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#2253776 - 03/29/14 12:22 AM Dilemma: computer piano teaching....
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 281
Loc: New York City!
I am sincerely interested in my fellow piano teacher's feedback because I want to keep an open mind...and I have substantive conflicts as a piano teacher in dealing with this....

I have had a couple of boys (10, and 13) who have come to study with me recently after learning to play the piano by following the computer program OnLinePianist.com They have already made great progress all on their own using this system, and they are full of robust gusto to play the piano because of it. That kind of enthusiasm is pure gold. I must acknowledge the success of the program to generate that kind of response - and there is no arguing with success. But being the difficult crank that I am, I will argue with (or about it) all the same....

My issue is this: these boys are not learning to read printed music, which they regard as a tedious academic chore that slows them down. You have all encountered that resistance to reading - we've all been through that. Yet, I cannot allow anyone studying with me to remain musically illiterate to the printed page for their long-term independence as musicians. I just cannot do that. I would not allow any child of mine to grow up illiterate - that is just not going to happen.

So here is my dilemma - these two boys are utterly and happily hooked on this program, and others like it, and they are having great fun learning all manner of music, both pop and classical. I think the effectiveness of these programs is that it puts the student in charge of the learning process - and I am not at all against that. Actually there is a real genius to that, and ultimately that is what I want for all my students - for them to be rid of me because they truly do not need me any more to be independent musicians. But I want them to actually know what they are doing.

The program is a blessing and a curse at the same time. I am not sure how to proceed.....I don't want to crush their enthusiasm, and my playing the stern piano master won't cut it here, so I am (currently) being rather sly about it - I am teaching them certain dynamic-action pieces by rote, and they take to that, and then we read the score afterwards, and I make all manner of engaging games about finding chords and so forth. They are not objecting to that. And the almighty goddess knows I am stretching my teaching skills to the hilt to keep them engaged. So far so good, but I am a bit suspicious about this sort of experimentation. Stuck in my ways? Obviously. But my ways have always gotten good results without these computer gizmos.

I don't have to do this. I am humbly grateful to have plenty of good students without dealing with this sort of situation, but I am taking it on as a challenge. Your experiences, criticisms, and ideas are all welcome, because I really would like any kind of feedback.
_________________________
Jonathan Baker
http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2253822 - 03/29/14 05:00 AM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11574
Loc: Canada
Jonathan, when these students came to you after starting with these programs, and you see that they made great progress through it, can you identify what kinds of things they made progress in? Obviously they're playing pieces and are confident they can play them, while a beginner usually starts from scratch and may be shy about piano at that age. Skills? Lacks? (Other than music reading) Like where has it brought them?

I went to the site and watched the demo, to see what it gives. Besides the piano keys lighting up, there are the cascading notes with their letter names, chord names on top, and on the bottom: "intro - |:| chorus - verse |:| - end"

- So they have chords: F#m, D, A, E. Dunno if they could play these chords independently if you name them, or if it's tied to the demo in a more subliminal passive way.
- The two-colour cascading thing is like a visual graph of music, which notation is too. The two colours show melody and accompaniment (by chance) and take the place of your two staffs
- the bottom "intro, chorus, verse, end" actually allows them to see musical form.

I wonder if you can use any of this as a bridge?
Btw, they designate their sample piece as being in F#m, but to my ear it sounds like it is in A major.

Quote:
I think the effectiveness of these programs is that it puts the student in charge of the learning process - and I am not at all against that.

I'm thinking it does and it doesn't. Is this independence or dependence? Can they learn to play any piece that isn't on that site's program, and without following the program? That is dependence.

If they can extract anything from the program, such as those chords, or the concept of musical form (where do I find the chorus - or the phrase or A part), then that leads to independence. But to be able to get at pieces by ourselves, we need to get the skills, which is the more tedious part that you want to give. And there lies your dilemma. (Not that what I wrote is very helpful. frown )

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#2253836 - 03/29/14 07:39 AM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
R_B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/09
Posts: 497
I think that this is the trend and every year you will see a higher percentage of new students who have already acquired some amount of what I have decided to call "i-phone ed" - in any/all subjects.
Edutainment ? I don't like that word laugh
Anyway, it is a trend and the choice to start with 5 ruled lines on a page is no longer yours.

As an adult beginner I have tried and continue to experiment with computer aided instruction - knowing quite well that I learn by experiment and I learn by "play" despite my advanced years.

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#2253843 - 03/29/14 08:13 AM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11439
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker
I am sincerely interested in my fellow piano teacher's feedback because I want to keep an open mind...and I have substantive conflicts as a piano teacher in dealing with this....

I have had a couple of boys (10, and 13) who have come to study with me recently after learning to play the piano by following the computer program OnLinePianist.com They have already made great progress all on their own using this system, and they are full of robust gusto to play the piano because of it. That kind of enthusiasm is pure gold. I must acknowledge the success of the program to generate that kind of response - and there is no arguing with success. But being the difficult crank that I am, I will argue with (or about it) all the same....

My issue is this: these boys are not learning to read printed music, which they regard as a tedious academic chore that slows them down. You have all encountered that resistance to reading - we've all been through that. Yet, I cannot allow anyone studying with me to remain musically illiterate to the printed page for their long-term independence as musicians. I just cannot do that. I would not allow any child of mine to grow up illiterate - that is just not going to happen.

So here is my dilemma - these two boys are utterly and happily hooked on this program, and others like it, and they are having great fun learning all manner of music, both pop and classical. I think the effectiveness of these programs is that it puts the student in charge of the learning process - and I am not at all against that. Actually there is a real genius to that, and ultimately that is what I want for all my students - for them to be rid of me because they truly do not need me any more to be independent musicians. But I want them to actually know what they are doing.

The program is a blessing and a curse at the same time. I am not sure how to proceed.....I don't want to crush their enthusiasm, and my playing the stern piano master won't cut it here, so I am (currently) being rather sly about it - I am teaching them certain dynamic-action pieces by rote, and they take to that, and then we read the score afterwards, and I make all manner of engaging games about finding chords and so forth. They are not objecting to that. And the almighty goddess knows I am stretching my teaching skills to the hilt to keep them engaged. So far so good, but I am a bit suspicious about this sort of experimentation. Stuck in my ways? Obviously. But my ways have always gotten good results without these computer gizmos.

I don't have to do this. I am humbly grateful to have plenty of good students without dealing with this sort of situation, but I am taking it on as a challenge. Your experiences, criticisms, and ideas are all welcome, because I really would like any kind of feedback.


I'm not at all familiar with this program. Were you walking them through this program, or did they do it on their own and then come to you once the program finished?

I would split the difference. Explain to them the importance of being able to read music and that you firmly believe in this as a component of what students should be able to do with the ultimate goal of when they stop taking lessons they are capable, independent musicians. Then tell them you will continue teaching them pieces in the manner this course has done, but alongside that they must agree to do the other parts that you know they need to be able to read music.

Explain it will be hard since they didn't learn it from the start like the rest of your students do, so they will have to play easier music until they can read more fluently at the level they can now play. Eventually they will be caught up, but for now they will have to spend some time on reading easier pieces.

If they agree to this, great. If not, then politely suggest you are not the right teacher for them. It's hard to let kids go, but really it's the right thing to do if they will not submit to what you truly believe in as a teacher.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2253858 - 03/29/14 09:38 AM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11574
Loc: Canada
The students did the program on their own before ever asking for a teacher, as I understand it.

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#2253860 - 03/29/14 09:39 AM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Morodiene]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3162
Loc: Virginia, USA
Aha!

Kids will spend hours playing video games, and develop virtuoso skill. But it isn't work, it's fun. That's because the video games take advantage of the behavioral rules of reinforcement. (as do the gambling casinos. but I digress)

Kids, many of them, see piano as drudgery and spend the minimum time they're forced to on practicing. Few of them develop enough skill to have piano itself become reinforcing.

Now there's a way to make piano into a video game? Awesome! I'll bet there are a few bugs to work out, like the notation connection problem you've noticed. But it seems like there's potential here.

Wait until there are national competitions and they can win money at this!
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2253864 - 03/29/14 09:51 AM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
ShiverMeTimbres Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/08/14
Posts: 207
I am not a Piano Teacher, so I apologize if my opinion isn't valid here:

Talk to their parents, let them know that while this application is great at teaching people how to play piano short term, it actually is actually horrible for teaching Music Theory. Which is a far greater tool when playing piano long term.

What are their expectations? Do they want you to sit there and use green/blue lights to show their kids how to mimic someone playing or not? If they just want to have their kids "play piano", then you might as well just send them home and let them use the tutorials and relabel yourself a Music Theory Teacher, so your role becomes clear. If they want them to understand music theory, then they will need to support the academic method at home.

Now, about this OnlinePianist.com

- It seems to use colour-coding for left-hand (green), right-hand play (blue). I'd recommend you have the kids highlight left-hand and right-hand work in their workbooks with the same colours (green + blue highlighters). That might give them a sense of continuity.

- The appear does have a "notes" mode, which is nothing more than little blue and green dots. They do show sharps/flats and it has a time signature. You could try getting them to write these notes into actual music notation (but, they will need to learn more about music theory before that).

Not only that, but the player itself shows key position, so they should be able to identify where on the Grand Staff the notes will lie.

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#2253902 - 03/29/14 12:56 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
Loc: South Florida
The challenge I see here is trying to convince people that reading music is more fun than not reading it.

It's as simple as that.

Now, GETTING there is another thing.

It's human to want to get maximum success in the shortest time possible, and when people start on their own, the way the measure success is different. This includes transfer students.

I have a guy who is about 10 years old who started with someone else, and for TWO YEARS I have tried to get him to realize that his old "easy way" is the hard way, working out music one measure at a time, painfully, then memorizing it.

He's one of those kids who actually has a good ear and wants ONLY to use the ear - and memory.

He partially fought me for most of the first two years, but not on purpose. And he think the reason he did not quit is that on some level he saw how it effortless reading is for me. I would bring things in, ask me to play them, and simply nailed them, first time, even if I had never heard them. That's when (I think) he started wanting to do what I do more than getting better at what he did.

The time to get kids to read is when they are very little, and that's another huge problem, because students rarely get to us when they are ready - they get to us when their PARENTS are ready.

The little ones are quite happy to play Mary Had a Little Lamb and so forth, so by the time they develop a more sophisticated "taste" they also have the skills to play the music, reading, getting it very fast.

Computer programs, integrating technology into what we do - I'm all for them, but I am not at all convinced that young students can be successful with them without guidance.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#2253911 - 03/29/14 01:12 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
hreichgott Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 895
Loc: western MA, USA
I'm deeply suspicious of the gizmos, but students whose reading level is behind their playing level are nothing new to me as a Suzuki teacher!

Do not give them only easier pieces which they must learn only by decoding dots. That will squelch their enthusiasm and ultimately limit their ear connection to musical and heartfelt playing. Give them SOME easier reading pieces, explain that they need to learn these by reading, but also give them some repertoire pieces more at their playing level that they can learn in a more familiar way. Weaning off the program is a good idea, but you could maybe teach the repertoire pieces with some of the same elements to make it a more familiar process (rote? copying? singing? color coded notes to look at?)

After the reading is happening to some extent then you can gradually push them to solve more and more issues in the repertoire pieces by reading as well (forgetting notes, how to line up the hands) on their own using the score.


Edited by hreichgott (03/29/14 01:14 PM)
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Sounding the depths of small pieces: Beethoven Op. 33
Daily attempts at 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 4, Pischna
Totally loving Fauré/Barcarolles and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2253924 - 03/29/14 02:20 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1002
Loc: Irvine, CA
There is only one simple question to ask the parents:
Why do you sign up piano lesson with me? Why don't you continue with your "OnlinePianist.com"?
Wait and see what they say.
Problem solved.
_________________________
http://ezpiano.org
Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
Watch the introduction video on YouTube
@ http://bit.ly/Ready123

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#2253929 - 03/29/14 02:43 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: ezpiano.org]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11574
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
There is only one simple question to ask the parents:
Why do you sign up piano lesson with me? Why don't you continue with your "OnlinePianist.com"?

There is a hidden statement behind the question that the parents would have to guess. If you already know about music studies then it's clear (so is the understandable annoyance behind the question), but not if you don't know anything. You might be saying "OnlinePianist is good enough. Your children don't need piano lessons." laugh

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#2253937 - 03/29/14 02:59 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
jotur Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5450
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
I think this is indeed a conundrum. But -

music has been "handed down" from musician to musician for millennia, often without written notation. This is one more way.

I think it would be helpful to think of this as an *exciting* way to learn more about how people learn, and new ways of experiencing music.

So they are teaching *you* things, as well as vice versa.

A collaborative learning project.

A little shift in focus of the process, so that they are excited about teaching you, and listening to what you can teach them.

Dunno. Might help.

Cathy
_________________________

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#2253947 - 03/29/14 03:30 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: ezpiano.org]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
There is only one simple question to ask the parents:
Why do you sign up piano lesson with me? Why don't you continue with your "OnlinePianist.com"?
Wait and see what they say.
Problem solved.

I don't see it as that simple they are young.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#2253959 - 03/29/14 03:58 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: keystring]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1002
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
There is only one simple question to ask the parents:
Why do you sign up piano lesson with me? Why don't you continue with your "OnlinePianist.com"?

There is a hidden statement behind the question that the parents would have to guess. If you already know about music studies then it's clear (so is the understandable annoyance behind the question), but not if you don't know anything. You might be saying "OnlinePianist is good enough. Your children don't need piano lessons." laugh


I guess in this case it would be nice to figure out what the goals of parents are.

If the parents would say: "Oh, I think OnlinePianist is not good enough, I need a "real" teacher" then Jonathan would have to voice his opinion about how he thinks he should approach how to teach the kids. In this case, parents would be more receptive to what Jonathan has to offer. If parents are receptive, then they will educate their kids to accept the truth and follow their teacher all the time.

If the parents say: "Oh, I think OnlinePianist is pretty good, I like to continue lesson with you with the fact that you teach just like OnlinePianist that would keep their enthusiasm as high as possible and do not worry about the sight-reading". In this case, Jonathan would know what to do too. He has two choice, either to teach what the parents want, or to drop them because basically the philosophy of Jonathan and parents are not compatible.

If the parents say something else rather than the above two choices, then it is nice up to Jonathan to figure out what he wants to do. However, that is why I said to solve this problem, it is as simple as asking the parents why they sign up piano lesson with Jonathan?
_________________________
http://ezpiano.org
Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
Watch the introduction video on YouTube
@ http://bit.ly/Ready123

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#2253962 - 03/29/14 04:05 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: ezpiano.org]
ShiverMeTimbres Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/08/14
Posts: 207
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
If the parents say something else rather than the above two choices, then it is nice up to Jonathan to figure out what he wants to do. However, that is why I said to solve this problem, it is as simple as asking the parents why they sign up piano lesson with Jonathan?


It's all that really can be done.

Jonathan has his views and his style.

Is there even a type of teacher out there that teaches music WITHOUT teaching sight-reading? I attribute it to teaching guitar via tablature.

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#2253967 - 03/29/14 04:16 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: ezpiano.org]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11574
Loc: Canada
It is the boys, not the parents, who came into this way of learning. They are not little kids - the older is already 13. They are now experiencing playing and learning in a particular way. If Jonathan suddenly yanks them from that so that they no longer have this easy free flowing way of playing that they are used to, then it might make them hate the whole process and turn them off of good lessons for good before they have a chance to see the results. I don't see the parents as having much of a role here.

Originally Posted By: ezpiano
... basically the philosophy of Jonathan and parents are not compatible.

There probably is no philosophy on the parents' part, and this is not a question of parental philosophy - the kids probably discovered this system and went for it.

This is not that much different from when a transfer student comes in having been choreographed and finger-numbered for several years, and then has to learn that he has a whole bunch of holes in what he is doing that have to be patched by going back to square one.

The real problem is that for the students to get reading skills, they will be working on simple material, not working in a fluid and easy way while catching up. No amount of parental alignment with a teacher's philosophy can affect the discouragement that the students may experience. It is the STUDENT who has to get aligned with the teacher, because it is the student who works with the teacher, and then practises at home.

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#2253971 - 03/29/14 04:25 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3162
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker

So here is my dilemma - these two boys are utterly and happily hooked on this program, and others like it, and they are having great fun learning all manner of music, both pop and classical.


For what percentage of traditional piano students would that be true?

I would think a rather small percentage. There are probably a 1000 kids who stumble through a couple years of piano and drop, never having reached the point where their skill level allowed it to be fun, for every student who sticks faithfully to it for the years required.

Maybe every kid should start this way.

Do they play simple things fluently? As well or better than the traditional student?

If the only thing missing is note reading, that might be a small deficit for the majority of people who will enjoy music all their lives but never go much further formally.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2254000 - 03/29/14 06:44 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: keystring]
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 281
Loc: New York City!
Originally Posted By: keystring
Jonathan, when these students came to you after starting with these programs, and you see that they made great progress through it, can you identify what kinds of things they made progress in?


Always a pleasure to talk with you, Keystring. At this point, simply moving about the keyboard with some vigor, confidence, and reasonable accuracy has been the positive achievement.

Originally Posted By: keystring
Skills? Lacks? (Other than music reading)


In both boys there is no sense of calculated fingering, and frequently the small nail-joint of the fingers are collapsed inward which deprives them of power. We've all seen that a million times - that cannot go on. These programs do not correct those negative habits and that is where a real live piano teacher earns his keep (as in many other ways).

Originally Posted By: keystring
So they have chords: F#m, D, A, E. Dunno if they could play these chords independently if you name them, or if it's tied to the demo in a more subliminal passive way......Btw, they designate their sample piece as being in F#m, but to my ear it sounds like it is in A major.


Neither boy understands chords - it is all physical imitation, nothing more. Yes, the program may indicate chords, but they are not learning them, so the programmers should reconsider the efficacy of their method. And yes, you are correct, the piece is not in F# minor, it is in A major !

Originally Posted By: keystring
Is this independence or dependence? Can they learn to play any piece that isn't on that site's program, and without following the program? That is dependence.


I agree. With this program (and others) one learns to play these piece one note at a time by rote and repetition.
_________________________
Jonathan Baker
http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2254001 - 03/29/14 06:49 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: R_B]
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 281
Loc: New York City!
Originally Posted By: R_B
Anyway, it is a trend and the choice to start with 5 ruled lines on a page is no longer yours.


Hello R_B. Yes, you nailed the power play down exactly - I no longer get to introduce some students to the process of learning music. Actually, I usually don't get into the 5-line staff visually for at least three weeks with a beginner, and when I do it is in a lineal fashion. These programs don't do that in the least, so the students does not cultivate a sense of note placement on the printed page.

Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Were you walking them through this program, or did they do it on their own and then come to you once the program finished?


Hello Morodiene - They arrived with this computer system already in play. I would never introduce it.

Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I would split the difference....tell them you will continue teaching them pieces in the manner this course has done, but alongside that they must agree to do the other parts that you know they need to be able to read music.


This is effectively what I am doing now in my own way. It is an ongoing experiment....we will see how successful it goes....

Originally Posted By: TimR
Aha! Kids will spend hours playing video games, and develop virtuoso skill. But it isn't work, it's fun. That's because the video games take advantage of the behavioral rules of reinforcement. (as do the gambling casinos. but I digress)


And I like the fact that kids find it fun. I really do! I just want them well educated in the process.
_________________________
Jonathan Baker
http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2254019 - 03/29/14 07:30 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Gary D.]
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 281
Loc: New York City!
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I have a guy who is about 10 years old who started with someone else, and for TWO YEARS I have tried to get him to realize that his old "easy way" is the hard way, working out music one measure at a time, painfully, then memorizing it. He's one of those kids who actually has a good ear and wants ONLY to use the ear - and memory."


Your endurance is to be respected - it is really hard to hang in there for the long haul.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
The time to get kids to read is when they are very little, and that's another huge problem, because students rarely get to us when they are ready - they get to us when their PARENTS are ready.


Exactly. And the real crunch with all this is that it is nearly impossible to get boys to walk slowly when they can already run fast. Their fingers may be flying all over the keyboard (and we know how some boys are speed addicts) so why slow down to hunt around for notes? That problem is circumvented if we teach the kids from Day One, but these programs can eliminate that option.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Computer programs, integrating technology into what we do - I'm all for them, but I am not at all convinced that young students can be successful with them without guidance.


I have yet to see any aspiring pianist reach what we might call the intermediate level of musicianship by exclusively utilizing these computer programs. Maybe there are some out there who have, but I have not seen an example yet.
_________________________
Jonathan Baker
http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2254027 - 03/29/14 07:45 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: ShiverMeTimbres]
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 281
Loc: New York City!
Originally Posted By: ShiverMeTimbres
Talk to their parents...What are their expectations? Do they want you to sit there and use green/blue lights to show their kids how to mimic someone playing or not? If they just want to have their kids "play piano", then you might as well just send them home and let them use the tutorials and relabel yourself a Music Theory Teacher, so your role becomes clear. If they want them to understand music theory, then they will need to support the academic method at home.


All the kids know is they think it is fun to play the piano, and the faster the better. As for the parents, they usually do not know what to think, and that is why they come to me - they usually want to be assured that their child's musical activity is on the right track (but they are seldom very passionate about it). OK, fair enough.

Originally Posted By: ShiverMeTimbres
It seems to use colour-coding for left-hand (green), right-hand play (blue). I'd recommend you have the kids highlight left-hand and right-hand work in their workbooks with the same colours (green + blue highlighters). That might give them a sense of continuity.


That is an interesting idea. I will look into that and see if I can get print-outs of the music in question.
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#2254033 - 03/29/14 08:09 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: ezpiano.org]
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 281
Loc: New York City!
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
There is only one simple question to ask the parents:
Why do you sign up piano lesson with me? Why don't you continue with your "OnlinePianist.com"?
Wait and see what they say.
Problem solved.


By medical analogy; accurately diagnosing a tumor does not guarantee an effective procedure of treatment. There are options, maybe all of them bad. When I have mere children arriving at my studio playing Chopin etudes at top speed from these programs (yes, you read that correctly) and they cannot identify one note on the printed page, I have a mega-challenge as a teacher.

The solution is as easy as it is boring - I can teach all the notes one by one - and the adolescent will find it intolerable. Or I can abandon the child to illiteracy. And if the youth has by this point deeply ingrained negative habits of fingering - that will take a long, long time to fix, if ever. I am scheming to find a way forward toward musical literacy in these strange circumstances (but increasingly common) that does not feel to the child like they are now sentenced to a musical concentration camp of punishment. My willingness to innovate is being tested here, but perhaps I can become an even better teacher because of it.

This is all beginning to look to me like damage control. In these cases I feel like I am running a musical Emergency Room at the hospital.
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http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2254039 - 03/29/14 08:34 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: TimR]
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 281
Loc: New York City!
Originally Posted By: TimR
Do they play simple things fluently? As well or better than the traditional student? If the only thing missing is note reading, that might be a small deficit for the majority of people who will enjoy music all their lives but never go much further formally.


Simple things fluently? Sure. And in a couple of cases, well beyond simple.

Murray Perahia said in an interview that throughout his youth he was an unmotivated, hum-drum piano student, ordinary and no prodigy at all. But when he was 15, something snapped in his mind, he was suddenly galvanized to achieve on a great level and his ambition took off like a rocket. He cannot account for this sudden reversal.

Had he been taught by this computer program, he would not have been in a position to leap forward, only stumble backward. I will not take that risk with any student.

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

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#2254042 - 03/29/14 08:39 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1002
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: Jonathan
By medical analogy; accurately diagnosing a tumor does not guarantee an effective procedure of treatment.


If you not accurately diagnose a tumor, then it would be a guarantee of failure in treatment.
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#2254053 - 03/29/14 09:13 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: ezpiano.org]
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 281
Loc: New York City!
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
If you not accurately diagnose a tumor, then it would be a guarantee of failure in treatment.


In this case I have already deduced an accurate analysis of the malady.

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

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#2254106 - 03/30/14 01:19 AM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 738
As a music student more advanced in years, I have to question whether this and similar styles of notation are just something that's unapproachable and foreign to me or whether, in fact, traditional notation, as distilled through several centuries, offers something that this notation never can.

The weaknesses of this notation, IMO, is that relatively little piano music is written in it. If it were to happen that these students might really wish to play a piece that wasn't already encoded in this notation, they might, perforce, be motivated to study traditional notation. Or not.
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#2254241 - 03/30/14 12:46 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11574
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker
Originally Posted By: keystring
Jonathan, when these students came to you after starting with these programs, and you see that they made great progress through it, can you identify what kinds of things they made progress in?

Always a pleasure to talk with you, Keystring. At this point, simply moving about the keyboard with some vigor, confidence, and reasonable accuracy has been the positive achievement.
Originally Posted By: keystring
Skills? Lacks? (Other than music reading)

In both boys there is no sense of calculated fingering, and frequently the small nail-joint of the fingers are collapsed inward which deprives them of power. ...


And therein lies the condrum, because they have experienced ease which gives them confidence, but they did not get any technique that will let them play well. Worse, the collapsed joints are already habit and undoing this is harder than forming it right in the first place. There is another habit as well: how to practise and what practising entails. They would want to practise as they have been doing, because this is what they know and in their eyes, they have "results".

Another aspect is that they will not hear weaknesses that you hear (lack of power). If they have virtual instruments it will make up for it as well. In fact, the recorded lesson sounds impressive because of the reverb and other effects.

Have you managed to broach technique - the collapsed fingers or other things - in any way? If so - response?

Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker

Neither boy understands chords - it is all physical imitation, nothing more.

As I thought. But this might give you a teaching handle: something to build on. If you know which pieces from the program they worked on, and maybe found one that would be suitable to hang your teaching hat on. For example, their sample piece is in A major and has the I, vi, IV, V chords. There are also specific chords: vi being F#m for example. Maybe you could take one or more of these things and build on them, and eventually lead that into what you usually teach.

The other part I noted was the "Intro - |:| verse chorus |:| end". Well, traditional music also has form and structure, and part of playing involves recognizing patterns and using that. So that might also be a bridge to what you might normally teach.
Originally Posted By: keystring
Is this independence or dependence? Can they learn to play any piece that isn't on that site's program, and without following the program? That is dependence.
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker

I agree. With this program (and others) one learns to play these piece one note at a time by rote and repetition.

If the students can be made aware that what you offer makes them independent, so that they don't need to go to a site for any piece they want - and limited only to the pieces offered by the site - this may give them motivation to move over to your camp.

These are off the cuff thoughts.

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#2254265 - 03/30/14 02:03 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
Yzorah Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/10/14
Posts: 6
Loc: Canada
The trend towards turning a task into a fun exercise via a video game is called "Gamification". We're seeing it a lot more now, what with the big craze over Rock Band in the past 10 years. People got so hooked on the game, that they have taken the next logical step (for Guitar) and created games like Rocksmith and Bandfuse. These games are fun and engaging, but really very limited in the long-term.

Knowing how to read music, combined with my knowledge of theory has been helpful for me. Not so much for my husband, who isn't a trained musician. He noodled around on bass as a teenager, and now that he's approaching 40, he'd like to get serious. We got him Rocksmith as a way to keep him engaged and learning while he built up calluses (actually, both of us, as I decided to learn guitar). We have been finding that while the game gives you the music at a fairly easy-to-learn pace, it does have its limitations. It doesn't teach you to read either music or tabs. What it does give you are some fun games to learn chord recognition, and the reinforcement that slow-to-fast repetitive practice earns results.

As a game? Great. As a way to stay engaged and build calluses? Wonderful. As a way to learn to read music and associate it to the fret board? Not so great. Ditto feedback on your technique. If you want to learn anything not in the program, you're sunk.

Maybe this is something you need to discuss with the parents and the students, and let them know the limitations? Possibly ask the students if there is anything they'd like to learn that isn't included in the program, and demonstrate how a solid knowledge of reading (particularly sight-reading) skills can help them achieve this goal? Perhaps wow them with a few pieces of your own repertoire, and reinforce that you learned this quickly by relying on your ability to read? Maybe ask them to choose something from your own sheet music, and show them how you can play by reading?

Games are great, but we still need to reinforce to students that there is no shortcut to solid learning.

(and, just to let you know, we're not relying on Rocksmith for the Husbeast's musical education...I have him grudgingly working his way through Barbara Wharram's Theory for Beginners - hilarity ensues when a cynical 36-year old uses a workbook intended for 10-year-olds - and the Hal Leonard method books, as they seem to be one of the very few choices available for bass & guitar.)

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#2254719 - 03/31/14 08:16 AM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3162
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker
Originally Posted By: TimR
Do they play simple things fluently? As well or better than the traditional student? If the only thing missing is note reading, that might be a small deficit for the majority of people who will enjoy music all their lives but never go much further formally.


Simple things fluently? Sure. And in a couple of cases, well beyond simple.



But.............this is huge.
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#2254874 - 03/31/14 03:36 PM Re: Dilemma: computer piano teaching.... [Re: Jonathan Baker]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11574
Loc: Canada
Tim, your previous post seemed impossible to respond to because the way you painted things made this system seem so obviously good - there was a disconnect of some kind, but how to get at it.(?) You are painting a simple theoretical picture: lessons that will end with students quitting after a few years, never playing fluidly and maybe never playing after that, vs. students playing easily and fluidly. Clearly the latter is nicer than the former. But it's also simplistic and not necessarily reality.

The sample on the site is repetitive: the same short line of music with a few decorative notes and occasionally an answering line. Repeating something over and over is an easy thing to get fluid and automatic. How will his technique be? We already have an answer to that: collapsed fingers and poor fingering. -- Will we hear phrasing or anything other than a succession of notes? The demo is made to sound impressive through electronic tricks like reverb. Above all, there is DEPENDENCE. The student must passively follow this program for anything he wants to play. And chances are, if the music has any substance, it will no longer work or become tedious.

We already have programs in place where students can get at music early and fast. We have to watch out for the in the "adult" corner in the "fast and easy" department that leaves the student high and dry.

The thing is that that hard part of teaching is the skills part, and it's skills which foster independence. If somebody starts "fast and easy" then they miss the skills and keep on missing them. That leads to a dead end. And getting at those things later on is a lot harder than building them from the ground up. And when habits are already established, they are a lot harder to rebuild.

It just isn't as simple as you seemed to make it in your previous post. And it's not that "huge" if that fluidity carries other things in it. I do think that Jonathan has something to deal with here, and was right to post about it in the forum.

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