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#951125 - 01/24/07 12:15 PM My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ochy_cherniye Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 44
Loc: Houston
First of all, this is NOT a self-promotion. I won't benefit in any sort of way if any of you feel inclined to check this program out, or spend money on it... I'm merely hoping to share my views on a tool that's helped me with my lessons.

What it is: Along with a few other games that build other playing skills, the strongest program that this software includes is called Gentle Piano. A keyboard is attached to a computer through a midi connection, and the monitor presents the 'Sheet Music' that the student is promted to play. The program provides instant feedback, communicating to the student whether he is playing a correct or incorrect note with symbols, so that no lectures are needed. Here is a video that can give you an idea of how the system works, also posted on the main page of the Soft Mozart website:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gageOYLCH2A

As you might notice, the program has a nifty feature that plays accompaniment for you, if you're focusing on one hand at a time.

Also, it should be apparent that the presentation of the staff is a bit different than what most of us are used to.. Since Soft Mozart uses the Solfeggio notation of notes by default (though it is very easy to switch to the Alphabetical, if it is preferred) small drawings are embedded in every note that also match symbol on the piano keys that correspond with each note's solfeggio name (Door for Do, etc). This way, even a kid that doesnt know how to read yet can initially just "match up" the pictures in the easiest setting.

Of course, there is also an option to switch the program's display to the traditional grand staff presentation that can be found in most music books, though the program still retains a certain amount of itneractivity that makes unsupervised practice, and even regular lessons, more convenient.

Why? Teachers, think back to the last lesson you had with a student that was new to sight-reading. Whenever I use this program, I no longer have to explain why certain notes are incorect, etc... I no longer have to lecture my students on the most simple elements of reading music. A lifesaver.

I've noticed that since I started using Soft Mozart, my students have been progressing at a much faster rate.. Especially the ones that purchased a copy for practice at home. I suspect that this is also a result of its interactivity, an incentive to practice more often.

Though the song library is fairly extensive, one of the program's shortcomings is that not EVERY song you might want to learn is featured. Sometimes my students bring me their own music, hoping to learn a song that they espeically like. At times, their playing/reading skills aren't quite strong enough for the sheet music, so I find a few pieces that are of similar difficulty, and finetune the student's skills until he is ready to read on his own at that level.

It is difficult for me to express how useful this program has been for me. It has cut away some of the more tedious aspects of teaching, and has really given me an opportunity to concentrate on the technique of my students' playing rather than their ability to play at all.

For now, that is all I can think of saying about it.. Please let me know if you have any questions about it, or what your thoughts on the program are.
_________________________
http://www.softmozart.com/

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#951126 - 01/24/07 12:39 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
LiszThalberg Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
This is pretty cool actually. I'm sorry for pre-judging you about a program that you are not even making money off of. I am not an expert on piano and am not qualified to talk about different methods of teaching. But my question for you would be, after how long does the future pianist using this program switch from soft mozart to just a piano and sheet music totaly?

Sorry about my previous posts,
Matt

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#951127 - 01/24/07 01:19 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ochy_cherniye Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 44
Loc: Houston
It really depends on the student. A lot of teachers don't like the idea of this program because they think that it will replace them completely.. However, a teacher's guidance (especially in this case) could help a student switch from the program to regular sheet music much more quickly.

In my lessons, it basically works like this. Progress is generally measured by learning to play new songs. First, the student learns a few of the more simple songs on a setting that corresponds with his level, while also providing some amount of challenge. Once he gets familiar with the way the system works and also the use of his hands, he moves on to more advanced songs. I suppose that this could also be done without a teacher if you choose to learn on your own, but it would take a great amount of discipline to keep challenging yourself.

We go back into some of the easier books of songs (for example, while he may be on Favorite Classics Level 3, we'll go into Favorite Classics Primary/Level 1) and start "sight reading," using the most advanced notation of the Grand Staff that is used in sheet music. If this practice is closely followed, as the student becomes more advanced, so does his ability to read more music without the program's aid. Here is another video that Olenka made that shows how this is done:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpTuFyHLzw0
_________________________
http://www.softmozart.com/

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#951128 - 01/24/07 01:29 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
LiszThalberg Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
I actually like this video the best
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMsjF5uHgtI

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#951129 - 01/24/07 01:41 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Dorrie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 438
I'm not a piano teacher - but I was a "regular: school teacher for some years. And I'm an adult beginner.

One thing I've experienced as a teacher and as a student is that no one system/program method works best for every student. Seems to me the type of program you describe would work best with visual learners, and with those who have little or no experience with musical notation.

Some parts of the program seem similar to a computer program Noah Adams describes using in his memoir of being an adult beginner.

I have a couple questions though, it you could answer them from your personal experience

What more "traditional" material do you use when a student gets stuck with/bored by this program? When I get bored or frustrated with a concept, my teacher will pull a piece or two out of another book, or move to something different.

Have you had any students yet that have transitioned out of this learning program? What would be the kind of literature students move into? I think how to transition from any method to real literature (even if quite elementary) is a challenge and I was wondering at what level your students tend to be when they make that move?

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#951130 - 01/24/07 01:57 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ochy_cherniye Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 44
Loc: Houston
Dorrie, you are quite right in saying that no one program could work well for every student. However, I've noticed that Gentle Piano has something that caters to all three types of learners. Like you said, it works well for Visual.. But also, as the student begins to play with both hands with minimal lectures and explanations from the very first lesson, I've seen many Tactile learners flourish, as well. And as for Auditory, the system provides an option to play the entire song for the student to give him an idea of what it sounds like, along with another option to "Hide" the notes of either Left, Right or Both hands, only revealing them once the player gets stuck or plays incorrectly... This is a great tool for memorization.

There are several other 'mini games' that build upon the more 'traditional' skills, such as one in which you are given a presentation of a note and expected to navigate it along either the Treble or Bass Staff into its correct position. There's also a game that generates random note tones through the keyboard's speakers (without having to watch the monitor) and prompts the student to use his musical ear and play the same note on the keyboard, and even a game called 'Note Duration' that familiarizes one with the time signatures of music notes.

I usually spend about 2/3rds of each lesson using the software, and the other 1/3rd warming up with traditional scales and excercises such as Hannon, and fine tuning the performance of songs that have already been learned, ocassionally with a metronome. I've also got a set of flash cards that support various musical concepts as well, so it's very difficult for any of my students, from age 4 to age 40, to get bored or fed up with the lesson.
_________________________
http://www.softmozart.com/

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#951131 - 01/24/07 01:58 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ochy_cherniye Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 44
Loc: Houston
_________________________
http://www.softmozart.com/

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#951132 - 01/24/07 04:38 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
LiszThalberg Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
Ochy please answer the question that both Dorrie and myself raised...

Have you had any students yet that have transitioned out of this learning program? What would be the kind of literature students move into? I think how to transition from any method to real literature (even if quite elementary) is a challenge and I was wondering at what level your students tend to be when they make that move?


Matt

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#951133 - 01/24/07 05:37 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Piano&Flute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Ochy: I am curious what your initial reaction has been from parents who have phoned to inquire about the kind of lessons you teach. I am intriqued by the program, but could see many parents balking at the idea of needing to worry about hooking up a computer and dealing with software. Not everyone is a music or computer enthusiast like we are \:\) Especially with parents who own an acoustic piano. Have you found most parents willing to go to the "extra effort" of getting a digital and hooking it up? Having dealt with many parents who freak out over having to buy $25 worth of music books I could see it being a problem.
_________________________
Registered Private Piano and Flute Teacher

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#951134 - 01/24/07 08:34 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ochy_cherniye Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 44
Loc: Houston
 Quote:
Originally posted by Debussy20:
Ochy please answer the question that both Dorrie and myself raised...

Have you had any students yet that have transitioned out of this learning program? What would be the kind of literature students move into? I think how to transition from any method to real literature (even if quite elementary) is a challenge and I was wondering at what level your students tend to be when they make that move?


Matt [/b]
To be honest with you, Matt, I am fairly new to teaching, myself.. I started maybe 6 months ago, so it's had to give you a tried and true acurate answer. I can, however, relate my own experiences as a student.

As i mentioned in my first post (I am not a Pianist), I actually used the program as a student. Until that point, I was slaving through the primary levels of a few different classical books.. The names of the series mostly elude me, but I believe a few of them were under the Bastien brand. It was really basic stuff-similar to the version of Ode to Joy that was featured in that video that you say you enjoyed. With the introduction of Soft Mozart into my lessons, I jumped up to much more complicated pieces, such as the Polonaise Oginski, Bach's Prelude in F-Minor, and Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca (these pieces were learned with the aid of the program, then mastered with use of a metronome and intense practice).

I would in turn practice sight reading through less challenging pieces in the books that were lying around the room, and gradually progressed to working through the stuff that I ACTUALLY wanted to read. Nowadays, several years later, I mostly use sight-reading to transfer piano music to my accordion.. Though I am actually just about to begin work on Chopin's Waltz in C-Sharp Minor, actually as soon as I finish addressing you guys' questions. \:\)

Understanding how difficult the transition can be, I try to get my students to start sight reading as soon as possible. We start using the sight reading feature in the program within a few weeks, and pull out the dusty practice books within a few months. Of course, the pace really depends on the age, attitude, and musical affinity of the student in question. For example, if one especially enthusiastic 24-year-old student of mine continues to take lessons from me and practices diligently at home, I could see him sight reading some pretty advanced stuff out of the books within a year.

I wish I could tell you some specific book names to give you an idea of what I mean, but I'm afraid I've got a terrible memory for these things, and they're currently far out of reach.
_________________________
http://www.softmozart.com/

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#951135 - 01/24/07 08:49 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ochy_cherniye Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 44
Loc: Houston
 Quote:
Originally posted by StephanieF:
Ochy: I am curious what your initial reaction has been from parents who have phoned to inquire about the kind of lessons you teach. I am intriqued by the program, but could see many parents balking at the idea of needing to worry about hooking up a computer and dealing with software. Not everyone is a music or computer enthusiast like we are \:\) Especially with parents who own an acoustic piano. Have you found most parents willing to go to the "extra effort" of getting a digital and hooking it up? Having dealt with many parents who freak out over having to buy $25 worth of music books I could see it being a problem. [/b]
Whenever I get any phone calls from parents, I simply tell them that it is definitely something new, and invite them for a free 15 minute lesson to see for themselves. No matter what their reservations towards computers, once they see their child play a song with both hands in the first sitting, they're usually sold on the idea.

The entire 'hookup process' is relatively simple and pain-free.. It takes less than a minute to assemble everything with the help of a midi cable (you can find these online for $15-$30).. I usually just prop my laptop on top of my keyboard, plug in, and am ready to go.

The timely results and the enthusiasm of the child at learning new songs within a few lessons usually inspires parents to go the extra mile. After all, nowadays, most families own at least one, if not more computers in their homes. You could find a new, simple desktop for as little as $200 at Best Buy, last time I checked.. And you can find a decent keyboard with midi conenction for around $80. As for the program itself.. It contains so much sheet music that the parents would probably spend more buying all of the individual books alone.

Unfortunately, I've noticed that the piano is treated more as a status-symbol and piece of furniture nowadays, rather than anything else. Most families than can afford to have one can generally afford to buy a keyboard. However, as Soft Mozart uses a key grid (featured in that first video I posted) that shows a matching pattern between the keys and the Grand Staff if it is turned sideways, practice on an acoustic piano would not be impossible if the parents are given a grid for home use.
_________________________
http://www.softmozart.com/

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#951136 - 01/25/07 12:49 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Piano&Flute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
I think a free trial would definitely be the key. A very smart move!

I do have to disagree though that an $80 keyboard would suffice for piano lessons. That could very possibly be because of my piano training, or buying a decent keyboard here in Canada. I do not think anything under $200 would purchase a good full sized keyboard with weighted keys. Actually I know its not because I've recently looked for one. That might just be the mark-up and exchange rate here. Of course, a good quality digital piano is so much less than an acoustic! I do know that you are looking at quite a bit more for a set up North, probably $1000 or more if you have to buy both computer and digital.

I also would say that most of my parents have more than enough money to buy all the music and accessories required for lessons, however many would rather put the money into vacations or new cars. I live in a middle to middle upperclass area and it's amazing the fight I get. Maybe my priorities are different, but I can't see putting something trivial before my childs education. Sorry, I'm venting now.
_________________________
Registered Private Piano and Flute Teacher

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#951137 - 01/25/07 04:10 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
Ochy, you said "I've noticed that since I started using Soft Mozart, my students have been progressing at a much faster rate."

This obviously suggests that you were teaching in a more traditional way before you started using Soft Mozart, though unfortunately you are unable to remember the books you used, which is a pity as I would have been interested.

You then go on to say "To be honest with you, Matt, I am fairly new to teaching, myself.. I started maybe 6 months ago".

I am therefore wondering how long you have been using Soft Mozart and how much experience you have with traditional teaching of piano prior to that, in order to make a meaningful comparison between the two methods.

If I may ask a couple more questions, I have watched both of the youtube videos you linked to.

1 Please could you explain how the vertical staff works?

2 Secondly, when switching to horizontal reading (second video), this seems to be rather like an autocue, scrolling notes in front of the player just as they have to be played. What is the benefit of this (as opposed to preseting a whole bar (or line) and highlighting notes as they need to be played - as I have seen on other computerised methods)?

Kind regards

Adrian
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#951138 - 01/25/07 11:58 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ochy_cherniye Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 44
Loc: Houston
Adrian, though I have only started charging for lessons half a year ago, I spent a good portion of my life aiding my mother with her piano lessons, and even administering lessons for her at various schools and daycares. Some of my earliest memories involve my laying on top of our upright piano in my room, and overseeing the private lessons that my mom was giving to her students (Thinking back, I'm sure it was horribly obnoxious, but at least I enjoyed myself!)... She recieved her education at a Music Conservatory in the USSR, and it was very interesting to watch her reactions to Soft Mozart when she decided to try it with her lessons years later, in The US.

Before, our students would learn a new song (fairly challenging to their musical level) every few months or so, give or take a couple of weeks depending on the kid's enthusiasm, and whether he practiced at home. Suddenly, these same kids were mastering new songs every few weeks.

1. As should be obvious, the vertical staff is simply the grand staff flipped over. The typical Soft Mozart package comes with a set of stickers that may be applied to the keys of the keyboard, and also a grid (featured in the first video) that can be fitted behind the keys, should the student/teacher have reservations about using the stickers, or if the student has advanced beyond the need for their help. Here is a diagram that exhibits what the relationship between the vertical staff and the piano's keys is:


2. The way that the scroll works is like this: the notes that are to be played are highlighted in the yellow line, and as the student plays them, they continue to scroll forward until the piece is finished. If the student has trouble finding/playing the correct note, the notes dont scroll from the highlight until the right keys ones are pressed. There are two advantages to this rather than being presented with the whole bar (however, there is also a feature that allows you to use that presentation, as well.. it is the 6th and most challenging setting for reading sheet music, virtually identical to reading out of a book.)
-first of all, the scroll feature supports beginners and helps them to learn to focus on the sheet music. it is quite intimidating for someone that has little experience with piano to suddenly be faced with an entire page of notes that he will be expected to 'decipher..' It's a step-by-step approach that makes the student feel more familiar with music.
-second, while using settings 1-5 (from the most basic vertical representation to a scroll version of traditional sheet music) Soft Mozart has a handy 'scoring' feature: on the bottom left side of the screen it displays a number showing how many notes out of the entire piece were played correctly on the first try, and on the bottom right is a number displaying how many seconds the piece was 'off tempo.' When the student is prompted to play a note and he's trying to find it on the keyboard, the program counts the seconds.. This way, the player is also getting scored on rhythm, and thus familiarizes himself with different time signatures.
_________________________
http://www.softmozart.com/

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#951139 - 01/25/07 12:17 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ochy_cherniye Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 44
Loc: Houston
 Quote:
Originally posted by StephanieF:
I do have to disagree though that an $80 keyboard would suffice for piano lessons. That could very possibly be because of my piano training, or buying a decent keyboard here in Canada. I do not think anything under $200 would purchase a good full sized keyboard with weighted keys. [/b]
Of course, the difference between an $80 Casio and a REAL piano/keyboard or electric piano with weighted keys is almost tragic. However, some practice is of better than no practice at all, and we all know how crucial it is to mastering any skill. These 'cheap' keyboards aren't too difficult to convince parents to buy... and once it becomes apparent whether they will choose to pursue and encourage their child's talent or move on to something else, the decision to buy a better instrument becomes much easier to make.

Sadly, the traditional approach tends to have a very limited success rate. Most students that stick to their piano lessons usually either have some sort of affinity to music, or simply a great amount of patience. Because Soft Mozart provides a good amount of support for a wide variety of learners, more people from various backgrounds tend to stay on.
_________________________
http://www.softmozart.com/

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#951140 - 01/25/07 12:21 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
Ochy - I do realise that the vertical staff is the same as the horizontal one but rotated 90 degrees. Perhaps I should have been more explicit in my question - what is the purpose / advantage of this in terms of reading other than that there is a pictorial link from each line to two of the octaves on the keyboard.

Is it meritorious to learn to read notes vertically when virtualy all music is scored horizontally?

On the videos I have seen of soft mozart (from your links), the clearest one uses the horizontal staff. Apart from the fact that the music scrolls like an autocue, I am struggling to see how the system is different to other music programmes that highlight the note one must play in a score.

Perhaps you could elucidate by setting out the differences between traditional learning and the soft method, and noting the advantages or disadvantages.

How it comes acress to me is a bit like "painting by numbers" (where "art" was taught by having a drawing with lots of numbered segments and teh "artist" filled in the segments with numbered paints. This prodiced a kind of weird jigsaw effect that was not that much like art). On Soft M one sees a pictorial representation on the screen (or a note) and one presses the corresponding pictorial representation on the keyboard. I am not clear how rythmn and dynamics are addressed by the player (as opposed to the computer making the timing decision). Rythmn and dynamics are what turns our limited palette of sounds into music after all.

I am left wondering if this method is really an introduction to music, or is instead a "make sounds by numbers" method that ultimately has to be discarded when a player has to learn to adapt to traditional notation.

The scoring system troubles me a little. It featured heavily in the video of the 18 year old banjo player learning piano. His focus was on having a low score for note errors. My focus for a beginner would be on "does it sound like music to you".

Please don't get me wrong. I am not negative - I just don't understand what is special about this system from the rather simplistic diagrams and explanations I have seen so far.

Part of my interest is because I am interested in teaching dyslexic children who have some difficulty with symbol and pattern recognition.

Kind regards

Adrian
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#951141 - 01/25/07 12:46 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
Ochy - sorry to bombard you with question, but I have been reflecting on your very interesting anecdotes. I note that your mother is a piano teacher and that she was trained in a USSR conservatory. Very prestigous - I wish I had that training.

You have been lucky to observe her teaching since you were little and have also adminsitered lessons for her ast schools and daycares (I am not sure what you mean by adminsitered to be honest).

Anyway, to get to my point at last, with a well educated music teacher as a mother, why did you need the soft mozart programme for yourslef (you have said that you used it yourslef to learn to play)?

I would be fascinated to hear your story.

Kind regards

Adrian
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#951142 - 01/25/07 12:52 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
cranky woman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/06/04
Posts: 282
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
I have avoided contributing to this topic until taking a few moments to follow the links. I'm still bothered at the promotional aspects of several of ochy and Masha's posts.

That being said, I sincerely disagree with the following statement:

 Quote:
Sadly, the traditional approach tends to have a very limited success rate. Most students that stick to their piano lessons usually either have some sort of affinity to music, or simply a great amount of patience. [/b]
What is this based on? As you admit to only teaching 6 months yourself? How long did you study piano yourself? Have you studied other methods? Have you taken pedagogy classes?

I've taught for over 20 years using and studying numerous methods available to students for piano teaching. I have a great success rate and my students are very normal children. I've NEVER had a beginner quit, EVER...most of my students stay with me for 6-8 years. The point I'm making is that multiple methods work, while some are better than others. Eventually all students need to read the staff fluently. I have a 6 year old beginner that can read all the notes on the grand staff plus 3 ledger line notes in each direction, simply by reinforcing flash cards. The trick is finding out which works best for each child and requiring the child to practice. The softmozart seems to be nothing more than a screen hooked up to cue music.

What I've failed to see from softmozart is any comparison to actual methods. The students in both videos were by my standards very poor players. The three year old was certainly not a prodigy and it was inappropriate for her to be labled as such. Both students had poor hand position and the young man was using atrocious fingering, which was never corrected.

Ochy, while you are enthusiastic, you don't seem to offer credibility to promote this product. :rolleyes:
_________________________
www.tcwresources.com

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#951143 - 01/25/07 01:41 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
I really do feel that having asked Ochry to deal with her views on Soft Mozart in a non promotional way, we must take this opportunity to question her about her experience and method and not let ourselves get into personal criticisms, otherwise this thread will go the way of its predecessors.

We need to get to the bottom of whether SM actually has real merit. I hope Ochry answers the questions we have posed so far.

Kind regards

Adrian
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#951144 - 01/25/07 01:47 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Piano&Flute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
I have to agree with cranky woman. To lump all "traditional" piano lessons and piano teachers and say that the majority of their students fail is a false statement. There are many different approaches out there and many different kinds of teachers.

Ochy: You have mentioned that your mother was a great pianist but you never did well in lessons. Can I ask what music training, pedagogy or performance and teaching experience you have had? A good amount of both seem necessary to adequately give these statements rather than just memorizing them from one source.

I think there could be real benefits to the Soft Mozart program and it is of real interest to me. It says a lot when a teacher is so enthusiastic about a program. I am not trying to critisize, but if you are going to compare to traditional programs though, in order to be credible you need to have good knowledge of the traditional methods in question. One bad childhood experience doesn't provide that. knowledge of both sides does.
_________________________
Registered Private Piano and Flute Teacher

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#951145 - 01/25/07 01:53 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ochy_cherniye Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 44
Loc: Houston
Adrian, I will answer your questions and elaborate on my previous answers later today.. I'm afraid that I've neglected my work too much already to continue this chat right now! ;\)
_________________________
http://www.softmozart.com/

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#951146 - 01/25/07 01:58 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
LiszThalberg Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
I agree with Stephanie and cranky, according to Chang's book, the reason the majority of children give up the piano is due to lack of progress.

Ochy, just a few question, sorry to bombard you:
- How is your method different from the other methods for computer out there?
- How long have you been playing piano?
- If you have never taught in a "traditional" manner, how can you say that SM is better?

Regards,
Matt

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#951147 - 01/25/07 02:03 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
cranky woman Offline
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Registered: 07/06/04
Posts: 282
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
 Quote:
I really do feel that having asked Ochry to deal with her views on Soft Mozart in a non promotional way, we must take this opportunity to question her about her experience and method and not let ourselves get into personal criticisms, otherwise this thread will go the way of its predecessors. [/b]
I do agree that ochy has been less promotional, and I appreciate that. But, the questions raised I believe are important. How can you promote a product as the best way to go if you've only been teaching for 6 months?
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#951148 - 01/25/07 02:22 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ochy_cherniye Offline
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Registered: 01/15/07
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C_W and Stefanie, in regards to the 'lumping' traditional lessons, I will say only this. No matter how great teaching tools you have, whether it's a 'miracle' program, flawless books, guides, etc, the ultimate results all depend on the quality of the teacher. This said, perhaps C_W is really an amazing teacher, if she is speaking truthfully about her own results. In that case, she has my congratulations, and maybe she could be kind enough to give me some tips at a later time.

Now, C_W, as to what you've said anout the quality of the students' playing:

"The students in both videos were by my standards very poor players. The three year old was certainly not a prodigy and it was inappropriate for her to be labled as such. Both students had poor hand position and the young man was using atrocious fingering, which was never corrected."

The thing to keep in mind is this- How many 3 year olds have you met that can play Bach on a piano at all? With both hands? And no outside help?

And William, the boy in the first video, did indeed have 'atrocious' fingering. He'd never had a proper piano lesson. In fact, the reason that his fingering wasn't corrected was because there was absolutely no teacher involvement. He simply sat down with a computer and the keyboard, was told which buttons did what with the program, and taught himself to play the full version of Musette in 30 minutes. The point of the video was to show what the program was capable of doing for someone that had absolutely no experience with piano lessons. Why don't you sit a similar kid down with some sheet music and see if he can figure Musette out on his own without aiding him?

Jeez, you guys are going to get me fired! It really irks me that i can't answer all of these questions right now. \:D
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#951149 - 01/25/07 02:31 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
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Well, you could put a similar kid in front of me and I could teach him the Musette by rote. That is, after all, what Soft Mozart is basically doing.

The question here is whether or not a beginning with the Soft Mozart system makes the transition to musical literacy easier or more effective. I say this because the goal of most teachers is music literacy. Learning a few pieces by rote is useful in its own way, but its not the same thing.
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#951150 - 01/25/07 02:35 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
LiszThalberg Offline
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Ochy, William's progress was very interesting, but if I were him, I would really get bored using it. 2nd, how has this method been proven? about what level do the kids Olenka teacher usually leave her program. It seems like an interesting program. Thank you for your time.

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#951151 - 01/25/07 02:48 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Piano*Dad Offline
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Folks,

I think the thread needs to be less inquisition and more cross talk. By "inquisition" I don't mean church-style questioning unto death, but almost every issue raised is posed as a question to Ochy. There are professional teachers here along with talented players and striving students. What do you all think about method in general and particular methods as they compare to what we can see of SoftMozart in its own promotional materials? Remember, Ochy seems like a beginning teacher who has no particular training in pedagogy (I could be wrong here). We do not need Ochy to tell us what makes a teaching method distinctive, or what makes it work.
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#951152 - 01/25/07 03:08 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Piano&Flute Offline
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Piano dad: You are right, it should be more of a discussion.

I think the problem is that I don't think any of the teachers on this board have experience with SoftMozart, and I don't think Ochy has any other training or experience with any other methods. It is too bad that we don't have a teacher here with a decent level of experience with both to compare them fairly. And I also think it is relevent to ask about Ochy's experience and training to back up some of her comments. If you are going to make a critical statement about a type of method, then be able to back it up.

I have started learning about the program. While I like what I have learned so far, I hardly consider myself experienced enough with it to give an educated point of view on how it works with students. So far, what I can say is that I think the staff progression has it's merits, and I am a big fan of the computer games provided. They are a much more appealing way to get children to learn notes, rhythms, etc. As I learn more, I will gladly share more info and opinions.
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#951153 - 01/25/07 04:24 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
jotur Offline
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Registered: 09/16/06
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Loc: Santa Fe, NM
About the vertical staff - I haven't used it, but the first time I heard of it was 6 or 7 years ago when I was reading a book called "Making Music for the Joy of It" when an adult beginner related that she was having trouble learning to read music and her teacher turned the book sideways so that the staff ran vertically, and suddenly it made sense to her. So the idea has been discovered more than once (as I suppose many many ideas have \:\) ). It seems to me one more idea that could be used to give students another perspective, literally!, on what the relationship is between the staff and the keyboard.

As an aside, "Making Music for the Joy of It" is a wonderful survey of adults who are not full-time musicians who love making music in all kinds of ways - from chamber groups to playing for their church, in piano lessons, community bands, you name it. Well worth looking up a copy -

Cathy
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#951154 - 01/25/07 05:05 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Dorrie Offline
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Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 438
I think Kreisler got it right when he indicated this is really about whether the method (or any method) improves musical literacy.

After all, most traditional methods haven't been subject to evaluation. Who really knows what piano method works best?

In some ways this discussion reminds me of the debates and evaluations of some of the reading curricula out there for early elementary school. Some of the more proscribed programs (Success for All is a good one of the ilk) remind me of SoftMozart in that they reduce variation in effectiveness across teachers - so even relatively inexperienced teachers can teach so children achieve some level of competency.

Again, the advantages of whole language instruction is that it can reduce the "fear factor" in a reluctant student. My guess is that SoftMozart does the same. Kreisler can teacher a child Mussette. A reading teacher can get a 5 year old to memorize words on flash cards or with a software program and then produce a book with exactly those words. And then exclaim - you're a reader! See you can play Bach! This is a great motivator. Its power should not be underestimated. It also should not be confused with literacy (language or music).

In my experience the best teachers (regardless of what book (books) or tools they use, pull from a variety of sources and methods.

As a student, I could have imagined using it for a while, instead of primary materials (like some kids I started not knowing what middle c was or where it was). I suspect it would have worn its welcome within a couple months.

Ochy - do you know of any teachers who move between methods?

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#951155 - 01/25/07 05:34 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
cranky woman Offline
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Registered: 07/06/04
Posts: 282
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
 Quote:
C_W and Stefanie, in regards to the 'lumping' traditional lessons, I will say only this. No matter how great teaching tools you have, whether it's a 'miracle' program, flawless books, guides, etc, the ultimate results all depend on the quality of the teacher. This said, perhaps C_W is really an amazing teacher, if she is speaking truthfully about her own results. In that case, she has my congratulations, and maybe she could be kind enough to give me some tips at a later time. [/b]
Ochy - I'd be happy to give tips at any time \:\) and I'll take your comment, as I'm sure it was intended, as a compliment \:\) .

By the way, I agree with Kreisler in that SM appears to be rote teaching...I'm sure I could produce that as well.

I also agree with Dorrie in that any good teacher chooses from multiple tools and sources. Every student is different and learns differently. Any program that insists that it is the only[/b] way to teach reading makes me skeptical.

By the way....I'd go nuts if I only taught out of one method - an absolute route to insanity \:\) !
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#951156 - 01/25/07 11:32 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ochy_cherniye Offline
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Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 44
Loc: Houston
Thank you for being patient with me. It seems that a lot of you have questions, and I'll do my best to get to as many of them as I can. If I happen to miss something, it might not be intentional so please remind me if it's really nagging you.

'Is it meritorious to learn to read notes vertically when virtualy all music is scored horizontally?'[/b]

As jotur mentioned, the vertical presentation isn't meant to be used through all lessons. It is rather a way to 'ease' beginners into the water, and show them exactly how the notes in the sheet music relate to the keys... And once the student can make that connection, it's virtually no problem moving onward to the horizontal setting.. I've never had a student hindered by this switch.

'On the videos I have seen of soft mozart (from your links), the clearest one uses the horizontal staff. Apart from the fact that the music scrolls like an autocue, I am struggling to see how the system is different to other music programmes that highlight the note one must play in a score.'[/b]

When we read books, our eye-sight deals with one line of words at a time and we use the spaces between the lines to guide our focus. It's quite a bit different with sheet music, and beginners tend to get quite intimidated. While some programs use certain highlighting features, SM provides something more- while it has numerous guides for beginners, it also provides multiple settings that take these 'comforts' away.... Such as the 6th level of the program, that resembles regular sheet music. Not to mention, other programs prompt the player only to press the correct key (play by numbers, so to speak) while SM has numerous features that encourage proper timing and rhythm, and build reading and coordination skills simultaneously.

Perhaps you could elucidate by setting out the differences between traditional learning and the soft method, and noting the advantages or disadvantages.[/b]

Olenka, who had everything to do with the methodology behind the program, got her Masters in music education after going through extensive Traditional lessons in Ukraine. Thus, according to her, SM is based on many traditional methods that you're familiar with, simply with colors and interactivity added. The program itself contains music from Alfred, Faber, and Bastien books.. And students are often encouraged to sing along in Solfeggio and develop their audio perception, much like the Suzuki method. While most 'number' methods rely heavily on 'muscle' memorization, SM does not, provided that the teacher continues to challenge the student, rather than allowing him to lean on the program like a crutch. The scrolling feature is not meant to be used for all lessons to teach the student songs, but rather ease him into it. Its main advantage is that while simplifying the reading process for the beginner, it gives his coordination a chance to catch up... The key is to keep advancing in the lessons.

I've always been fond of drawing, and I noticed that a great way to start is by first imitating the things you see- other drawings, still lifes, etc.. Then moving on to more creative things, eventually sketching stuff that you can make up in your head. The reason most people think they're terrible artists is because what they have pictured in their mind doesnt come out that way on paper.. Because they havent mastered the SKILL of drawing. I believe something similar can be said for music.

I am not clear how rythmn and dynamics are addressed by the player (as opposed to the computer making the timing decision). Rythmn and dynamics are what turns our limited palette of sounds into music after all[/b]

When the student presses a note in the side-scrolling levels of SM, it visually blossoms into a flower, eventually turning into a butterfly when it has been held down for the appropriate amount of time. Once the player's ear becomes more familiar with time signatures, he can play the song on the 6th setting, where the 'training wheels' are removed and he is free to use whatever rhythm he chooses. As to the multiple nuances and specifics, well, SM is a teaching tool- it is in no way meant to replace the teacher.

The scoring system troubles me a little. It featured heavily in the video of the 18 year old banjo player learning piano. His focus was on having a low score for note errors. My focus for a beginner would be on "does it sound like music to you".[/b] When you drove a car for the first time, did you enjoy the view you saw through the window? This was William's first time playing a song on the piano. Once he's gotten more comfortable with his skills, he will of course be able to lean back and stick his arm out the window, or whatever the heck it is you do to enjoy the ride.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not negative - I just don't understand what is special about this system from the rather simplistic diagrams and explanations I have seen so far.[/b]

Since finding this program, I've tried out a few other Piano Programs that boasted they could teach someone to play... I'd either get fed up with the long-winded method explanations that I was forced to read long before I got to the midi-piano feature, or get bombarded by a confusing multitude of colors and shapes meant to 'make piano fun' for kids. This program is practical. It is not a toy, or a novelty. It doesn't replace the teacher, but makes his/her job easier by dismissing some of the more tedious aspects of lessons.

I will address the personal questions that were asked tomorrow, as that's a whole different essay.
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#951157 - 01/26/07 12:27 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Piano&Flute Offline
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Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Thanks for your time in responding to all of our questions, Ochy. It is no small task!
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#951158 - 01/26/07 02:55 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
AJB Offline
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Registered: 10/01/05
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Loc: Surrey, England
Likewise, thank you. Adrian
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#951159 - 01/26/07 03:21 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
pianobuff Offline
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Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
I will start a discussion--
It is easy to learn a piece using a computer program. I would be able to do the same thing with learning the guitar. I even think there is a video game out now that uses a guitar as a controller.
The problem I have is: the art.
A computer can not teach proper technique, touch, tone, phrasing and human artistry that is music.
I am not impressed with either videos. Especially the one with the 6 year old playing Ode to Joy.
Where is his balance between left and right hand?
Will the Soft Mozart program teach that?
I tend to agree with Kreisler.
Teaching by rote would be better than this method because you would be teaching by demonstrating music as an aural art, demonstrating with beautiful tone and musical phrasing -- which only a human being can give to another. To me no tool is needed. A program like this would get in the way, personally, to what I am trying to achieve as a teacher.
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#951160 - 01/26/07 03:50 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
pianobuff Offline
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Loc: Pacific Northwest
Here is another method too that someone posted months ago it is call Simply Music.

For those Soft Mozart people out there you might see a similarity. From the little that I have seen it is the results not the process of both methods that is what's similar to me:

www.simplymusic.com
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#951161 - 01/26/07 08:16 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
AJB Offline
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Registered: 10/01/05
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Loc: Surrey, England
Interesting pianobuff. I had a quick look and clearly there are some similarities in approach and objectives, and equally enthusiastic endorsements from participants.

I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with an earlier poster who basically said that it is probably silly to promote one method as the best thing since sliced bread, when in fact a good teacher may need to use a variety of techniques to get the bests from students with different skills and motivation levels.

It would be good to have an experienced and competent traditional teacher evaluate soft mozart.

A
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#951162 - 01/26/07 11:29 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Piano&Flute Offline
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Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Thanks for the link, Pianobuff. Very interesting.

I have to agree with Kreisler and everyone as well. The goal should definitely be improving musical literacy.

CW: I also couldn't imagine teaching out of only one method. I too would go insane. I have many different method books and supplemental books that I use with various students. It allows me to try to tailor to the needs and learning style of each student. I can't imagine one method being perfect for everyone regardless of age, personality, ability, etc.
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#951163 - 01/26/07 11:35 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Masha Offline
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Registered: 01/18/07
Posts: 31
Loc: HM
Well, I am a piano teacher. I worked traditionally (about 20 years) and now I am teaching with Soft Mozart (6 years).
Here some of the observation, that I made:

Reading music and playing piano.

When beginners learn piano, they have to deal with 2 problems at a time – coordination and reading. Each method tries to combat this obstacle. There are 2 major approaches to do it, though:

1. Methods that introduce students to music reading from the very start: Russian school of music, Alfred, Bastien, Faber, Yamaha etc.

The strong point of this approach is: by teaching how to read and play music from the beginning, we develop both components (coordination and reading) at the same time. Authors of these methods create or select music that favors 'hand position' to make learning less stressful.

Soft Mozart values this approach and also introduces students to notation from the very start and also uses special pieces with 'hand position' at the beginning.

The only difference is: with visual help and interactivity of computer the students move on to real music much faster, then with books. .

It is hard to say how much faster it happens, but good students start playing real ( not adapted) music and read traditional notation sometimes in couple of weeks from the very first lesson. .

2. Methods that concentrate on coordination development and ear training with no sight-reading at the beginning ( Piananimals, Harmony road, Kinder music, Playing by numbers, Piano wizard, Suzuki).

These methods emphasize on listening music and playing by ear first. Students are taught with help of colors, pictures, singing and finger numbers. Their strong point is: students start making music from the very beginning and enjoy it before they learn theory. Their philosophy based on natural way of learning – from concrete to abstract (speech first – reading second).

Soft Mozart doesn't conflict with that approach either. It emphasizes on ear training and coordination development. The difference is: students play music and read it with colors and pictures too, because Grand Staff is presented on Elementary level.

As you see, SM combines both approaches in their best means.


Theory drills.
1. All the methods are based on 2 different ways of naming music notes: Alphabetical (ABC) and Solfeggio ( Do Re Mi).Only Russian school of music taught both systems. Now Soft Mozart teaches and ABC and Do Re Mi as well.
2. Traditional piano systems introduce students to space and line notes ( Every Good Boy Does Fine, All Cows Eat Grass etc) – Soft Mozart does the same, but it also helps to memorize space and line notes in ANY order forward and backwards from any key/note on the fly.
3. Traditional systems teach to recognize music notes on the fly by memorizing them – Soft Mozart does the same: it teaches students to memorize notes of Treble and Base. But it has a little extra – it uses colors, sounds and pictures to explain outstanding features of each note. So, students not just drill on memorizing notes, but are capable to understand why the note has such and such name and placement on Grand Staff.

Hope, it would any help for you!

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#951164 - 01/26/07 11:41 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Piano&Flute Offline
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Loc: Alberta, Canada
Thanks Masha. Very helpful. So do you now use SoftMozart will all of your students or do you still teach some traditional lessons as well? Do you find Softmozart works just as well with all age levels?

It's nice to have an experienced teacher who can compare all these methods.
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#951165 - 01/26/07 12:09 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Masha Offline
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Registered: 01/18/07
Posts: 31
Loc: HM
You're welcome!

I thought a lot about Soft Mozart and traditional methods. I guess, my opinion is: I don't find anything 'non traditional' in SM. All what this system is – adding some colors and pictures to traditional Grand Staff for beginners and use computer interactivity and animation for learning basic skills.

I use system most of the time in my lessons with all types of students, beginners (2 years old and up) and advanced. I have about 45 students, most of them (75%) with SM 4-6 years. Each student develops on his/her own pace. I can't say that all of them are prodigies, but they all play many pieces and read music.

Recently I had a recital and noticed, that no student ever stopped in the middle of performance, because he/she forgot what to play next. But there were many 'cheaters': when they are nervous, they can replace one Dominant chord with another or create their own cadence. It made me smile, because I see, that the students completely aware of what they are playing. When I was teaching without SM it never happened before. I think, the amount of music they play contributes to that experience. Also SM teaches how to play chords to melodies by ear (Solfeggio and Chords curriculum). I think, it helps, too.

About sight-reading and moving to regular sheet music I will write in my next post, but here is some observation. My advanced students, when they practice reading from sheet music, could make tiny mistakes: they could overlook rest sign or hold half note as quarter. They also never could say, how many mistakes and rhythmical errors they made. When they sight-read with program, it is more strict and gives them sense of accomplishment afterwards.

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#951166 - 01/26/07 12:30 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Masha Offline
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Registered: 01/18/07
Posts: 31
Loc: HM
How fast they move from SM to 'regular'.

When I just started working with SM I felt a little nervous. I used to teach with sheet music and with no stickers or piano guides and felt obligated to push my students to this level as soon as possible. Now, after teaching for awhile, I think, that it is no rush. Every child like a 'fruit': when it is time – it's time.

SM supports piano technique development and sight-reading.
In piano technique development we use stickers on piano keys. At first, I was afraid, that students would rely on them forever, but it didn't happen. As soon as they learn keyboard layout, they ask to remove them and replace with piano guides. After that they ALWAYS remove guides, if previous student used it, because they say colors bother their vision.

In my studio I have keyboards, digital pianos and acoustic Grand. They all look up to Grand and working really hard to get there the sooner the better. Grand for them like a goal and trophy.

The same thing is happening with playing with sheet music. Program offers several Grand Staff presentation with different amount of visual support. They try to get to horizontal presentations as soon as possible. As a teacher I give the students more difficult for coordination pieces on presentation with more visual help and use more easy pieces for sight-reading. Last presentation of SM looks like a sheet of music and when they move to play off books the transition is very mild and painless.

With scores of program it is easy to determine, whether student ready to move to next level of difficulty or not. If they struggle to achieve perfect amount of music notes and their time number is greater then amount of notes, it means, that they definitely need to stay on this level.

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#951167 - 01/26/07 01:45 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ochy_cherniye Offline
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Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 44
Loc: Houston
Anyway, to get to my point at last, with a well educated music teacher as a mother, why did you need the soft mozart programme for yourslef (you have said that you used it yourslef to learn to play)?

I would be fascinated to hear your story.[/b]

I've been playing piano for as long as I can remember.. But I never really enjoyed it. To make a long story short(er), I HATED piano lessons. I hated the drills, I hated sitting alone in a room with a score of 'impossible' sheet music that I was expected to figure out, and most of all I hated having to take lessons with my mother and being reminded how 'lucky' I was, when most people couldn't even afford such a 'luxury.' And, I suppose a lot of it had to do with results.. As a child, I just didn't feel like I was making enough progress for the lessons to be worthwhile.. After all, since my mom was a teacher, it was obvious that there were students that were my age that were much more 'gifted' than I was. It all seemed pretty pointless.

Suddenly, I was given an option that dispelled a few of these burdens. I had an extensive library of music to choose from, so I finally started learning the songs that I actually had an interest in, and some of the aides supported me enough to 'step up' to more advanced pieces. And best of all, I could do most of the preparation on my own; Then, my mother would sit with me and show me the proper fingering (though most of the time, my hands could figure out what was best on their own after I became familiar with the piece), and encourage certain techniques that would polish the performance... And of course pull out books of varying difficulty from time to time to develop sight reading without the program. My only regret is that I never got a good routine down for practice. Sometimes I would go several months without a thought about the piano, then go for a few weeks, training everyday. All in all, it took me about three years to reach a point in which I was comfortable with reading almost anything from a book.

In the meantime, like I mentioned, I was a constant witness to Traditional lessons.. From the time that my mother taught in a Conservatory in the USSR, to private lessons in the US before SM. I would often work for her during the summers as a teacher's aide, doing various exercises with her younger students during group lessons.

It is easy to learn a piece using a computer program. I would be able to do the same thing with learning the guitar. I even think there is a video game out now that uses a guitar as a controller.
The problem I have is: the art.
A computer cannot teach proper technique, touch, tone, phrasing and human artistry that is music.
I am not impressed with either videos. Especially the one with the 6 year old playing Ode to Joy.[/b]

I believe the program you're referring to is Guitar Hero. I've heard many great things about it, and SM has even been likened to it by a few of my students.. But I haven't had the chance to check it out myself. Once again, I must repeat that SM is NOT meant to replace the piano teacher, nor is it a 'miracle program' that can successfully replace every other method out there. However, if built upon by a good teacher that is well-versed in other useful teaching methods, it can be priceless.

All of the videos I posted just display specific aspects of the program. I'm afraid that I don’t have access to one that shows the 'final result.' However, I can't help but wonder whether anyone can ever FINISH learning about piano, or anything else for that matter.

The video of Wilhelm displays the most basic advantage of the program: A person with absolutely no experience with piano can sit down and learn to play a fairly advanced song on his own in 30 minutes. Yes, his fingering is atrocious. Yes, he lacks musical 'finesse.' Those are all things that can only be taught by a capable teacher.. But imagine how much more time and effort you could spend on those, in my opinion, rather enjoyable aspects of teaching, than the basic focus on memorization of the song when the program can take care of it for you in a very short amount of time?

The video of the three year old displays that the program can make valid piano lessons possible even for children as young as 3. I've heard of music classes for young kids that revolve around music appreciation, clapping to the rhythm, dancing, etc, but rarely making the music themselves.

Finally, the ‘Ode to Joy’ video shows how the program can train a student’s ear to play a song in any key, not to mention instill a sense of confidence in such a young child to even attempt such a task without feeling overwhelmed.

It is too bad that we don't have a teacher here with a decent level of experience with both to compare them fairly. And I also think it is relevent to ask about Ochy's experience and training to back up some of her comments. If you are going to make a critical statement about a type of method, then be able to back it up.[/b]

It really is a shame that I never had the chance to obtain an ‘official’ education, so that I could easily say ‘look, I have a degree in Musical Pedagogy from so-and-such prestigious school, so clearly what I say has merit.’ But I am trying my best, and most importantly, I am giving you my honest accounts of experiences. Music has always been a huge part of my life.. So much so, that unfortunately I took it for granted as a child. However, I assure you that I’ve seen this program work, first hand. After all, it worked for me! Here are a few additional accounts from a couple of people that might have more ‘merit’ than I do:

Signed letter of approval written by nationally renowned pianist Yuri Rozum:
http://www.softmozart.com/Site/discussion.php?discussion=97

More on Yuri Rozum can be found on his website here:
http://www.yurirozum.com/

A letter from Victoria Lopez Meseguer, A Piano Teacher and Vicedean of the Professional Conservatory of Music in Joaquin, Madrid:

“To whom it may concern:

I write this letter to strongly recommend SoftMozart as a wonderful method for teaching music. And I speak of music and not only of piano because Softmozart helps setting the foundations of not only piano fundamentals but also ear training, internal rhythm, harmony and music memory. I find it my obligation to be alert of new possibilities for my piano students. I teach all levels but I am specially concerned about the beginning of education. First, because I am convinced that the younger the student, the better the teacher should be. Not only in the psychological approach but also because of the fact that one needs to have the final goals so clearly as to not introduce anything that could be a learning burden for a student in the future. After all, music learning is a spiral method. We teach the same concepts again and again and the only difference is the context, the music piece that the student plays. On the other hand, there are many methods that captivate the student at the beginning but makes them face a dessert after a year or two. I am thinking of teaching methods that provide the student with no reading grounds. Most of these students quit when they find themselves having to read what they think they can play by imitation.
I also find my obligation to dive into the real XXI century, meaning that the students of today deserve
the possibilities that the rest of the curricula offer to them: technology. I was startled to know the results of the investigations of Rauschen in 1997 where he compared the results in spatial-temporal outcomes of a group of children who had taken piano lessons, a group of children that had taken computer lessons and a group of children who had taken no special lessons apart from traditional school subjects. The study found that those receiving piano lessons indeed scored 34 percent
higher on tests measuring spatial-temporal ability. Then followed the children who had received computer training.
Well, SoftMozart combines these two trainings. To start with, children just stick to the piano no
matter how young. I have seen three year old children waving goodbye to their parents without even looking at them as they left and begging for more after their lesson. And this is a very good start for any teacher. In respect to the advantages of the method I would like to highlight::
7. It doesn’t interfere at all with my traditional teaching. The teacher has a reason to exist with constant indications about fingering, hand position and relating concepts from one piece to another.
8. The chosen pieces are also “traditional”. Bastien, for example, is one of the most famous methods in
Spanish Conservatories.
9. Fruit Lines and Guess Note are two games that also help train absolute ear. After more than twenty years of teaching I have found no better method for this. The child constantly listens to the sound of a note with no boring sensation because he thinks he is only playing with a video console game when in fact he is receiving constant listen-recognize feedback about absolute pitch. Some children just respond to sound. To be able to recognize these children at so early stages is an invaluable tool for a teacher. Any other method to work these that I can think of would involve an active respond from the child, and we all know that the shiest children can be the best hidden artists.
10. Note duration makes rhythm not only a mental process from the mathematical point of view but also a fast muscular responding process, as it should eventually become in the future for any pianist. The child thinks and feels the rhythm and it is hard to tell what comes first.
11. Small children can spend years in music movement lessons before starting piano in traditional teaching. Now I see no reason why they should wait for so long before playing piano, provided the piano keys weight is appropriate for their muscles.
12. With respect to Gentle Piano these are the rest of the advantages I see:
a. The vertical disposition of the staves compared to the horizontal simply mean that what is on the right is on the right and what is on the left is on the left. This sounds absurd but the fact is that with
traditional teaching a piano students needs to face orientation indications that contradict natural laws.
Some parents are concerned with this fact (so what will happen when he faces a “normal score”?). I just press a key on the computer and the students faces the “normal score”. And the student just plays because he also recognizes his favorite toy if we turn it around. The important fact is that he has understood in a natural way the direction of the music on the score and the direction of the same notes on the piano.
b. Some traditional teachers say “ok, but art has nothing to do with this”. My answer is always the same one. Your first obligation is to teach the student how to read and now the linguistics. Your second obligation could be letting him read a best seller or take his hand and dive him into Shakespeare. Well, I don’t know of any Language teacher who wouldn’t appreciate all this help in teaching their students how to read. This can only result in having spare time for the “artistic process”.
c. The evaluating process is an instantaneous thing. The competition is not with the teacher. The teacher doesn’t correct things as “not a do or a fa but a mi”. The teacher can teach and correct other more important things and doesn’t need to accompany with words every sound of the piano. After all we keep telling our students that music and silence go together. The fact that the teacher is in your team and that the competition is IN the computer, is another pedagogical approach that I find invaluable.
d. Group individual teaching. That is another advantage. I can switch from one to another many times
in a very short lapses of time. This allows me to make a correction without directing it to the child that
needs it. I speak aloud and all of them listen to it but the one that needs it is the one that understands
it better.
e. The fact that the creators of this method keep upgrading the software and are always ready to listen
to suggestions and keep in touch with the teachers who use it is really important for me. I wish I could say the same thing for other creators of software that I use for only Solfegge training. I have found myself using the songs of SoftMozart in the traditional layout for solfegge singing. The child first reads and sings the piece with the solfegge notes and then learns it on the piano.

I can only recommend SoftMozart for any teacher willing to have an invaluable aid in teaching what for
so many people is the reason to not have continued with piano education: boring approaches or just the intrinsic difficulty in beginning of the learning process.

Victoria Lopez Meseguer
Piano Teacher and Vicedean of the Conservatorio
Profesional de Musica Joaquín Turina de
Madrid
Calle Serrano 226 Duplicado
Madrid 28016
Spain
vlmeseguer@mac.com”

Finally, this past year, the Moscow Conservatory, which as we’re all aware has had many prestigious students over the years, recently published a book in Russian named “How to Teach Music in the 21st Century” that included a 22-page article written by Olenka about the Soft Mozart program. Unfortunately, an adequate translation is still in the works, but here are several scans to give you the idea:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I really must apologize for such a lengthy reply, but I felt that a lot might be cleared up if these points were addressed.

Cheers!
_________________________
http://www.softmozart.com/

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#951168 - 01/26/07 03:17 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Piano&Flute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by ochy_cherniye:
[It really is a shame that I never had the chance to obtain an ‘official’ education, so that I could easily say ‘look, I have a degree in Musical Pedagogy from so-and-such prestigious school, so clearly what I say has merit. [/b]
Ochy: I didn't mean to imply that your experiences didn't have any merit. My only concern was that it is incredibly hard to fairly compare any two teaching methods when you haven't used them first hand. There are too many other factors involved (the teacher, the student, etc.) A degree certainly doesn't mean nearly as much as experience teaching with a particular method. It sounds like you had some really rough experiences with music growing up, which understandably would make anyone jaded against what you call "traditional" lessons. I hate to hear about anyone having an experience like that and I am glad you found a program that works for you. However there are so many methods out there and different teachers, I think the only way to fairly compare is for one teacher (same style, personality, etc.) to try both and compare.

No offense was meant, and you certainly have done your research on this program. Passion and a belief in what you are doing mean everything when teaching.
_________________________
Registered Private Piano and Flute Teacher

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#951169 - 01/26/07 07:18 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13789
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Um...none of those publishing companies typically grant copyright to other people. If this statement is true, then the authors of Soft Mozart could get into serious legal trouble and be sued for a LOT of money.

 Quote:
Originally posted by ochy_cherniye:
The program itself contains music from Alfred, Faber, and Bastien books.[/b]
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#951170 - 01/26/07 07:34 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Masha Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/18/07
Posts: 31
Loc: HM
I can't speak for Ochi, because I don't know what did she mean. I definitely know that contract was signed with Kjos company for some of Bastien books. Don't think, that it was signed with other method books publishers. It is no need for many 'hand position' pieces any way IMO, because students quickly move to regular music.

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#951171 - 01/26/07 07:46 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ftp Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/10/05
Posts: 2365
Loc: Philadelphia
Ochy,

So much energy you have, really.

Here is my take on the piano problem, it's not getting more kids playing earlier and advancing quicker, it's the dropout rate after a few years. Now if you have something that keeps the teenager going and getting to an advanced state you have a winner. I actually believe a program like SM can produce quick magic (by classical and operant conditioning) but I want to see the long term benefits.

This is what would impress me--two groups of kids start at 5, one uses SM, the other uses traditional. 7 years later how many are in each group, what level are they playing at, and how much do they enjoy the piano. Any comments on this?

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#951172 - 01/29/07 10:21 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ochy_cherniye Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 44
Loc: Houston
 Quote:
Originally posted by fathertopianist:
Ochy,

So much energy you have, really.

Here is my take on the piano problem, it's not getting more kids playing earlier and advancing quicker, it's the dropout rate after a few years. Now if you have something that keeps the teenager going and getting to an advanced state you have a winner. I actually believe a program like SM can produce quick magic (by classical and operant conditioning) but I want to see the long term benefits.

This is what would impress me--two groups of kids start at 5, one uses SM, the other uses traditional. 7 years later how many are in each group, what level are they playing at, and how much do they enjoy the piano. Any comments on this? [/b]
Mr. FTP, I WAS a teenager that kept going because of this program! I kept up with my studies even during high school, when I wanted nothing more than to displease my parents! \:D

Your idea for a research project is great, but I'm afraid it would be doomed to fail. The lessons would of course either have to be free, or the students would have to have some very supportive parents.. Not to mention, each family wouldn't be able to move away, in the meantime... So they would probably expect some sort of incentive for their troubles. Too many complications, I'm afraid.
_________________________
http://www.softmozart.com/

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#951173 - 01/29/07 02:03 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Masha Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/18/07
Posts: 31
Loc: HM
Here us some thought about 'drop out rate'. There are many objective reasons for it, which we ought to take to our consideration:
Total music illiteracy and social motivation to learn music are maybe the cause.
1. Technology with ability to hear any music on CD didn't contribute much to motivation of being performer for others
2. Piano lessons traditional way, which for centuries were not 'easy' for average people didn't promote mass music literacy

SM with it outstanding results to teach practically ANYBODY to play piano, write and read music has long term way to change the society. Today more and more people switch to this way of learning, because it works like nothing else. But it would take time for music educators and average people to understand its true and genuine merits.
Why we have to create any groups and provide any 'scientific research' if all what u need to do is – download demos and try it on your own students/kids?
IT WORKS FOR ANYBODY. End of story!
All THE problems of music education ARE SOLVED. All 'unsolved mysteries' are just in your heads to the time, when u learn the discovery and will try on your students/kids.

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#951174 - 01/29/07 02:14 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17777
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by Masha:
Why we have to create any groups and provide any 'scientific research' if all what u need to do is – download demos and try it on your own students/kids?
IT WORKS FOR ANYBODY. End of story!
All THE problems of music education ARE SOLVED.[/b]
Masha, I am sure you believe this to be true. However [and she puts on professor and researcher hat at this point], everything you have talked about to date, and what you are suggesting here, is only anecdotal evidence. For me to be convinced of the superiority of the Soft Mozart program, I would need to see data of the sort fathertopianist described, with the friendly amendment that students/families would need to be randomly assigned to teaching style conditions. Testimonials of the sort offered on the Soft Mozart site and on these threads only tell us that some people benefit from and believe sincerely in the Soft Mozart system. They don't tell us that it "works for anybody," or even that it works for most people.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#951175 - 01/29/07 02:26 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Masha Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/18/07
Posts: 31
Loc: HM
I can sign under any of these statements:
http://www.doremifasoft.com/pipupiupskus.html
http://www.softmozart.com/Site/discussion.php?discussion=89
Because I did try and know, that it works. My personal data is matching the main stream of other SM teachers' data.
Maybe one day some institute would make it obvious for other people nationwide, but today for me personally the answer is clear.

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#951176 - 01/29/07 03:23 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10362
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
that's nice Masha, but those of us who teach in the social and behavioral sciences understand the difference between anecdotal and statistical evidence and between random samples and sample selection bias.

In any case the relevant points here are different. We know SM has no real data to verify its claims, but neither does anyone else. Thus we are left with smaller points of doctrine to discuss. Just where are the similarities and differences between SM and traditional methods? This has received some useful discussion here. Just what skills is SM supposedly strengthening? This too has received some useful discussion here. The superiority of one approach versus the other. Well, here we are veering back into advertising, especially in some of the later posts.
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#951177 - 01/29/07 04:30 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Masha Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/18/07
Posts: 31
Loc: HM
I think, you're right! I am passionate and now it's time for me to relax and let others to decide.

I just want to say one thing: SM could enhance any method without replacing it. My feeling is: it is not a method – it is rather a tool. Any teacher can use this tool to help students to understand connection between notation and piano keys faster, more effectively and with more fun. But it has nothing to do with personal teaching technique and preferences.

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#951178 - 01/29/07 09:05 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10362
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
 Quote:
My feeling is: it is not a method – it is rather a tool.
I think this is a very sensible point. That's why I think the discussion advances further when some of the passion is drained out of the issue.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#951179 - 01/30/07 05:36 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
ftp Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/10/05
Posts: 2365
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by Masha:
I can sign under any of these statements:
http://www.doremifasoft.com/pipupiupskus.html
http://www.softmozart.com/Site/discussion.php?discussion=89
Because I did try and know, that it works. My personal data is matching the main stream of other SM teachers' data.
Maybe one day some institute would make it obvious for other people nationwide, but today for me personally the answer is clear. [/b]
Masha

You may have the beginnings to how to make it obvious for other people nationwide right in your post.

With respect to the use of the program at Hutsell Elementary in Katy Tx (and the article in the newspaper dated 6/7/2005)-- can you send a follow up of how its going there today? Continued student progress after 18 months and program success and further investment are good testimonials. Looks like the program was funded on a grant which is a great way to get things started.

After 18 months what are the latest results and metrics from Hutsell? Is the program being expanded now to the several other elementary schools in the school district? Have representatives from other school districts flown in to see the program and chosen to adopt it--as piano teachers have flown to Texas to see the program?

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#951180 - 01/30/07 11:44 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Masha Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/18/07
Posts: 31
Loc: HM
Fathertopianist,

'With respect to the use of the program at Hutsell Elementary in Katy Tx (and the article in the newspaper dated 6/7/2005)-- can you send a follow up of how its going there today?'

Unfortunately, school spent all the findings on teacher's salary and stopped the program for year and a half. Now they called to let me know, that they found money for teachers again and going to continue soon after second teacher's training. I don't understand, why they don't use it instead of regular music class. It seems like they are afraid to make such dramatic replacement.

'Continued student progress after 18 months and program success and further investment are good testimonials. Looks like the program was funded on a grant which is a great way to get things started. '

I think, finding is good for computer + piano purchase and for software itself ( we are talking about $10 000 here). But when we offer this program (again!) for selected few students, we miss the whole point of mass music literacy. I think, SM ought to be in public schools nationwide as 'music' subject.

'After 18 months what are the latest results and metrics from Hutsell? Is the program being expanded now to the several other elementary schools in the school district?'

Not yet. They wait when the program would be more 'approved', I guess.

'Have representatives from other school districts flown in to see the program and chosen to adopt it--as piano teachers have flown to Texas to see the program?

No! I know, that SM offered the program to public music institutions for free with no response whatsoever.

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#951181 - 01/30/07 11:54 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program
Masha Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/18/07
Posts: 31
Loc: HM
PS
Did you read this testimonial from Davidson (princiopal of Hutsell) about her own daughter?

'She said Hiner's revolutionary methods had a profound effect of her daughter's education. Davidson became impressed when Hiner taught her daughter, Carolyn, and was eager to try the music instruction method.

Carolyn Davidson, who just graduated third in her class at Mayde Creek High School, began piano lessons eight years ago with Hiner and has gained the mastery of one who has studied for 15 years, her mother said.'

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#2192699 - 12/04/13 11:18 PM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program [Re: ochy_cherniye]
E. Christensen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/29/13
Posts: 38
This post is from 2007. I would be very curious to know what these skeptics think today, 2013, about this program. Using the computer and a keyboard is actually commonplace now. The one thing I don't understand is why everyone thinks that they have to spend so much money on a computer and a keyboard. Most families don't have that much money just sitting around to spend $10000 as someone had written in their comments. You can buy a Casio for $80 that helps a student learn just as well as any expensive brand. It's not the price of the instrument that makes the player, though so many comments on these forums would imply that.

I also had a good laugh when someone mentioned a Guitar program that will do the same thing as this software. Guitar Hero was then mentioned as the name of it. Guitar Hero is a video game. One of my friend's sons plays this game all of the time. He is no more of a guitar player than Charlie Brown is. If he picked up a real guitar, he would have no clue how to use it. Guitar Hero is not a program intended to teach guitar, the only thing you learn on that game is to match the correct colors on the screen to the correct color buttons.

Using the computer and an instrument with a specific program to TEACH you how to play your instrument is very different from a video game. There is technique and learning involved on the part of the student, matching colors on a guitar hardly counts as technique. Nowadays, MIDI is an important part of many music teacher's lessons. I bet that you could find success stories now.

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#2192831 - 12/05/13 08:08 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program [Re: E. Christensen]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3199
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: E. Christensen
I also had a good laugh when someone mentioned a Guitar program that will do the same thing as this software. Guitar Hero was then mentioned as the name of it. Guitar Hero is a video game. One of my friend's sons plays this game all of the time. He is no more of a guitar player than Charlie Brown is. If he picked up a real guitar, he would have no clue how to use it.


You're potentially missing something important.

Guitar Hero is a video game. That means two things happen: kids develop a high degree of skill, and kids get hooked and willingly, eagerly play it for hours on end.

Contrast that to music lessons. Does either of those two things happen?

Could they, if we restructured just a bit?
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2192892 - 12/05/13 10:52 AM Re: My Experiences with the Soft Mozart Program [Re: E. Christensen]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7598
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: E. Christensen
You can buy a Casio for $80 that helps a student learn just as well as any expensive brand.

Utterly false.
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Polyphonist

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