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#2031545 - 02/11/13 11:31 PM Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help!
pianogirl1978 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/11
Posts: 104
Loc: Nebraska
Wow, I just had a very difficult lesson with a 9 year old girl who has only been taking lessons from me since about December and all the sudden, her mother tells me tonight how frustrating this week has been for her and how she doesn't understand "intervals" at all. Now, this is surprising to me since all of my previous students have never had trouble with this concept. I explained to her it is the "distance between two notes", however she doesn't understand that something can be called a 3rd or a 5th when we are only playing two notes. I think she was just too anxious to really listen to me.

She was near tears the entire 30 min. lesson! She also thinks she has to know the notes already and gets frustrated if she can't read them. I was consoling her and telling her it is okay, and that she will learn them in time and that she shouldn't be so hard on herself. Her mother seemed very embarrassed and kept telling me what a perfectionist she is and that we should also move her lesson time on a different night than her brother's. Apparently there is too much competition between them and that is stressing her out also. Anyway, for some reason, learning the intervals really had her riled up, so should I just quit on it for now and come back to it in a few weeks? I don't want her to quit and I am not quite sure how else to explain them to her. She is very smart in school, haven't been told about any learning disabilities from her mother. Just very unsure how to make this student relax and have fun! She is my most high strung one yet! Any ideas would help!


Edited by pianogirl1978 (02/11/13 11:34 PM)
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#2031549 - 02/11/13 11:41 PM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: pianogirl1978]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5587
Loc: Orange County, CA
What method book series are you using? It seems quite early to be teaching fifths, no matter how old the girl is at the start. Most kids learn repeat, step, and skip and then stay for about 3-4 months doing stuff that has nothing but repeat, step, and skip. Then 4th, and gradually 5th. Then they spend about 9 months to a year inside the 5-finger positions.

Hang in there. Intervallic reading is definitely the right way to go. Has this girl been getting outside instruction, like from school? As soon as she is introduced to FACE and Every Good Boy Does Fine, it's pretty much hopeless to go back to teaching repeat, step, and skip.
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#2031554 - 02/11/13 11:53 PM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: AZNpiano]
pianogirl1978 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/11
Posts: 104
Loc: Nebraska
Right now I am teaching her out of the Bastien Primer book. I will most likely switch her to another book that is slower paced. Her brother is doing very well in that same book, but he is a year older. And she has taken some music in school so she already had learned note values, some rhythm, she already knows FACE and Every Good Boy Does Fine, so she is fairly good at reading notes, but she beats herself up when she doesn't know a some of the bass clef notes. I think she is just overwhelmed. No other lesson has been like this so I am praying this is just a bad week for her.
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#2031574 - 02/12/13 12:25 AM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: pianogirl1978]
music_disseminator Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/07/12
Posts: 6
You might want to show her that if the there is a 3rd, and if both keys of that interval are pressed plus the one in between as well that there are 3 keys pressed. Also that this technique works for all intervals (exclusively using the white keys, that is).

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#2031580 - 02/12/13 12:34 AM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: pianogirl1978]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5587
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: pianogirl1978
Right now I am teaching her out of the Bastien Primer book. I will most likely switch her to another book that is slower paced.

Yes, that's definitely a good strategy.

I've had experience dealing with DOZENS of students who were taught FACE and Every Good Boy Does Fine. One of my strategies in dealing with these students is to use the alto clef or tenor clef. It will force the kids to use intervallic reading. I had to make a lot of my own materials, especially for transfer students or students who were taught letter names from lesson one.

You can also try to make some of your own worksheets for intervallic reading. If that doesn't work, you can always use the current Bastien books and ask her to write the intervals between notes.
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#2031583 - 02/12/13 12:41 AM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: pianogirl1978]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1027
Loc: Irvine, CA
For intervals, I usually write it down for them that
Interval has only 2 notes:
There is only one way to play interval 5th, which is using finger 1-5
There are two ways to play interval 4th: finger 1-4 and finger 2-5
There are three ways to play interval 3rd: finger 1-3, 2-4, 3-5
There are four ways to play interval 2nd: finger 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5

If there is a competition among siblings and the mother asked, then I say quickly move her piano time to another day.
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#2031620 - 02/12/13 03:04 AM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: pianogirl1978]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
[quote=pianogirl1978 however she doesn't understand that something can be called a 3rd or a 5th when we are only playing two notes. I think she was just too anxious to really listen to me.
[/quote]

She is confused because she is trying to relate 'second' to what she previously knew 'second' to mean (here is the second note I play). You need to make it clear this is a new meaning of the word.

Give her an example, like fencing is a sport played with swords and a fence is a wood thing around the garden.
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#2031695 - 02/12/13 07:48 AM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: ten left thumbs]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
You need to make it clear this is a new meaning of the word.

Actually, a very old meaning. Intervals go back not centuries, but millenniums, to long before we adopted the Arabic zero into our number counting consciousness.

As soon as I can, especially if the student has some basic knowledge of Roman numerals, I show them that counting went 1st note, 2nd note, 3rd note, etc. A third is when you play the 1st and 3rd note together. Most students seem to be able to grasp this very quickly.
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"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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#2031707 - 02/12/13 08:31 AM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12211
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I never have siblings work out of the same method book. Preferably, ones that don't correlate at all in numbering their levels. I have a couple of siblings (transfer students) right now where the younger sister was catching up on the older brother, and it was clear that the brother was talented but not very sure of himself and the sister was all spunk. The mom didn't like the idea of buying two set of books, but I loaned her the first set for the daughter and now that they are both progressing much better, she had no problem with buying the next level for the daughter.

As for perfectionism, I would definitely back off from this concept of intervals for now. Work with her a lot on playing intervallically: give her examples of music without any staff (or alto/tenor like AZN suggested) and practice playing from those. Start out with stepwise motion examples first for a week, then provide ones with some skips in there, then work on 4ths, then 5ths. Do not proceed to add another interval until she can consistently play in the current interval. Also, it's a good idea to have a piece or two with only the new interval being used before assigning ones with a mix of intervals.

My guess is that the problem is she hasn't really gotten this idea down in her playing, too stuck on reading every note, and so the concept just doesn't make sense. Let her know that this is how YOU read notes for the most part. Yes, you do have to be able to read every note name, but that doesn't mean you do only that while playing. Sometimes pointing this out to my students that this is how I do it gives them the reassurance that perhaps it's OK for them to do it that way too.
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#2031708 - 02/12/13 08:32 AM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
You need to make it clear this is a new meaning of the word.

Actually, a very old meaning. Intervals go back not centuries, but millenniums, to long before we adopted the Arabic zero into our number counting consciousness.



Interesting, but you do realize I mean new from the point of view of the child?
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I am a competent teacher.


www.justfingers.co.uk
www.babysinging.co.uk

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#2031727 - 02/12/13 09:06 AM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: ten left thumbs]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
Interesting, but you do realize I mean new from the point of view of the child?

But everything is new to a child. Our job is much more than just teaching what note to play when. A little bit of history often clarifies as nothing else can.
_________________________
"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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#2031767 - 02/12/13 10:53 AM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: pianogirl1978]
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
Sometimes when I explain intervals I underscore how they are used in other area of life...say the interval of time at half-time in football.
Also some children like counting all the keys better....5 keys [ semi-tones] makes a major third whereas, 4 keys makes a minot third. I never compare siblings. Everyone is different and I never get anxious about learning or teaching. It all takes time and patience.

rada

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#2031802 - 02/12/13 12:15 PM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: pianogirl1978]
sonataplayer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/09/11
Posts: 64
Loc: New Hampshire
Good suggestions from everyone for helping her to understand the concept of intervals.

I am wondering if her mother is sitting in on her lessons, since I have had experience with students who just can't deal with Mom observing the lessons. Their "perfectionism" stems, I think, from not wanting to disappoint Mom. When Mom does not sit in, their whole attitude changes. They relax, are better able to focus and they grasp the concepts that eluded them when Mom was there.

Just a thought...

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#2031856 - 02/12/13 01:31 PM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: pianogirl1978]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11846
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: pianogirl1978
I explained to her it is the "distance between two notes", however she doesn't understand that something can be called a 3rd or a 5th when we are only playing two notes.

The naming part of intervals is not as simple as it seems, and children that age are not into abstract thinking yet. It might actually be that someone less attentive and serious would get less confused since they are trying less hard. I also wonder whether what she learned at school about theory might mess things up, if she got any of that wrong. (You deleted that part of your post, unfortunately).

An interval involves two notes that are a given distance apart, like John and Mary standing across from each other. If we want to see how far apart they are, we use a yard stick and count how many feet they're apart, and "3 feet apart" is how far apart they are. Or (less abstract), you pace the distance by walking from one to the other, and say you had to take 2 big steps.

In a musical interval, we have these two notes, and instead of a yard stick, we count all the notes involved. It's like a rules that starts at 1 instead of 0. I prefer to think of it as "how many notes are involved" because it isn't actually like a ruler. Well, here is where the confusion comes in with these names: CG = P5. The kid counts C,D,E,F,G = 5 keys, but it's about C,G = 2 keys. There is actually good reason to get confused.

Are you letting her experience intervals nameless first - just this span and that span? Is it even necessary to have the names this early?

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#2031911 - 02/12/13 03:08 PM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: keystring]
pianogirl1978 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/11
Posts: 104
Loc: Nebraska
Thanks for all the suggestions. I am gonna take it easy on her the next few lessons and make it very fun for her to get her to relax. Praise her for everything she already knows. And yes, her mother is here during the lesson, but I have large basement and there is a divider that she sits on the other side of while I am teaching so she is not watching her. but I may ask mom if she thinks her daughter would do better if she were here alone. They live only a few blocks away, so mom could just walk home and then the student could walk home after the lesson as well.

I thought also, that I could explain to her that C to C is actually a "First, so then C to D is a second, and so forth. Maybe the fact that there is no first is what is confusing her.


Edited by pianogirl1978 (02/12/13 03:09 PM)
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher in Lincoln, Nebraska

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#2032150 - 02/12/13 10:04 PM Re: Perfectionist Beginner Student. Help! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12211
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: pianogirl1978


I thought also, that I could explain to her that C to C is actually a "First, so then C to D is a second, and so forth. Maybe the fact that there is no first is what is confusing her.


I think you might just fan the flames if you try to go at it again. She first needs to learn how to play it, then you can give it a name. There's no need to rush on the intervals thing - give her time and work on other things.
_________________________
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MTNA member
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