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#2104442 - 06/18/13 02:50 PM Putting a student back into method books
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2919
Loc: UK.
Just wondered if anyone else has ever put one of their students back into a method book series?

I have a student who has been in elementary repertoire for a while now. She has taken a couple of exams and done fine but lately has been starting to struggle with new pieces I have assigned. She doesn't practice enough but it seems to be more that she can't focus and just needs something a little more prescriptive. She is not good at working independently and deciding what and how to practice despite the fact that we spend time on these things in lessons. I've been aware for a few weeks that her interest is slipping and she has not been enjoying piano.

Recently I heard good things about Alfred's premier course and bought a few of the books to try. She is around about level 3 in that series so I have suggested we work on the lesson and performance books. I think the structure should be good for her and the level is ever so slightly easier than pieces she has attempted recently so she should progress a bit quicker giving her more confidence. I introduced the books today and it went really well. We worked through the theory review together to make sure she had a good grasp of concepts from previous levels and there were no problems. I had her clap the rhythmic exercises for the first piece which she then sight read with each hand separately before putting hands together on the first couple of phrases.

It's not something I've ever done. Usually I like to get kids out of methods as soon as possible but this lesson went really well and she left feeling motivated and happy again. I'm hoping she will come back next week with a complete assignment and start to enjoy playing again.
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#2104452 - 06/18/13 03:15 PM Re: Putting a student back into method books [Re: Chris H.]
Joyce_dup1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/01/02
Posts: 193
Loc: Chicago
I've done this many times. Not only for the student, but also for myself. Sometimes it is more manageable when there is a greater level of stucture added to the lessons. Using a method, it is easier to coordinate technical and theory exercises with the lesson assignment. I believe there are not as many "hits and misses" as when you are selecting from literature and coordinating or creating on the fly. For students who complete Piano Adventures or Hal Leonard, there are certain methods that continue on to a greater level of expertise. Such as Books 5 and up in the Michael Aaron method, or the Kasschau method. I've found that it always gives me a greater sense of satisfaction when I can assign a student who is struggling, with a nice set of assignments from a well-rounded method. In my experience, they seem to respond well.


Edited by Joyce_dup1 (06/18/13 03:17 PM)

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#2104488 - 06/18/13 04:29 PM Re: Putting a student back into method books [Re: Chris H.]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
I would put a transfer student into a structured series because people come to me with huge holes. I do not believe it works well to use throw out a lot of structure until a foundation is created. It is very difficult to put together "literature" until things are very solid.

But I don't put my students BACK into something structured after having gone away from it. I don't let them out of the structured materials until I know things are rock solid.

When to do that is the elephant in the room.
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#2104491 - 06/18/13 04:31 PM Re: Putting a student back into method books [Re: Chris H.]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5593
Loc: Orange County, CA
I have done this many times. It doesn't always work. Some of these kids end up quitting before they finish one "level" in their method book. Earlier this year I got a transfer student who didn't use a method book for her first year of lessons, so I've decided to send her back to Alfred Premier book 3. It's one of the wisest decisions I've made, as her weaknesses surfaced one after another.
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#2104499 - 06/18/13 04:36 PM Re: Putting a student back into method books [Re: Chris H.]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I've had great success in moving into something more structured that is not exactly method material. I have found Catherine Rollin's Pathway to Artistry to fill this need.

I had a transfer student who had finished CM 4 (how, I don't know) who needed remedial work in almost every way, and I used Pathway Rep. 1 with her and we recently moved into Rep and Masterworks 2. She loves the pieces and there is enough structure that she is moving along quite nicely.
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#2104521 - 06/18/13 05:08 PM Re: Putting a student back into method books [Re: Gary D.]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2919
Loc: UK.
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

But I don't put my students BACK into something structured after having gone away from it. I don't let them out of the structured materials until I know things are rock solid.


This was always my view. But this particular student has started to regress after a few months of too little practice. She started in Hal leonard and went through to the end of level two. At the time things were going well and she was already playing pieces from other books so I felt that level three was unnecessary. We moved on to other things and although she has never been a particularly hard worker she did manage to cover some ground away from methods.

I've had a few students like this, in fact I still do. They make a great start but as they get older other activities hold more interest for them or school work becomes more time consuming and the piano playing slips. They often end up quitting. I could see this coming with this girl which would be a shame as she has some ability and is young enough to take it to a level where she can enjoy music long term. This approach might be a long shot but hopefully it will work.
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#2104536 - 06/18/13 05:23 PM Re: Putting a student back into method books [Re: Chris H.]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Chris, if we build a good foundation, and if they are then ready for harder music but then fail because they stop practicing, I see no fix.

Honestly, if I had one, if any of us had one, it would be the most magic Magic Bullet in the universe. We could then teach people how to play who just want to play but who are totally unwilling to put in any effort.

The short answer: I feel your pain and how no solutions... frown
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Piano Teacher

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#2104571 - 06/18/13 06:36 PM Re: Putting a student back into method books [Re: Chris H.]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Chris, like you and others, I'm very reluctant to put the student back into methods, structure or no. There are so many great repertoire and etude books available that I try to find the one (at a level appropriate for the student) which appeals to the student the most, and we go from there. Last year, I transferred in a middle school student who ended up fighting me for a year, then at both Guild and Recital, she suddenly had an epiphany. It was she, not her teacher, who had the problem and could solve it. It was open throttle from then on.
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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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#2104646 - 06/18/13 10:13 PM Re: Putting a student back into method books [Re: Gary D.]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
"Chris, if we build a good foundation, and if they are then ready for harder music but then fail because they stop practicing, I see no fix."

Suppose that you change the focus of study completely?

Most studios focus primarily on performance. Our professional association exams tend to make this the first priority, so that's what comes out in our teaching.

Suppose, instead, you take this kid and put them through an extensive music history course? Or theory and composition? or a serious musicianship course with ear training, dictation, and conducting that you do during the lesson?

If the theory is strong, suppose that you make the lessons strictly about improvisation for several months? No repertoire at all. She comes for lessons, and all you do is go through chord progression and improvisation exercises? The "homework" is coming up with at least three new tunes ever week, or finding different ways to play the same cadence. You assign various listening on Youtube during the week, and she comes to the lessons telling you what she liked and why. You listen to things together during the lesson, and discuss what makes the music tick. You ask her to bring her three favorite songs to the lesson, and then they make up some kind of instrumental arrangement that she and other students play together, and/or improvise a dance routine around that they present at the studio recital? All this would be a lot more fun than what's happening now.

You've got nothing to lose because it's either something like this, or that girl's going to be quitting soon. You can always go back to a more repertoire-oriented approach once she's over the hump.
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1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2104707 - 06/19/13 02:05 AM Re: Putting a student back into method books [Re: Chris H.]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5593
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Chris H.
But this particular student has started to regress after a few months of too little practice. She started in Hal leonard and went through to the end of level two. At the time things were going well and she was already playing pieces from other books so I felt that level three was unnecessary. We moved on to other things and although she has never been a particularly hard worker she did manage to cover some ground away from methods.

Students like this should stay in method books for as long as possible. Then, when they max out (say, at book 3), they should be given all the book 3 supplementary materials until they have sufficient skills to move on. The best supplementary materials are those without any indication of levels--you get to dictate what pieces get studied.
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Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2104710 - 06/19/13 02:10 AM Re: Putting a student back into method books [Re: laguna_greg]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5593
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
Most studios focus primarily on performance. Our professional association exams tend to make this the first priority, so that's what comes out in our teaching.

I'm not sure I'd agree with that generalization. Most piano studios certainly do not focus on performance; the concept of "recitals" eludes them.

If you're talking about MTAC and CM, then performance is certainly balanced out by a heavy dose of theory, plus technique, sight reading, and ear training. In fact, some teachers complain that there is too much theory.
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