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#1887507 - 04/27/12 01:10 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: TimR]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: TimR
I played trombone 3 or 4 years, and sightread very well, without associating note names to what was on the page.

Sure, if you asked me what note that was I could figure it out. But it wasn't instantly available to me like the physical feel of producing that note was.

Actually, isn't this the ultimate state for which we are striving, where the note on the paper BECOMES the sound (with color, and duration, and volume, and nuance), rather than "waiting" for the intermediate step of mental identification? Aren't we attempting to build a "no thinking", reflex reaction?

(I already have the No Thinking part mastered! Now if only I could apply it to music . . .)
Ed

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In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1887582 - 04/27/12 03:39 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
My extensive experience in group teaching is that, if taught well, the stronger kids actually pull the weaker kids up.


As you mention, you have all the kids in private lessons. So when you talk of group teaching, it is what many teachers do which is have kids in private lessons and then supplement with group theory and performance (weekly or monthly for example).

There is a marked difference in what people are referring to as group lessons. The supplemental kind that you propose are not going to be a problem for kids. Group alone will be a problem.

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#1887586 - 04/27/12 03:53 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: TimR]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Tim,

The point I was making has to do with finding notes vs remembering them. Imagine, for instance, that you start piano/keyboard with no prior experience in music, not on any instrument.

There is a C major chord in the bass clef, second, third and 4th lines. How do you get from that to playing the chord?

The logic has to do with lines and spaces. I can point to the three spaces in the music, then connect them to those same three spaces on my chart. I tell you to match them. You do it. Where do you get the names from? If this is the first day, you get the names from FINDING the pictures first, pressing the keys second, then reading the names on the chart. They are directly over the keys you are pressing.

If you have my kind of mind, and many of my students do, you will pick up the concept almost immediately and will begin moving triads all over the place. I will be able to teach you this, in one lesson:

C, F and G major. And I may be able to teach you D, E and A major. The big challenge will be getting your 3rd finger to work, because for most beginners 5 3 1 is not easy to coodinate.

I can then have you playing tunes in the treble, moving anywhere, one finger. You get the idea of movement, and how reading can be 100% INDEPENDENT of fingers. A lesson or two later I show you the logic of fingering. I give you five finger patterns, but written in score so that the starting note is random. You are forced to find the starting place, using either 5th or thumb, then you simply move up or down, logically. This is all intervalic.

But if, at the same time, you make yourself say the letters of each note in a melody and name the root of triads, in the LH, you are subconsciously beginning to associate what you find, using recognition, with the names (which EVENTUALLY have to be memorized).

And how would you remember the names? You take any page of music, hands separate, and fairly effortlessly play one line, looking at the chart. You say the names. Then you flip the chart down and repeat the same thing. You allow yourself to flip the chart up and down, for a line, for a page, for even one note if you go blank.

The advantage of this thinking is that you are always free to explore music that goes beyond your "memory comfort zone". You can move ahead to music that goes places that are not in your head, but you can find them. Since it is human nature to cut out all unnecessary steps, even when the chart is in place you will begin playing many notes correctly, pressing the correct keys, without looking at the visual aid. It is there, but it is an intermediate step, so whenever you are moving from the page to the keys, or you are looking at a score and are not looking down, you have it.

It seldom takes me more than a year to complete this process with people who have learning disabilities. But it can go REALLY quickly.

I have a girl who just turned seven last week. She has counted and played almost every little song we have done, chart down. I insist on note names, and I insist on "together", so C together (with chord) means a chord in the LH, RH plays C.

Each week, she says, "Do I have to say the letters?" My answer: "The other kids do, but you don't. You are THAT good at this! You know them, you have the chart down, just play and count."

She learned and played Happy Birthday, both hands, and played it. It took one week. She learned it BY HERSELF, with only a couple hints from me. She knows four chords for reading: C E G, C F A, B F G, D F G. She knows her C, D, E, F, G and A major triads. She can find any note, in either clef, by matching it to the right key. She learns new music by herself, because each week we run out of time and I put extra music in, to explore. She ASKS for it.

I have another student who just turned six, and I had to teach him mostly alone because his father, unlike the son, did not pick up the logic. He has problems matching notes. It may be linked to problems in math. But in a few months the boy is going to be where the other seven year-old is now.

So that's what I was talking about with recognition vs. memory.
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#1887591 - 04/27/12 04:11 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: LoPresti]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
Actually, isn't this the ultimate state for which we are striving, where the note on the paper BECOMES the sound (with color, and duration, and volume, and nuance), rather than "waiting" for the intermediate step of mental identification? Aren't we attempting to build a "no thinking", reflex reaction?

Yes. You are correct. smile

Thinking letter names while playing is about as useful and successful as either of us spelling out each letter of each word that we are reading.

H I hi E D Ed, H O W how A R E are Y O U you D O I N G doing?

And this is the way most people try to read music - and why it fails...
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#1887593 - 04/27/12 04:18 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Overexposed]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
My extensive experience in group teaching is that, if taught well, the stronger kids actually pull the weaker kids up.


As you mention, you have all the kids in private lessons. So when you talk of group teaching, it is what many teachers do which is have kids in private lessons and then supplement with group theory and performance (weekly or monthly for example).

There is a marked difference in what people are referring to as group lessons. The supplemental kind that you propose are not going to be a problem for kids. Group alone will be a problem.

I think this is an important point. Any ensemble is a group. Obviously playing in a band or orchestra is a "group" thing, and being a part of musical groups was a huge thing in my life through about age 22.

But people who excel in such groups normally have private lessons, and without those private lessons they flounder.

When my students end up in any "piano classes", for any reason, they report to me that all they do in these classes is help other students who are lost. To me that is a very different thing from sitting first chair in a violin or trumpet section, where you are OFFICIALLY the leader and it is your JOB to make sure that the other people in your section are carrying their weight. smile
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#1887594 - 04/27/12 04:20 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: LoPresti]
JimF Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/09
Posts: 1719
Loc: south florida
This has been a very informative thread. I hope you don't mind a question from a non-teacher.

Gary, and others of course, I'm curious if you have taught adults (new to music, not returners). Do you (or would you) use the same approach to reading with a new adult student? What about for an adult that came to you as a transfer who could read, but not as well as you would like him to at his current playing level? How would you attempt to get him caught up? You can assume our hypothetical student is willing and able to follow whatever program of instruction you lay out.

Like many adult piano/music starters (for lack of a better term), I want to be a better reader. But, even with a teacher's help, it is not always clear how that goal is best accomplished.



Jim
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La Fille aux cheveux de lin - Debussy
Ma Mere L'Oye - Ravel
Mozart Sonata K545

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#1887604 - 04/27/12 04:39 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: JimF]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: JimF
This has been a very informative thread. I hope you don't mind a question from a non-teacher.

Gary, and others of course, I'm curious if you have taught adults (new to music, not returners).
Quote:

Yes and no. I would say that at least half my adult students report having had lessons "in the past", but often decades ago. And almost all of them have really serious reading deficiencies.

Most common problems:

1) They learned only with finger numbers.
2) They never learned the bass clef.
3) They are returning because of FAILURE, as children or teens. And they want to find out if the problems were caused by them, or by faulty teaching.
[quote]
Do you (or would you) use the same approach to reading with a new adult student?

Yes, but not because I treat adults as children. It is because I treat children as potential adult players. Why? Go on YouTube and find out what some very young kids can play. Most adults would kill to play that well.

The biggest problem with method books, as I see it, is that the graphic layout is geared to the assumed maturity of the student and not to the PLAYING level of the student. If a ten year-old student is good enough to play a Mozart sonata, a Bach prelude and fugue, a Chopin nocturne, or a sophisticated arrangement of anything, there will be no pictures. There will be no colors. There will be no sugar-coating. It is all about the music.

My experience seems to be atypical. My students are always asking me when they can play X, Y or Z. I have a seven and 1/2 year-old boy who is chafing at the bit to play Darth Vader's march. There is nothing simple or childish about that tune, and to make it sound good you have to know some fairly sophisticated stuff. If you get it in EZ play, you will find pictures and "window-dressing" because the music is so dumbed down.

I started at age 8, very late really. By age 10 there were no more pictures, not more cutesy add-ons because I was already playing advanced music. It's a lot like books. The pictures and large print disappears when you get to sophisticated books.
[quote]
What about for an adult that came to you as a transfer who could read, but not as well as you would like him to at his current playing level? How would you attempt to get him caught up? You can assume our hypothetical student is willing and able to follow whatever program of instruction you lay out.

You find your level, whatever that is. A good teacher should be able to help you do this. You mostly stay on that level, and you have to throw perfection out the window, to some extent at least. When you find something that you can play well enough so that it sounds like music, the first time, that is your level. You can try to play music even easier, more of it, to accelerate the proecess more, mix it up with music that is truly on your level, not too easy, not too hard, then ocassionally challenge yourself with something that makes you stumble a little.

You don't have to do ONLY this. But devote half your practice time to reading. You don't always have to sightread ("prima vista"), but you have to catch when your memory is taking over. Don't repeat anything too often, when reading. You can cycle, meaning that if you return to something months later and barely remember it BUT can read it faster and more smoothly, you are making progress.

How many years did it take you to become a fluent reader of English? Probably close to 10 years to get to really advanced literature. Music is the same. You just don't do it overnight.

Oh, method books: any method book is woefully lacking. There is not enough materal. But if you combine the materials in SEVERAL method books, they tend to blanket concepts and fill in holes that other methods miss.
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#1887622 - 04/27/12 05:01 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
JimF Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/09
Posts: 1719
Loc: south florida
Thanks, Gary, that is very helpful. Not too different from my current approach....just have to do more each day and keep at it for a long time.
_________________________
La Fille aux cheveux de lin - Debussy
Ma Mere L'Oye - Ravel
Mozart Sonata K545

Estonia L190 #7284





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#1887629 - 04/27/12 05:18 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Actually, in my situation, the group was the main lesson and the private lesson was supplementary.
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B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1887635 - 04/27/12 05:33 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5491
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Actually, in my situation, the group was the main lesson and the private lesson was supplementary.


I think it's safe to state this: There are effective group teachers and ineffective group teachers. Having actually observed (and taught) in group settings, I can also conclude that group lessons are far less effective than private, individual lessons.
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Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1887637 - 04/27/12 05:37 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Actually, in my situation, the group was the main lesson and the private lesson was supplementary.

Then I think it is a poor approach, although IF people can only afford a group lesson, then we are talking about something different.
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Piano Teacher

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#1887641 - 04/27/12 05:43 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: JimF]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: JimF
Thanks, Gary, that is very helpful. Not too different from my current approach....just have to do more each day and keep at it for a long time.

I did it with German, starting from scratch at age 30. It's not the same, but there are parallels.

1) I found someone to check my pronunciation.
2) I used FOUR different high school textbooks, and I read everything in all of them.
3) I ordered book for very young German children from Germany. They were large print, full of pictures. They were HARD. Books written for native readers make the stuff in textbooks look simple, because there are no artificial vocabulary limitations, and you run into idioms, staccato phrases, regional usages.
4) I moved to books for "young adults", in Germany.
5) I got books that were translations of famous books here, then only referred to the original English language books when I got stuck.
6) Finally I moved on to adult literature.
7) Found an exchange student who was weak in spoken English, and we alternated between talking all in English (good for him) and all in German (good for me).

My experiences in foreign language totally changed the way I teach music reading.
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#1887648 - 04/27/12 05:57 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
Actually, isn't this the ultimate state for which we are striving, where the note on the paper BECOMES the sound (with color, and duration, and volume, and nuance), rather than "waiting" for the intermediate step of mental identification? Aren't we attempting to build a "no thinking", reflex reaction?

Yes. You are correct.

Finally! And --- so far our discussion has really just focused upon printed note identification, either by translating the hieroglyphics to a particular key on the piano, or by translating it to a letter name. So, let’s go the extra distance and see what sort of mental gyrations are really involved before this stuff becomes reflex-like.

I remember that note - it’s “on” the third ledger line - actually not “sitting (up)on” the third ledger line, but with the line passing through the note-head. That makes it an E. But wait, there are a couple of flats in the key signature, so that makes our note an E-flat. Got it! Let’s see, “sfz” - I recall it stands for one of those troublesome Italian words with too many consonants - sforzando – meaning loud and almost “forced”. O.K. – got it! Oh, and look at that cute little house-roof, or caret over the top of the note-head. From memory, that means to play it sort of detached from the surrounding notes. Got it! Now, a double-dotted quarter note -- I’ve seen this before -- the “first dot” makes the note one-and-one-half times as long as normal, so 1½ beats. But that “second dot” - does it make the whole thing longer, or just make the “first dot” longer? I remember now, it makes the “first dot” one-and-one-half times as long. So, 1 + ½ + ¼ beats = 1¾ beats. Now I have it! But hold on - we are in 2/2 meter, so 1¾ beats divided by 2 equals . . . . . Now, remember to blend with the other players . . .

When it comes right down to it, I do not understand how any of us actually DO read music!
Ed
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1887658 - 04/27/12 06:16 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Actually, in my situation, the group was the main lesson and the private lesson was supplementary.

Then I think it is a poor approach, although IF people can only afford a group lesson, then we are talking about something different.


There you go, judging something that you haven't experienced. Our program was (and still is) very successful. The key is having both the group and the private lesson and having taken the time to group the children properly. The groups are re-evaluated periodically to account for differences in development.

Keep your mind narrow, if you wish.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1887668 - 04/27/12 06:37 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: LoPresti]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
So, let’s go the extra distance and see what sort of mental gyrations are really involved before this stuff becomes reflex-like.

I remember that note - it’s “on” the third ledger line - actually not “sitting (up)on” the third ledger line, but with the line passing through the note-head. That makes it an E.

For YEARS I have been all but screaming: "line notes are NOT on a line. SPACE notes are on a line or BETWEEN TWO lines." I correct every parent who is learning to teach at home. Say "line note. SHOW how the line cuts the circle in half. SHOW how the line disappears as it goes through "black notes". I usually have to repeat this about 10 times to the parents. The students get it instantly.
Quote:

But wait, there are a couple of flats in the key signature, so that makes our note an E-flat. Got it!

There is no flat. What is a flat? It's a little "b". Why is it called flat? What does flat mean? What way does it go, again? Oh, why don't we say "flat E", since that's what the MUSIC says. laugh

Worse. Student sees F# in key signature. All Fs have # signs written above and below Fs, in parentheses, to introduce concept. Student still sharps G at the beginning of the line, bass clef. Teacher reminds that it is a G, the only Fs are sharped. Next week, student sharps G again. No wait: THIS week s/he is FLATTING it? What direction was that funny number sign again?
Quote:

Let’s see, “sfz” - I recall it stands for one of those troublesome Italian words with too many consonants - sforzando – meaning loud and almost “forced”. O.K. – got it!

That's easy. Don't worry about funny abbreviations until you can play the notes. Teaching Hispanics is easier, forte=fuerte, crescendo=cresciendo, poco=poco, mezzo=medio. smile
Quote:

Oh, and look at that cute little house-roof, or caret over the top of the note-head. From memory, that means to play it sort of detached from the surrounding notes. Got it!

What does that little line over the note mean? (tenuto mark) Doesn't that change middle C into E?
Quote:

Now, a double-dotted quarter note -- I’ve seen this before -- the “first dot” makes the note one-and-one-half times as long as normal, so 1½ beats. But that “second dot” - does it make the whole thing longer, or just make the “first dot” longer? I remember now, it makes the “first dot” one-and-one-half times as long. So, 1 + ½ + ¼ beats = 1¾ beats. Now I have it! But hold on - we are in 2/2 meter, so 1¾ beats divided by 2 equals . . . . . Now, remember to blend with the other players . . .

Better: why are there all these 32nd and 64ths in the Mozart SLOW movement when there were mostly only 8ths in the FAST movement?

Chopin wrote 30 little notes, all connected with one beam, over four even 8ths in the LH. What comes with what?

Tempo rubato. What is "robbed" from "what"?
Quote:

When it comes right down to it, I do not understand how any of us actually DO read music!

I don't understand how any of us DOES (note tense) learn to read English. I did not finally START to spell most words correctly until computer programs developed spill-chuck. Even that does not ensure/insure that my spilling will always be positively affected/effected, because there/their/they're our/are/hour always SNAFUS. laugh
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#1887675 - 04/27/12 06:43 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Minniemay

Keep your mind narrow, if you wish.

I'll keep my narrow mind while you live in your ivory tower, where everything is perfect.

As you said, we live in different worlds. Look at my sig. It says piano teacher. I never talk about credentials, degrees, letters. I don't regularly post one line answers.

I'll let other people here decide which of us is condescending ans smug.
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Piano Teacher

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#1887677 - 04/27/12 06:44 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I don't understand how any of us DOES (note tense) learn to read English. I did not finally START to spell most words correctly until computer programs developed spill-chuck. Even that does not ensure/insure that my spilling will always be positively affected/effected, because there/their/they're our/are/hour always SNAFUS.


(Eye, Aye, I), (to, two, too), agree. Now we are getting somewhere!
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In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1887681 - 04/27/12 06:56 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I never said everything was perfect. But you seem to want to dismiss the possibility that group instruction as the main mode of instruction can be effective.

I worked hard for my credentials, yes, but I also have 30 years of teaching experience in which I learned as much and more. Thank you for being so dismissive.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1887683 - 04/27/12 07:01 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Scott Coletta Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/07/11
Posts: 514
Loc: Chicago
Great discussion here everyone!

Gary, I'm really interested in finding out more about your approach for teaching reading. I am also a teacher, and while I'm an accomplished player, I have always been a comparitively poor reader. I learned the wrong way... memorizing note names. I have recently come to understand the importance of reading by intervals but I'm still trying to figure out how to best teach this, since I'm not particularly good at it. Right now I use the Music Tree series with young students, with landmarks and intervals. It's definitely better than the methods that use the middle C positions and such (what I learned with), but I still think there is something missing here. I agree with you that many students I get from other teachers can't read. I like to think that students who leave me are doing alright, but I'm sure they could do better. You mentioned a chart that you use. If I'm understanding correctly, students can start reading music, matching the notes to the keys, without knowing the names of the keys or notes? I'd like to see how this works.

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#1887685 - 04/27/12 07:09 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11689
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
.... the stronger kids actually pull the weaker kids up.

What about the strong kids. Are they able to work at their potential and up to their natural level of interest?

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#1887705 - 04/27/12 07:40 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Absolutely. This is the beauty of having the combination of group and private instruction. The private instructor can take what was introduced in the group and expand it for the strong students, set a higher level of attainment. The private instructor can also assign additional literature to meet the challenge needs of those students. Students that do not have that ability have supplementary literature appropriate to their needs. Everyone gets what they need.
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B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1887713 - 04/27/12 07:58 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
I never said everything was perfect. But you seem to want to dismiss the possibility that group instruction as the main mode of instruction can be effective.

My opinion is based on feedback from other teachers who said something much like this:
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano

I think it's safe to state this: There are effective group teachers and ineffective group teachers. Having actually observed (and taught) in group settings, I can also conclude that group lessons are far less effective than private, individual lessons.

My conclusion is the same *based on people I've talked to*. You have a different opinion. Fine.

But first let me tell you what I agree with:
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
An initial interview and readiness test is crucial.

NO disagreement here.
Originally Posted By: Minniemay

When grouping children for piano groups, we looked first at birthdays, but then followed with an interview that allowed us to assess the child more carefully for maturity and development. If it's done properly, group instruction can be very successful. Of course, we always paired it with a private lesson, so that helps meet the individual needs of each child as well. Win, win!

Still no disagreement. First, I already stated that I played in groups. I don't think as much is gained in playing piano/keyboard in groups as is true of other things such as winds, for several reasons:

1) If acoustic pianos are used, more than two are unlikely. So each student has to share "hands on" time.
2) If several keyboards are used then the sonic result is confusing.
3) If all students are playing at the same time, you can do it by having others sing, or play rhythm instruments, but I've made my personal dislike of that obvious in the past. It does not mean I am right. But by temperament I am going to key in on individuals who want to be treated as individuals, because that is the way I have always wanted to be treated.

Originally Posted By: Minniemay

Ann, your inexperience in this area colors your opinion greatly. My extensive experience in group teaching is that, if taught well, the stronger kids actually pull the weaker kids up. A positive atmosphere established by the teacher means that those that struggle with get both help and encouragement from their classmates.

That is where we start to differ. I've been in situations where I was one of the stronger kids, and I was so busy trying to "pull the weaker kids up" that I had no time to pull MYSELF up. No matter how I look at it, I can't see this as an optimum situation.

I DO see that group classes, if the price is much lower, might give people with less money an opportunity to get started. I would rather a student, of any age, get an opportunity to do SOMETHING in a group rather than being left out completely. However, having said that, every time I have had a student of any age come to me from a group, the level of that student has been far below that of students I work with who have taken lessons the same amount of time, but privately.

For that reason, I feel strongly that private lessons, IF POSSIBLE, should be center stage for serious students. Groups for me would play a part as an extra to that, something secondary. So when you say:
Originally Posted By: Minniemay

Actually, in my situation, the group was the main lesson and the private lesson was supplementary.

That is what troubles me. Why should the group be the main lesson? Why would private lessons be supplimentary? Or do you make individual judgments as you are evaluating about which students might be stiffled by not getting individual attention from the start?

Is it age-based?
Is it economics-based?
Is it perceived-talent-based?
Originally Posted By: Minniemay

There you go, judging something that you haven't experienced. Our program was (and still is) very successful. The key is having both the group and the private lesson and having taken the time to group the children properly. The groups are re-evaluated periodically to account for differences in development.

But you said the private lesson "was supplementary". I wonder how many teachers here wish they had had primarily group lessons, with private lessons only supplementary?
Originally Posted By: Minniemay

But you seem to want to dismiss the possibility that group instruction as the main mode of instruction can be effective.

As effective as private instruction as the main mode of instruction?

Yes, I dismiss that idea, if that is your point. It could be more effective for SOME kids, but music would no longer be the main concern. It would be socialization, cooperation, sharing time, etc., and all those things are good things, but I THINK most of the people here talking about learning music are talking about learning music, not manners, not how to get along with other kids, how to fit in, and how to be "little helpers" for other children who are weaker, WHILE paying for instruction.
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#1887718 - 04/27/12 08:04 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

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The problem with all of this is that there are two many generalities and nothing to go on. What kind of things are taught in group lessons, what kind of thing can be expanded on in the private lessons, how that all works together, how the quick student is still able to maintain interest in group lessons after having been allowed to advance in the private part - there needs to be more of a picture.

The first post also needs clarification because as it stands, there is nothing to go on. This is the post responding to the opening post of this thread. It is the entire post:
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
You live in a much different world than I do, Gary.

The OP expressed concern about transfer students coming in with poor reading skills. Does that mean that in the "much different world" the transfer students you get are always good readers? Or what is it that is different?

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#1887719 - 04/27/12 08:12 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Everyone gets what they need.

No. Everyone you teach gets what *you* think they need, and how much your judgments actually meets their true needs is dependent on an infinite number of factors.

That is equally true of what I give my students. They would get exactly what they need if I were omnisicent, and of course the very idea is laughable. smile

But I continue to believe that individuals have a better chance of getting exactly what they need, from us, when they are also getting personal attention, one-on-one, as the PRIMARY student-teacher relationship - if that is possible.
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#1887752 - 04/27/12 09:47 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
childofparadise2002 Offline
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Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Everyone gets what they need.


In our experience, the only time that this happens is when students are grouped by abilities instead of age. When students are grouped by age, this could happen if the range of abilities is small. If there is a large range of individual differences, the really advanced students are usually bored silly. For example, if students in a classroom need 1 to 2 hours' exposure to get the idea of fractions, then those who only need 1 hour could use the second hour to help others and reinforce the idea for themselves. But if a student needs only 30 seconds to get the idea, then he will be bored silly if he needs to use the next 2 hours to help the other kids. Worse, if fraction is taught over a month, then the kids who get it in the first half hour will really waste a lot of time that could be used to learn other things.

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#1887808 - 04/28/12 12:05 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Minniemay Offline
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Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Well, some of you seem to be determined to keep your minds closed on this matter.

I believe the success of the students in the program speaks for itself. While I am no longer associated with the program, I am still proud of what they are doing. It has been in place for almost 40 years and the retention rate is very high and many students continue to play and play well after high school.
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#1887821 - 04/28/12 02:10 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Online   content
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Minniemay, this is all too general. The discussion is about reading skills, and knowing that kids are in groups and then with private teachers doesn't tell us much about what they are doing or what happens with reading.

My question still remains for your first comment, which followed the opening post about an experience with transfer students. You said that your world was different. Does that mean that the transfer students you get generally all read well?

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#1887822 - 04/28/12 02:29 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Scott Coletta]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Scott,

1) I start with a page with five notes in the treble clef, Middle C through G. I don't care what fingers they use. I don't even care which hand they use. I do suggest the RH. The first page of notes is random to the extent that I can't remember the notes myself without following. I point to the note on the page, then point to the note on my chart, showing how the note symbols line up with the keys, and I point out the letters.

(The sample mnemonics are there for those who like them, but I can't remember the last time a student of any age has used them or has wanted to use them.)

For young kids and their parents I suggest the labels "little line C", hanging D, first line E, space F, second line G. They may or may not use my logic. Often students come up with interesting names of their own. And some just remember the letters, not needing or wanting to pay attention to more.

After I point to a few notes on my chart, I ask them to find the notes, without my pointing to the chart. ASAP I tell students, I can't tell you where it is, because if I do, you won't find it yourself.

2) I ask them to call out the letter name as they press each key. And I continue doing this for at least SOME time each lesson until I know all the letters and locations are in their minds. But if students are obviously getting it all and ask, "Can I do it without saying the names," I let them try. And if they miss nothing, I simply tell them that this is how I do it.

3) I never ask them to call out the names EXCEPT when they are pressing a keys. And I ask them, if they are not sure which is most important, to find the keys FIRST and name them second, even if "second" is only a millisecond later.

At ANY time, if they think they can remember which note goes to which key without the chart, I pull it away. If they miss, I put it back. I will do that note by note, line by line, or page by page. I adjust according to their comfort level, which obviously increases each week.

4) I ask them, week one, to find and play all Ds. I link the letter name to the white key between two black keys. Again, I do this with the chart, then without it.

5) I add the other letters to this, same method. I ask them to find GA in the middle of the three black keys. I ask them to find three Gs and three As. Then I ask them to find the other letters around those landmarks, C and E around D, F and B around GA. GA happens to be the first two letters of my name.

6) In the second lesson, and sometimes ALSO in the first, I do the same thing with C through G in the bass clef. I explain that they are harder to find because they are sort of in the middle of the staff. Often G is the easiest for them to find, the top space.

I continue chart up and chart down from then on. Chart up means pictures and letters showing. Chart down means hiding that info. They get to choose when to challenge themselves.

I never go near the Middle C position. It present notes in a mirror image with fingers in a mirror image, and it just begs for disaster for any student with even a touch of dyslexia.

I start off with "Martian fingering", meaning that I will accept any fingering, no matter how bizarre. I'm only after the visual connection between the notes and the keys. Fingering gets in the way. If you stress fingering, you get fingering, but it often stops reading.

When I get to five finger positions, I show them notated almost at random. At that point I show the logic of starting with the 5th finger, or the thumb. But if the fingering is perfect and the keys are wrong, I tell them we have gained nothing. If they get all the keys but miss the fingering, I show the logic and merely suggest that "earth fingering", logical fingering, is going to be faster, more even and easier.

That's pretty much it. I do a lot of chords in the LH, melodic movement in the RH. It allows the hands to specialize. The LH chords I am very strict about regarding fingering, and that often carries over to the RH. If it doesn't, I bring the idea to consciousness, explaining that if a hand position works for chords, it will work for a series of notes (melody).

Then I flip it all, putting chords in the RH, melodic movement in the LH.

The bottom line to all this is that in almost no time I have students, even young ones, correctly nailing the correct keys going straight from notation to pressing them correctly because they don't have to remember anything, at first. They can find notes up to three lines above or below either staff. It's all about recognition. It is all about having "fast eyes". And I never tell people not to look at their hands. You will never see a fast reader who has trouble "looking at the hands too much".

I allow students to continue learning new music with the chart, but while we are doing this I review every page until they can nail all the notes with OUT the chart. As time goes on I review more pages than new ones, even though I continue new music each week, so first the counting, rhythm, catches up to the rest, then the no-chart concept catches up to the rest. Usually this all happens very fast.

I teach in layers. First it's all about getting the right keys, any finger, any method. Next it's about getting logical fingering going, and all of my technical advice is linked to that layer. Then the next layer is counting. The final layer is doing it all without a visual aid. Each layer temporarily interrupts the last, so fingering will throw off finding the keys, but later it helps. (I only use guide fingers at the beginning of phrases, indicating groups with dotted-line phrase marks.) Then adding counting interrupts the playing, since it involves a special kind of coordination to say something while playing. Things go slower and sound worse, at least to students, but then this gets on track and they hear that music is starting to sound like music.

Then playing without the chart causes some disorientation off and on, but that too disappears, and most students are both eager and proud to prove that they can do it "without the chart". This includes very small children, teens and adults.

One way or another people have to get the keys. Either they learn to read quickly or they decipher slowly, painfully, and then they have to learn to memorize everything on the fly. Nothing can be full speed until it is memorized. That's the great trap.

Of course talented players can and do learn to play things either without reading or barely reading when they can hear the music, but for them all music only available in scores is off limit. Someone else has to play it for them.

I'm not down-playing the importance of the ear either. I think that ear-playing is 50% of what is really important in music, so people who can play what they have never seen and ALSO play what they have never heard have a huge advantage in all areas of music, not the least of which is getting playing jobs!
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#1887928 - 04/28/12 10:02 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Scott Coletta Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/07/11
Posts: 514
Loc: Chicago
Thanks Gary for the very detailed explanation. It makes sense and gives me alot of things to think about. smile

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#1887933 - 04/28/12 10:11 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
As I said in my last post, I am no longer involved with that program due to a cross-country move. I now teach only privately due to space limitations.

But as for living in a different world, I think I really do, culturally. Most of the transfer students I get really do read pretty well. I have to note that the transfer students I get from other MTAC teachers are different all around than ones I get from non-members. I think I can attribute this to several factors:

1. If they come from an MTAC teacher, they have most often been in our syllabus program, Certificate of Merit. This program has testing in sight-reading, music theory, technique, history and repertoire. They have also had experience being in other festivals.

2. MTAC members must have a music degree or go through the education program called CalPlan. This assures a minimum degree of exposure to music theory, history and pedagogy and while it doesn't assure complete competency, it's at least more of a foundation than many of the untrained teachers have. There are non-degreed teachers who have taken the time and effort to seek out education for themselves, but here, at least, they are the exception.

I have had a handful of students over the 15 years I've lived here that came to me without music reading skills, or poor skills, but I've managed to turn them around because they work hard. By and large, students in my studio have a good work ethic. I rarely teach an unprepared student. They practice, and they practice well, especially if they've been with me for more than a year, because I teach them how to practice.

Like I said, the culture here seems to be quite different from what others seem to experience. It's not perfect, but I have a very happy studio.
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