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#1511490 - 09/08/10 12:38 PM Re: Thinking of changing teachers.. Advice? [Re: Alreadyinuse]
Piano Again Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
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]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2649
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
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3179
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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#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
500 Post Club Member

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
500 Post Club Member

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/
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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: 3179
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!
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Music teacher and piano player.

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

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2649
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: 2472
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
1000 Post Club Member

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 Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12151
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 Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5558
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 Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5558
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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