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#2002098 - 12/20/12 11:02 AM Frustrated with teaching adults!
pianogirl1978 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/11
Posts: 104
Loc: Nebraska
Okay, give me some pointers here on how you structure the lesson with adults. I am so tired of teaching unmotivated adults! Why do they sign up for piano lessons in the first place? I think maybe my lessons are boring them. One student I teach shows up like she is going to a funeral each week and slumps at the piano and acts very disinterested (She is in her early 20's). I think she thought she was gonna be playing mozart after the first few weeks? Sorry to be so blunt and negative, but this is how it has been with my last 2 adult students. I am so used to teaching kids that I think maybe I am not going about teaching adults correctly. I am teaching out of the Piano adventures accelerated for the Older Beginner book level 1. How do you all differ in your teaching with older students?


Edited by pianogirl1978 (12/20/12 11:03 AM)
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#2002122 - 12/20/12 12:12 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
A Rebours Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/05/09
Posts: 220
Originally Posted By: pianogirl1978
Okay, give me some pointers here on how you structure the lesson with adults. I am so tired of teaching unmotivated adults! Why do they sign up for piano lessons in the first place? I think maybe my lessons are boring them. One student I teach shows up like she is going to a funeral each week and slumps at the piano and acts very disinterested (She is in her early 20's). I think she thought she was gonna be playing mozart after the first few weeks? Sorry to be so blunt and negative, but this is how it has been with my last 2 adult students. I am so used to teaching kids that I think maybe I am not going about teaching adults correctly.


I am not a teacher, but an adult student who has been taking lessons for 6 1'2 years and can offer you my thoughts from an adult student's perspective.

First, you asked why your adults signed up for piano lessons in the first place. Have you ASKED them why they signed up? Did you ask them what their long term goals were for learning the piano? By having this discussion you will get clues as to what they want to accomplish. But, at the beginning beginning adult students may not have an idea of their goals because they have no real idea about what it takes to learn to play the piano. But it would be helpful to them if you laid out a plan of what your lessons will accomplish so they can have an idea of where their instruction will take them.

(By the way, I had a clear objective in mind when I started back with piano after many, many years of not playing, but that's another story.)

You also say that you are so used to teaching kids. Why do you think that teaching adults the same skills that are necessary to play the piano would be any different for adults?

It doesn't matter what age you are teaching since all piano students need to develop the same skills to play the piano. I think sometimes people who teach kids forget that adults need the same skill sets if one wants to really learn to play the piano.

In terms of materials for adults, I can't help you there. However, my teacher started with the Faber and Faber Adult Piano Adventures Book 1. But after that book, we just moved on to no method book and went to repertoire and theory books. But, I could already read music from when I was a kid.
We also refined things as I clearly explained my objectives - learning proper technique and all the the skills I would need to play well at an advanced level which involves serious practice. I also study theory. I also had discussions with my teacher that I wanted her to teach me the way she taught all of her students that began in 2nd or 3rd grade and finished with her when they left high school. So once we established how serious I was she's taught me as if I am preparing to major in music in college.

Now, I understand that all adults aren't like me, but everyone does needs a set of basic skills if they do want to play the piano.

Helping your adult students set short and long term goals will help in the process.

Repertoire interests - have you asked (or have your students told you) about the kind of music they would like to learn? If not, you can ask them so they have music to learn that they like. Technique and other skills can be taught through the repertoire.

Can you describe for us exactly what you do at a lesson with your adult students? Maybe we can give you more specific ideas if we have an idea of what activities you pursue at a lesson.

A R
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#2002123 - 12/20/12 12:17 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3328
Loc: Scotland
Can I join the club too?

I have some wonderful adult students. I have some frustrating child students.

But, I can understand bad behaviour, or resistance to learning, from children. Mostly their parents (not them) decided on lessons, and they are children after all. I just find the same behaviour more frustrating in adults, because I expect them to behave like adults.

Sometimes, though, adults are just very tired in a lesson due to working hard. Or they haven't practised because they're putting in 14 hour days. That's different, I can give them lots of slack then just for keeping going.



Edited by ten left thumbs (12/20/12 12:18 PM)
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#2002132 - 12/20/12 12:37 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
ezpiano.org Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 967
Loc: Irvine, CA
Adults usually has unrealistic expectation. Not until you change their mindset, they are not going to stay longer than 4 months.
Just my experience.
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#2002164 - 12/20/12 01:22 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
I know one teacher who demands one year's worth of tuition from adult students. At first, I thought this was unreasonable, but upon reflection, I realized that with most adult students, it was the only reasonable approach. Oh, you'll still hear many/most of the usual excuses for not being prepared, but at least your frustrations can be ameliorated by knowing you've been compensated for your efforts.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2002216 - 12/20/12 03:07 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11206
Loc: Canada
Pianogirl1978, the very first thing is that your adult students will come in with expectations, not know what piano study is like, how they should work with you, how they should work at home, and just how the whole thing functions. Your young child comes in and does what he's told and things just happen.

Do you address the expectations? What is it that this adult wants to learn, how does she picture it, what questions does she have? Do you do that? Then do you also explain what is involved - that consistent practice over at least 5 days/week for several years is needed, that progress may appear slow but skills are being built that will come together, etc.

I believe strongly that adults need the same foundations that kids do, and that they should be learned as physically through real actions as is the case for kids. It is often stated that adults can conceptualize and that is indeed a strength. But that can lead to too abstract thinking, imagining what a thing is like and then trying to see/hear what you imagine.

Another thing is approaching things. If an adult can imagine a piece as a whole, then she may try to play it as a whole, and make it sound perfect. In a sense children have a more abstract thinking, because they can go one note at a time, one section at a time, which in fact is part of what musicians do. So do you guide your students along this way of working: chunking, working on one layer at a time in smaller sections (get the right notes and fingering, now concentrate on timing, now work with dynamics). Or do you have them take the piece home, to produce next week at which point you make corrections? If so they may be playing it end to end, trying to make everything perfect at once, for example.

I agree that there is attitude out there - maybe a lot of it - but there are also causes and solutions. I am in between being an adult student and being involved in some teaching.

Personally I don't care much for the "adult" method books, "accelerated" etc. My reason: they go by the premise that the typical adult wants to "advance" fast, can conceptualize, and wants to skim the surface. These are exactly the things that I don't want, because I know from experience that the answers (for me) like in getting foundations deeply.

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#2002231 - 12/20/12 03:34 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11206
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
At first, I thought this was unreasonable,...

First instincts often prove to be the right ones. This one is a case in point. Why weed out motivated students, and set yourself up for a year of misery with the moneyed who don't care?

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#2002243 - 12/20/12 03:58 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 824
On the contrary, only motivated students would put down $1000-2000 in one shot. Even rich people don't throw around that kind of money on a service that takes place over time. I think this is a great idea actually.

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#2002246 - 12/20/12 04:08 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: Candywoman]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11206
Loc: Canada
Students who have money to burn will jump into things frivolously. Those who have to fight for the chance will grab it with both fists and use what they are given for all that it's worth. That was my idea of motivation. Of course the motivated student who does not have this money will be locked out of lessons: it is that simple.

Ir makes sense to get at the cause of things.

This is discriminatory and fair. I repeat: John's first instinct was the right one.

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#2002260 - 12/20/12 04:27 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
LimeFriday Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/02/09
Posts: 303
Loc: Australia
As someone who has been an adult student - one of the things that gets in the way of enjoyment of lessons is the frustration at not being able to do something quickly. As adults we get used to being able to master things quickly - and when that doesn't happen frustration and lack of motivation can seep in. I never lost my motivation - but I certainly got frustrated - and then anxious when I couldn't play like I wanted to be able to play.

It was only until I found a teacher who was willing to talk to me about anxiety, about expectations, and about perfectionism, and to talk to me as though I was an adult that I began to really enjoy my lessons.
Earlier teachers who were more used to teaching children tended to approach lessons with me as though I was a child. It felt uncomfortable and awkward and in the worst cases - patronising.

It was also about both my teacher and I being open about the occasional time pressures that lead to less practice - or other commitments that meant I couldn't make a lesson. Those are factors that can really create frustration in a teacher - and being up front and open about those limitations can open up a discussion about expectations and what both student and teacher are willing to accept. As an adult I was aware that not being able to put in 100% some weeks would be super frustrating to me and to any teacher - and 'getting into trouble' was something I found awful - because I already frustrated and upset with myself for NOT being able to put in the time I wanted to put in.

Finally - the idea of paying for a years worth of tuition would have ruled me out completely. I could barely scrape up the terms worth of tuition up front! Lack of ready money doesn't mean lack of commitment!

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#2002262 - 12/20/12 04:29 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: keystring]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
At first, I thought this was unreasonable,...

First instincts often prove to be the right ones. This one is a case in point. Why weed out motivated students, and set yourself up for a year of misery with the moneyed who don't care?

We've discursed this subject many times here, but to recap, most "good" teachers become so frustrated with adults that they simply stop taking them. I suspect the OP is on that road. Charging a year's worth of tuition up front will weed out many non-committed students as well as, unfortunately, many who cannot find a way to make such a payment up front. Don't take it out on teachers, take it out on your fellow students.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2002270 - 12/20/12 04:52 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Bluoh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/20/11
Posts: 388
Loc: Canada
You need to map out exactly what you guys will be doing, and ask for his or her goals + input. Let them know that the basics are the same, whether you're 8 years old or 40 years old.

If they don't have the patience to go through the basics and learn it right, then ask them to find another teacher who will skip the basics for them and teach them the flashy stuff.

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#2002271 - 12/20/12 04:55 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11206
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook

We've discussed this subject many times here, but to recap, most "good" teachers become so frustrated with adults that they simply stop taking them. I suspect the OP is on that road. Charging a year's worth of tuition up front will weed out many non-committed students as well as, unfortunately, many who cannot find a way to make such a payment up front. Don't take it out on teachers, take it out on your fellow students.

Yes, we have discussed the subject many times. We have both invested time. There are some common things that cause difficulties and it is worthwhile looking at them. I have (again) listed them. Attitude is one cause among some people. It's not the only thing out there.

This idea does not address the actual root of problems - and there may be various ones. If students have misconceptions about lessons ---- or if students are taught the wrong way because of being adults (make them go fast, don't do basics, lessons for a whole year while being lost, to a mutual increasing frustration and dread. Getting at causes seems more productive imho.

It is not "unfortunate" when good students get locked out of lessons. It is tragic. Besides, how many times have teachers been treated like a commodity - I think you said "used tissue" once - by people who have money to throw away.

Quote:
Don't take it out on teachers, take it out on your fellow students.

Where have I "taken it out" on anyone? I am not just a student. I am also a teacher, and as such I am used to looking at problems and finding solutions. Where learning is involved there is a role for both teacher and student. I wrote a long post, and put thought, knowledge, and experience into it. Nowhere was I "taking it out" on anyone. Doing so doesn't help anyone.


Edited by keystring (12/20/12 05:43 PM)

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#2002309 - 12/20/12 06:03 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
KS, using the term "locked out" is, IMO, pejorative. Most teachers who charge 3 mos, 6 mos, or a year up front have obviously been burned often enough that they've had it.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2002331 - 12/20/12 06:49 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11206
Loc: Canada
I intended a factual thing, with no values attached. It meant it as "being unable to do attend something". I've heard the expression used when someone could not come up with tuition fees, and was not allowed to attend courses, so that he was "locked out of" the university. What is the correct term for this?

The main purpose of my posts was to look at causes and solutions. I don't want to rewrite my whole post. If, for example, a student has the wrong idea of what lessons entail and what the expectations are, then the solution is to address those expectations. If early failure by adults is caused by the tendency to fast forward through grades, which I've seen recommended, then the solution again is to change this. These kinds of things are my focus.


Edited by keystring (12/20/12 07:24 PM)
Edit Reason: shortened

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#2002372 - 12/20/12 08:32 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Shutoku Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/12
Posts: 11
First off, everyone is different. They have different abilities, different time availability for practice, different expectations, different tolerance for kiddy songs, etc.
So I think talking with the adult is really important, and will give you a frame work to build your lesson plan around.

Second off, the simple truth is many adults, want a social interaction as part of the lessons. I know it is not ideally what we are paid for, but I often have students who want to spend half or more of a lesson just chatting. It is something they need in their life. Accordingly I have to adjust my expectations for both what they may achieve in between lessons and during lessons. Our emotions are always intimately connected with our playing and our ability to learn and to concentrate. If they need to offload a bit, then so be it.

Lastly, I'm not a huge believer in book courses for adults or older beginners. Inspiration is what makes all of us want to play, so I try with all students to find out what inspires them, and then find ways of teaching them that will build on their inspiration. It means I have to work harder finding or creating material for them, but at least the result is students interested in what they are doing.

If others ask for a year's tuition in advance and it works for them, good for them. For me I ask for a months fees to be paid on the first lesson of the month, and I encourage post-dated cheques for the year, adult or children.
I have no opinion on how others choose to collect fees.


Edited by Shutoku (12/20/12 08:34 PM)

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#2002385 - 12/20/12 09:27 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 824
I don't believe in this concept of being locked out. A piano student can save up and begin the following year. People save for vacations, cars, and furniture, so why not for an experience of a lifetime?

Likewise, a university student or his parents should have been saving for months towards an education. One important thing you learn at university is how to plan. So if by chance, you haven't planned for your education, now's your opportunity to learn about planning by saving for the next term's tuition.

Besides, I'm not convinced everybody's entitled to a university education per se. They are making university so easy now that anybody can get in. The universities are crying for students. Too many people end up with degrees and compete for the same jobs. What the U.S. and Canada both need is more people in technical fields.

In short, I'm not worried about people being locked out of an education.

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#2002390 - 12/20/12 09:43 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11206
Loc: Canada
That shouldn't get an answer. Rather than reading these kinds of things, I would like to see the issue addressed. How can the specific problems being encountered be addressed? I and a few others tried to give it a start.

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#2002399 - 12/20/12 10:18 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
Adult anything, or adult musicians can be all over the map. They can be beginners or retreads. Beginners being beginners have no idea what being a musician involves. Retreads, left music anywhere from 5, 10 , 20, or 30 years ago. And the why is probably complex. The sadest thing about adults is that their commitment to daily life can be huge, ie family, kids, jobs, health problems to name a few. The reality of playing a instrument, means to never put it down or put it down for long. Practice and practice daily for years!

So as a teacher you have to go step by step what can the student realisticly handle. It is something the student and the teacher will discover together.

I give you an example of myself. When I turned 40 I had a chance to play in an adult band. The ad in the paper said musicians at all levels welcomed. Having never played an instument before except learning the treble and bass clefs -- I thought I was a beginner with some music knowledge. The conducted suggested I play a triangle and someone whispered get a sax, they are easy, just push the buttons and blow. Sounds cool and within 24 hours had rented an alto, didn't know how to play and showed up. It gets worse! Within days and weeks, I learned that knowing the staff was only 1 of a 1,000 things I didn't know - like timing, counting, measures, dynamics, rhythm, you name it. Got an excellent professional sax teacher. I told the teacher I as committed and worked hard to prepare my lessions each week. Never cancelled a lesson - ever. No matter what I always showed up and did what I could. I had a very demanding professional job, sax lessons, played in the band on Thursday night band that I read the ad about in the paper. It turned out all the members of the band played in high school, college, etc. Not me, of course, but everybody in the band tired to help me and they did. I would get lost and they would point where I was supposed to be. It was an awesome experience sitting in a band of 50 members who really knew how to play and play well. Well, within days or weeks I learned of an adult band of beginners on Monday nights. Soon I was playing first alto with another guy in that band and 30 other people in that band. The conducted said he wanted to start on Tuesday nights a beginners jazz band and also one of the guys in the community band started a blues band, so I joint the blues band and the Jazz band. The conductor said they needed a bari sax player and because few people could play/afford an bari sax, the conductor said not worry, if you have a bari you can play anywhere because they need you! I could play what I could, so bought a bari sax and I was playing something like 5 nights a week all beginner. The time of my life at 40 - who would have known? So the poor teacher had a student who was playing by the seat of his pants and not a lot of time to prepare for my lessions, but a heck of a lot of experience. I would show up for a lessons and show him some music that I couldn't play and he would help me. My first intention was just to have a lesson and prepare my lessons as a dedicated musican but opportunity inteferred. So I wasn't the best student as I had hoped, but I learned sooooo much about everything music in the bigger picture and now in my 60s I am loving learning and playing the piano and all of that experience collectively in what we say as the school of hard knocks, was worth its weight in gold.

So I guess what I am saying is that: take the adult student, and the lesson money, do the best that you can with what he/she has to offer because in the longer picture no one really knows where their musical journey will take them. After 3 years of playing the conducted had a heart attack and died. He was a one of a kind and needless to say the bands collapsed.

A lot of the women who played in the community band did so to meet guys - middleaged and one night out a week, divorced and picking their life up again with two chldren in their early 20s. Kids are the same too, some motivated, some not. A lot of the people I met during those years came from a family who at least had one parent who was a musician. If you are trying to becoming a musician alone it can be very, very difficult even with a teacher. Think of the billions of instuments that are sold yearly and how many of those people don't play after a few months of reality of what being a musician really is. My sax teacher said to me that: you see that sax player on the corner there, just to be able to play like that it would be 10 years. Wow, I thought?


Edited by Michael_99 (12/20/12 10:33 PM)

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#2002430 - 12/21/12 12:48 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: Michael_99]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
I should learn not to post on Thursday mornings - it's my long teaching day, beginning at 11:30 AM and running almost continuously until 9 PM. It's hard to squeeze in a response. Last week, I assigned my last student of the day, an 8th grader, new music. The Debussy Arabesque, n.1, the Allemande from Bach's 5th French Suite, and a Mozart Sonata, K 283. She came to her lesson today with each reasonably well learned, so that we could begin focusing in on more subtle issues in the music, some parts already memorized. Now, compare this with a recent adult student, who stuck at it for a whopping 2 1/2 months, 2 months of which were excuses why she didn't have time to practice (this was a retired individual BTW). How frustrating do you think this is for a teacher? Be honest. Now, I only charge a month in advance, but it's so darn frustrating as a teacher that you just as soon not have to deal with the problem at all. I now use prescreening to discourage adults from taking lessons, unless they are dead serious and in the real world, few seem to be.

I don't know if the OP needs the income or not, but there are times when it's better to forgo the income and the accompanying frustration. But that's an individual call, and quite dependent upon the personality of the teacher. I, for one, can sit with an adult student and chat away for an entire hour, and cover interesting topics all related to music. But that's not what I really want to do for a living, so why should I or another teacher be subject to that "social" demand?

Keystring makes several valid points, but basically, we see the world differently (on this topic). KS is looking at it from a student's perspective, I'm looking at it as my source of income, livelihood, and also what it takes to maintain my sanity. I mentioned what my colleague does (charging a year's tuition in advance) as one possible solution, because, at least from my perspective, if I've paid for something, I want to get something in return. Yes, it's external motivation, but it's still motivation.

I think that there's another issue at play here, which has been mentioned in other posts, but not in this one. I like to bring students to mastery, from start to finish, or if they are transfer students, from where they are to mastery. Others aren't so hung up on this. One of my local colleagues teaches out of a store front, and has dozens of adult students every year. They come and go, but he's happy and it works for him. I'd be frustrated beyond measure.

So with that, I'm turning in for the evening, and wishing everyone the best!
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2002442 - 12/21/12 01:22 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5284
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Now, compare this with a recent adult student, who stuck at it for a whopping 2 1/2 months, 2 months of which were excuses why she didn't have time to practice (this was a retired individual BTW). How frustrating do you think this is for a teacher?




[playing the Devil's Advocate here...]

I could say the same thing about several of my kid students. There just isn't very many "serious" piano students to go around, regardless of age. For every student who advances enough to play Beethoven sonatas, I get 20 who can't find their way out of method books.
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#2002445 - 12/21/12 01:36 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Peter K. Mose Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1244
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
If pianogirl thinks her lessons might be boring her adult students, she may be on the right track to amending her teaching style. I can't give her pointers, except to urge her to try some other materials. She'll make her way, or else she may find out that adults simply are not her bag.

I have a far greater percentage of adult students in my studio than most piano teachers have. Indeed I consider it an area of my expertise. These students don't come and go; they stay for years and years. They love the piano, and they love music. It is a privilege to work with them, no matter what their skill levels; most are beginners or early intermediates.

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#2002447 - 12/21/12 01:40 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
keystring Online   content
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John, I am looking at it from a teacher's perspective, not a student's. Everything that I wrote in my long post analyzing the various potential obstacles and possible solutions was as a teacher. This was not done off the fly - several years of looking into this is behind it. I am also an entrepreneur like yourself, and am very aware of business aspects. Additionally I have taught one-on-one so I know about that part too.

I agree wholeheartedly that it's not worth your while to teach a student who doesn't practice and comes in with excuses, of any age. But you didn't say "lazy student".
Quote:
One of my local colleagues teaches out of a store front, and has dozens of adult students every year.

As long as your local colleague teaches seriously enough, solidly enough, and doesn't dole out the so-called "adult" fare, sure, why not? If I'm going to put in that amount of work then I want to be studying with someone reliable who takes it as seriously as I do. Fortunately, currently, I am.


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#2002459 - 12/21/12 03:20 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: keystring]
adultpianist Offline
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Posts: 539
I am a serious adult learner. Not all adults are serious and not all kids are serious. I work on the required homework, have taken some grades. Now I am having a break from grades as they are time consuming and I want to learn in a more relaxed way. I will go back to grades but in the future. I want a break from having to worry about getting up to speed and memorising scales and so on, in time to sit an exam. Life is too short and learning at a less time consuming speed will mean I am still learning but with no testing involved. why do we do these grades? I think grades are only useful to use to get into full time music school or to use when applying for music jobs. Since I am not going to do either... grades are irrelevant. My teacher went up to Grade 7 and in order to get a job as a teacher she had to do Grade 7 to become employable. My school do not take teachers unless they have reached Grade 7. Also if you want to go on to take a degree I would imagine you would have to do up to Grade 8. But surely you could also prove you were up to that level by demonstrating you could play pieces at that level. My local church choir master and organist does not have a music qualification to his name, and yet he can play up to that level. It is just that he hates exams, refused to do them but still can play as well as any Grade 7 student with a Grade 7 certificate.

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#2002513 - 12/21/12 08:19 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
malkin Offline
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Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
If a student is bored at or with lessons, it could be the music, so changing music could help. Boredom could also come from the instruction--student may not be noticing improvement based on what teacher is providing. The remedy to this is trickier. Possibly establishing specific expectations--what to do/how to practice and what to expect (play these two measures slowly enough to be perfect 3x each day next week, then we will speed them up).

Skulking into a lesson seems to me like the student may be dismayed or ashamed at having worked hard and not accomplishing a desired result. If the teacher sets a realistic expectation and a strategy for achieving it then the student may be pleased with her work.
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#2002521 - 12/21/12 08:35 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
jdw Offline
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Loc: Philadelphia, PA
Seems we adult learners keep barging into the piano teachers' forum! Hope you teachers don't mind.

I think this really is all about student/teacher compatibility. Teaching adults is bound to demand more flexibility of approach, and not every teacher is willing and/or suited to that. But luckily there are many who are.

I hope that people won't get discouraged from venturing into teaching adults. They might love it, and they'll be fostering a lot of joy in people's lives. I think the profession as a whole would be losing something important if everyone decided that music learning is only for kids!
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#2002529 - 12/21/12 08:59 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Piano Again Offline
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Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 1162
Loc: Washington metro
To the OP: Have you checked out this website? You might find some helpful ideas here:

Musical Fossils

I would also say that if one approach doesn't work, it might be worthwhile to try different ones.

However, I definitely understand your frustration. I have a friend who is in her late 50s, who has played folk music all her life as an amateur, and who always wanted to play the piano. She started lessons about 5 years ago, and her progress has been slow, largely because she doesn't want to do the basic things one has to do to learn an instrument.

She often comes to me for advice, or to get help with a piece. I am always amazed that even when the solutions to her issues are clear (e.g., pick easier pieces, practice small sections slowly, use a metronome, etc.), she refuses to do them and instead takes refuge in, "I'm just doing this for fun, I know I'm terrible at it." I was demonstrating to her once how I would practice a Bach Invention, and she said, "You mean you do that with everything you play?!"

I don't know how you break through that kind of resistance. Maybe you don't -- maybe you just have to take people as they come, and exercise lots of patience. If you can somehow get a student to learn a little bit at a time, maybe that's enough. After all, what is the goal?
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#2002561 - 12/21/12 10:01 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
pianogirl1978 Offline
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Registered: 06/06/11
Posts: 104
Loc: Nebraska
Thank you to everyone who posted their ideas. I have interviewed this student and she has expressed that she would like to play more popular tunes, however, we are just starting out. Have only had 3 lessons, so there isn't a lot of popular music that she could play as of now. She needs to get the basics down. And I think we have a good rapport and we chat a little during our lesson, however I think it is just her personality that I don't like very much. Seems to be a negative person, very unmotivated. I think she was just bored and decided. "hmm maybe I'll take some piano lessons." That is the feeling I get from her. She is my only studetn so far at the music studio I just started teaching at. So I honestly dread having to drive there just for her lesson. I try to make the lessons as fun as possible, but I find it harder to do that with adults cuz with kids, I find I talk to them differently and I feel like I am talking down to an adult if I treat them like little kids. I guess the experience is good for me. But also the environment of the studio is different than the coziness of my home studio, so that could be why it is differnt teaching there too. It feel very institutional. I will keep trying new things with this student, however I don't see her lasting more than 6 months. Thanks for all the input everybody!


Edited by pianogirl1978 (12/21/12 10:02 AM)
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#2002565 - 12/21/12 10:07 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
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Loc: Virginia, USA
I started lessons in my 50s (though I'd been involved in voice and brass since maybe 9). And I've known a number of similar adults, few of whom achieved much of a skill level.

But they wanted to, and that's different from children.

By and large, children are there because their parents sent them, and their parents sent them for enrichment rather than to gain mastery.

None of the adults I've known were there for enrichment. They all wanted to gain some level of skill. They knew it would take some work (they didn't understand how much or how long, of course.)

Most of them did not succeed. Did their teachers fail them? In some cases clearly yes. There are no skill requirements for teaching, and if most of your students are children who will never gain mastery, you can never be detected. I've seen this with a friend of mine who's taken for several years without making progress. She actually practices, inefficiently and badly. She would be three times as accomplished if she'd had a decent teacher - 6 times, if the teaching were optimized for an adult.

We'll assume none of the teachers on the forum have any difficulty with competence! <g>

Possibly few though have given much thought to how an adult learner is different and how to customize instruction for one. Adults learn more slowly and with different mechanisms.

I think that should be emphasized. No matter how dedicated the student and skilled the teacher, adult progress will be slower. There are probably exceptions, I haven't seen any though. Both must expect this and not get frustrated.

Bertholy was the first golf instructor to use drills, and devised very specific ones for adults. He believed the best method for teaching the swing was goal oriented imitation, but found this method was not accessible to adults, so he invented something new.

A few years back I was on staff at a Big Ten university, and my wife babysat for the gymnastic coach. So I asked him to teach me some specific skill I'd always wanted to do, can't remember now what. He said no. It simply can't be done. That one had to be learned as a child, and he gave some specific reasons. Saved both of us some frustration on that one, I guess.
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#2002585 - 12/21/12 10:37 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: AZNpiano]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Now, compare this with a recent adult student, who stuck at it for a whopping 2 1/2 months, 2 months of which were excuses why she didn't have time to practice (this was a retired individual BTW). How frustrating do you think this is for a teacher?

[playing the Devil's Advocate here...]

I could say the same thing about several of my kid students.

You could say that, but I'm willing to bet that the majority of them are HS aged. They probably get to their lessons every week; even if they haven't practiced well, they've at least touched the piano during the week. Their parents make sure your tuition check arrives on time. Even when their interest begins to wane, they respond well to positive motivation. When one of them offers up an excuse of "not having enough time to practice," you can offer to sit down with them and their parents and review their weekly and daily schedules to help them find practice time. Magically, the problem disappears, at least for several months.
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#2002586 - 12/21/12 10:37 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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The OP asks two questions:

Originally Posted By: pianogirl1978
Why do they sign up for piano lessons in the first place?

How do you all differ in your teaching with older students?


And asks for some advice:

Originally Posted By: pianogirl1978
Okay, give me some pointers here on how you structure the lesson with adults.

In rereading through all the replies, only one or two peripherally address the OP's questions. Most put the onus on the teacher to solve the adult student's problem. IMO, this is backwards. If the student is unsure, they should be asking the questions. Such as, Ms. Teacher, I've always desired to play the piano. Could you take a few minutes and tell me what is necessary for a student, such as myself, to learn and become proficient at playing? Thanks. And if the student is uncomfortable raising the question, there are plenty of internet resources available spelling out the effort required.
_________________________
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#2002607 - 12/21/12 11:13 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Piano Again Offline
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Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 1162
Loc: Washington metro
John, I think the issue may be that the students often don't know enough to be able to ask the question. The whole piano/music thing is a mystery to them. They know only that there's something about playing the piano that is appealing. They come to their lessons wanting to be taught, and they don't know exactly what that entails. The teacher needs to frame it in some way that makes sense.

Perhaps in this case, the OP's distate for this student is being communicated in some way and it's making her uncomfortable. (I know it would make me uncomfortable!) Maybe it is a personality clash that can't be bridged, but I think it's the teacher's job to at least try to solve these kinds of problems, and maybe have a little compassion or empathy for the student as a human being.
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#2002641 - 12/21/12 12:19 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
A Rebours Offline
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Registered: 06/05/09
Posts: 220
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
I now use prescreening to discourage adults from taking lessons, unless they are dead serious and in the real world, few seem to be.

I like to bring students to mastery, from start to finish, or if they are transfer students, from where they are to mastery.



Hi, John,

I am curious to know what pre-screening things you do to identify adult students who are serious (or not serious) about learning the piano and what things you do to discourage adults.

How do you know for sure if you are passing up some adult who really is serous about learning but who might not articulate clearly to you what they see as their goals?

I alluded to what you are saying about bringing students to mastery of the piano in my previous post when I stated that my teacher wants to create independent musicians who can play well for a lifetime. And this can be done with adults just as much as with kids.

Even though the ratio of adults who want to go down this path vs. the fly-by-night types is small, how do we serious adults communicate to you serious teachers that we do want to start the long journey? It would be a shame for adults to be relegated to the not so good teachers with whom a serious adult would find frustrating.

What about adults who might start out kind of flaky and who take to things slowly at first but then blossom?

How many kids are just as flaky as the flaky adults? Kids with conflicting schedules where piano is last on their list?

These last questions aren't directed at John, just thrown out there for anyone to comment upon.

A R
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#2002659 - 12/21/12 12:58 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
A Rebours Offline
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Registered: 06/05/09
Posts: 220
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook


If the student is unsure, they should be asking the questions. Such as, Ms. Teacher, I've always desired to play the piano. Could you take a few minutes and tell me what is necessary for a student, such as myself, to learn and become proficient at playing? Thanks. And if the student is uncomfortable raising the question, there are plenty of internet resources available spelling out the effort required.


True beginners may not know the questions to ask at the beginning. Only after they have been in lessons do they see how much is involved in learning to play the piano.

I come from this as an college instructor of Introduction to Art History and the majority of my students had no background in art whatsoever. But they always wanted to learn about art. But for everyone to have the same starting point we all had to do the basics of learning the language of the visual arts etc. At first, only a few students are comfortable in answering questions as they are acquiring the knowledge of the visual means an artist uses to communicate visually. But after they get the basics (usually things click in around week 3) they understand basic concepts and can ask informed questions. My students have ranged from right out of high school freshmen to returning to college adults in their 30s - 40s.

At the beginning with my students I ask questions to draw the students out. Once they have the basics we can communicate back and forth on a higher level. Most students coming to art history are totally clueless as to how much they really have to work in an introductory course. They think it is an easy 5 credits. Some drop the class, some who now find that it isn't easy still stick with the class and have ended up be my top students. Some are gung ho and do well and others are in the middle but doing better than their own expectations.

In my return to piano as an adult I always ask questions when I don't understand things. Make notes to let my teacher know where I keep having a problem etc. And I look things up on the internet, too. But coming from my background this just seems natural to me.

One last thing regarding the questions John hopes a student to ask. Your explanation of what it takes may not be fully taken in by the student until they have started the real work themselves. It is still an abstract concept until they are actively engaged in the process. If they come to find out that the real work is much harder than their understanding of the explanation they will be frustrated anyway. You could then come back and say that you said it wouldn't be easy and have the student think about what they want to do next. With my art history students I gave them a choice - drop the class or I would be willing to help them IF they put in the work. The ones who took me up on putting in the work with some extra help came through on their end of the bargain and would ask questions when they got stuck. But they knew ahead of time that I was ready and able to help them get themselves redirected. Sometimes it meant just asking them questions so they could figure things out for themselves. Other times I would direct them to the sources where they could find the materials to find the answers for themselves.

A R
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#2002661 - 12/21/12 01:03 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: A Rebours]
rocket88 Offline
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Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: A Rebours

Even though the ratio of adults who want to go down this path vs. the fly-by-night types is small, how do we serious adults communicate to you serious teachers that we do want to start the long journey? It would be a shame for adults to be relegated to the not so good teachers with whom a serious adult would find frustrating.


First, I don't think many adults know upfront that it will be a long journey.

Which perhaps is why adults typically say, "I just want to play a few songs for fun."

The adults I have that have stuck with it typically only wanted to just play a bit, and then they got the bug, and wanted to actually play well. So we had to basically go backwards and re-introduce the heavy lifting (Theory, Technique studies, more balanced repertoire, etc) that they at first rejected, and that I did not push too hard back then because that sort of work causes them to flee.

Bottom line is that communication is absolutely necessary...if the student cannot for whatever reason formulate the question "What does it take to play well," it is up to the teacher to give some information.

However, I say "some" information, because if most people knew how hard and long the slog will be to achieve the ability to play decently, I believe that many if not most leave.

As for demonstrating to the teacher that you are serious, your deeds speak much louder than words. Practice, work hard, show up on time for lessons, give advance notice when you can't come, don't reject much of the teacher's repertoire suggestions and instead constantly bring in pieces that typically are beyond you, or if pop music, virtually unplayable as written, etc, etc.
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#2002662 - 12/21/12 01:06 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Opus_Maximus Offline
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Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1458
Interesting... I'll agree that most adults are unrealistic and frustrating to teach - especially males in their 20's, and 30's.., BUT when you get a really good adult, (and I've been lucky to have quite a few since I teach at a store specializing in adults)...they can be fantastic. (Usually women in their 50's). Excuse the demographics....but it does seem to be what I've overwhelmingly picked up.

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#2002675 - 12/21/12 01:31 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Bob Newbie Offline
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Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
I'd be happy just playing cocktail piano in a resturant/club or in a trio..I'm retired
so it'd be more a fun thing..

I knew of a local band that played for 30yrs up and down the east coast mostly in Atlatic City clubs/casinos, did they ever "make it"? answer..no! just as living..

maybe some of these adult students have fantasies of being on some tv show like
these talent shows we see of late?


Edited by Bob Newbie (12/21/12 02:18 PM)

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#2002679 - 12/21/12 01:39 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: Opus_Maximus]
malkin Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2206
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: Opus_Maximus
...they can be fantastic. (Usually women in their 50's).


smile

Seeing "fantastic" in the same line as "women in their 50s" is going to make me happy all day! Maybe all week!
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#2002682 - 12/21/12 01:40 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: Bob Newbie]
rocket88 Offline
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Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: Bob Newbie
I'd be happy just playing cocktail piano in a resturant/club or in a trio..I'm retired
so it'd be more a fun thing..


There is a huge amount of practice and skill required to "just" play cocktail piano or in a trio in a club.

In today's economy, all such gigs are scarce, and club owners are hiring you to do one thing and one thing only: sell booze and food.

It came as a shock to me, a music lover, that I was just a beer salesman!

And you have to be good enough for people to not only stay and listen, but actually want to come back when you play there again.

Translation: not amateur level playing for fun, at least not for the most part. It takes years to get there. I only have one adult who could possibly do it, and then only for about 15 minutes, certainly not 3 hours which is the typical gig length.
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#2002688 - 12/21/12 01:51 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook

In rereading through all the replies, only one or two peripherally address the OP's questions. Most put the onus on the teacher to solve the adult student's problem. IMO, this is backwards. If the student is unsure, they should be asking the questions. Such as, Ms. Teacher, I've always desired to play the piano. Could you take a few minutes and tell me what is necessary for a student, such as myself, to learn and become proficient at playing? Thanks. And if the student is uncomfortable raising the question, there are plenty of internet resources available spelling out the effort required.

John, I thought that I had addressed the questions, directly and in detail. Maybe it wasn't as clear as I thought. I see now that your focus is on the student's responsibility, with this highlighted question that would come at the start of lessons. In fact, that brings us to the same place, if you can bear with me. Again I want to explore various angles, because you'll have different scenarios since there are many teachers, students, and styles coming into the mix.

- When I started lessons the first time, I took for granted that the purpose was to learn how to play. My teacher would tell me what to do, and this gives "what is necessary for a student..." If I do what I'm told over a number of years all will fall into place. I think students come with assumptions, and this doesn't happen. There's one hiccup.

- We're also caught in a loop. Because of the wishes of some adults, there is a "teaching adults style": skim grades superficially, focus on beloved pieces, etc. This doesn't work for anyone of any age wanting to really learn to play. A student may not know this is happening, so when they follow what they're told they don't know why they get stuck at some point. That is the loop. Meanwhile any teacher writing in may be going along this path. If they are, then this has to be looked at.

- I have been stressing to students: a) tell a teacher that you want to learn how to play the piano, and will do what it takes b) follow through. I.e. an adult student cannot assume that if he signs up for lessons, that the focus will be on skills. That is because of the above loop. Hence the "tell a teacher".

Quote:
there are plenty of internet resources available spelling out the effort required.

I've seen the fundamental idea that it takes many years of lessons, uninterrupted attendance, and consistent practice. Beyond that, the information is insufficient for knowing how to work with a teacher, or how to define goals. Generally the sites advise students to tell teachers what kind of music they like to play - imho, that misses the point.

- Beginners of any age are ignorant as in "lacking knowledge". They need guidance. You expect this of a small child taking lessons. Do you expect it of an adult? Should this adult "know better"? Will the adult get the kind of guidance that the child gets in terms of what to do, how to practice? In fact, some of the things adults learned about being "good students" in school don't work for music. For example, your math paper should be handed in error-free. Practised pieces are not error-free; the student's skills are a work in progress, and if the teacher finds things to improve, this is GOOD and not bad. If your inexperienced student doesn't know that, he will become anxious at his "mistakes" with all kinds of fallout from that.The idea of a student needing guidance does not negate the responsibility of a student. If I am new to something, the fact is that I will be ignorant and have wrong ideas: ignorance is a fact of new students.
Quote:
Most put the onus on the teacher to solve the adult student's problem.

As a teacher, which I am, I expect my student to work with me, and to prepare my assignments at home. Mostly in recent years I have tutored students with problems. Often these students don't know how to work, how to plan, and in working with me they timidly try to guess what I want to hear. What else can I do as a teacher than guide them, to learn how to be effective students. This is teaching, is it not? How will a student learn how to learn, if he is not taught? I then EXPECT the student to follow through with what I have taught.

Quote:
....they should be asking the questions.

I don't know if you can put yourself in this place. We are in an unfamiliar world. We don't have the words. We don't know how to formulate the question. We don't know what the question is. I've been there, and it is a very helpless feeling. That is why when an adult comes and writes a rambling paragraph, I try to extract things, because I see the searching.

I remember when I was in that place; several times I either confused my teacher, or insulted him, while hunting. So most of the time I stayed silent, did my best, and tried to guess. We are adults with adult intellect in adult bodies, so you do not expect this of us.

I want to stress that the OP's question was what a teacher might do. So it seemed appropriate to look at what teachers might do and what they might work with. That's what I went after the first time around. This is why I am puzzled when you say that the OP's questions were only addressed peripherally.

Is ANYTHING in what I wrote possibly useful?

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#2002691 - 12/21/12 01:56 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Peter K. Mose Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1244
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Originally Posted By: pianogirl1978
She is my only student so far at the music studio I just started teaching at. So I honestly dread having to drive there just for her lesson....It feels very institutional.


I'm sure this malaise gets communicated to the adult student - i.e., to the lady who appears so dreary and is assumed will quit piano lessons soon. Some of the problems in this vignette may have nothing to do with teaching adults.


Edited by Peter K. Mose (12/21/12 02:03 PM)

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#2002699 - 12/21/12 02:10 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: rocket88]
jotur Offline
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Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5293
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Originally Posted By: rocket88
There is a huge amount of practice and skill required to "just" play cocktail piano or in a trio in a club.


Amen. There's a lot of skill involved just to do it well at retirement/assisted living/nursing homes. The better I get the more I wonder how I got away with it even a year ago.

The seniors I play for dance and sing to what I play, and I have about 2 hours worth of repertoire, but there's no way I could take requests on the spot, or interact with the audience while I play. Much less guarantee an enjoyable (tho not flawless) play on every tune.

It's a big job, and those who are good enough to do it professionally are highly skilled, and I have a lot of respect for them.

Cathy
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#2002704 - 12/21/12 02:21 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
ezpiano.org Online   content
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Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 967
Loc: Irvine, CA
For adult and teenager, I have a " FFAT" program for them.

It is "flexible, floating, adult, teenager program"
After the first free interview, I put them into this category right away. This means: they are not obligate to the one month tuition fee, they are not responsible to come to piano lesson every week or every other week. They do not have a permanent fixed schedule such as every Friday at 5pm etc....

They only schedule online on my website when they "like" to come to piano lesson. They will pay cash when they arrive only for that lesson, no future commitment.

This is how I pre-screen the adult, I pre-screen them every single lesson, not only at the first free interview. If they are not practice, they won't go online to sign up for one single lesson.

I am pretty happy with this method for now, I have about 10 adults and teenagers that are doing this, some come to piano lesson every week, some every month, some every three months and some once a year. It is totally up to them and I make sure that they know whenever they need me, I am here waiting for them. I also make sure that they know I do not want their money if they do not prepare for the lesson.

Of course, I will not include these piano tuition in my total budget when operating my business.

Also, I think, yes, paying tuition upfront for the whole year will make adult students come to piano lesson and make them commit to a year of lesson, but what is the motivation? Are they motivated by money or motivated by desire to learn?


Edited by ezpiano.org (12/21/12 02:29 PM)
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#2002708 - 12/21/12 02:27 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: TimR]
pianogirl1978 Offline
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Registered: 06/06/11
Posts: 104
Loc: Nebraska

Originally Posted By: TimR
Possibly few though have given much thought to how an adult learner is different and how to customize instruction for one. Adults learn more slowly and with different mechanisms.

I think that should be emphasized. No matter how dedicated the student and skilled the teacher, adult progress will be slower. There are probably exceptions, I haven't seen any though. Both must expect this and not get frustrated.


Tim R, In my experience, adults actually can learn faster than children, it is just that I find they are unmotivated or don't have the time needed or an parent making them practice. As far as finger dexterity, learning the staff, I think they actually learn this part faster than children. So if they would put the practice time in, they would be surprised how well they could play in a short amount of time. I guess that is what frustrates me the most is that they are capable, but don't apply themselves and then get discouraged. A lot of my past adult students were child students who took lessons for one year, barely learned anything and now want to try it again, but I think they expect the same outcome they had the first time and set themselves up to fail. I wasn't a psychology major, but it make sense. Not sure if I am making any sense to anyone. smile


Edited by pianogirl1978 (12/21/12 02:29 PM)
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#2002733 - 12/21/12 03:20 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
keystring Online   content
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I guess that we've got a couple of different things. There are adults who want to work seriously, and adults who haven't thought things through and are going on a vague impulse. There are adults who want to work seriously but don't know what that means. There are teachers who have different approaches and attitudes toward teaching adults.

Imho, these should get sorted out at the start of lessons and maybe ongoing from time to time afterward. So now how is this brought about, and what is each person's role?

Quote:
In my experience, adults actually can learn faster than children, it is just that I find they are unmotivated or don't have the time needed or an parent making them practice. As far as finger dexterity, learning the staff, I think they actually learn this part faster than children.

Yes and no. We can get concepts intellectually faster than children, but we can tend to be "in our heads" too much - the direct connection isn't there in terms of getting raw experience. I was given a huge insight a few years ago that learning can and maybe should start in the body and senses, and then to the brain, but we do the reverse.

Quote:
I guess that is what frustrates me the most is that they are capable, but don't apply themselves and then get discouraged. A lot of my past adult students were child students who took lessons for one year, barely learned anything and now want to try it again, but I think they expect the same outcome they had the first time and set themselves up to fail.

They will also have a set pattern of "how we work with a teacher - how we approach pieces - how we practice" and so will tend to do the same as before. How do you break through that.

Another thing is that when we do math homework we are supposed to bring in a perfect paper, and mistakes are signs of "failure". Learning to play music involves skills that must be developed, and a teacher looks for things to be developed. So while the teacher says to herself, "Aha, more wrist motion - we can work with that - fantastic!" the student thinks, "I failed at wrist motion." Knowing that weaknesses and even mistakes are ok and even part of the process can be a huge breakthrough.

Almost a decade ago when studying another instrument I "buddied" with a student overseas. She was trying to play beautifully, and was so anxious to do it right that it fell apart in front of her teacher, and then she stayed fallen apart. One day we learned that if a teacher is teaching "playing the right notes with right fingering", then this is what the teacher is looking for, and the piece is only a vehicle for that. My friend went "Is that all?" In the next lesson she focused on that "one thing" her teacher was looking for, and her playing stayed solid. Sometimes it can be a small thing like that.

But I agree with everyone that attitude is attitude. If it's not there, then this is the student's responsibility.

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#2002735 - 12/21/12 03:29 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: Piano Again]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Piano Again
John, I think the issue may be that the students often don't know enough to be able to ask the question. The whole piano/music thing is a mystery to them. They know only that there's something about playing the piano that is appealing. They come to their lessons wanting to be taught, and they don't know exactly what that entails. The teacher needs to frame it in some way that makes sense.
I'm sure you're correct. But that doesn't negate the student's responsibility for finding out. But, FWIW, I've noticed this attitude in many aspects of society, and it seems to be growing (the buyer not knowing, and apparently, not caring enough to be concerned before becoming engaged). There's a show on HGTV (for non-USA forum members, Home and Garden Television, it's a separate channel). They do a show where a couple or individual is moving to a new location and is house hunting. This is both in the USA and Canada, and a separate show, for couples/families relocating from one country to another. My wife & I watch this fairly regularly, because we enjoy seeing the architecture, but we are totally blown away by the immature, shallow approach of the buyers. "Oh, I don't like this house, the ceilings are too high/low, the bathroom is the wrong color, etc., etc. Never once have they examined the foundation, checked the construction quality, asked substantive questions about covenants, local restrictions, etc. I could go on. Everything is cosmetic. I bring up this example because a prudent person, if they're about to commit to $300,000 in principle, and another $300,000 in interest over the mortgage's life, should certainly be concerned with fundamentals first and foremost. Call me old school, but not to think through any major commitment seems rather juvenile, not adult, to me.
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#2002738 - 12/21/12 03:37 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: A Rebours]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Originally Posted By: A Rebours
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
I now use prescreening to discourage adults from taking lessons, unless they are dead serious and in the real world, few seem to be.

Hi, John,

I am curious to know what pre-screening things you do to identify adult students who are serious (or not serious) about learning the piano and what things you do to discourage adults.

How do you know for sure if you are passing up some adult who really is serous about learning but who might not articulate clearly to you what they see as their goals?

Short answer, I ask them leading questions, such as: Why do you want to learn? What is your estimate of the amount of time you'll have to commit? If I told you that you'll need to put in 5 hours a week, 48 weeks a year, for the next 6 to 8 years, do you honestly believe you could make that commitment to yourself and to me? Would you be willing now, before you begin lessons, to purchase a quality piano for use in your studies?

To answer your second question, I don't know. My suspicion is that if they're truly serious, they'll continue to badger teachers until they find one.
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#2002741 - 12/21/12 03:45 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: Bob Newbie]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Bob Newbie
I'd be happy just playing cocktail piano in a restaurant/club or in a trio..I'm retired so it'd be more a fun thing..

I figure it takes a newbie between 1,500 and 2,000 hours of purposeful practice, with good instruction, of course, to become really fluid at playing off of lead sheets, with a decent accompaniment. Other teachers may have other experiences with this. Good luck with your endeavors.
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#2002744 - 12/21/12 03:51 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: keystring]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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KS, I was and am thinking in a different direction than you are, which is why I earlier stated that you made several good points. My impression, perhaps incorrectly, was that the OP was looking for more of, "I use this method, I teach in this order, etc." To me, it's a given that you'll coach students of any age, in practice techniques. How else would they learn? The other implication I got from the OP's questions were how to avoid the proverbial, "I bit off more than I can chew," we get too often from adult students. Thus the responses on how to avoid taking them as students in the first place. Make sense?
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#2002748 - 12/21/12 03:59 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: keystring]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: keystring
I guess that we've got a couple of different things. There are adults who want to work seriously, and adults who haven't thought things through and are going on a vague impulse. There are adults who want to work seriously but don't know what that means. There are teachers who have different approaches and attitudes toward teaching adults.........

Great post. The adult students on this forum are, without a doubt, the type of adult student most of us crave. Unfortunately, most of us have to deal with the other 99%. And adults encompass a vast age range, which dictates motor skills and maturity. They also have a broad background of experiences - from complete beginner to those picking up where they left off after graduating HS or even college. Future, their repertoire expectations differ widely from that of most elementary students. A one solution fits all approach is not very useful. And from my personal observations, most full-time teachers have pretty much written off adult students because of the problems encountered.
_________________________
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#2002755 - 12/21/12 04:07 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
PianoStudent88 Online   content
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Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
To me, it's a given that you'll coach students of any age, in practice techniques.

It would be nice if all teachers thought as you did, but I received essentially no coaching in practice techniques at all during my 15 months of lessons.
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#2002762 - 12/21/12 04:35 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: PianoStudent88]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
To me, it's a given that you'll coach students of any age, in practice techniques.

It would be nice if all teachers thought as you did, but I received essentially no coaching in practice techniques at all during my 15 months of lessons.

Give 'em the boot.
_________________________
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Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2002768 - 12/21/12 04:53 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: ezpiano.org]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17701
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
For adult and teenager, I have a " FFAT" program for them.

It is "flexible, floating, adult, teenager program"
After the first free interview, I put them into this category right away. This means: they are not obligate to the one month tuition fee, they are not responsible to come to piano lesson every week or every other week. They do not have a permanent fixed schedule such as every Friday at 5pm etc....

They only schedule online on my website when they "like" to come to piano lesson. They will pay cash when they arrive only for that lesson, no future commitment.

This is how I pre-screen the adult, I pre-screen them every single lesson, not only at the first free interview. If they are not practice, they won't go online to sign up for one single lesson.

I am pretty happy with this method for now, I have about 10 adults and teenagers that are doing this, some come to piano lesson every week, some every month, some every three months and some once a year. It is totally up to them and I make sure that they know whenever they need me, I am here waiting for them. I also make sure that they know I do not want their money if they do not prepare for the lesson.

Of course, I will not include these piano tuition in my total budget when operating my business.

Also, I think, yes, paying tuition upfront for the whole year will make adult students come to piano lesson and make them commit to a year of lesson, but what is the motivation? Are they motivated by money or motivated by desire to learn?


I think this is a fantastic business model, ezpiano. thumb I suspect there are a large number of potential students who crave this flexibility, and as it is all "extra" tuition for you, I suspect you benefit just as much from offering that flexibility. If I lived near you I'd be signing up for some sessions myself. smile
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#2002778 - 12/21/12 05:18 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
PianoStudent88 Online   content
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Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Give 'em the boot.

Well, I have, although not in quite those terms. I had started to look for a different teacher, when I stopped lessons independently of that for financial reasons. So now I don't have any teacher at all.
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#2002789 - 12/21/12 05:38 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: Monica K.]
griffin2417 Offline

Silver Supporter until Dec 29 2012


Registered: 12/12/10
Posts: 2402
Loc: Minneapolis, MN
Originally Posted By: Monica K.
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
For adult and teenager, I have a " FFAT" program for them.

It is "flexible, floating, adult, teenager program"
After the first free interview, I put them into this category right away. This means: they are not obligate to the one month tuition fee, they are not responsible to come to piano lesson every week or every other week. They do not have a permanent fixed schedule such as every Friday at 5pm etc....

They only schedule online on my website when they "like" to come to piano lesson. They will pay cash when they arrive only for that lesson, no future commitment.

This is how I pre-screen the adult, I pre-screen them every single lesson, not only at the first free interview. If they are not practice, they won't go online to sign up for one single lesson.

I am pretty happy with this method for now, I have about 10 adults and teenagers that are doing this, some come to piano lesson every week, some every month, some every three months and some once a year. It is totally up to them and I make sure that they know whenever they need me, I am here waiting for them. I also make sure that they know I do not want their money if they do not prepare for the lesson.

Of course, I will not include these piano tuition in my total budget when operating my business.

Also, I think, yes, paying tuition upfront for the whole year will make adult students come to piano lesson and make them commit to a year of lesson, but what is the motivation? Are they motivated by money or motivated by desire to learn?


I think this is a fantastic business model, ezpiano. thumb I suspect there are a large number of potential students who crave this flexibility, and as it is all "extra" tuition for you, I suspect you benefit just as much from offering that flexibility. If I lived near you I'd be signing up for some sessions myself. smile


+1 thumb

I am working with my teacher on this basis and it's worked out pretty well. I do make progress, despite not being able to schedule as often as I'd like. However, I know that it's only a matter of months before I will be retiring, and will be able to add much more time to my piano studies. smile
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#2002800 - 12/21/12 06:23 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
malkin Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2206
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
I love the international House Hunters show!! The first few times I watched for the scenery and architecture enjoyed seeing Ikea furnishings around the world, but now I tune in to be amazed by the overwhelming cluelessness and smallmindedness of the people.

What if HGTV did a show about piano lessons?!
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#2002803 - 12/21/12 06:30 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
malkin Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2206
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
ezpiano, can students graduate out of FFAT and become regular students who practice regularly and follow instructions and show up weekly?
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#2002808 - 12/21/12 06:43 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
justpin Offline
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Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 504
Loc: Holmes Chapel
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
The OP asks two questions:

[quote=pianogirl1978]Why do they sign up for piano lessons in the first place?

How do you all differ in your teaching with older students?



I always found the book by Howard Shanet to be absolutely no nonsense about it. On the back cover it said.

This book with teach you.

This book will not teach you.

In fact it reminds me of my time as an auditor. We clearly had on the audit report the T&C to shatter peoples' expectations of auditors.

Though TBH the suggestion of paying upfront for a year is simply untenable, 3 months maybe, but 12 months?

What happens when your teacher starts deteriorating like one of mine did?

TBH as above as a pianoworlder I'm rather addicted and know it is a long road. Even though I spend a lot of time at work. I always find time to play. I'm sure CASIO need to put a timer or an alarm clock on their next DP. I always think I'll just have a quick play 1-2 hours later realise I need to be up at 5pm the next day!

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#2002817 - 12/21/12 07:05 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Jeff Clef Offline
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Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4398
Loc: San Jose, CA
"...Most of them did not succeed. Did their teachers fail them? In some cases clearly yes. There are no skill requirements for teaching..."

Only too true. And, right there, your pre-paid one solid year of tuition is out the window, John. Besides that, there is the question of personal temperament--- a hard piece of information to pry out of a prospective teacher in an intake interview, yet it can be make-or-break--- not to mention teaching style, which is even harder to get the truth about. And besides that, if you think back not so very far, we have had letters from students who complained about fetid odors in the studio, man-haters, a teacher who taught next to a school toilet where conversations unfit for young ears were conducted, horrible out-of-tune pianos, teachers who gossip about the students (sometimes here), teachers who drink more than is good for them, or whose mind and memory are failing them... to pick only the lowest (and not even the ripest) of the low-hanging fruit.

There are many reasons a student might have a snoot-full of a new teacher, long before a whole year is consumed. The teacher is on probation, as much as any other new employee is. Complain as you wish about the term 'employee;' there is enough truth to it that it might be well to contemplate it.

If you can get a new student to fork it over and sign the contract--- but wait--- we haven't heard anyone say they have! Except, maybe, John.

I was willing to pay quarterly, with a clear contract. How many teachers even bother with a contract that states their terms and rules? Few, in my experience. Yet I would swear that I was not such a bottom-feeder. If I was, I was paying a lot of money for it.
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#2002833 - 12/21/12 07:45 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: Jeff Clef]
TimR Offline
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Loc: Virginia, USA
I have a few observations - maybe that's too strong a word, maybe just idle musings about adult students. I am one and will be in some fashion as long as I have left. <g>

There may be a problem of relationship expectations unrelated to pedagogy or the difficulty of the process. A child sees a teacher as an authority, not too distant from a parent. A teacher sees a child as a child; in terms of relationships, it is likely a parent-child relationship, modeled on the only parent child relationship most teachers have ever had, their own. An adult sees a teacher as an expert, one whose advice is to be paid for, valued, questioned, and occasionally checked with a second opinion, like he does with his doctor, accountant, and auto mechanic. These expectations are rarely explicit and can clash without the reason being apparent.

Then there are some characteristics of the older learner. Yes, conceptually they may learn some things faster than a child, particularly if they bring a musical context from other study. Physically is another story.

The standard wisdom about adults is that they 1) have declines in memory 2) have declines in the ability to multitask 3) have reduced speed of information input (not depth nor volume, but speed) and 4) have decrements in timing/rhythm (the reason senior golfers can't compete - alignment at impact is completely dependent on timing).

To the extent any of these are true for any given individual, teaching will have to adjust to accommodate it.

For example, skills that are often taught in a package to children may need to be separated and learned individually because of the multitasking problem. Due to the speed at which memory fades, practice at least daily is probably mandatory. The speed of information flow means the teacher has to always be aware when she feeds information too fast for understanding.

Or not, of course, I'm just thinking out loud. I haven't skipped a daily practice session in many years, so I'm trying to implement my theories. hee, hee. I try for three sessions, hope for two, but never skip that one session. And I work with a metronome regularly, plus one month a year I do an hour a day with it, trying to keep rhythm from fading as I complete my 5th decade. Big 60 in a couple of months.
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#2002844 - 12/21/12 08:25 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: Jeff Clef]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
If you can get a new student to fork it over and sign the contract--- but wait--- we haven't heard anyone say they have! Except, maybe, John.

No, I only charge a month's tuition at a time.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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#2002846 - 12/21/12 08:28 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
ezpiano.org Online   content
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Registered: 05/10/11
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Loc: Irvine, CA
Quote:
ezpiano, can students graduate out of FFAT and become regular students who practice regularly and follow instructions and show up weekly?


Yes! Of course! After one year of showing commitment, they can opt in into the regular weekly lesson only if they choose to. However, so far they are addicted to the flexibility and choose not to opt in.

I like this model a lot so that I do not need to take their attendance, or keep track of how many lessons has been missed and how many lessons they need to have make ups. There will be no makeups needed. I will have only happy adult students that will keep my sanity and also make my days happy too!!

The only downside of this model is that students in this group usually will take the time slots that no other people wanted. Since they are not paying me up front, so I am not obligated to reserve a slot for them.
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#2002847 - 12/21/12 08:30 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: ezpiano.org]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3019
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Quote:
ezpiano, can students graduate out of FFAT and become regular students who practice regularly and follow instructions and show up weekly?


Yes! Of course! After one year of showing commitment, they can opt in into the regular weekly lesson only if they choose to. However, so far they are addicted to the flexibility and choose not to opt in.



Do you think weekly lessons are optimum for adults?

They are wasted on me, as I take much longer to master a new skill. On the other hand, they do catch when you're going wrong before you've gone too far down the path.

The weekly lesson model that works for children may not be ideal for the adult.
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#2002853 - 12/21/12 09:16 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
keystring Online   content
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John, I had forgotten that our posts usually have different thrusts. You respond directly to the question by the asker. I consider the many people who may ponder the issue now and in the future, and go after a more comprehensive picture. In this sense we address "different things". This gives different angles, rather than conflict. Meanwhile reading your posts also gives me a better idea of what you are saying.

You are addressing a very basic thing: willing to spend 5 hours/week practising over several years with regular attendance of lessons. You are right that this requirement can be found anywhere on Google.

I was going to something coming after that point. Supposing your adult who has never had lessons commits to this, and is sincere about it. I don't know what percentage that is. This is the group I'm interested in. In teaching we foresee things. For example, a 5 year old has a lower attention span, small muscles and fine coordination are not fully developed, and thinking is concrete more than abstract. In teaching we keep these things in mind. If you teach a 5 year old using big words, spouting theories, in a 90 minute lesson you may have problems with the student for that reason. So the nature and level of your student is a factor. Can there be such things for adult students that trip things up even if they do commit?

I've listed a few such things. I won't repeat them since they are in this thread.

But what I'm understanding is that you are stopping before that point. It's at the simpler idea of agreeing to commit to those hours of practice consistently, the regular practice, and following through on it. Your point is that you are encountering people who throw themselves into things without thinking them through. Obviously no professional person wants to work that way. However, there are different scenarios and I tried to throw in the kitchen sink for those scenarios.




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#2002859 - 12/21/12 09:30 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: keystring]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Registered: 03/18/06
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You know, we'd actually make a fairly good team, covering all the angles! Have a great weekend. I've got to catch up on my PMs.
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#2002860 - 12/21/12 09:32 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: TimR]
jdw Offline
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Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 809
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
Originally Posted By: TimR
as I complete my 5th decade. Big 60 in a couple of months.


Hate to quibble, but if 60 is in a couple of months, you're completing your 6th decade.
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#2002872 - 12/21/12 10:06 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
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Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
You know, we'd actually make a fairly good team, covering all the angles! Have a great weekend. I've got to catch up on my PMs.

That's a positive thought. I like it. smile

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#2003033 - 12/22/12 10:27 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: keystring]
malkin Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
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Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
You know, we'd actually make a fairly good team, covering all the angles! Have a great weekend. I've got to catch up on my PMs.

That's a positive thought. I like it. smile


An internet forum at its best, to my way for thinking.
Thanks guys.
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#2003111 - 12/22/12 02:06 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: malkin]
adultpianist Offline
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Registered: 12/01/12
Posts: 539
Surely an adult would be enthusiastic and willing to learn because he or she makes their mind up to learn. Children are told by their parents that they must learn the instrument and therefore have to do as they are told whether they like it or not. My cousin in Australia is a music teacher. She teaches the flute. She can also play the piano. She has enrolled her 6 year old daughter in piano lessons and the child does not like it, won't practice and has temper tantrums. My cousin makes her do it for her own good and pracically forces her to sit at the piano to practice with the kid screaming I do not like it, it is boring. Her mother on the other hand tells her she will benefit in the long run if she sticks at it.

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#2003137 - 12/22/12 03:19 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
ten left thumbs Offline
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Loc: Scotland
Yes, you would have thought, but not always. Some adults are motivated. Some aren't. It feels all that more frustrating, because somehow you imagine adults would be more sensible.
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#2003159 - 12/22/12 04:27 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
catpiano Offline
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Registered: 12/20/12
Posts: 55
I felt the exact same way as the OP when I was teaching at a music school for three years and had to take every student they gave me. I found the vast majority of adult beginners extremely frustrating for many different reasons, with a few exceptions. I have to agree that the ones who come in with no musical background whatsoever and still want to skip over the lesson books are the worst. Now that I'm only teaching privately, I don't take any adult beginners.

What really helped me get through lessons with these types of students was just to relax and not pressure myself. Don't let the student manipulate the lesson. Teach her with whatever materials you find appropriate, don't just let her play whatever she wants. If she doesn't like it she'll quit or find a new teacher, and that's okay.

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#2003161 - 12/22/12 04:31 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
keystring Online   content
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Adultpianist, a number of things can go wrong. The lessons can be started without thinking things through or getting basic information such as that it takes several years of lessons and consistent daily practice to get somewhere. So the student comes in with magical thinking, expecting to sound good in a matter of weeks, and dismayed that he doesn't sound like his teacher or favorite recording. He may think that learning happens in the lesson rather than in practice at home. He may also no know that it takes days of consistent practice for things to gel in any week: day 1 ain't great. There is a story which may be an urban legend, where a student says "I want to learn to play the piano. What date should I come?" (one-time deal). laugh

The result is a student who takes a few weeks of lessons, and quits.

Another: That adults have "busy lives", can only take lessons on unpredictable dates when they happen to be free, and cannot practice regularly because of adult responsibilities. This doesn't work well (ineffective), and it's inconvenient for teachers, who must organize their schedule among all students.
Some teachers make such arrangements, but know that you don't go far that way.

Another: "shopping list - pick 'n choose". I will do some of the things you tell me, not others, and I want you to do things I read about on the Internet. I want to do piece X now. - A good teacher develops skills in stages and has an overall plan combined with observation. He may ask you to do "thing x" knowing it will cause "thing y" to develop, and build on it. If a student picks and chooses that won't work. He may choose a piece because of what it teaches, and "piece X" won't do the trick.

If a student replaces the teacher's instruction with a whim of his own, then the teacher can't tell whether what he is teaching works for this student, and there is no chance for it to work. It's like building a piece of furniture and overnight the furniture knocks out some nails, reshapes the wood and in the morning the carpenter has to start with fixing things rather than continuing. Or maybe gardening or programming is a better analogy, where dynamics things happen.

Another thing again is a basic misconception. The result of practice is not expected to be perfection, while the result of homework should be as perfect as possible. You are building skills, refining the ability to hear, etc., and these are things in a stage of development. When a student comes in after practicing, a good teacher looks at "what do we build from this point on?". Weaknesses are "points to build on" and weaknesses are accepted and ok. Adults freak out if they don't know that, and may be discouraged to the point of no longer wanting to practice. They try to prove how well they can play so that the teacher won't abandon them as "untalented", which teachers often see as arrogance and showing off. That's a major misunderstanding.

These are the major things that go wrong, which results in many teachers not wanting to teach adults. By the time you come along, that teacher may have had 10 bad experiences, and expects the same from you.

Meanwhile there is also a niche that teaches toward those attitudes. I don't think one can get to any level of musicianship that way, and believe in being preemptive; to tell a prospective teacher from the start that you want to get the skills, and are willing to do the work. Then you have to prove it by doing so.
Quote:
My cousin makes her do it for her own good and practically forces her to sit at the piano to practice with the kid screaming I do not like it, it is boring. Her mother on the other hand tells her she will benefit in the long run if she sticks at it.

Adults don't have a parent forcing them to sit at the piano to practice. Very possible children are not gifted with a wonderful attitude that suddenly disappears when they grow up, making adults dread students, but rather they have somebody pushing them. We have to do our own pushing, as well as ignoring others around us who don't take us seriously.


Edited by keystring (12/22/12 04:32 PM)

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#2003221 - 12/22/12 07:18 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: keystring]
adultpianist Offline
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Registered: 12/01/12
Posts: 539
Originally Posted By: keystring
Adultpianist, a number of things can go wrong. The lessons can be started without thinking things through or getting basic information such as that it takes several years of lessons and consistent daily practice to get somewhere. So the student comes in with magical thinking, expecting to sound good in a matter of weeks, and dismayed that he doesn't sound like his teacher or favorite recording. He may think that learning happens in the lesson rather than in practice at home. He may also no know that it takes days of consistent practice for things to gel in any week: day 1 ain't great. There is a story which may be an urban legend, where a student says "I want to learn to play the piano. What date should I come?" (one-time deal). laugh

The result is a student who takes a few weeks of lessons, and quits.

Another: That adults have "busy lives", can only take lessons on unpredictable dates when they happen to be free, and cannot practice regularly because of adult responsibilities. This doesn't work well (ineffective), and it's inconvenient for teachers, who must organize their schedule among all students.
Some teachers make such arrangements, but know that you don't go far that way.
Another: "shopping list - pick 'n choose". I will do some of the things you tell me, not others, and I want you to do things I read about on the Internet. I want to do piece X now. - A good teacher develops skills in stages and has an overall plan combined with observation. He may ask you to do "thing x" knowing it will cause "thing y" to develop, and build on it. If a student picks and chooses that won't work. He may choose a piece because of what it teaches, and "piece X" won't do the trick.

If a student replaces the teacher's instruction with a whim of his own, then the teacher can't tell whether what he is teaching works for this student, and there is no chance for it to work. It's like building a piece of furniture and overnight the furniture knocks out some nails, reshapes the wood and in the morning the carpenter has to start with fixing things rather than continuing. Or maybe gardening or programming is a better analogy, where dynamics things happen.

Another thing again is a basic misconception. The result of practice is not expected to be perfection, while the result of homework should be as perfect as possible. You are building skills, refining the ability to hear, etc., and these are things in a stage of development. When a student comes in after practicing, a good teacher looks at "what do we build from this point on?". Weaknesses are "points to build on" and weaknesses are accepted and ok. Adults freak out if they don't know that, and may be discouraged to the point of no longer wanting to practice. They try to prove how well they can play so that the teacher won't abandon them as "untalented", which teachers often see as arrogance and showing off. That's a major misunderstanding.

These are the major things that go wrong, which results in many teachers not wanting to teach adults. By the time you come along, that teacher may have had 10 bad experiences, and expects the same from you.

Meanwhile there is also a niche that teaches toward those attitudes. I don't think one can get to any level of musicianship that way, and believe in being preemptive; to tell a prospective teacher from the start that you want to get the skills, and are willing to do the work. Then you have to prove it by doing so.
Quote:
My cousin makes her do it for her own good and practically forces her to sit at the piano to practice with the kid screaming I do not like it, it is boring. Her mother on the other hand tells her she will benefit in the long run if she sticks at it.

Adults don't have a parent forcing them to sit at the piano to practice. Very possible children are not gifted with a wonderful attitude that suddenly disappears when they grow up, making adults dread students, but rather they have somebody pushing them. We have to do our own pushing, as well as ignoring others around us who don't take us seriously.


I am an adult with a busy life. However, when I signed up for lessons I asked which day the lessons were. I only had to choices because my teacher only teaches at the school two days a week. She teaches on a Saturday and a Wednesday. Since I work full time, and did not want to go after work to have a lesson, I opted for Saturday morning. I did early Saturday for a while because then that would leave the rest of the day free to do other things. That worked well for a while until I decided that I did not want to get up so early on my day off from work so I asked if I could swith to Wednesday evenings which I now do. In fact the school was glad because my lessons were originally at 9am on a Saturday and I was the only early morning student and the teacher came out to teach me at that time. Since I switched, they no longer accept pupils at 9am on Saturdays anymore as they now consider it too early and the earliest time they are prepared to come out and open the school is 9.30.

I never mess my teacher around, I always turn up for lessons (unless I am ill which is rare) and if I am on vacation which is pre-planned, I give as much advance notice as I can that I am not going to be around.

I figure that since I am interested enough to want to learn and the teacher is willing to teach me, then it is my duty to co-operate and turn up each week at the appointed time. I do all of my homework that is set and even go so far as to write down areas where I feel I am weak so we can work on those partiular areas the next lesson. I will mark in the score where I think I need extra help.

I am a model student lol whome

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#2003231 - 12/22/12 07:42 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: keystring]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: keystring
These are the major things that go wrong, which results in many teachers not wanting to teach adults. By the time you come along, that teacher may have had 10 bad experiences, and expects the same from you.

Nice summary, nicely put. And you'd be surprised how many potential adult students broadcast these problems when you're having an initial discussion.
_________________________
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#2003284 - 12/22/12 11:45 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
keystring Online   content
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I see a couple of distinct things there, John. You can have the student who comes in with an attitude and his mind is made up. You can have a student who has misperceptions because it's new and he doesn't know better; there some guidance is needed - even if it's an 'assignment' to do his homework, learn more, and then come back. There is also the specter of EXPECTATION: our experience with many people can have us misread the individual. These words must mean this thing because we've "heard it all before". The last is the one I fear personally.

As students I think it is important for us to know of these things, because many teachers will be "once bitten, twice shy". Otherwise the reactions we get are puzzling. There are also many students who do not have these attitudes, and for them to not have a chance, or to be taught toward shallower things unknowingly, is not a good thing.

The main thing for me is awareness, communication, and probably working together because it's not that black and white. I got wordy before because there is a lot there.

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#2003285 - 12/22/12 11:56 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
keystring Online   content
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John, one of your early examples made me think. You juxtaposed an advanced young student (gr. 8 so maybe 6 - 8 years of lessons?) and an adult beginner of 2 1/2 months. It may have been by chance because you had just taught that experienced young student while having the older one quit on you. But normally we would't be comparing a well trained student and one who has barely started. Unless the thought is that adults should have at least as much maturity as a preteen?

This whole thing made me wonder: how about a child with 6 weeks of lessons, vs. an adult with 6 weeks of lessons? Are they taught the same things? Is the adult moved faster because she is an adult and can understand more things faster? Is it more physical and playful for the child, and more with explanations for the adult? Is it more abstract for the child in the sense that the adult will quickly recognize melodies and so can't stay in the world of individual notes, sounds, motions? See, my thought has been that to get somewhere in music we actually do need to go through "childish stages" and the fact of our ability to conceptualize as we get older can actually get in the way. Similarly, if we "can go faster", should we? Or skipping all that ...... what about our adult with 6 weeks of lessons, and our child with 6 weeks of lessons? How do they compare?

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#2003297 - 12/23/12 12:34 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Elene Offline
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Registered: 12/26/07
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Interesting. I haven't taught music for about 5 years, so maybe, especially with Internet lessons becoming popular, there has been some kind of drastic change during that time. However, I taught for about 3 decades before that, and I doubt human nature has changed a whole lot. I mostly taught adults and teens. I didn't have problems with most adults, and I'd still prefer to teach them rather than kids. (Nothing against kids, though!)

I've never quit lessons myself, throughout my adult life, for any long period of time. A professional player who is my patient is in her early 80s and still takes lessons. My own teacher still takes lessons whenever possible. OK, we're not average, but we're not so far off the beaten track, either.

My daughter grew up with two musicians for parents, and didn't really appreciate lessons much when she was a kid. Now that she's almost 25, she's been expressing a desire to get more organized and proficient with her musical skills (she's a naturally able multi-instrumentalist but doesn't play anything at a very advanced level). And now she's asking me for help and valuing my advice more. I think that's maturity.

One definite plus with adult students is that since they're paying for lessons themselves, they are not likely to want to waste that time.

A great many adult students already have issues with some sort of perceived or real musical failure in their past. I can't count how many times someone called me and said something like, "I've always loved music, but when I was in kindergarten the teacher told me to just mouth the words because I was singing out of tune. I know I'm not going to be any good, but do you think you could put up with me for a little while and I'll try to learn something?" It horrifies me that so many of you are already expecting that an adult is going to be some sort of worthless deadbeat before he or she has even shown up for the first lesson. Those expectations are surely going to get through to the student. I'm very sad for both the student and the teacher in that situation.

I'm going to shut up and go practice now, because I take my lessons damned seriously.

Elene
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#2003333 - 12/23/12 03:51 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
adultpianist Offline
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Registered: 12/01/12
Posts: 539
When I decided to learn piano, I thought it would be easy. I did not realise how hard it would be and how much work was involved. I only watched the professional concert pianists who make it look so easy but did not really think about the hard graft that even they had to adhere to in order to get to where they are. Some are fortunate to learn like water off a ducks back. The Chinese enrol their kids in lessons at a very early age and I have watched some of them on Youtube and they are as young as 4 years old, playing very advanced classical music. Where do they get the discipline at such an age to be so advanced? The youtube link below shows such a kid and let me tell you that after four years of lessons myself, I could no more play what this kid is playing than fly to the moon. If this child is playing stuff like this as such a young age, imagine what he will be like when he grows up?

[video:youtube]http://youtu.be/e3oNVmSaMsE[/video]

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#2003334 - 12/23/12 03:56 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Toastie Offline
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Registered: 08/10/12
Posts: 208
Loc: UK
There are some really nice adult students on this thread. I always imagined everyone must be like us too, but sadly not. I have gathered this from my teacher's sheer delight that I complete all my homework to a high standard, turn up reliably, pay on time, express my genuine thanks and enjoyment, do all my work etc. I'm not saying I'm a great student, just that I do the things I'm supposed to, but evidently it's not unusual for others not to which really surprised me. I don't know how quickly it's possible to tell how someone will turn out though, so don't write us all off too quickly:

I started off exactly like the students described in the first post myself - I groan when I read this stuff now, because my teacher must have found me quite terrible. I was quiet and awkward (because I'm shy and because it's true that it really is hideous to suddenly be so bad at something at this age), but I must have seemed miserable and surly like I didn't want to be there. Also I asked every dumb question in my first lesson that people complain about on here. I even said that I didn't want to read music, that I didn't have long to spend practising each day and insisted that I only wanted to learn pop songs. I said all these things because i didnt know anything about piano or what I wanted. Thankfully my teacher listened to all this very seriously (whilst probably cringing on the inside) and then gently - not immediately - made me a bit more informed on what I really needed to do. And then.... I went out and immediately bought myself a 61 key unweighted keyboard (the horror). This reads like a nightmare doesn't it, yet I am glad my teacher didn't write me off as just another dreary adult student, as now I have my own piano, practise all the time, think/talk about piano non-stop and really love my lessons.

Though I think if I had been asked to pay a year's tuition in advance as someone suggested then i wouldn't have done it. The commitment involved in an annual magazine subscription freaks me out a little to be honest, and that's way smaller than spending half an hour every week in someone's home who you may or may not like, doing something you may or may not enjoy. Even a monthly gym pass is the surest way to make sure I NEVER attend the gym. A year's payment would have scared me off!!

P.S. I wrote this yesterday, forgot to hit submit, the discussion has moved on and I'm not really sure this fits in now, but have added it anyway.


Edited by Toastie (12/23/12 04:01 AM)
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#2003364 - 12/23/12 05:56 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: Toastie]
ten left thumbs Offline
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Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3328
Loc: Scotland
Originally Posted By: Toastie

I started off exactly like the students described in the first post myself - ... (because I'm shy and because it's true that it really is hideous to suddenly be so bad at something at this age),


You weren't 'bad' you were a beginner. I was a beginner once too. If I took up violin, I would be a beginner at that.

If you are a teacher it is your professional duty to see a beginner as a beginner and not as 'bad'. That is my opinion anyway.

The difference between adults and children is adults have more experience and children have great imaginations. Children imagine they sound great, so they keep going, and amazingly, they make progress. Adults know they sound like beginners, they aspire to better, and they think they may get there by being clever, concentrating hard, playing a difficult piece. Some work out they can only get there by hard patient graft. And some just go on in their fantasy world, and they can be really hard to deal with.
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#2003379 - 12/23/12 06:56 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Nannerl Mozart Offline
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Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
I've been following this thread and I am very baffled to the types of adult students described here. Having said that I do happen to fall into that category of adult student - but I am an undergraduate music major so I suppose it's different.

Pianogirl, I started teaching a few adult students years ago. They were friends of mine and they respected me. They were friends, so they had seen me perform and get places in competitions, they were recipients of the news when I found out I made it into a good music school. Everything that I said was seen as gospel, they never questioned the importance of technique, or the importance of theory... I don't mind people questioning things but sometimes it can be unnerving when a ten year old throws a tantrum over me assigning technical work.

The thing is, with adults they do have their excuses, they have personal issues and busy lives to attend to, sure they signed up for lessons and should have bared in mind that it takes hard work and practice to learn an instrument but maybe it would help if you listened to their excuses. Listening is a powerful thing - sometimes this gives you a peep into their world and you might be able to give them some insight and potentially assist them in fixing their problem related to their lack of practice.

Besides this, I've noticed adults, even in my experience as an adult learner I can get frustrated easily. I've experienced this, I have a lot of empathy for people who want to be good at something quickly but aren't. I remember the time I tried to draw, and what I ended up drawing was something that looked like Van Gogh gone wrong. I was very frustrated because I wanted to be as good as my visual artist friend. Adults can be very judgmental of their mistakes, they might come to expect too much and they might get flustered in the process when they can't get it right.


For the student that seems disinterested - maybe you could ask her if everything is ok - tell her she looks very agitated, maybe you'd be surprised by her answer.
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#2003393 - 12/23/12 07:43 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: adultpianist]
adultpianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/01/12
Posts: 539
Originally Posted By: adultpianist
When I decided to learn piano, I thought it would be easy. I did not realise how hard it would be and how much work was involved. I only watched the professional concert pianists who make it look so easy but did not really think about the hard graft that even they had to adhere to in order to get to where they are. Some are fortunate to learn like water off a ducks back. The Chinese enrol their kids in lessons at a very early age and I have watched some of them on Youtube and they are as young as 4 years old, playing very advanced classical music. Where do they get the discipline at such an age to be so advanced? The youtube link below shows such a kid and let me tell you that after four years of lessons myself, I could no more play what this kid is playing than fly to the moon. If this child is playing stuff like this as such a young age, imagine what he will be like when he grows up?

[video:youtube]http://youtu.be/e3oNVmSaMsE[/video]



I am curious about the boy in this above video link. Can anyone explain how a kid of his age can be so good?

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#2003420 - 12/23/12 09:00 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: adultpianist]
justpin Offline
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Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 504
Loc: Holmes Chapel
That is no ordinary kid. That kid is famous in Hong Kong and around the world as being a prodigy, he'll probably grow to be the next Lang Lang. Look at it this way I live in the UK and I've heard of him.

But poking around his other videos and listening to what they say

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kt8hBeu8MBY

He's been taught by a piano master I can't quite hear the name, he started at 3 1/2 years old* and has been playing for 2 years. The piano and violin teaching market in HK is SUPER competitive. They will put out pass rates and make massive promises and keep them as the teaching style is harsh.

*I can't tell which age convention they are using, so he might have started at 2 years old. My dad counts Chinese age as you are 1 when you are born. Mother counts me as 0 when I am born.


Shame, undermining, the cane (yes you read that right caning), are all completely valid tactics to use as a teacher.

Teachers will also filter. So if they get a lousy slow learning student like me even if the money is good. They will dump you as it affects their own results. When I mush something up, I laugh about it and my teacher says never mind have another go, my cousin who gave up was made to feel worthless and usless when she mushed up a piece.

heck when I go to HK and play for fun in the music shops people bloody judge me and tell me I'm rubbish... mad

Secondly he is Chinese.

Chinese are legendary for tiger parenting, i.e. western children get pushed sometimes. Chinese tiger parenting is horrendous. That kid will have been made to play until his fingers bleed and then TOLD, TOLD not asked TOLD to keep on playing and pushed constantly.

By parents, teachers, and peers.

I split my finger, I'll slack off for a day or two while it heals.

Have a look on youtube of eagle father

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idcNmm6B-Qw


Edited by justpin (12/23/12 09:02 AM)

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#2003480 - 12/23/12 11:53 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11206
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There is no use to watching kids and wondering why they are as good as they are. That particular boy probably has unusual talent and has been guided since he was very young. We're not 5 so this isn't useful. Instead, watch people who are playing well, and see what it is they are doing to make their music sound good. What are they doing physically. What decisions are they making: louder, pause, longer note - and why. What can you learn? Does it give you any questions to ask your teacher? And also watch and listen simply in order to enjoy good playing.

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#2003481 - 12/23/12 11:53 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: justpin]
adultpianist Offline
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Registered: 12/01/12
Posts: 539
That is cruel. It is also cruel to make a kid of that age play piano like that. Yes the kid is good but at the cost of his childhood? Some people do not deserve to have children.

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#2003506 - 12/23/12 01:29 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: ten left thumbs]
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11206
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs


You weren't 'bad' you were a beginner. I was a beginner once too. If I took up violin, I would be a beginner at that.

If you are a teacher it is your professional duty to see a beginner as a beginner and not as 'bad'. That is my opinion anyway.

The difference between adults and children is adults have more experience and children have great imaginations. Children imagine they sound great, so they keep going, and amazingly, they make progress. Adults know they sound like beginners, they aspire to better, and they think they may get there by being clever, concentrating hard, playing a difficult piece. Some work out they can only get there by hard patient graft. And some just go on in their fantasy world, and they can be really hard to deal with.

TLT, thank you for your post.

The definition of a beginner is somebody who doesn't know things yet and makes mistakes. That includes doing stupid things. If that were not so, why go to a teacher?

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#2003550 - 12/23/12 03:25 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: keystring]
adultpianist Offline
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It has taken me until Grade 3 level to undestand that being a good pianist means alot of hard work and graft. It will not happen by magic overnight.

Maybe by the time I retire I will be an accomplished pianist (that will mean I will have had 20 years of practice).

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#2003572 - 12/23/12 04:37 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Piano Again Offline
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This essay by Matt Harre seems relevant to this discussion:

Freeing the Fossils
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#2003578 - 12/23/12 04:59 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: Toastie]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Toastie
I have gathered this from my teacher's sheer delight that I complete all my homework to a high standard, turn up reliably, pay on time, express my genuine thanks and enjoyment, do all my work etc. I'm not saying I'm a great student, just that I do the things I'm supposed to, but evidently it's not unusual for others not to which really surprised me.

That is something that surprised me too when I first came on this forum. It wasn't just about adults though. The fact that my child, who preceded me as he entered his teens, did his assignments and came to lessons prepared, apparently is unusual. I am thinking that if there is a problem, that it is not just with adults. Kids will have a parent nagging them, and if the parent doesn't support the teacher's efforts, then the teacher may have a problem with the kids and the parents.

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#2003606 - 12/23/12 06:12 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: Piano Again]
CHAS Offline
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Thanks
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#2003609 - 12/23/12 06:18 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
jdw Offline
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OT, but this thread is my first encounter with this usage of "graft" to mean toil. Is this British idiom? (Here in the US graft means something different.)
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#2003635 - 12/23/12 07:28 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: jdw]
malkin Offline
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Originally Posted By: jdw
OT, but this thread is my first encounter with this usage of "graft" to mean toil. Is this British idiom? (Here in the US graft means something different.)


Same for me.
Webster says the 'work' sense of graft is chiefly British. Interesting that the first definition is the horticultural one and the more sinister one is later down the list.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/graft
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#2003677 - 12/23/12 09:29 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: CHAS]
Piano Again Offline
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You're welcome.
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#2003900 - 12/24/12 10:58 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Morodiene Offline
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I'm coming in late to this conversation, and haven't quite had time to read through it all first. So hopefully what I have to say isn't a repeat.

Just a couple of thoughts:

-The OP may not be a good match for this student. If this is the case, then the teacher should initiate a conversation about this with the student and have a list of alternative teachers who take adults that she could go to.

-The OP needs to understand that a part of teaching adults has to do with overcoming resistance to learning and motivation that often are quite different than the same issues in children. This kind of thing is not for everyone, and if the OP is not interested in learning these techniques and being patient, then perhaps it's best they stick to teaching children only.

I've encountered this same issue with many of my adult students. Some persist and overcome it, others realize the work and quit. I usually let them decide that it's not working, rather than me rejecting them and possibly making it worse if they ever decide to study in the future. The ones that do overcome their own perfectionism and defeatist mentality tend to stick around for a long time. There are seasons when they don't practice and lack motivation, just like we get too, and it's my job to help them understand that it's OK when that happens, but to get right back on that horse.
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#2101260 - 06/11/13 11:56 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: Morodiene]
pianogirl1978 Offline
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And.... I was right. She just quit - after taking for exactly 6 months. Good riddance!
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#2101292 - 06/12/13 01:51 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
ten left thumbs Offline
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I'd just like to point out that we're free to stop taking on adults/drop the ones that are too annoying. It's a free world and no one forces me to teach! laugh

Pianogirl, glad you have a resolution!
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#2103207 - 06/16/13 08:13 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
JazzyMac Offline
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I'm not sure if OP ever said if she talked to the student or tried to see what was going on. Six months is a long time when you're a beginner.

I do have to say, my teacher just dove right into Alfred's and some theory when we started lessons. She has a "master plan" that has worked for her all these years...and I'm okay with it! But, I still have to squeeze in questions here and there.
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#2103907 - 06/17/13 03:36 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
laguna_greg Offline
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I'm sorry to be coming into the conversation so late. I got busy a few days ago and could only lurk and read. so I hope this is still of interest.

I have a very different approach to teaching adult beginners. Because of the focus of my studio, I get very few of them. I studied in France for a few years, and the experience really changed my perspective about the philosophical priorities of teaching beginners, and adults in particular.

Adults require quite a different approach than kids intellectually. Since they have a much greater intellectual capacity and have a lot of experience in the world, they are easily and quickly bored by the typical adult "method" used in this country.

So when I got back from France, I decided to reorder the whole thing. I put together rhythm and note reading exercises that I'd used in college, and from Paul Hindemeth's method with my own twist. I included 4 chapters from Aaron Copland's books, "what to Listen for in Music" as a basis for talking about harmony and form. And I also compiled several chapters on music history and notable musicians from Will and Ariel Durant's histories of Western Europe, so they'd also get some idea about how common practice tonality eveolved. This became my theoretical method for teaching beginners.

When beginners over the age of 12 come for an interview, I tell them very clearly that they will not be working at the instrument for a few months. First, they will have to work through pitch-reading and rhythm training until I'm satisfied that their reading is strong enough to make it all the way through the second year of literature before they can even touch the piano. Then I make them do the first exercises of each of those right then at the interview. Then I go over to the piano, and show them what they'll be starting to play in about 3 months: The C major prelude from the 1st book of Bach's Well-Tempered.

Everybody goes nuts about the Bach. They can't imagine that they'll be able to play THAT, EVER!!!! Then I say good by, and tell them to go home and 1- read my studio policy very carefully, and 2- think about whether they want to work that hard. Anybody who's not serious never calls me back. The others, call in a day or two to arrange the first lesson.

Adults need a good deal of inspiration in order to keep focused on their goals. They all start out handicapped with the belief that this is impossible, and they can't do it. The readings in theory and history help them stay interested in what is initially a very dry and tedious study with few noticeable rewards. We work through the rhythm and note-reading while reading the Copland, which I explain in even more detail at the lessons. By the time we get to the chapter on harmony, about 3 weeks, their pitch-recognition and interval reading is just strong enough to start analyzing chords in a very simple way. So I pull out the Bach, and make them figure out the root-position triad in the first measure. Once they realize they can do it, and without much help from me, they are much more motivated to continue.

About this time, I let them try scales. We have already read about them in the Copland, and they can grasp what a circle of 5ths might be so it all dovetails beautifully. About this time, we start also reading the history, one chapter a week. The story of the development of Western Art Music is a fascinating one that we can talk about endlessly. The reading puts their study into a much broader context that they had no idea existed. Also about this time, I start giving them examples to listen to on Youtube, and we discuss them at the lesson.

Sometime about week 8, I give them the Bartok Mikrokosmos I and have them sight-read the first 10 pieces. This introduces the idea and experience of dissonance in a very practical way, so we can start talking about tritones and their resolution. They've been doing simple chord analyses for about 3 weeks, so this is not merely an abstract concept. If this goes well, then we start analyzing all the chords in the first two phrases in the Bach. They can usually figure out everything except the borrowed dominants, which I explain to them. If that goes well, I make them start playing the triads blocked, and make them memorize the progression. After a couple of weeks of that, I make them play the first 4 measures as written, which they can all do. And then they freak out.

I do not expect my adult students to keep a perfect practice schedule. They simply can't promise that. So I make sure, in the first few months, that there's plenty to do aside from just go over the exercises. We talk about the history a lot, which people find very interesting. We do some listening, at the piano and on the stereo, especially about the evolution from modal counterpoint to tonal homophony. Sometime in the 3rd month we also start formal ear training exercises on a very inconsistent basis. if they haven't practiced certain key lessons, I make them do them in front of me at the lesson.

By month 4, we've worked through the 1st half of the Bach, which they've memorized. We're about to finish up the Bartok, so I give them a big pile of 1st and 2nd grade music to take home and read through. I check their progress with that periodically, but most adults can get through it in about 6-10 weeks. By that time, the Bach has become a holy grail that they're going to finish and play for their mother, or at a Christmas family event, or something. You couldn't pry it out of their cold-dead fingers.

By month 6, a lot of people have finished the Bach. Their pitch-reading and rhythm decoding are very strong and ahead of their grade. They can do basic harmonic analysis, they understand and play scales, they read easily at a first- or second-grade level, and they can usually take a simple dictation with few errors. They know just enough to be dangerous, but they have accomplished at least one thing and they sort of know where they are going.

I know it seems like a lot, but for the teenager or adult beginner of average intelligence and coordination, this can all be done right at the beginning. The teacher is kept very busy during the lessons, but it's a lot more fun than the other way!


Edited by laguna_greg (06/17/13 03:47 PM)
Edit Reason: thought of something
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#2103934 - 06/17/13 04:14 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: laguna_greg]
keystring Online   content
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Laguna Greg, trying to get a better picture, so a couple of first questions. So your students are studying music away from the keyboard. "Reading" would be reading written notation, maybe naming the notes, or maybe singing? But reading at this point would not involve association the notes on the page with the notes on the piano, since they are not working at the piano for 3 or 4 weeks, correct?

So then they go to the piano and they play a scale. As soon as you play more than 4 notes you run out fingers for scales. Do you give them the thumb crossover, or do they just do it any which way for now? Scales in different keys?

Then they sight read a few lines. How do they associate the notes on the page with the notes on the piano?

Because of the things that are my personal priority, I am wondering about technique - i.e. the quality of the music and the eventual quality of the music. You have not mentioned this. How does this part go?

Also, since adult students cover a range of 60 - 80 years, with wide backgrounds, do you have adults who have goals or interests that are different from the ones you have mentioned, and if so can they be accommodated by different routines? What, for example, if someone who wishes to learn like a child?

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#2103969 - 06/17/13 05:46 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: keystring]
laguna_greg Offline
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Hi keystring,

"So your students are studying music away from the keyboard."

Yes. This is usually done at my dining table. Moving to the piano is a moment celebrated with much formality and ceremony,

" Do you give them the thumb crossover, or do they just do it any which way for now?"

We do a one-octave scale each hand the first time around the circle of 5ths, standard fingering, along with blocked chords and inversions. We start at C, and do all the sharp scales first, then the flat scales, then the minors in the same order. We don't skip anything. Yes, I show them crossing under the thumb. They're adults, for pity's sake! They can handle it just fine if a little awkwardly at first.

"Then they sight read a few lines. How do they associate the notes on the page with the notes on the piano?"

There are two ways of looking at that. They will not "sight-read" anything for several weeks (dechiffrage sur place, disent-ils les francais), yet at the same time they are sight-reading all the time. Associating notes with keys at the piano takes about twenty minutes of me pointing it out to them, and a couple of weeks of familiarity and me pointing it out to them some more. The problem with "reading" is decoding pitches and rhythm groups with some confidence, and learning to feel and hear it in your head. By comparison, learning the keys on the piano takes no effort at all for most people. The relationship becomes painfully and boringly obvious once we start scales.

"Because of the things that are my personal priority, I am wondering about technique"

This is also a concern of mine as well. But really, what technique are you going to teach a rank beginner after just a few lessons? I was a long-time teaching assistant at the Taubman Institute in the 80s and 90s, so my perspective about technique is quite different from other people. At the very first, I don't make them worry too much about how they are doing things physically. They can't do much anyway, and it will just make them overly self-conscious. But as the lessons progress, and their intellectual and physical knowledge of that Bach prelude increases, they can do more. I usually introduce ideas about legato and tone production. The very first blocked chords they play are an abject lesson in keystroke timing, tone quality, support, and unification of the upper extremity that can all be taught very simply and directly. Could there be any other techniques that should be taught at this point?

Scale-playing requires more refinement of the movement pattern than almost any other skill at the keyboard. But that is the study of a lifetime. In the beginning, I just talk about connecting, the walking arm, and the proper use of the thumb if you're familiar with Taubman's technical ideas. I also talk about alignment and support, but I don't make an issue of "hand position" per se unless the hand is severely collapsed. The rest can all be improved and refined over time.

"...and the eventual quality of the music."

Naturally! At first they can't make it sound like anything at all, and they hear it just as well as I do. But as their confidence increases, and their physical and intellectual knowledge firms, they can do more. By the second lesson on the Bach, I talk about physical and sonic legato. At the very end, I can get most students to start putting in dynamic inflections that give their playing a lot of color and shape. Since they've studied the harmony, they can use the harmonic progression as a way to think about shaping the phrase if you point it out to them. Most of my beginners, if they are old enough to do this piece, can usually make that Bach sound very much like Angela Hewitt's CD when they're done.

"...do you have adults who have goals or interests that are different from the ones you have mentioned, and if so can they be accommodated by different routines?"

Yes, I've worked with adults who had other ideas, especially those who want to really study jazz. However, I make every beginner follow this syllabus for the first 6 months or year and especially the adults. I can guarantee a certain outcome at a fairly high level of knowledge and ability if they follow it, one they will not achieve if they follow other methods for the same length of time. I'm not interested in teaching another syllabus, so I'm happy to recommend other teachers if they think they should be doing something else.


Edited by laguna_greg (06/17/13 10:34 PM)
Edit Reason: even more more oops
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#2104202 - 06/18/13 03:37 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Bobpickle Offline

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An intriguing methodology, Laguna. Thank you very much for sharing.
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#2105086 - 06/19/13 09:56 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: laguna_greg]
keystring Online   content
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Thank you for the response, laguna-greg. I'm sorry that I couldn't get back to it until now.

I'm still getting the picture on reading so I hope you don't mind me combining your first and second post on the subject:
Originally Posted By: laguna>greg

First, they will have to work through pitch-reading and rhythm training until I'm satisfied that their reading is strong enough to make it all the way through the second year of literature before they can even touch the piano. .......
(2nd post - answer)....The problem with "reading" is decoding pitches and rhythm groups with some confidence, and learning to feel and hear it in your head.


You have mentioned pitch in each of these. What does that mean? Does it mean that during the non-piano phase they give names of pitches, i.e. you see A on the page and say "A"? Does it mean that they see A on the page and produce the pitch of A (sight singing)?

So then three weeks later they go to the piano after doing these studies. You show them the piano keys and since there are only 7 of them they get that part fast as you say. If "pitch" means names of pitches, then they see A on the page and press the piano key that they know is A? Or (less likely) if they can sing the pitches, then they are able to find those sounds on the piano and reproduce them? Intervals would come in either way in the same manner.

I'm hung up first of all by what you mean by "pitch".

The Bach C major Prelude is pretty straightforward because of the nature of the piece, and so is the rest of what you are saying.

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#2105233 - 06/20/13 08:12 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: keystring]
TimR Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring
The Bach C major Prelude is pretty straightforward because of the nature of the piece, and so is the rest of what you are saying.


I too wonder how he's using the word pitch.

That Prelude is a straightforward chord progression so it probably is a good teaching tool for adults with intellectual leanings. When I worked on it I rewrote it as chords. Surprise, it fits on half a page instead of four!

My impression then was that it's fairly accessible if fingered correctly and impossible if not. There was no way I could figure the fingering out on my own, either. Well.......pretty much true of all Bach!
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#2106365 - 06/22/13 05:31 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Stefan_Banach Offline
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Reply to post #2002561 (page 1).

As an amateur, almost self taught, I have some other views on this.

I find that the important thing is to try to avoid the situation where the student just find it boring and quit. Then you say "I said so!". Well, what a surprise!

If the student want to play more popular tunes, but you think it is to early for that, try another approach.
Take some piece the student want to play, simplify it to an almost trivial level, write it down and let her try to learn it. Maybe just a couple of bars at the time.

If she really want to learn to play, she certainly will ask for more! Then you increase the level, in small steps.

Do NOT drown the poor student in an overwhelming amount of scales, formal theory and boring etudes! It must be FUN to play, otherwise they certainly drop off.

I still wonder why teachers always prefer the classical etudes, scales and other boring stuff, and reject the fun part? As a teacher you are there for your student, not the other way around!
No one wins when teachers see them selves as professionals with unrealistic high demands, trying to uphold that standard at any cost. Then you can be certain that the student quit. But why being surprised then?

I can´t write about my own horrible experience with piano teachers in a few words. It´ll be a thick book.
Still, after more than 40 years, pompous piano teachers triggers a lot of anger and wrath in me. Playing should be fun, not a pain!

As a teacher, it is your duty to make it fun.
If you won´t, then at least don´t try to blame it on the student!


Edited by Stefan_Banach (06/22/13 05:50 PM)
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#2106366 - 06/22/13 05:42 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
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Stefan, the real problem is not overwhelming amounts of scales, studies, incomprehensible theory and stiff attitudes. The real problem is that the ability to teach well is rare. There has to be understanding of knowledge, not just regurgitating what you yourself were taught without knowing what is important, why it's important, and how to transmit it. The "classical scales, etudes, theories" in and of themselves are just rituals. The student who gets only "fun" is as deprived as the student who gets what you describe. Really good teaching is a rare treasure. Of course you need good students and good student behaviour for it to work --- but then the guidance has to be there. It's not chicken and egg exactly, but more like a balance (synergy?).

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#2106381 - 06/22/13 06:12 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: keystring]
Stefan_Banach Offline
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Yes, I can agree on that.

Of, course, it can´t be just the fun part! But in the absolute beginning, with a completely new student, the teacher could proceed slowly, at least for a start. The main reason is to avoid a disappointed student soon quitting.

Start with the fun part. But when say the first piece is finished, then add some formal stuff. Then increase the level and formal content gradually.

At least that is how I imagine a teacher could begin the training in a smooth way.


A note.
I am NOT educating students. However, I am interested in the learning process because of my own rather excentric way of playing and learning. Unfortunately, these methods (mainly by ear) are difficult to explain in words. I would absolutely not recommend any student to use such narrow methods because they will end up with serious lack of abilities (reading, theory etc).


Edited by Stefan_Banach (06/22/13 07:32 PM)
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#2107139 - 06/24/13 10:49 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: Stefan_Banach]
laguna_greg Offline
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Hi Steven,

I agree that learning the piano should be interesting and fun, especially for adults. It's too bad you had such a difficult time with your teachers. There's no real reason for that to happen.

It is my firm belief that the greatest difficulty that beginning students encounter is that of reading. Reading music is a skill that is very difficult to acquire. As it is taught here in the US, the first two years of teaching literature are devoted to presenting increasingly sophisticated pitch recognition and rhythm patterns. For young children, this usually works well as their verbal language skills are still going through a great deal of development. Reading anything poses a challenge that only time will conquer.

However, anyone over the age of 10 or 12 is neurophysically ready to read easily. Their intellectual capacity, verbal reading skills and physical coordination make it possible to move very quickly through the first two or three years of teaching literature, if only they could read it. But they can't! Our pedagogical methods do not require people to read much of anything except in the most abstract way. So when a beginner meets a somewhat sophisticated rhythm pattern, or a big enough chord, they can't figure out how to play it. And they certainly have no idea what it should sound like because they can't hear anything.

Music is a language, and it should be taught like one. The printed music score is a road map to sound and meaning, just like a book is. We teach the student music theory because it 1- makes it easier to read and learn a score, and 2- it helps the student find meaning in the music. Musicians should be able to read it just like a newspaper, and without an instrument to tell them what it sounds like.

Conductors, for example, don't have an instrument to practice on. Their hearing/listening and reading skill must be at the highest level possible because they must prepare a score for rehearsal without ever hearing it live. If they can't, the orchestra will eat them for breakfast, and no one will hire them for a job. My first teacher was a conductor, and she learned her orchestral scores by reading them while lying in a tub full of hot water with a board across the top, marking the score up with a soft lead pencil. It took her about two weeks to learn a Mozart symphony from memory that way.

We should all be taught to read a score like that.

The thing I like most about my approach is that by the end of two or three months, the student has enough reading/listening skills that 1- they can very carefully sight-read the first two years of teaching literature easily, and 2- they are more or less independent of any teacher in preparing these teaching pieces for a lesson. It only takes a few months to get the older beginner to this level. The rest of the year is spent reinforcing what they've already learned, helping them overcome whatever physical difficulties the pieces present, and exploring pieces that interest them and that are at their level.
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#2107439 - 06/24/13 08:30 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
keystring Online   content
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Laguna_Greg, this is the second time that you have mentioned "pitch recognition", and I still have the same question in trying to picture it.

Ok, so you have a beginner who has no experience with music, and you have a score or notation. Those notes are circles sitting on lines and spaces on something called a "staff" and their position represents pitches. We give those pitches names like A, B, C. In simple diatonic music they are also "relative" like being the second note of a major scale, and we can form a kind of "sound map of major scales". Your beginners do not go near a piano for several weeks while they work with this "pitch recognition". Then they go to the piano and use what they've worked with. These are the raw facts. But I can't picture what you are doing. Here are some possibilities:

1. Your students are learning to recognize the names of pitches. By the time they get to the piano, they can recognize them like the back of their hands. You go through the piano keys for 20 minutes (we know you do something for 20 minutes in regards to the piano). Then when they see A in the score, they already know this is the pitch called A, they press the key with that name, and voila they have played A. This is when they get to hear what the pitch sounds like.

2. Your students are learning to see the note representing the pitch A, and with no instrument to give them a reference, they can hear that pitch in their heads, or maybe sing that pitch. This strikes me as impossible. Even if the student was one of the rare people with natural "perfect pitch" --- i.e. for whom pitch is as distinct as seeing "blue" is for us --- he would have to have a pitch to attach a name to. But you have him away from any instrument. At what point does he hear "A" and is told "That sound you hear is A". But few people have this particular gift. I don't think you can mean this.

3. It's relative pitch, and specifically along our common scales. That's what happens with singing "Do a Deer" solfege. In this case the student can sing up and down the notes on the page once he has the hang of major and (natural?) minor scales. Then you go to the piano. The student has an idea of what to expect in terms of sound for melodies, but relatively. I.e. he may be hearing it in his head in G major while the score might be in D major or C major.

Is it any of these?

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#2107620 - 06/25/13 03:24 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
VIP Piano Club Offline
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Registered: 11/17/12
Posts: 8
Loc: Portland, Oregon USA
Piano girl,

I want to recommend a method I just got licensed for called XXXXX. Both adults and children experience much better immediate results than "traditional" lessons because the entire methodology is based on the premise that every human being -without exception- is musical. I can email you a chart that shows exactly how big of a difference the results are, if you wish.
-Ryan


Edited by Ken Knapp (06/25/13 06:57 AM)
Edit Reason: Advertising prohibited on forums.

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#2107693 - 06/25/13 09:01 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: laguna_greg]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11206
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
Reading music is a skill that is very difficult to acquire. As it is taught here in the US, the first two years of teaching literature are devoted to presenting increasingly sophisticated pitch recognition and rhythm patterns. For young children, this usually works well as their verbal language skills are still going through a great deal of development. Reading anything poses a challenge that only time will conquer.

The first question that comes to mind is whether there is a universal way in which music is taught. Simply by reading this forum for a number of years, it seems that teachers have quite a few approaches. Music lessons happen in private studios. Maybe they tend to teach the same repertoire to a large part, and similar skills, but how is it taught?

I think that what you are describing is graded pieces that start having more complicated things in them, key signatures with more sharps and flats, expanding from five-finger to a greater span etc. You also seem to be describing the teaching of pieces rather than the aiming toward skills. (?) I'm wondering whether you are countering what some teachers do - or even many. The part that bothers me is that private lessons are taught individually. In fact, do teachers even know what is happening in studios other than their own?
Quote:
Our pedagogical methods do not require people to read much of anything except in the most abstract way.

I'm not sure what that means, but if is so - if the way that reading is taught is problematic - then surely this is a problem for all ages. It would mean that students taught as children end up with this "abstract" way and some kind of inability to read even while going through written literature. That would not be an adult-only thing.

Quote:
.... make it possible to move very quickly through the first two or three years of teaching literature, if only they could read it. But they can't! .... So when a beginner meets a somewhat sophisticated rhythm pattern, or a big enough chord, they can't figure out how to play it.

There are two elements here. The "moving very quickly through years of literature" is something that the "adult methods" keep stressing, and other adult approaches too. If there is a reading issue, they get around it by providing CDs for imitation for one thing. But I'm not sure that moving through years of literature is something that I want in the first place. I'm after skills, and the easiest place to practice skills is on easier material.

Now when you talk about the rhythm and chords, you are going into what could be called "applied theory". Again this involves skills and knowledge: understanding beats, rhythms, note values and how to break them down. Gaining an understanding of chords and doing the same thing. If this is not being taught to children, then it ought to be - but maybe it is. (?) In some places. (?) Certain these are things we want to have.

Quote:
Music is a language, and it should be taught like one. The printed music score is a road map to sound and meaning, just like a book is.

True. You could make analogies to grammar and syntax galore. At this point however I'm confused again. The poor way in which language used to be taught was dubbed by many modern teachers as the "dead language approach", which begins with written material and translation. The best way to learn language is the order of hear => speak => read - write. You seem (?) to be starting with written material and keeping away from the instrument. If it approaches like language, then it would start with sound. Not necessarily the Suzuki way, because that does not actually reflect how language is acquired.
Quote:

We teach the student music theory because it 1- makes it easier to read and learn a score, and 2- it helps the student find meaning in the music.

The theory part I can relate to. I'm also interested in how other teachers approach this, because I am sure that it is approached.
Quote:

The thing I like most about my approach is that by the end of two or three months, the student has enough reading/listening skills that 1- they can very carefully sight-read the first two years of teaching literature easily, and 2- they are more or less independent of any teacher in preparing these teaching pieces for a lesson.

And here I'm hung up on exactly the same question which seems to be essential to all of it ... pitch. Meaning? Without understanding this part, the main thing is hard to understand.

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#2108167 - 06/26/13 12:08 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: keystring]
laguna_greg Offline
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Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1166
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Key,

So sorry to have taken this long to reply to your concerns. I'm travelling and working with clients, so getting enough time to respond has been tricky.

"And here I'm hung up on exactly the same question which seems to be essential to all of it ... pitch. Meaning?"

"Pitch" means every thing it can possibly mean. The name of the pitch, the sound it makes, and how the student hears it. What else could it mean?

After 3-6 months of lessons, adult students will have exactly as much competency at these skills as 6 months of training would give anybody. Which is not a lot. What will they be able to do?

1- Their sight-reading and pitch reading will be above grade, throughout the grand staff.
2- Their chord reading and harmonic recognition will also be above grade. Which will allow them to:
3- Read simple chord progressions, with a little bit of figuring,
4- Read (very simple) simple lead sheets once you show them how.
5- Understand what a figured bass is, and realize it with some help.
6- Analyze simple, non-modulating chord progressions and their associated scales in their repertoire pieces, and use them to memorize pieces and make a few simple artisitc choices dicated by the dissonances.

If you add in a few simple ear training exercises along with it, they will also be able to

1- Sing a major scale.
2- Do simple interval identification.
3- Take a simple melodic dication of aboiut 2- to 4 measures without getting too lost.

Don't get hung up on the distinction between absolute and realtive pitch. None of your students will ever present the ability to hear perfect pitch, and only the most talented will develop it over time. They will all hear relatively, which is plenty good!

"It would mean that students taught as children end up with this "abstract" way and some kind of inability to read even while going through written literature. That would not be an adult-only thing."

That is absolutely true. It's a problem for everyone, and it stems from the way reading skills are taught in this coountry. And our professional societies that promote a certain way of teaching theory and performance are partly to blame for it.

"But I'm not sure that moving through years of literature is something that I want in the first place. I'm after skills,..."

One of the problems teaching adults is to keep them interested musically. They are more than physically able to play the first two or three years of literature, which is the point at which pieces start getting interesting from a musical standpoint. But they are (usually) completely unequipped to read it, or figure out how to play it. My approach makes that possible. The integrated skills you want them to develop can only really be acquired in the way I'm describing anyway. Going along with the traditional method keeps adults, or anyone, from actually developing even a minimal competence in these areas.

Which "skills" are you afraid they won't acquire? Isn't the teaching of pieces in a good and proficient way actually making them acquire those skills too? And in a way they'll actually like?

"Now when you talk about the rhythm and chords, you are going into what could be called "applied theory"."

Well, Dalcroze and Hindemeth would disagree with that idea, and so do I. Rhythm and meter are the most subtle and the most powerful, the most expressive and active aspects of music. The way it is taught in this country is certain to make the student have a flacid and out-of-control sense of rhythm even performing pieces they've memorized and after yers of study.

Conrad Wolff, in his book about Arthur Schnabel's teaching approach, has two wonderful chapters about rhythmic and metric articulation. I'm very sorry to say that I did not encounter this idea, or the ideas of Dalcroze, until I stated working with singers in college, as well as seing how my teacher, Nina Scolnik, applied them to playing the piano. It certainly made all the difference to me as a pianist. I try to teach even my beginners exactly the same understanding of rhythm and meter, at whatever level the student can understand it.

I don't think there's anything theoretical or abstract about it, from that perspective. And beginners can be taught a simple but powerful appreciation of this application.

"...as the "dead language approach", which begins with written material and translation."

It's only a dead language if you don't speak it. So our job as music teachers is to turn it into a lively, spoken language.

You know, I'm in the middle of actually writing a book about these very things. I certainly hope readers of this thread would be interested in, possibily, reviewing it.


Edited by laguna_greg (06/26/13 12:11 AM)
Edit Reason: oops
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2108309 - 06/26/13 11:00 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
PianoStudent88 Online   content
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Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 2987
Loc: Maine
Hi Greg, I am only a mere student, and a student without a teacher no less, but I would be delighted to read your book when it is ready and respond from the point of view of a passionate if unevenly informed reader and amateur piano player with a wannabe's fascination with pedagogy.
__PS88
_________________________
Ebaug(maj7)

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#2108785 - 06/26/13 11:12 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: PianoStudent88]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1166
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
HI Piano,

You are definitely on my list!
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2108875 - 06/27/13 04:38 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: laguna_greg]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11206
Loc: Canada
Laguna_Greg, thank you for your answer. I'm afraid that you didn't catch what my question about pitch was about. I'll try to restate it:

You have the students start by working away from the piano, and while they are not using an instrument you have them working on "pitch". What is it that they are doing with "pitch" if there is no instrument? Possibilities I came up with:

- They're looking at notation, and recognizing the names of pitches.

or

- They're looking at notation, and have learned to sing along the major and minor scales, so that they are able to sing the melody and intervals there through steps and skips.

If during this time they are not ever at a piano (as I understand it), what are they doing with pitch?

This is the specific thing I'm hung up on, and can't picture. (I do know now from your answer that you don't mean actual pitch, i.e. if they see A on the page, that they are hearing 440 hz in their heads.)

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#2108883 - 06/27/13 05:01 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: laguna_greg]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11206
Loc: Canada
Some other bits where there's miscommunication to clear up:
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg

"Now when you talk about the rhythm and chords, you are going into what could be called "applied theory"."

Well, Dalcroze and Hindemeth would disagree with that idea, and so do I. ....


I thought I was coining a term for something I have had in mind. You seem to be referring to a pre-existing meaning that I don't know about which you are disagreeing with. I'm sure that it's not the same as what I'm considering.

First of all, there is an "abstract" theory that gets taught. Students get theory books and workbooks to fill out. It's tedious, many seem to hate it, and it doesn't relate to anything they're doing in real music. I.e. it's not "applied".

Another way of seeing theory is as something practical and real, and it exists outside of books too. When you play a major chord and then a minor by toggling the middle note, and you are aware of the toggle and the major/minor, that is a practical and real kind of theory, i.e. "applied". If you go back and forth between written things - say sticking a flat in front of the E for C and Cm, that's a kind of "applied". Maybe I should have said "practical" theory.

You counter what you think I say with the names of various people and their works. When I look them up, they're doing this thing that I tried to mean through "applied". It's a confusion through terminology..
Quote:

"...as the "dead language approach", which begins with written material and translation."

It's only a dead language if you don't speak it. So our job as music teachers is to turn it into a lively, spoken language.


"Dead language approach" is an approach. It's the old approach where you got a book, the first page of the first chapter has a vocabulary list to memorize, followed by exercises of translation from your mother tongue to the studied language. It is called "dead language" because it works for dead languages (Latin, ancient Greek) but shouldn't be used for living languages. When you have theory workbooks and textbooks which you don't link to music, sound, rhythms, then your approach is like the old "dead language approach", but for music.

If you present theory in a way to make it "lively" - i.e. if it is an experienced thing, then you are NOT using a dead language approach.

Quote:

You know, I'm in the middle of actually writing a book about these very things. I certainly hope readers of this thread would be interested in, possibly, reviewing it.


I would definitely be interested in reading it, and it might clarify a few of the questions that I have.

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#2108902 - 06/27/13 06:14 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: laguna_greg]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11206
Loc: Canada
Here is another thing I wondered about:

Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
...the way reading skills are taught in this country. And our professional societies that promote a certain way of teaching theory and performance are partly to blame for it..............Going along with the traditional method keeps adults, or anyone, from actually developing even a minimal competence in these areas.


In my time on this forum, I have seen a huge variety of teaching approaches. Is there a universal way in which reading skills are taught? Or theory? Can any teacher - you or others - actually know how it is taught in the thousands of studios in your country? You will have been taught by one or several teachers, and then other things in university, and that becomes the picture of how it is done. How accurate is that picture? In fact, that is the potential of a forum such as this.

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#2109032 - 06/27/13 11:51 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11206
Loc: Canada
Finally - an exploration of READING.

This idea of pitch, singing, working on pitch away from the piano and then starting to read piano music immediately upon coming to the piano for the first time: It reminds me of a form of reading that I had initially. I had Solfege first as a child, so when I saw my first score I sang my way up and down the notes on an imaginary major or minor scale. I think this is similar to what you are envisioning. From there, I found the piano notes that matched my singing the notes, but knowing which note to start on (C on the page and the piano). My ears told me if it "sounded wrong". Eventually I heard melody while looking at a score. I "read music" like that for several decades.

This works with diatonic music.

There is another way of reading piano music. Here you see the note on the page and it associates with a piano key, i.e. a physical location. Reflexes go from your eye to your hand and this "piano map" and joins itself with sound. I have trained into this the last few years. It is much more accurate, reliable, and faster. In the very least, we need to have this kind of reading. The other is nice to have and I wouldn't want to discard it.

Chords are another kettle of fish.

Because of my own experiences and explorations, I favour including experience and exploration as much as possible, whenever things on paper are involved. This may in fact be in your system.

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