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#1510300 - 09/06/10 06:19 PM Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice?
Alreadyinuse Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/10
Posts: 31
Loc: Montreal
My daughter has been taking piano for 1.5 years. Her teacher is very nice. She uses the Faber series of books. My daughter likes the teacher and likes piano. She practices less than she used to mainly because I get frustrated with some aspects of her progress (e.g. sight-reading) and naturally she doesn't like that!

The reasons I am thinking of changing are that 1) the teacher writes the fingering over all the notes on all the pieces, which is why my daughter's sight reading is poor; she just presses whatever finger is written and doesn't bother much with the note reading because she doesn't have to. I have asked the teacher repeatedly to stop this (and now erase the fingering as soon as my daughter comes home) but she says my daughter's progress is quicker with this approach. And it is true that she can play pieces that she could not otherwise play. But I expect the fingering to be where the hand changes position, not on every note. 2) My daughter is not learning any theory and when I asked the teacher if she would teach her, she began explaining to her diminished thirds (!) I don't think she knows how to teach theory to kids but maybe that is not normally taught (when I was a kid, my lesson was 1.5 hrs, 1 hour playing, .5 hrs theory) 3) She doesn't seem give her feedback about her flat fingers or her pounding when she plays. The technical problems are likely because she was learning on an electric organ that is not touch sensitive, so that may be why the teacher doesn't say anything. We now have an acoustic piano, but I am concerned that she will continue to play with flat fingers and not learn anything about expressing herself in the music (but maybe the teacher will start giving her artistic feedback now that she has a piano, or maybe it is too early to give her this kind of feedback?)

My daughter is now 8 and after 1.5 years is at the 2A and 2B levels of the different Faber books (Classical, Jazz Popular Piano Adventures etc). That does not mean she can sight read at the level of these pieces but she has performed them at recitals because she has learned them from the fingering and from listening to the teacher play, and has a good musical and motor memory.

The plus side of this teacher is that she is a nice patient positive woman (much nicer and more patient than me, luckily for my daughter!), she plays well enough herself so models artistic expression when she plays the pieces for my daughter, and she has recitals for her students twice a year that my daughter really enjoys. She is also not far away.

I am torn at this point between continuing with her because my daughter likes her, or trying a different private teacher that is affiliated with the university music school (most of these perform, are RCM examiners and/or are affiliated with the Suzuki school and I don't know anything else about them), or switching to Music for Young Children so that my daughter would learn about chord accompaniment, get better at sight reading and theory. I met the teacher there who said her playing is already beyond what is achieved in MYC but that for theory she'd be starting out.

Sorry for the long post. I am have been turning this around in my mind for weeks... I'd really appreciate any help or advice, whether it is explaining the teacher's point of view, straightening out my misconceptions, or telling me I'm right, half-right or wrong.

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#1510310 - 09/06/10 06:32 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Just because your daughter likes this teacher doesn't mean she couldn't also like another that is better.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1510325 - 09/06/10 06:45 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Alreadyinuse Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/10
Posts: 31
Loc: Montreal
But are the things that are bothering me legitimate complaints? My mother tells me "she's happy, she plays nicely, she's only 8, why change?" I feel like she should be learning more. But if she quits because the teacher is harsh or the work is too hard, she'll ultimately learn less.

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#1510328 - 09/06/10 06:53 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
sarah_elizabeth Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/21/09
Posts: 466
Loc: Texas, U.S.
I don't want to be quick to judge your daugher's teacher, as she may have reasons for how she approaches piano instruction the way she does. However, I agree that a number of things about this teacher are bothersome - sightreading, technique, and theory instruction are fundamental. The whole goal of music is meaningful expression, too, so that should be emphasized and nurtured from day one of piano lessons.

That said, I think you're wise to consider another piano teacher. I'd suggest scoping out several piano teachers, not just one. I suspect your daughter would be able to adjust to another teacher that makes learning fun for her and provides exciting performance opportunities.

Hopefully some of the more experienced teachers on this forum will be able to give you some of their valuable advice. I wish you all the best in getting the best musical education for your daughter.

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#1510331 - 09/06/10 06:56 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Stanny Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 1461
1) I'd have a private talk with the teacher on the importance of sight reading. If she is playing in 2B, she should be able to play the book 1 material by sight. If she can't do that, then some work needs to be done. An occasional finger number or note name on the page is one thing, but every finger number written in will not help down the road.

I took two transfer students this fall, and both had the problem of a prior teacher who wrote all the finger numbers on the pieces, and we are working hard to catch up on note reading now.

2) Is the teacher not using the Theory books that go along with the series? That will at least give some theory to the child.

This may be a situation you can remedy by talking to the teacher. It's great to have a teacher that your child likes, but these issues you bring up could be serious. Hand position and technique, note reading, theory....they all need to be a part of a well rounded pianist.
_________________________
~Stanny~

Independent Music Teacher
Certified Piano Teacher, American College of Musicians
Member: MTNA, NGPT, ASMTA, NAMTA

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#1510344 - 09/06/10 07:20 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5458
Loc: Orange County, CA
On the subject of fingering: It's probably unwise to write out fingerings when the student clearly doesn't read notes well. That being said, I also strongly dislike the other extreme, where students ignore ALL fingering marks and insist on using crazy, illogical, and impromptu fingering. Numerous transfer students came to me without an ounce of fingering awareness--some don't even know their L.H. finger numbers!!
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1510363 - 09/06/10 08:00 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
ToriAnais Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/24/08
Posts: 244
Loc: Australia
While you are umming and ahhing over whether or not to change teacher, you could get some theory exercise books and help her work through them at home. It's a good idea to do that anyway, as theory books just involve following a set of instructions, and working on that outside the lesson allows more time for specialist instruction during the lesson.

I don't like the idea of fingerings over every note. Can she sight read at all? For example tell the difference between steps and skips? It does sound like the teacher is rushing her through, perhaps wanting more advanced sounding students in her biannual recitals or something.
_________________________
Piano teacher since August 2008.

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#1510457 - 09/06/10 10:20 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
If you have this many misgivings, change. Follow your gut. Your mothering instinct is usually right.

This time, make sure you interview several possible teachers and find out the why and how of what they do and also see how they interact with your daughter. Just because she's only 8 doesn't mean she should be shortchanged in her skills.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1510502 - 09/06/10 11:42 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Alreadyinuse Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/10
Posts: 31
Loc: Montreal
Thank you for all your replies. From your answers, I feel like I am right to be concerned with these issues. I think that switching teachers is probably the route to go because I have already tried speaking to her several times but she says my daughter is doing great. I'm the one who sits with her during practice after I've erased the fingering and knows she cannot tell the difference between a skip and a step. She also mixes up B and D, can't recognize C on the bass clef, and still finds G by counting up from C (!) The teacher just sees her playing the song successfully at the next lesson and then starts in on the next song, fingering every note.

The theory books and the technique and artistry books in the Faber series are not used by my daughter's teacher. I bought the theory books anyway but wasn't that successful at incorporating them into her practice since her note identification was so weak that each exercise took forever. This summer I had her play a "musical notes" video game to practice note identification and now she can recognize the notes on the treble clef quickly although if it is an A, for example, she will sometimes play A in the bass clef instead and, if it is a G, she will say G-C-D-E-F-G and then play it.

Despite this low reading level, I think there may be something in the point about advancing her too quickly to benefit recitals. My daughter loves performing and does her best at recitals. The teacher says after she plays "This is her 2nd year of piano with me" and then parents with little kids in the first year (e.g 5 year olds playing Go and Wash Your Father's Shirt) come up to me and say they are so encouraged that their child could be playing like that next year.

I will check out other possible teachers. With all my agonizing, I hope I haven't left it too late to get her into a good person's schedule for the fall.

Thank you, all of you, for your helpful comments.

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#1510661 - 09/07/10 08:24 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3189
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Alreadyinuse
My daughter loves performing and does her best at recitals.


She is enjoying piano. Obviously she is also practicing.

So already she is somewhere in the 95th percentile of piano students. Those two elements alone set her apart. She isn't solid on note names and theory, but she is only eight.

I would be very cautious about risking that, unless you're very very sure she is going to end up in a conservatory.

Have you thought through and defined your goals for this child, and your reasons for sending her to piano lessons? Most parents realize the odds are against their child becoming a concert pianist, and send their kids for enrichment and the basics of a general music education - at least I did.

You are frustrated with this teacher but your child is not. Be careful you don't find a teacher who reverses this.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#1510689 - 09/07/10 09:29 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Alreadyinuse Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/10
Posts: 31
Loc: Montreal
I actually have no ambitions that she go to a conservatory and I don't expect (or even want!) her to become a professional musician. I want her to be able to play to relax as she gets older, that she can read well enough to teach herself new songs when the lessons are over, that she can accompany herself singing for her own amusement, and that music be part of her life. She is also a compulsively creative kid so I think that a benefit of theory could be that when she makes up her own melodies on the piano she could come up with the left hand.

What I am afraid she will have if I don't change things is a repertoire of memorized songs that she can't add to, so that her musical education has made her a kind of player piano. But I don't have a good sense of how well she should be reading at this point and I don't want my uptightness or exaggerated standards to mess things up if things are actually going fine.

I know that teachers who make children happy are valuable. I did not enjoy my lessons as a child. I had the prototypical elderly nun with a pointer who marched me through RCM books. I was so stressed my love died out and I hated to play for people. I came back to it as an adult but I wish I had learned more before I quit, and I would have if I had liked it.

This is why I am struggling with the idea of gambling her happiness to get a better education that, if it didn't work out, might be a shorter education.

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#1510719 - 09/07/10 10:19 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Ann in Kentucky Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
I would look fully at your choices. Find out who is available. Interview some other teachers. You may find someone competent and move on with confidence.

The Faber program is a good one. But it is not fool proof. Someone who ignores theory and technique books is not using the program well. To add additional finger number markings is being foolish. And as you've seen, you end up with a child who cannot read music.

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#1510725 - 09/07/10 10:35 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Alreadyinuse Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/10
Posts: 31
Loc: Montreal
Not really to both questions. I sit with my daughter during practice to help her figure out the notes once I have erased the fingering and to make sure she is playing the song as it is written (I guess like a lot of kids she is iffy on timing, not holding dotted quarters etc.) We do play duets together, which is her favourite part of practice (along with the part where I accidentally make mistakes and she gets to feel like I am human too!). She is good on timing when she plays with me, and likes the game of me slowing down and speeding up and her having to adjust to play in sync with me. We have done duets together in a couple of her recitals but I am nervous playing in front of people and don't like it at all. Last time I had her teacher do the duets so I could relax and enjoy the concert. We also do music together in the sense that we have pretend concerts where she comes in, bows and plays her pieces and my husband and I listen and applaud wildly. Before she was born we used to have classical music playing non-stop in the house but since our lives have moved from the living room to the kitchen we hardly put it on anymore.

Now that we have a piano in the house, I was thinking that if I do switch teachers I might get one who comes to the house to teach, and I could take lessons again too. I mentioned that to my daughter and she was delighted with the idea. Even my husband, who used to play organ, is interested in starting again. Her current teacher does teach adults, but you have to go to her studio which could make for a lot of back and forth if more than one person were taking lessons.

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#1510729 - 09/07/10 10:41 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Jose Hidalgo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/30/10
Posts: 187
IMHO,

You shouldn't change your teacher.

If you daughter has the chemistry with the teacher and she is progressing then why changing ?, do you want her to have a more demanding teacher ?, she is only 8 and you are lucky enogh she likes playing piano, let it be !

Scenario 1: she keeps the same teacher she likes, she improves = everybody is happy

Scenario 2: the new teacher is more demanding, or just doesn't have the chemistry with your daughter = she may even quit playing

don't be so perfectionist, put the enjoyment of your daughter first

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#1510731 - 09/07/10 10:42 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Alreadyinuse Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/10
Posts: 31
Loc: Montreal
Sorry, the above post was in answer to a post that seems to have disappeared. The questions in the post were "Do you do music with your daughter? Is music a part of your life?"

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#1510743 - 09/07/10 11:05 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Ann in Kentucky Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
Originally Posted By: Alreadyinuse


Now that we have a piano in the house, I was thinking that if I do switch teachers I might get one who comes to the house to teach, and I could take lessons again too. I mentioned that to my daughter and she was delighted with the idea. Even my husband, who used to play organ, is interested in starting again. Her current teacher does teach adults, but you have to go to her studio which could make for a lot of back and forth if more than one person were taking lessons.


How wonderful that your daughter is delighted by the idea of you both taking lessons. If you and your husband are ready to commit to daily practice, then you are ready for lessons.

Please let us know what happens. Hope you find a good teacher! If you don't find one to come to the house, perhaps someone could schedule your lessons back to back. Your daughter could get homework done or read while she waits.

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#1510880 - 09/07/10 03:38 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: AZNpiano]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
On the subject of fingering: It's probably unwise to write out fingerings when the student clearly doesn't read notes well. That being said, I also strongly dislike the other extreme, where students ignore ALL fingering marks and insist on using crazy, illogical, and impromptu fingering. Numerous transfer students came to me without an ounce of fingering awareness--some don't even know their L.H. finger numbers!!


yes indeed. I had a student transfer to me after 1.5 years of lessons. Finger #1 in the left hand was the pinky.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1510888 - 09/07/10 03:53 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Chopinmaniac Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/09/10
Posts: 65
1. Fingering: If you let the kids pick their own fingering, most likely, they will NOT get the optimum ones. The competent teacher will mark the fingering at the critical spots and give the kids some freedom at the non-critical passage. Fingering or not has not much to do with sight-reading, playing a LOT of simple pieces will improve sight-reading.

2. Theory: Most teachers will not teach theory and playing in the same setting, it is just not conducive to the flow, imaging you have to stop playing, talk some theory, and then back to more playing. It is kind of like driving while reading the manual.

3. Progress: It is good for an 8 year old to reach PA 2A and 2B if all books are covered. It is a lot of material.

4. Flat finger and pounding: That is something I would want the teacher to correct right away, the longer you wait, the harder to correct.
_________________________
http://www.youtube.com/user/tyj1020

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#1510897 - 09/07/10 04:01 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
This thing about writing in all the fingering is maybe a little
questionable, but even more questionable is you erasing
all of it as soon as she comes home. What does that accomplish
except to aggravate the child? If the student learns best this
way, then that's the way she should learn.

What this sounds like is a situation that we see over and
over and over again on this forum. A child likes the teacher and
yet the parent goes to great lengths to find fault in something
the teacher does--something actually trivial, that does not
warrant this kind of fault-finding--and comes here for
justification for switching teachers. But what is really happening
here is that the parent doesn't like the fact that the child
likes the teacher. A parent can come to resent--at the very
deepest level--the special bond that has developed between
student and teacher, and will find a way to get rid of the
teacher.

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#1510901 - 09/07/10 04:05 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
Also, when a child is separated from such a teacher--
and put with one that he does not like, which is just
great from the parent's perspective--he will
eventually lose interest and quit playing.

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#1510957 - 09/07/10 05:40 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11655
Loc: Canada
A thought about the penciled in fingering (I won't touch the question of changing teachers) - why not make a copy of the pieces before the teacher does anything with them and keep those at home, as your starting point?

The first thought is that this act of erasing the teacher's marks can almost look like a conflict of two authorities: the one has put in the fingering,and the other one physically erase them. How is that experienced by the child?

But what if you keep the penciled in original. Then pull out the unmarked copies and decide to keep most of the penciled in numbers but get rid of some of them gradually? This was suggested here by a teacher last year. The student gradually gets weaned from the numbers and starts being able to read the notes bit by bit. This way there is also a feeling of working with the teacher's material, instead of seemingly fighting the teacher's instructions. Just a thought.

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#1511107 - 09/07/10 08:39 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Many of you act as if the child can like only one teacher. Certainly she likes the current one, but it is entirely possible to like a new one as well, perhaps even better!

The child is not learning how to read music and the teacher is not concerned with it. Change is necessary.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1511129 - 09/07/10 09:19 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Minniemay]
sportsdude2060 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/14/10
Posts: 133
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Many of you act as if the child can like only one teacher. Certainly she likes the current one, but it is entirely possible to like a new one as well, perhaps even better!



Possible... but (highly) unlikely.

I think that your concerns are a bit unnecessary. The girl is 8-years-old -- she shouldn't be learning the piano to strive for perfection or become flawless in every facet of play, but rather to simply enjoy herself and have a good time. She seems to be doing that, so why change? The fact that the other students/parents have described your daughter's playing as inspirational illustrates that she's already a proficient performer for her age.

I'm sure that if she sticks with the instrument, the sight-reading will come in time. Plus, for all we know, she may end up growing tired of the piano and quitting in a year or 2 (perhaps, even, because of a dislike for a new teacher...).

However, if you truly are worried about her inability to sightread, I would suggest printing out supplementary pieces (without any added fingerings) and working on them with her separately.

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#1511133 - 09/07/10 09:27 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Chopinmaniac]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: Chopinmaniac

2. Theory: Most teachers will not teach theory and playing in the same setting, it is just not conducive to the flow, imaging you have to stop playing, talk some theory, and then back to more playing. It is kind of like driving while reading the manual.


I teach theory separate, and when a theory question/issue arises while playing I teach it there also...it is most relevant then.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#1511170 - 09/07/10 10:36 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
I don't think the present teacher is doing so badly, over-all, for the child's age and stage. However, I don't think you will be happy until you have changed to another who will be willing to push your daughter along faster.

My suggestion is, get a teacher for yourself and continue your own music studies. Lead the child by example and encouragement. A set and enforced framework, like daily practice at the same time--- well, kids need some dependable structure. If she wants help, you might encourage her to ask for it, and wait until she does.

Do some fun music things. Watch U-Tube clips together (look at the hands), go to concerts that a child of that age would enjoy, etc. You will be so glad later that you enjoyed this stage of her life... for she will be grown up before you know it.

Since you ask about writing in the fingerings for every note, I think it is ok. It is a learning stage, to teach the child to choose fingerings deliberately: a valuable foundation of technique. Once the technique is acquired, many fewer fingering reminders will be necessary and she will be able to choose fingerings for herself.

In fact, the work copy of the score can be marked with many other things. Tempi, dynamics (personally, I'm against pounding--- I'm definitely with you on that one), notes on feeling and expression, signposts of danger, even note names in some places (preferable to learning mistakes in muscle memory). Reminders of how certain tricky sections can be counted out. Beginning points for practicing sections. Lots of things can help a student.

So I say, don't worry about this. I see it as a great advantage that she is practicing and enjoying her music. Getting her a real piano during this economic recession is a real sign of commitment on your part.

The flat-fingered technique does need to be replaced with gently arched fingers, for her own good. Some famous concert artists use a pretty flat finger technique, though. If you don't have an adjustable bench, getting one could be a big help--- both to her development of technique and a sound posture, and to avoid injuries.

Best of luck to you and your daughter.
_________________________
Clef


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#1511203 - 09/08/10 12:10 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
No, no, no! The fingering is not about teaching fingering techniques at this stage. It is being used as a substitute for reading. This is exactly the stage at which the foundation is being laid, reading being at the top of the list. The parent shouldn't have to supplement what the teacher is doing.

There are lots of piano teachers out there. Surely there is someone who is both qualified and likeable.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1511225 - 09/08/10 01:50 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Minniemay]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5458
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
No, no, no! The fingering is not about teaching fingering techniques at this stage. It is being used as a substitute for reading. This is exactly the stage at which the foundation is being laid, reading being at the top of the list. The parent shouldn't have to supplement what the teacher is doing.


Poor note-reading leads to slow learning later on. Sight reading will be deplorable, and the student will continue to struggle and become frustrated. This is the reason why method books like the old Alfred series and John Thompson are being attacked so frequently in this forum.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1511262 - 09/08/10 04:19 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Minniemay]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2457
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Minniemay

There are lots of piano teachers out there. Surely there is someone who is both qualified and likeable.

What you say is surely true. However, it is not the point.

Music is a human thing, an expression of the social nature of human beings. It is more than just a child and his instrument; the instrument is a means of communication, of communion, not in an abstract sense but concretely, with one or two or three or several other human beings.

A child is a fragile thing; she is not a PC, of which you can simply upgrade the microchip if you are not satisfied with the performance. This teacher appears to be having a certain success with this girl. To tear her away would be a lesson of the worst type.

This said, I agree completely with the importance of reading and with the evaluation that this is a weakness in the teacher's approach. Specifically, I am 100 percent in agreement with this
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
This is exactly the stage at which the foundation is being laid, reading being at the top of the list.


But Alreadyinuse must accept this weakness, at least for the moment. All teachers have their weakness and their strength. And she can consider this teacher's weakness as a reflection of her own: music has not been a part of her life, so there is a limitation of what she can transmit to her daughter. C'est la vie.

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#1511268 - 09/08/10 04:37 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Minniemay]
landorrano Offline
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Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2457
Loc: France
On the other hand, I strongly disagree with this proposition:

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
The parent shouldn't have to supplement what the teacher is doing.


To the contrary, the parent must supplement what the teacher is doing, even with the best of teachers.

A teacher sees a child a half an hour a week, maybe less, maybe 45 minutes; an hour after many years of study.

Is that really enough time to say all that there is to say?

An angel can perhaps breath the spirit into a poor mortal in less than an instant, but I don't suppose that many of you piano teachers have gotten to that point ... yet.

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#1511317 - 09/08/10 08:11 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: landorrano]
rocket88 Offline
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Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: landorrano
On the other hand, I strongly disagree with this proposition:

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
The parent shouldn't have to supplement what the teacher is doing.


To the contrary, the parent must supplement what the teacher is doing, even with the best of teachers.

A teacher sees a child a half an hour a week, maybe less, maybe 45 minutes; an hour after many years of study.

Is that really enough time to say all that there is to say?


The best situation is a student, a good teacher, and an involved parent/adult who acts as coach at the home to re-enforce the lessons.
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#1511490 - 09/08/10 12:38 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Piano Again Offline
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Posts: 1162
Loc: Washington metro
I think you need to think about the purpose of reading music as opposed to some sort of rote learning/learning by ear, etc.

When you learn to read music, you are learning another language. This is the language composers use to communicate. It allows music to be transmitted across cultures and across time, and it allows musicians to understand precisely what the composer wanted.

It also develops different pathways in the brain than other types of learning. It is an intellectual skill that allows a deeper understanding of the music. Learning by using only finger numbers and one's ear is a very limited method, and it causes a lot of problems down the road when you want to learn more complicated music -- I would posit that it can't be done by most people.

Exhibit A: I have a friend who loves music who has been playing a folk instrument for about 40 years. She can read treble clef pretty well, but imperfectly, and she has a hard time translating what she sees into what comes out of her instrument. She really plays most of the tunes by ear (and she will be the first to admit it). A few years ago, she took up the piano, something she'd always wanted to do, but she is really struggling, and a lot of her struggle relates to poor reading ability. Again, she simply cannot translate what she sees on the page to what her fingers are doing.

Sure, the child can learn the simple pieces in the first few books of a method by reading finger numbers, and she can have fun doing it, but what then?

That'll be 2 cents, please.
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#1511542 - 09/08/10 02:22 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Ann in Kentucky Offline
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Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
The other unmentioned problem is the fact that this child has had lessons for 1.5 years and only just now got a piano. So far I haven't met a piano teacher who would consider an organ an adequate substitute.

I had this situation come up and posted about a year ago. Everyone agreed that the child either needed organ lessons, or to get a piano in order to start piano lessons.

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#1511547 - 09/08/10 02:30 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
rocket88 Offline
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Registered: 09/04/06
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Putting all the finger numbers on all the notes for very easy music at 1.5 years is not very different from putting stickers on the keys to indicate what notes they are, or using one of those cheap keyboards that lights up the notes.

Its all very limiting to proper learning.
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Music teacher and piano player.

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#1511592 - 09/08/10 04:08 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Alreadyinuse Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/10
Posts: 31
Loc: Montreal
Thank you all again for taking the time to respond.

I have read through all the replies and it is hard to tell what is the right thing to do. Some think I should change and others think that if I do, I don’t care about my daughter ☹ Notwithstanding the well-reasoned arguments made to change, with which I agree, I am now at the point where I don’t think I can politely cancel so close to the start of the semester. As well -- and you may think I am dense for not realizing this before -- she may actually mind if we switch. I had previously assumed that since her schedule is full all the time (it is very hard to schedule make-up lessons) an old student out would just mean a new student in, no hard feelings. Having read other threads here, things may be more complicated than that. If I am going to bow out in the future, I think I will need to find a way to do it graciously with advance notice.

The positives of staying on, as people pointed out, are that my daughter likes her, practices, and is happy to perform. She is also advancing through the books. I understand that all teachers have weaknesses. However, I am going to try to do things so that I can live with the weaknesses while benefiting from the strengths.

Can I ask the teacher to commit in advance to not adding to the fingering beyond what is included in the book? (The Faber series already indicates the fingering whenever there is a hand-position change and tells you the starting position.) It seemed that there was enough skepticism about the fingering approach here that my position could be seen as reasonable? I care more about the strength of sight reading as a foundation for going forward than I do about a repertoire of memorized songs which just reflects how much my daughter practices. If the teacher and I could agree in advance, I could avoid the authority conflict that was pointed out.

The other thing I can do is commit myself to doing the theory with her. She practices 35 minutes a day 5 days a week in two blocks (10 min before school, 25 min after school). If I replace the morning practice with theory, she will learn her new pieces less quickly at first but eventually perhaps the extra theory will actually facilitate her progress. In any case, I don’t want to add to her practice time because she also practices Irish Dance, has homework and I want her to have time to play/draw and do what she wants.

I hope (unreasonably?) that the problems of technique may correct themselves on the piano. I think one reason the teacher does not correct her is that the teacher knows that kids (all people!) don’t like being corrected. So she focuses on a few corrections she thinks are important and hand position never makes it to the top of the list.

Finally, I agree that there are downsides to an organ, and we did try unsuccessfully to get a piano earlier. You might be surprised that there were some positives to the older but high-end organ. Chord progressions sound amazing. Once she got them all right at PP, we’d let her move up to P, etc until she worked her way up to FF and T which were thrilling and made our basement reverberate like Westminster Cathedral at Easter ☺ With the piano we are moving on to more nuanced thrills.

I am again sorry for the long post. Thank you all who offered your opinions and suggestions.

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#1511601 - 09/08/10 04:29 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
D4v3 Offline
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Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 501
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Originally Posted By: Alreadyinuse
Thank you for all your replies. From your answers, I feel like I am right to be concerned with these issues. I think that switching teachers is probably the route to go because I have already tried speaking to her several times but she says my daughter is doing great. I'm the one who sits with her during practice after I've erased the fingering and knows she cannot tell the difference between a skip and a step. She also mixes up B and D, can't recognize C on the bass clef, and still finds G by counting up from C (!) The teacher just sees her playing the song successfully at the next lesson and then starts in on the next song, fingering every note.

The theory books and the technique and artistry books in the Faber series are not used by my daughter's teacher. I bought the theory books anyway but wasn't that successful at incorporating them into her practice since her note identification was so weak that each exercise took forever. This summer I had her play a "musical notes" video game to practice note identification and now she can recognize the notes on the treble clef quickly although if it is an A, for example, she will sometimes play A in the bass clef instead and, if it is a G, she will say G-C-D-E-F-G and then play it.

Despite this low reading level, I think there may be something in the point about advancing her too quickly to benefit recitals. My daughter loves performing and does her best at recitals. The teacher says after she plays "This is her 2nd year of piano with me" and then parents with little kids in the first year (e.g 5 year olds playing Go and Wash Your Father's Shirt) come up to me and say they are so encouraged that their child could be playing like that next year.

I will check out other possible teachers. With all my agonizing, I hope I haven't left it too late to get her into a good person's schedule for the fall.

Thank you, all of you, for your helpful comments.


Out of curiousity how do you intend to notify this teacher that you will non longer be using her?

just curious.
_________________________
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#1511602 - 09/08/10 04:30 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Lollipop Offline
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Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
Alreadyinuse - I've read many of these posts previously, but not today, so forgive me if I repeat something that has been suggested already.

I think it is fair to explain to the teacher that you are interested in helping your daughter learn to read the staff, and that you'd like to cut back on the "helping" and not add extra finger numbers if possible. But beyond that, rather than try to "adjust" what the teacher does, perhaps you can "augment" it.

There are a number of websites that offer free flashcards, for example. Maybe for a few minutes a day - between dinner and dessert, or whatever (I'd do it apart from her normal piano practice) you could see if she can get 10 cards right in a row. Here's one site - there are others:
http://linkwaregraphics.com/music/flashcards/#music-notes

There are also some online games. Here are some:

http://www.quiz-tree.com/The_Musical_Staff_main.html
http://www.musicracer.com/
_________________________
piano teacher

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#1511654 - 09/08/10 06:06 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Alreadyinuse - I hope things work out for you.

As a teacher who works with many children, and also transfer students of all ages from other teachers, I would like to offer my thoughts of what you wrote:

Originally Posted By: Alreadyinuse

The positives of staying on, as people pointed out, are that my daughter likes her, practices, and is happy to perform. She is also advancing through the books.


That also means that your daughter likes the piano, and likes to play, and therefore would most likely continue to do so with another teacher.

I had several teachers as a child, each one more suited to fit my musical growth. Changing teachers never stopped me, but rather helped me, just as school children advance in grade, and get new teachers as they advance.

Originally Posted By: Alreadyinuse

The other thing I can do is commit myself to doing the theory with her. She practices 35 minutes a day 5 days a week in two blocks (10 min before school, 20 min after school).


Thats a great idea. You could also introduce some very easy pieces without any fingering, to take control of that situation, and gently break her into the concept of reading the notes w/out finger numbers.

Originally Posted By: Alreadyinuse

I hope (unreasonably?) that the problems of technique may correct themselves on the piano. I think one reason the teacher does not correct her is that the teacher knows that kids (all people!) don’t like being corrected. So she focuses on a few corrections she thinks are important and hand position never makes it to the top of the list.


Hand position is one of the most important items. Ingrained poor hand position habits will hobble her playing, are difficult to break, and can even cause injury later on. I would put it, along with technique, at the top of the list, not on the bottom.

In your search for another teacher, ask about how he/she teaches technique.

Keep in mind that playing the piano is a physical activity, and pianists are athletes with their hands. Technique is simply the physical training of the hand to play the piano comfortably and well...and hand position is an integral part of technique. Technique is an essential component to playing well.

Best wishes!
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#1512064 - 09/09/10 08:11 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Ann in Kentucky Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
Originally Posted By: Alreadyinuse


I don’t think I can politely cancel so close to the start of the semester. As well -- and you may think I am dense for not realizing this before -- she may actually mind if we switch. I had previously assumed that since her schedule is full all the time (it is very hard to schedule make-up lessons) an old student out would just mean a new student in, no hard feelings. Having read other threads here, things may be more complicated than that. If I am going to bow out in the future, I think I will need to find a way to do it graciously with advance notice.



Can I ask the teacher to commit in advance to not adding to the fingering beyond what is included in the book?

The other thing I can do is commit myself to doing the theory with her.

I hope (unreasonably?) that the problems of technique may correct themselves on the piano.




Alreadyinuse,
Keep it simple. Your job is to choose what is best for your daughter. Your job is not to speculate about other people's feelings. The way to give notice is to check your teacher's policy about giving notice. Have you signed a year long contract? Does the teacher have a policy? If not, then a 2 week notice would be adequate and considerate.

Yes to the question about fingering.

Theory at home at your daughter's level will only take 10 minutes a week.

Technique problems do not correct themselves.

It sounds to me like you are very fearful. Afraid to change teachers for fear of hurting someone's feelings. Afraid to speak to the teacher to even tell her to stop writing in additional finger numbers and to instead see if she can teach your child to read the notes.

But the choices are yours. You can always look back and say no my daughter did not learn to read music, but she had a good time seeing her teacher and I never hurt the teachers feelings. Maybe that will be enough for you.

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#1512100 - 09/09/10 09:37 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Alreadyinuse Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/10
Posts: 31
Loc: Montreal
Lollipop - thank you for those great links! I was looking for a note reading game that doesn't have time pressure (too stressful when you're starting out) and doesn't have ledger lines on the first level. There is another thread on computer note recognition games that those links would be great on.

Rocket - I am not ruling out changing teachers. I would do it after Christmas or at the end of the school year depending on how things were going and what my options were. That would give me time to really look at who is available, to get references from other parents etc. I plan to start myself with someone who comes to the house and if I like the person and they seem like they'd be a good fit for my daughter, we could switch to both of us having lessons at the house. In the meantime, I will try to do something about her sight-reading and hand position. The piano arrives Monday so maybe with new circumstances we can start new habits.

Ann - the teacher doesn't have a contract and there are no written policies. I don't know about two weeks notice being adequate. It seems harsh. If I were sure that switching teachers was the right decision, I would do it. However, the majority of the responders on this thread were actually doubtful and thought her progress thus far justified persisting with this teacher while trying to remedy some issues. At least that's how I read the responses. Since I was unsure myself what to do, I think it is possible the teacher is doing a reasonable job and firing her with essentially no notice is unjustified. There are a few things at risk with switching that do matter to me, and those include my daughter's happiness and her confidence. I believe other teachers could nurture those as well, but if I can remedy the sight-reading problems and work on the hand position myself, maybe my feelings about the weaknesses of the lessons will change. If they don't, I'll have time to properly look for a better teacher and time to give more reasonable notice...

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#1512371 - 09/09/10 05:53 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
You're making a show of weighing options and deciding rationally, but I've seen this way to many times in the past to believe that. This hits at the most visceral level with a parent: an outsider has bonded with his child in a most special way. In my experience, in this type of situation, once the parent recognizes the quality of the bond between his child and the teacher, the teacher is history. Between harassing your child over this trivial finger issue (you've made a major issue out of nothing in order to justify switching teachers--this is very typical in this type of situation; we've seen this time and again on this forum), so that she will "want" to change teachers, and harassing the teacher so as to provoke a confrontation so that you "have to" change teachers, this teacher is already out the door.

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#1512879 - 09/10/10 02:10 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2457
Loc: France
If you are still there, Alreadyinuse:

I don't remember if you have already said: have you spoken with the teacher about this subject ? It wouldn't be surprising if she agrees wth you and changes her approach with your girl. Or that she agrees that your daughter would advance better with another teacher and even give you a reference.

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#1513042 - 09/10/10 07:53 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
I'm neither a teacher nor a parent, but I think the thought you're putting into this speaks well of you. I agree with your though of taking some time to explore your options, get teacher recommendations from other parents, and try helping your daughter learn at home.

As far as the computer theory games go, I've found them very useful as an adult beginner, at first improve my note recognition, and currently to improve my knowledge of chords. I imagine the ones I enjoy might not be very appealing to a kid (nor vise versa), but computer theory games are a great learning resource once you find ones at the right level for the student in question. If you can find some that your daughter enjoys, the process becomes self-motivating.

Another thing you might want to do at home with her is to get some very easy music for her to try reading, stuff that's easy enough to guarantee success and build interest in reading music for fun. Perhaps even start with an E-Z Play Today book of music she likes to listen to (pop, Disney, ???) You will be horrified to see the note names written in the note heads, but the point is to introduce the idea that reading music is a fun activity that she wants to learn to do better. If an E-Z Play Today book of tunes she can pick out all by herself imprints the idea in her head that sheet music is fun, then it's been money well spent.

(Another alternative might be to get her some different early method books to read from, but the music in those tends to be pretty uninspiring, thus less likely to build reading motivation. I suspect she'd be much more motivated by learning tunes she knows).
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#1513125 - 09/10/10 10:48 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: landorrano]
Minniemay Offline
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Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Originally Posted By: landorrano
On the other hand, I strongly disagree with this proposition:

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
The parent shouldn't have to supplement what the teacher is doing.


To the contrary, the parent must supplement what the teacher is doing, even with the best of teachers.

A teacher sees a child a half an hour a week, maybe less, maybe 45 minutes; an hour after many years of study.

Is that really enough time to say all that there is to say?

An angel can perhaps breath the spirit into a poor mortal in less than an instant, but I don't suppose that many of you piano teachers have gotten to that point ... yet.


Most of my students' parents don't know much about music, much less piano. Their role is to support, encourage and make sure that practice is happening according to the teacher's instructions. Their job is not teaching piano. That is why they hired me.
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#1513179 - 09/11/10 01:00 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Minniemay]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11747
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Minniemay


Most of my students' parents don't know much about music, much less piano. Their role is to support, encourage and make sure that practice is happening according to the teacher's instructions. Their job is not teaching piano. That is why they hired me.

I agree with Minniemay here. I have had students whose parents or one parent played piano, and they would end up teaching them at home during the week. Often they would become a crutch for the child by playing the piece for them so they would learn it by ear, or correcting their mistakes so that they would not be able to develop a critical ear for listening.


Edited by Morodiene (09/11/10 01:02 AM)
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#1513232 - 09/11/10 03:55 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Minniemay]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5458
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Most of my students' parents don't know much about music, much less piano. Their role is to support, encourage and make sure that practice is happening according to the teacher's instructions.


+1

Those students whose parents aren't being supportive at home usually end up progressing slowly or not at all.
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#1513307 - 09/11/10 10:41 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: AZNpiano]
sportsdude2060 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/14/10
Posts: 133
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano


Those students whose parents aren't being supportive at home usually end up progressing slowly or not at all.


I must disagree with that statement, both from personal experiences and from those of some my more musically-gifted friends.


Also, Minniemay, we aren't trying to generalize this situation. Sure, most parents don't possess the knowledge or ability to supplement their kids' progress on the piano, but alreadyinuse certainly does. Therefore, if 30-60 minutes a week with a teacher isn't enough for her daughter to improve in every single facet of play, I see no reason why she can't "pick up the slack," so to speak, and help her out in those last one or two spots.

Now, you may be thinking, "well, she shouldn't have to 'pick up the slack'"; and while you're right, we need to remember that the child's enjoyment should be first and foremost. It may not be (and probably won't be) possible for them to locate an instructor who does cover everything while keeping the student interested.

You can try to search for another teacher who meets all the criteria listed above -- and you may even find one -- but I have a feeling that before too long your daughter will gradually drift away from the instrument and within about a year quit it altogether.

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#1513335 - 09/11/10 12:00 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: sportsdude2060]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
My point is that the teacher is not teaching reading. In my opinion, that is a core issue. It needs to be central in the child's curriculum, not a side issue to be dealt with by supplementation. It takes a serious amount of time by an experienced teacher.

This parent is obviously capable of supplementing, but it needs to be centralized by the teacher, and that is not happening.
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#1513477 - 09/11/10 06:08 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: sportsdude2060]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5458
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: sportsdude2060
but I have a feeling that before too long your daughter will gradually drift away from the instrument and within about a year quit it altogether.

On the contrary, success breeds motivation. The way this student is heading (not reading notes) is a sure way to quitting within a year.
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#1513599 - 09/11/10 10:31 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: AZNpiano]
sportsdude2060 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/14/10
Posts: 133
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: sportsdude2060
but I have a feeling that before too long your daughter will gradually drift away from the instrument and within about a year quit it altogether.

On the contrary, success breeds motivation. The way this student is heading (not reading notes) is a sure way to quitting within a year.


The fact that other parents and students continue to compliment her abilities at group recitals proves that she is already very proficient for her age. As you yourself said, the success she has experienced so far is both keeping her passion for the piano alive and motivating her to practice.

If, however, you were to suddenly and completely alter her method of learning (from "fingering" to reading, in this case), she would -- at least temporarily -- hit a brick wall, which might be enough in itself to instigate a loss of interest.

Additionally, while success may breed motivation, that success can come in a variety of different ways -- and it certainly does not require the ability to sightread well. One of my friends has been taking lessons for almost 12 years now, and he still cannot read music at all. He is not discouraged in the least and has never professed any intentions of drop out. Sure, it takes him a while to make it through each piece; but the success still comes once he does finish.

I myself was stuck with some "motivationless" success when I first tried out the piano at age 6. My teacher sped straight through the Michael Aaron series without stopping to give me any outside pieces. I sightread each piece and then worked on it briefly until I could play the whole thing well, and I became a pretty good at reading music, but I hated the experience. Despite the fact that my teacher called me, "her most talented student," I really just didn't enjoy learning music in that way. As a result, I almost never practiced and ended up quitting altogether within only a year. Plus, I was so disgusted that I refused to even touch the piano for almost 10 years.

Once I finally restarted (about 16 months ago), I told my new instructor that I would only take from her if I could learn the pieces I enjoyed; and she agreed. Sure, my sightreading at this point could be better; but, because I actually do practice a little bit now, I've almost finished revolutionary and hungarian rhapsody no. 2.

Bottom line, passion and interest must come first. Switching to a new teacher will ultimately fail if those 2 qualities are given a backseat.


Edited by sportsdude2060 (09/11/10 10:32 PM)

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#1513657 - 09/12/10 01:21 AM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
The learning of reading and the joy of making music are not mutually exclusive. There needs to be balance. It IS possible to have both! My students do.
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