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#1747826 - 09/06/11 11:06 PM Teaching "The Music Tree"
Carolynjoy Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/18/09
Posts: 18
Loc: Milwaukee
I'm considering adding "The Music Tree" to my methods of choice. I have read reviews, and I bought a copy of Time to Begin. But I have some questions about it.

1. It seems that in the entire first book, the students never use their thumbs to play a note. Ever. It's all fingers 2 through 5. Does anyone know the reason for this? It seems like it would encourage bad hand technique to begin with.

2. Also, the first book seems to be so repetitive. The exercise repeat just a few notes with only fingers 2 and maybe 3 on black notes for much of the book. I could only see using this with maybe a 4 or 5 year old. Wouldn't anyone older get bored of these repetitive exercises that can't even be called songs?

The thing is, I don't mean to bash the method, I do think it is pedagogically sound, and I would like to try it in my studio. I just wish there was an accelerated version.

Does anyone have thoughts on either of these issues?

Thanks so much for your insight.

Carolyn
4 years private studio
_________________________
Carolyn
Piano teacher since 2002
B.A. in Music and Psychology
Piano Pedagogy program completed
http://vivopianolessons.com

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#1747833 - 09/06/11 11:16 PM Re: Teaching "The Music Tree" [Re: Carolynjoy]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Actually, Music Tree is one of the MOST pedagogically sound courses there is. There is a teacher's handbook and you should get it.

That being said, it is one of the more difficult courses to teach without a formal pedagogy background. You really have to understand the "why" of what they are doing, not just the "how."

Study the course more closely. You'll see some real genius. Yes, there is a fair amount of repetition, but that is purposeful. As for the lack of thumb use, the technical philosophy is on building the hand from the center out. It allows for a natural strengthening of the arch and of the fingers. I find that I don't have students that end up playing on the sides of their pinkies and thumbs because the center of the hand is so firmly estabished.

You must use every suggestion they give.

You might also want to read "A Piano Teacher's Legacy" -- a collection of writings of Richard Chronister and edited by Ed Darling. It's available at www.francesclarkcenter.org

Music Tree works beautifully for 6 and 7 year olds. I'm using it right now with great success with two 6 year old girls.

Get the handbook.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1747845 - 09/06/11 11:57 PM Re: Teaching "The Music Tree" [Re: Minniemay]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5587
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
That being said, it is one of the more difficult courses to teach without a formal pedagogy background. You really have to understand the "why" of what they are doing, not just the "how."

Maybe that's why all the Music Tree transfers (except for one kid) turned out to be disasters who can't read notes. It made me want to scream "The landmark approach doesn't work!!"

Oh, for that one kid who didn't turn out to be a disaster--he's so smart and self-motivated, ANY method will work.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1747853 - 09/07/11 12:14 AM Re: Teaching "The Music Tree" [Re: Carolynjoy]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I start all my beginners in Music Tree and they all read fluently.

It's not the fault of the course, it's the fault of the teacher. No course teaches itself.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1748223 - 09/07/11 12:53 PM Re: Teaching "The Music Tree" [Re: Minniemay]
Carolynjoy Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/18/09
Posts: 18
Loc: Milwaukee
Thank you all for your input.

By the way, my training is in piano pedagogy. It just didn't include The Music Tree specifically. I will definitely need to buy the handbook to understand the specifics of the reasoning behind the "no thumbs" method.

And I do know that it is a rigorously studied and highly pedagogically sound method. I was simply looking for reasons to things I hadn't seen discussed before.

I need the handbook before I consider starting with it, clearly.

My only real concern will be the repetition and lack of "melody" for the first few weeks.

1. How long do you usually spend on Units 1-3? I see that in Unit 4, there are a few songs that are melodic, like "Dinosaurs" and "Merrily We Roll Along," mixed in with the usual 2-note songs.

Also, is it not strange to have a child play a song with only finger 2 of the right and left hand for the first 30 pages of the book? Do you go through these pages quite quickly?

Thank you so much for your insights as people that actually teach with this method.

(Don't worry, I'm buying the handbook on my next trip to the store this weekend.)

Carolyn
B.A. Music, Psychology, Piano Pedagogy
_________________________
Carolyn
Piano teacher since 2002
B.A. in Music and Psychology
Piano Pedagogy program completed
http://vivopianolessons.com

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#1748449 - 09/07/11 06:24 PM Re: Teaching "The Music Tree" [Re: Carolynjoy]
Arctic_Mama Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/09
Posts: 379
Loc: Alaska
Oh my goodness, I LOVE The Music Tree. I've learned under Suzuki, Bastien, and Alfred prior to their course and came away with the most technically sound approach. The course is designed to avoid a lot of pitfalls (like hand positions or only being comfortable in C major, playing more by ear than notes, etc etc) and get students comfortable with the motion of playing (hence the primer's emphasis on simply depressing keys with ease and beginning rhythm, not adding too much else in for the littlest players) and understanding the entire keyboard from the beginning.

It also focuses heavily on transposing, creativity with chord progressions, and fairly exhaustive skill building one piece at a time. I am no piano teacher, but after having spent various portions of my life learning and relearning piano basics, as an adult I can now see the ingenuity of the approach when compared with the other curricula I have been taught with.

I'm surprised to see anyone came away from that course without the ability to read music. If a student has completed the primer and 1A, they should already be fluent in an octave of notes, simple rhythm, and even some small harmonies between the hands.

I know the teacher who trained me with this course had studied piano pedagogy and worked under another teacher in a large studio before going on her own, and that may have been a key difference. Also of note, I skipped the primer entirely and breezed through the first book (entirely skipped the second) due to my prior training. My teacher assessed that I was skilled enough to not need them and the primer, specifically, is aimed at 5-7 year olds. Older children who can retain more information and have longer attention spans can skip it without detriment, provided they have an understanding of the basic skills presented in it.

I can't speak highly enough for the series, truly. Well written, thorough, progressive, interesting pieces and supplements... I am truly heartbroken that my teacher will be moving back to Oklahoma and thus I will have to hunt down another in my area who uses the same curriculum - it has made me an absolute believer, in terms of being thorough and wonderfully suited to young beginners (and older ones, like moi!).
_________________________
Starting over after a decade-long hiatus from playing!
Yamaha CLP320

Burgmuller - Inquietude

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#1748754 - 09/08/11 08:35 AM Re: Teaching "The Music Tree" [Re: Minniemay]
Gerard12 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/19/10
Posts: 767
Loc: South Carolina
Originally Posted By: Minniemay

Study the course more closely. You'll see some real genius. Yes, there is a fair amount of repetition, but that is purposeful. As for the lack of thumb use, the technical philosophy is on building the hand from the center out. It allows for a natural strengthening of the arch and of the fingers. I find that I don't have students that end up playing on the sides of their pinkies and thumbs because the center of the hand is so firmly estabished.




This is timely. Last week - with just with a cursory perusal - I decided that I'll switch over to Music Tree for new students starting with the new year.

I just wish I had investigated it sooner - not just for the reading benefits, but especially for the benefits that Minniemay describes above.

Transferring students from one method to a better one is always difficult. For me, the transition from Bastien to Faber years ago was pretty time consuming as far as lesson prep goes. Can anyone who has transferred students into Music Tree from another method share more of their experiences?

(Is it just me, or does the title I remember Gurlitt make you laugh?)
_________________________
Piano performance and instruction (former college music professor).

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#1752609 - 09/14/11 08:36 PM Re: Teaching "The Music Tree" [Re: Gerard12]
LeaC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/13/11
Posts: 413
Loc: USA
Hello! I love The Music Tree. The pedagogical points are subtle at first. I like the beginning hand positioons on the black keys, and not using the thumb to establish a relaxed wrist. So very important from the very first lesson. Then, the kids have a blast learning to use "rainbow arms" as the learn to move their arms into the air, making an arch, from octave to octave. If someone (even an adult) is learning quickly, you can always accelerate their pace through the book. This series allowed me to focus on some important finger, wrist and arm movements in an entertaining setting. That's technique. Then there is the note reading that is introduced one line at a time. In fact, using this book heavily influenced the way I teach reading today. I now see reading as a purely intervallic process, and find my students do better with this approach. It encourages spacial perceptions, which is what reading is all about. While you might find it difficult to have the student keep their eyes on the score, they are really learning to synthesize everything into a functional whole. Another advanced technique that is introduced early on is how to lean toward the hands as they move up and down the keyboard. Just like little pros! So adorable.
_________________________
Working on: Reworking Bartok's Suite Opus 14, Chopin's Polonaise Op.40, The Military (so much fun!)

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#1753057 - 09/15/11 04:21 PM Re: Teaching "The Music Tree" [Re: LeaC]
Carolynjoy Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/18/09
Posts: 18
Loc: Milwaukee
Thank you so much for your insight. I already had an appreciation for the intervallic approach to note-reading introduced in this book. I've always tried to teach my students through this approach, so I appreciate a method that supports this.
Thank you for helping me to understand the omission of the thumb as a means of establishing a relaxed wrist.

I also got very excited when I saw the "Time to Begin" activity book. I think it has the potential to fill in a lot of leaps in logic that other books skip.

I will continue learning more about the method (of course my local music stores don't stock the handbook--so it's being ordered), and once I feel comfortable with it, I look forward to adding it to my favored methods.

Thanks!
_________________________
Carolyn
Piano teacher since 2002
B.A. in Music and Psychology
Piano Pedagogy program completed
http://vivopianolessons.com

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#1753136 - 09/15/11 06:42 PM Re: Teaching "The Music Tree" [Re: Carolynjoy]
LeaC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/13/11
Posts: 413
Loc: USA
A pleasure, Carolyn! I know you are a very good teacher!
_________________________
Working on: Reworking Bartok's Suite Opus 14, Chopin's Polonaise Op.40, The Military (so much fun!)

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