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#1886445 - 04/25/12 04:51 PM Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
First of all, it was Johnny and Jill about a million years. Then Dick and Jane.

Today it should probably be Jayden and Isabella... laugh

But the problem remains. The majority of students who come to me, transfer students, can't read music. I don't mean that they are not excellent readers. I don't even mean that their reading is somewhat weak.

They barely read the treble clef, and they have no idea how to read the bass clef.

My point is that if English (or any mother language) were taught with the same degree of success as music-reading, perhaps one or two percent of all students finishing high school would be able to read books.

It's that bad.

Part of this can be blamed on zero support for what we do. Reading music is not part of school. It is not a subject or a requirement. No one has to read music to get into college. Obviously that is a huge factor.

But how much of it has to do with totally wrong or inefficient ways of teaching music reading? I think that 50% of the failure has to rest on the shoulders of teachers, and that is probably conservative.

It seems to me that, in general, that the teachers who regularly participate in this forum are in the minority of teachers who are doing everything possible to "beat the odds". I suspect that if I got student from many of the teachers here, who happend to move to my area and stumble into my world, I would probably be overjoyed.

But what I get coming from other teachers in this area is astoundingly awful. That does not mean, of course, that there are not other good teachers here. It does suggest that those luckys students who have really good teachers and who do not move probably stick with them. They are the fortunate ones.

I'll start it off with these ideas. I do not claim to have all the answers to this huge problem. I'm still trying to find out some of the "questions", because each year a few students who I mentally "cross of my list" of people who might do well totally shock me and take of like rockets. And there are always students I have who seem to be moving along great, then suddenly they lose interest and disappear.
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#1886476 - 04/25/12 05:40 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Jayden and Isabella...


Originally Posted By: Gary D.
(H)ow much of it has to do with totally wrong or inefficient ways of teaching music reading? I think that 50% of the failure has to rest on the shoulders of teachers, and that is probably conservative.

Gary, I believe you are being too kind! How about 95%?
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#1886483 - 04/25/12 05:57 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
BinghamtonPiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/29/11
Posts: 91
Loc: New York
I have students who seem to pick up music reading fairly easily, and others seem to struggle a bit more. I have come up with some more creative ways to teach the ones that have more difficulty with reading. I completely agree that teachers need to focus on music reading as part of learning to play.
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#1886493 - 04/25/12 06:15 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
You live in a much different world than I do, Gary.
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#1886499 - 04/25/12 06:19 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Jayden and Isabella...


Originally Posted By: Gary D.
(H)ow much of it has to do with totally wrong or inefficient ways of teaching music reading? I think that 50% of the failure has to rest on the shoulders of teachers, and that is probably conservative.

Gary, I believe you are being too kind! How about 95%?

laugh LOL
Originally Posted By: BinghamtonPiano
I have students who seem to pick up music reading fairly easily, and others seem to struggle a bit more. I have come up with some more creative ways to teach the ones that have more difficulty with reading. I completely agree that teachers need to focus on music reading as part of learning to play.

If you have anything that works, please share it!

The worst that can happen is that you will mention some idea of technique that some of us already know. smile
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#1886500 - 04/25/12 06:20 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12205
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I know what you mean, Gary, having moved recently to the area. It seems there are a lot of "schools" where they run through students in the guise of music education, but really it's glorified babysitting. There are fine teachers, too, for sure (I have actually met some of them), but those are not the ones that belong to guilds or hold to any standard.

On top of that, you have students who are more than likely not in a musical family - the idea of every home having a piano in the living room a couple of generations since past - let alone have ever heard of traditional American folk tunes other than Happy Birthday. These songs were always taught in schools, camps, and even sung at home (I remember my mother singing German and French folk songs to me, along with American when I was young). So now the only context that many kids today have is what's heard on the radio in mainstream pop music.

So the idea of reading music is foreign and even questionable as to it's necessity in learning to play an instrument. It really is an uphill battle, and I try to make note reading as easy as possible without allowing students to get away with not learning to read the notes. But it does take time, especially with transfers to get them caught up to where they should be.
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#1886537 - 04/25/12 07:13 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Morodiene]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I know what you mean, Gary, having moved recently to the area. It seems there are a lot of "schools" where they run through students in the guise of music education, but really it's glorified babysitting. There are fine teachers, too, for sure (I have actually met some of them), but those are not the ones that belong to guilds or hold to any standard.

You really have to live here to believe what we are up against. And about holding to any standard: where I live, you just have to create your own standard.
Quote:

On top of that, you have students who are more than likely not in a musical family - the idea of every home having a piano in the living room a couple of generations since past - let alone have ever heard of traditional American folk tunes other than Happy Birthday. These songs were always taught in schools, camps, and even sung at home (I remember my mother singing German and French folk songs to me, along with American when I was young). So now the only context that many kids today have is what's heard on the radio in mainstream pop music.

This is all true, BUT:

Since I start all beginners under the age of eight with a parent and keep a parent in the lesson, even at age eight for awhile, I can educate on the fly. I am always connected (wifi), I am on the computer typing up weekly lesson assignments. The parents and I are both pointing to the music (notes) and matching them to my chart. Mostly the parents are pointing as I teach THEM how to teach their kids, at home. And we are continually flipping the chart up and down, testing to see that the notes are really getting in.

And my kids all use YouTube. (I don't use YouTube in lessons except with permission from the parents.) Example:

A student brought in something by Martha Mier. I don't know her stuff. So I sightread it (which goes right into our recent thread about swing), then we found people who played it on YouTube. I discussed the fact that one "performance" was pretty good, but it was too fast for the student to learn anything. I then played it at that fast tempo but repeated it, more slowly to show it could be effective at a slower tempo.

These kids have LIGHTNING fast hand/eye coordination and are becoming the fastest group of young readers I have ever had.
Quote:

So the idea of reading music is foreign and even questionable as to it's necessity in learning to play an instrument. It really is an uphill battle, and I try to make note reading as easy as possible without allowing students to get away with not learning to read the notes. But it does take time, especially with transfers to get them caught up to where they should be.

<sigh>
As I said, almost EVERY transfer student I get can't read. I can usually fix the problems, if the transfers stay with me, but can you imagine what it is like for kids over 12, coming in with YEARS of lessons, to be quite obviously reading at a level lower than some of the seven year-olds who are leaving?

And it's not just reading. It's everything: scales, chords, you name it. Anyone here can say, "I am a piano teacher", and they DO. It's really quite frightening. frown


Edited by Gary D. (04/25/12 07:23 PM)
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#1886543 - 04/25/12 07:16 PM 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
Without any dog in this fight; and fully recognizing the precise problem you are addressing, Gary; I am going to play devil's advocate for a moment::

It is a well known fact that individuals develop their capacities for reading letters and words at significantly different times. So, while "first grade" might be a good, AVERAGE time to start reading, many kids are doing so long before that, and many kids struggle with basic words and sentences (plus comprehension) into their eighth, ninth, and tenth years (probably beyond for some).

I think we might agree that music reading has its own, similarly wide span in years for those who are "ready" to read. In fact, music reading "readiness" probably naturally FOLLOWS readiness to read language, chronologically.

So, this Devil's Advocate submits (for the sake of discussion) that a good portion of the "success" that teachers here eventually have, with students that were here-to-fore not reading, may have as much to do with that student's chronological readiness to read music, as with any particular teaching technique or expertise. In other words, maybe the teacher just got the student at the right time.

And by logical extension therefore, the previous teacher was fighting a hopeless battle that was predestined to failure. The teacher did not fail -- the student's maturation clock doomed the learning.

Whatdaya think?
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#1886549 - 04/25/12 07:26 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: LoPresti]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12205
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: LoPresti

It is a well known fact that individuals develop their capacities for reading letters and words at significantly different times.


Really? Can you cite any studies or authorities on this? I am not trying to be difficult, but I just don't take people's word for it anymore. Way too many assumptions being made based on misinformation. And if it is true, then it would be good information for me to have. smile
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#1886557 - 04/25/12 07:46 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Morodiene]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
It is a well known fact that individuals develop their capacities for reading letters and words at significantly different times.


Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Really? Can you cite any studies or authorities on this? I am not trying to be difficult, but I just don't take people's word for it anymore. Way too many assumptions being made based on misinformation. And if it is true, then it would be good information for me to have. smile

Hi Morodiene,

I thought this was general knowledge. You certainly do not have to take my word as fact. Ask any variety of pre-school, kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th grade teachers, continuing upward.

There are many, MANY studies on the subject, and I'll bet I have a few books right in my library - just need to dig them out, and will post.
Ed
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#1886582 - 04/25/12 08:42 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11844
Loc: Canada
This is my area, Ed, so let's see what can be done with this. smile I took educational psychology a long time ago so the only name that comes to mind is Piaget who set out developmental stages a proposed that optimum teaching happens when it is in line with natural "readiness". Other theories were put forth to counter this. Regardless, those stages do not go along the lines you have proposed. If you want to do some really interesting reading, look up Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf. Even better, ask to visit a school and observe, not forgetting to talk to the teachers. One element of the Steinerian approach is that it integrates body, mind, and spirit or feeling and as such probably comes the closest to what music education entails. Digressing for a moment, Steiner was asked in the early 1900's to form a school for the children of factory workers, and the outcome was not what was expected of children of labourers at that time. The world paid attention.

In regards to reading (words) itself. It will get too complex to set out all that it entails. It should be remembered however that the English language is illogical and arbitrary (though, tough, through, bough), and written music does not share that trait. Various strategies such as the whole language approach have been tried to overcome this.

I must say that I have never come across the theories you expressed, either in teacher training, or among other teachers, i.e.
Quote:
...that individuals develop their capacities for reading letters and words at significantly different times.

In fact, "the capacity to read letters and words" isn't that familiar (had to think about that) because I think we dwell on how to develop that reading and what's behind it.

There seems to be an unspoken assumption that reading words and reading music are connected. Are they, necessarily? Or do they just have some common traits such as the fact of symbols on paper. Are the same areas of the brain involved? Is it the same process? Are there, for example, people who can read music with ease but have difficulty reading words? (I wouldn't be surprised).

What does reading music entail? Well, you have symbols on a page which get names according to their location and represent sounds both apart and together, and one after another. The coding and encoding don't work exactly like it does for written words. Tracking (eye movement across the page) is probably similar.

Another aspect of reading music is that you see notes on the page, and execute actions on an instrument. Part of this process can in fact be a direct physical link from page to hand. This is unlike reading words (except perhaps in touch typing).

I think the questions here are:
- How does reading music get taught so that it is effective?
- Does reading music get taught or is it often bypassed (memorization, finger numbers, rote imitation)?
- If it is not taught in schools, and not taught in lessons (see "bypass") then there is a problem.


If this is actually going on, then any question of reading words in school would have be secondary - assuming that the two are related - if relevant at all in this situation.


Edited by keystring (04/25/12 08:49 PM)

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#1886586 - 04/25/12 08:50 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13817
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Music Instruction: 30 minutes per week.

Language Arts: 2 hours per day, plus a pervasive use of written language in all aspects of a child's life, from signs on buildings to the internet.

I think that has a lot to do with it. No matter how effective the teacher is, if you're not in contact with something on a daily basis, your chances of mastering something is zero. (In other words, I think teachers give themselves way too much credit. There is no shortcut or substitute for quantity of time.)
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#1886598 - 04/25/12 09:27 PM Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Morodiene]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
It is a well known fact that individuals develop their capacities for reading letters and words at significantly different times.


Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Really? Can you cite any studies or authorities on this? I am not trying to be difficult, but I just don't take people's word for it anymore. Way too many assumptions being made based on misinformation. And if it is true, then it would be good information for me to have. smile


Originally Posted By: LoPresti
Hi Morodiene,

I thought this was general knowledge. You certainly do not have to take my word as fact. Ask any variety of pre-school, kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th grade teachers, continuing upward.

There are many, MANY studies on the subject, and I'll bet I have a few books right in my library - just need to dig them out, and will post.

Morodiene,

Here are a couple for starters:
**PSYCHOLOGY (5th Edition) by Norman Munn - Chapters on Maturation and Child Development
**EINSTEIN NEVER USED FLASH CARDS by Hirsh-Pasek & Golinkoff
**CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND by Allan Bloom – With a chapter devoted to Music
**IRON JOHN by Robert Bly - Steeped in metaphor and modern myths – not as clinical, but certainly as TRUE

As you probably know, I am patently against doing research “on line”, due to the gross amount of MIS-information boldly presented as fact. However, I did quickly bumble onto this, which seemed to have a degree of credibility:
http://www.noteaccess.com/APPROACHES/ArtEd/ChildDev/ChildDev.htm

Are you SURE you do not already know all this stuff?
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In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1886610 - 04/25/12 09:53 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: keystring]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: keystring
This is my area, Ed, so let's see what can be done with this. . . . Regardless, those stages do not go along the lines you have proposed. If you want to do some really interesting reading,

Quote:
...that individuals develop their capacities for reading letters and words at significantly different times.

In fact, "the capacity to read letters and words" isn't that familiar (had to think about that) because I think we dwell on how to develop that reading and what's behind it.

I think I see the problem >> I may need to go back to WRITING school, OR I may not be developmentally ready for writing!

I did not mean that an individual child would typically read letters at a drastically different time that s/he would read words. I meant that different children are ready to read at different times. One child may be more-than-ready to read at 4 years old, and another may still not be that “ready” at 7 years. Is this statement true, or are all those sources I just quoted wrong?

Further, I recall studies having shown that there are at least 7 different MODES of learning, and that the abstract/verbal aspects of reading represent only one of those modes. Perhaps I dreamt that too.
Ed
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In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1886612 - 04/25/12 09:54 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Morodiene]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5587
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
It seems there are a lot of "schools" where they run through students in the guise of music education, but really it's glorified babysitting.


Bingo!
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#1886617 - 04/25/12 10:05 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: LoPresti]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11844
Loc: Canada
Ed, getting practical and past on-line links on general psychology, as a musician what are your thoughts on teaching reading music? I've put forth some thoughts on what music reading might entail including a physical component but they're rather off the cuff. It would be interesting to know your own thoughts on this, including how that might translate into learning. Of course an assumption has been made that reading is important, and maybe reading as a first stage might not be your own preferred way of going about it.

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#1886645 - 04/25/12 10:51 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 am always amazed to get transfer students who struggle to read yet play pieces that are about grade 1 or 2 level. I have never had a single student that I have started from scratch who has had trouble with reading music. I don't think I do anything remarkable either. I simply ensure that the student is able to read the notes in a piece before they learn to play it. If they can't read the notes for a piece then they're not ready to play that piece. If they do have trouble with the occasional note then I make sure they work that note out and and then read it within context (naming notes from a few notes before to a few notes after). Maybe I've just been incredibly lucky, but really...it doesn't seem that hard!
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#1886665 - 04/25/12 11:27 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Kreisler]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5429
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Music Instruction: 30 minutes per week.

Language Arts: 2 hours per day, plus a pervasive use of written language in all aspects of a child's life, from signs on buildings to the internet.
True, but at the same time we're talking about a system with 7 notes, 5 lines and something that if understood can work on its own, - period - Unlike language where each word has a different meaning, etc.

We're not talking about learning words (which would be harmony in all its essence), but learning the notes, the 7 notes and the idea of the bass clef!
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#1886666 - 04/25/12 11:28 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3250
Loc: Virginia, USA
I learned basic notes in 4th grade music class. Nothing complicated like sightsinging, but we certainly learned note names and counting in general music class.

That no longer exists.

The only thing available to most kids in school is band or chorus. Neither have the appeal of the sports arena, being populated by a lot of nerds, but at least it's there. (I was in both through high school, but I am a nerd and became an engineer.)

One of my own kids did choir and never learned to read music. Yet she always knew her part, led her section, and i have to admit the choir performed significantly better than the ones I performed in. They are more musical, more polished, more in tune, blend better, do more interesting music - but they can't sightread to save their life. I have reluctantly changed my mind about that being a bad idea.

I usually have 10 members in my handbell choir and usually 1 to 2 can read music, the rest circle their notes. There are about a dozen in my church choir; 2 of us read notes well, 2 have marginal skills on a good day. The rest learn by rote.
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#1886679 - 04/25/12 11:59 PM Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: keystring]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: keystring
It would be interesting to know your own thoughts on this, including how that might translate into learning. Of course an assumption has been made that reading is important, and maybe reading as a first stage might not be your own preferred way of going about it.

KeyString,

I may be singularly the “most wrong” person to whom to put this question. At a time when I was learning the most musically, I did not just enjoy reading, I LOVED IT! I took great pride in not only getting it right, but getting it right the first time! I was very fortunate to be able to sight-read (let’s not start that again!) virtually anything that came my way. I reveled in taking the printed page and making it instantly sing! I wanted to be the first to translate the hieroglyphics into sound.

In retrospect, I was so fond of reading only because it came so easily to me. It allowed me to devour large volumes of music (let’s not speak of the quality of playing!) And later, it allowed me to experience scores of scores, with all their hidden treasures, while sitting on my couch. HOWEVER, had I struggled with reading, my musical experience would have been drastically different - and not for the better I am sure!

I personally think of music reading as a cornerstone of musicianship, right along with playing, listening, and learning. Some might cite individuals like Dave Brubeck, George Shearing, and Ray Charles as examples of greats who did not need to read. My response is that it simply makes them all the more genius, that they were able to accomplish greatness without the ability to read; AND think of what else they may have been able to achieve with that reading facility.

To return for a moment to my comments about maturation, and readiness to read, I was keying on Gary’s “some students start with me and take off like rockets”. I would not presume to suggest how to go about teaching a reluctant or slow reader - I would be at a loss. But I do firmly believe that there are stages where a student is “ready” for certain things. I was not ready for Mahler when I was in my twenties; I am still not ready for Berg (and time is running out.) I believe that for something as physically/mentally complex as reading music, one must be ready.
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#1886706 - 04/26/12 12:59 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Morodiene]
Pedagogia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/14/09
Posts: 53
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: LoPresti

It is a well known fact that individuals develop their capacities for reading letters and words at significantly different times.


Really? Can you cite any studies or authorities on this? I am not trying to be difficult, but I just don't take people's word for it anymore. Way too many assumptions being made based on misinformation. And if it is true, then it would be good information for me to have. smile



It is true and well-researched area. Among gifted students very well known - look up asynchronous development. Some students will have more well-developed domains. Piaget rings true here about children and levels of development.
Further, development is not alway moving chronologically, so yes some students will develop motor skills much quicker than others. Some will devleop aural or reading skills much more quickly than others.
Also, if can get access to journal articles, there is some good research done on the differences between experts and novices in piano, and their development of sight reading abilities - K.A Ericsson. Also J. Sloboda.

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#1886712 - 04/26/12 01:22 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Minniemay Offline
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My very first student was classical Piaget. It was very obvious when she crossed a developmental line. We went from having the same beginning lessons for about a year and a half to playing a Bach prelude by the end of her 2nd year of study. It was truly like one of those lightbulb moments. I've never seen another student with quite that clear a crossover, but I observe it regularly. Everyone is on their own timeline.
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#1886715 - 04/26/12 01:24 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: TimR]
AZNpiano Offline
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Originally Posted By: TimR
One of my own kids did choir and never learned to read music. Yet she always knew her part, led her section, and i have to admit the choir performed significantly better than the ones I performed in. They are more musical, more polished, more in tune, blend better, do more interesting music - but they can't sightread to save their life. I have reluctantly changed my mind about that being a bad idea.


For choirs, there's a delicate balance between how much theory to teach and how much to depend on rote learning. Your daughter's choir director probably relied more on rote learning. You definitely can get choirs very far by rote learning alone; however, if these kids go on to become music majors, then they'll end up like all those voice majors who can't do theory.

I tutored several voice majors when I was in college. Their reading skills are so weak to begin with, and they have this mental block (affective filter) that prevents them from wanting to learn anything about theory.
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#1886722 - 04/26/12 01:52 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
LoPresti Offline
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Originally Posted By: LoPresti
It is a well known fact that individuals develop their capacities for reading letters and words at significantly different times.


Originally Posted By: Pedagogia
It is true and well-researched area. Among gifted students very well known - look up asynchronous development. Some students will have more well-developed domains. Piaget rings true here about children and levels of development.
Further, development is not alway moving chronologically, so yes some students will develop motor skills much quicker than others. Some will devleop aural or reading skills much more quickly than others.

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
My very first student was classical Piaget. It was very obvious when she crossed a developmental line. We went from having the same beginning lessons for about a year and a half to playing a Bach prelude by the end of her 2nd year of study. It was truly like one of those lightbulb moments. I've never seen another student with quite that clear a crossover, but I observe it regularly. Everyone is on their own timeline.

Thank You Both! I was beginning to have serious doubts about whether I am developmentally ready to be posting on this Forum . . .
Ed
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#1886732 - 04/26/12 02:50 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: LoPresti]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: LoPresti

It is a well known fact that individuals develop their capacities for reading letters and words at significantly different times. So, while "first grade" might be a good, AVERAGE time to start reading, many kids are doing so long before that, and many kids struggle with basic words and sentences (plus comprehension) into their eighth, ninth, and tenth years (probably beyond for some).

My knowledge of reading language is limited to watching my own students read the directions we create, together. This is something I started very recently, and it involves a very detailed and precise order in which to practice things. I give each student a printout of what we go over, and I have the "master copy" on my computer. Each lesson we start with the "plan" from the previous lesson.

I say, OK, what's the next step? As I listen to them read "the next step", this gives me a reality check about their reading ability. The only thing I can tell you is that I don't recall the last time I have taught a child much past the age of eight who had serious trouble reading my directions.

HOWEVER: I have some young students who read very fluenty, English, but who stumble for some time reading music. I have a few students - who have trouble following steps (meaning that they skip steps), or who reverse words, or skip words - who read music amazingly well. There are SO many factors here. For instance, I have been a voracious reader of both music and books since I was young, but I have horrendous problems following directions if they are not extremely simple and clear.

Also, I was a "slow reader" when I started 1st grade. I started young, and I was very small. By the end of 1st grade I became a fast reader, so my brain kicked in developmentally during that year.

I'm not making a one-to-one connection between language learning and learning to read music. I am merely pointing out that students who come to me from other teachers usually can't read music. And my students usually read very well. I don't think that learning to read music is harder than reading language. I don't think that reading music is taught as well, in general. I think it IS taught as well, by those teachers who know what they are doing.
Quote:

I think we might agree that music reading has its own, similarly wide span in years for those who are "ready" to read. In fact, music reading "readiness" probably naturally FOLLOWS readiness to read language, chronologically.

My personal experience does not support that. First of all, I don't think that music reading and language reading is processed in the same parts of the brain. I'm no expert, but I suspect there are overlaps, yes, but also different areas too. Back to personal experience: I have had students learn to read well who knew only their alphabet, just barely. Remember, my way of teaching is largely non-verbal and involves pointing and matching. A child who realizes that the "circle around the little line", what we call middle C or do, can find that note and match it to the picture of where it is. As that is happening, the parent and I can reinforce the letter name "C".

Now, how does the reading develop from that point? It is not unusual to see small children reading music on a level that is quite surprising while they are still struggling with basic language reading concepts. Which is developing faster? Who knows? But I think the idea that music reading readiness follows language reading readiness is an assumption, and a misleading one.
Quote:

So, this Devil's Advocate submits (for the sake of discussion) that a good portion of the "success" that teachers here eventually have, with students that were here-to-fore not reading, may have as much to do with that student's chronological readiness to read music, as with any particular teaching technique or expertise. In other words, maybe the teacher just got the student at the right time.

So, when I get children who do not read who are much older than my very young beginners who read, and when these older beginners start to read well the moment I start teaching them HOW to do it, in a sane way, should I assume that the last teachers were really fine teachers who just started these transfer students before they were ready? When the former teachers have written in every letter and every finger number? When they have used zeroxed copies of copyrighted materials, picked helter-skelter from here and there?

I won't bother to continue. I'll let other teachers chime in with their horror stories.
Quote:

And by logical extension therefore, the previous teacher was fighting a hopeless battle that was predestined to failure. The teacher did not fail -- the student's maturation clock doomed the learning.

Whatdaya think?

I think that you are describing "the exception that proves the rule". It is possible, for instance, that at some point a very young student whom I attempted to teach, too early, quit lessons with me, then restarted later with another teacher and was successful. However, the only time that might have occurred in the last couple decades would be when a pushy parent insisted that a child was ready when I was very skeptical, AND when the parent then bailed on me, leaving the child to struggle without help both in lessons and at home. And that is totally against what parents agree to when they start a child with me who is young.

I start young children off with a trial period, and if either the parents or I are not convinced that the time is right (oh God, this sounds like an ED ad!), then we stop lessons immediately.

That's another huge part of being an experience teacher - knowing when a student is not yet ready, because forcing a student to struggle before s/he is ready can be so discouraging that it may stop the student from experiencing success, when the time is right for her/him.


Edited by Gary D. (04/26/12 03:02 AM)
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#1886750 - 04/26/12 03:56 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: LoPresti]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Minniemay
My very first student was classical Piaget. It was very obvious when she crossed a developmental line. We went from having the same beginning lessons for about a year and a half to playing a Bach prelude by the end of her 2nd year of study. It was truly like one of those lightbulb moments. I've never seen another student with quite that clear a crossover, but I observe it regularly. Everyone is on their own timeline.

I see something like that regularly with my really young ones. The parents, I think, often believe I am conning them when I assure them that things are developing. They struggle to match notes, either hand, then they struggle to sort out fingers. Little tunes don't sound like tunes to them, because they are too slow. Counting is not rhythmical, when we can get it going at all. Then, BAM, it all comes together and everything starts to work. It's like watching children learn to walk. One day they can't even stand, then a few months later they are running.

The only reason this seems more shocking when it happens so quickly with older kids is that we do not expect them to make such quick jumps. But sometimes they do. smile
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
[We're not talking about learning words (which would be harmony in all its essence), but learning the notes, the 7 notes and the idea of the bass clef!

The last point is what drives me crazy. Parents all assume that the bass clef is harder because their children are right-handed. They are shocked when I explain that left-handers are equally weak in bass-clef reading, and this is caused by FAULTY TEACHING.
Originally Posted By: LoPresti

I was very fortunate to be able to sight-read (let’s not start that again!) virtually anything that came my way. I reveled in taking the printed page and making it instantly sing! I wanted to be the first to translate the hieroglyphics into sound.

Did you teach yourself to do it? Did you have no help? It came astonishingly easily to me. I have no other ability that comes even CLOSE to my ability to sight-read, Ed. But I do think there are people who start out not showing any particularly unusual aptitude for a subject who later are astonishing.

Stages? Of COURSE there are stages. Good grief, we don't need to read studies to figure that out. Each person develops in his/her way, and different abilities "come on line" in a different order in different people. I did not start this thread claiming that anyone starting to play a musical instrument should be ready at that exact time. But part of being really sharp is knowing in your bones when someone is NOT fully ready for something, and being patient waiting for it to happen while working on other things. Music is a huge thing. A student can be behind in one area, average in another, and way ahead in another. You can plod away on basic reading, which may happen slowly for some time, while pushing ahead on chords and exploring sounds.

I have one third-grade transfer student who reads well (English) and who understands intervalic reading well (good logic, good understand of math) and who absolutely nails chords. But he is taking many months longer than most to remember the names of the keys, and also the names of the notes on the page. He's "slow" at this, meaning that some quirk in the way his mind works makes this one area difficult. But I'd take bets that he will end up a fast music reader. I can just feel it. There is a glitch, and when we solve it, he's going to take off.

I have a girl who just turned seven who is learning by herself, no parent in the room, and she is progressing as fast as my average student a good five years older. So, if I have a 12 year-old boy who is where she is, at seven, is that important? To me, what is important is what both of them will be doing at age 21, at age 30, etc. To me it is all about long-term learning. I see music as a positive addiction. Some people are never going to be great, but if they love playing, if they attain a level of success that makes them happy, if they never lose that love, I think they may get as much joy out of music as someone who becomes a "star" - especially considering how unhappy many supremely talented musicians turn out to be. frown
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#1886824 - 04/26/12 09:09 AM Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
LoPresti Offline
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GENERAL MUSIC READING:
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
The only reason this seems more shocking when it happens so quickly with older kids is that we do not expect them to make such quick jumps.


SIGHT READING:
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
. . . . . I do think there are people who start out not showing any particularly unusual aptitude for a subject who later are astonishing.


What a great subject!
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#1886925 - 04/26/12 12:41 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
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I think as well, in addition to all of this, it should be considered what kind of lessons a student started out with. I teach Yamaha group piano, and depending on the age of the student, we may not do any reading before playing for the first two years. Some students who then graduate and go on to private lessons do struggle with reading, because the balance between their reading skills and their playing skills is very far off. I have two particular group graduates who are now starting grade 5 piano (this is their fourth year of playing, after completing a 3-year group course), and whilst the reading can be tricky, I usually find familiar patterns (i.e. scales, arpeggiated chords, zig zags, etc), and get them to play detective by finding these patterns in the score. If they know that it is a familiar pattern, then this is most of the reading battle won!

With some kids though, I think they will always struggle with reading, but thankfully, it is all these little struggles and our ability to help students through them successfully that keeps them coming back to us, and thus keeps us employed! smile

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#1886948 - 04/26/12 01:36 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: MrsLois]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: MrsLois
I think as well, in addition to all of this, it should be considered what kind of lessons a student started out with. I teach Yamaha group piano, and depending on the age of the student, we may not do any reading before playing for the first two years.

Why in heaven's name would you do that? Why would you have people play for two years without teaching them how to read? <confused>
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#1886959 - 04/26/12 01:48 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
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This would only be with 4-year-old beginners, and solely because their ear is developing so rapidly between the ages of 4 and 7. Also, the ability to simultaneously read and play does not get developed until they're 6 or 7 years old. Check out the following for a more detailed explanation:

http://ca.yamaha.com/en/music_education/courses/yamaha_music_education_system/

I am not saying that no student learns how to read in this system... they learn at the right age of their development.

One more thing I cannot stress enough with this program is that we do not claim to offer exactly the same things as private lessons. It is a totally different way of learning, and the results are much different from those of a private lesson.

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#1886987 - 04/26/12 02:28 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: MrsLois]
LoPresti Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Why would you have people play for two years without teaching them how to read? <confused>


Originally Posted By: MrsLois
. . . . . the ability to simultaneously read and play does not get developed until they're 6 or 7 years old. . . . .
I am not saying that no student learns how to read in this system... they learn at the right age of their development.


Hark! Is that the recapitulation of a recent, familiar theme I am hearing?

But, do ALL students, universally develop this read-and-play skill between 6 and 7 years? What does Mr. Yamaha have to say about that?
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#1886991 - 04/26/12 02:37 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: MrsLois]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: MrsLois
This would only be with 4-year-old beginners, and solely because their ear is developing so rapidly between the ages of 4 and 7. Also, the ability to simultaneously read and play does not get developed until they're 6 or 7 years old. Check out the following for a more detailed explanation:

OK. You have the "littlies". smile

In general, playing and reading before age six is tough, and some are not ready until age seven or later.

However, there are more than a few five year-olds who are ready, and every month counts. When I get parents who ask, "Is my child ready, s/he is X years old?" my questions are:

1) Has your child said s/he is interested in playing piano/keyboard?
2) What is her/his birthday?

Group classes do not take into consideration birthdays, do they? There are always huge problems in school, where kids can be as much as a year different in age while studying the same materials, all because their birthdays just happen to fall on day X or day Y.
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#1886998 - 04/26/12 02:50 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Minniemay Offline
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Actually, when I did group instruction (traditional methods, not Yamaha), we DID take birthday into consideration and grouped the children accordingly.
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#1887013 - 04/26/12 03:47 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: LoPresti]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: LoPresti

But, do ALL students, universally develop this read-and-play skill between 6 and 7 years? What does Mr. Yamaha have to say about that?

Good luck talking to Mr. Yamaha, who died in 1951. laugh

I can't think how any person with a few working brain cells could possibly think that individuals do not develop ALL abilities at different times, and in different ways.

Not assuming that, however, produces the kind of mass education we have in this country and in many others. It's not a square peg in a round hole. It is pounding "pegs" (students) with an infinite number of shapes into one kind of very ugly "hole".
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#1887021 - 04/26/12 04:08 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Actually, when I did group instruction (traditional methods, not Yamaha), we DID take birthday into consideration and grouped the children accordingly.

I know nothing about group teaching, so if I had to do it, I would have to start from scratch. Without a great deal of study and experience I would be totally incompetent in that area. smile

I only work with children who are ready to being reading in my opinion and in the opinion of the parent who will be involved in lessons.

At first it is slow going, obviously, for very young ones. Right now I have a boy I started at age four, but he was only a couple months shy of five. My biggest problem was with the parent, who "bailed". He didn't understand any more than his son and.

So in this case the CHILD was ready, but the parent was "music-reading-challenged". This slowed things WAY down, but an unexpected benefit was that the child realized that the parent was lost and asked to do lessons alone with me BEFORE age six.

This is just an example of how nothing is ever the same with two families. Usually parents pick up the essentials with absolute ease, and the small children are guided into catching up, but in this case the child was ready from day one. smile
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#1887030 - 04/26/12 04:30 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.
Originally Posted By: MrsLois
I think as well, in addition to all of this, it should be considered what kind of lessons a student started out with. I teach Yamaha group piano, and depending on the age of the student, we may not do any reading before playing for the first two years.

Why in heaven's name would you do that? Why would you have people play for two years without teaching them how to read? <confused>


Doesn't Suzuki method do this? I have no experience with it, other than to hear children of friends playing violin (some of them very impressively.)

As someone who learned to play by reading music, I've struggled to play by ear; I sometimes wonder if it wouldn't have been better to do it the other way around.
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#1887044 - 04/26/12 05:12 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
LoPresti Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Good luck talking to Mr. Yamaha, who died in 1951.

Just like all my entrances while playing in band and orchestra -> TOO LATE AGAIN!

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
. . . individuals do (not) develop ALL abilities at different times, and in different ways.

Not assuming that, however, produces the kind of mass education we have in this country and in many others.

I agree, except - shouldn't that be "mis-education", or perhaps "mess education"?
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#1887049 - 04/26/12 05:26 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Minniemay Offline
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An initial interview and readiness test is crucial.
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#1887066 - 04/26/12 05:58 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
Overexposed Offline
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Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Actually, when I did group instruction (traditional methods, not Yamaha), we DID take birthday into consideration and grouped the children accordingly.


The question is really how broad the birthday range is for each group. Did each group cover 1 year (as with most sports etc) or were the groupings as small as 3 months or 6 months?

In other words if you accept 5 year olds, do you only accept them a certain time of year to start or do they begin the month they turn 5?



Edited by Ann in Kentucky (04/26/12 07:42 PM)

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#1887075 - 04/26/12 06:06 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: LoPresti]
keystring Offline
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Originally Posted By: LoPresti

Thank You Both! I was beginning to have serious doubts about whether I am developmentally ready to be posting on this Forum .

Ed, you are undoubtedly referring to my first response and that communication went seriously by the wayside. Of course people's development varies. That is why some kids can walk at one year, some at 1 1/2 and some are tottering their first steps at 8 months. The idea of "readiness" (starting with Piaget) says that the optimum time to teach anything is when the child is wired to learn it, while another school suggests that kids can be hot-housed ("I can teach anyone at any age.") discounting any inner workings. In school systems which provide mass education you end up with an "average norm" which most kids fall into but it cannot do much about individual differences. This idea of readiness at different ages is what you were referring to. I agree with it. Sorry about the miscommunication and resulting confusion.

I was focused more on the "letters, words, sentences" part of reading (words - not music). Immediately everything I've done and known in this area flashed before me, with the sense that it is a combination of many things. Academics may write abstractly about "reading" as if it were one thing, but in actuality the process involves many things. And then I though that when we actually teach this skill, we tend to focus on the things behind it and not just a thing called "reading". That's where my half formed (and thus confusing) thought was coming from.

The first thing that comes to mind is how many specialists insisted that a parent reading stories to a preschooler will have a significant effect on later reading ability. Another is the eye tracking across the page. Another, where the mind may have it but fine motor control isn't there yet for forming letters, or the ability to sit still. In the early 1980's a colleague and veteran kindergarten teacher said that she now had to get kids to crawl and climb like toddlers because they did not have a sense of space which they needed to shape letters - another unexpected factor.

So summarizing the above examples, there are numerous skills and related factors rather than one thing called "reading". Even "letters" have other aspects. I don't know if it makes it more clear where my mind was going with this. I think that it's the same with music.

- I am not sure that reading words and reading music are related, or that one comes from the other. Some aspects may be related.

- If considering music reading from the aspect of word reading, it should be remembered that written English is a messed up and illogical system. It might not be a good indicator about music reading - music being set up more logically.

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#1887087 - 04/26/12 06:33 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: keystring]
Pedagogia Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring

- I am not sure that reading words and reading music are related, or that one comes from the other. Some aspects may be related.



Research goes both ways in this area. Some believe music and language is not linked in the brain, more recent research suggests that it is. Cognitive neuroscience is still uncovering so much about the brain and music, and language. It is a research area that will continue to develop as our research methods and capabilties become more sophisticated.

See: Music, Language and the Brain - Patel.


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#1887091 - 04/26/12 06:36 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Offline
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One of the situations is where students don't get taught to read - as simple as that. Playing by imitating a recording or maybe even a teacher's example, and memorizing it would be one way this happens. Putting in finger numbers, so that the student depends on those numbers and ends up not reading, is another. Transfer students with this kind of background will then need to be taught by the next teacher, and this is when they are already playing relatively advanced music that they get to somehow. If a teacher effectively teaches such a student to read for the first time, then of course that student will advance. Except that the non-reading strategies will be a lot easier than an unfamiliar skill.

For anyone who got into reading music easily and never had to think about it, any idea how this started? Were there some kinds of instructions or opportunities? For example, I was given a pile of sonatas and knew where to find Do.

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#1887130 - 04/26/12 07:47 PM Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: keystring]
LoPresti Offline
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Hi KeyString,

I am glad to come back to this. Between you and Morodiene, I was pinching my brain to see if I had dreamt all that stuff. Then I just wrote it off as a miscommunication.

In years past I was keenly interested in the subjects of development, maturation, and “readiness”, for personal reasons. As everyone knows, the public schools say, “Now is the time for everyone to begin reading.” My son struggled with (book) reading throughout elementary school. He was even placed in “remedial reading”, with all the stigmae associated with such “placement”. Now, as an adult, he reads (and thoroughly comprehends) highly technical engineering manuals as part of his business. Somewhere along the way, between ages 11 and 30, he more than “caught up”. Maybe magic?

LoPresti’s research uncovered some interesting facts: There are many children out toward the edges of this particular bell curve. It is a “fat bell” if you will. The ones who are ready to read early suffer, and others like my son, who are not ready until much later, likewise suffer. Once everyone has past her/his own chronological readiness phase, they all read pretty much the same.

I have no basis for believing that reading language and reading music are related; and I certainly would not suggest that, when a child is ready for one, s/he should be ready for the other. (I am interested in hearing more on the subject from Pedagogia.)

But here is what I was proposing for discussion: IF there is a time for each individual, when their language reading window opens, and they are now ready; and IF that readiness can occur early, late, and anywhere in between; THEN doesn’t it seem likely that the music reading window can open very early for one child, very late for another, and everywhere in between also?

Ed
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#1887134 - 04/26/12 07:52 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: LoPresti]
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Originally Posted By: LoPresti

Thank You Both! I was beginning to have serious doubts about whether I am developmentally ready to be posting on this Forum . . .
Ed


An interesting new topic. I think as long as someone usually doesn't fling their waste at other posters, they are developmentally ready to post. smile

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#1887160 - 04/26/12 08:50 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Pedagogia]
keystring Offline
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Originally Posted By: Pedagogia
Originally Posted By: keystring

- I am not sure that reading words and reading music are related, or that one comes from the other. Some aspects may be related.



Research goes both ways in this area. Some believe music and language is not linked in the brain, more recent research suggests that it is. Cognitive neuroscience is still uncovering so much about the brain and music, and language. It is a research area that will continue to develop as our research methods and capabilties become more sophisticated.

See: Music, Language and the Brain - Patel.


That is music and language. It is very likely that they are. However, the question is about reading piano music and reading words. Rather than going by research done by people who are probably not musicians or music teachers, how about looking at it for a moment. What does each entail? Reading piano music has a physical component: reading words is mostly intellectual. When someone reads out loud (mostly children) then maybe sight singing is similar.

To read piano music, you must associate the notes on the page with the notes on the keyboard, and then execute physical actions to produce that note. You may or may not use your ear to hear if it sounds as it should. These are specific skills that do not exist in reading words.

Musicality and language do have similarities, and often someone who is good in one is also good in the other. But this is different.

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#1887183 - 04/26/12 10:23 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
MrsLois Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.

Why in heaven's name would you do that? Why would you have people play for two years without teaching them how to read? <confused>


It's not necessary to be condescending on here. I was simply trying to offer an explanation as to why some students' reading abilities may not be up to par. I wasn't saying either that these guidelines and age groupings are absolutely true for every child.

I wasn't questioning either how anybody else teaches on here... I would appreciate the same courtesy in return.

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#1887184 - 04/26/12 10:25 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
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Both reading music and language are acquired initially through auditory means. What the research is suggesting is the congitive processing for music and language are similar because of the auditory nature of both. We listen to and interpret language and music long before we see a symbol system attached to it. This does has some affect in the way we process music and language - the point where our brains begin to 'wire' for want of a better description.

The process is different when the symbolic system of music and language is introduced. Perhaps some students are able to recondile both means of auditory and symbolic systems better than others at an earlier age. Some may struggle.

Music and language as an auditory system are processed in similar ways. However, music and language as symbolic system are believed to be processed different ways. Their paths begin to differ when music becomes a symbolic system, even though both rely on an auditory stimulus.

When you read text, you are still sounding out the words in your mind - so the auditory still exists even though the system is now symbolic.

With the symbolic system of music there is much more information to process. Sounding out the 'notes' in your mind is not the same as sounding out words from a piece of text. You have to add motor skills, intepretive/affective skills, aural skills to the mix. This is not an easy task, although some seem to pick up these musical skills more readily than others. Playing a musical instrument is believed to be at the height of human capability in terms of neurologial/cognitive processing.

As previosuly mentioned, environmental factors can play a considerable part in the development of this process. Yes, schooling, previous musical education, and all issues surrounding quality of education are crucial at this early stage in a child's life.

I don't have an answer as to how to some students are better music readers than others. I think there is a whole confluence of factors to consider before determing the root cause of the issue.

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#1887224 - 04/27/12 12:23 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: MrsLois]
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Originally Posted By: MrsLois
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

Why in heaven's name would you do that? Why would you have people play for two years without teaching them how to read? <confused>


It's not necessary to be condescending on here. I was simply trying to offer an explanation as to why some students' reading abilities may not be up to par. I wasn't saying either that these guidelines and age groupings are absolutely true for every child.

I wasn't questioning either how anybody else teaches on here... I would appreciate the same courtesy in return.

Hold on. Did you read my reply, written BEFORE I taught today?

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: MrsLois
This would only be with 4-year-old beginners, and solely because their ear is developing so rapidly between the ages of 4 and 7. Also, the ability to simultaneously read and play does not get developed until they're 6 or 7 years old. Check out the following for a more detailed explanation:

OK. You have the "littlies". smile

In general, playing and reading before age six is tough, and some are not ready until age seven or later.

However, there are more than a few five year-olds who are ready, and every month counts. When I get parents who ask, "Is my child ready, s/he is X years old?" my questions are:

1) Has your child said s/he is interested in playing piano/keyboard?
2) What is her/his birthday?

Group classes do not take into consideration birthdays, do they? There are always huge problems in school, where kids can be as much as a year different in age while studying the same materials, all because their birthdays just happen to fall on day X or day Y.

If you think my reply was condescending, I'm sorry, but I don't believe it was.

I personally am opposed to teaching without teaching reading on SOME level, and I'd be happy to have that debate with you. smile
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#1887246 - 04/27/12 01:54 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Group classes do not take into consideration birthdays, do they? There are always huge problems in school, where kids can be as much as a year different in age while studying the same materials, all because their birthdays just happen to fall on day X or day Y.
EXACTLY and thank you Gary!

My two sons have 22 months difference in age! However, the older one 'lost a year' and got late into school, while the young one 'gained a year' and got in early to school! Result: The older one feels extremely confident that pushes back our young one, while the young one is still struggling to keep up with the rest of the class! frown

Officially conservatories in Greece accept students from the age of 8 upwards! I find that ridiculous and I'm already teaching a 6 year old successfully! I wouldn't have it any other way, since he's enjoying it and has no trouble reading notes. he has trouble with keeping focused for more than 15-20 minutes but that's to be expected!

Seriously classical music is about scores. Even pop music is about scores: You get a chart sheet when doing sessions, you don't go blind with an mp3 and hope to be able to listen to what you're supposed to play! why skip that part?!?! (reply: Because it's easy for some teachers, that's why...)
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#1887256 - 04/27/12 02:32 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Nikolas]
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Originally Posted By: Nikolas

My two sons have 22 months difference in age! However, the older one 'lost a year' and got late into school, while the young one 'gained a year' and got in early to school! Result: The older one feels extremely confident that pushes back our young one, while the young one is still struggling to keep up with the rest of the class! frown

My brother and I were both slammed by the system. I was born in October of 1948. At that time the cut-off was January 1st, so there were students in my 1st grade class who were 10 months older than me. That disadvantage followed me through high school. At that time high school was grade 10-12, while junior high was grade 7-9. So when I started high school, I was the smallest boy in a school of 3,000 students. I looked like everyone's little brother. Being that small and immature looking is social suicide. I was 4 feet 11 inches tall. I grew a foot in high school.

My younger brother went through the same thing, but even worse. His birthday is in December. For him it was worse, because he was one of the most naturally gifted athletes I've ever seen, and if my parents had delayed starting him in school an extra year, he would have been on all star teams in baseball. In addition, he fell behind in reading and never fully caught up.

It doesn't have to be this way, but frequently it is. Groups are good for the average people in the groups. That's what groups do. Public education attempts to stamp out anything that does not fit into this "group-think" model.

I'll address your other points in a minute, but I wanted to comment on this first. And by the way, I thought very seriously about suicide. Life began for me when I entered college. If my parents had delayed my entrance into 1st grade, which they could have done, things would have been very different for me.

This is why I am absolutely opposed to expecting different people to develop at the same pace, in the same way. I was treated as an average student, as a person who was, at best, average in intelligence. I was very close to being "tracked" on a path that would have totally limited possibilities for the rest of my life. My talent and accomplishments in music were all that saved me.

Lot of kids are not so lucky...
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#1887262 - 04/27/12 02:48 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Nikolas]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Nikolas

Officially conservatories in Greece accept students from the age of 8 upwards! I find that ridiculous and I'm already teaching a 6 year old successfully! I wouldn't have it any other way, since he's enjoying it and has no trouble reading notes. he has trouble with keeping focused for more than 15-20 minutes but that's to be expected!

Seriously classical music is about scores. Even pop music is about scores: You get a chart sheet when doing sessions, you don't go blind with an mp3 and hope to be able to listen to what you're supposed to play! why skip that part?!?! (reply: Because it's easy for some teachers, that's why...)

First, music reading is approached illogically, most of the time.

Today I was talking to a very bright kid, someone I really like. He started recently, and he could not find Fs and Bs. Some people are able to "map" the keyboard almost immediately, even some small kids. Others struggle with this.

It is easy to assume that someone cannot read if they can't find keys, and furthermore to assume that they will not be able to read well in the future.

With this particular student I pointed to notes, at random, from A three lines below the bass and E three lines above the treble. So long as my chart was there, he found every note, immediately linked it with the proper key.

Now, you watch...

There will be people who conclude from this that I am teaching incorrectly. They will assume that someone who does not remember which note goes to which key is not learning anything. I may even get "helpful" recommendations such as how to use flash cards. Most everyone will assume that if the names of the notes and the names of the keys are not learned FIRST, reading can't start.

They will miss that the memory of where these things are and what they are called are SEPARATE from the logic of how the staves work.

For many years now I have observed that some students will take much longer to remember things but what will be FASTER at FINDING them. For those who have "memory" problems, forgetting locations and names, many stick with the chart longer, but once we put it away (which always happens), they are in no way behind many others who get away from the visual aid sooner.

Even with my six and seven year-olds, I do not have enough TIME. I move from one thing to another lightning fast, and I usually put something in their books to explore because I am unable to cover everything every week.

Also, attention span is not just about how long people can "sit". It has to do with how much they get to do (action), and how much they have to listen to (boring directions), and how often tasks are changed.

I can concentrate like a demon for hours, but I need to change my focus every 15-20 minutes, max, or I become so bored and so stressed that my mind ceases to function. Maybe I think like a seven year-old. smile
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#1887263 - 04/27/12 02:50 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Offline
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Nikolas and Gary, that phenomenon is known by teachers, and many of them make sure that their kids start a year later if their birthdays fall on those months. Also, if a student in grade 1 or 2 seems to have wobbly handwriting showing less fine motor control and other similar things, teachers often check birthdays. It can affect a child's self-image because all he knows is that he has to try harder than everyone else and doesn't do as well - he doesn't know that it's because he is almost a year younger.

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#1887264 - 04/27/12 02:52 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: keystring]
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Originally Posted By: keystring
Nikolas and Gary, that phenomenon is known by teachers, and many of them make sure that their kids start a year later if their birthdays fall on those months. Also, if a student in grade 1 or 2 seems to have wobbly handwriting showing less fine motor control and other similar things, teachers often check birthdays. It can affect a child's self-image because all he knows is that he has to try harder than everyone else and doesn't do as well - he doesn't know that it's because he is almost a year younger.

Exactly. And my brother was careful not to make the same mistake with his younger son. It made a huge difference for him, starting a year later.
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#1887293 - 04/27/12 04:34 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Nikolas Offline
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I didn't know any better, since I was born in September ('77) and the cut off was in April, but now I do and for my grandchildren I won't make the same mistake!

Gary: I'll address this thread again after the weekend. My students recital is in 5-6 hours and I have to prepare... brrr...
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#1887370 - 04/27/12 09:42 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
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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!
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#1887393 - 04/27/12 10:22 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
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It sounds like group lessons have worked for some of you. I have not done group instruction, but have taught a lot of 5, 6 and 7 year old kids. I would say that each I accepted was ready for instruction, but they learn at different paces. There is a marked change in ability with each year of age. It would not be helpful for the younger ones to compare themselves with progress of the older ones. It is helpful though for the older ones, as they see that it is much easier for them, and that idea that "This is easy for ME" adds to their motivation.

All groupings would be harmful to those with attention deficit disorder. I have taught 4 kids now with ADD (one "borderline", another recently getting a diagnosis, 2 others previously diagnosed). In teaching them I've come to the conclusion that their problem is mild brain damage. It's mild, and not readily apparent in conversation with them. But it jumps out at you in piano lessons. The last thing these kids need is to be in a group comparing themselves to others.

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#1887400 - 04/27/12 10:31 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.

My brother and I were both slammed by the system. I was born in October of 1948.
My younger brother went through the same thing, but even worse. His birthday is in December. For him it was worse, because he was one of the most naturally gifted athletes I've ever seen,

I have an October 1 birthday and was always the youngest kid in the class (an October 1 school enrollment cutoff date). I think it mostly was a problem in first grade. I did not have kindergarten, and I just recall my dad getting mad at me as I mixed up the letters U,V W,Y...they were a challenge. The thing is that if I'd waited a year, I would have been in the same grade as my sister 1.5 years younger.

Other than a slow beginning I was always at the top of my class academically, but socially it's not so great being the least physically developed and last to get a driver's license.

Overall I think it's more of an issue for boys and especially those in sports.


Edited by Ann in Kentucky (04/27/12 10:32 AM)

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#1887402 - 04/27/12 10:32 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
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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.


Thanks so much for mentioning this. Children develop at very different paces and grouping just by age could cause huge problems for some. At public schools, age is generally the only factor (thus we have grades corresponding strictly to age). But in other contexts it could be more feasible to group children by development and maturity, for which age is a consideration but not the only one.

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#1887448 - 04/27/12 11:46 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Minniemay Offline
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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.

I have had kids with all kinds of abilities in my classes and they have done just fine. You just have to be aware, attentive and caring to foster the right atmosphere.
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#1887493 - 04/27/12 12:58 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.


They will miss that the memory of where these things are and what they are called are SEPARATE from the logic of how the staves work.

For many years now I have observed that some students will take much longer to remember things but what will be FASTER at FINDING them. For those who have "memory" problems, forgetting locations and names, many stick with the chart longer, but once we put it away (which always happens), they are in no way behind many others who get away from the visual aid sooner.



That seems reasonable to me.

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.
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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
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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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#1887582 - 04/27/12 03:39 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
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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. Online   content
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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. Online   content
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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. Online   content
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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
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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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#1887604 - 04/27/12 04:39 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: JimF]
Gary D. Online   content
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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
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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.
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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
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Actually, in my situation, the group was the main lesson and the private lesson was supplementary.
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#1887635 - 04/27/12 05:33 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
AZNpiano Offline
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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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#1887637 - 04/27/12 05:37 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
Gary D. Online   content
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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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#1887641 - 04/27/12 05:43 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: JimF]
Gary D. Online   content
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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. Online   content
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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. Online   content
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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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#1887677 - 04/27/12 06:44 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
LoPresti Offline
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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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#1887681 - 04/27/12 06:56 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Minniemay Offline
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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.
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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
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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 Offline
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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
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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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#1887713 - 04/27/12 07:58 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Minniemay]
Gary D. Online   content
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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 Offline
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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. Online   content
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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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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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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 Offline
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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. Online   content
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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
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Registered: 01/07/11
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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
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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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#1887956 - 04/28/12 11:10 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Offline
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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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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 Offline
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
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
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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 Offline
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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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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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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 Offline
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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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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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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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#1890543 - 05/03/12 02:34 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
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...

thumb
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#1890863 - 05/04/12 03:58 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
btb Offline
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What a load of codswallops!!

AZN lists (bottom of the barrel ) teachers who

1. don’t teach theory or sight-reading
2. don’t use method books
3. assigned pieces above level to impress judges
4. don’t practice very much
5. started in "copy me" group lessons
6. “method” that over-relies on developing ears
7. took lessons at student factories

WHEN WE ALL KNOW (or should know) that youthful students
are ALWAYS bum at sight-reading (being so fresh in the game) ...
and that they quickly discover that quality rendition depends on
oodles of hard practice to MEMORIZE the keyboard piece.

You chaps should stop passing the buck!

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#1890868 - 05/04/12 04:07 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: btb]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: btb
What a load of codswallops!!

AZN lists (bottom of the barrel ) teachers who

1. don’t teach theory or sight-reading
2. don’t use method books
3. assigned pieces above level to impress judges
4. don’t practice very much
5. started in "copy me" group lessons
6. “method” that over-relies on developing ears
7. took lessons at student factories

WHEN WE ALL KNOW (or should know) that youthful students
are ALWAYS bum at sight-reading (being so fresh in the game) ...
and that they quickly discover that quality rendition depends on
oodles of hard practice to MEMORIZE the keyboard piece.

You chaps should stop passing the buck!

I don't even allow my students to play from memory until they have played five times, with music, and have had success. I give them new music to try each week, and they come back with it mostly learned, on their own. If I take the music away, they have no idea how to play it.

I teach memorization later, when they have learned to play fluently, with music AND have also experimented with playing by ear, which is the other side of music.

By the way, if you are torturing all of us, again, with your never-ending championing of an alternate system of notation, I will state, for the record, that the traditional notation system is horrendously flawed.

Where I differ with you is about the practical chances of changing it. Once upon a time I thought Esperanto was a great idea. I still do.

The problem is, you can't find anyone to talk to in Esperanto.

Do you have ANYTHING postive to add, or is your sole reason for posting just to annoy us? laugh
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#1890881 - 05/04/12 05:09 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
btb Offline
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Hi Gary D,

You seem to be shooting yourself in the foot, by admitting that the current system of notation has “horrendous flaws” and insisting on students playing a fresh keyboard score 5 times to
improve sight-reading skills (but just locking in memorisation with each repeat!).

Please see my comments as being constructive ... what I object to is the ducking and diving
by teachers who point to the weak teaching skills of other teachers ... sheer baloney!

Any annoyance you might experience is of your own making.

PS I’m presently bowled over by the recent announcement of a painting by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch whose painting “The Scream” sold for a record $120 million.
However, it is his poignant painting “The Sick Child” which presently has me bowled over.
Thought you might like to share a masterpiece.

http://www.pianoworld.com/Uploads/files/TheSickChild-by-EdvardMunch-.jpg

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#1890965 - 05/04/12 09:23 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: btb]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2649
Originally Posted By: btb
What a load of codswallops!!


I learned a new word today. smile

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#1890975 - 05/04/12 09:39 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: btb]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2649
Originally Posted By: btb


PS I’m presently bowled over by the recent announcement of a painting by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch whose painting “The Scream” sold for a record $120 million.
However, it is his poignant painting “The Sick Child” which presently has me bowled over.


If 2 people want a painting the value goes up. If I had those millions to spend I'd buy art too. I hope the buyers are also buying art from living artists.

Thanks for sharing the link to the painting.

Edit: I just read about "The Scream" on wikipedia. What drama for these four paintings with the same name. I especially love that art thieves who first stole "The Scream" left behind this note: "Thanks for the poor security". LOL! There may be inspiration for a movie script here.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_scream


Edited by Ann in Kentucky (05/04/12 12:35 PM)

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#1891094 - 05/04/12 01:02 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: btb]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11844
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: btb

You seem to be shooting yourself in the foot, by admitting that the current system of notation has “horrendous flaws” and insisting on students playing a fresh keyboard score 5 times to
improve sight-reading skills (but just locking in memorisation with each repeat!).

I read this as being what these students might DO --- not what the teacher wants them to do.

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#1891773 - 05/05/12 03:13 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Gary D.]
Brinestone Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 358
What do you do about students who memorize and practice their pieces from memory at home, even against your orders?
_________________________
Piano teacher since 2008, member of NFMC

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#1891816 - 05/05/12 04:56 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Brinestone]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Brinestone
What do you do about students who memorize and practice their pieces from memory at home, even against your orders?

Refuse to continue to teach them. It's OVER for me, if they do this. Period.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1891826 - 05/05/12 05:26 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: btb]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5587
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: btb
WHEN WE ALL KNOW (or should know) that youthful students are ALWAYS bum at sight-reading (being so fresh in the game) ... and that they quickly discover that quality rendition depends on oodles of hard practice to MEMORIZE the keyboard piece.


yawn

"ALWAYS"???

yawn
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1891830 - 05/05/12 05:30 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Brinestone]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5587
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Brinestone
What do you do about students who memorize and practice their pieces from memory at home, even against your orders?


There is a difference between these memorizers:

1) Those who learn everything correctly the first time and memorize all the correct notes, fingering, dynamics, etc.

2) Those who learn everything wrong the first time--wrong notes, wrong fingering, wrong articulations, wrong dynamics, wrong phrasing.

I love teaching Type 1. Type 2 drives me nuts! It takes so much longer for these kids to un-learn the wrong notes.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1891845 - 05/05/12 05:53 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Brinestone]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2649
Edit: Deleted. I had missed the sarcasm.


Edited by Ann in Kentucky (05/05/12 09:43 PM)

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#1891863 - 05/05/12 06:30 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Overexposed]
Brinestone Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 358
Sometimes I feel like a lot of you drop students for not being ideal. For instance, I had a student who finally quit a month or so ago. He'd been playing a total of five years, four with me. He was never a good practicer. Sometimes he'd forget his books. It took over a year to teach him to feel rhythms. When he quit he was finally, finally starting to read music well. Other students of mine who started over a year after him were passing him up.

But you know what? He was always pleasant at lessons. His mom was super supportive and grateful for what I did for him. She told me specifically that she would keep her son with me even if I moved half an hour away because she knew that other teachers would make him feel so bad about not practicing that he would just quit. She said if he'd had one of those kind to begin with, he'd have quit years ago. Even though his progress wasn't as fast or as far as it could have been, he made progress. He was about at the level of playing hymns, which was his goal to begin with.

Not every student is going to be Great with a capital G. Sometimes we can make a difference even with the less exceptional kids.

[/soapbox rant]
_________________________
Piano teacher since 2008, member of NFMC

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#1891891 - 05/05/12 07:20 PM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: Brinestone]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5976
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Brinestone
Not every student is going to be Great with a capital G. Sometimes we can make a difference even with the less exceptional kids.
I think you're absolutely right about that.

I'm not sure about the dropping students because they're not ideal. I guess some do. Because they're draining perhaps. Some of the teachers you talk about are actually being tough on themselves rather than the students, and continually questioning whether they're doing something the best way, and beating themselves up when a student fails to progress. I think that's what I found totally exhausting about school teaching - you could never say you'd done enough. There was always something more you could have done.

If you were superwoman that is. I wasn't, so I got out of it. smile
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1892014 - 05/06/12 12:48 AM Re: Why Johnny and Jill can't read ...[ahem}... music [Re: currawong]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: currawong

I'm not sure about the dropping students because they're not ideal. I guess some do.

If I dropped all my students who are not ideal, I wouldn't have any students. wink

But if students refuse to even TRY to do the things I recommend, then I don't see how I can teach them. I'm used to resistance, but usually not much from students I start.

It seems to me that if we know what we are doing and can demonstrate that what we teach works, most people are rather excited about doing those things that work. Usually when they do not cooperate, it is really fear that those things won't work for them, or that they just can't do it. I think I'm pretty patient with those kinds of obstacles.

But complete refusal to TRY the things I recommend long enough to find it if they will work - that I can't handle. That's where I draw the line.

I think that if student A or student B drains us of so much energy that it begins to adversely affect how we work with other students, we actually OWE it to the other students - the ones who are showing a reasonable degree of cooperation - to let the troublesome student go.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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