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#951469 - 10/19/06 11:43 AM Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Frank III Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/10/03
Posts: 310
Loc: Spring Lake, MI
Hi,

According to my daughter's piano teacher, her own daughter got by when she was younger on her excellent ear and memorization skills, but unfortunately she never learned to read music well. Our daughter (Annie) comes to her lessons extremely well prepared, but her teacher doesn’t feel she sightreads as well as she should. Last night she mentioned that lots of kids work all week without their parents help, and that she would like us to get her started but let her work on the music by herself all week. I should mention that I never play Annie’s new pieces for her, but rather let her work on them and then help her correct things when she plays them for me.

As musicians, and not your typical parents, we would find it difficult to not help our child, or at least prevent her from getting a song engrained in her head wrong for a whole week until her next lesson.

I was wondering if you could tell me how you feel about sightreading at the developmental level of a 7-year old. Annie would be moving along much more slowly without our help, but if that’s what it takes, we’re open to trying it. Or on the other hand, is this just a particular skill that needs to be practiced? We do plan to purchase a book from a different series that is one level easier than what she works on now to practice sightreading.

I would appreciate any thoughts you have on the matter. Thanks.
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Frank III

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#951470 - 10/19/06 06:52 PM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Piano&Flute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Hmmm, I do see where the teacher is coming from only because I have had a few students over the years whose parents have have been overly helpful practicing with them. This usually means either telling them the notes or automatically jumping in to correct something before the student can fix it on their own. For some reason these parents don't want the teacher to hear any mistakes. It can make it very hard to figure out if there is a weakness if they have had help all week. I'm not implying that you do this, but the teacher might not know what is going on at home. That being said, having the parents involved in the practice routine, especially with younger students is incredibly important and something I appreciate very much with my students. Parental support is very necessary. I would have a discussion with the teacher about how your daughters practice routing works at home and make sure you are honest with her about any weaknesses in her playing that you may have noticed at home. As a parent I also would find it impossible not to help my son at home with this practicing. Just remember that in the end both you and your daughter's teacher have the same goal.
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Registered Private Piano and Flute Teacher

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#951471 - 10/19/06 09:33 PM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10362
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Pardon an intemperate opinion, and I'm not known for intemperate behavior around here. Leave your daughter to flounder for a week like most students when you have so much you can offer by using some good judgment? That's a crock of alligator scat.

First, I would separate out the issue of sightreading from the broader question of whether musician parents should take a role in augmenting what the teacher can do with the child.

I have worked extensively with my son from the time he started (rather late) at age eight until today. I used to supervise most of his practice. I do it a bit less now because at thirteen he's more capable of working on his own. Nonetheless, I still work with him as he's developing a piece because I can amplify the teacher's lesson with him and make her work with him more productive. I think my supervision of his practice has been rather effective at speeding his progress.

He too had a slow start at sightreading. His summer teacher at the end of year two gave him lots of stuff to sightread. You know, with a decent musical background it turned out that I could also help him practice basic sightreading skills. Of course I didn't intervene to make it perfect for next week. That's not the purpose of sightreading. I know this, and I'm sure you do too. The notion that you should just sit back and ignore your child when you have so much training and experience to offer her ...well, that's just plain stupid.

Geez, I don't usually say things like this. ;\)

I guess this just struck a nerve. You see, I didn't call myself Piano*Dad for nothing.

Best,

David F
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Grotrian 192 #156455

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

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#951472 - 10/19/06 11:20 PM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Triryche Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/11/06
Posts: 1451
Loc: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Thanks Piano*Dad

You pretty much said what I wanted to, but in a much more tactful manner than a fear I would have.


I am new to piano (5 months) but have played guitar for ~ 20 years. I never learned to read music (except for tabs and chords).

IMO (and as a musicain I'm sure you agree) making music is much more important than sight reading, I wouldn't worry too much about sight reading skills for a 7 year old. Let her have fun, and if she sticks with it, I'm sure her sight reading skills will come over time.

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#951473 - 10/20/06 12:42 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Piano&Flute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
If I could add. Sight reading is important because many of the beginner books used today rely on hand positions and tunes that make it very easy for students to memorize. The problem with this is that after a year or two of doing this some students cannot read music well enough when their music progresses. This is why many teachers supplement the lesson books with completely separate technique, sight reading and/or theory that can change things up a bit. It is hard to watch students who after playing successfully for two years struggle with note reading when their songs all of a sudden start using a wider range of notes. This can cause some students to quit, after all who wants to go backwards and re-learn skills they should have learned earlier. That is not fun! As a teacher I firmly believe that a well-rounded approach, covering as many skills as possible is best. You have mentioned that you are getting more sight reading material for your daughter, can she identfy note names easliy if she looks at them ? Does she do any theory? Both of these things will help with note naming skills. Having fun making music is vital, but I believe students can have fun learning everything they need to. My beginner students don't even mind doing the minimal theory I assign because it doesn't take too long and it really helps them read music better. I make a point in any interviews I do with potential students/parents of explaining this in full. By the way, good luck progressing on piano if you can't read music. You cannot depend on chords.

That being said, many of my students have parents who play an instrument well and help them practice during the week. I always tell them how luck they are. Many times, if a student struggles in an area ie)note naming or rhythms, having help and support all week long makes all the difference, and as a teacher I know I can count on their help. I always wished I had musical parents growing up. I also intend to help my son (almost 3) when he starts taking private lessons, and I fully participate in his group music classes. However it is important not to just give your children all the answers (like just telling them the note names) and to take what teacher says into consideration. I'll be the first to admit that as a parent I am not as diplomatic as I would be as a teacher. Ask questions to clarify what he/she means and what you can do to help. I have never told a parent to leave their child with no help for the week and never would. Their help is too important. I just ask that they help their children to be able to figure out the answers for themselves.

In the end, who knows their children better, or has better intentions than their parents. Teachers and parents should work together as a team, and it is not in the teachers best interest to not advocate the best for a student. After all: It takes a whole village to raise a child. Have a talk with your teacher and make sure you are on the same page. If your teacher specifically requests no help at all, or you cannot agree then maybe switching teachers would be a better option.

Wow, pitty the teacher who has to work with my son.
_________________________
Registered Private Piano and Flute Teacher

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#951474 - 10/20/06 02:05 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Triryche Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/11/06
Posts: 1451
Loc: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
originally posted by StephanieF[/b]
 Quote:
In the end, who knows their children better, or has better intentions than their parents. Teachers and parents should work together as a team, and it is not in the teachers best interest to not advocate the best for a student.
Well said!!

Stephanie - Just to calrify, I have no intentions of learning piano without learning to read music. I am currently learning to read music (since May of this year), and I know what you mean about the the beginners book, I am currently working on Alfred's Adult Level I and falling into the "hand position trap".

Here is the reason I feel sight reading should not be a deal breaker for young students:
About 7 years ago, my son (12 yrs old at the time) took lessons. I tried my best not to intervene. When the sight reading became too much of a struggle for him, he quit lessons.
About 8 months ago, my daughter, age 6, started lessons, and when the sight reading became challenging, she wanted out too. I tried my best to assure her that the more difficult the lessons, the greater the reward when accomplished. The last thing I wanted to do was have the piano have negative connotations. Well for now, dad took over her spot (and having a blast)!!

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#951475 - 10/20/06 02:27 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
I think Stephanie has made some very insightful and informed points here.

I would not leave my son to flounder for a week either, but I do see the need for balance and a fair degree of "self solutiion" from the child.

I tend not to point out what the notes are, but more to give tips on recognising patterns and repetetive phrases that can speed up sightreading a lot.
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#951476 - 10/20/06 09:50 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Frank III Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/10/03
Posts: 310
Loc: Spring Lake, MI
Wow - what inciteful comments! \:\)

You're all correct - there's no way we could sit idly by all week long while our 7-year old daughter is practicing.

To answer some questions from above, Annie takes from the Faber series - which includes books on Lesson, Theory, Technique, Pop, & Performance. (I highly recommend this series) She also does flashcards everyday to name the notes. She knows the note names very well, but where I think she needs practice is in seeing a note on the staff and knowing instantly where it is located on the keyboard.

In thinking about it some more, once a child has practiced something 2 or 3 days, they're not sightreading anymore. Perhaps our "plan of attack" should be allowing Annie to practice on her own initially until she is beyond the point of sightreading and then work with her after that. Also, purchase some books at an easier level to specifically practice the skill of sightreading. What do you think?

Thanks again.
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Frank III

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#951477 - 10/20/06 09:54 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10362
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
This is the line in Frank's initial post that struck me most:

 Quote:
I was wondering if you could tell me how you feel about sightreading at the developmental level of a 7-year old. Annie would be moving along much more slowly without our help, but if that’s what it takes, we’re open to trying it.
The teacher seems to be presuming that the kind of help you offer actually detracts from the child's learning process. That's a very problematic assumption on his or her part.

Also, the teacher seems to be confusing "sight reading" with playing from the page. If parents are putting their child's fingers on the right key and encouraging memorization of those aural and tactile patters then of course they may be creating a barrier to learning how to read music. Is that what you are doing? I suspect not.

When I worked with my son at age eight I spent a lot of time with flashcards. Ultimately he learned how to read music better than I do. He understands the notes in the high treble and low bass. Sometimes I still need to count. \:o

We worked on sightreading by having him play through stuff he had never seen and teaching him the learned skill of "keeping the flow going" and not minding the mistakes. Gradually, the error rate just went down.

All of this learning was better and faster because I was involved.
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Grotrian 192 #156455

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

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#951478 - 10/20/06 12:32 PM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2911
Loc: UK.
I am in no doubt that there seems to be a trade off between good aural/memory skills and good sight reading skills. I was able to play by ear and could memorise very easily. This meant I would only have to read pieces a couple of times before I knew them. After that I was no longer reading them. To make things worse I would use my ear to help me guess what came next rather than go to the trouble of reading it. As a consequense my sight reading skills were awful. I have many students who suffer the same problem. On the other hand the ones who read well often never get beyond reproducing notes on the page. They lack the musicianship skills to bring their pieces to life and make them interesting. It can sound like a robot playing.

Sight reading at the age of 7 is not the be all and end all. You say your daughter can name notes easily on flashcards. That is important. The chances are she doesn't sight read fluently because it's just easier for her to learn pieces using her more dominant skills. Things will improve given time I am sure.

There are one or two things you could try to help her along. Get her to try sight singing simple melody lines. What eventually made sight reading easier for me was knowing how something would sound before playing it. Also, to make sight reading a more enjoyable experience why not play some simple duets with her? This will encourage her to keep the flow going. It's a great way for a musical parent to help out.
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Pianist and piano teacher.

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#951479 - 10/20/06 01:48 PM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Dorrie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 438
Hmmm

I have a feeling that this doesn't have to do with sight reading.

I would have a talk with the teacher about what her philosophy of parent involvement is. I would think most teachers would prefer more involvement to less.

Either this teacher is just odd, or she feels that for some reason your involvement is counter productive. I'd rather find out sooner rather than later.

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#951480 - 10/20/06 06:34 PM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
 Quote:
Originally posted by Frank III:


She knows the note names very well, but where I think she needs practice is in seeing a note on the staff and knowing instantly where it is located on the keyboard.

Thanks again. [/b]
This is one of the biggest problems I've found with my students: looking at a note and naming it on the staff and finding it readily on the keys. Some people downplay this arguing that when one plays you're not really thinking letter names but rather intervals, patterns, chords, etc. But I think being able to both is ideal: being able to recognize easily the letter names on the staff and where they are on the keys so when figuring out a new piece, you know exactly where to go for each note. Also being able to recognize intervals, patterns, and chords. I think the sooner one can do these the sooner one can independently figure out a new piece.

So I would work with your daughter on recognizing the letter names on the staff and where they are on the keys and on learning to recognize intervals and patterns.

Also, I wouldn't (as I'm sure you're not) expect a 7 yr. old to perfect sight-reading overnight. It's something to work at. Almost every student I've had (most students I've had have started at 7) all of the sudden at 9 years old things that seemed to be a struggle before just start clicking almost like magic and they start catching on more readily and so much faster. It's almost like a magic age developmentally. So it always made me wonder if there isn't something going on age-wise and developmentally. So just to say, although not to put everything on the back burner until a child is older, they probably need more patience and time and things should get easier between the gradual acquired skill and the age and development of the child.

Just my own personal thoughts.

- Also my best students are the ones whose parents help them go over their music and help them with problems. I have one student right now whose mom taught her for a year from a primer book and then she started with me. She pretty well flew through level 1 method books and is on level 2 all in 6 months time. Even level 2 seems to come easy for her and she could do some level 3 pieces. She comes with her pieces well learned actually giving me little to say except for the fine tune details. We have never spent a lesson painstakingly going over a piece measure by measure. I know her mom helps her when she's stuck. I asked her once how she managed to figure out a brand new piece so well and she said, "well, my mom helped me a little". When I quiz her on the notes, she knows them and when I give her a new piece at lesson, she can read her way through it pretty well (she's 9). It's made my job really a lot easier \:D . Since she doesn't need me to help her figure out a piece bit by bit at the lesson so much, we use more of the time talking about technique, theory, expression/interpretation. Not counting her first year of a primer book with her mom teaching, she's progressed in 6 months time what it takes most of my students to get to in 2 years at best.

I have a 7 yr. old daughter at home who I haven't really formally given lessons yet. Before she turned 7 and before she was born, as a piano teacher I did expect probably a lot more out of my 7 yr. old students than I should have. I probably expected them to work independently more than I should. Based on just having my own 7 yr. old now, the next young students I get, I will probably do things a little differently, one is asking for more parental involvement in practice at home.

I'm all for a child learning to figure things out independently without help and feel it's best to let them try to figure something out on their own first but be available if they ask for help or are stuck. Especially when only seeing a piano teacher once a week, it doesn't make sense to let a child practice something incorrectly all week. A lot depends on the age of the student and the parent/child relationship as in is a parent doing the work for the child giving them all the answers up front sending the message they can't think for themselves or offering guidance, direction, and help when needed but helping them learn to think for themselves.

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#951481 - 10/22/06 01:34 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
We are talking about 7-year old Annie.

With three grandchildren in this age group I know that they are illiterate little beasties ...
nothing nicer than to have grandad tell them a story about pirates ... because they can't read and write ... they develop special skills with their ears ... no wonder in the case of Annie that she will need to develop memorization skills” ... the ABC is a new challenge yet to be
mastered ... and it will be a decade before she tries to get her mind round the plot subtleties
of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”.

The problem with piano teachers is that they are so wrapped up with the formal teaching of music that they forget that a 7-year can’t read and write ... what makes matters worse is that
they presume to inflict on an illiterate child an alphabetic series of notes ... and then say foolish things of Annie like “doesn’t feel she sight-reads as well as she should.”

What is poor little Annie to do? She memorises quickly to please parents and teacher ...
and then the defenceless illiterate little girl gets chastised for not being up to scratch with her sight-reading ... but the truth of the matter is that the teacher ... like all 18000 Forum members are all indifferent sight-readers due to the obscure format of notation ... all quality performance is dependent on muscle and aural memory.

Please praise little Annie for her memorisation skills ... and fire the piano teacher.

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#951482 - 10/22/06 02:24 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
I agree with btb to a certain extent (if Annie is illiterate, although kids *can* learn multiple subjects at the same time), up until the last point:

 Quote:
all quality performance is dependent on muscle and aural memory.
Actually, if you rely just on muscle and aural memory, then when you slip up and hit some wrong notes, it can completely screw you up and you won't be able to go on because you don't *know* what's coming next.

Rather, probably the best quality performance comes from understanding and knowledge of the music: what are the chords? What are the chord progressions? Where are notes leading? What is the structure? How are the phrases shaped, and why are they shaped that way? If you understand all that, then it doesn't matter if you hit a wrong note somewhere: because even if you have to fudge a little to get back in (which might involve moving your fingers in ways that you haven't practiced, and thus goes against 'muscle memory'), at least you know what chord you have to play next, and if you know the chord, then you know the notes regardless of muscle memory.

All of this sounds very technical, but it's the same as learning English: we don't remember poetry by remembering one letter at a time, and then just reciting it one letter at a time with no attention to words and phrases and meaning and structure... we don't just recite it based on practicing over and over and over again each letter after the next, and hope that we don't screw up along the way. No, we group the letters as words; we study grammar so that we know how the words generally fit together, and so that we understand when they fit together in different ways not expected by grammatic rules; we learn lines as wholes; we learn where sentences end, if they maybe end in the middle of a line.


Rather than focusing on "sight-reading" per se, maybe think more about teaching her the theory of music. This will help her to understand the music that she plays, and not only will this give her a *much* more solid memory of the music, but also it will help her better interpret the music as well.

Plus, this will give her an edge later when she does work more on "sight-reading" as such, because she will then be able to read the notes as groups of notes, rather than as single notes, and it will be much easier/faster for her when she is older.
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Sam

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#951483 - 10/22/06 02:33 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
At her age, probably it is more important to focus on understanding (theory), and technique, and a sense of rhythm, and a feel for the pedal, etc.

Sight-reading will come later. But get the basics first, and her reading will naturally improve over time... but it takes time.

Just my unexperienced (as a teacher) opinion. Take it as you will. \:\)
_________________________
Sam

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#951484 - 10/22/06 03:02 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
Learn how the music sounds... tone, technical skill, singing in solfege (really knowing your notes), rhythm, balance. This is a handful to learn and basic, in my mind to learning piano, thus reading will be a sinch; that is, if you teach reading in correlation to how the child has learned aurally.
Once you start teaching reading it needs to be practiced everyday. Once the child is beyond beginning level of reading, they should continue reading pieces along with having a very basic sightreading book such a Bastien's Line a Day.
Of course my approach is not traditional, but for me it seems to work.
Parents, even when teaching traditional methods, I feel can support the student in their at-home practice. Just try to be more helpful in letting her find out how to play it correctly instead of jumping into correcting her yourself.
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Private Piano Teacher,
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#951485 - 10/22/06 05:41 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Sorry guys,

The child of 7 years wants to learn how to play "Happy Birthday" ...
and you are coming on heavy. Cut out all the theory mumbo-jumbo and all the advanced formal school claptrap ... the child is playing
with dolls ... and you are plotting her dour passage to Carnegie Hall.

The child's skills are limited to aural ... try to put yourself into the shoes of a 7-year old ... ABC is adult mumbo-jumbo ... "show me the notes" to “Happy Birthday” she says ... I'll remember ... starting with the white note just left of the set of two blacks ... later we tell her about Middle C.

Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday dear Annie
Happy Birthday to You

Knocks the socks off Bastien's Line a Day.

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#951486 - 10/22/06 10:58 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2911
Loc: UK.
I sometimes find it hard to tell if btb is being serious or just trying to provoke a reaction. :rolleyes:

Unfortunately, this view seems to be shared by many in education. The main reason people are not musically literate is that many think it so difficult that they do not bother to teach it within schools. I find it incredible that kids are not taught about musical notation in the UK until they reach high school. There seems to be this view that it is too complicated for their little brains to comprehend.

Getting back to Annie. I am quite sure that at the age of 7 she can (like most other 7 year olds) read and write just fine. Since the musical alphabet uses just 7 letters I can't quite see what is so difficult about it. The original post says she is fine with flash cards so identifying notes on the stave is not the problem.

I think the problem lies in learning to read and understand music at the same time as learning to control the instrument. There is a lot to take in when learning to play the piano. This is because the concept of musical notation has not been introduced before hand. It has nothing to do with it being difficult. You would have the same problems if nobody learned to read and write until the age of 11. By then it is just too late.

I run musicianship classes for kids aged 4-6. In the class they learn to become musically literate. They read rhythms and play percussion. The sing using Solfege and play recorders and chime bars to realise the music they both read and compose. It is very easy to understand notation if you take away the added complication of learning to physically play an instrument like the piano. I have started kids on piano who have spent a couple of terms in my class. Their progress is swift because they can already read music.

Methods like Suzuki do things the other way round. Music notation is only introduced when they have a good grasp of the insrument. The only problem with this (IMO) is that it is only available to those who take private instrumental lessons. There is no reason why ALL kids should not be taught to read, write, understand and compose music at school. I have seen it done. Kids aged 6 who can compose using primary triads in ternary form. They use harmony notes and passing notes in their melodies and know how they will sound because of their singing experience. In most of our schools this level of expertise is not expected until GCSE level at the age of 16.

My point is that low expectations such as teaching happy birthday by ear to 7 year olds because you feel they can't do more have done us no favours. Annie struggles with sight reading because it is very new to her. It should have been introduced at the age of 4 when she first learn to read. I would imagine that schools in the US do not do this either. On top of that, she has to learn to play the piano which requires fine coordination skills. My advice would be to give it time. It's not that she can't sight read. it's just that at the moment it is easier for her to learn things by ear so she will naturaly prefer to do that. Kids ae not stupid. If there is an easier way they will usualy go for it. Get the Bastien and encourage her to work on this skill.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#951487 - 10/22/06 12:35 PM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
What a contradiction in terms ... there’s ChrisH telling us all that rot about 7 year olds
being literate to be able to respond to a few flashcard letters of the alphabet ... and then openly admitting that UK schools don’t teach music notation until high school ... because
he surmises ... “ it is too complicated for their little brains to comprehend.”

The reason for the breakdown is not hard to find ... like Latin ... music is regarded as a dead language. It is eye-wash to conjecture that teaching music at a younger age would improve matters ... the educational authorities have obviously assessed the prime subjects to squeeze into proverbial curriculum sardine can ... and music has been found to be a low priority .

And largely due to the obscure format of the notation which we have inherited ... like reading hieroglyphics ... why devote hours, days, years to an antiquated language ... when the real world beckons with unprecedented progress in fields of mathematics, languages and the sciences.

We must leave it to ChrisH and his minuscule following to say patronizing things like “kids are not stupid” ... and hammer away at his Bastien ... overlooking the Alice in Wonderland
world of a 7-year old ... that of Nursery Rhymes.

I am reminded of the grim Dickensian headmaster Mr. Gradgrind from “Hard Times”

“Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!”

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#951488 - 10/22/06 01:47 PM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2911
Loc: UK.
 Quote:
Originally posted by btb:
What a contradiction in terms ... there’s ChrisH telling us all that rot about 7 year olds
being literate to be able to respond to a few flashcard letters of the alphabet ... and then openly admitting that UK schools don’t teach music notation until high school ... because
he surmises ... “ it is too complicated for their little brains to comprehend.”

[/b]
Where is the contradiction? The view that notation is complicated is not mine, it is yours! Do you honestly think that the avrage 7 year old is illiterate?
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#951489 - 10/22/06 02:01 PM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2911
Loc: UK.
And another thing. Music is not at all a dead language. The point of learning notation is so that you can enjoy hundreds of years worth of repertoire on any instrument you like.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#951490 - 10/22/06 07:44 PM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by Chris H.:
And another thing. Music is not at all a dead language. The point of learning notation is so that you can enjoy hundreds of years worth of repertoire on any instrument you like. [/b]
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for one day. Teach the man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

(To be straightforward: teach her to play "Happy Birthday" by ear and you make her happy with one song; teach her to read notation, and you make her happy with as many songs as she can learn in a lifetime.)

As for the comment about music being a dead language... might I remind btb of the *huge* success of the popular music industry? Of the music in movies, on the radio, on television, in stores, in schools, in concert halls, at graduations and other public ceremonies, in religious worship, in the workplace?
_________________________
Sam

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#951491 - 10/23/06 12:43 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
This is a Piano Forum ... 99.99% of the population can't play the piano and yet the two gents are adamant that keyboard music is not a dead language ... time to get out the golf clubs.

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#951492 - 10/23/06 12:53 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Source for that statistic? (99.99%)

It seems like an awfully high percent, but if you can provide me a reputable source, then perhaps I will see that you are right.


Is playing the piano the only way of making music or listening to music? Might I remind you again of the *huge* success of the popular music industry? Of the music in movies, on the radio, on television, in stores, in schools, in concert halls, at graduations and other public ceremonies, in religious worship, in the workplace?


Edit: ah, now you are restricting your argument to *keyboard* music only. Is that a dead language?

Hardly not. Look at the number of students enrolled in conservatories. Look at the sold-out performances all over the country to piano recitals. Look at the success of Lang Lang, to pick an example.

Consider the number of people registered at the Piano World forums.

Keyboard music is not dead. And notation is not used only for piano music -- it is used as well for a whole lot of other music, too. And that other music is everywhere in western society.

Music of all kinds is extremely prominent in western society.
_________________________
Sam

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#951493 - 10/23/06 03:28 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2911
Loc: UK.
Believe it or not I happen to agree with a certain amount of what btb says.

Nursery rhymes are a great source of inspiration and learning for kids. There is nothing wrong with teaching kids to play them by ear. I have already said that sight reading is not the be all and end all. It is important to encourage and develop aural and memory skills as well as explore creative avenues of improvisation and composition. The trouble is that this approach alone will ultimately be limited. There is a wealth of great music out there which will only ever be accessible to people who can read music.

The reason that notation has not changed much over the years is that it hasn't needed to. It provides the musician with an accurate graphic representation from which they can recreate music and interprate in their own way. It is in no way 'dead' or 'antiquated'. When btb talks about 'Chris H and his miniscule following' I presume he means the thousands of musicians who benefit from being able to read music. Until he reveals his logical linear notation system and rewrites the repertoire using it I am afraid we do need to teach notation.


Quoted by btb:

I am reminded of the grim Dickensian headmaster Mr. Gradgrind from “Hard Times”

“Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!”


It is obvious that you are very much in to history, literature, music and the arts. What I can't understand is why you find conventional notation so offensive. Maybe you are one of the many adults who were deprived of this knowledge and training as a child. Could it be that you are frustrated by your limited understanding of notation and music theory and so choose to question its relevance all the time?
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#951494 - 10/23/06 04:08 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2911
Loc: UK.
 Quote:
Originally posted by btb:
This is a Piano Forum ... 99.99% of the population can't play the piano and yet the two gents are adamant that keyboard music is not a dead language ... time to get out the golf clubs. [/b]
By this post it is clear that you have entirely missed the point. I would like to see more people take up the piano or any other instrument. What is needed is a proper music education from an early age. If kids were shown how to understand the way in which music works and unlock its mysteries then the take up of instrumental lessons would increase.

Did you not read what I said about my musicianship classes?

We have singing, dancing, fun and games as well as aural training, musical awareness and yes, NOTATION. The beauty of this is that they are able to compose music, write it down and give it to another child who can sing or play it. All of this long before the age of 7. If this kind of thing were delivered in schools there would be no need for me to run my classes. There is no mention of 'Bastien' or even touching the piano. Playing the piano (and other instruments) requires fine motor skills and coordination. It is so refreshing to be able to concentrate on the physical side of this with kids who can already read and understand music. What could you possibly have against that?
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#951495 - 10/23/06 08:35 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10362
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
I don't know about piano statistics, but musical literacy is surely more widespread than that. An anecdote is not statistics, but I offer my sons' rather representative middle school. Roughly 1/3 of the school is from poorer families so it seems nationally representative. Between 1/3 and 1/2 of the school participates in band, chorus, or orchestra. The students who participate are representative of the population as a whole. Kids from wealthier families do not seem at all overrepresented.

I really do not understand what this disagreement is about, and anyway it seems rather tangential to Frank's original question. For better or for worse his daughter is learning notation. His daughter's teacher seems to want them to stay out of the process, and I think that is ridiculous. If they are trained in music they should be the teacher's ally in advancing the ball.

Asking this child to read music is not the same thing as subjecting her to a Victorian workhouse. ;\)

Parents teach their children to read in fun ways and they can certainly assist in the development of music reading skills. Every child is different, of course. Kids that are in any way advanced are likely reading quite well by age seven. Many of them are little learning sponges at that age. If you ask them to learn it, they will. If it is made interesting, they'll soak it up. Learning musical notation doesn't exclude other modes of learning at the same time.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

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

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#951496 - 10/23/06 09:39 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
I want to just sneak in here and clarify something I posted earlier. I mentioned or implied in my previous post that the next 7 yr. old students I taught, I would not expect as much as I used to from that age. I did not mean I wouldn't expect them to be able to learn notation or sight-reading. I've found 7 yr. olds to learn those things just fine. What I meant was that I would not expect a 7 yr. old to be able to practice their assignment every day completely independent of parental help. Before I was around very many 7 yr. olds, I would have expected a 7 yr. old to be old enough to practice independently the entire week without any parental involvement. Now I think, in general that age could stand to use more parental involvement in practice at home rather than be left to "figure it all out" by themselves for the whole week.

I didn't in any way mean that a 7 yr. old isn't capable of learning notation and learning to sight-read - far from it. I have found, however, from the small number of 7 yr. olds I have taught that they all have learned and caught on at a slightly slower pace than a little bit older child but they all have suddenly started catching on with lightning speed when they turn about 9. My point to the original poster was that he need not worry his 7 yr. old daughter can sight-read perfectly right this instant, but in short, keep working at it, give it time and it should become easier as with learning any new skill. Every student I've taught starting at age 7 has struggled in some area musically that in a couple years became no problem and you'd have never known the difference and it was forgotten they even had a struggle with it.

I really think Chris H.'s approach is a great one. I haven't taught any kids under 7 yet but even before I knew of his approach with that age, I had already planned to do very similarly with any students I do get in the younger age bracket, with not all the learning sitting at the piano for a 30 min. time. Even with the older students, I do similarly in the group get-togethers I hold and try to save a portion of the lesson for some musical learning aside from the piano keys.

Overall, I do believe that kids are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for.

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#951497 - 10/24/06 12:21 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
The workhouse cap fits too well ... spare a thought for the poor little Annies.

"The girl curtsied, and sat down. She was very young, and she looked as if she were frightened by the matter-of-fact prospect the world afforded. ..... "
"So Mr. M'Choakumchild began in his best manner. He and some one hundred and forty other schoolmasters had been lately turned at the same time, in the same factory, on the same principle, like so many pianoforte legs. He had been put through an immense variety of paces, ....................

Ah, rather overdone, M'Choakumchild . If he had only learned a little less, how infinitely
better he might have taught much more."

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#951498 - 10/24/06 07:41 AM Re: Would like your thoughts about children and sightreading
buxtehude Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 499
Loc: Copenhagen, Denmark
I've come late into this interesting discussion and may only be repeating what others have said better:

I would never dream of letting my children practice alone - unless they specifically asked for it (and I from my hiding place could hear that they really did practice seriously). To let a child be alone at the piano is a recipe for disaster. In one way or the other. The teacher in question must be crazy.

As to note-litteracy in children: I don't think reading notes will help you in any way better than having someone - your Dad e.g. - by your side 'showing you the fingers to play' and listening to a recording of the piece. Music and piano playing is about imitation (now I talk about memorizing the music, of course; I do think you allways have to memorize it first to be able to play a piece properly).

My just-turned-10-year old son listens intensively to some master playing the piece untill he really knows it by heart - then he watches my playing a couple of bars, varying with difficulty, with one hand - and finally he imitates what he has seen me do and heard played.

He doesn't read notes - his teacher doesn't care!! - and he has reached grade 8 in three years. Currently he is studying Schubert's Impromptu op. 90/2 (the E-flat major) together with Bach's French Suite #5.

As to that about not knowing the notes means he risks being lost in the middle of a piece: I think that is wrong - in fact, I believe it is the other way round: If you know the piece and trust your musical memory - if you can sing the piece all the way through - that's a much, much better guarantee for not loosing trail. Never play a piece at a recital you can't sing all the way through!

The last year or so my son has not once lost trail while playing - not once! Not in recital, not at practice or by his teacher. Not even in the nearly 7 minutes long Mozart Rondo in D, where Mozart repeats himself with subtle varations over and over and over again.

When he gets older and doesn't want Dad to show him, he will learn to read in no time, because he will then be much more motivated than he is today.

(Homer couldn't read).

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