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#1821815 - 01/09/12 09:26 PM Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around
TakomaRose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/25/11
Posts: 33
Hi -- I have a 6YO son who has been taking lessons for about 18 months. He has progressed relatively quickly and is now learning early intermediate pieces. For an upcoming recital, his teacher has him working on Kabalevsky's Etude in A Minor, Op. 27 No. 3.

During his lessons, he is very focused and eager to work on this piece (in addition to other pieces from Faber 3A and some Hanon exercises, etc). He can now play portions of it fairly well. But for the first time since he started taking lessons, he is balking every day or two when it's time to practice the Kabalevsky. He says it is "too hard" and that he is "worried" he can't learn it in time for the recital, which is in a few weeks. He will dawdle, goof around on the piano bench, play other pieces, do scales...anything but work on the Etude. Then he'll have another day or two of good practice sessions, then a day or two of anxiety and inability to work on the piece. This has been going on for about a little over a week.

How can I help him through this or encourage him? Or should I ask his teacher to allow him to play an easier piece at the recital? Not sure what the best course of action is but in the past he's loved practicing and recitals and this is new. His teacher has already broken up the piece into sections and written out the best way for him to approach practicing (which he has liked in the past). Any suggestions welcome!

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#1821869 - 01/09/12 11:08 PM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
liszt85 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/26/08
Posts: 3159
He might not like that particular piece very much. Children have musical preferences too, you know? wink I remember when I was around 10 or so, my teacher had me work on an Erik Satie sonatina. I was one of his favorite pupils and this was a piece he had played as a kid, and he wanted me to play it for him just like he did for his teacher. I hated the piece! I spent about 3 months on it and never finished learning it. It wasn't that it was too hard for me (there were a couple of hard sections but that wasn't the main reason).

It is probably too late now for this but next time (for a recital), have him listen to some recordings of potential pieces and ask him which one he'd like to work on. Once he's part of the decision process, he should work diligently on his recital piece(s).
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#1821871 - 01/09/12 11:13 PM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
pianoeagle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/16/11
Posts: 218
Loc: Texas
Have you spoken with your son's teacher about this issue, and gotten his/her suggestions? I would really encourage you to do so, if you haven't already. Would he/she be open to changing the piece? I refuse to force my students to play pieces that they absolutely don't like and I try to work with them as best as I can to select pieces that are encouraging, yet allow learning.


Edited by pianoeagle (01/09/12 11:15 PM)
Edit Reason: Pronoun edit
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#1821902 - 01/10/12 12:27 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5590
Loc: Orange County, CA
Well, your son IS right. That Kabalevsky piece is far, far too difficult for him. Hello!? There are at least two years of piano lessons between Faber 3A and that Kabalevsky piece.

When Kabalevsky wrote Op. 27, he did not put the pieces in the order of progressive difficulty. That etude is one of the harder selections of the book. I've taught that piece many times to students who have been playing piano for much longer than your son.

Ask to see if the teacher can pick a Faber 3A piece instead. Faber 3A isn't the most exciting book in the series, though.
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#1821914 - 01/10/12 12:48 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Well, your son IS right. That Kabalevsky piece is far, far too difficult for him. Hello!? There are at least two years of piano lessons between Faber 3A and that Kabalevsky piece.

thumb
There are a TON of pieces I would teach before that Kabalevsky piece, and I don't teach it to anyone who does not like Kabalevsky. (I do like his music.)
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#1822013 - 01/10/12 08:01 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
Morodiene Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12211
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I agree with everything that's been said thus far. That piece IS to hard for him, and you need to speak to your teacher. Perhaps she/he thought by presenting your son with a challenge he might really enjoy it, but obviously that isn't the case (although I think a challenge shouldn't be so far ahead of what they're currently playing).

Whatever the reason, let your son's teacher know that he doesn't like the piece, that he's really struggling practicing and he never used to do that before he started learning this. Request that he be given a different piece for the recital and to put this one away for a few months.
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#1822032 - 01/10/12 08:50 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
Originally Posted By: TakomaRose
How can I help him through this or encourage him? Or should I ask his teacher to allow him to play an easier piece at the recital?


As a parent, if I were in this situation I would simply describe to the teacher what you have described in this post, and ask the teacher what to do. The teacher might suggest ways to encourage him, or might change the piece. Each teacher is different and will come up with different solutions for the same situation. For example my kids have never learned a new piece specifically for a recital, they always just picked pieces from their existing repertoire. This way there is much less chance for stress.

Also, it’s not clear from your post what your kid is working on with this piece. Does it take him a while to learn the basics, notes and rhythms etc., or did it take little time for him to play the whole piece through and spends most of the time polishing? If it takes too long to learn the basics of a piece, (or to polish a piece,) consider the possibility that the teacher’s ambition may not match the child’s patience.

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#1822061 - 01/10/12 09:25 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13817
Loc: Iowa City, IA
If a student was able to go from Primer to Level 3A in 18 months, then Kabalevsky 27/3 is a reasonable jump from 3A. (I've taught 27/3 successfully with Faber 3B, which I think sets it up fairly well. I personally wouldn't do it with 3A, but I can see how it might be done.)

That being said, it's difficult to know what's going on here. It could just be a case of a kid not wanting to practice something and he needs to just push through it and get the work done. Or it could be that he's not ready. Or it could be that his technique is up to the task but the piece wasn't presented well enough or far enough in advance.
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"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#1822067 - 01/10/12 09:32 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10422
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
This is so hard to judge. The piece could indeed be too hard for him, and he is reacting against it. Alternatively, the kid could have some perfectionist tendencies and for the first time in his piano life he is coming up against a barrier that requires a kind of work effort he has not really internalized. Lastly, he could be reacting to the concerns and fears shown by others.
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#1822084 - 01/10/12 10:01 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
mikey keys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/07
Posts: 62
Loc: New York
I agree we don't really know whats going on. I think there is some great advise on here for you to follow.

What you could try is ask him to memorize a section of his choosing everyday. Let him pick how much but it could be as little as 2 notes. You could monitor him, if it is really quick then ask him to do a little more, if it is taking more than 5 minutes ask him to do less. You can make it a goal or a game, if he can get his little section 3 times in a row without a mistake, he gets some kind of prize (you can work that out with him) You may be able to do this 2 or 3 times during the day so make the prize fit accordingly. When you ask him to do it, ask him like "what can you do?" This may take away his anxiety about the piece.

It also may be it is too hard, but you may be able to judge after watching him practice this way
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#1822085 - 01/10/12 10:06 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11846
Loc: Canada
I couldn't help notice that "worry" and "too hard" were in quotation marks as if maybe these things were not real. They may be very real for the child, and from feedback by some of the teachers, there may be reason. You should let his teacher know. How else can she address the anxiety he seems to be feeling, unless she knows about it? I would think that any teacher would definitely want to know about something like this.

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#1822094 - 01/10/12 10:38 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
TakomaRose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/25/11
Posts: 33
Thanks for everyone's responses. So, today was a happy, focused practice day and he worked on the piece for about 45 minutes this morning before school (with no prodding at all). I peeked at the music after he was done and would say he can actually play the whole piece through at tempo, the only difficult areas (where he slows down) being measures 8-11.

The recital is 18 days from now, so he has plenty of time to get it together if he wants to. I think my concern is why he is waxing and waning on this one -- I don't want to push too hard and I don't think his teacher does, either.

He has plenty of other pieces he could play instead, but he's worked so hard (off and on) it seems like a shame to pull this one. As suggested, I'll give his teacher a call today to discuss.

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#1822228 - 01/10/12 03:03 PM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: TakomaRose
I peeked at the music after he was done and would say he can actually play the whole piece through at tempo, the only difficult areas (where he slows down) being measures 8-11.

Because those measures are far more difficult than the rest of the piece, and the tempo needs to be taken FROM the tempo of those measures...
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#1822240 - 01/10/12 03:31 PM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
Brent H Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/11
Posts: 843
Not trying to butt in but practically every piece I've ever learned seems to be roughly halfway ready at the point where I can play all but a few measures correctly and up to speed. It seems to take as long to get from that point to performance ready as it took from sight-reading the first time to get to the "all but" stage.

And I've found that to be true for piano, mandolin and guitar...so far...
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Current Life+Music Philosophy: Less Thinking, More Foot Tapping

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#1822243 - 01/10/12 03:34 PM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11846
Loc: Canada
I think the idea is that your final speed should be the speed that you can handle your weakest part at (not any faster).

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#1822263 - 01/10/12 04:10 PM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: Brent H]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Brent H
Not trying to butt in but practically every piece I've ever learned seems to be roughly halfway ready at the point where I can play all but a few measures correctly and up to speed. It seems to take as long to get from that point to performance ready as it took from sight-reading the first time to get to the "all but" stage.

And I've found that to be true for piano, mandolin and guitar...so far...

That's why experienced players map out music, from day one, knowing which parts are the problems, and nail them first. And almost always the worst parts will be somewhere between the middle and the end, often right AT the end.
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Piano Teacher

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#1822501 - 01/11/12 02:07 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5590
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: TakomaRose
the only difficult areas (where he slows down) being measures 8-11.

It might be a fingering problem.
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Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1822507 - 01/11/12 02:19 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: TakomaRose
the only difficult areas (where he slows down) being measures 8-11.

It might be a fingering problem.

I'd wager M11. smile
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Piano Teacher

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#1822640 - 01/11/12 09:12 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11846
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: TakomaRose
the only difficult areas (where he slows down) being measures 8-11.

It might be a fingering problem.

I'd wager M11. smile

In which case, again, the teacher should be alerted that the child is having problems and balking some days because of it. Otoh, an observant teacher should be noticing that there is a problem in that section and trying to see cause and solution.

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#1822643 - 01/11/12 09:16 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
PianoStudent88 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3197
Loc: Maine
You all are making me very curious about this piece!
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#1825599 - 01/15/12 09:16 PM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
Beethoven's Girl Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/13/12
Posts: 1
Loc: Canada
He's six! Maybe ask him if he "likes" the piece. It probably isn't too hard for him since the teacher gave it to him. It's too bad he didn't say anything earlier? Maybe suggest to the teacher to ask if he likes the piece before giving it to him? I seem to always play the piece for my students before handing it out.
_________________________
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#1825679 - 01/15/12 11:54 PM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
The Saints preserve us from PROUD (and ignorant) MUMS ... who mislead their 4.5 year old progeny with fatuous daydreams of genius.

To add to the horror is a dry menu of Kabalevsky, Hanon and Faber 3A ... and the going is steadily getting tougher for the little mite ... especially as the objective of “pleasing Mum” is being compared to lots of other better things to do than playing the piano.

Please let the little lad go out and kick a ball ... and Mum ... get back to your far more productive knitting!

From ... A Piano Teacher who’s seen it all.

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#1826103 - 01/16/12 06:28 PM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: btb]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: btb
Please let the little lad go out and kick a ball ...

There SHOULD be plenty of time to "hit keys" and "kick balls". smile
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Piano Teacher

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#1826155 - 01/16/12 08:53 PM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
TakomaRose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/25/11
Posts: 33
Here's where he's at right now. He does seem to like the piece a lot. I think Piano Dad was the closest when he said this is one of the first times he's really had to work hard for something on the piano. @btb, I'm sure you think I have my son chained to the piano, but before he started working on this piece we never even discussed it -- that's why I was concerned. FWIW, he did also spend plenty of time this weekend playing flag football, building stuff in his playroom, enjoying a birthday/slumber party, etc. He's a pretty normal kid, really. I'm genuinely trying to help him without pushing too hard. Thanks.

Any comments appreciated -- he's got two weeks left to finesse this as he can --

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khl1UuBwLA0

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#1826244 - 01/17/12 12:08 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: TakomaRose
Here's where he's at right now. He does seem to like the piece a lot. I think Piano Dad was the closest when he said this is one of the first times he's really had to work hard for something on the piano. @btb, I'm sure you think I have my son chained to the piano, but before he started working on this piece we never even discussed it -- that's why I was concerned. FWIW, he did also spend plenty of time this weekend playing flag football, building stuff in his playroom, enjoying a birthday/slumber party, etc. He's a pretty normal kid, really. I'm genuinely trying to help him without pushing too hard. Thanks.

Any comments appreciated -- he's got two weeks left to finesse this as he can --

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khl1UuBwLA0

He is sitting very low. This puts his elbows very low and forces him to raise his shoulders. That's the bad thing about piano benches. You should definitely consider an adjustable set (height).

Other than that, cool kid, really nice job for a tiny tot, even with a couple stops, and I'd love to have him for a student.

And I hope he continues to have time to do all the other things too... smile
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#1826270 - 01/17/12 01:14 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Thanks for that MUM ... but surely there’s something more apt to play than dreary old Kabalevsky, Hanon and Faber 3A ... what about

Bach ... Prelude no. 1 in C Major
Beethoven ... Minuet in G
MacDowell ... To a Wild Rose

All available for downloading from IMSLP ... however, the real next adventure for a 6-year old is to be able to SIGHT-READ music ... for the moment the lad is just trundling up and down scales ONE NOTE AT A TIME ... it gets more tricky with ten fingers to sort out.

The Beethoven and MacDowell gems will introduce a new bigger world.

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#1826862 - 01/18/12 02:37 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: btb]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5590
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: btb
Bach ... Prelude no. 1 in C Major
Beethoven ... Minuet in G
MacDowell ... To a Wild Rose

These pieces are completely inappropriate for this 6-year-old child. You must be joking.
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#1826871 - 01/18/12 02:46 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: AZNpiano]
Slowdown Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/28/10
Posts: 22
Loc: Sydney, Australia
If I could butt in as well: I don't think Kabalevsky's music is dreary at all - I think it's really harmonically fresh and interesting! (Obviously that does not mean that a particular Kabalevsky piece will be right for a particular student, but ...)
-Paul
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#1826876 - 01/18/12 03:05 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: TakomaRose]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Aussie Slowdown should watch more cricket.

Kabalevsky wrote his music during the Stalin
era ... did anybody do anything "fresh and interesting" during this dictatorial era? Siberia gets pretty cool at this time of year.

AZN piano

All the jokes can't be good ... but can you play?

Bach ... Prelude no. 1 in C Major
Beethoven ... Minuet in G
MacDowell ... To a Wild Rose

The Bach is a cakewalk while the Beethoven and MacDowell are a treat.





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#1826896 - 01/18/12 04:42 AM Re: Son hitting a wall when teacher isn't around [Re: btb]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5590
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: btb
Kabalevsky wrote his music during the Stalin
era ... did anybody do anything "fresh and interesting" during this dictatorial era? Siberia gets pretty cool at this time of year.


The last time I checked, Prokofiev's music is quite fresh and interesting. Other notable Russian composers who wrote music during the Stalin era include Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff.
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