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#1243446 - 08/04/09 04:01 PM This young man is SO sensitive!
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
He is very talented. He plays very well. He's 12, 3 years of piano with me.

He's playing some challenging stuff that takes more than a week or two to master. Yesterday when I was telling him that there is a lot to remember, he looked at me with teary eyes and said "but it's been 4 weeks!".

I am seeing more and more of this as he gets into harder stuff. He really does well, but he expects to pass everything the first time through. I couldn't ask for a better practicer, or a harder worker.

Most the time when I explain to the kids that as they get into harder stuff it will take them longer to learn it, they accept it, but he still gets really upset.

He has a bit of a "helicopter mom", and she pushes him. I have never seen her berate him.

What about giving him something "easy" so he can pass it in a week, along with the harder stuff that takes longer? I don't want to lower my expectations of him, I know he can do it, but I don't want to push him to the point of not liking piano anymore either.

Thoughts??
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#1243455 - 08/04/09 04:09 PM Re: This young man is SO sensitive! [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
There's nothing wrong with that, but you have taught him how to solve problems in each section, so that he can play the entire piece correctly, even if not up to tempo?
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#1243463 - 08/04/09 04:16 PM Re: This young man is SO sensitive! [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
bitWrangler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 1789
Loc: Central TX
My daughter typically has one long term piece (e.g. > 1 month) and then a few short term/easier pieces to make sure she has a good mix of stuff to work on. The easier pieces also allow for focusing on specific things vs the bigger picture of the long term piece. The problem that we have with our daughter isn't so much getting upset about "not getting it quickly enough", rather it's simply burning out on the piece as she transitions from simply being able to play it to really delving into the minutiae and being able to play it well, as this period can last a significantly longer time.

We also like to personally (i.e. not teacher initiated) throw in some sight reading pieces. Just fun, no pressure stuff.

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#1243485 - 08/04/09 04:46 PM Re: This young man is SO sensitive! [Re: bitWrangler]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4812
Loc: South Florida
(to:E&I)
When things get harder, they usually get longer. My students get very discouraged if it takes them many weeks to accomplish something. And it drives me nuts too. It's boring.

So we set smaller goals WITHIN harder pieces. We might pick one section. And for young students it is also extremely helpful to be very positive about what has been done and to accentuate the fact that what is good is good, period, but we can always add the next step or layer.

If a student is struggling with a passage and with work that passage or section now has no wrong notes and the fingering is solid, I will praise the work even if the rhythm is wonky. And THEN we will add that next concept, stabilizing the rhythm. Perhaps then it will all be correct but down tempo and rather robotic.

Either shaping the music somehow (adding nuances) OR increasing tempo may be the next step.

12 and 13 is a hard year for both young men and women. Hormones are going wild, so all these emotional ups and downs are added to all the other challenges.


Edited by Gary D. (08/04/09 04:47 PM)
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#1243495 - 08/04/09 05:06 PM Re: This young man is SO sensitive! [Re: Gary D.]
ProdigalPianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
Does MOM understand that these new, more advanced pieces normally require multiple weeks' work?

My mom never did and was always complaining about me practicing things for weeks "Why don't you play something you can actually PLAY???" frown
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#1243510 - 08/04/09 05:33 PM Re: This young man is SO sensitive! [Re: ProdigalPianist]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10385
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Gary hits both big problems in his post. Some students find the transition to working longer on a piece very difficult. And the age is difficult in any case.

I like his solution about goals within pieces. I know that worked well with my son when he was around that age.

Another thing you can do is have him talk to older students who can give him an independent affirmation that working longer on a piece isn't a bad reflection on him or his abilities. If you don't have that kind of older student in your studio, perhaps your colleagues have some older boys who can mentor him a bit.

At some point students have to come to the realization that pieces are long term projects, and can take MONTHS instead of weeks. If they cannot wrap their minds around that idea then they will either move away from the instrument or they will learn to be satisfied with substantially less than perfect mastery. Indeed, many students never make the full transition, but they need to be given the opportunity to succeed, and that opportunity requires real information about what it takes.

P.S. At that age, my son already knew how to work on a piece for 3-5 months without tiring of it, and I don't think that marked him as special at all. He was just in an environment (teacher, parent, peers) in which that was natural. The work was difficult but the reward of mastery was tangible to him and it was a real motivator.
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#1243551 - 08/04/09 06:28 PM Re: This young man is SO sensitive! [Re: Piano*Dad]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4812
Loc: South Florida
It's all about presenting the material.

Students will not realize that some things they have already played, which are only one page long, are actually more difficult than MOST of the pages in long compositions.

When the idea is explained to them that a four page piece is much like learning FOUR one-page pieces, a light goes on.
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#1243559 - 08/04/09 06:35 PM Re: This young man is SO sensitive! [Re: ProdigalPianist]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
Originally Posted By: ProdigalPianist
Does MOM understand that these new, more advanced pieces normally require multiple weeks' work?

My mom never did and was always complaining about me practicing things for weeks "Why don't you play something you can actually PLAY???" frown


Do other teachers hear this a lot, too??? I do sometimes. Some moms will actually tell their children to stop practicing a piece because they've had it too long. I do take this issue up with these parents when this happens. If E and I's student has a helicopter parent, perhaps she is involved with this issue somehow.
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#1243569 - 08/04/09 06:52 PM Re: This young man is SO sensitive! [Re: Barb860]
ProdigalPianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
Originally Posted By: Barb860


Do other teachers hear this a lot, too??? I do sometimes. Some moms will actually tell their children to stop practicing a piece because they've had it too long. I do take this issue up with these parents when this happens.


The teacher may not know. My teachers never knew my mom said it. I never told them (my parents rarely spoke to my teachers, outside of pleasantries at recitals). I was ashamed it took me so long to learn things, I figured I was doing something wrong, not working hard enough, or just not very good.

I just tried to practice when mom or dad wasn't home.
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