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#933153 - 06/02/04 02:34 PM student doesn't "get it"
ebony & ivory Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/03
Posts: 30
Loc: Andover, Minnesota
I have had this 6th grader for 4 years. She plays okay, doesn't put forth much effort. No one "makes" her play or encourages her at home, and she doesn't seem too interested. I still have to help her with the notes on the staff. We have worked with flash cards, I have quizzed her, I have given her work sheets, I have had her fill in the notes on the music (usually gets more wrong than right!). I am at my wits end about what to do with her, She gets no support at home, no one helps her except me. She says she wants to play, but I just don't know what else to do to help her. She started playing viola in November and only last week was I able to make her understand that the staffs were the same!! She was using that as an excuse, because she was "mixed up on the different staffs". This is a student that really appears to "not get it" and I don't know what to do!! HELP!! Thanks for your input!

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#933154 - 06/03/04 12:59 AM Re: student doesn't "get it"
victor kam Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/17/02
Posts: 422
Loc: Malaysia
Parental guidance and encouragement is vital, period. If she is not sure of basic treble and bass clef before the viola lessons began, of course she will even be more confused with the addition clefs. Maybe you can try to let her listen to some music and get her excited? At her level, it is hard to find music that really inspire.... i mean throwing a Chopin or Beethoven or Rachmaninoff might sound really nice to her ears but in reality she finds her music boring and uninspired..... Wonder if viola really interest her....
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#933155 - 06/03/04 08:24 AM Re: student doesn't "get it"
obrother Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/07/04
Posts: 182
As I had replied to another thread, this dilemma (as well) is only really solved by you. It's an answer that only comes with teaching (and life) experience and, I suppose, confidence.

Personally, I don't try to make a musician out of every piano student. That may sound like teaching blasphemy, but it makes perfect sense to me. Your typical hometown piano teacher probably has less than 1% of his students make a career in music. And there's nothing wrong with that. After all, we don't make careers out of all the other activities/classes in school. It's just part of the overall experience.

So, your student doesn't get it..but doesn't want to quit. After 4 years you are using flash cards ( I have 'never' used flash cards, personally). Maybe the emphasis needs to be less on a strict diet of information, and more on fun and interest. I always have a few students at any given time that play piano grudgingly or without interest from parents. Rather than force feed a regimented diet of what some may consider standard teaching necessities, I consider their temperment and ability and just try to make the 'lessons' fun/interesting and bearable. It's all you can do.

I'm sure you know that there is no one way to teach all children. Ultimately it is up to you to find what type of music the student likes and how best to have a productive rapport with her. Regarding music, I would suggest you ask her what kind of music she likes and try oblige her. Flash cards, after four years...how can I say this...

I would be less concerned about how well she can name a note, and more concerned about making the experience fun for her. That's just my opinion. I'm not saying to throw educating her out the window. Rather, unless you are going to fire her, I think you need to worry less about how she compares to other students/ages and give her an experience that she will someday look back on in a pleasant way.

I teach many kids whose parents don't get involved or even show any interest. That's life..some just don't know how to be a good parent. What can you do? You've got to toss that aside and just make the 30 minutes or whatever with the student something that 'she' enjoys and hopefully someday, when she does more easily 'get things', she'll come back to piano based on her good experience with you.

There's much more that can be said here, that's my short version (?). Don't try to 'win' with every student and have him/her master all the skills/knowledge that a better student might have. It's not always about being a pianist (for the student), but just another activity or learning experience. That's ok, and if the student doesn't beg to quit lessons, be thankful that you have 'something' to work with. Could be worse....Hope it helps....

#933156 - 06/04/04 09:36 AM Re: student doesn't "get it"
starmender Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/06/03
Posts: 461
Loc: Australia
You seem to be only concerned with how she reads music. Why not teach her by rote or by ear for a while. If she has trouble with the visual aspect of learning music, she may have more developed auditory learning skills.

She sounds like a good candidate for a Suzuki approach.

#933157 - 06/06/04 07:14 PM Re: student doesn't "get it"
starmender Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/06/03
Posts: 461
Loc: Australia
Sorry to be so crabby in my last answer - it was late.

As I said above, if she is playing OK with no reading skills, you should probably emphasise auditory learning. You can strengthen her listening skills with a Suzuki approach.

Adding the viola gives you an interesting opportunity, as the alto clef is centred on middle c. This lends itsself to intervallic reading in a very obvious way, and you might like to change to alto clef for your reading studies with her for a little while.

The reason why I think this might work is that, lacking note recognition skills, she needs to develop good interval recognition and rhythm recognition skills.

If she does in fact have a good ear, try a reading system such as solfege, which creates a link between the visual and auditory faculties.

(Don't confuse reading with note recognition- some very weak readers can recognise notes very well, but try to process every melody and chord by note naming, instead of seeing the musical pattern.)

#933158 - 06/28/04 07:58 PM Re: student doesn't "get it"
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4264
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Hi ebony and ivory,

I'm a bit late in coming to the party but as the issue is the subject of a current debate amongst piano teachers I thought I'd submit a view.

Your plight with the 6th Grader can be regarded as "par for the course".
In spite of four years of encouragement, the pupil's initial determination is flagging and alternative outlets are being sought.

Thus the viola ... which eases the sight-reading to only one note at a time. The huge effort in coming to terms with the fingering and bowing of the soulful stringed instrument has not been taken into account.

So much easier to play the piano ... but so many more notes!

Piano teachers fail to identify the real problem.

Keyboard notation is a visually distorted caricature of what is sounded. As such, like hieroglyphs, the current notation requires extreme concentration to make the slightest move towards comprehension. Only by a dedicated process of preparatory de-coding of the notes and lots of practice does the message become clear. Oh yes, we bluff ourselves that we are eventually sight-reading but in fact we are progressively involving the support of aural and muscle memory. At considerable effort.

The harsh reality is that only those with a good aural memory make the distance.

#933159 - 06/30/04 08:43 PM Re: student doesn't "get it"
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 952
I thought your question was interesting because I don't use flash cards, I don't do theory before children are twelve, and don't quiz students on notes. I do have them write notes right on the music but only for occasional passages.

I have a similar student who has studied with me for six years but who cannot read notes without a lot of effort. I seriously do not think it's me, because my method works for everybody else. I believe one day, things will click for him. I don't think he wants to read badly enough. If he was on a desert island, and the only way off was reading music, he'd see a need to really work hard at it.

I encourage playing old pieces. I try to cover his hands so he's forced to keep his eyes on the page (he has a good ear), I explain about skips and steps, and relate notes to fixed points (ie, f in the l.h. is between the two dots). I use the All Cows Eat Grass method of relating notes. I have given this student a very thorough beginning method. I encourage sight reading of very simple passages.

In any case, I think you need to be more patient.

#933160 - 07/05/04 01:55 PM Re: student doesn't "get it"
JBeatz Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/05/04
Posts: 2

I have found that encouraging a student to "compose their own song" can be a way to take them out of a point of frustration to a feeling that they can "play" something on the piano. I was able to break through to a student that was having difficulty reading notation and after we went through several lessons working on writing a song that she had made up on the piano, it seemed as if things began to click for her. Her confidence level really moved higher and she was more interested in the lessons. I encourage improvisation for self esteem and self expression!


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