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#1239508 - 07/29/09 09:28 AM how to teach someone to "listen"
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
I'm wondering about something helpful you all can tell me for a student that just doesn't seem "hear" what she plays.

She can play an entire piece and miss every sharp. She doesn't seem to hear it. When a student plays a chord, or something, wrong, I will wait to see what they do. Most the time, they will hear it and correct it. She doesn't. Even if I ask "Hummm, does that sound right to you?" she answers with a yes.

She does her scales and the accompanying chords very well. But, if she gets her hands "scootched" she will finish that last chord in the wrong position and not seem to notice.

She is 12, with 2 years piano experience.

Thanks all smile
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It is better to be kind than to be right.

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#1239525 - 07/29/09 09:54 AM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
rada Offline
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Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
Seems like there is a fine line of what you must teach and what you must also allow to not discourage an 'ear' that perhaps hears differently. My guess is that she's only been playing for 2 years and for some students it takes longer to hear her mistakes. I would love to see the look on her face during these situations.

rada

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#1239607 - 07/29/09 12:39 PM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: rada]
J Cortese Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 357
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Hm -- maybe record her, then play back an "off" phrase. Play it yourself correctly, and record that.

Then, play both one after the other -- and make sure the recordings start and ed at exactly the same place in the piece. Don't ask her if hers sounds "right." Ask her if they sound the same.

*shrug* Worth a try.
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#1239653 - 07/29/09 01:27 PM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: J Cortese]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
I'd have said that your best bet is not to worry too much about the hearing for now and concentrate on her reading. Obviously playing is not all about just following instructions. However, once you've played a wrong note a few times it's surprising what can sound right. I still find the odd mistake myself in pieces I've played for ages, but which didn't seem odd after having done it so many times. With good reading skills, the hearing will come with experience of playing (well, hopefully).

However, you could also do listening exercises where you play pieces with deliberate mistakes and ask which notes sound wrong.
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#1239668 - 07/29/09 01:38 PM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
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Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Maybe start a course of sight singing.
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#1239669 - 07/29/09 01:38 PM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I have had success in using playback exercises. With a student such as yours, you must limit the options in the playback. Start with short melodies in a 5 finger pattern, no more than 2 measures. Use mostly half notes, then start including quarter notes. Stick with stepwise motion at first, then start including 3rds, then expand to 4ths and 5ths.

Slow and methodical, that's the key. She will get there eventually. Like many things, listening must be taught. Not everyone has a great ear, but it can be better. My own husband is living proof! He couldn't match pitch or even sing in key on his own when we married 18 years ago. Now he stays in key when he sings on his own and can match pitch about 1/2 the time. And that's not even with focused instruction, just being around me singing!
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#1239732 - 07/29/09 03:11 PM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: Minniemay]
ProdigalPianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
What kind of piano does she have at home? What shape is it in? Is it tuned?

If she is practicing things "wrong" at home all week, then she will think that's the way it's "supposed" to sound...
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#1239738 - 07/29/09 03:18 PM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: ProdigalPianist]
J Cortese Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 357
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
BTW, if you do play her two bits and ask her if they sound the same, the next thing you may want to ask her is which one sounds better. Not "right." She sounds like she's in a rote-learning frame of mind she's making shapes with her hands and hitting the keys she thinks she's supposed to hit, but she's not connecting that to making something "pretty."

So when you ask her "does that sound right?" she's hearing, "Does that sound as if you have mimicked the hand movements you've been practicing all week?" And she answers yes.

Kind of like asking a carpentry student, "Did you build the bookcase right?" They answer yes, because they think you're asking, "Did you follow the instructions to the letter?" when you may instead be asking, "Excuse me, but didn't your bookcase just fall over?" Students are thinking in terms of cookbook instruction-following. In her mind, that's what she's doing. That's what "right" means. "I did everything I'm supposed to be doing but it's still not turning out." (Maybe ... for all I know, her ears just don't work.)

Record her playing a phrase incorrectly, then yourself playing it correctly -- then play the two recordings one after the other. Ask her if they sound the same, and then which she thinks sounds better. She needs to learn that "right" means "sounds good" and not "successfully followed what she thought was the rote instructions."


Edited by J Cortese (07/29/09 03:22 PM)
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#1239781 - 07/29/09 04:14 PM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: J Cortese]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3250
Loc: Virginia, USA
This is not so simple, I think.

Here is how I conceptualize the feedback loop: create clearly defined concept of sound inside head, play instrument, listen, subtract B from A and calculate error, use error to calculate correction, repeat.

That's a lot for a beginner to do. They do not hear even gross errors at times. I think it's some kind of hardwired protective brain function.

I suspect that how fast one learns to hear oneself is much of what separates the great players from the average.

What isn't obvious is that B interferes with A, and vice versa.

My niece learned to hear and correct error on the guitar after about four years, IIRC. She wasn't aware of this when it happened, but it was obvious to me.
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#1239855 - 07/29/09 05:19 PM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: TimR]
lilylady Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/05
Posts: 4981
Loc: boston north
Does she sing?

Can you get her to sing?

Does she sing in tune (reasonably)?

That might give some insight.

Some good suggestions above.

Another thought to add to the mix.

Maybe she can't HEAR what she is playing. Can she HEAR what you play?

Have you tried that?

And for an example, play C D E F G A B hesitate C#

Her mind should go to C. Most of us fill that in, automatically.

Does she HEAR that something is off?

If these suggestions don't work, I have no idea how you might progress.
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#1239906 - 07/29/09 06:29 PM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
Tell her exactly what it is that you want her to listen for in her playing. Just one thing to listen for at a time. If she is missing every sharp, ask to her play a phrase and "listen for the F#". Just one phrase. If she gets it, fine, then let her go on to the next phrase. Break it down to have her listen for one thing each time she plays. If she is banging the keys for example, and doing other things wrong as well, isolate just that one thing and "listen for your soft sound to come out", something like that. I think there is so much to listen for that it becomes overwhelming and the result is no listening at all.
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#1239969 - 07/29/09 07:31 PM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: Barb860]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: Barb860
I think there is so much to listen for that it becomes overwhelming and the result is no listening at all.

Barb, you summed up nicely what others here have said too.
Perhaps we just get so used to it, that we forget these kids are bombarded with stuff when they are starting out. I don't consider 2 years a beginner any more, but I guess it is when you look at the big picture. And some are more beginner at 2 years than others are at 6 months.

Thanks for all the great ideas!!
_________________________
It is better to be kind than to be right.

Professional private piano teacher since 1994.

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#1240107 - 07/29/09 11:48 PM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
DL33 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/16/09
Posts: 27
I was going to suggest the idea of having her sing as well.

Another thought is for you to play Happy Birthday for her and hit a wrong note. Ask her if it sounded okay to her. If she can identify the wrong note, she's got the ability to recognize one. If she can't then of course she needs more ear training. And perhaps she is only playing unfamiliar (to her) pieces and thinks they are supposed to sound the way they're coming out.

I also like the above idea of you playing it and her playing it and seeing if she hears the difference.

I can't help but wonder how much of today's "music" is adversely affecting the general public's ability to appreciate the fine art, especially children who are so receptive. If she occupies her time listening to today's "artists" (sigh) then her wrong notes might sound very acceptable to her.

There might also be a mental processing problem here -- My mother and I could both play piano and easily pick out melodies we heard. My brother, on the other hand, could not. He loved operettas and could sing faily well, but he could NOT keep time to music, even a march, even though he could sing the melody and keep the correct timing while singing. When we'd ask him to clap his hands when he heard the beat to a march (and not sing along), he didn't have a clue what we were talking about. He couldn't understand or hear "beats." He was in his late teens, not a kid. He only clapped when he saw us clap. We could never "fix" him! It was like he took a piece of music in as a whole and didn't have the ability to break it down into isolated parts. Perhaps your student's mind is like that. I sure wish you luck if it is!
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DL33
Time passes too quickly. Follow your dreams.

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#1240108 - 07/29/09 11:53 PM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: DL33]
DL33 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/16/09
Posts: 27
I meant to add that my brother's IQ was near genius level, so it had nothing to do with intelligence.
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DL33
Time passes too quickly. Follow your dreams.

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#1240130 - 07/30/09 12:39 AM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: lilylady]
Roxy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/19/08
Posts: 478
Loc: Whittier, Calif
I have tried with some measure of success to get a student to start listening to themselves by telling them I am going to play something two times and I want them to tell me which is the correct one. Then I pick a phrase that they have played wrong and play one correct and the other with the mistake they make and ask so which was correct one or two. Sometimes I have to play it more than once but usually they end up picking the correct one. Then I ask them which one did they play (with a smile) and usually they then realize they were playing the wrong one.

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#1240223 - 07/30/09 08:32 AM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: DL33]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: DL33
but he could NOT keep time to music, even a march, even though he could sing the melody and keep the correct timing while singing. When we'd ask him to clap his hands when he heard the beat to a march (and not sing along), he didn't have a clue what we were talking about. He couldn't understand or hear "beats." He only clapped when he saw us clap. We could never "fix" him! It was like he took a piece of music in as a whole and didn't have the ability to break it down into isolated parts. Perhaps your student's mind is like that. I sure wish you luck if it is!


Interesting that you should say that. He could keep time while singing, but not while clapping? That is intriguing. You say you "never did fix him". What kinds of things did you try, if you don't mind my asking. This young lady "rocks" when she plays, but she doesn't rock to the beat. We are working on SO many things with her at once. I don't doubt if it is hard for her because there are so many things we are trying to "fix", at one time.

She also doesn't breathe when she plays.
I tried the sticky note arrows (a suggestion from a previous post) but they just made her stop. She would stop for about 6-8 beats, breathe, and then go on again. So yeah, we have some issues.

Maybe I should pick one thing at a time. However, that scares me because I don't want her to spend too much time doing things incorrectly while we are working on something else.
_________________________
It is better to be kind than to be right.

Professional private piano teacher since 1994.

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#1240251 - 07/30/09 09:24 AM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: Roxy]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7418
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Roxy
I have tried with some measure of success to get a student to start listening to themselves by telling them I am going to play something two times and I want them to tell me which is the correct one. Then I pick a phrase that they have played wrong and play one correct and the other with the mistake they make and ask so which was correct one or two. Sometimes I have to play it more than once but usually they end up picking the correct one. Then I ask them which one did they play (with a smile) and usually they then realize they were playing the wrong one.


This is a very effective method for teaching in general. Most teachers of other instruments do play for and with their students, and we should as well. Having two instruments in your studio makes it a whole lot easier, but obviously, you can do the job with one, it's just a bit more time consuming.

Playing not just differences in pitch, but in dynamics and phrasing is a great way to help students learn to listen to their own playing.

If you haven't tried the "I'm going to play this two different ways. You tell me what the differences are," method, I would urge you to try it.
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#1240842 - 07/31/09 10:01 AM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Mrs.A Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 155
Does your student have an instrument at home? If she does, is it well maintained and tuned?

I use Piano Adventures and the theory book has occasional games or exercises to help with this. The book shows two short phrases of music written on the staff and the teacher plays one, the student chooses which is played. I use a games called melody bingo. It is cards with several melodies written, the teacher plays a melody and the student finds the melody on the card. I use a similar rhythm bingo game occasionally.

I utilize some “rote” teaching methods . Without music, I play a few notes and the student repeats. Starting at the beginning, I add a note and the student repeats until they get stumped. (like the old Simon electronic game) This exercise is fun and trains the student to listen for the notes.

I believe this kind of rote teaching game is also good for helping students increase dexterity, recognize patterns in music and encourage success. Once they have learned the first phrase or two I give them a reproducible copy of the music. They are always excited when the realize they are playing a complicated looking piece. Fur Elise works well for this. Even the very beginner student can play the first phrase of Fur Elise by wrote.

Once kids learn a few phrases of Fur Elise, they will play it constantly at home. This especially encourages the young student to move those fingers.

I have a box of resonator rods. I strike a rod and the student finds the same note on the piano. They may hunt for a while but eventually find the note. This is also a good test to see how well a student hears and matches tones.

Of course there is only a limited amount of time in lessons so I reserve these games for students who need help “hearing” the music.

K.
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Piano Teacher.
Church Music Director.
Kindermusik Instructor.
Mom to four boys.


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#1241603 - 08/01/09 02:26 PM Re: how to teach someone to "listen" [Re: Mrs.A]
musiclady Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/19/05
Posts: 431
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Play listening games, such as various versions of "Simon Says". Sometimes I deliberately leave out a detail to see if they were listening to what I said, I have some students who are really good listeners.

Meri
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