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#1887956 - 04/28/12 11:10 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11771
Loc: Canada
Thank you Minniemay for answering my question. Now your first statement makes sense. The situation can and does arise where a teacher with all the background and experiences in the world gets a transfer student who has been seriously mistaught or not taught. That is what is at issue here. If these students are simply rejected by good teachers, then they will not ever have a chance, and that is not fair. It is wonderful that you have a happy studio, by and large get well taught transfer students from decent teachers and probably with supportive families who know how to work with teachers. But it does not bring much to the table for how to deal with the situation of these other students which is a main theme in this thread. A good habit is easier to establish then breaking and replacing poor habits. The results of poor teaching are still taught things, forming the student's reality of what learning and playing are about - something to cling to because it's all they know. A lot of teachers who don't have to take on such students don't bother because they have that choice. A few excellent teachers do, and then we get these kinds of discussions.

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#1887961 - 04/28/12 11:26 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
I'm not convinced that it's always a case of bad teaching. Pretty often it's a case of mismatched teacher and student. In some cases, an inexperienced teacher may not recognize how the student is processing. There again, not bad teaching, just lack of experience, and hopefully a learning one.

There is such a huge tendency on this forum to discount the previous teacher, and that really bothers me.
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#1887966 - 04/28/12 11:53 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11771
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Minniemay, I am referring to things of relative certainty and not necessarily speculation on the forum. For example, student comes in and can't read after several years of instruction. Teacher looks in the books and every single note has a number written over it. Everything is in 5 finger position. What's in the notebook goes together with what the student is showing. Or - teachers in the area get transfer students from one teacher or one school that has a policy of teaching a certain way, and 90% of the students all have the same problems due to the same kind of teaching. IN THOSE CASES WHERE misteaching has occurred, that must be addressed by the next teacher if that teacher takes on that student.

By the way, I am intrigued every time I read about "mismatched" students and teachers. Who is the sock and who is the shoe? It is the material and the skills that get taught. The match has to be between the skills that need to be transmitted and the teaching of those skills. Certain things need to be done for that to happen, and it is up to the teacher to set this up and communicate it to the student. If the teacher decides to pepper the page with finger numbers in order to impress a family with how fast they can "progress", this is not a mismatch between student and teacher ---- it is a mismatch between what teaching ought to be and what isn't being done. My opinion.

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#1887975 - 04/28/12 12:16 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Elza Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/11/10
Posts: 21
Loc: UK
I can offer a potential solution for those of you concerned about the ability of students to learn to read musical notation.

I teach piano to very young children and have developed methods to do this. My youngest was two and a half years old and I teach many three and four year olds. As long as there is parental help and they practise for 5 minutes a day they all learn to read music easily. These techniques are quite suitable for group teaching also.
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#1888001 - 04/28/12 01:32 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4812
Loc: South Florida
Elza,

Could explain the logic behind what you teach? I was unable to view actual pages of your books.

I will not accept any method without examining it, but I also won't reject it. I'm open to new ideas, and I have had very little success with those under four.

I'm not sure I want to teach those so young, but if I had success with it, I might be more open. And since I already have parents in the room, it would not be stretch.

If you have any tricks to get the eyes to move from notation to the keys, I would use them. smile
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#1888096 - 04/28/12 06:32 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Elza Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/11/10
Posts: 21
Loc: UK

Hi Gary,
Sorry you had difficulty looking at pages from the books. If you go to the appropriate page for a given item you can click on the image of the book and you should then be able to click through a set of images showing pages. I suggest you do this for Book 1, the Nursery Rhyme/Famous Melodies Book, Book 2, and the supplementary notes to book 1 (which will give you a good idea of the various techniques I use).

Anyway, I will explain the logic here. First of all little children are usually very clever – often far more intelligent than we give them credit for. They just haven’t quite learnt how to use our language yet. Therefore we have to find a way of speaking to them in their own language.

For many years I had problems communicating with children below the age of 7. In fact I avoided teaching them. However circumstances were such that I found myself in a situation where each year I had a whole new cohort of a dozen or so 4 or 5 year old piano students that I had to teach. Initially I felt guilty lesson by lesson since the kids didn’t progress well enough. I wasn’t able to use any conventional material for the lessons, because they didn’t know the alphabet. There wasn’t any suitable method on the market that I was fully happy with. During the first few years I experimented with many different ideas to speed up the learning process. Observing the progress of my students, l was able to see what worked and what didn’t work. So, that was how and why this method was born.

Now I love teaching the under sevens. I now give them much more of a chance – I learnt how to speak their language, and I watch them with patience and care as they learn.

The starting point is to name the musical notes in a language they understand – most of the youngsters I take on now are 3 or 4 years old and they do not know the alphabet. By using the right language I can see the children progressing well lesson by lesson. I use animal names for the notes. The first note I teach is “Dog” for “D”. This is the easiest white note for the child to recognize, being between the two black keys. I maintain that as long as the child can distinguish the difference between the 2 and 3 black keys then they are ready to start learning the piano. In fact this is the best time for them to start. Their language skills are developing and the neuronal links are being formed in the brain. Learning the piano can be a very positive experience for them and helps them in their cognitive development.

So in the first lesson we start with the Dog using the right (red) hand. The next note is just a skip away - the Bird, which we play with the left (blue) hand. For the next two or three lessons the children play (and sing) melodies consisting of just D and B. In each lesson there are 6 to 7 musical activities, which are linked together and described in the supplementary notes, and which provide the child with a very strong musical foundation. Gradually over a number of lessons they learn all the animals Cat/Dog/Egg/Fish/Goose/Ant/Bird and they know where they sit both on the keyboard and the staves. It is important that the animals are introduced gradually and believe me the children will learn. This is fun for the child – they interact with the animals. We have recently introduced a set of animal tiles and coloured staves that the children love. This is a learning game for them and I have found that use of these makes learning the position of the notes on the keyboard and the staves even more rapid.

The animals were specifically chosen so that they are monosyllabic and can therefore be sung. I am Hungarian and was brought up in Hungary on the Kodály system, in which singing is vitally important. I therefore wanted my students to sing from the start – as singing improves musicality. I found however that sol-fa was just too abstract and therefore difficult for the very young. However the animals were perfect. All of my students progress to singing sol-fa as they grow out of singing the animals names and I have written material which helps them progress in a seamless way.

So the child will sing the animal names as he/she plays. They sing all the time. This actually helps them remember the names and I have discovered that many of them retain perfect pitch. It appears that this is a skill we were born with but we usually lose the ability since we don’t use it.

Also this continuous singing trains their ears so well that they can keep their eyes on the notation and they don’t need to look at the keyboard. Their inner ear develops so fast that they can hear whether they play a Dog or an Egg and if they play a wrong note they correct themselves immediately.

All the music comes in two versions – one with animal symbols printed in the notes and one without. The version you use depends on the child’s age, ability and inclination. In many cases the versions can be used in parallel. Use of the animal tiles and staves aids with the switch. Also the fact that there are different versions can help if you are teaching groups and the children are progressing at different rates.

Finally another important aspect with these very young students (and even the older ones) is to make the lessons fun. The music books are illustrated throughout and I always discuss the stories with my students. This helps stimulate the child’s imagination and makes the music more real.

I hope this gives you some feeling for this approach. You can get more of an idea by seeing it in practice on the videos section of the website or by looking at the videos on our youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/elzalusher.

As I said earlier, at this young age parental help is important. It will speed up the learning process by a factor of three or so – and as I understand it you are used to involving parents.

Please let me know if you have further questions.

Elza
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#1888130 - 04/28/12 08:39 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Elza]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4812
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Elza

Hi Gary,
Sorry you had difficulty looking at pages from the books. If you go to the appropriate page for a given item you can click on the image of the book and you should then be able to click through a set of images showing pages. I suggest you do this for Book 1, the Nursery Rhyme/Famous Melodies Book, Book 2, and the supplementary notes to book 1 (which will give you a good idea of the various techniques I use).

Wow Elza!

Now I don't have to be so embarrassed by writing a lot! You wrote a ton, which is absolutely great, and I am going to look through it very carefully. But first, I used to hate teaching under eight. Seven was hard, six felt impossible. Every so often, RARELY, I would get a child who was five-something he got what I was doing.

But like you I jump at the chance to start earlier now. I don't think I am strong as you with those under five, so I'm going to read your ideas now, then I will get back to you. smile


Edited by Gary D. (04/28/12 10:36 PM)
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#1888151 - 04/28/12 11:15 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Elza]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4812
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Elza

I wasn’t able to use any conventional material for the lessons, because they didn’t know the alphabet. There wasn’t any suitable method on the market that I was fully happy with. During the first few years I experimented with many different ideas to speed up the learning process. Observing the progress of my students, l was able to see what worked and what didn’t work. So, that was how and why this method was born.

First of all, I could not agree with you more about the alphabet problem. It's a really stupid assumption to make that either the alphabet (recognition of the letters) or the ORDER of the alphabet (alphabetical order) is the primary way that anyone, of any age, learns to read. Obviously fixed do is used in other countries, and kids there learn just as well.

We use D for "duh" or some fun word to remember that that is the key we don't want to remember. And for the parents, "D" is for "dyslexic", because it is the one key that can NOT be "dyslexed". wink

"Duh", means "how could we forget that place between the two black keys". The little kids laugh. The older ones do too.

Sometimes they get "the dog lives in the dog house", and there are many other links, but my primary link is that this circle thing (hanging circle "D") goes to that "place". They need to see that note that hangs from the first line, always goes to that place between the two black keys. It's marked on my chart. All the mnemonic words you see on my chart are ideas I had decades ago, so I don't use them. 95% of what I do is pointing. It's very largely non-verbal. The names are SECOND. First you find what you are looking for, THEN you worry about its name. This is crucial for much older students who already know the treble clef, because they try to "compute" the letter for the bass clef instead of visually linking it and letting those links sink into their minds.

Once we find that D, whatever we call it, we practice finding all the other Ds, which are in the same place, between the two black notes. I have the children reach inside the two black notes and sort of "stroke" the finger out. If they know the letter, that's great, but if they learn the letter "D" in lessons, that's fine too. I have a parent with me. I am teaching the parent every step. For Cs and Es, it's not about alphabetical order, and it's not about the names. For instance, Middle C is the "little line note/circle", the picture of it is right there, behind the keys, and we match it. I use long colored straws, which look like really cool pointers. I use a blue one. The children all have their favorite colors, so they pick their color and hand it to Mom or Dad. If it takes a month to get a link between two circles, in music, and two keys, that's fine. But usually it doesn't take anything like that long.

I am jumping ahead, because this does not go super quickly with the wee ones, but when we get to GA, I don't approach that as alphabetical. That is a glitch for all learners. Even adults want to say GH. Instead, I teach it as a unit. Stroke with "bunny ears". Reach finger 2 and 3, the bunny ears, into the three black keys, G and A, stroke them out. Find several places where we can do that. Later, I have them find Gs and As. (They are still right there on my chart, so they match them. They do not have to remember location or names, from memory, until the time is right.)

Bs and Fs are last, and they go around the GAs.

When I think they start to know where the letters are by memory (again, this may happen in a week or in a year, it doesn't matter), we flip the chart up and down and see if we can find them all without "looking at the chart". It is a game. Find three Ds. Find three As.

But the important thing is that we can do it all with OUT the letters, at first. We are matching. This circle is "here", it goes to this picture "here", and the key is lined up with the picture. Often I have them go way inside for the white notes and stroke them out.

Fingering? ANY finger. I tell them that I don't care if they use their nose and toes, and they always laugh. The parents laugh. But it gets the idea across. Parents will "correct" things that don't need correction.

Parent: "You are using the wrong hand".

Me: "No, your son/daughter is doing something really REALLY smart. S/he already knows it is all about finding the key. Watch me play this with one finger, right hand. Now watch me play it with one finger, left hand. SOMEDAY we have to make such decisions. The music is not always clear about what is played by which hand, and we can make decisions about how we want to split up the music. For now, ANY key on the whole piano can be played with either hand, any finger. Later, we will worry about which hand and which finger."
Quote:

Now I love teaching the under sevens. I now give them much more of a chance – I learnt how to speak their language, and I watch them with patience and care as they learn.

Me too. If I don't get cooperation from a parent who is on board, then I hate it. Now and then parents bail on me, and that is very irritating. But when the parents are listening and working at home, it's like magic. And even though the start is slower, by the time they get to the age where most people start, they have a HUGE headstart, so it is not unusual for one of my seven year-olds to be doing something a teen can't do yet.
Quote:

The first note I teach is “Dog” for “D”. This is the easiest white note for the child to recognize, being between the two black keys. I maintain that as long as the child can distinguish the difference between the 2 and 3 black keys then they are ready to start learning the piano.

This is EXACTLY my approach.
Quote:

The animals were specifically chosen so that they are monosyllabic and can therefore be sung. I am Hungarian and was brought up in Hungary on the Kodály system, in which singing is vitally important. I therefore wanted my students to sing from the start – as singing improves musicality. I found however that sol-fa was just too abstract and therefore difficult for the very young. However the animals were perfect. All of my students progress to singing sol-fa as they grow out of singing the animals names and I have written material which helps them progress in a seamless way.

I don't sing, and I don't have my students sing. But I totally understand why you do this, and I know that it works very well for those who enjoy singing. I internalized everything, so I just heard notes. I also started on brass in 7th grade, and I started hearing all the pitches. I can sing perfectly on pitch and aced sight-singing, but I loathe the sound of my voice. I know a famous choral conductor who feels the same way (I worked under him). We had a conversation during last winter break, and we laughed about being afraid the neighbors will call the police if we sing too loud.

I notice the same split in my students. I have students who love to sing, and in fact it actually gives them problems when the music goes lower or higher than their vocal range. They tend to sing counts. But I have other children who do not like to sing (as I did not), but they hear the way I do. I don't understand how the ear develops, but I know their are many paths to hearing, audiating, and that is where I would like to get each player to. So I start REALLY early with chords, no later than age 5, and I depend on the sense of harmony to start guiding the ear. In other words, if your children can play all 12 major chords, root position, and they can hear when the chords are not right, it is the first step to major, minor, diminished, augmented, and so on.
Quote:

So the child will sing the animal names as he/she plays. They sing all the time. This actually helps them remember the names and I have discovered that many of them retain perfect pitch. It appears that this is a skill we were born with but we usually lose the ability since we don’t use it.

THAT is an interesting idea. I got there with a different path. And I know that when I was "tested" once, carelessly, a teacher concluded that I did not have accurate pitch recognition. But I did. Having said that, the advantages and disadvantages of perfect pitch vs an extremely well developed relative pitch sense are continously debated. But lets leave that for another time...
Quote:

Also this continuous singing trains their ears so well that they can keep their eyes on the notation and they don’t need to look at the keyboard. Their inner ear develops so fast that they can hear whether they play a Dog or an Egg and if they play a wrong note they correct themselves immediately.

All my students play almost entirely without looking at their hands, and I NEVER tell them not to. I have a different theory. I believe that people who always find the keys effortlessly simply find looking at the hands to be a distraction when there are no leaps. I don't play too well with my eyes closed, but apparently I track the keys peripherally except when I have to make large leaps, and my students do the same thing. We don't look at our hands except when it is absolutely necessary. There is no need to do so.
Quote:

Finally another important aspect with these very young students (and even the older ones) is to make the lessons fun. The music books are illustrated throughout and I always discuss the stories with my students. This helps stimulate the child’s imagination and makes the music more real.

Even when I was very small I did not care about stories and wanted to go straight to the music. The "fun" for me was being able to play what I heard and longed to play, and perhaps our students always pick up our mindset, to some extent. For us the "fun part" is about what the next song will be. I play something, they get excited, then it's all about their feeling that they can do it too. But "fun" is at the core of everything. Learning can be intense work, but intense work can be THRILLING, as we see as we watch children work their butts off getting to the next level of their favorite computer games. smile
Quote:

As I said earlier, at this young age parental help is important. It will speed up the learning process by a factor of three or so – and as I understand it you are used to involving parents.

Yes. I'm not sure it is not a much GREATER factor. The interaction is what gets it done. My parents pick up everything we do, and when I approach things in a very simple, childlike way, they are shocked to find out that it stickes in THEIR minds faster. A good concept is equally good if you are 4, 40 or 80.

Thank you for your thorough response. This kind of input was exactly what I hoped this thread would encourage. smile

Gary


Edited by Gary D. (04/28/12 11:31 PM)
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#1888581 - 04/29/12 09:28 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
CarolR Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/29/05
Posts: 350
Loc: wisconsin
SO, for those of you who have your kids successfully read music by the end of the first year: Do you teach intervallic reading? Do you use flashcards? Do you teach Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge etc???? Please tell me what makes your students better readers than the transfer students you get?
Because it seems out of favor right now to teach Every Good Boy, I do a combination of intervals, flash cards, etc.... But I have to say, when a students doesn't really get it, I'll introduce the old school method, and sometimes it is just the thing.

I'd love to know what works best for you.

Carol
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#1888590 - 04/29/12 09:58 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 primarily use a landmark/interval approach. Once I'm sure their intervallic reading is secure, I start working on individual note indentification. I really like using the I Can Read Music series by Faber, but I also play games in the lesson that work on this skill. I work on just 1 or 2 notes at a time and do not rely on mnemonic devices.

I started two 6 yr old girls last August and they have just started Music Tree 1 this past week, having finished Time to Begin. They can both successfully locate the first 3 landmarks on the grand staff (Bass F, Middle C and Treble G) and can read intervals through the 5th. In the next two weeks we will focus on naming the notes around those landmarks. They are both reading fluently and will acquire the ability to name the rest of the notes on the staff by mid summer.
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#1888609 - 04/29/12 10:41 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
ymapazagain Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/15/11
Posts: 65
Loc: Hobart, Australia
I try to develop visual recognition (I find that devices like "every good boy..." just become a crutch). Starting with Middle C I ask the students to describe how it looks (middle c sits away from the stave and has it's own little line going through it). I ask the students to make sentences like this for visualising both the notes on the stave and the notes on the piano (eg. F is the white key at the start of the group of 3 black notes). I find this approach has the fastest route to instantaneous recognition. To help students remember how to read bass clef I get them to say "B is Backwards into Bass clef." The use of alliteration works well. I also teach students to look out for patterns in the music such as skips and steps and following the shape of the melody line (is it shaped like a hill (up then down) or a valley (down then up) etc.

When learning songs all beginner students will learn to read the notes and clap and count the rhythm before they play. After a while (as the length of pieces increases) I will only do this for some songs, or pick out sections that are likely to prove more difficult and have the student name notes and clap and count for just those sections.

But I think the most important thing is not moving students too quickly. As I said before, if they can't read the notes for a piece then they're not ready to play that piece. I feel like it's popular these days to push forward with playing skills even if reading isn't up to scratch, but I find this to be so detrimental as the student inevitably hits a wall when their expectations and their varying abilities are no longer compatible. By moving a bit more slowly to allow for the development of sound reading skills then that wall usually doesn't arise and in the long run the student makes better progress, is able to learn songs more quickly, and has better sight reading skills.

EDIT: Just to elaborate on the Backwards to B thing...I know it doesn't seem to fit with my visualisation method, however I find that a jumble between Treble D and Bass B inevitably arises in the first couple of lessons due to the middle C centric approach to the first few pieces in most beginner methods. This has been the best way I've found to resolve that jumble, even though usually I try to break away from the idea of working everything out from middle C.

Overall, my students learn note reading very smoothly and quickly. The majority of my beginner students are 5/6 and their age doesn't seem to cause any problems.


Edited by ymapazagain (04/29/12 10:51 PM)
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#1888719 - 04/30/12 05:51 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2470
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
They can both successfully locate the first 3 landmarks on the grand staff (Bass F, Middle C and Treble G)


I am curious: you mean that they play from a score these three keys on the piano...

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
and can read intervals through the 5th.


And that they can play the intervals from the landmarks ...

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
They are both reading fluently


That they can play from a score ...

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
In the next two weeks we will focus on naming the notes around those landmarks.


And that you don't yet ask them to name the notes, other than the landmark notes. Have I got it?

For the names of notes, do you use A-B-C ... ? Are the intervals named at this point?



Edited by landorrano (04/30/12 06:58 AM)

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#1888791 - 04/30/12 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
They can name all keys on the piano.

They can identify, by letter name, the three landmarks, at sight.

They can play and name (and sing!), at sight, any interval up to the 5th, anywhere on the keyboard, but if they are on the grand staff, they can start from the landmark. The course I uses begins without clefs. They have just been introduced to clefs in the last several weeks.

Now that the clefs are in place, we are beginning the work of naming individual notes on the staff.

So yes, they read fluently for what they have been exposed to. They do not make errors in their interval reading and the note-naming process will actually move pretty quickly now.

I have moved a little slower with them than some other students because they were both young 6 year olds when we began. The one just turned 7 last month and the other will turn seven in June, so the cognitive process is speeding up.

This approach has been used successfully since Frances Clark introduced it in the 1950's and I have been using for 30 years with great success.
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#1888793 - 04/30/12 10:18 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: ymapazagain]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11771
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: ymapazagain

When learning songs all beginner students will learn to read the notes and clap and count the rhythm before they play. After a while (as the length of pieces increases) I will only do this for some songs, or pick out sections that are likely to prove more difficult and have the student name notes and clap and count for just those sections.

Do you literally mean songs, as in tunes with words that kids can sing which helps them because songs are familiar? Or do you mean pieces, but call them songs? In this context it makes a difference.

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#1888909 - 04/30/12 03:20 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: CarolR]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: CarolR
SO, for those of you who have your kids successfully read music by the end of the first year: Do you teach intervallic reading? Do you use flashcards? Do you teach Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge etc???? Please tell me what makes your students better readers than the transfer students you get?

Yes, I teach intervallic reading. For instance, the moment I teach a simple C chord, C E G, I stress triple space in the bass clef (2nd, 3rd, 4th space). I stress that concept for all triads. For inversions, I show the shape. A 6th is slightly bigger than "hand-size", thus bigger than a 5th. For melodies, I put a huge emphasis on direction, on stepping and on skipping. A 5th is a "double skip", moving two lines or two spaces.

That just scratches the surface. But I do not talk much about the NAMES of intervals in the beginning.

No flash cards for note recognition. Flash cards have severe disadvantages, and what they cover can be explained in many other more efficient ways.

Middle C position? I stay away from it like the plague. If a student has even a HINT of problems with direction, up and down, left and right, the notation of this position mirrors the fingers and the position of the notes on the staff.

I never do "pre-reading". Many method books offer a dumbed-down reading approach that shows black notes and notes of some kind, no staff, no lines. And no grand staff. That system of teaching just gets in my way.

I've written a lot, so I won't write more here. I think you are looking for answers from other people. smile
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#1888948 - 04/30/12 04:32 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Ben Crosland Offline
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I take students from 6 and up, and I take a broadly similar approach to you, Gary. By the end of the first lesson (30 mins) I have nearly always got them clapping and counting crotchets and minims, and naming and playing C, D and E in the right hand to the extent where they have sight-read an 8-bar melody with no finger numbers or note names written in.

Rhythms are taught by vocalisation "Tun, Tun, Tun, Rest" or "Half-note, Top Hat" etc for the youngest. Older students are taught to count.

I then reinforce these 3 notes for a couple of lessons, as well as introduce a few extra note lengths and rests. The next pieces introduce one new note at a time, and once they can play a couple of pieces just using C-G, I introduce LH.

Older students will often be playing hands together, from score, within their first lesson.

Since the last couple of years, the focus has been far more on intervallic reading, with "Steps", "Skips", "Double Skips" etc. and I take care to move the hands around the keyboard as soon as possible, to avoid the idea setting in that "C=thumb".

All my teaching material is based on my own, original material, with the odd classic thrown in for good measure.

Something I believe makes a huge difference is that I try very hard not to actually tell the students anything, if at all possible; instead, I ask them leading questions. For instance, I will tell them that the first note we find is called "C", but that's it. I show them how it is written on the stave, then once they've found it and played it with their thumb, I write D on the board. I then ask them to play it. They nearly always play the correct note without further explanation. Then I will ask them "So, if we call this one 'C', what do you think a good name for this one might be?"

And so on. It takes a little more coaxing with some students, but I strongly believe that by involving them in the logic process like this, they tend to have a better grasp and acceptance of what they learn.

What I'm finding particularly encouraging is how many of my recent beginners will happily try a brand new song I place before them with both hands, straight away, without my even suggesting that they do so.

After a while, I start them on Book 1 of A Dozen A Day. [My repertoire + Edna-Mae's exercises] is proving to be a very effective combination laugh
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#1888958 - 04/30/12 04:44 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Ben Crosland Offline
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Oh, and another thing I make sure to do, is to explain to the parents how I am teaching, and how they can help their child by not telling them all the answers to things they are stuck on, but to ask them leading questions.

I try to make sure to tell them at the start of the first lesson that they must resist any urge to prompt when the child takes a little while to answer one of my questions.
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#1888988 - 04/30/12 05:59 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Ben Crosland]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Ben Crosland
I take students from 6 and up, and I take a broadly similar approach to you, Gary. By the end of the first lesson (30 mins) I have nearly always got them clapping and counting crotchets and minims, and naming and playing C, D and E in the right hand to the extent where they have sight-read an 8-bar melody with no finger numbers or note names written in.

We differ in details, but in CONCEPT I think we are very close. Do you also find that the primary thing is to make sure that logical idea of linking "circle to key" is the number one thing? That one idea was a breakthrough idea for me, because when I went to that idea, I started seeing success with all sorts of LD kids, and I found out what I already suspected: when people's minds work in a different way, it is very easy to assume they are stupid, slow or untalented just because they do not process things in an average way. And that is something I have fought against my entire life. Average people assume that anyone who does not learn things THEIR way is stupid, or at least deficient. It is the foundation of the public school system. "One size fits all."

Older students will pick up middle C through G immediately, or even C through A, and they will do it in either clef, because I am linking the circle to the place, and they find it using logic, not memory. Then just having them say the letter names by checking what they are, on my chart, starts the letter-learning process, which is of secondary importance to me - at first.
Quote:

Rhythms are taught by vocalisation "Tun, Tun, Tun, Rest" or "Half-note, Top Hat" etc for the youngest. Older students are taught to count.

I use numbers for all students, but I will also use nonsense syllables at times merely because that is how I do it, when I even vocalize time at all. The reason teaching numbers work for me, even with the little ones, is that I have them typed into every measure. I teach them how to count before I explain any of the logic behind it, so reading the counting numbers is an additional way to get their eyes absolutely glued to the page. Everything I do is in Finale. I have absolute control over my own teaching materials. I could not teach any other way.
Quote:

I then reinforce these 3 notes for a couple of lessons, as well as introduce a few extra note lengths and rests. The next pieces introduce one new note at a time, and once they can play a couple of pieces just using C-G, I introduce LH.

Older students will often be playing hands together, from score, within their first lesson.

Yes. Same thing here. They can't do this for me without the visual aid, but since I phase that out ASAP, it is not an impediment. Just the opposite...
Quote:

Since the last couple of years, the focus has been far more on intervallic reading, with "Steps", "Skips", "Double Skips" etc. and I take care to move the hands around the keyboard as soon as possible, to avoid the idea setting in that "C=thumb".

It sounds as if you continually tweak what you do. No matter how well things work, I am always looking for something new to my "method", which is not a method in the ordinary sense.
Quote:

All my teaching material is based on my own, original material, with the odd classic thrown in for good measure.

My beginning and intermediate materials are the same, mine, but the moment students gain a large amount of "fluency", I allow them to branch out in different directions. For example, an unusual student may be in love with Bach and may want to go in that direction, while another might want to play Romantic music (Chopin and co.), and yet another may want to go towards pop/jazz. I try to get all students to at least TRY all styles of music, but many students are like I was, having strong preferences, and they start out very stubborn about wanting to go in a certain direction. I like to USE that strong direction, get them up and running in that direction, then "finesse" the situation by introducing other music that begins to "bend" in a slightly different direction.

Concrete example: if teens are determined to play video-game music, it is not hard at all to move them in all sorts of directions, where the chord structure and "feel" is actually quite similar.
Quote:

Something I believe makes a huge difference is that I try very hard not to actually tell the students anything, if at all possible; instead, I ask them leading questions. For instance, I will tell them that the first note we find is called "C", but that's it. I show them how it is written on the stave, then once they've found it and played it with their thumb, I write D on the board. I then ask them to play it. They nearly always play the correct note without further explanation. Then I will ask them "So, if we call this one 'C', what do you think a good name for this one might be?"

Yes. I like this idea. It's the opposite of spoon-feeding every answer. I do a lot of exploration with fingering. I will guide in choosing fingering, but if a student picks a reasonable solution, I will go with it. If I think I have a slightly better solution, I will show it, but I don't want students to blindly follow me. And when I'm teaching "non-classical" music, things that invite creative changes, I will OK anything that sounds good, because to me that is the beginning of the creative/compositional process...
Quote:

What I'm finding particularly encouraging is how many of my recent beginners will happily try a brand new song I place before them with both hands, straight away, without my even suggesting that they do so.

THAT is the most important thing to me. At the end of each lesson, I ask all young students how many new pages or songs or pieces they want. I give them as much as they ask for, stick it all in the back of their binder (containing all the music I have done). I tell them not to worry about anything they can't figure out but to just try it all. After all, music can't be "broken" in one week. smile
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#1889000 - 04/30/12 06:20 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Ben Crosland]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Ben Crosland
Oh, and another thing I make sure to do, is to explain to the parents how I am teaching, and how they can help their child by not telling them all the answers to things they are stuck on, but to ask them leading questions.

I try to make sure to tell them at the start of the first lesson that they must resist any urge to prompt when the child takes a little while to answer one of my questions.

Again, I do the same thing. I will never give a letter answer. I will simply say, where is that note, or if there is a finger number, I will say, where does that finger go? The parents want to jump in and give the answer, so they have to learn patience. The irony: soon they (the parents) get embarrassed, because they get lost, and their kids start giving THEM the answers. smile
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#1889148 - 05/01/12 12:06 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: keystring]
ymapazagain Offline
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Registered: 05/15/11
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Loc: Hobart, Australia
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: ymapazagain

When learning songs all beginner students will learn to read the notes and clap and count the rhythm before they play. After a while (as the length of pieces increases) I will only do this for some songs, or pick out sections that are likely to prove more difficult and have the student name notes and clap and count for just those sections.

Do you literally mean songs, as in tunes with words that kids can sing which helps them because songs are familiar? Or do you mean pieces, but call them songs? In this context it makes a difference.


Sorry...calling pieces songs is a terrible habit of mine! I know the distinction of course, but it just slips out without my noticing sometimes!. I mean pieces smile
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#1889205 - 05/01/12 03:03 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: ymapazagain]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: ymapazagain

Sorry...calling pieces songs is a terrible habit of mine! I know the distinction of course, but it just slips out without my noticing sometimes!. I mean pieces smile

I do the same thing. smile

I also say: "You are not 'hitting' the right notes." Some people really object to the word "hit" used insted of "play/press".

Now, where did the word "piece" come from for music, in English? I have a hunch that it comes from German (das Stück), which actually does mean "piece".

I can't think of anything named "Concert Piece", but the title "Konzertstück", literally "Concert Piece", is much the same as "Concertino".
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#1889639 - 05/01/12 09:37 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
TimR Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.

I can't think of anything named "Concert Piece", but the title "Konzertstück", literally "Concert Piece", is much the same as "Concertino".


It's an old church hymn.

Piece...........is flowing like a Ri..........iv..er.
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#1889733 - 05/02/12 12:35 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: TimR]
LoPresti Offline
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Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

I can't think of anything named "Concert Piece"

It's an old church hymn.

Piece...........is flowing like a Ri..........iv..er.


Priceless! (Or is that "Pieceless"?)
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#1890062 - 05/02/12 04:37 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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They're also called pieces (morceaux) in French.
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#1890063 - 05/02/12 04:39 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Online   content
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My question was only because in this case actual songs that one can sing to might have been chosen as a teaching device. If so, that would have been an important point.

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#1890076 - 05/02/12 05:12 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: PianoStudent88]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
They're also called pieces (morceaux) in French.

That's plural, of course, so:

"Morceau de Concert"

Same idea!!!
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#1890207 - 05/02/12 10:51 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: keystring]
ymapazagain Offline
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Registered: 05/15/11
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Loc: Hobart, Australia
Originally Posted By: keystring
My question was only because in this case actual songs that one can sing to might have been chosen as a teaching device. If so, that would have been an important point.


I think that would actually be a hindrance in developing note reading skills as students would use the ear to check for accuracy more than their reading ability. One thing I find interesting is that even the very confident readers, upon reaching "ode to joy" in Hal Leonard Book 2, will always play the last bar of each line as a dotted crotchet followed by a quaver then a minim, rather than the two crotchets followed by a minim that are written. As soon as they recognise the tune their reading takes a back seat and they rely much more on memory and ear.
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#1890310 - 05/03/12 06:00 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
btb Offline
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Gary (the OP) is trying to find a peg upon which to hang his hat ...
namely to apportion blame for transfer students whose sight-reading skill is the pits.

It’s a game we all try at some time ... trying to divert any spotlight from our own weak ability to promote sight-reading acquisition.

Sight-reading takes perhaps (millions of) years to be able to read a fresh piece of keyboard music without a stutter ... I’m going to bet my bottom dollar that the OP can’t read a new composition (like a Beethoven Sonata) off the cuff.

Sheer discombobulation!! (for translation please look up nearest Chambers)

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#1890500 - 05/03/12 01:24 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: btb]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: btb
Gary (the OP) is trying to find a peg upon which to hang his hat ...
namely to apportion blame for transfer students whose sight-reading skill is the pits.

It’s a game we all try at some time ... trying to divert any spotlight from our own weak ability to promote sight-reading acquisition.

If one person in this thread agrees with you, I'll respond to your trolling. smile
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#1890509 - 05/03/12 01:38 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: btb]
AZNpiano Offline
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Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: btb
It’s a game we all try at some time ... trying to divert any spotlight from our own weak ability to promote sight-reading acquisition.

Unfortunately, I've seen way too many examples to support Gary's observations.

The way our state testing is set up, kids can literally fail sight reading every single year and still "pass" and get shoved along to the next level. So I routinely get transfer students who are sight reading 5 or 6 levels below their repertoire level. Routinely!

I've seen so many examples, I start to see patterns. Weak sight readers usually:

1) study with teachers who don't teach theory and don't teach sight reading at all;

2) transition out of method books way too early (or don't use method books at all!);

3) were assigned pieces way above their true level in order to impress the evaluators/judges;

4) don't practice very much;

5) started in group lessons where "copy me" is the predominant method of instruction;

6) started in a certain "method" that over-relies on developing the ears and overlooks the importance of note-reading;

7) took lessons at one of those "music schools" (a.k.a. student factories) where individual attention is seldom given to the needs of every student.

and on, and on, and on...
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