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#1256221 - 08/26/09 01:01 AM Can I just rave for a sec?
Pianos_N_Cheezecake Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 150
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
So, I am a 21 year old University Jazz Performance student and I have never taught a lesson in my life until yesterday... and I am in love with it. Yesterday I had an 8 year old girl, and today I had a 4 year old, 5 year old, 7 year old and 8 year old. The 8 year old's name is Rachel. Today I had her play me some tunes she knew on the piano and she gladly played everything she knew. I went on to ask her how she learned each tune. The majority of them she said she learned by ear. She went on to say (word for word) "Lots of times I hear songs and I have never played them before and I just sing them and then they just come out of my hands on the piano." So I asked her if she'd ever played happy birthday and she said no. I asked her to play it for me right there and she did. I hummed her a tune on the syllable "la" and she played it back to me with ease. On top of that, I was teaching her sibling and I could hear her singing in the other room! She sounded like she has been classically trained for a at least 2 years. Has a voice like an angel! And it's all natural...! Anybody else experienced students like these?

Cheeze...

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#1256248 - 08/26/09 02:27 AM Re: Can I just rave for a sec? [Re: Pianos_N_Cheezecake]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Pianos_N_Cheezecake
So, I am a 21 year old University Jazz Performance student and I have never taught a lesson in my life until yesterday... and I am in love with it. Yesterday I had an 8 year old girl, and today I had a 4 year old, 5 year old, 7 year old and 8 year old. The 8 year old's name is Rachel. Today I had her play me some tunes she knew on the piano and she gladly played everything she knew. I went on to ask her how she learned each tune. The majority of them she said she learned by ear. She went on to say (word for word) "Lots of times I hear songs and I have never played them before and I just sing them and then they just come out of my hands on the piano." So I asked her if she'd ever played happy birthday and she said no. I asked her to play it for me right there and she did. I hummed her a tune on the syllable "la" and she played it back to me with ease. On top of that, I was teaching her sibling and I could hear her singing in the other room! She sounded like she has been classically trained for a at least 2 years. Has a voice like an angel! And it's all natural...! Anybody else experienced students like these?

Cheeze...

A few times in a my life…

It's rare. Enjoy it!
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1256279 - 08/26/09 05:09 AM Re: Can I just rave for a sec? [Re: Gary D.]
ToriAnais Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/24/08
Posts: 244
Loc: Australia
That's lovely. Ahhh, the first baby steps on the way to becoming a teaching junkie ;*)
_________________________
Piano teacher since August 2008.

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#1256411 - 08/26/09 10:52 AM Re: Can I just rave for a sec? [Re: Pianos_N_Cheezecake]
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3343
Loc: Western Canada
Originally Posted By: Pianos_N_Cheezecake
And it's all natural...! Anybody else experienced students like these?
Cheeze...


Yes! Only once!

Had a student who was 8 years old. She came to class and played me this amazing piece. A difficult piece too! She played the piece in the key of C! So . . . thinking I would teach her a lesson (pun intended), I'd get her to play the same piece in the key of D, knowing she would have to play 2 #'s! Then I would explain to her that she has to know her scales in order to do this! Well, she played the same piece in D . . . perfectly! So . . . thinking this had to be luck! I asked her to play the exact same piece in the key of E, knowing she would have to play 4 #'s! Guess what, she did it! No hesitation, EFFORTLESS! I was stunned!

Gifted! She's an amazing player to this day! And I can take no credit! She was clearly just gifted!
_________________________
http://www.pianoworld.com/Uploads/files/goldsparkledress.jpg
Diane
Jazz/Blues/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher


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#1256454 - 08/26/09 11:59 AM Re: Can I just rave for a sec? [Re: Pianos_N_Cheezecake]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Off to a great start!

I think some kids just are "wired" well and fit the profile of a learning musician from the beginning. Usually these are natural talents and abilities and they are significant to a new student getting off to a good start. It's very, very promising.

Aural needs to be rounded out with visual and tactile learning.

It certainly is a joy when a student can pitch notes accurately, sing confidently, or comprehend the intervalic positioning on the music page and associate sound with music notation.

Students have strengths and weakness both of which have to be part of their piano lessons.

Observing the student to determine how he or she learns and processes information is going to help you a lot. Just don't ignore the other contributing acquired skills that we need to be musicians. The more difficult something is for the student, the more he or she needs to go there to improve responses and overcome difficulty factors.

I'm sure you are really happy with your first interactions with these students and that you'll treasure the memories forever because of the remarkable introduction to teaching you have had.

I could say that my first group of 10 students (from a Sherman Clay in CA) gave me the confidence and delight that you are feeling. Mine was back in 1971. Yours was just yesterday!

My very best wishes to you, Cheeze!

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#1256491 - 08/26/09 12:57 PM Re: Can I just rave for a sec? [Re: Betty Patnude]
Mrs.A Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 155
Yes, I have had a few but I warn that they can be challenging. I find that this rare student knows so much instinctively that instead of “teaching” them piano, I am organizing what they already know.

I often post about our academically gifted adopted son. When he was only three he loved to figure out story problems - even though he had yet to see a written math equation. For or example, I could asked him “If each barn stall had 10 cows and there were 5 stalls, how many cows are in the barn?” My son would quickly answer 50. If I said what if the farmer took 6 cows from one stall? Without thinking about it he could answer correctly. When we asked how he figure out these answers, he would reply “I just thinked it” There was no “process” for him.

When he was preschool age I gave him his first math problem page. I wrote 2+2, 2+3, 2+4. It was the first time he had seen a written math problem. He got them all wrong. Later that evening my husband noticed that my son actually answered all the problems as multiplication. 2+3=6, 2+4=8. He read the equation as 2 groups of 4, 2 groups of 8 etc. My son figured out multiplication before addition.

What I am saying is that the gifted kids are challenging. My son tested very gifted in math but struggled with learning math processes. He could come up with the answer instinctively and hated taking the time to show the work. BUT it was important to learn the steps. Mostly his teachers had to organize what he was already doing. He had to learn “this is a multiplication symbol (X) and it is already what you are doing but this is what it looks like on paper….”

That is the same teaching approach you take with a gifted piano student.

Gifted children often learn out of order.
Enjoy these student but make sure they learn what they are doing. This may get discouraging for the student so be creative. For example, Your student is hearing the melody but she is also hearing the intervals. She doesn’t know what an interval is. When we teach students we usually start with intervals that leads to playing a melody by ear but this student is working backwards. Does that make sense? So you will find you are filling in a lot of gaps.

Also, it is very common for giftedness to run in families. If you have one, you have another. I have a very gifted 7 year old student with a little sister who is four. I can tell by the look in her eye that she is also gifted and can’t wait to get her in the studio.

Have fun and enjoy this wonderful talent. they are challenging but I am sure everyone here agrees that these are the students we live to teach.

Welcome to the group.
_________________________
Piano Teacher.
Church Music Director.
Kindermusik Instructor.
Mom to four boys.


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#1256495 - 08/26/09 01:05 PM Re: Can I just rave for a sec? [Re: Mrs.A]
jotur Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5283
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
I find that this rare student knows so much instinctively that instead of “teaching” them piano, I am organizing what they already know.


+1

Cathy
_________________________

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#1256529 - 08/26/09 01:57 PM Re: Can I just rave for a sec? [Re: jotur]
Rachel J Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 324
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
Congrats! Those students are pretty rare. You are lucky to get one so early in your career!
_________________________
Rachel Jimenez Piano teacher in Brooklyn, NY / Author of Fundamental Keys method
My professional website: FundamentalKeys.com
Latest blog post: "A marvelous pianist and mentor"

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#1256914 - 08/27/09 12:03 AM Re: Can I just rave for a sec? [Re: Rachel J]
Pianos_N_Cheezecake Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 150
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Mrs. A that is fantastic advice and definitly true. She is playing a wide variety of things that she doesn't even understand at this point. This is great feedback! Betty I appreciate your thoughts. I will do my best to try and get inside her brain a little bit and understand how she thinks, while challenging her in processing things in new ways.

Cheeze...

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#1259365 - 08/30/09 11:47 PM Re: Can I just rave for a sec? [Re: Mrs.A]
DadAgain Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/09/09
Posts: 365
Loc: Brisbane, QLD
Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
Gifted children often learn out of order.
Enjoy these student but make sure they learn what they are doing. This may get discouraging for the student so be creative. For example, Your student is hearing the melody but she is also hearing the intervals. She doesn’t know what an interval is. When we teach students we usually start with intervals that leads to playing a melody by ear but this student is working backwards. Does that make sense? So you will find you are filling in a lot of gaps.


Interesting - My daughter suffers from this to an extent! Her playing is great (for a 5yr old) and she learns REALLY fast. After 2 or three repetitions slowly copying me (either with me playing - or just me singing, her ear->keyboard skill is awesome), she commits a piece to memory and then practices (repeats) until her fingers have got things comfortable. The problem is she is absolutely HOPELESS at reading music. It'll take her about 30 seconds to determine what each note is looking at the music - it seems like the written music is a real obstacle to her playing so she omits it. Obviously at preliminary and Grade 1 level she can probably get away with this, but I worry about HOW to get her to learn to read when all she wants to do is play (which I certainly dont want to discourage). I've tried to get her to read some really simple things - but the frustration is overwhelming.

Do you guys think I should try and concentrate on her reading skills (at risk of alientating her and her switching off the piano altogether) - or should I continute to indulge her passion for just playing - assuming that with more maturity the desire and ability to read music will come?
_________________________
Parent....
Orchestral Viola player (stictly amateur)....
Hack Pianist.... (faded skills from glory days 20 yrs ago)
Vague Guitar & Bass player.... (former minor income stream 15 yrs ago)
Former conductor... (been a long time since I was set loose with a magic wand!)

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#1259370 - 08/30/09 11:57 PM Re: Can I just rave for a sec? [Re: DadAgain]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: DadAgain

Interesting - My daughter suffers from this to an extent! Her playing is great (for a 5yr old) and she learns REALLY fast. After 2 or three repetitions slowly copying me (either with me playing - or just me singing, her ear->keyboard skill is awesome), she commits a piece to memory and then practices (repeats) until her fingers have got things comfortable. The problem is she is absolutely HOPELESS at reading music. It'll take her about 30 seconds to determine what each note is looking at the music - it seems like the written music is a real obstacle to her playing so she omits it. Obviously at preliminary and Grade 1 level she can probably get away with this, but I worry about HOW to get her to learn to read when all she wants to do is play (which I certainly dont want to discourage). I've tried to get her to read some really simple things - but the frustration is overwhelming.

Do you guys think I should try and concentrate on her reading skills (at risk of alientating her and her switching off the piano altogether) - or should I continute to indulge her passion for just playing - assuming that with more maturity the desire and ability to read music will come?

Don't do anything to discourage her, but be aware that very smart children will often use memory as a way to avoid reading.

What happens, if you are not careful, is that after a year or two you find out that these very intelligent young children memorize so quickly that they never learn to read. You can fix that, and you don't have to be negative to do it.

First, wait until you are sure she is ready to read. That may be now, in a month, whenever. But once she starts reading, make sure she has to learn new music often enough so that you can be sure she is reading and not memorizing.

She can continue playing by ear or copying you, without reading. So long as you teach her to read, that should not interfere with her other activities.

Think also about using a keyboard chart as an aid. Some small kids pick up the relationship of lines and spaces amazingly well, so you can point to the notes on a chart, the note on a page, and a key. You can show how the way you move on a keyboard corresponds to moving notes on a page. The idea is to get across the spatial relationship of the notes and keys in a mostly non-verbal way. You can reinforce this any way you want, for instance with flash cards, though I don't do this.

I teach line to adjacent space as stepping (or space to line), line to line or space to space "skipping". Going up or down two lines or two spaces is a "double skip" and is "hand-sized". I teach a 4th as bigger than a skip, smaller than a double skip. I use very simple words.

A chart has to be like any other crutch. You have to have a plan to phase it out, so you can review any piece, even a very short, simple one, with the chart up and down, sort of toggling, then do new pieces chart up and down, then mostly down for newer ones, then in time down, with only checking when lost, and finally it is like training wheels for a kid who rides well. You get rid of the crutch. Need for it is gone.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1259379 - 08/31/09 12:23 AM Re: Can I just rave for a sec? [Re: Gary D.]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Piano students can be taught to read the music with assigning note names to them: reading my distance and direction which is being explained by Gary D., is the way I teach.

I teach also my center lineness which appears at the Middle C location, and the middle bass line and the middle treble line (3rd lines).

I teach keyboard orientation with musical alphabet letters (A-G)and we define registers on the keyboard by looking at a keyboard chart and using 8va and 15va. This is overload with a young child, but the student of age 8 and above is going to get a kick out of finding there are a total of 88 keys - black and white. He is going to find that we basically use the white (natural) notes most of the time for elementary level work. He will discover: 8A's-8B's-8C's/7D's-7E's-7F's-7G's and go about finding them (graphical matching). This soon converts to the keyboard chart where every note on the piano can be seen on the music staff. What I am advocating here is not a one-step process - it occurs during lessons as it becomes needed.

The beginner is at Middle C to play. I use conjunct music (stepwise progress) for finding the neighboring keys before I expect skips. So I would teach 2nds, before 3rds, 4ths before 5ths. I would not add larger intervals at this time because beginning music is usually written for a closed finger hand shape of one finger on each adjacent white key. We need to learn how to move about in this configuration before opening the hand shape for extention of fingers.

I also teach by finger numbers as a basic education that all fingering in music is important and that impulse habits are established through where the fingers are located on the keyboard.

With enough songs played, the experienced young piano student soon gets a "feel" for where he is located at the piano, and how the music staff relates to his center. Centering at the piano is a missed strategy by many piano teachers. Both for the center of aligning the student's nose with middle C and sitting on the center of the bench. Centering is also finding those spots on the music where 5 finger positions equate to having all lines and spaces identified by having them in your handshape.

To discover this put thumbs (piggyback) on Middle C and each finger on an immediately adjacent white key of the piano. You will find that:
Fingers 5-3-1 of each hand are line notes and 2-4 are space notes.

Go to Middle Line (3rd line) "D" in the bass clef and you have the same finding.

Go to Middle Line (3rd line) "B" in the treble clef and you have again the same finding.

With these exercises in finding and associations you are teaching your student to be able to find every note needed to play through all of the elementary level. At intermediate level you will need to add the 4 notes below the bottom of the staff C-D-E-F and above the top of the staff G-A-B-C. The C's in this example are the 2nd added leger lines above and below the staff. The next addition would be the 8va and 15va.

So I don't want my students thinking every note name before they play it. Note names are nice to know when moving about the piano, but teaching in a formation (hand position) is a very valid entry to music lessoning on the piano, and gives impressive results when taught systematically. It produces a student who can "fly" freely around the piano and 'ace" their destinations without looking at the keyboard.

I do have some examples of the music I use for teaching the center line placements, but I have not yet scanned them into my computer.

Remember this is a progressive state, not all at once, and I'm delighted with finding these approaches for myself through years of teaching. These have become central to my method: "Piano Power".

Hope you and others find some of these ideas usable when the time is right for their entrance.

Betty Patnude

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#1259399 - 08/31/09 01:45 AM Re: Can I just rave for a sec? [Re: Betty Patnude]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Betty,

I do a lot of things that probably sound very different from the way you work, but I honestly believe that underneath the differences we are working towards the same goals.

For instance, I start off with thirds, first lesson, which I call "skips". I teach C, E and G, only, RH in middle C position. But I start LH with C, E and G, 2nd, 3rd and 4th spaces in the bass clef. And I do this as early as five, but with a parent with us in every lesson and learning together with the small ones.

The second thing I do is to fill "the blanks", meaning D and F in both hands. I totally skip the usual "thumbs together on middle C" position because it is so awkward. I actually get towards that position, temporarily, in much more advanced music.

I don't mention a thing about black notes. No beginning three and two group orientation. The reason is that with the chart I use (my own), it is perfectly obvious how the notes on the page move, and I get out of a five finger position by lesson three, where I introduce Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with an added A, so six notes. I let the students puzzle out how to get to the extra note.

I want students out of a five finger position ASAP because as long as they are in these five finger positions, they can continue to use the fingering as clues as to what keys to press. I extend to 6ths and even 7ths. The little ones are allowed to pick up fingers and move. If they play everything with one finger, I'll even allow that, just for a little bit, because it proves they are tracking the written notes independently of the fingering. That is of prime importance to me.

I WANT the hands to experience, from the start, they way we extend our fingers, or bring them in. But I'm watching everything like a hawk, ready to make a suggestion about anything at any time that seems important for a student. This, obviously, could never be put into a method book.

Now, while letting people experience how notes move on the page in reference to how we move from key to key, I let them map things out for themselves. If they are able to find all my notes, using my chart, I know that their brains are processing the information.

At first I check them on white key names by flipping the chart up and down, asking which key has which name, and I make sure they know the names of all white notes, anywhere on the piano. All 88 keys. I do this even with the wee ones.

Now, I appear to be doing two completely separate and unrelated things. I test on white key names, no crutch, then let the students play music with the crutch. However, the MOMENT they successfully find every note in each piece of music I'm teaching—and remember I don't limit to hand positions—they are reasoning through intervals without any idea that they are doing it. I introduce a few simple chords very early in the LH. With some very small children I have to stick to only intervals, two notes at the same time.

Now, if any student can find any key and name it, that student has already internalized the pattern of black and white notes. I will give them any of a number of "tricks" to help them remember them, but many just absorb them, quite naturally.

So, if they are reading notes but don't know the names of the notes they are reading, how do they learn their names?

Simple. If you look at a note and always know where to find it, the key, and you know the key, sooner or later the note on the staff and the key it is linked to become fused as a connection. That connection remains very loose, undependable as long as we continue using the chart, but as soon as we get it down, the notes are there. And they are solid.

Unlike many and perhaps most teachers, I am not at all worried about shaping the hand or the position of fingers, in the beginning. Instead, I watch. As we move from concept to concept, I check to see how everything is coming together, and I pick music very carefully to more or less automatically reinforce the technical ideas that are important to me. I want the shoulders relaxed, not raised, but not slumping, elbows in a natural position, fingers getting as much "power" as they need without cramping or grabbing, and so on.

The first time I cover a scale I do it in a small piece, once octave C, LH and RH both moving in towards middle C, one octave. The hands move much more natually in than out. When students "cross" the thumb, I don't even tell them how to do it. I watch. Most do it effortlessly by week two or three. It's really a very natural movement. Even for most adults. When people are already reading scales, and not just 8 note patterns, and not just starting on the tonic, THEN I cover the scale in its traditional and academic form.

The bottom line is that as soon as possible we have to get people reading, and we have to help them play in a way that is as natural as possible AND that is most likely to work in the future as we move to more and more advanced music.

Anything that gets that done is valid, my way, your way, any way.

For me the number one stumbling block is using fingering to try to guess patterns, to replace note reading. Too little fingering can encourage young students to make horrible choices, and too much can develop very solid technique but limited reading.

Very intelligent young players are especially fast at seeing and guessing patterns, so if they assume, wrongly, that any finger belongs on any key, even in a hand position that is used temporarily, their reading begins to be stunted.

I'm not trying to recommend a particular method. I'm just throwing out ideas. As always I have to stress that I am and always have been a very independent thinker, a maverick, and I work best with students who like to break rules (but who will follow them when given a good, logical reason that works).

A word about teaching all the Cs. It is true that they are all mirror images of each other. However, I swear that I never noticed that LONG after I was a very fast sightreader, so even though I mention that, it does not seem to be something that my students use for clues. Instead, all of my students (rather mysteriously) seem to remember different landmarks, certain important notation points (for them) that stick in their minds, and they move to other less secure locations by intervals. From there they just fill in the data, as I did, and once they can find any note, they really don't quite know how, which was and is true for me.

The bottom line is that I just "know where they all are". I didn't learn my notes the way any method book explains as the best logical way. I can break down what I know in a thousand ways for students, make it all connect in numerous ways, but my brain just "sucks in the data" and turns it into reactions that are linked to keys that have names, and the names are SO slow in comparison to my reading speed that at no time do I ever think of a note name as I am actually reading or practicing. Only when analyzing, for myself, or when explaining, for students.

The first time I paid attention to how many Cs (and so on) that there are on a piano was rather late, probably in college. Again, it was all subconscious. The fact that there are 8 As, Bs and Cs, and 7 of all other notes was something I never used. The first time I tried to draw a keyboard, I couldn't.


Edited by Gary D. (08/31/09 01:46 AM)
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1259419 - 08/31/09 02:57 AM Re: Can I just rave for a sec? [Re: Gary D.]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5278
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I WANT the hands to experience, from the start, they way we extend our fingers, or bring them in. But I'm watching everything like a hawk, ready to make a suggestion about anything at any time that seems important for a student. This, obviously, could never be put into a method book.



And this is why piano teachers are so important toward the development of good technique.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1259616 - 08/31/09 12:25 PM Re: Can I just rave for a sec? [Re: AZNpiano]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I WANT the hands to experience, from the start, they way we extend our fingers, or bring them in. But I'm watching everything like a hawk, ready to make a suggestion about anything at any time that seems important for a student. This, obviously, could never be put into a method book.



And this is why piano teachers are so important toward the development of good technique.


I'll sign my name to both of these comments! For sure! You said it, guys!

Betty Patnude

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