have to agree to do the things I told him to because it would make him more capable of playing jazz well. With some time to adjust and some ups and downs, he finally agreed in action (as opposed to just saying OK) and his playing is taking off. Knowing that he would have to audition for college playing classical music in oder to later major in jazz piano helped too. I don't know how serious this kid is, but whatever it is that inspires him, help him learn the things he will need for that. Of course, he'll have to learn to play scales & chords so he can improvise within a key, as well as play chords underneath. If he agrees to it, then you can work on some pieces in his style of choice, while he also work son pieces that will help him become a better player.

Student #2 should really have pieces to play! I do like using a method book because it provides all that stuff in abundance. Piano Adventures by Faber & Faber is a good one to start. You don't have to go all the way up to level 5, I'd say just the first 3 books or so, then you can move him into ABRSM repertoire. As far as explaining the circle of 5ths...I don't. Not at the beginning. It is far too complicated a concept for most kids this age. I have them first work on a C major scale. Once they can do that hands together (usually after a few weeks), then I have them try to play a scale starting on G. I'll ask them which note sounded "weird" and we may play through it a few times for them to really hear it. They usually pick it out after that. Then I point out that because we're starting on a different note, we need to add an F# to make it sound right. I'll just continue on like that around the circle a bit. I will always ask them what the next scale is going to be by playing the first 5 ascending notes of the previous scale(on the sharp side), or play the first 5 descending notes (on the flat side). If they catch on quickly, I may even ask them to figure out the new sharp by going down a half step from the new tonic.

Student #3, do improvising with her. This will really help her to open up. Make sure you set parameters so that there is no way it could sound bad or wrong. I like to do improvs on the black keys. It is important you improvise together, so it's not a "performance". You can also improvise by emotion, like I have a list of about 60 different emotions. I have a student pick a number between 1-60 and then we find out what emotion that is. Then I ask, "How do you think excited would sound? Legato or staccato? Forte or piano? High notes or low notes? Fast or slow?" There are no wrong answers to any of these questions. Once you've nailed down some things, then ask her to improvise something say, fast and staccato on high notes. Assure her that the actual notes don't matter as much as it matters that it is high, fast and staccato. Sometimes if they really like it, it's fun to help them put it on notation software to really help define which notes they like better. They are very proud when they see a page come off the printer with their name in the Composer's place!
_________________________
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#1232969 - 07/17/09 01:51 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Morodiene]
Susan K. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/03/09
Posts: 192
Loc: Central California
I'm not a piano teacher but I can respond as a student to #2 & #3. I took piano for eight years (ages 10-18) and never understood the circle of fifth. Because I was supposed to know it, I just faked it. I think what would have really helped me is if my teachers worked on intervals and what a third or fifth or a seventh is in different keys (when you get there).

Now as an adult, I'm student #3. My teacher has become a close friend, but when we are in our "lesson," my hands actually shake which makes it hard to press the right keys. My scales are off, and my fingering goes awry. But now, I play the "rough draft" and then immediately do it the second time and then usually by the third repetition, my nerves have calmed down. For pieces, I now start with two or three measures that gave me difficulty and I play those and narrate why I'm having problems. Then she asks me to play it from the beginning and I usually feel pretty good about the effort. Then, we talk about what I can improve on and we play together. Also, I notice that I do a lot better when I have a few minutes to run through things right before the lesson vs. when I go to the lesson straight from work.

Susan

P.S. I understand the theory behind the circle of fifths, but I can't really USE it yet to help me identify key signatures.

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#1232995 - 07/17/09 02:44 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: hola151]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7307
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: hola151
I have a third pupil (adult) who is around grade 2/3 (ABRSM) standard. She does not have very much confidence, and I can tell that, where she plays wrong notes, she often knows the right notes, but a lack of confidence and the resulting nervousness means that they then come out wrong. At the moment I find myself telling her that, after thoroughly learning the music, one has to tell oneself that it is actually all "there" and the less we worry about making mistakes, the better the playing will be and the higher our confidence level will be. But I feel that this is not helping her at the moment. Can anyone recommend any practical exercises for overcoming nervousness and increasing confidence?


This student doesn't really know keyboard geometry, so isn't at the level you think she's at.

Although it's really difficult to diagnose by short postings, there are some general practices which would probably help you and her.

Get a repertoire book or series from a level below where you think she's at and start learning a large number of pieces. Keith Snell's Piano Repertoire series is carefully graded, as are many others, and would be a good place to start (pub. Kjos).

Even if she can stagger through the whole piece pretty much, identify troublesome measures and work on those, including the measure before and after. Often, it's helpful to work by phrases, so you might find that you're working in 4 measure groups. Keep the tempo very, very slow, untl the passage is executed correctly, several times in succession. You may have to work hands separately a couple of times. BTW, when my students are working HS, I generally will play the other line, so they hear the complete passage and are forced to stay in tempo.

Get a series which has fingering included and religiously stick to the suggested fingering. This is not because it came down from Mt. Sinai on engraved tablets, but because she lacks the wisdom at this point to invent her own fingering.

If you're not including scales and chords as part of the lesson, please consider doing so. They may be boring, in fact, I make a big deal with my students about how REALLY BORING they are, so that most tackle them with great delight, just to prove me wrong. And it really helps them learn keyboard geometry.

I'm a big believer in memorization and then continued playing so the piece percolates and improves. It doesn't make any difference what level the student is at. The more they repeat playing something familiar on the piano, the more comfortable they get.

Hope some of these ideas help.

John
_________________________
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#1233008 - 07/17/09 03:15 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Morodiene]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
For student #1, I'd get him to agree to certain conditions. You will teach him what he wants to learn, if he practices what you tell him he needs to learn.


Thats exactly right. I have had several students just like this one...in each case, I had to explain that the fundamentals of piano playing, and of music in general, are pretty much the same regardless of the style of music played.

Its the same scales, same chords, same fingers, same hands, same piano, etc.

I tell them, "lets get through this basic lesson book, then you will be able to play at this level, and thus be able to play this..." and I play the last song in the book, then something along the line of what they like that is equally simple.

So there is a goal to get through the book, and a reward at the end.


Edited by rocket88 (07/17/09 03:16 PM)
_________________________
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#1233013 - 07/17/09 03:24 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: hola151]
EDWARDIAN Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/16/09
Posts: 89
Loc: New York, USA
Hi!

My first reply & post!

I have been teaching piano for over 20 years and hope to share & learn from others.

All your students would really benefit from a course of study. I prefer Thompson, Bastian and sometimes Schaum with supplemental Dozen-A Day.
I also always teach scales right away because the fingering & basic knowledge
is so important.

I find positive encouragement the most helpful for those who are timid or nervous. Comfort and trust are so important and then even my shiest students open up when they are ready.

Good luck in your new teaching area.

Joan
_________________________
Joan Edward

Private piano teacher, 20+ years
EDWARDIAN45@hotmail.com

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#1233059 - 07/17/09 05:17 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: EDWARDIAN]
tommytones Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/13/09
Posts: 167
Loc: Northeast America
I agree with Edwardian, that "comfort and trust" are tantamount. Also, don't forget the wonders of positive reinforcement. A few "good job" and "great work" go a long way, when well deserved.
_________________________
tommytones
Mus. B., Classical Piano Performance
Kawai No. 600
Roland Digital Piano Model No. HP 147
Wurlitzer Electronic Piano Model No. 200A
Hammond M-3

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#1233066 - 07/17/09 05:39 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Susan K.]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11427
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Susan K.
I'm not a piano teacher but I can respond as a student to #2 & #3. I took piano for eight years (ages 10-18) and never understood the circle of fifth. Because I was supposed to know it, I just faked it. I think what would have really helped me is if my teachers worked on intervals and what a third or fifth or a seventh is in different keys (when you get there).

Now as an adult, I'm student #3. My teacher has become a close friend, but when we are in our "lesson," my hands actually shake which makes it hard to press the right keys. My scales are off, and my fingering goes awry. But now, I play the "rough draft" and then immediately do it the second time and then usually by the third repetition, my nerves have calmed down. For pieces, I now start with two or three measures that gave me difficulty and I play those and narrate why I'm having problems. Then she asks me to play it from the beginning and I usually feel pretty good about the effort. Then, we talk about what I can improve on and we play together. Also, I notice that I do a lot better when I have a few minutes to run through things right before the lesson vs. when I go to the lesson straight from work.

Susan

P.S. I understand the theory behind the circle of fifths, but I can't really USE it yet to help me identify key signatures.


I do this too with some students. One doesn't get particularly nervous, I don't think, but her first time through is always a bit rough. In fact for many students, that is how it is unless they were able to practice a little before the lesson. Believe it or not, a teacher can actually tell when a student knows something better than they are playing. They can always tell when a student practiced but when it's just not going well. Sometimes a 2nd run through helps a lot.
_________________________
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MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1236852 - 07/24/09 09:08 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Morodiene]
tommytones Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/13/09
Posts: 167
Loc: Northeast America
true, but the lesson should not be used for practice. This brings up a good point- practice. Emphasize
_________________________
tommytones
Mus. B., Classical Piano Performance
Kawai No. 600
Roland Digital Piano Model No. HP 147
Wurlitzer Electronic Piano Model No. 200A
Hammond M-3

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#1236853 - 07/24/09 09:09 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: tommytones]
tommytones Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/13/09
Posts: 167
Loc: Northeast America
Emphasize PRACTICING over PLAYING while at home. The lesson should be reserved for mostly learning new material.

Tommytones
_________________________
tommytones
Mus. B., Classical Piano Performance
Kawai No. 600
Roland Digital Piano Model No. HP 147
Wurlitzer Electronic Piano Model No. 200A
Hammond M-3

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#1237281 - 07/25/09 06:44 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: tommytones]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: tommytones
true, but the lesson should not be used for practice. This brings up a good point- practice. Emphasize

I don't believe anyone suggested using lessons for practice. Did I miss something?

I believe what most of us do is this: we keep talking about HOW to practice, and we spend a good deal of each lesson reinforcing better ways to practice or introducing new concepts (as music becomes more complex).
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Piano Teacher

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#1237286 - 07/25/09 06:49 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Gary D.]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Students do not inherently know how to practice. They must be taught by example. Therefore, all lessons must include a considerable amount of actual practice with the student. I'm not saying that you spend the entire lesson or even entire pieces in practice at the lesson, but unless we teach them (just telling them does not work), they will not learn the skill and it will be completely our fault.
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#1237293 - 07/25/09 07:02 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Minniemay]
J Cortese Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 357
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
I wouldn't worry about the circle of fifths. I never was taught it outright but just picked up that if you hop up by a fifth you pick up another sharp until the flats start showing up ... and that hopping up by a fifth always gives you the seventh that resolves into that key. You probably won't need to say it out loud.

Jazz Kid is another matter. Ask him who his fave jazz players are and get him some bio on them. Chances are they'll have had some classical training. Just tell him that he needs to fill his toolbox before he starts building a house.
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#1237305 - 07/25/09 07:20 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: J Cortese]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
Loc: South Florida
The circle of 5ths is one of the simplest things in music, if you know it.

To help those who don't, it's a matter of finding a way to explain it that clicks with their way of thinking.
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#1237335 - 07/25/09 08:20 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Gary D.]
Pianos_N_Cheezecake Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 150
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Wow, I was student #1 when I was his age. I hated practising anything my teacher gave me, just stuff I wanted to do. Im a big fan of students like these following their musical desires. However, a good musician knows how to sight read, has good technique, theory knowledge, ear training, etc. I think the best thing you can do is take what they are interested in and use it to teach him/her something. For example, if you want to teach this student how to sightread, get him to write out his favorite pop tune on blank staff paper using key signitures, clefs, etc. If you want to teach him scales, get him to improvise using scales over his favorite R&B tune. If you want to teach him theory, teach him the intervals and chords that exist within one of his tunes. He needs to see that these rudiments are relevant. You can motivate him by finding some gospel/r&b music materials on youtube and show him some keyboard playing where those skills are used. Maybe he could transcribe it and try to play it. He might try to get it up to speed, and see why he needs this good technique. This would take place over a series of lessons, obviously. Good luck!

Cheeze...

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#1237353 - 07/25/09 08:45 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Pianos_N_Cheezecake]
Pianos_N_Cheezecake Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 150
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Here is an example you could try: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5fXhoxJqQQ

This is Fred Hammond, gospel artist from the states with an insane band/choir to back him. There are several different bells/strings/lead sounds that the keyboardist does throughout this tune. Especially around 3:20 listen for the scale he is using with the lead sound. This might motivate your student.

Cheeze...


Edited by Pianos_N_Cheezecake (07/25/09 08:46 PM)

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#1237809 - 07/26/09 08:22 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Minniemay]
tommytones Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/13/09
Posts: 167
Loc: Northeast America
[quote=Minniemay]Students do not inherently know how to practice. They must be taught by example. Therefore, all lessons must include a considerable amount of actual practice with the student.

I agree with MinnieMae. By adding my comment about practicing, I was bringing up a relevant topic in piano pedagogy.

Tommy
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tommytones
Mus. B., Classical Piano Performance
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#1237978 - 07/27/09 04:43 AM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: tommytones]
Jazzed23 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/09
Posts: 48
Loc: Vancouver, Canada
Forget about teaching kids the Circle of 5th and cluttering their mind with useless theory. What is music, it is SOUND. Teach them to play by ear. Especially the first kid, if he's interested in jazz and improv.

This is how you play a song by ear:

-Take a simple melody, play it for him, then break the song down into 4 bars.
-Get him to SING ONLY the melody for the 4 bars. Repeat up to 10 times, so it's in his brain.
-Figure out what key the song is in
-then start playing right hand only the melody, singing the note out loud as he/she is playing
-work out the left hand chord progression and play separately
-put the hands together
-repeat with the next 4 bars...then piece them together, so 8 bars, 12... until you have the whole song

I don't know if your background is in classical or jazz, most gospel and R&B derive chords and scales from jazz. It's the rhythm that's altered.

Teach the standard 2-5-1 chord progression.

Same with the 7 year old, forget the note reading and focus on the sound. Play him middle C, get him to sing it and internalize C, go up and down the register, and then let him play the key. Do that with all keys.

Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles was blind, they sure have no problems playing the blues or R&B!

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#1238238 - 07/27/09 02:28 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Jazzed23]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
To the illiterate, language is sound—and only sound. To disregard reading notation seems like a recipe for remaining musically illiterate.

Steven
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Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
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#1238288 - 07/27/09 03:49 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: sotto voce]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11427
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: sotto voce
To the illiterate, language is sound—and only sound. To disregard reading notation seems like a recipe for remaining musically illiterate.

Steven

Well put, Steven. laugh

There is also something about writing down a thought -- whether in music or word -- that crafts something together that cannot be done spontaneously. By putting words or notes to an idea, it solidifies and becomes for defined. You can also revise it until it is just right, the closest replica of the original idea in your mind. Notation is a positive aspect of music, just like the written word is to spoken language.
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#1238346 - 07/27/09 05:37 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Jazzed23]
tommytones Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/13/09
Posts: 167
Loc: Northeast America
Originally Posted By: Jazzed23
Forget about teaching kids the Circle of 5th and cluttering their mind with useless theory


Useless theory???? That's a new one to me!!! Theory is so important, and should be taught to each student, at all levels. Obviously, one needs to teach appropriate to the age

Tommy
_________________________
tommytones
Mus. B., Classical Piano Performance
Kawai No. 600
Roland Digital Piano Model No. HP 147
Wurlitzer Electronic Piano Model No. 200A
Hammond M-3

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#1238359 - 07/27/09 05:58 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: tommytones]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Originally Posted By: tommytones
Originally Posted By: Jazzed23
Forget about teaching kids the Circle of 5th and cluttering their mind with useless theory


Useless theory???? That's a new one to me!!! Theory is so important, and should be taught to each student, at all levels. Obviously, one needs to teach appropriate to the age

Tommy


Don't pay attention. Jazzed23 is a troll.

_________________________
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#1238373 - 07/27/09 06:09 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Horowitzian]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11427
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian


Don't pay attention. Jazzed23 is a troll.





:::wonders how Horowitzian got that picture of Jazzed:: laugh
_________________________
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#1238393 - 07/27/09 06:39 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Jazzed23]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Jazzed23
Forget about teaching kids the Circle of 5th and cluttering their mind with useless theory.

Forget about teaching reading too. More useless information.

Wait, let's not teach fingering either.

Wait, let's not teach the names of the keys either.

Wait, let's not teach scales or chords.

Down with clutter!
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#1238399 - 07/27/09 06:52 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Gary D.]
tommytones Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/13/09
Posts: 167
Loc: Northeast America
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: Jazzed23
Forget about teaching kids the Circle of 5th and cluttering their mind with useless theory.

Forget about teaching reading too. More useless information.

Wait, let's not teach fingering either.

Wait, let's not teach the names of the keys either.

Wait, let's not teach scales or chords.

Down with clutter!


Great! While we're at it, forget about teaching rhythms! And then, let's learn some Rachmaninoff!!
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#1238579 - 07/28/09 12:21 AM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: tommytones]
Pianos_N_Cheezecake Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 150
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Woah woah woah... lol. Let's not get carried away here! I think the idea is to prioritize. The cycle of 5ths sure isn't the first thing I teach my students. No one is saying throw out theory and fingering etc. You get the point.

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#1238895 - 07/28/09 01:20 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Pianos_N_Cheezecake]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11427
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
You weren't saying that, Pianos n Cheezecake (nice nick, btw, albeit a bit messy), but Jazzed23 was. I agree that teaching the Circle of 5ths as a concept is tough for kids to grasp. But we do play scales in the order of the circle of 5ths, and by the doing, it makes understanding the concept later on much easier.
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#1238994 - 07/28/09 03:34 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Morodiene]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
In teaching piano to anyone, any age, any level - the garbage that goes in is what comes out - as in computer programming.

I give attention to all that is on the music page when starting an assignment: the title, the composer, the style, the era, the key signature, the positioning. We learn to analyze by finding form and recognizing patterns of repeated ideas and new ideas. We work the difficult measures of rhythm challenges out as we find them.

Teaching a student to have reasonable expectations about the music they take on is a side benefit to teaching analysis of the music. They will recognize when a piece is over their head in the present moment. They will being to see that what they are "getting" and "using" is a large part of providing a base for their future efforts. Accumulative learning is really a bit motivator.

You aren't supposed to understand the Circle of 5th going in - it's a result of knowing theory of the 5 Finger Positions, the Major Scale formula of tetrachords, and the theory of how 7 letter names are written as white (naturals) notes, altered to flats and altered to sharps, giving you 21 possibilities for an A - and so on for the B,C,D,E,F G. Exercising your fingers in accurate movement around the keyboard culminates in having a "Circle of 5ths" which is simply a diagram of music logic explaining the theory written about in the 1700's era by Rameau.

Everything comes to us in piano understanding in due time after we have put the time and effort into learning the building blocks. Piano is a structured instrument of huge proportions using the 7 elements of music.

How could it be as simple as some would have it be? If expertise could be gained in under a year of lessons, why has piano been such a fulfillment, enjoyment, passion for me as a student, and then in the many years of piano teaching since. I relish every detail of musicianship regarding the construct of the piano instument, it's mastering by a student, and the beautiful music we have to choose from in the several centuries of it's existance.

To be in a hurry, or to be careless in your study is just something that will grandly set you back, perhaps never allowing you to achieve your very best work. Piano study is a very serious time and work effort as well as using your intelligence and physical coordination and kinesthetic capacities to develop nuances of touch and control.

Were you to have a serious teacher that you could cooperate with, the endless pleasure and enjoyment of it would have been returning many wonderful experiences during your journey.

If the learner understood that there is sequence, order, and procedures to learning the piano, there would be a better result to all. When you apply less of yourself, you are going to get less of a result on the piano. Piano represents your learning and thinking and doing capacity. It's either 100% or it's not.

Lax teaching leaves the student with pockets of nothingness akin to looking at a slice of swiss cheese with all the pockets of air holes within what might have been a solid block of cheese. I hope the humor of that description makes a point.

This is just my vested opinion, so don't waste your time in argument with me, just state your opinions without feeling you have to tear mine apart, please. I would appreciate that courtesy.

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#1239085 - 07/28/09 05:19 PM Re: Various issues with pupils [Re: Betty Patnude]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
Loc: South Florida
In teaching piano to anyone, any age, any level - the garbage that goes in is what comes out - as in computer programming.

Betty, I honestly believe I am after the same thing you are after, but my main point is this:

"You can't argue with success." For instance, if you and I have completely different method of introducing concept, but your students and mine all successfully absort those concepts.

Let me give you a concrete example: I just finished teaching a young girl who told me that a quarter note is an eighth. In this particular case I don't care, because she just nailed all the notes, and she counted the piece perfectly. She has absorbed the basic idea of a 3/4 time signature and how the counts work. Will she know that a quarter is a quarter? Yes. But I am looking at the bigger picture.

This same girl started off hanging her thumbs so far off the keyboard, it was really funny. I tried to correct it by having her hold her hand in a more "correct" or "standard" position. The immediate result was tension and cramping. I could have stopped everything else at that point and drilled and drilled and drilled, but I chose to watch. I introduce scale patterns and chords quite early, and I saw that the moment she began to use her thumb in patterns or chords, the thumb was moving into position naturally. I continued to ignore the "problem", and it perfectly corrected itself. Her hand position is now fine.

In this medium (Internet) we are all working deaf and blind unless we are exchaning videos of our students playing while showing us teaching them. This is why I am very wary of judging the teaching methods of other teachers according to the words they choose to describe their methods. I think we make huge assumptions that cause us to seriously misjudge each other.
Quote:

Teaching a student to have reasonable expectations about the music they take on is a side benefit to teaching analysis of the music. They will recognize when a piece is over their head in the present moment. They will being to see that what they are "getting" and "using" is a large part of providing a base for their future efforts. Accumulative learning is really a bit motivator.

I tell my students that playing music you THINK you want to play may not be "fun" at all if you have to work really, really, REALLY hard to learn the music. I tell them that many students, at least, prefer playing things that they can play very well in a reasonably short period of time, and that by mastering many things that are quite "doable", they should get to their "dream pieces" in a much shorter time than they think. The principle is that people tend to be very proud of what they can do, so if they spend a huge amount of time working on something they are dreaming of playing but at the end are unable to play at full tempo or with all the polish that makes the dream piece come alive, it may turn into a nightmare. They may not even want to play that piece later, when they are really ready. Bad memories!
Quote:

You aren't supposed to understand the Circle of 5th going in - it's a result of knowing theory of the 5 Finger Positions, the Major Scale formula of tetrachords, and the theory of how 7 letter names are written as white (naturals) notes, altered to flats and altered to sharps, giving you 21 possibilities for an A - and so on for the B,C,D,E,F G. Exercising your fingers in accurate movement around the keyboard culminates in having a "Circle of 5ths" which is simply a diagram of music logic explaining the theory written about in the 1700's era by Rameau.

I would argue that the circle of fifths is something that becomes very obvious at the right time, though the except timing and the exact path that it comes into focus will be different for each student. Do you know exactly how and when it all made sense to you? I remember seeing a diagram when I was just beginning and thinking that it looked like some weird, complicated and impossible to understand drawing. A couple years later I looked at it and thought, "OK, what's the big deal? It's so obvious." Unlike you, apparently, I understand tetrachords, as a concept, because I know my scales, in my bones. To this day I do not use them for myself. I have used the concept for *some* students. Others seem to absorb scales in another manner more quickly.
Quote:

Lax teaching leaves the student with pockets of nothingness akin to looking at a slice of swiss cheese with all the pockets of air holes within what might have been a solid block of cheese. I hope the humor of that description makes a point.

However, a "solid block of cheese" an ideal, not reality. ALL students will have "holes". They may be little tiny holes, but it is the skill of the teacher that allows the teacher to fill these holes as they appear, and at the right time.


Edited by Gary D. (07/28/09 06:26 PM)
Edit Reason: wrong quotes
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