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#2068613 - 04/22/13 11:51 AM "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Quick version and questions:

How does one become a "fun" teacher who helps inspire kids to want to learn and practice piano - even those who are mostly being required by their parents to take piano? Is that even possible? And are those kinds of teachers actually good teachers? (Or do they focus on the "fun" so much that the kids don't really learn anything?)
And how do you find songs that the kids will think are "fun?" (How do you know in advance what will "click"? I am rarely correct when I think a certain song will inspire/motivate a particular kid.)

Longer version:

So I think I'm a "good" teacher. I haven't been teaching incredibly long; about 6 years I think, but I have a couple music degrees and I think I'm a relatively engaging person and pretty good with kids.
I've taken students on who have already been studying with different teachers of which I have thought either, "Wow, this kid really does NOT know his stuff. Basic things like what a 'dotted half note' is called, or even the names of letters on the piano keyboard! I am really skeptical of the quality of teaching they were receiving..." to students who I thought, "Perfect. This student is just where he needs to be, he understands how rhythm works, knows the names of the letters on the staff appropriate to his level, etc." I'm mentioning this because I don't know how else to evaluate myself on the scale of piano teachers, but for point of reference, I'm pretty sure I'm not towards the bottom.

I would guess that approximately half of my students are being "forced" to take lessons to at least some degree, and the other half are mostly taking them b/c they want to, but even most of those still have to be occasionally/regularly encouraged to practice by their parents. (Even if they "want" to take piano, it's the "sitting down to practice" that needs additional motivation.) I'm not unusual in this, right?

I am for the most part "by the book;" I prefer the Faber series, and mostly just have my kids go through their levels, occasionally supplementing with a song from popular repertoire or wherever, that the kid already is familiar with, if they want to or need some additional motivation.

Awhile ago someone was talking to me (who lives far away from me, so I couldnt even attempt to teach their kid,) about how they used to have this fabulous teacher who got the 9-year old girl sooo motivated and she was jut practicing all the time, etc, then that teacher moved so they tried to find another one, but the one they tried seemed a little more "dry" and she stopped being interested in practicing so they stopped taking lessons.

Then, the thing that really has spurred this question for me happened a couple months ago. (If you are skimming, this is the real situation that I would appreciate advice for, thanks!)
A new family contacted me to teach, and the mom was talking about how her sister's kids took piano and just loved it and their teacher was so great, etc, and how her own kids had been taking from someone and they just weren't motivated, so they were thinking of switching to me, looking for a change for someone "younger and more fun." (Oh great...)
So I start teaching them, and when I review what the kids are doing, they all seem to be exactly where I think they should be, I think their previous teacher was totally competent (going through the Faber books with two of them, and supplementing with other music for the third, etc,) and I think since then we've been going along fine - just like what I would expect from kids of their abilities. Yes, they usually need to be pushed by the parent to practice, but they are all "progressing" just fine.

But at the last lesson, the mom mentioned "scheduling conflicts" that she was going to try and work on (cancelled the next lesson, and I *think* told me she would call regarding the following,) but she also kind of ominously mentioned needing to talk about their motivation, and how they weren't really "into" it. (Which of course reminded me of her previous mention about her sister, and so I'm sure she is comparing her kids to their cousins...) I really don't want to lose these kids! The money is nice, and at least one of them has some major potential. But I have no idea how to make piano "fun" for them! I should mention, the mom definitely has musical training, so she's not clueless, and I think she would be able to understand, for example, the difference between note-reading and learning by ear. I am certainly not opposed to supplementing their method books with song they know, but I have no idea where to begin finding songs they would know - they aren't religious as far as I can tell, and I'm pretty sure the mom mentioned they don't watch TV, so I think most "pop" songs would be out.
When we last talked, I told her that kids just go through "ups and downs" in terms of their motivation, but in reality, (I didn't tell he this part) I've definitely had students who literally took lessons for years (and progressed perfectly fine) mostly because their parents wanted them to, and never really had an "I love piano!" experience, which I'm afraid is what will happen to these kids.

What are these "fun" teachers magically doing?!?! (How do I find one to ask if I can sit in on a lesson?) From where do they get songs that the kids love, and how do they know that a certain kid will love a certain song, or do they have a bigger repertoire of "fun" songs than I am aware of? Are these teachers sacrificing things which I consider to be important (like reading the actual notes and figuring out the rhythms themselves) for things that are more "fun" (but which I consider less important, like learning things by ear that they already know?)

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#2068629 - 04/22/13 12:06 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5596
Loc: Orange County, CA
I don't know why you would put the word "fun" in quotes.

You should have fun when you teach. Being fun does not mean you have to sacrifice important topics. BTW, learning things by ear is not "less important"--it's one of the essential musical skills, which, unfortunately, has been abused by some teachers and students to replace actual note-reading.

You should definitely be well versed in all the pedagogical materials available to you and your students. Be knowledgeable about the books that you can buy and stuff you can download from the internet.

Don't expect everyone to love piano; some kids are not cut out to learn piano.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2068639 - 04/22/13 12:27 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: AZNpiano]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
"Fun" is in quotes because that is precisely what I am trying to figure out. How does one become a "fun" teacher? *I* have fun when I teach, but I am not sure all of my students have enough "fun" to motivate them to practice! (Perhaps I overuse quotes in general in order to provide the necessary missing vocal inflection?)

I am sure this is probably a completely different discussion, but I consider note-reading "more important" than learning by ear because learning by ear comes much more naturally. Every single student I have ever taught who never had lesson before could play something "by ear" on their piano even before I gave them a single minute of a lesson. Guess how many had "figured out" how to read any notes at that point? Zero, zilch, nada. While being able to read the notes to a completely unfamiliar song and being able to figure out how to play a song they already know without any music may be equally important in the grand scheme of things, reading the notes is the one that no one just "figures out" on their own, so that is why it becomes "more important" at my lessons.

Finally, I don't think that whether or not someone "loves" piano is an adequate gauge of whether or not they are "cut out to learn piano." I certainly did not love piano when I was a kid - and yet... here I am!

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#2068650 - 04/22/13 12:58 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I think we need to distinguish between fun and satisfying. Fun is momentary, satisfying is more lasting. Students who practice more and better will, more often, find piano study satisfying.

This does, however, take a willingness to do the actual hard work of practice. Students tend to avoid practice when they don't feel confident to accomplish the task or have materials that don't match their personal expressive nature. It's a tough balance.

I find that the higher I set the bar (within reach, of course), the more the students reach for it. I believe in my students' ability to do the necessary work because I make sure they have the skills needed to accomplish it AND because I make sure THEY also know by experience in the lesson that they have the skills.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#2068653 - 04/22/13 01:05 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11851
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: red-rose


A new family contacted me to teach, and the mom was talking about how her sister's kids took piano and just loved it and their teacher was so great, etc, and how her own kids had been taking from someone and they just weren't motivated, so they were thinking of switching to me, looking for a change for someone "younger and more fun." (Oh great...) ....

......but she also kind of ominously mentioned needing to talk about their motivation, and how they weren't really "into" it. (Which of course reminded me of her previous mention about her sister, and so I'm sure she is comparing her kids to their cousins...)

It would be interesting for you to hear these kids of the sister who have the fun teacher. How are they playing? Do they seem to have the skills you teach?

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#2068655 - 04/22/13 01:11 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: keystring]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Originally Posted By: keystring

It would be interesting for you to hear these kids of the sister who have the fun teacher. How are they playing? Do they seem to have the skills you teach?

I absolutely agree! But, I don't think that would ever be possible. (Among other reasons, I'm pretty sure they don't live anywhere near.)

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#2068660 - 04/22/13 01:30 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Someone's post which I thought was helpful got deleted before I had a chance to respond... no idea why except maybe they mentioned companies? Here's what I was going to say...
Quote:
I'm a complete beginner at teaching so not a lot of advice as a teacher, but I understand your question. I came here to the forums due to a somewhat similar situation.

I'll give you what little advice I have as a parent with three kids who have had a variety of music teachers. I find that the better teachers have a repertoire of songs that they know kids will enjoy. I think this repertoire comes from long years of teaching, experimenting with different books, paying attention to what other piano teachers are doing, and just asking the kids what they like. Do you go to performances of other teachers' students?

I'm of the opinion that XXX has the most appealing pieces, but you might want to supplement it occasionally. I have been lucky to find a ton of music for beginners at thrift stores and our library used-book store. Sometimes I will write out little tunes using XXX.


Great idea about going to recitals of other students. A large opportunity for that (that I am aware of - I'm not quite sure how to go about finding out such information!) is actually this Saturday, but I can't go!! frown (extra mad b/c some of my own students will be playing in it!)

Your mention of additional repertoire reminded me of another question I have, so I think I'm going to start a spin off instead of derailing this thread...

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#2068669 - 04/22/13 01:41 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11851
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: red-rose
Originally Posted By: keystring

It would be interesting for you to hear these kids of the sister who have the fun teacher. How are they playing? Do they seem to have the skills you teach?

I absolutely agree! But, I don't think that would ever be possible. (Among other reasons, I'm pretty sure they don't live anywhere near.)


The other problem is that even if something is missing and you hear it, the mother of your students may not hear it because these are things we learn to hear while studying music.

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#2068687 - 04/22/13 02:28 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
Brinestone Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 358
I like to think I'm one of those "fun" teachers, but maybe not as fun as your students' cousins' teacher (my kids don't practice for the joy of it, for example, but rather need to be reminded by a parent or motivated by a recital or competition).

Supplemental music is a BIG one. I have a fairly large collection (I posted about this recently in my Music Library thread at the bottom of the first page of threads), and I lend it out to my students. Some other strategies are listed in that thread.

The other big factor is challenge. Sometimes even playing up the challenge, such as saying, "This may be a bit too hard for you, but I think you'll love it, so I really want you to do it anyway," even if it's only the logical next step, makes them want to see if they can do it. I have found that if a song is hard but worth it, kids will practice harder to master it. If it's too hard, they get frustrated because their practice isn't paying off. If it's too easy, they aren't motivated to give it much work. Finding that perfect medium requires more than just listening to a student play. Sometimes a student who is playing pieces sloppily is underchallenged, not overchallenged. You need to ask questions like, "How many times did you practice this song this week?" and "What's the hardest part of this song for you?" and even, "Is this song too easy, just right, or too hard for you?" Then ask follow-up questions and be very clear about what you would like to hear improved.

Finally, and I think this is a biggie, one thing that I think makes me "fun" is that I listen to students. I know them, very well. They can talk to me about non-piano stuff (just a little; I get them back on track), they can tell me if they hate a song or love one, they can ask me about problems they're having with their practicing, and I listen. I treat them with dignity and respect. I empathize with them: "I know it seems like it is easier to just make up your own fingerings. I used to do that all the time too. But it will pay off bigtime to get in the habit of using efficient fingerings and watching anything that's labelled on the page."
_________________________
Piano teacher since 2008, member of NFMC

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#2068831 - 04/22/13 06:15 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1214
Loc: NJ
Red Rose - I spend a huge portion of my time poring over the contents of every method book's popular songs, recital songs, and some of each method's lesson book songs. I am always searching popular music books, and go over them with my students to select pieces they know and like. Once I find something a student really learns well and quickly (and enjoys), it's not too difficult to find more like that.

I sometimes incorporate short composition pieces into lessons, really making them feel so very special because they have written their own compositions, and even more importantly, their compositions may be included on the recital program. Most of them rise to the challenge.

At a recent lesson with a teen, I brought in a recording of a pop female artist and together we figured out the left hand chord progressions. I could tell she loved the entire lesson. It was really fun and different. I may lose some students, because some parents may feel they aren't progressing quick enough (though I've never received that comment), but until they leave, I hope that each lesson is one that they enjoy, but of course, are learning something in the process.

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#2068842 - 04/22/13 06:51 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
I think we need to turn this around.

What makes other things "fun"?

I would suggest that it is the ease of doing things that makes them fun, and also a feeling of accomplishment. I love to read. I have always loved to read. This has nothing to with learning to read in school, which I loathed. It has nothing to do with what I was forced to read in school.

It should not be this way. I did not want to read Great Expectations or Heart of Darkness or Scarlet Letter. I only made it through these horrid books because I already read so well that I could skim through them without being tortured by the awful stories. (I very much like Dickens today, but that is another story.)

I want my students to have the same freedom. To me it all comes with the ability to read well, because that is the window that allows exploration. So what is fun for my students is being able to play the music that THEY want to play, just as it was (and still is) for me.

So turn it around. How do we get students to play well enough so that they can satisfy their own hunger to play what they love?
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#2068843 - 04/22/13 06:51 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2919
Loc: UK.
Everyone wants to play for fun. But playing an instrument is only fun when you are good at it and that requires practice, which is not always fun!

I'm forever trying to explain this one to parents.

I wouldn't worry about being a fun teacher. Being a good teacher is something to strive for and it sounds like you are there already. If you are enthusiastic about playing the piano and music in general then there's a good chance it will rub off on most of your students. Then everyone has fun. But it's a two way thing, sometimes three way if you include the parents. I'm afraid there are just some students who come for lessons but are just not interested and will not enjoy what you are trying to teach them. It's not necessarily your fault. You can take a horse to water.....

As far as the stories about such and such teacher being 'fun' go I would take it with a pinch of salt. People do this all the time and if you are even very slightly insecure it can make you feel really bad. I know because I've been there many times. Usually it's rubbish or if there is any truth in it then it probably has as much to do with the student as the teacher. Take your example about the sister, maybe her kids were just more interested in piano and worked that bit harder than the ones you ended up with?

Of course there are practical things you can do and much of that has been suggested already. I like to to show an interest in the lives of my students in general and sometimes there is more benefit in talking through issues that playing the piano. A lot of this job feels like social work! For many kids we are the only other adult they spend time with on a one to one basis every week and it's important that they like us and trust us. Last week I spent a whole week talking to a little girl because she hadn't practiced. Her house had been flooded by a broken toilet which had been left all day while the family went out. Carpets, furniture (including the piano) were damaged and they were virtually forced to live upstairs while everything was dried out. She was the last to use the toilet and her dad blamed her. I was the only person she talked to about that. Somehow, Eb major scale didn't seem so important that day.

For interesting repertoire (fun?) i try to make a point of writing down pieces I know have been popular over the years. It's not always what you expect either. Things that sound great but are actually not that hard work well! Popular classics like Fur Elise, Bach's C major prelude, canon in D, Mozart K545 etc . Are always good. And then there's film music, lots of decent arrangements available out there. Not to mention all the simple but effective broken chord based pieces from the likes of Einaudi.

Don't beat yourself up. We all have our doubts now and then and teaching can be a lonely existence without colleagues to talk things through with. Joining teaching organisations can help as well as looking at training courses, seminars, conferences, workshops etc. it helps to know we all face the same kind of difficulties.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#2068845 - 04/22/13 06:56 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: Chris H.]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Chris H.
Everyone wants to play for fun. But playing an instrument is only fun when you are good at it and that requires practice, which is not always fun!

But Chris NOTHING is fun all the time. EVERYTHING takes discipline. It is the ratio of fun to work that is the key. I have been trying to get to the bottom of this for most of my adult life. Music was always fun for me. Even the hard part was fun. I love puzzles, music is a giant puzzle, and playing music is intensely satisfying emotionally.

I think failing at music is failing to get good enough, soon enough, to really enjoy it. For the rest I have no answer.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#2068855 - 04/22/13 07:12 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2919
Loc: UK.
You are absolutely right Gary.

As a child music was fun for me, mostly because I knew it was something I could do better than anyone else. I was good at it from an early age. It made me different from other kids and that felt great. But there were times I wanted to quit and hated every minute of it. I remember hiding in my wardrobe when my piano teacher came because I just couldn't understand the theory homework I'd been given! But ultimately I always knew that music was good for me. Minniemay nailed it with her comment about fun/satisfaction. I always felt deeply satisfied when I was playing the piano.

Not every student will get that. We do what we can but a lot of it is down to them too.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#2069083 - 04/23/13 02:36 AM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
rlinkt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/08/12
Posts: 320
Loc: CA
I am not a teacher -- merely the dad of an 8-yr old piano student, who seems to be having fun playing the piano. I would definitely credit her teacher for making it a great experience. Here are some of my observations regarding what may have worked.

- I do not think it was a whole lot of fun in the early days before she attained a certain level of proficiency. It was a grind, playing simple pieces / exercises to develop the basic skills.
- Once my daughter was over that phase, she was allowed a lot of freedom in choosing what she wants to play. For example, her teacher gave her the book of Bach preludes, and asked her to listen to the CD and decide which ones she wanted to learn. Once my daughter chooses that ones that she wants to learn, her teacher decided on the sequence in which she would learn them, occasionally adding in other pieces that she feels are essential. As a result, for the last 9-12 months, has mostly learned pieces that she feels she has picked.
- Mixing it up. Her teacher tends to rotate through a set of activities, although the emphasis is heavily on the playing part. Every few weeks she would do some music dictation, or give her a composition exercise. Also with the music she is learning, while focused on classical, she also tends to throw in short jazz pieces or pieces by other contemporary composers from time to time.

Something in all of this seems to be working in making it fun to play for my daughter.

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#2069209 - 04/23/13 09:08 AM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
pianopaws Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/18/13
Posts: 71
Loc: North Carolina, USA
Since I have been told by my students and their parents that I am a "fun" teacher, I thought I would chime in. grin

My best piece of advice is to ask lots of questions. What are the student's goals with piano? What kind of music do they enjoy listening to? What pieces would they like to learn to play? What activities do they like to do outside of piano? Listen to their interests and plan your lessons accordingly.

I also like to mix more difficult pieces with easier music so that there is always a short term and long term goal piece to be working on. I find that frustration sets in if a student is only doing music that they consider challenging.

Lastly, you mentioned playing familiar songs by ear as being something you considered "less important." I would disagree. I think playing by ear, composing, and improvising are all very important parts of a well rounded musical education. They may not be things you focus on in every lesson due to time constraints, but they definitely deserve attention.
_________________________
M.M., Piano performance and pedagogy
Member, MTNA and NCMTA

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#2069245 - 04/23/13 10:18 AM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: pianopaws]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 822
Originally Posted By: pianopaws
I think playing by ear, composing, and improvising are all very important parts of a well rounded musical education. They may not be things you focus on in every lesson due to time constraints, but they definitely deserve attention.


100% agree. Ear playing, composing, improvising were never part of the skill set that my teachers had me work on. So while I'm a good note reader now, I've grown about 0% in the other areas.
_________________________
Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#2069248 - 04/23/13 10:21 AM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1267
Loc: California
I have also gained the reputation of being a 'fun' teacher. Here's why:

I teach group piano classes for all beginning students, from age 4 on up. Kids love getting together with other kids. As a group we sing together, we play with rhythm instruments, we do theory games, ear training games, and play rhythm and keyboard ensembles. We perform piano/keyboard repertoire for each other in the group setting. I have a 'treasure box' for younger students.

I also love telling stories about the pieces that we encounter in our lesson. Kids learn about Beethoven (Ode to Joy), the story of Peer Gynt (Morning), and I like to use visuals. As students progress I add simple composing and beginning improvisation. Older elementary and jr highers want to do movie themes and pop music so I add that.

I've had students whose parents pulled them out of the group class to move on to private lessons, only to return because they missed the other kids and all of the things we do in our class.

For my older students, I do a combination private lesson/group class because even at the Jr High and high school age, they still enjoy getting together with the friends they've had since they were 5 years old. Music is a social activity. The feedback kids get from performing for each other, learning from each other is priceless.
_________________________
Music School Owner
Early Childhood Music Teacher/Group Piano Teacher/Private Piano Teacher
Member of MTAC and Guild

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#2069322 - 04/23/13 12:30 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
btb Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
When a discussion on “fun” in music is laboured
with ghastly isms like

method books
well versed in all the pedagogical materials
Faber series
‘Students who practice more and better will,
more often, find piano study satisfying.’’
"This may be a bit too hard for you, but I think you'll love it,
so I really want you to do it anyway,"
“Music is a social activity.”

One can be assured that the unfortunate child is being fed through a straw.

Sorry chaps ... I’m not trying to put your valiant efforts down,
but to home in on the critical concept of keyboard “fun”.

Gary D (and chasing-rainbows) are quite right in suggesting

“How do we get students to play well enough
so that they can satisfy their own hunger to play WHAT THEY LOVE?”

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#2069327 - 04/23/13 12:33 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: btb]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5596
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: btb
When a discussion on “fun” in music is laboured
with ghastly isms like

If these "ghastly isms" have worked for other teachers, maybe you can pick up a thing or two, eh??
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2069342 - 04/23/13 01:09 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: btb]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Originally Posted By: btb
When a discussion on “fun” in music is laboured
with ghastly isms like

method books
well versed in all the pedagogical materials
Faber series
‘Students who practice more and better will,
more often, find piano study satisfying.’’
"This may be a bit too hard for you, but I think you'll love it,
so I really want you to do it anyway,"
“Music is a social activity.”

One can be assured that the unfortunate child is being fed through a straw.

Sorry chaps ... I’m not trying to put your valiant efforts down,
but to home in on the critical concept of keyboard “fun”.

Gary D (and chasing-rainbows) are quite right in suggesting

“How do we get students to play well enough
so that they can satisfy their own hunger to play WHAT THEY LOVE?”

confused
...feel free to actually ADD your own concrete, helpful, suggestions, instead of just criticizing others...

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#2069485 - 04/23/13 05:26 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
LadyChen Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/25/12
Posts: 521
Loc: Canada
All this talk about what "fun" means made me think of a conversation I had last fall. I was thinking of accompanying a new choir in town, and when talking to the director, he said, "oh, we do a lot of fun music," and when I asked him to elaborate, he said "We're singing Winter Wonderland, White Christmas.." and I said, "Oh. I thought you meant FUN music .. like Bach."

But I liked what someone earlier said about fun vs. satisfying. I have a teenaged step-daughter who isn't the most ambitious person in the world, and it occured to me that she doesn't know what it feels like to work really hard at something and succeed. I think there is an immense feeling of satisfaction when you have to work hard to achieve something great (and to me, it's almost an addictive feeling), but if someone has never experienced that before, what can you do to inspire them to put the work in? My dad always told me, "It's fun being the best", but I don't like what that implies, so I usually say, "It's fun being good at something".

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#2071399 - 04/26/13 11:00 AM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
kissyana Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/07
Posts: 199
Loc: Northeast Illinois
+10000000000000000 for improvising/playing by ear/arranging. How old are these kids? If they're at an age where they are developing their own preferences, fashion, opinions then this could be VERY helpful and engaging to show them how to pick out tunes and create their own arrangements at the piano. It will give them something they can control and do independently. They can choose the song, they can work out an arrangement they like, and they will most likely be pretty proud to show it to their friends.

I didn't get any training in these skills growing up so I'm playing some major catch up as an adult... I have a ways to go but I'm at the point now where I can sit down and just play around for a bit. It's a lot of fun to be able to make music without having to look at a page of lines and dots. It's even more fun to share this experience with my students! I just found out that a student of mine had written a song based on a little 4 or 5 note motive she heard on a TV show. It was just a little blip they played between scenes but she really liked it and turned it into her own composition, which she played for me just the other day. It was beautiful and I'm so happy she shared that with me.

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#2071513 - 04/26/13 12:51 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: kissyana]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Originally Posted By: kissyana
If they're at an age where they are developing their own preferences, fashion, opinions then this could be VERY helpful and engaging to show them how to pick out tunes and create their own arrangements at the piano. It will give them something they can control and do independently. They can choose the song, they can work out an arrangement they like, and they will most likely be pretty proud to show it to their friends.

I was thinking about this a bit more, and I'm certainly not opposed, but one of the problems with this particular family, is that I'm really not sure they "know" any music. Like, it's not a part of their life. I have to verify this with the mom, but I'm pretty sure they're not religious, and she has made reference to how they don't watch tv. From where else do kids "hear" songs? In our culture, we don't sit around at campfires and sing folk songs anymore! From where is a kid going to hear a song that he wants to figure out on the piano, especially if pop culture isn't really part of his life, and he doesn't go to any weekly event where singing is involved, like church?

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#2071521 - 04/26/13 01:00 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2754
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
The 7th inning stretch?
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2071529 - 04/26/13 01:09 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
pianopaws Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/18/13
Posts: 71
Loc: North Carolina, USA
Originally Posted By: red-rose
From where else do kids "hear" songs? In our culture, we don't sit around at campfires and sing folk songs anymore! From where is a kid going to hear a song that he wants to figure out on the piano, especially if pop culture isn't really part of his life, and he doesn't go to any weekly event where singing is involved, like church?


Do these kids have MP3 players/cell phone? Play video games? Go to the movies? Have music class at school? Listen to the radio in the car? There must be somewhere they may be exposed to music. If not, this might be a good opportunity to recommend to the mom that they attend some free concerts or listen to some music recommended by you. This might spark some interest in a particular style. If the parents are having the kids learn piano, they must want music to be a part of their kids' lives, right?
_________________________
M.M., Piano performance and pedagogy
Member, MTNA and NCMTA

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#2071568 - 04/26/13 01:58 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
kissyana Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/07
Posts: 199
Loc: Northeast Illinois
Music not a part of their life? So odd! My parents are largely responsible for turning me into a music monster although neither of them are musicians. Still, it's something we all connect with somehow.

Anyways, the internet is a huge music resource. They also share with each other so your students surely must be exposed to some kind of music while they are at their friends' houses.

Once they hit the "tweens" they usually have some sort of interest in a particular type of music.

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#2071818 - 04/26/13 09:53 PM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
music_disseminator Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/07/12
Posts: 6
Pop music...there are a lot of current songs that work well for piano although generally I end up having to make my own arrangements to simplify them. If you have a few good ones of these to offer I guarantee you that you be considered more fun. For a disinterested student often I may ask what is a radio song that they really like now...then I research and make an arrangement. Makes all the difference in the world. Good luck!

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#2072018 - 04/27/13 09:38 AM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2754
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Back to the original question for a moment:

Draw their attention to the fun aspects of what you are teaching them. Wasn't it fun to play that chord! Using this correct fingering helps you play this section fast-how fun! Your left hand is doing this while your right hand is doing that--So cool and so fun!

Be specific about how and what you want them to practice, make assignments realistic, and give positive reinforcement when assignments have been done.

Pay attention to the kids, and enjoy them.
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2074076 - 04/30/13 10:33 AM Re: "Fun" teachers and "fun" songs [Re: red-rose]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Well, I guess I don't have to deal with this particular situation at least anymore... they just called and left a message saying they wouldn't be continuing at least for the summer... frown
It may have partly had to do with scheduling for them, but I also wish she would have given me another opportunity to try and figure out what songs the kids might know that might be "fun."
(Like I sort of said above... I thought the kids were doing FINE. I've only been teaching them about 4 months, and some months we only had 2-3 lessons, and other than the occasional times when she asked how they were doing, she never really let me know that they weren't up to her level of expectation of *enjoying* piano... hm... or maybe she did but I wasnt listening in that way? Not sure. Oh well... live and learn. Maybe I'm making too big a deal about this, and they really will call back for the fall? sigh...)

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