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#939003 - 12/20/07 03:03 PM Children with rhythm difficulties
Crystalcolors Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/07
Posts: 37
Loc: Upstate, NY
Hello,
I'm a new member, and it seems that I'm not quite understanding how this website works yet. I've just posted the same topic, but it's not showing anywhere, so I must have done it wrong. So, here I go again, trying one more time.

I've a 10 year-old female student who has a severe case of rhythm difficulties. She can't clap her hands on the beat with the metronome, she can't count at a steady tempo, etc. I tried to make her march to Sousa's marches the other day, and it was a disaster. I held her hands so that her arms/hands would swing on the beat, which should force her feet to move on the beat. It failed miserably. Her arms moved on the beat (since I moved them), but her feet were doing totally different things down there. I've seen kids who march with reversed feet, but not totally off the beat like her.
She can't seem to hear or sense the beat at all.

She has a very short attention span, and cannot practice more than 15 minutes at a time. She does not like to be corrected, and gets very frustrated every time I correct her. She doesn't have the mental strength to face the challenge and get through it either.

I've had some "untalented" and "slow learner" students in the past, but not this kind of severe rhythm malfunction (whatever you call it!). At first I thought she had dyslexia, but her foster mother says that she can read smoothly no problem, and her spelling seems to be just fine (though her writings are very immature). ADD? Perhaps. But her mom says that she can keep up with the school work just fine. She has been, though, diagnosed emotional disturbance.

She seems to be able to read the notes all right. No worse than some of the other slow students. So it's just the rhythm.

Since she now knows that she has a big problem with rhythm, she doesn't like anything that has to do with rhythm (low self-esteem). I'm trying this and that, but nothing seems to work.

Is she a lost case? How can I train this girl to understand the rhythm? Is there anyone out there with divine wisdom to help this child? (or to help me!!)

I'd really appreciate your advice, suggestions, wisdom, whatever! Thanks!

PS: How quickly does this new posting show? I've got a very slow dial-up system (yeah, upstate NY!), and it's a pain to turn the pages. If you don't receive a reply from me, that means I'm still trying to figure out how to use this website, or my computer crashed or whatever.
If anyone's willing, please reply to my email through the board. Thank you!
_________________________
Crystalcolors

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#939004 - 12/20/07 03:17 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
offtopic:

Welcome to PW, Crystalcolors. Your first post was not lost. It is in the New Features Request forum.
http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/23/117.html#000000

Posts show up a couple of seconds after you hit the "add reply' button.

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#939005 - 12/20/07 04:00 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Crystalcolors Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/07
Posts: 37
Loc: Upstate, NY
Thanks, Akira!
I'm excited to join the group. I hope I'll be able to find my way around! (I'm not computer literate per se xxx)
Appreciate your welcoming me.
_________________________
Crystalcolors

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#939006 - 12/20/07 05:35 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11448
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Crystal:
Don't expect your attempts at marching to happen right away! Some kids who have never been exposed to music as a young child ever develop the sense of a steady beat. Keep what you're doing over a period of time, and make sure that her parents are also doing it with her at home during her practice time.

Another thing you might consider trying it bouncing a ball. Again, don't get frustrated if she doesn't match what you're doing. Just keep doing it with her and be excited and make it fun. Don't tell her when she's doing it wrong, just allow her to try and fail. She will get it eventually. After she does this in your lessons and at home for about 2-3 weeks, then you can try prodding her to try to match what you're doing. Try a slow march without any music, as that might bring pressure to the situation. Put a sticker on her Right foot (or left) so she can tell the difference quickly, then stand next to her (or if you stand in front of her, be sure to mirror what she should be doing so she doesn't get confused). March and say "right" and "left" to a slow steady beat. When she gets this, then try walking with her side by side, again slowly. Be overly enthusiastic at all her attempts, even if they aren't quite right. Praise her just for trying, and again, keep it fun.

Be creative and think of different games you can do. Here's an idea from my Kindermusik classes: take a drum (or if you don't have a drum, an upside down trash can works great) and beat a slow, steady beat while saying "walk, walk, walk, .etc" to the beat as well. Do that for a while, having her walk around the room. She might not move to the beat initially, but that's OK. When you want her to stop, say "Ready stop!" and tap that rhythm on the drum and stop. She is supposed to freeze. You can do this for a few times, so she is responding to starting and stopping at different intervals. Then when she gets this (maybe the next week) you can add "running" where you play eighth notes on the drum as you say the word and she runs around the room, and "ready stop" again to freeze. Alternate walking and running, so she has to hear the difference between the walk (slow) and running (fast). When she gets good at this (maybe week 3), then try just playing without speaking, so she has to rely completely on the sound of the drum.

Remember to teach her rhythmic notation by first doing, then seeing. You can also do clap & echo (or use the drum for more fun) in different combinations of tas and titis and shh. Make them short 4 beat phrases and have her copy them. If she doesn't quite get one right, don't make a big deal of it, but say, "Oh that one's a toughie! Let's try again!" And repeat. Hope this helps!
_________________________
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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#939007 - 12/20/07 05:36 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Crystalcolors,

Welcome to the forum! Upstate New York, anywhere near Ontario, NY? We were there for 5 years in the late 1970's to 1980. And, spent 5 years until 1969 in Rochester.

About your student, as I started to read, the first thing I thought was blocked and locked up emotionally. This child needs some happy experiencess and laughter, so maybe if you can do some fun things, or work on getting her attention and permission to teach her, that would be a first step. She will find her way if she will only enter.

Don't make a big deal of the problems. Be imaginative and help her feel safe. If she is a child with a problem background, she needs music in her life more than others do, she needs it desperately, it could be the liftline that carries her through.

Does she sing? Does she like words that rhyme? How do you build self esteem? Don't notice her wrong responses, keep talking and guiding. Let's try this? What do you think about that? Let's have fun. Look at pictures of old eras and what pianos looked like....clothes that people wore, places on the map. Get her depending on you for music information. Play for her. Help her with building a vocubalary and having something to say. You have to get her communicating first and in as joyful a way as you can.

You mentioned "make her" and "train", perhaps that needs to be changed as to what the process is.....this child needs safety, security, and something to catch her attention and passion for life.

Art and music are great paths to wellbeing.

The more you tell us about her, the more inventive and responsive we can be.

I will pray that she is reached and blossoms.

Betty

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#939008 - 12/21/07 01:10 AM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5423
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Crystalcolors:
I've had some "untalented" and "slow learner" students in the past, but not this kind of severe rhythm malfunction (whatever you call it!). [/b]
Hi, Crystalcolors--

Lots of kids are bad at rhythm; there are just different degrees of badness. Welcome to the club! \:D

Have you tried teaching rhythm separately? I make copies of some simple rhythm exercises (from my college musicianship textbook) for my least talented students, and I spend at least 10 minutes per lesson going over rhythm exercises. These exercises can be as simple as four measures of nothing but quarter notes and half notes. Something like--

4/4 Q Q H / Q H Q / Q Q Q Q / H Q Q

It also helps if you teach the kid to conduct (down - in - out - up) and sing TAW TAW TAW for the notes. I wouldn't even touch a metronome if the student is severely challenged in rhythm--it will only make things worse. I'd first make sure the notes are matching the counts.

You might also want to consider using some creative percussion instruments (toy drums, tambourines, wood blocks, triangles). Try to make rhythm exercises as fun as possible.

If the student likes to dance, teach her some simple dance steps. It will at least tell her body to arrive at beats on time.

Good luck!!!
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#939009 - 12/21/07 04:33 AM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2846
Loc: UK.
From what you describe about coordination problems it's possible that your student might suffer from dyspraxia.

Here is a link for further information on this condition.

Info on dyspraxia

It's just a possibility and one would have to know much more about this child to make a diagnosis.

Try some of the excellent suggestions made by others so far. If you are still experiencing difficulties it might be worth checking it out.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#939010 - 12/21/07 08:15 AM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Arabesque Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/16/05
Posts: 548
Loc: Japan
Just a minute, you are teaching through marching? How does she walk ordinarily? I remember Sudnow saying when anybody walks they have rythym. When you make someone follow an established rythym then it gets more difficult. Marching is an exaggerated walk to an established beat. And maybe this child is unable to do it because she isn't aware of her own rythym yet. She isn't aware of her own rythym precisely because of the emotional disturbance. Also writing and drawing are very revealing and good tools. Just let her find it and don't push her too much. Just my initial thoughts for what they are worth.
_________________________
It don't mean a ting if it don't have dat swing

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#939011 - 12/21/07 08:54 AM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Crystalcolors Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/07
Posts: 37
Loc: Upstate, NY
Thank you so much for all your suggestions and advice, Morodiene, Betty, AZNpiano, and Chris! All your suggestions are very helpful. I will certainly try them and see how she fares. Yes, I suppose the metronome was too overwhelming to her.

Yes, if anyone needs music, she is the one, and I really didn't want to give up on her. I'll try to make it as positive experience as I can.

Are there any particular text books or rhythm training books that you guys can recommend? It has to be extremely basic and primary, geared for children with rhythm problems. (There are some rhythm exercises in the piano books and theory book that I use with her. They are basic, but she can't do it.)

Which reminds me, what piano books do you recommend? Right now, I'm using Bastien's primary level. I started her with Zen-on edition of Ferdinand Beyer (edited especially for children with pictures and all), which starts the lesson with extremely simple C,D,C,D,C (QQQQW). I thought it couldn't be any simpler than that, but it took her 45 minutes to get the rhythm right.

Before she came to me, she was learning piano with one of my friends who doesn't even play the piano, just knows how to read very basic music, with Bastien's Primary level A. Apparently, my friend let her pass all the pieces in the book before making sure she played them correctly, and allowed her to move on to the Primary level B. When the girl came to me, she was almost done with the level B book, thinking she was doing great.
In fact, her hand position was wrong, which made it even harder to keep the rhythm, her wrists crooked in most weird ways, and her fingers curled up too much that when she hit the keys she made most violent, aggressive sound.
All that is improving, thank God, but rhythm....

My dilemma is that I'd love to let her pass the piece, but if she can't do it right, and let her advance, she'll come across major problems in the future. Yet if she doesn't move on, she gets discouraged. Do you suggest that I should let her pass even though if she can't play the pieces correctly? As long as she's enjoying herself, or should I not?

I appreciate all your responses. And thank you so much for welcoming me into the group!!
Looking forward to hearing from you!
_________________________
Crystalcolors

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#939012 - 12/21/07 08:56 AM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Crystalcolors Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/07
Posts: 37
Loc: Upstate, NY
I forgot one more thing. Thank you, Chris, for suggesting dyspraxi. I have never heard of it, but I will certainly look into it.
_________________________
Crystalcolors

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#939013 - 12/21/07 08:58 AM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Guy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/30/07
Posts: 290
Loc: Massachusetts
Mr. Holland's Opus!

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#939014 - 12/21/07 09:19 AM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11586
Loc: Canada
Fear of metronome: I was helping an elderly friend who wanted to play a duet with me but did not understand rhythm. I brought out my metronome but the fear of failure was frightening. I set up the metronome to help "me", and my friend relaxed, knowing she did not have to do anything with the metronome, but picked up the connection by tuning in to what I was doing. We then played under a ticking clock which also was not an invasive task master. The person was never obligated to use the devices, and therefore the anxiety vanished. Actually might it be true that when you try too hard and pay too much attention, it is debilitating? I had the impression that when this person stopped paying attention to the metronome, she became attuned to it. Metronomes are sort of background heartbeats, not something to "follow" (I'm still learning).

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#939015 - 12/21/07 09:44 AM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
gdguarino Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/20/07
Posts: 317
Loc: New York City
I don't know anything about your student. But as a musician who plays music for people to dance to 2-3 times a week, I can say that rhythmic dysfunction is reasonably common.

This probably sounds like I'm being facetious, and I certainly do have some funny stories about the phenomenon, but I am not referring to people who just can't dance. That would include me, and my above-the-waist rhythmic capabilities are really quite good. :rolleyes:

But there are a number of people who simply cannot find the beat. They can't bob their heads in time, or clap, or tap their fingers. Such people do generally sing in time, even while dancing out of time, which is mind-boggling. I find that many of them seem to "bop" in more or less the same tempo, regardless of the song.

Just the other night there was a fellow enthusiastically clapping along with a song, with no relationship to the rhythm at all. He wasn't even getting the right number of claps, or even the same number, in each measure. I find it difficult even watch a person like that while I'm playing. It's as if my head is being pulled in two different directions.

I am convinced (for no real scientific reason) that the phenomenon is not just cultural. I can think of at least two people I know who a real music lovers and yet couldn't find the beat if their lives hung in the balance. I think we will eventually find that there is some actual brain anomaly involved.

Having said that, my anecdotal and decidedly non-rigorous sampling of this phenomenon does not suggest that the "defect", if it is one, is accompanied by any other mental abnormality, or personality type. Until the music starts, you could never pick out which people have the problem.

It's entirely possible that your young student may yet learn some rhythm. But if she doesn't, and this is my main point, it may not signal any other kind of dysfunction.
_________________________
Greg Guarino

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#939016 - 12/21/07 10:07 AM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11448
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
 Quote:
Originally posted by Crystalcolors:


My dilemma is that I'd love to let her pass the piece, but if she can't do it right, and let her advance, she'll come across major problems in the future. Yet if she doesn't move on, she gets discouraged. Do you suggest that I should let her pass even though if she can't play the pieces correctly? As long as she's enjoying herself, or should I not?
[/b]
Did she learn something from the piece? Even if it's not perfect, I think it might be damaging to force her to stay on the same piece. She will become frustrated and possibly resentful. I'm not saying you don't work on a piece for a few weeks, but you can do the additive approach: give her a new piece while still working on the old piece. This will help build upon what's been learned before and past accomplishments. Maybe add something to it during the lesson, like playing a duet with her (most pieces have teach duets now), improvising on one idea from the song, or have her dance to is while you play, then have her play it again while thinking of how she danced. At some point, however, you will want to let it go. Let her feel as though she is progressing, but don't let her think that she can simply play through a piece for a week and then move on. It's a delicate balance, but if you keep adding things to work on each week, then it will help establish that concept for much more difficult pieces later on in her musical development.
_________________________
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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#939017 - 12/21/07 10:16 AM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
i'm not a perfectionist teacher, i prefer to let the students go thru many pieces that focus on a particular skill rather than belabor one particular piece.. some students are less bored that way. I am fortunate to have a library with many books and approaches.

i also like to walk with them in 3/4 time , march in fact, but count to three. The lead foot changes with every measure and for some reason evens out uneven 3/4 time issues.
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, ├Ľun (apple in Estonian)

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#939018 - 12/21/07 11:32 AM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Crystalcolors,

I think she needs to find the joints in her body starting with the toes ability to move, and upwards through every joint - a range of motion to become aware of. Then, a little bit of exercise that helps communicate with both sides of the body - such as "Angels in the Snow" - which is the movement of doing a jumping jack - but laying on the floor - or if you have it - and she's dressed for it (fun!) - snow.

I would check to see if she can bring her pointer up to her nose. She may not know where her being begins and ends in space.

Have you traced both her hands on blank paper, and had her identify her fingers by telling her thumbs are number 1, and seeing if she can label them correctly with RH/LH and 1-2-3-4-5. Lots of things are discovered in this process when (startingly for the teacher and the parent if they are present) something strange happens in the process.

By all means, have her write her name and a short sentence in front of you. Let her create her own "message". Let her copy a sentence you have written. I know many would be amazed that I would venture to say this as a possibility without having the facts, but I would try to find out (from someone who knows her background) if she has been punished severely, had verbal or physical abuse in her life. Sometimes, being raised by older people makes the normal processes ("play") of children possible - "sit down and be quiet" was an admonishment I heard throughout my childhood" - for instance.
I seldom had playmates. And, we lived in small apartments. I always walked to school. I wasn't allowed to participate in "dangerous" things, so I never rode a bike, or played team sports. I had a game of jacks, jumprope, tether ball, swinging on a swing, climbing a jungle gym, skipping, and hopscotch. As a teenager, I loved to dance. There were lots of rules to live by.
Early on in my life, I became a spectator. I would say before age 2, but that's another story.

Also consider that some of the coordination parts of development are missing or poorly formed.

While examing possibilities, be as much of a friend of hers as you can manage. In this situation, I would think it's more about her than it is about the music. Does she sing? Does she read? Perhaps the information you would want her to know can be gained by her reading a text or graphics first without seeing the music.

I think first of all, getting her interest and getting her permission to let you teach her, is important.

Does she hear well?

Is she on medications?

I know this seems intrusive and speculative, but with children sometimes you have to remove the obstacles before you can reach them.

My first two years at the piano were difficult I was confused all the time. And, that's the truth!

I became a musician "magically" when changing to another teacher - and immediately aced my assignments, and could play and sightread at the Brahms Intermezzo's, Clair de Lune, Pavanne, Scarf Dance level in the 3rd year, but I could not memorize very well. I always felt self-conscious, and I suffered from self-esteem for a long time. At the same time, I was bright enough academically, but not in math and science. I was good in language arts.

That's why (personal experience) I think this young girl needs assistance in finding herself and I know it can happen through piano lessons.

Sorry to be so long and personal, but it's part of the explanation why I am thinking along these lines.

Now I've been teaching for 37 years - amazing, huh?

Betty

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#939019 - 12/21/07 11:36 AM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1520
There are many people with a sort of neurological rhythmic dyslexia, both kids and adults. You probably don't have enough time each week to correct that. For now, focus on learning note reading and note values (counting and clapping) no matter how irregular her pulse is. Hopefully a more steady pulse will evolve as she gets older, more neurologically mature, more experienced, but she'll probably never have a tight beat and even some pros don't have all that solid of a beat. You can't make somebody have a steady pulse. Often the case is that they have to want to have it and then make an effort of their own with your help.
_________________________
1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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#939020 - 12/21/07 11:51 AM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
ClaraSchumann Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/25/05
Posts: 73
Thanks for this post, Crystal. I'm a faithful reader and only comment here and there. These suggestions are great. Just thought I'd add a few things that have worked for me. I've had one or maybe two students with very similar struggles, and I recently took on ten transfer students all at once and was surprised to find that none understood even the basics of rhythm. (I'm not disparaging their former teacher in any way...she taught many other things very well, and her students love to play, which honestly is most of the battle.) Just giving background.

First, have you looked at the new Alfred Premier method? I'm generally not a big Alfred fan, preferring Faber for most students, but I really like the way this new series teaches rhythm. The front of each book has color-coded rhythm samples that the student learns to count and clap, then they are used in the songs, with the sample in color at the top of the page. I've started a student in level 3, and it's working wonders with her. Maybe someone else has experience with the earlier levels?

Second, play with her. I love books with teacher duets. If a student can make it through to the end with me, they can usually pass it off. I try to teach students that mistakes are normal and it's what we do after a mistake that's really important. Playing duets will help her learn to keep going, no matter what, and she'll have to keep a steady beat.

Third, I use Rockin' Rhythms from TCW Resources (I think they've been purchased by KJOS now.) They are a series of cards with a four measure rhythm. At the beginning of each lesson, students have about a minute to count and clap--or snap, stomp, etc.--as many cards as they can. We go through each level without metronome first and then again with metronome. You can make up these cards on your own. Your student will probably need you to do each one with her for a while. I use a small sticky note with each student's name and move it along through the cards. Very motivating.

Also, some students do better learning rhythm without a time signature. Instead, they say: quarter, quarter, half-note, whole-note-hold-it, two-eights, two-eights, half-note-dot. This is a good way to build confidence in rhythm because they can always say quarter for a quarter note, instead of sometimes 1, 2, 3, or 4. Of course, this only works for so long, and they need to transition to regular counting, but that's been surprisingly problem-free.

Last, just wanted to chime in with the idea of keeping it fun. Don't tell her she's done it wrong. Just keep at it and she'll get it.

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#939021 - 12/21/07 12:51 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11448
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
 Quote:
Originally posted by gdguarino:
I don't know anything about your student. But as a musician who plays music for people to dance to 2-3 times a week, I can say that rhythmic dysfunction is reasonably common.

This probably sounds like I'm being facetious, and I certainly do have some funny stories about the phenomenon, but I am not referring to people who just can't dance. That would include me, and my above-the-waist rhythmic capabilities are really quite good. :rolleyes:

But there are a number of people who simply cannot find the beat. They can't bob their heads in time, or clap, or tap their fingers. Such people do generally sing in time, even while dancing out of time, which is mind-boggling. I find that many of them seem to "bop" in more or less the same tempo, regardless of the song.

Just the other night there was a fellow enthusiastically clapping along with a song, with no relationship to the rhythm at all. He wasn't even getting the right number of claps, or even the same number, in each measure. I find it difficult even watch a person like that while I'm playing. It's as if my head is being pulled in two different directions.

I am convinced (for no real scientific reason) that the phenomenon is not just cultural. I can think of at least two people I know who a real music lovers and yet couldn't find the beat if their lives hung in the balance. I think we will eventually find that there is some actual brain anomaly involved.

Having said that, my anecdotal and decidedly non-rigorous sampling of this phenomenon does not suggest that the "defect", if it is one, is accompanied by any other mental abnormality, or personality type. Until the music starts, you could never pick out which people have the problem.

It's entirely possible that your young student may yet learn some rhythm. But if she doesn't, and this is my main point, it may not signal any other kind of dysfunction. [/b]
This all has to do with what they were exposed with as a child. After having taught Kindermusik to children, most of whom couldn't find a steady beat, were able to after 1-2 semesters of once a week Kinderumusik class. This is because it is a learned process, and if they can walk, bounce a ball, and cut with scissors, they can find a steady beat. They just have to learn how. Some people can grow up with no interaction with music and thus have no sense of steady beat. There is hope for everyone, although this skill is best developed in the ages between 1 1/2 - 3 1/2.
_________________________
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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#939022 - 12/21/07 08:28 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Crystalcolors Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/07
Posts: 37
Loc: Upstate, NY
Thank you all, for your advice and suggestions. They are all very, very helpful.

I stopped teaching piano some 18 years ago (was in Guam for 7 years), when my husband and I moved to the States, and just recently started teaching again, so I'm pretty rusty in this business. (By the way, who used to live in Ontario, NY? We're in Binghamton area.)

The girl in question has been molested and poorly taken care of by her birh parents. She has recently been adopted by one of my friends, and now lives in a single-mother home. So she's been through a lot. This adoptive mother is a phenomenal tone/rhythm deaf herself, so not much can be done at home musically. But the mother is willing to do anything to help her learn music.

I stopped using metronome with her, since I realized it paralyzed her. And yes, I just did the march once, just to see if she could march on the beat, and since she couldn't and didn't enjoy it, I won't do it again until she's ready.

She comes with her friend to the lesson, so while her friend is taking lesson, she can do whatever she wants as long as she's quiet. I have nice picture books for kids, and also I gave her and her friend a notebook each, to write messages to me, and I respond to their messages every week. She doesn't show any interest to the books, but she does write a few sentences to me each week. Her sentences are immature, and there is no connections from one sentence to the next, just like 5 years olds talk. But it is pretty genuine. Meaning it is her own words, which I think is very precious. Her spelling is not bad, though her punctuation is pretty bad. I do paint/draw and write, so that's something to consider definitely. Meaning if it helps, I can teach her drawing, etc. She needs to have something through which she can express/communicate her emotions freely.

As far as her physical function, she's externally normal. I don't know if she's athletic or not. I'm going to try some games/plays to see if she will enjoy any of them, like hop-scotch, jump rope, etc. some things that she can do at home with her mom or friends. (What is Jumping Jack? I'm from another country.)

Rhythm is something that we learn without knowing, by walking, running, panting, clapping, breathing, and playing lots of kids games. All these things we do during our childhood help to build the sense of rhythm in us without pain or stress. Somehow some people miss those opportunities. On the other hand, some people did have those opportunities, but still can't get it. My husband is the latter. He's pretty athletic, and he played a lot with his friends, did have enough opportunities, yet when it comes to music, aaaagh!! He still plays 4/4 songs with his guitar in 3/4 time!! I've tried and he's tried, but at age 49, he still can't do it right.

Marching in 3/4 time is a wild idea, Apple, but I like it! I'll see if it's a possibility.
Also, Quarter, Quarter, Half-note... etc. will definitely help her count at a steady tempo, Clara. I'll try that immediately. I'll also try to look into Alfred Premier method.
Yikes! I have a lot of homework to do!

Speaking of dance, I love ballet and I used to go to ballet performances (to watch, of course). I can't dance to rock music or jazz or disco, but as soon as I hear Bach or Handel or some sort of Baroque music, I start dancing! There's something about Baroque music. In fact, I have a hard time keeping myself still during Handel's Messiah! Anybody shares the same problem?

Anyhow, back to the perfection issue. When I was taking lessons as a girl, none of my teachers was a perfectionist, and they all let me advance easily. And I never learned to play any of the pieces perfectly without mistake, and that really affected my confidence, because I knew I didn't have it well enough to play in front of people. I always had this knot in my stomach that I wasn't good enough. This knot has eventually banished when I started improvising, but if you ask me to play Mozart sonatas now, I still can't play them perfectly, which really is a shame. And I really wish my teachers were stricter.
That's my own experience. My sister was a different case. She took lessons from lenient teachers too, and in her case that was necessary, because if they were any stricter, she would have quit right away.
I guess it depends on the personality of the student.
In any case, I do tell my students about my own experience, and tell them that I want them to have solid confidence when they play. And they know that they have to play a piece as errorless as they can. Of course, I don't want technical perfection destroy the life in music, so I do let them move on if they play musically well.

Well, that's for my regular students. For this special girl, we aren't at that level yet. I guess at this point, the goal is to help her enjoy music.
And yes, Betty, you're right. Trust between student and teacher is very important. I'll try to be her good friend!

Oh, speaking of dyslexia, I think I have a mild case of dyslexia myself!! I often reverse words by mistake. Like yesterday, I commanded my dog, Shadow, to sit. Well, I misplaced the "h" and guess what I said. I won't spell them out here, since we aren't supposed to use those languages, but I tell you, I have had my share of embarrasing moments!

Anyhow, sorry about this long reply. Thank you all for your support, help, and wonderful suggestions! I'm beginning to feel a lot more hopeful.
By the way, if my English doesn't make sense, forgive me. I'm still learning it!
_________________________
Crystalcolors

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#939023 - 12/21/07 08:55 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
DragonPianoPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/06
Posts: 2368
Loc: Denver, CO
Crystalcolors:

Here is a link to a video demonstrating jumping jacks:

http://beauty.expertvillage.com/videos/aerobics-video-jumping-jack.htm

Rich
_________________________

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#939024 - 12/21/07 09:38 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Crystalcolors,


The video of the jumping jacks is a good demonstration, thanks, DragonPianoPlayer for supplying that! It would be better to start her off laying with her back on the floor (be there with her demonstrating - her little friend would probably have fun doing this together) the movements should not be done so fast as the video. She may have balance problems at first and fall. Everything you try physically should be done in the safest way possible until you find her capacities and limitations.

The reason I suggest doing jumping jacks like "Angels in the Snow" is there is a development problem called midline ________ (next word is escaping me)/ It's an impediment of messages getting to the other side of the body. Maybe someone else is more familiar with this. I haven't thought about it recently.

It's good that her mother is your friend - I really think this young lady can be fulfilled in finding herself as well as music.

Crystal, if you can print the postings written here on paper, by saving in a MSW document first and "printing" on the computer/printer, you will have a "little book" to study and cross out or highlight ideas, and get your thoughts organized. Then you can edit the material you want to remove and keep the ideas you want to work with over time. This is quite an abundant response of enlightened ideas.

PS. (Off Topic) It was me in Ontario in 1975-80 which was on Lake Ontario. You are more south beyond Syracuse? Are the Syracuse "Blue Blades" still sponsored by Gillette Razor Blade company, do you know? They were one mighty band when we saw them.

Good luck!

Betty

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#939025 - 12/21/07 10:39 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Amy J Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/19/07
Posts: 141
Loc: Kansas City, MO
 Quote:
Originally posted by Crystalcolors:
[QB] Hello,
I'm a new member, and it seems that I'm not quite understanding how this website works yet. I've just posted the same topic, but it's not showing anywhere, so I must have done it wrong. So, here I go again, trying one more time.

I've a 10 year-old female student who has a severe case of rhythm difficulties. She can't clap her hands on the beat with the metronome, she can't count at a steady tempo, etc. I tried to make her march to Sousa's marches the other day, and it was a disaster. I held her hands so that her arms/hands would swing on the beat, which should force her feet to move on the beat. It failed miserably. Her arms moved on the beat (since I moved them), but her feet were doing totally different things down there. I've seen kids who march with reversed feet, but not totally off the beat like her.
She can't seem to hear or sense the beat at all.

She has a very short attention span, and cannot practice more than 15 minutes at a time. She does not like to be corrected, and gets very frustrated every time I correct her. She doesn't have the mental strength to face the challenge and get through it either.

I've had some "untalented" and "slow learner" students in the past, but not this kind of severe rhythm malfunction (whatever you call it!). At first I thought she had dyslexia, but her foster mother says that she can read smoothly no problem, and her spelling seems to be just fine (though her writings are very immature). ADD? Perhaps. But her mom says that she can keep up with the school work just fine. She has been, though, diagnosed emotional disturbance.

She seems to be able to read the notes all right. No worse than some of the other slow students. So it's just the rhythm.

Since she now knows that she has a big problem with rhythm, she doesn't like anything that has to do with rhythm (low self-esteem). I'm trying this and that, but nothing seems to work.

Is she a lost case? How can I train this girl to understand the rhythm? Is there anyone out there with divine wisdom to help this child? (or to help me!!)

I'd really appreciate your advice, suggestions, wisdom, whatever! Thanks!/QB]
I have to ask you: Are you my daughter's teacher? I'm joking and I know you're not, because she eventually got over her rhythm issues, but they interfered with dance, cheerleading and, eventually, piano. Does your student get incredibly grouchy and snap when she doesn't want to do something? Are tears frequent?

My daughter still does that to the point that I have to go in the lessons with her to keep her in line. She was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder. She has that low self-esteem thing going, too. For instance, she will say, "I can't!" or "It hurts my hands!" immediately after being told to try something new, and she breaks down, in tears. It takes me growling, "JUST TRY IT! YOU CAN DO IT!" and she can. She does it perfectly her second try.

My daughter is coming along, with me being persistent. Hang in there. I'm not a teacher because I knew I couldn't teach my daughter, but I know it does get better. I thought, maybe, she wouldn't get hateful with someone other than me. I was wrong. I just give her "the look" and growl and it seems to stop it, though.

I kept thinking, "Do I have to beat the rhythm into her head?" I know that sounds brutal, but I was almost willing to take drastic measures to get her to feel the beat. She rushes, too, but I think that's normal for kids, isn't it? She straightened out her rushing problem on the last recital.

I think what finally helped is that my daughter was made to count while she played - ALL THE TIME. Her teacher made her do it, I counted out loud and stomped with the beat. Now she can count and figure things out.

Let me know how it goes. I know it can be frustrating because I'm on the parent-side and it's frustrating to me.

Amy

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#939026 - 12/22/07 06:11 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Crystalcolors Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/07
Posts: 37
Loc: Upstate, NY
Thank you, Dragon, for the Jumping Jack info. Sounds like a fun thing to try.
And thanks, Betty, for suggesting to print this all. I just did it. There are many valuable info and suggestions which will be helpful in the future. Appreciate it, everyone!

Binghamton is about an hour and half south of Syracuse. We just moved to NY 2 years ago, so we aren't familiar with many things just yet. I don't know anything about Blue Blaze, but we'll eventually find out! We love NY so far. It's a beautiful place, with beautiful people.

Today, we had a Xmas program at our church. During the children's story, the girl in question, my student, was chosen to read the Bible, and she did a marvelous job reading the verses! She not only read it smoothly, but in a good, calm tone. So then I got to thinking, if I can make some picture rolls for children, I can have her read them to the littler ones. I've been thinking about making picture rolls for a long time, but never got around to it. I think she'll do well. That will make her feel special, and it can be a beginning of some kind of talent in "narrating" of sort. Piano is not for everybody, but everybody has some kind of talent, and it is important to find what that talent is in a child.

Back to Amy's mail. I'm glad that your daughter is improving! That is encouraging. My student does have some temper tantrum problem, according to her adoptive mother, though I haven't seen her throwing one yet. She behaves fairly well during the lesson. She used to talk back, but ever since I told her that she wouldn't need a teacher if she thought she knew everything, she has been pretty well behaved. I haven't seen a tear yet so far. But when she's corrected, she gets visibly frustrated.

I do make her count while she plays, and I count along too. Often I clap while she plays, and I make her clap too, but none helped so far. I tried duet with her, but that, too, was a disaster. Not just the tempo, but her counting the beat was way off. She doesn't seem to be able to "hear" my accompaniment, or anything else. Many children have rhythm problems, but they can at least "hear" and eventually learn to count right. You really can't "pound" it in her head when she can't even hear it. I mean, her ears are perfectly normal, but... you know what I mean. When it comes to rhythm, she is deaf.

So I'm going to try some of the things that were suggested here, and see how it will help her. I wish you good luck with your daughter. I'm sure she'll do very well!
_________________________
Crystalcolors

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#939027 - 12/22/07 07:10 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1520
"Practice makes progress, now get marching!"

_________________________
1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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#939028 - 12/22/07 09:35 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
Welcome!

You have heard of a lot of good ideas to treat and reasons possibly why this is ocurring.

I have to say by scanning all the posts, I have to agree with Betty's first post. Especially since it is diagnosed that she has some emotional issues.

I feel it is a lot deeper than trying to have her march in 4/4 or waltz in 3/4.

Hmmm.... She needs to be happy and be able to know herself and accept herself a little more, then she will find her inner rhythm.

I wonder how, as a piano teacher would you go about this?

I would not do, with all respect, anything acadamia to resolve this issue, like I said I think it is deeper than this.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#939029 - 12/23/07 02:01 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Crystalcolors Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/07
Posts: 37
Loc: Upstate, NY
I like that picture, rintincop!

Yes, pianobuff, that's the very thing I'm racking my brain. Within the 45 minutes lesson time (that's my standard time for beginners, and it flies away just like that!), what can be done?
She is eager to touch the piano, so I'm not going to take that away from her. But then comes the brain-numbing rhythm issue, and we can't move forward or backward. I do realize that her problem must be treated as a person, not as a piano student.

As Betty have suggested, I may do some singing with her. (Gee, I hope she's not tone deaf! Her adoptive mother is, and that's the scary part.)

Her personality is rather extroverted, she likes to show off, she likes to go up front, loves attention, etc. She's generally pretty cheerful and talkative. She's not shy at all either. She goes right up to make friends with new children, not afraid of adults either.
The reason why she wanted to learn piano is because she'd seen other girls her age (my students) play the piano up front at the church and receive lots of compliments from people. She wanted the same spotlight. At this point, no one knows, not even she, if she really loves music and that's why she's taking lessons.

But if spotlight is what she really needs and wants, then I think I can find something else for her, which she may do much better than piano, to build her confidence. I think she's struggling to find something that she can be proud of and establish her confidence on. Unfortunately, her talent in music falls short; it's giving her challenge, instead, which is the last thing she wanted.

I'm going to try to make the lessons as fun, simple, and enjoyable as I can, and give her lots of encouragement, and do a little games that might help her with rhythm, as many people have suggested here.

Also, I have a notebook for her to write whatever she wants, and I respond to her each week. She's pretty open about how she feels. So I hope something will come of it. I have suggested to her mother to play Mozart music quietly at home to soothe her emotions.

I am receiving another brand new student tomorrow, an 8-yr-old boy, who is mentally challenged. I have talked to this boy once before, and I know he can carry conversations. I don't know if his learning ability is up to the standard, though.
I may need you guys' help again. These children, who have been abandoned by their own parents (I have 3 such students), really need music, and my heart goes out to them. I wish I were better trained to meet these special children's special needs!
_________________________
Crystalcolors

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#939030 - 12/23/07 02:17 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Good for you Crystalcolors!

First of all, for accepting and working with students with special learning problems - there is such a variety of them!

And, for bringing up your situations, questions and concerns, you will be helping us learn and research for more information right along with you, which increases everyone's knowledge.

I had a mentor, Muriel Carnes, who was an associate of mine in my local chapter of MTNA in the 1980's, she had group classes for the study of music history for fellow teachers - there were about 8 of us, and it was an 8-9 month study program. Muriel passed away soon after, and I've always been grateful that we had that year together, the group of us.

One of her major philosophies was "Every one deserves the opportunity to learn to make music." She followed this with: "You take them from where they are and do the best you can - they are capable and can express music in some meaningful way."

Keep us updated!

Betty

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#939031 - 12/23/07 04:32 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Wow! lots of fabulous ideas (as always). I agree that is a pretty common issue.

As for the question of would you let her pass even if she didn't play it right on?
I bet we all come ask that from time to time. I personally keep several different books of each level on hand (garage sales, ex-student donations, half.com, used book stores) for that very reason. Rather than have the student know that she's repeating (and feeling bad about it) I give her 2 of the same level books to pick something out of. Different versions (Indian, christian, jazz etc OR different methods Alfred, Bastien...)She feels like she's in control, we are going over the same info, and we both leave happy!
_________________________
It is better to be kind than to be right.

Professional private piano teacher since 1994.

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#939032 - 12/24/07 08:39 PM Re: Children with rhythm difficulties
Crystalcolors Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/07
Posts: 37
Loc: Upstate, NY
Thank you all for your encouragement and support! I have good news to report to you. Today, she came to the lesson with a very possitive attitude (she's usually positive and upbeat when she comes). And she surprised me by saying, "I've been marching at home with Sousa's music, and I love it!!!!" And then she said, "I've been listening to Mozart too, and I love it too!!!" Wow!

When we did the Sousa march last week, she didn't like it, so I thought I'd never do it again until she's ready, but it seems that she enjoyed it, so I may do it again. Of course, her feet won't be following the beat, but so what. By listening, she'll hear the beat (I hope!) and eventually she'll learn. March is something we all did during our elementary and academic years. Whether you know what you're doing or not, you march along with everyone else. She's never done marching before. I don't know what they do at schools nowadays, but some kids just don't have the opportunity to get acquainted with music! (She didn't even know the song,"10 Little Indians"!!!!!)

By the way, she is tone-deaf. I just found out today. xxxxxx

During the lesson, she played the old Bastien Primer A book, the pieces that she'd learned with my non-pianist friend. Her rhythm was again not very good, so I tried Betty's Quater Quarter Half-note thing, and walla! it worked!
Well, it wasn't perfect, but big improvement. So I let her pass all the pieces, and she was very happy. Thanks, Betty, for fabulous idea!

She was also very eager to get to that notebook to write a message to me. I haven't read it yet, but I'm eager to read it.

We did some rhythm games at the end of the lesson, with 2 other students. She was lost, but I taught her mother how to do it, so I'm sure she'll learn it during the week with her mom.

Yes, Ebony, that's a good idea to let them play different books. All my students have 2-5 different books, but this girl didn't seem to be ready, so I didn't give her extra book. Once she gets rolling, I'll give her another book to try.

I'm going to try various things to see what works best for her. Each child is different, so there's got to be something that works for her.
Thanks everyone, for all those great ideas and suggestions!

I'm going to post a new topic, children with mental challenge. I need your help again!

Merry Christmas!

I am very
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Crystalcolors

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