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#2134361 - 08/17/13 01:45 PM Students who read music with finger numbers?
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Talk to me please about how to help students who can't read music as much as rely on finger numbers (either the occasional ones written in the music by the publisher, or more obviously added by the previous teacher for an older sibling...)

I've recently "inherited" several students in this category. If I don't add lots of finger numbers on the page for them (which I won't,) then their actual music-reading ability is much less than the level of their method book that they are in, and less than the level of music they "think" they should be able to play (it becomes really apparent around levels 2-3.)

In addition to having them spend lots of time simply learning the notes on the staff (flash cards, ipad apps, etc.) any ideas for what else I should do?

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#2134363 - 08/17/13 01:49 PM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: red-rose]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
One student in particular... he's about 8 years old, very smart but once he learns his songs plays them hard and fast. (not saying that's a good thing!) I've had him doing flash cards for a few weeks, and while he's gotten faster at recognizing the notes on the card, when he's playing a song he still isn't able to identify a note as quickly as on the flash card! (Or maybe see the correlation?) When I make him try and figure it out, he reverts to, "what position am I in? Oh, that's a D since my 2 finger will play it!"

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#2134388 - 08/17/13 02:59 PM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: red-rose]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5462
Loc: Orange County, CA
Intervallic reading!

Most primer books stay in the 5-finger position. Train your students to read intervallically: same, step, skip. They won't get to 4th and 5th until later in the primer book.

If the students resist learning letter names of notes on the staff, then you can ease them in gradually. For intervallic reading, all you really need to "read" is the first note of each line. And you can always just write the letter in place of that first note.
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#2134411 - 08/17/13 03:45 PM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: red-rose]
Mrs. Akers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/12
Posts: 48
Loc: Kansas
Good question, and great answers!

I would white out the finger numbers which have been written in. Have the student figure out what fingering would be most efficient, and be able to justify it. Then they can write it in if they want. Depending on the ability level, you might do this with only two or three notes, or possibly an entire phrase. My students get a kick out of trying to justify wild fingerings. Simply knowing that they are going to have to explain their fingering makes them think about what they're doing.

A little exercise I sometimes do with my students is to have them look at the last note of a phrase, determine which finger they want to land on, and then work backward to figure out how to get there.

I teach certain guidelines for fingering, such as, don't tuck your thumb to a black note, the highest note in a phrase is probably going to be played by the 5(RH) or thumb(LH), and the lowest by the thumb(RH) or 5(LH), etc. Knowing those guidelines helps them reason through the fingering.

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#2139523 - 08/27/13 04:05 AM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: red-rose]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
red-rose, I have read your post, here:

re Students who read music with finger numbers?

Talk to me please about how to help students who can't read music as much as rely on finger numbers (either the occasional ones written in the music by the publisher, or more obviously added by the previous teacher for an older sibling...)

I've recently "inherited" several students in this category. If I don't add lots of finger numbers on the page for them (which I won't,) then their actual music-reading ability is much less than the level of their method book that they are in, and less than the level of music they "think" they should be able to play (it becomes really apparent around levels 2-3.)

In addition to having them spend lots of time simply learning the notes on the staff (flash cards, ipad apps, etc.) any ideas for what else I should do?

________________________________________________________

as I understand your post, red-rose, as a beginner piano player, some students are disinterested in learning to read the music, disinterested in knowing the note names, and some students use finger numbers to get around the piano.

I remember when I read that having lot of finger numbers in the music was a serious sin. So I removed the finger numbers in the John Thompson books by using a 2B lead pencil to cover the numbers.

Feeling good about that, I tried as a beginner to read and play the notes. Well, I knew the note names and I could read the music but since all the finger numbers were covered up, I didn't know what to do or how to play the music. So I went back and erased the finger numbering and life at the piano was awesome again.

That early experience taught me a lot about the basics of piano playing.

I learned that knowing the note names and the address of the note names was critical in the same way that when little children are playing in a playpen or in the kitchen or in the rec room or in a playground that to be able to communicate you have to know the person's name to get their attention and you have to know where they are so you have to know their address - except little kids can't talk much or know numbers well. So it should be explained to piano kids that there are 88 keys in a piano and they are almost identical being either black or white keys. And if you are looking for a particular piano key, it can be difficult to know where to find the particular note because every octave on the piano looks the same so knowing the address of the note you are looking for is determined by where it is on the staff - or above the staff - or below the staff etc. be it a treble clef or a bass clef, etc.

So it should be explained that by reading the music and knowing the note names, you can play the music because you know the note names a,c,b,d,e,f,g and the particular note can be found because it has its own address where it can be found depending on which key that is being looked for.

So explaining it in that way, kids learn how important it is to know the note names and what the notes are on the staff, below the staff and above the staff.

And as far as finger numbers, I just ignored the finger numbers because I read the music, know the note names and their address and - knowing all that - I was disinterested in the finger numbers because I only cared about them to know my hand placement / hand position

The bonus, of course, is that if you learn the note names, above, below and of the staff - you may not be able to play Chopin's Ballade Op 52,No. 4, because it is impossible to read the music and play the music - but because you have learned the note names and their address on the staff, you can effectively can say all the notes in the piece because you have learned them.

Oh, and how I learned the note names and their address is not at the piano, but anywhere you can have a pencil and staff paper and you write the major scales in the bass clef starting on the staff, then below a whole octave and above the staff a whole octave. Doing that before you go to sleep each night for a while and you should be able to read and say the notes of the piano music from reading the music and once you learn all those notes and on the staff, above the staff and below the staff of the treble and bass clef - it is something you will have for the rest of your life with a little review now and again.

Usually the bass clef is more difficult to learn or read because in is going backwards as opposed to the treble clef which is going forewards.

Let me explain it - middle c in the treble clef is one ledger line below the staff, D is the first space, etc. but in bass clef the first note above the bass clef top line is middle C and below that is B, then A, so more difficult to learn and read it is backwards.

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#2139583 - 08/27/13 09:03 AM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: red-rose]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11795
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: red-rose
Talk to me please about how to help students who can't read music as much as rely on finger numbers (either the occasional ones written in the music by the publisher, or more obviously added by the previous teacher for an older sibling...)

I've recently "inherited" several students in this category. If I don't add lots of finger numbers on the page for them (which I won't,) then their actual music-reading ability is much less than the level of their method book that they are in, and less than the level of music they "think" they should be able to play (it becomes really apparent around levels 2-3.)

In addition to having them spend lots of time simply learning the notes on the staff (flash cards, ipad apps, etc.) any ideas for what else I should do?
Talk a lot about intervallic reading. Use some Sight reading method books like Sightreading and Rhythm Every Day that really take music apart for students and give them tips on how to recognize note and rhythm patterns quickly and move their eyes ahead to the next measure.

Are they playing a lot of hands together pieces? I find that when you play two notes simultaneously it's literally impossible for the brain to think two numbers at once; it's always one number then the other.

Explaining to them what the problem is and that its actually harder what they're doing compared to interval reading and pattern recognition helps to get them to buy into what you're selling. It's a hard sell, though, because they think what is familiar is working. So you may have to prove to them it's not working. I generally forbid transfer students to write in any finger numbers at first to wean them off of that habit. Then we gradually add them back in when they make sense to do so. Then it's a tool, not a crutch.
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#2139617 - 08/27/13 11:11 AM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: red-rose]
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
I've always had students with similar circumstances. Sometimes when I look at their eyes they are floating around the page. It's almost as if they might not be a good reader in general. So they finally get it [ sort of] during the lesson then when I'm gone they revert to whatever way they think they are learning. Since they are not reading the notes anyhow I will take a small section and have them play with eyes closed.

From the very beginning it always seems to be a good idea to have them say the letter of the note as they play it. I always say, the out loud part, reinforces their knowledge and understanding. In the end it is a matter of patience and persistence on both the student and the teacher. I never give up and those lessons are the ones that make me feel like I earn my wage.

rada

my goal is to help them want to stick with the piano for the rest of their life.

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#2139618 - 08/27/13 11:12 AM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: red-rose]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11662
Loc: Canada
Rada, what do you have them do at home so that they start becoming familiar with notes and maybe interval reading?

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#2139779 - 08/27/13 06:03 PM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: red-rose]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7580
Loc: New York City
Give them scores without fingerings and have them figure it out themselves. This is a particularly good idea with Bach fugues.
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Polyphonist

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#2139943 - 08/28/13 12:31 AM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: red-rose]
re22 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/04/11
Posts: 147
I agree with what everything has been said here!

Are the students able to identify the names of the white keys? I've received transfer students and I found these two issues go hand in hand.

I'm curious to know what books were these students in that you inherited?
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#2139944 - 08/28/13 12:35 AM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: Polyphonist]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5462
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Give them scores without fingerings and have them figure it out themselves. This is a particularly good idea with Bach fugues.

You do realize we're talking about beginners here. Bach fugues?
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2140007 - 08/28/13 02:53 AM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: AZNpiano]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7580
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Give them scores without fingerings and have them figure it out themselves. This is a particularly good idea with Bach fugues.

You do realize we're talking about beginners here. Bach fugues?

Sorry, I didn't read the thread carefully enough. Never mind. ha
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Polyphonist

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#2140405 - 08/28/13 07:07 PM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: re22]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Originally Posted By: re22


Are the students able to identify the names of the white keys? for the most part,yes, but sometimes there will be a weak spot that I can't tell if they are just "done" thinking, or if they truly don't know
I'm curious to know what books were these students in that you inherited? one is in regular Alfred, the other is in regular PA

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#2140408 - 08/28/13 07:09 PM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: Morodiene]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

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


Explaining to them what the problem is and that its actually harder what they're doing compared to interval reading and pattern recognition helps to get them to buy into what you're selling. It's a hard sell, though, because they think what is familiar is working.

Ugh! Yes!

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#2140460 - 08/28/13 10:45 PM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: red-rose]
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 300
Loc: New York City!
Hello Red Rose,

Trying to learn to play the piano with numbers instead of notes always struck me as an inane gimmick. I never use that material since it does not teach beginners how to read music. But you are trying to remove that reliance from some students you inherited. To improve reading skills I favor music that provides musical lines that are step-wise beginning with a limited span that is gradually increased. The Faber sight reading series is better at that than any I have seen.

The playing-by-the-numbers material should simply be discarded since it provides no help at all. I would start with entirely fresh material and simply move forward.

Best regards,

JB
_________________________
Jonathan Baker
http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2146136 - 09/08/13 02:15 AM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: red-rose]
Beth_Frances Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/14/12
Posts: 189
Loc: Brisbane, Australia
A new trick I've been using this year that i picked up from a transfer student is getting the student to read the note names aloud (maybe a line, maybe a whole page - depends on the type of student and also how much they are struggling) before playing. It has been working really well. Not only is the student practicing their note names, they also see patterns and intervals more clearly than if they were trying to play the notes at the same time as reading. I also ask them questions like "which bar has only 5ths" or "which bar has steps going down the piano" to get them identifying intervals.

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#2148666 - 09/12/13 09:36 AM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: red-rose]
Doritos Flavoured Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/10/12
Posts: 98
Loc: Brazil
finger numbers are a truly cruel temptation, aren't they? if they are there, it's hard not to take a peek and be influenced by them, even though the numbering may not be the best fit fit your hands.

nowadays I try to not rely in them as I used to when younger and develop my own fingering for passages...
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#2148714 - 09/12/13 10:57 AM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: red-rose]
Sweet06 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/13
Posts: 408
I'm noticing my reading falling behind as I learn pieces that require me to work on almost the entire week. Which means i'm only really reading a peices once or twice then im pretty much just using it for reference. For example I've been using the same blues melody line and learning hands together various basslines for it, which takes some time to learn to do well

I think sight-reading should be mandatory for like 10 mins a day and if I was a teacher I'd assign stuff to really help with the reading.
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"Doesn't practicing on the piano suck?!?!"
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#2149059 - 09/12/13 09:32 PM Re: Students who read music with finger numbers? [Re: red-rose]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Thanks for these ideas! I will be definitely using white out, and having the student say the letter names out loud. That is a good step up from flash cards! I also agree with talking about intervals more, and making sure they are understanding what they are.

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