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#2189693 - 11/28/13 03:02 PM Do you sing in your piano teaching?
Peter K. Mose Offline
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Loc: Toronto, Ontario
I have a new adult student who is more or less a beginner. She can read music, has sung in choirs, and played some folk guitar, but at the keyboard is a beginner. At our second lesson the other day, I was singing the melody line quietly along with her playing of a new piece when she asked me firmly to please stop, as it disturbed her concentration. So I stopped, in deference to the request.

But another part of me thought, "Why am I honoring this request? If I as the teacher want to sing during a lesson, I certainly will. I'm trying to draw out musicality, and singing is the best way to do it." I've had some teachers who often sang along with my playing, and some who did not. I do it nowadays fairly often: students need to hear more singing, imo.

Clearly there is no right answer here, but it's an interesting issue. There is also a power dynamic at play: who is in charge of the piano lesson? I would never have asked one of my teachers to adjust their teaching to my wishes: they were always in charge of the lesson. Times change, perhaps, and my teaching style is more flexible than what I received, but maybe flexibility is not always a good thing.

Your thoughts?

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#2189697 - 11/28/13 03:12 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
MaggieGirl Offline
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Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 477
My daughter's teacher sings, esp at sticky parts - Dah, dah, DEE, dah......while my daughter plays. I never thought twice about it
- I think at times she would like my daughter to try it at home, but she wouldn't. She hates even counting out loud.

I am thinking if she asked you to not sing, that you can ask her to sing the part instead.


Edited by MaggieGirl (11/28/13 03:12 PM)

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#2189700 - 11/28/13 03:20 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
hreichgott Offline
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Registered: 04/11/13
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Loc: western MA, USA
How do you see your relationship with adult students? Do you expect obedience to your authority as with young children, or do you see yourself more as a knowledgeable coach/assistant? During your experiences with teachers, were you a child or were you an adult?

It does sound like the student pushed your power-struggle buttons a bit. There is surely a right answer, at least a right answer for you, and it has to do with what you decide the overall role of adult student and teacher should be in your teaching.

For what it's worth I sing all the time with students, sometimes while they are playing but more often in between, taking turns, so the singing is a demonstration meant to be imitated. Singing is very valuable especially with beginners and with adults who are fluent "typists," motivated to hit keys in the right order but not as focused on the various qualities of sound those keys can produce. Suzuki teachers are probably the most singy teachers out there, but even Kataoka-sensei (Haruko Kataoka, developer of the piano form of the Suzuki method) wrote that teachers should not sing too much during the student's playing, as it teaches the student not to listen fully to the tone of the piano.
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#2189722 - 11/28/13 04:20 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Gary D. Online   content
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Peter, no, I never sing. smile

It seems to be one of those things that people are for or against.

But if your student NEEDS whatever you are trying to bring forth from singing, and it does not happen when you don't sing, it's probably time for a conversation!
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#2189725 - 11/28/13 04:23 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
ten left thumbs Offline
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I do sing, but not always (naturally) and I think I would respect a direct request not to sing, from an adult or a child.

For a beginner reading through a piece for the first time, I'm guessing they will feel under pressure to play at a particular speed, while they need time to find keys and control their fingers.

However, I would make sure at some early point, to be playing duets, or to sing, or play in unison an octave up or down, precisely so that they *are* under pressure to play at a steady speed. Many of mine will resist keeping a steady beat, and will use any excuse (e.g. "I don't like your voice" - and who can blame them?) to get out of it.
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#2189728 - 11/28/13 04:27 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
stalefleas Offline
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Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
Eh... Well regarding the "power struggle" it is actually quite funny. Say you did let your student take control of the lesson. Then what would happen? Well probably the student wouldn't learn anything or as much. I only have own student who really likes to "dictate" how lessons go and it is a tremendous problem. He is progressing incredibly slowly because he is always changing his mind--because while he may think he knows better, he really does not.

If I were in your position, I would perhaps simply explain my reasoning for singing (I sing too in lessons quite often and have received no complaints--many students start to sing along!) or as mentioned above ask the student to sing instead... If anything this might help highlight the ridiculousness of the student's complaint.

It's really annoying because a lot of students parents and adult beginners have preconceived notions about what piano lessons are supposed to be like. I'm not sure where these ideas come from but they more often than not get in the way of productive teaching.

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#2189733 - 11/28/13 04:38 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Morodiene Offline
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Since this is a new adult student, it's very hard for them to become someone who basically doesn't know anything. Adults are used to being experts to some degree. Now, if it were idle humming along, then I can see what they meant, but it sounds as tough you were trying to elicit some musicality from the phrase.

The next lesson, I would bring up this incident again, explain the purpose for singing, and tell them either you sing, or they sing. Which would they prefer?

I do sing while my students play, sometimes along with the counting to help them hear the timing, other times to express a musical idea. If it's something you feel strongly enough to do at a lesson, then it should be done and you shouldn't conform to the student's request who frankly, doesn't know better.
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#2189756 - 11/28/13 06:23 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
keystring Offline
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This is not about power or pseudo-expertise. She has given you feedback on what affects her. This kind of communication is invaluable, because it's complicated enough working with adults with mixed backgrounds - less groping in the dark and guesswork should be good.

I believe I have some insight into this. In a strong as a singer, and at this time I am learning to function as a pianist. A large aspect of playing the piano is a matter of physical coordination. You are training the nervous system and the body. The eyes look at the page, and instead of the sound coming out of the voice box, it translates into an action of the hand on keys. This takes enormous concentration. Instead of adding more or less breath, it is changed motion and changed velocity.

I think that if you sing at a singer who is a beginner pianist, you might confuse the whole physical process which she has to sort out. And if you are not as in tune as a trained singer - well, that's another kettle of fish. laugh

In my own journey I had to temporarily turn off the singer looking at the notes, in order to turn on the pianist using hand and body motions to create those notes. My body has to respond with velocity, pedal , anticipated motion, leaning the body --- none of this corresponds to any instinct a singer may have. After a while, however, you may associate that legato upsweep of the voice, with the motions on the piano that will do the same thing. It will fuse.

I think it's fantastic that she can give you this kind of feedback; You might have the start of a nice working relationship. If she is serious then she will want your leadership and your understanding.

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#2189841 - 11/28/13 09:32 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
TimR Offline
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I cannot multi task. It is a function or rather a sensorimotor dysfunction - I'm a mild high functioning Asperger's type. At times listening to two different things becomes physically painful. That may sound like an exaggeration but trust me, it is not. If for example somebody talks to me while the radio is playing in the car, I have to turn it off, which I do as unobtrusively as possible.

Now, music demands attending to more than one thing at a time, and I can do that within the context of a piece. But I too might have trouble with a teacher singing or talking while I'm trying to carry out their instructions, depending on what's going on. Much of the time it would work better to stop me, get my attention, tell me what you want, and then check that I do it right.
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#2189842 - 11/28/13 09:34 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Morodiene Offline
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But it really helps with learning how to play collaboratively and listen to others. Yes, it's difficult at first and jarring, so I understand the student's response. However, the teacher wasn't doing it idly, there was a purpose, and they need to recognize that.
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#2189858 - 11/28/13 10:13 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Morodiene]
TimR Offline
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Originally Posted By: Morodiene
But it really helps with learning how to play collaboratively and listen to others.


Yes, if they're ready for that.

When I sing in a choir, I can do better if I can hear the other voices.

But for most people there is a bit of learning curve where they need to block the other voices to sing their own. Some people never get past that.

A beginning piano student playing collaboratively? That would be a bit of a first, wouldn't it? Might be a good thing though.
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#2189867 - 11/28/13 10:23 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
stalefleas Offline
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Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
Ok right so as some others have pointed out perhaps this is not so simple as suggested at first. Very interesting and informative thread. Perhaps you ought to explore this with your student in your next lesson. Maybe there is something more to her complaint.

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#2189876 - 11/28/13 10:40 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: stalefleas]
keystring Offline
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Originally Posted By: stalefleas
Maybe there is something more to her complaint.

Feedback or communication rather than complaint? smile

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#2189879 - 11/28/13 10:47 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Peter K. Mose Offline
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Registered: 01/06/12
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Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Wonderful, thoughtful replies so far. Many thanks. Most likely I'll just monitor this over a few lessons, and see if we can find some middle ground of mutual accommodation. There are many levels to the interactions going on between two adults at a piano, in the context of a piano lesson.

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#2189880 - 11/28/13 10:50 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Morodiene]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4776
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
But it really helps with learning how to play collaboratively and listen to others. Yes, it's difficult at first and jarring, so I understand the student's response. However, the teacher wasn't doing it idly, there was a purpose, and they need to recognize that.

Hearing someone "sing at you" can work either way.

Look, I have decades of experience accompanying singers, so obviously I am not bothered by the sound of the human voice in that way. That the insanity that comes out the mouths of teachers, sometimes out of tune, is frankly very annoying.

I don't like it when it's done to me, and I don't like to do it.

Just sayin'...
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#2189930 - 11/29/13 02:37 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: keystring]
stalefleas Offline
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Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: stalefleas
Maybe there is something more to her complaint.

Feedback or communication rather than complaint? smile
Regardless of my newfound optimism I still suspect the possibility of rudeness.

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#2189934 - 11/29/13 02:52 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Gary D. Online   content
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4776
Loc: South Florida
Just a little cranky push-back on pianists singing:

Listen for maybe 5 minutes and TELL me you guys don't wish someone had gagged him.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4dhE51_ujc

I LIKE his playing, but honestly, this is SO annoying and SO avoidable. TO my mind this starts with pianists singing, when they practice. Which is why I hate it...
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#2190004 - 11/29/13 09:39 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Gary D.]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3187
Loc: Virginia, USA
I think this might happen, not sure.

Teacher sings to a child, child's brain says, "hmm. Teacher is singing again. Guess they all do that. Wonder why. Wonder what song that is, anyway. Maybe I should buy her some Miley Cyrus."

Teacher sings to me, my brain goes, "Teacher is singing. I must be doing something wrong. Wonder what it is. I wish she'd just tell me. Hey, that's the third of the chord, you really need to lower that pitch if you're going to hold it that ........where was I?"

I sing to my handbell choir when they're playing unevenly and I think knowing where the melody is will help get the pulse back, or if they're consistently doing a rhythm wrong. As a result of this discussion I'm going to be careful not to do it without some thought as to why and when, don't want it to be a mindless habit.
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#2190038 - 11/29/13 11:11 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
stalefleas Offline
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Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
I sometimes sing as I count because I think it sets a good example for the students. It has been beneficial for me to sing as I play to get a better sense of phrasing and shape. Sometimes phrase marks in pieces make no sense whatsoever. Usually it is the editor's fault.

I often sing slightly ahead of my beginner students so that they have an opportunity to hear what they're playing versus what I'm singing. I don't always have to say: "what note is that?" when they can hear the discrepancy. I never sing during the performance phase, except in instances where I want to illustrate how I think the melody might evolve in terms of shape. But even then usually it is beneficial to simply play it for them.

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#2190039 - 11/29/13 11:12 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
stalefleas Offline
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Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
Point being, while some singing might be mindless habit, often there is some purpose behind it.

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#2190059 - 11/29/13 11:44 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: TimR]
keystring Offline
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Originally Posted By: TimR
As a result of this discussion I'm going to be careful not to do it without some thought as to why and when, don't want it to be a mindless habit.

TimR, as a principle that is a gem of wisdom that should be framed. Why, when, and probably testing if it works the way we think it does. smile

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#2190133 - 11/29/13 03:14 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Gary D. Online   content
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No one has touched upon the problem I brought up. Teacher sings, student learns that singing is good, student picks up habit, a decade or more later you have Zimerman, Gould or someone else "emoting" with incredibly annoying humming...
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#2190154 - 11/29/13 04:22 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
stalefleas Offline
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I like the humming.

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#2190160 - 11/29/13 04:33 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: stalefleas]
keystring Offline
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Originally Posted By: stalefleas


I often sing slightly ahead of my beginner students so that they have an opportunity to hear what they're playing versus what I'm singing.

I hope that this is before they play, rather than while they are playing.

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#2190197 - 11/29/13 05:59 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: stalefleas]
ten left thumbs Offline
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Registered: 05/22/09
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Loc: Scotland
Originally Posted By: stalefleas
Point being, while some singing might be mindless habit, often there is some purpose behind it.


Another purpose in singing is to encourage students to sing along when they play which is soooo helpful for aural, sight-singing and internalising the melody.
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#2190232 - 11/29/13 07:27 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: stalefleas]
Gary D. Online   content
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Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: stalefleas
I like the humming.

Apparently everyone else here does too.
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#2190271 - 11/29/13 08:49 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: keystring]
stalefleas Offline
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Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: stalefleas


I often sing slightly ahead of my beginner students so that they have an opportunity to hear what they're playing versus what I'm singing.

I hope that this is before they play, rather than while they are playing.


Why? This is while they play.

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#2190496 - 11/30/13 10:58 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
KurtZ Offline
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My piano teacher sings at various times. Most often she'll sing the top line when I'm sight reading the bottom to help me hear relationships. As for pitch, she sings well enough to get paid to sing back up for local working bands. Both my recorder teacher and my cello teacher sang. I asked them both why they did that and they both answered that whenever I had a question about phrasing/interpretation (of a melody) line and lacking any other direction, I could never go wrong aping how it would sound when sung by a good vocalist. My recorder teacher who is also my recorder group conductor frequently sings at us to get us together and to get us away from the pedestrian phrasing that results from sight reading unfamiliar pieces.

Gary D, the humming didn't bother me but that's some great playing. We, the player and I, also share initials in our names. I rather enjoyed the almost baroque touch and the clarity of voices ala Gould. Oh that's right he hummed as well. They might be on to something. I'll think I'll start humming when I knock out the easy movement of Le Couppey in C later today. Seriously now, your adult student is precious in that there are damn few to go around and as you know, they quit as easily as flies land on cows. This one sounds like she's wound a little tight. Give the singing a rest. Let her get comfortable while you get a better handle on her personality and reintroduce it as needed after explaining to what purpose you're doing so.

regards

KZ
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#2190555 - 11/30/13 01:07 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Gary D.]
laguna_greg Offline
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Registered: 04/02/13
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Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
No one has touched upon the problem I brought up. Teacher sings, student learns that singing is good, student picks up habit, a decade or more later you have Zimerman, Gould or someone else "emoting" with incredibly annoying humming...


I'm not sure Zimmerman or Gould picked that habit up from the teachers.

All my accompanying teachers made me hum or sing the vocal/instrumental line, or "moo" the phrase to feel the breathing (that was Gwen Koldofsky- she made everybody do it). My first teacher made me sing all the voice parts in the fugues I studied with her.

However, none of that encouraged me to sing while I was performing. Of course, I think I might have gotten hit if I had, so I made sure I didn't. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have actually done it, but they sure acted like they would.

The one thing I can't do, though, is stop counting while my students play. It requires a terrible effort to just keep it to myself...


Edited by laguna_greg (11/30/13 01:32 PM)
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#2190556 - 11/30/13 01:08 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: KurtZ]
keystring Offline
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Originally Posted By: KurtZ
This one sounds like she's wound a little tight.

The only thing that we know is that she is a beginner, sings in a choir, and told her teacher that his singing broke her concentration. There is no way that you can tell her emotional state from that single piece of information.

A few years ago I had a conversation with some teachers about feedback from students. I had though that a "good student" silently follows instructions. I learned the (many) teachers want feedback on what does and doesn't work, because otherwise they are working in the dark. This altered my model of "effective student behaviour". It is a delicate balance.

This student has told her teacher how the singing affects her. He may decide to advise her about it, explore it with her - do any number of things. It is also plausible that if she is a beginner, that trying to handle coordinating the piano keys, the notes, and also deal with singing, may be too much for her to handle. That is not a matter of being "wound tight", but of what she is capable of doing because of the level she is at.

Quote:
... as you know, they quit as easily as flies land on cows. Give the singing a rest.

That is debatable, and above all, it is not pertinent. Either something works, or it doesn't work. Either a difficulty stated by a student is valid, or not valid. What happens statistically has no effect on the choices a teacher might make in a given situation.

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#2190568 - 11/30/13 01:41 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: laguna_greg]
Gary D. Online   content
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4776
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
No one has touched upon the problem I brought up. Teacher sings, student learns that singing is good, student picks up habit, a decade or more later you have Zimerman, Gould or someone else "emoting" with incredibly annoying humming...


I'm not sure Zimmerman or Gould picked that habit up from the teachers.

I'm not either. smile

But I do believe that people who are taught to sing along with themselves cannot easily turn off the habit.
Quote:

All my accompanying teachers made me hum or sing the vocal/instrumental line, or "moo" the phrase to feel the breathing (that was Gwen Koldofsky- she made everybody do it). My first teacher made me sing all the voice parts in the fugues I studied with her.

I was a brass player, so internalizing lines was automatic. I did not have to sing to feel the air. Perhaps it is different for people who play another instrument.
Quote:

However, none of that encouraged me to sing while I was performing. Of course, I think I might have gotten hit if I had, so I made sure I didn't. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have actually done it, but they sure acted like they would.

I don't remember any of the older pianists (Horowitz, Rubinstein, Schabel) humming, so I don't think it is necessary.

Bernstein was another hummer. smile
Quote:

The one thing I can't do, though, is stop counting while my students play. It requires a terrible effort to just keep it to myself...

I do the same thing! wink
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#2190716 - 11/30/13 08:15 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
KurtZ Offline
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You're sounding a little wound up yourself. I was being glib and you're reading too much into it. In the end I counseled Gary to use patience and get a better read on the situation. One of the reasons is that adult students are few and far between and they can frequently take hours that children can't. They also sometimes provide an intellectual stimulation different from child students.
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#2190723 - 11/30/13 08:35 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: KurtZ]
keystring Offline
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Kurtz, I assume you're addressing me.
Originally Posted By: KurtZ

I was being glib..

Ok. (?)
Quote:
In the end I counseled Gary to use patience and get a better read on the situation.

She is Peter's student.
Quote:

One of the reasons is that adult students are few and far between and they can frequently take hours that children can't. They also sometimes provide an intellectual stimulation different from child students.

One of the reasons for what? (Not catching it).

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#2190785 - 11/30/13 11:59 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Interesting thread thus far. I wonder why no one has mentioned playing along with a student (although KurtZ comes close)? Many of us have two studio instruments and use our piano to lead the student, steady a beat, help the student with phrasing, dynamics, etc., etc. Teachers of solo instruments (strings, brass, reeds, etc.) usually play along with the student. How is singing different? When I sing along with a student's playing, it is to show them the expression I want coming from their playing, or to help them in some other way.

Peter, I don't feel that it's a power issue in any respect, but rather teaching by leading. This can be explained easily to a student, adult, teen or even younger. They need to develop their listening skills to be successful as a musician, and as they hone in on these skills being able to differentiate what you're doing from what they're doing is invaluable.

OTOH, if you're just idly humming along with the student, that might imply inspiration from their playing, and hopefully, that's the intent! Otherwise, as Gary feels, I'd drop it, and pronto.
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#2190798 - 12/01/13 01:09 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Nikolas Offline
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I do sign to give a better understanding of the phrasing, breathing, and of course I count out loud. BUT I can stop... grin

With piano it's difficult to give the idea of phrasing... but when singing it's "dead easy" (Morodiene will be all over me for this! grin). Thus my singing in class.
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#2190802 - 12/01/13 01:41 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Peter K. Mose Offline
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When I mentioned the power dynamic concept, I didn't explain my ambivalence on this issue. Part of me cheers this student who says, in essence, "Cut out that singing. You might think it's helpful, but it isn't. It is just undermining my piano concentration."

Another part of me thinks, "This student is paying me to immerse her in music for an hour a week, and if I feel singing might help her, then I will jolly well sing. She has to trust the environment I create."

And I do know that I never would have had the nerve to tell one of my teachers to modulate their teaching style to accommodate me. I was a very compliant pupil - both as a child and as an adult - and more respectful of the customary power imbalance in the piano studio.

But times change, and teaching changes. It's also just interesting to be rebuked by a student, since this doesn't happen too often.

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#2190809 - 12/01/13 02:40 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
keystring Offline
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Peter, the first time I read your OP, what I read is that she was telling you that your singing was making it hard for her to concentrate on playing for you. (That also seemed plausible to me, if she was a beginner.) Reading it the second time, this stands out:
Originally Posted By: Peter
when she asked me firmly to please stop, as it disturbed her concentration. So I stopped, in deference to the request.

So you're not seeing it as her giving you feedback on that you might use as a teacher (that she can't concentrate) but rather that she is taking over and telling you what to do. Is this Does she need your guidance on what her role is? Do you, in fact, want to know this kind of information or do you want to draw your own conclusions? If lessons are new to her, she may not know how to act, or that you do have a purpose.

Do you want to hear anything - and if so, what kinds of things? These are things I wrestled with at one point myself. I was the student who kept all questions to myself for the first few years - some I shouldn't have.
Quote:
It's also just interesting to be rebuked by a student, since this doesn't happen too often.

I wonder if she knows you felt rebuked.


Edited by keystring (12/01/13 03:07 AM)

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#2190810 - 12/01/13 02:49 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
ten left thumbs Offline
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Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Interesting thread thus far. I wonder why no one has mentioned playing along with a student (although KurtZ comes close)?



Oh, but I did! smile
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#2190823 - 12/01/13 05:03 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: keystring]
Toastie Offline
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Registered: 08/10/12
Posts: 210
Loc: UK
Originally Posted By: keystring
Peter, the first time I read your OP, what I read is that she was telling you that your singing was making it hard for her to concentrate on playing for you. (That also seemed plausible to me, if she was a beginner.) Reading it the second time, this stands out:
Originally Posted By: Peter
when she asked me firmly to please stop, as it disturbed her concentration. So I stopped, in deference to the request.

So you're not seeing it as her giving you feedback on that you might use as a teacher (that she can't concentrate) but rather that she is taking over and telling you what to do. Is this Does she need your guidance on what her role is? Do you, in fact, want to know this kind of information or do you want to draw your own conclusions? If lessons are new to her, she may not know how to act, or that you do have a purpose.

Do you want to hear anything - and if so, what kinds of things? These are things I wrestled with at one point myself. I was the student who kept all questions to myself for the first few years - some I shouldn't have.
Quote:
It's also just interesting to be rebuked by a student, since this doesn't happen too often.

I wonder if she knows you felt rebuked.


I logged in to "like" this reply.

Whether she is trying to "take over" will probably become more apparent as lessons go on, because if that's the case she will do so in other ways too.

Though I have to say, if my teacher started to sing along with me, I would probably feel the same way as your student, and I'd also ask her not to. She does sometimes hum when I get stuck on the next note, because she must think it helps me find it... It doesn't, truthfully it actually makes me a bit stressed and takes me longer to look at the page and think because I'm distracted by it. But it's such a small thing that I leave it and let her carry on thinking it's helpful. If I she sang too though it would just be too much and I'd have to say so. I don't see a problem in your student telling you what she does and doesn't find helpful.

Which will gain the bigger advantage? Insisting on doing it because you think it's for the best, or listening you what your student wants?
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#2190858 - 12/01/13 08:41 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Toastie]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
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Originally Posted By: Toastie
Originally Posted By: keystring
Peter, the first time I read your OP, what I read is that she was telling you that your singing was making it hard for her to concentrate on playing for you. (That also seemed plausible to me, if she was a beginner.) Reading it the second time, this stands out:
Originally Posted By: Peter
when she asked me firmly to please stop, as it disturbed her concentration. So I stopped, in deference to the request.

So you're not seeing it as her giving you feedback on that you might use as a teacher (that she can't concentrate) but rather that she is taking over and telling you what to do. Is this Does she need your guidance on what her role is? Do you, in fact, want to know this kind of information or do you want to draw your own conclusions? If lessons are new to her, she may not know how to act, or that you do have a purpose.

Do you want to hear anything - and if so, what kinds of things? These are things I wrestled with at one point myself. I was the student who kept all questions to myself for the first few years - some I shouldn't have.
Quote:
It's also just interesting to be rebuked by a student, since this doesn't happen too often.

I wonder if she knows you felt rebuked.


I logged in to "like" this reply.

Whether she is trying to "take over" will probably become more apparent as lessons go on, because if that's the case she will do so in other ways too.

Though I have to say, if my teacher started to sing along with me, I would probably feel the same way as your student, and I'd also ask her not to. She does sometimes hum when I get stuck on the next note, because she must think it helps me find it... It doesn't, truthfully it actually makes me a bit stressed and takes me longer to look at the page and think because I'm distracted by it. But it's such a small thing that I leave it and let her carry on thinking it's helpful. If I she sang too though it would just be too much and I'd have to say so. I don't see a problem in your student telling you what she does and doesn't find helpful.

Which will gain the bigger advantage? Insisting on doing it because you think it's for the best, or listening you what your student wants?
But here is a counter-question: how does the student know what's best for them? Are they experts in playing piano that they can dictate how they are taught? What are they paying the teacher for, if not to teach in the manner they feel will be the best for the student?

The teacher humms the note for you to teach you to use your ears to help you find the note. She does it because at some point this is what *you* should do to help you find a note faster. Learning to associate the sound of a pitch to a key on the piano is extremely helpful, but a skill that takes time to develop. She's not doing it to fluster you, but to help train your ears.

I agree with keystring, depending on how this was said it could be very well the adult student taking over. Adults are often used to being in charge of things - especially ones who are in management positions or teachers (yes, we are often the WORST students LOL). An adult has no problem talking to a teacher in that manner.

I have had children say that to me at times when I sing or play along with them too, and I explain to them the reason why I'm doing it just as I would to an adult. However, I think adults ask more "why" and need more explanation than a child normally does. Yes, it's more time-consuming, but after a while they will trust you more and not need the explanations, then the questions are more out of curiosity.
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#2190870 - 12/01/13 09:08 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: ten left thumbs]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7344
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Interesting thread thus far. I wonder why no one has mentioned playing along with a student (although KurtZ comes close)?



Oh, but I did! smile

Sorry, your point was so subtle that I had to reread your post several times before I finally "saw" it.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2190899 - 12/01/13 10:28 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
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I once thought it was that simple, but it's not. When I took my first ever lessons (different instrument) I kept in mind what you just said, Morodiene, because I am a teacher myself. I assumed that what I was told had a purpose, so I followed instructions to the letter. There were things that did not work no matter how long I tried them, and I felt effects that I did not tell my teacher about. Several years in, I talked to that teacher for the first time, and gave feedback about such things. It turned out that it was needed and wanted. This was a good teacher btw. As an adult who had done music as an amateur, I was more complex, with more unknowns about me.

Teacher hat: The things we is for a purpose, and we assume that by doing them, we reach that purpose. So for example, you sing in order for the student to feel the musical line, or even to pre-hear what the notes sound like - the result you want is that the student will be able to play musically. Or the result you want is that the student will start feeling those black dots as music, and play them as music. But for anything that you do, can you tell (esp. for each student) if it is having that outcome? Or will you assume that it has that outcome, so you always do it? I know you will go by observation - is feedback by the student also welcome? If the student says "I can't concentrate when you sing." do you want to know that and deal with it?

Adult students are uncharged territory. I will give one example:

A young child is learning to use his body, and everything is new to him. He has to learn to press the keys, to play one note after the other, it's all fresh sound and sensation. All this internalizes. When he gets to stuff that is music, that training of body and senses are in him, and he uses them. If he is asked to aim for the musical at the appropriate time, when he is ready for it, then he will draw on that training.

The adult seems to know a lot and is able to understand a lot of concepts: those who have done music in some manner are in the biggest danger of that. But of all age groups they are the most likely to be disconnected physically and in the senses. What are the NEEDS of this adult? What if, for example, this adult needs to learn to coordinate his body to the notes? What if the act of pressing and releasing one note after the other takes every ounce of concentration? Is the student that you teach (anyone, any student) where you think they are?

What I'm wondering, Peter, is whether some dialogue and exploration are in order - or maybe some kind of observation. She mentioned concentration. What is she doing as she is playing? Is she "concentrating fiercely" (tensely)? Can she press / find the notes with ease (both physical and reading ability)? Does she know how to prepare a piece at home - to break it down to work on it in stages? Is she missing abilities which actually do make your singing overwhelming? Is it the way she focuses her attention while playing for you that is causing a problem? And of course she also needs to know that what you do as a teacher is for a purpose.

Student hat: I had to learn not to be completely silent. And what degree of independence do you want from your student? Even here the lines are blurred, because for young children it evolves naturally.

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#2190904 - 12/01/13 10:37 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Morodiene]
zillybug Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/11/11
Posts: 126
Loc: USA
I am an adult student who returned to piano almost 3 years ago. My teacher sings quite frequently during lessons to help find a note and more often for help with phrasing. He also plays along at times too. I have no problem with him singing. The only problem is when he wants me to sing. I can't sing and I refuse to sing in front of anyone. He keeps trying and I will try singing at home to work on phrasing. As someone else said, he says singing makes you naturally take breaths so it can help make your playing more musical. I don't know if this is something new or if I just never had teachers who asked their students to sing. Even when I was in college, my piano teachers did not ever ask me to sing. My granddaughter who is 8 just started taking lessons from him and he has her sing almost everything she plays. However she can sing and loves to sing. I have been a teacher in the past but also would not think of telling my teacher what to do. I may ask questions but I am always respectful.

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#2190911 - 12/01/13 10:46 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
keystring Offline
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Morodiene, we may be more on the same page than it appears. You also teach singing, and I know that you are a very serious and careful teacher, and have advanced training in this area as a singer. I know that for singing, you want the mechanics to go right first - how to breathe, how to produce a note without straining. And if a student aims too early to be musical, they won't develop the physical reflexes which have to be there to support it. Am I correct in that?

I see the same thing for musical instruments. I also see that for those who have played piano (taught) since childhood, it seems so natural - the musical side is so fused into the physical. If you feel crescendo, your body does the right motions to produce crescendo. Piano, above all, is so "easy" for producing a sound. But might the same thing apply as in singing?

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#2190913 - 12/01/13 10:49 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: zillybug]
keystring Offline
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Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: zillybug
...Even when I was in college, my piano teachers did not ever ask me to sing. ....

There is an important factor here. You had piano lessons before, so the physical (technical) training is there. When your present teacher sings to you, those reflexes are formed. How is it for a beginner who has never played piano before?

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#2190937 - 12/01/13 12:12 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Peter K. Mose Offline
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Registered: 01/06/12
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Loc: Toronto, Ontario
I know I sing more with some students than with others, but I'll start paying more attention to when and why. Clearly my student wasn't setting out to rebuke me: she was just trying to concentrate on playing her piece for me, and my singing was in the way and throwing her off.

This didn't seem the time for a talk on the benefits of singing. Besides, I was too startled.

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#2190942 - 12/01/13 12:38 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
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Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
I know I sing more with some students than with others, but I'll start paying more attention to when and why. Clearly my student wasn't setting out to rebuke me: she was just trying to concentrate on playing her piece for me, and my singing was in the way and throwing her off.

It's a balance, because she also has to learn how to work with a teacher, and what you do. If this is her first time having lessons, it's all new to her. Including maybe what she thinks you expect of her.

This has made me think. One vivid memory that's come back is that the teacher of my first instrument always said "psss" if counting came up and there was a rest: 1, 2, 3 and psss, 1...." I'd concentrate on my playing and was barely aware of it. But years later I taught theory to someone, and being self-taught she had "discounted" rests in a sense. A rest is when you don't play so it's "nothing". But is is in fact a something - it is a space in time when you don't play. And what did I do? I found myself making an audio where I was saying "1, 2, 3, psss". It is a subliminal thing that I had internalized. This "psss" was "Here is something - silence is something that you insert." Our choirmaster would say "off" - "1, 2, 3, off, 1" Same thing. He didn't discuss it with us - he just did it.

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#2190953 - 12/01/13 01:13 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
AnneJ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/27/10
Posts: 48
Loc: Toronto, ON
Hi Peter,

If your student was really concentrating hard to play the correct notes and use her fingers properly, then your singing really could have been distracting since it is interfering with the aural feedback she is used to.

I think you need to ask yourself why you felt the need to sing. Since this is an external factor that you are imposing in your student, she might get the idea better if you explain why you were singing. Then get her to sing the part without playing, for example to shape the phrase. Perhaps she can try to emulate this on the piano, but making an effort to draw a singing line from the piano, or whatever your purpose of singing was to begin with. This makes singing internal to her and less distracting for her. Who knows, she might even get the idea faster this way.

Anne

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#2190986 - 12/01/13 02:42 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2494
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
I get distracted by all kinds of stuff all the time; siren on the street, noise from the next room, a roll of thunder. What is a distraction really--a shift of attention or a change in focus. When my teacher does something that "is distracting," I believe that what he is doing is directing me to some aspect of my playing that could benefit from a bit more of my attention.

To me it's a good thing.
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#2191033 - 12/01/13 04:41 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Toastie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/10/12
Posts: 210
Loc: UK
Morodiene, thank you for your thought provoking comments. Well no, it's unlikely the beginner student will know what's for the best more so than the teacher, but they will know what they like and don't like. I can't speak for Peter K Mose's student, but I do know I'd prefer to develop more slowly (or whatever would be the result of not hearing the teacher singing) with a teacher who listened to what I thought. I would, however, be open to discussion if the teacher felt it was important to have the singing, but ultimately as it would be my lesson and my learning I would have to be satisfied with it. I hope that doesn't make me an awful customer, I like to think of myself as a really nice piano student, but I would respectfully ask a teacher to stop doing something I didn't like.

Re. My teacher humming: It happens so very rarely (I'm quite conscientious about learning things), so I can't imagine it's doing all that much for my aural development. There seems little point in telling her not to hum when it's so infrequent and would just seem unnecessarily peevish. As I said, if it was more often I would say so. If she then said there was some good reason for it then I'd be perfectly happy to concede. 
_________________________
Complete Beginner August 2012
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Grade 1 Exam Pieces
Grade 1 Scales
The Easy Piano Collection Classical Gold
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#2191130 - 12/01/13 10:41 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: keystring]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3187
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: keystring
A rest is when you don't play so it's "nothing". But is is in fact a something - it is a space in time when you don't play. And what did I do? I found myself making an audio where I was saying "1, 2, 3, psss". It is a subliminal thing that I had internalized. This "psss" was "Here is something - silence is something that you insert." Our choirmaster would say "off" - "1, 2, 3, off, 1" Same thing. He didn't discuss it with us - he just did it.


A rest is a very important nothing, and I insist on silence for the full time period. That isn't easy with my groups; singers tend to be lazy with cutoffs, and my bell ringers have to take a positive action (damping) to terminate the note. My last visual image seemed to work. I called their attention to the fact that a quarter rest symbol looks very much like a dead seagull, and required them to observe a moment of silence in honor of the deceased.
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#2191133 - 12/01/13 10:53 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: TimR]
Polyphonist Offline
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Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7573
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: TimR
I called their attention to the fact that a quarter rest symbol looks very much like a dead seagull, and required them to observe a moment of silence in honor of the deceased.

ha thumb

frown (for the seagull. grin)
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#2191364 - 12/02/13 11:16 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Polyphonist]
Forstergirl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/02/09
Posts: 58
Loc: Ontario
Very interesting discussion so far!

I'm recommending letting this beginner student some sense of being able to influence her learning environment. As others point out, adults arrive at the bench with established ideas of control. Sometimes there are battle scars. So not listening to students when something bothers them initially may inadvertently damage the trust that has to be built in order to create a really excellent learning forum.

Besides, she also sings in a choir, as I do. To be a good choir singer requires listening hard to the voices around you. When all you want to do in the beginning is get your fingers to turn the little black dots into sounds, being distracted by someone singing in the background would not be helpful initially. Later of course, yes, as I am sure she will make the connection herself that singing is the root of musicality.

My two bits.

Forstergirl

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