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#2003609 - 12/23/12 06:18 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
jdw Online   content
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Registered: 03/04/11
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Loc: Philadelphia, PA
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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Registered: 06/06/11
Posts: 104
Loc: Nebraska
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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Registered: 04/09/13
Posts: 84
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 Offline
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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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1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
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#2104202 - 06/18/13 03:37 AM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Bobpickle Offline

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Registered: 05/24/12
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Loc: Cameron Park, California
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 Offline
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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 Online   content
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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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Registered: 05/29/11
Posts: 10
Loc: Sweden
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]
keystring Offline
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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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Registered: 05/29/11
Posts: 10
Loc: Sweden
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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Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
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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1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
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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#2107439 - 06/24/13 08:30 PM Re: Frustrated with teaching adults! [Re: pianogirl1978]
keystring Offline
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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
Junior Member

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 Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11851
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
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
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 - now sold
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
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3206
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: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
HI Piano,

You are definitely on my list!
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
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 Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11851
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 Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11851
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 Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11851
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 Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11851
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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