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#954259 - 02/16/08 01:07 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3187
 Quote:
Originally posted by rocket88:
I have a relatively new student who appears to have zero ability to play the piano.

He does not have even the slightest ear for music...after an entire lesson, he could not duplicate the first measure of "Mary had a little lamb".[/b] [/b]
Thank you for your help. Once again, I did say his problem was much more than finger coordination! Please read the whole post. \:\)
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#954260 - 02/16/08 01:39 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
 Quote:
Originally posted by rocket88:
They are to the piano what I was to sports and gym in school.[/b]
I've enjoyed reading your posts, they are very intelligent. I do find the your division of students into musicians or athletes contrary to my experience though. My best students have always come with excellent coordination and consequently have also been very good at sports.

 Quote:
Originally posted by rocket88:
To encourage and expect those at the very bottom to succeed is for the most part an exercise in futility that frustrates and disappoints the student, and saps the energy of the teacher.[/b]
Teaching should never (and I know it often does) get to the level of frustration for either participant. That just leads to illness. My advice to all those who are edging towards this feeling is to back away; try and become more objective.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#954261 - 02/16/08 02:57 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Hello your Royal Magnitude King of Greece,

I thoroughly endorse your view klutz that the best musical students are often the most co-ordinated of athletes.

My happy schooldays are remembered chiefly for the competitive fun on the sports fields ... whether smacking a six or making a dummy to
score a try.

Piano teaching suffers from the sombre isolation of one-on-one teaching ... which removes the factor of competitive alertness ... the present case of the talent-less hopeful deserves our every concern ... the unfortunate sits like Tweedledum in the corner ... if only he could have the company of Tweedledee ... and perhaps engage in a Battle.

Would increased user-friendly company help in this vexing case?

Having never had a similar Tweedledum to teach ... the admirable Rocket88 seems to be piloting this one solo ... happy landings ... we salute you.

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#954262 - 02/16/08 03:15 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Funny you should say that Sir btb. I fortunately teach most of my pupils in a school - often in groups. They get the same benefit of 'competitive alertness'. Would you believe the sight of a group of boys stood around a piano at lunchtime vying for who could play Clemnti better? Or as they pronounce it 'Clement-ee'.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#954263 - 02/16/08 04:19 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
You are on a good wicket Your Highness
(do the Greeks play cricket?)

No wonder you get results in your competitive setting ... Ye Olde English Public School format has a lot going for it ... my best results were always in age groups of 5 ... we made a fuss of the top dog while tail-end-Charlie at 5 had to
endure the chagrin of being bottom in the weekly performance.

This was my most revealing and humbling experience in the teaching game ... while you couldn’t further coach the bloated prize-winning no. 1 ( how the mind closes down to advice in victory),it was the abject loser, stinging with resentment who opened a new world for me in the psychological approach to teaching.

It’s an old adage that we learn most by our defeats.

I’m glad to say that I was smart enough to give prime attention to the fallen ... after the others had gone home and I had managed to get the
broken spirit to admit the cause of the demise (often requiring the most sensitive skills of persuasion) ... and asked Mum to stay a little longer while we spent 30 minutes individually boosting skills ... with ever encouraging words to inspire regaining top spot in the next competition.

I’m a firm believer that the school is as strong as the weakest link ... by boosting from the bottom ... we promote the top.

With loyal allegiance ... see you at tonight’s Parthenon shin-dig.

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#954264 - 02/16/08 04:36 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
 Quote:
Originally posted by btb:
You are on a good wicket Your Highness
(do the Greeks play cricket?)

Ye Olde English Public School format has a lot going for it ... [/b]
You mean Ye Newe Inner-Citye Comprehensive
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#954265 - 02/16/08 05:06 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Jenova Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/29/08
Posts: 6
Loc: Singapore
hmm interesting thread.

i'm not sure whether the boy really do not have the talent. Because i remember clearly when i just started piano at 6 in a group lesson, i only learn how to play with one finger. I learn songs such as twinkle twinkle little star for like 6 months maybe.

When i move on to 5 fingers, i struggled a lot. My other fingers always have the tendency to back off the piano.

Then when the teacher introduced playing together with the left hand, i kinda stunned. I remember clearly asking my mum that we can actually play piano with both hands? I had lots of difficulty in playing with both hands and my teacher kept scolding me on my hand position.

But she have this passion for teaching and always made the lesson interesting like with mini drums for us to beat according to the song she played. And singing of course.

So in my opinion it is about the student passion for learning piano and the teacher willingness to teach and cultivate this interest in him.

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#954266 - 02/16/08 07:58 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
I have this instinctive feel (and experience) that the desire to play the piano comes with the coordination to being able to play it, even latent.

In my experience the more people have voice problems and can't sing in tune or use their voice properly the less their desire to sing. The less athletically coordinative a person is the less the desire to be involved in athletic activities.

So even for those with the greatest problem there's a way as long as they have a genuine desire to play. Lack of musicality prevents one from being remotely interested in music making and would make one focus on activities involving his/her predispositions.

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#954267 - 02/16/08 08:10 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
No wonder Jenova from Singapore struggled with reading the roles of two keyboard hands.

The twin-stave format which the keyboard has inherited from those ancient Middle Age choralist days is, in today’s Computer Age a makeshift botch, which should have been sorted out years ago with the acceptance of the basic 12 note palette to enhance the limited alphabetic 7 white notes ... ... what makes matters worse is that the two staves (carrying the same musical concept) ... is chopped in half and illogically spaced a mile apart (quite daft) ... and have to be read with a switchback brain from notes with their octaves jumped from on lines to that in-between lines.

No other field of endeavour for quick comprehension would ever submit itself to such a loopy format of a switching yardstick.

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#954268 - 02/16/08 08:51 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3187
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
 Quote:
Originally posted by rocket88:
They are to the piano what I was to sports and gym in school.[/b]
I've enjoyed reading your posts, they are very intelligent. I do find the your division of students into musicians or athletes contrary to my experience though.[/b]
Sir, I was not dividing students into musicians or athletics.

I was using that as an example of how someone (myself) did not improve athletically despite gym class twice a week for years in school. My athletic ability never changed, and I remain to this day a completely un-athletic person.

My point was that I am at the bottom of the bell curve athletically, despite gym classes and my desire to keep up and be a part of my peers.

And, I believe that some folks have as little piano and musical talent as I do in athletics. Therefore, lessons will most likely never change the lack of ability, unless, as some posters said, something may unlock a door in their mind that is presently closed due to something such as a learning difficulty.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#954269 - 02/16/08 09:24 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11844
Loc: Canada
Well, Rocket88, do let us know how it goes with this student. It would be wonderful if things turned around with him, or if there is to be an ending as you fear, that it's a happy ending for all parties concerned.

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#954270 - 02/16/08 09:45 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
I welcome them as students, hope for the best, and pour out my soul to teach them, encourage them, and help them learn.[/b]
This is what makes a great teacher!

I'm an adult beginner and have found this thread so interesting. I'm sure you are an amazing teacher and this student is lucky to have you. I hope you can help him or find a kind way to encourage him/his parents to persue a different activity.
_________________________
It's the journey not the destination..

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#954271 - 02/16/08 09:52 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
gmm1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/06
Posts: 1674
Loc: Spokane WA
 Quote:
Originally posted by rocket88:
I was using that as an example of how someone (myself) did not improve athletically despite gym class twice a week for years in school. My athletic ability never changed, and I remain to this day a completely un-athletic person.
[/b]
I rarely post over here because, well, I'm not a teacher. But I have followed this thread with interest. As a life-long member of the "no-talent" club, allow me to add:

Your comment above strikes me as the same as me saying I played tamborine throughout grade school and still cannot play the piano. Very little athletic ability, if any, is learned in gym classes. In my experience, coaches tend to use them to weed out the chosen ones for the real learning that takes place in sport programs.

You are the best judge of your athletic ability, or lack thereof. If you are convinced you have absolutely none, then that's right.

We improve what we practice.

I cannot add any brilliant insights to help you help the student with no talent. I will just add this "truth". I am playing now at a level I would have thought impossible for me just a year or so ago. If you were to hear me, you might think I have moved inches on the road to improvement with miles to go, but to me, in my head, I have moved so far down the road, I cannot even see where I started.

I play for you, and it's a rookie effort at best. I play for my wife, and she cries that I took the time to learn her favorite song.

There is nothing better in this world then the loving look from a teary-eyed spouse, even for a no-talent hack. I feel like I can do anything when she looks at me like that.

Give that feeling to your student.
_________________________
"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro

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#954272 - 02/16/08 02:13 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
 Quote:
Would'st thou convert them? Start from what is right in their belief, and lead them thence to fuller light.
Marcus S.C. Richards
(whoever that was)
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#954273 - 02/16/08 02:30 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11844
Loc: Canada

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#954274 - 02/16/08 07:46 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Late Beginner Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 588
Loc: West Australia
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
Everybody has areas of strength, areas of less strength, and sometimes simply a different angle is needed. When I taught I had a 7 year old student who could not spell. A specialist came in and discovered he had difficulty sequencing. I had already chosen a phonetic speller for him. However, this specialist came upon an idea I never would have thought of: Get muscle memory going, and slow him down so that his mind can catch up, using an old fashioned typewriter. When spelling time came around, this little boy went to his typewriter, and laboriously hammered away at his letters. He started to progress, which made his self-esteem go up. I considered myself a good teacher, did not see the typewriter idea as interference - not in a million years would I have considered a manual typewriter as a solution to a spelling problem. "This boy cannot spell the most obvious words, like cat, hat, rat and fat." was my initial baffled observation. I see the suggestions here in the same light.

[/b]
Hi,

Great example. Another interesting and insightful post from Keystring.

Most difficulties that we have with carrying out tasks are actually 'planning problems' rather than a physical inability of the muscles to carry out the required tasks. The challenge is to find a way in which each individual brain can learn to process the steps in an effective way. There's no single solution, because there are so many different ways in which motor planning can go astray between the instruction stage and the execution.

Various types of approach can be needed before you find the one that hits the spot. I remember a child with tremendous planning difficulties, across all areas, who was unable to learn to ride a tricycle despite numerous visual demonstrations, physical assistance prompts, verbal descriptions and so on over several weeks. The solution was to remove all the non-essential tasks (such as steering, holding feet stable on the pedals, etc.), put the trike up on blocks so that it could be 'ridden' without any forward movement, and concentrate only on the act of trying to rotate the pedals. First we sat on the ground and together we turned the pedals by hand. Then eventually he turned them alone. After some considerable time he sat on the seat and put his feet on the pedals. I used velcro straps to help keep them in place, and physically rotated his feet until he 'got' the feeling of spinning the pedals forwards instead of starting randomly in either direction. Eventually it 'clicked' and he began pedalling with great enthusiasm and energy. When we put the trike on the ground he went off like a rocket, and then we had to start a whole new program to teach steering! \:D

I'm not sure that any of this has any relevance to the actual question in hand, other than to say that initial incompetence and inability doesn't neccessarily mean that there's no hope for eventual mastery. Many students find that they have planning difficulty with tasks where the desired outcome is too specific for their current skills - i.e a precise sequence of notes in a set order, with certain required finger pressures and in a defined time pattern. Too many variables to handle in one go (like the trike riding example, where steering, pedalling and generally being on the trike required too many overlapping motor planning tasks at the same time).

Perhaps an exercise could be devised that allowed the student to experiment with some of those elements, without the pressure of trying to get a 'right' answer? For instance:

Give the left hand the job of pressing down a single C - at any time, for as long or as short a time as the player feels like, and for any number of repeats. Push it down and hold, bang it up and down, mix it up - whatever you like.

Give the right hand a spread of CDEFG to cover. Start with using only the C and D and then gradually add the others, one at a time. Same rules apply - press any keys in any order at any pressure or tempo you like. Just experiment with how it all feels.

No 'wrong' answers there as there's no set melody outcome demanded. It will feel like making music - and it will be because nothing in the right hand will clash with the C in the left hand. Leave trying to get a set outcome, in the way of any kind of fixed tune, until the student has discovered more for himself in a freer fashion. He might even find little bits of familiar tunes, and be motivated to want to know where the other bits are, or discover pleasing little combinations of his own that suit his current very limited skills.

I agree that some people just don't have much natural aptitude for certain tasks, but pretty much anybody can make enjoyable progress if the approach and the desired goals are flexible enough. I hope the lad can find a way forward.

Cheers,

Chris
_________________________
Who needs feet of clay? I can get into enough trouble with feet made of regular foot stuff...

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#954275 - 02/17/08 01:17 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
 Quote:
Originally posted by Late Beginner:
I used velcro straps to help keep them in place, [/b]
I velcro!

What a nice story. I teach a scratching motion (clavichord touch) to depress the keys and explain in some detail how muscles only contract and therefore we cannot 'push' the key down. So if he can scratch his head, asre, etc. he has the coordination.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#954276 - 02/17/08 02:36 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Crystalcolors Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/07
Posts: 37
Loc: Upstate, NY
I agree with other teachers that the boy should be given a little more chance. BUT! I do feel for you, Rocket88. I have seen some people who are not equipped to play the instrument. Honestly speaking, you must be physically equipped, just like athletes, to play certain instruments..(like some people have a body that does not float like others, so that they cannot swim, no matter how they try)
In my case, no matter how I tried, I could not play the guitar. My hands, which are pretty well trained to play the piano, could not hold the strings down the way they should be. I couldn't play the guitar. Period.
Then I had problems with the flute. Everytime I played, I got dizzy. My fingers would move, but my respiratory system wouldn't allow me to play the flute.

Some people are just not equipped for certain instruments, and it's just a reality that we have to realize and accept.

So, there may be a chance that this boy is not equipped for the piano, but he may do well with some other instruments. Just because he doesn't show talent in piano doesn't mean he's musically zero talented (although that is possible, just like I'm a math idiot, and no matter how I try, I still can't do the "square root").

I see that you are an experienced teacher and that you aren't just condemning this boy.
See if he loves music, if he can sing in tune, and his rhythm is good. I'd give him at least 3 months, and if he still doesn't improve at all, then I'd tell him to try some other instruments.
_________________________
Crystalcolors

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#954277 - 02/17/08 05:32 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3187
Thank you Crystalcolors for you validating what I have seen, ie that some people are simply not equipped to play the piano.

However, regarding some of the other responses to my post, some folks are advocating trying things that I am not trained to do.

For example, "Late Beginner" posted this:

"Most difficulties that we have with carrying out tasks are actually 'planning problems' rather than a physical inability of the muscles to carry out the required tasks. The challenge is to find a way in which each individual brain can learn to process the steps in an effective way. There's no single solution, because there are so many different ways in which motor planning can go astray between the instruction stage and the execution.

Various types of approach can be needed before you find the one that hits the spot. I remember a child with tremendous planning difficulties, across all areas, who was unable to learn to ride a tricycle despite numerous visual demonstrations, physical assistance prompts, verbal descriptions and so on over several weeks."[/b]

Late Beginner (thank you for your response) went on to describe the rather long process of discovery and therapy that allowed the boy to ride the trycicle.

I am a piano player and a piano teacher. I am not a psychologist, and thus have no training or skills in diagnosing what could be a serious learning disability. And, it follows that I have no training in devising strategies that could successfully sidestep those disabilities vis-a-vis playing the piano.

What was done to help that tricycle boy is way beyond my ability, and way beyond the scope of a normal piano lesson. Furthermore, I do not think that some people, especially parents of young children, would be comfortable with a piano teacher delving into emotional/mental issues with their learning-disabled child during a piano lesson. And, it could possibly be illegal.

From these responses, what is emerging is that a resource is needed where piano students who are the equivalent of that boy with the tricycle (and my recently acquired student) can turn to to unlock their disability.

That would likely be a psychologist or psychiatrist who is trained in those areas, who can devise and implement a therapeutic plan (which could include medication, which piano teachers cannot prescribe). \:\) Or it could be a course that piano teachers could take, get credit for, and thus be equipped to work successfully with such students.

At the present time, I have not had that training, and thus am not the person who can treat the severely learning disabled..

That does not mean I give up on people...quite the opposite, I have stuck with people forever, it seems. And I do creative learning strategies with people to tailor their lessons to their style of learning. Which I will do with the best of my abilities with the boy who prompted my original post, which will now include some of the constructive help that posters such as Betty Patnude have suggested.

Which brings me back to my original question: "What do other teachers do when faced with a student who simply cannot play the piano?

I was expecting that the feedback was that teachers do something to perhaps guide the student to some other instrument, (as I have seen be successful in the past with other local teachers), or speak to the parents that there is a learning problem, rather than pressing on and likely frustrating the student, possibly damaging their self-esteem, and giving them a distaste for music and learning in general.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#954278 - 02/17/08 05:45 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by Crystalcolors:
I agree with other teachers that the boy should be given a little more chance. BUT! I do feel for you, Rocket88. I have seen some people who are not equipped to play the instrument. Honestly speaking, you must be physically equipped, just like athletes, to play certain instruments..(like some people have a body that does not float like others, so that they cannot swim, no matter how they try)[/b]
Yes there are people who are not physically equipped and they are the ones who work harder to either fit better in the standards or change the standards and show the world how limited they were. A girl with a burning passion for dancing but with a body which is not equipped for it should according to you abandon such passion. Instead there are indeed dancers out there who are naturally not well equipped for dancing but they eventually do it anyway and overcome their limits through passion and hard work. So yes in a world of tall, lean, symettrical and long legged dancers there are short legged, buff, asymettrical great dancers. Alice De Larrocha is so short and has such small hands that she doesn't look like very equipped for the piano and in fact she has been discouraged before. What about Petrucciani?
But she worked hard and with passion anyway and became world famous. There are also frail female bodybuilders on wheel-chairs and runners with an amputed legs and marathoners with multiple sclerosis. It's true some of us are better equipped from birth to do something but it is not a sentence of failure. I understand that it's more tempting to giving up when what you're trying to do is not your real burning passion, but there's no kind of mis-equippment that can stop real passion from the beginning. After all the body adapts and sometime slowly and very few things feels "natural" to us. It's not a reason to give up. After all a very morbidly obese person might feel terrible doing 3 minutes of exercise everydya. He might feel like he is going to pass out and his breath is completely lacking and is heart is pumping like hell. This doesn't mean that in 24 months he won't be lean, athletic and able to do cardio for one hour.

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#954279 - 02/17/08 07:38 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Late Beginner Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 588
Loc: West Australia
 Quote:
Originally posted by rocket88:

I am a piano player and a piano teacher. I am not a psychologist, and thus have no training or skills in diagnosing what could be a serious learning disability. And, it follows that I have no training in devising strategies that could successfully sidestep those disabilities vis-a-vis playing the piano.

[/b]
Hi again,

Thank you for clarifying that.

It sounds from your responses as if you have already decided that you are not the right person to teach this boy. We have been assuming that you were looking for suggestions that might help you to find ways to teach him. But it seems you want us to suggest ways in which you can get out of what is clearly a difficult situation for you. Fair enough. I don't know you, or the boy, but I do believe that a mismatch of student and teacher is not beneficial to either party. He may or may not need broader therapy of some kind, or he may just need a teacher who is more used to dealing with that type of student. That's no fault of yours, or his, but it doesn't sound like a good arrangement for either of you right now.

The boy in the tricycle example did not need either medication or intervention from a psychologist or psychiatrist to learn to ride - just a lot of patience and a bit of lateral thinking. But I was not trying to achieve it in a half hour lesson. Incidentally, I did also managed to teach him (and others) to play simple tunes on the piano with joy and enthusiasm, but that's another story. It can be done, but it does need a different approach to regular lessons. I'm sure that you are quite right to be reluctant to keep trying to teach him if you feel that he is outside your area of expertise.

Do his parents acknowlege that he has some learning difficulties? Is your problem that you don't know how to approach them to say that you don't think that he will benefit from continuing to have lessons with you? It can certainly be a rather awkward thing to have to explain, but I'm sure that it's something that many music teachers have had to do at one stage or another. In some cases because a student needs to do more foundation studies before they are ready, or because they have progressed to the degree that they need a teacher who specialises in a different level or area. Have you tried bringing the subject up at all? It would seem better for you, the child and the parents if you could sort it out sooner rather than later.

Anyway, good luck with it. I hope that you can steer him towards either another instrument, a different pastime, or another teacher. \:\)

Cheers,

Chris
_________________________
Who needs feet of clay? I can get into enough trouble with feet made of regular foot stuff...

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#954280 - 02/17/08 08:12 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1612
I have had kids with muscle control disabilities. We stay in the Faber Primer books 4 times longer than most kids and the same goes with the Level 1 series. These kids progress so slowly it's sometimes not noticeable. You cannot have high expectations in such cases.
_________________________
1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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#954281 - 02/17/08 08:30 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3187
 Quote:
Originally posted by Late Beginner:
Hi again,

Thank you for clarifying that.

It sounds from your responses as if you have already decided that you are not the right person to teach this boy. We have been assuming that you were looking for suggestions that might help you to find ways to teach him. But it seems you want us to suggest ways in which you can get out of what is clearly a difficult situation for you. [/QB]
Wrong! I wrote exactly the opposite...Here is how I ended the post that you are referring to:

That does not mean I give up on people...quite the opposite, I have stuck with people forever, it seems. And I do creative learning strategies with people to tailor their lessons to their style of learning. Which I will do with the best of my abilities with the boy who prompted my original post, which will now include some of the constructive help that posters such as Betty Patnude have suggested.[/b]

I am ending my input in this thread. It has been very helpful and informative, but has been going around in circles for a while.

I want to thank everyone for their input.

Best wishes to all! \:\)
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#954282 - 02/17/08 08:52 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia

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#954283 - 02/17/08 08:54 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by rintincop:
I have had kids with muscle control disabilities. We stay in the Faber Primer books 4 times longer than most kids and the same goes with the Level 1 series. These kids progress so slowly it's sometimes not noticeable. You cannot have high expectations in such cases. [/b]
I had an autistic student once - nonverbal, very severe level of autism. She could not control her fingers very well, or learn anything very fast. But she looooooooooved to play the piano. I always enjoyed our lessons, even though we did not progress very fast.

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#954284 - 02/17/08 09:16 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
ChatNoir Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/19/05
Posts: 1481
Loc: Encino, California
This reminds me of Anna Russel, who said:
If you go into the conservatory with a small, tinny voice, you come out with a LARGE, tinny voice.
I don't think we are all cut out to be musical artists.
_________________________
Some men are music lovers. Others make love without it.

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#954285 - 02/17/08 09:21 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by ChatNoir:
This reminds me of Anna Russel, who said:
If you go into the conservatory with a small, tinny voice, you come out with a LARGE, tinny voice.
I don't think we are all cut out to be musical artists. [/b]
Just like you can start as a skinny underweight frail guy and become a lean muscular strong one you can train your voice to change it completely: not only its power and volume potential but the way it sounds. To me a person who isn't cut out to be a musical artist is a person which doesn't have a burning desire to make music (millions of individuals in this world). If he/she has such passion and strong desire, and I'm talking here about a real desire coming from a certain awareness and sensitivity, not wanting to make music because its cool and you could become famous and be known by many and buy lot of cool stuff, and hence willingness to work, then it's just a matter of working harder and focusing on the weak points.

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#954286 - 02/17/08 09:59 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
eastcountypiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/07/05
Posts: 30
Loc: California
Your post left me with a lot of questions.

Is he practicing? If he is not, then his parents may be pushing him and he may be putting you on in hopes that you will tell his parents he doesn't have the aptitude.

If he is practicing, at this age it should be because he wants to, then just stick with it if you can. The most difficult students have turned out to be the most rewarding for me.

It very well may just be a learning difficulty and you may have to spend a month before things begin to click for him and he starts to comprehend.

It takes dexterity and strength in the fingers to push down on the keys and he is older than most children are when they start to play and at his age it just may be plain uncomfortable and hard for him to get his fingers to cooperate.

At the age of 12, you should ask him, if he is frustrated. If he is then you can help fix it. Ask him if he understands the notes, ask him if he can hold his other fingers down while he plays a note. The calmer you are the more he will open up and I bet you will be surprised at his answers.

I had one child that barely could press down the keys and found out they were worried about hitting a wrong note so much that they would press it very gently.

There is definitely something going on with this student, but you don't know what it is.

If his dream is to play and you tell his parents that it's not the best avenue, you could do more damage than good for the child.

I have found it takes at least 4 to 6 weeks to "figure" the strengths and weaknesses of a child and to be able to help them with it.

We all would be interested in finding out what you find out about your student.
_________________________
Jerrie, Piano Teacher
http://www.eastcountymusicstudio.com

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#954287 - 02/18/08 05:44 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
watchyourmind Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/30/07
Posts: 38
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
I'm looking at: he's new, he cannot use the strongest finger correctly, he cannot duplicate an entire song in a single lesson ... well those last two things jump out right away: How can he play a whole song if he can't use one finger? ... and then the conclusion in the title that he has no talent (is talent necessary?), and no ability (he has just started - it's a broad categorization, "ability" cannot be addressed: specifics can.)

Have you broken this down into causes, solutions, different approaches since what you are trying isn't working?

Mary Had a Little Lamb can be played musically, and it can be approached wholistically as a familiar melody. It is also a mechanical sequence of ups and downs of only three notes. This boy has a mechanical, physical difficulty which is preventing him from achieving anything. Seen from that side, Mary starts as mirror image descent-ascent: 32123(repeat 3).

What if, instead of trying to learn to play "Mary", he were to learn to coordinate simply the act of 321 321 321 ... learn the act of 123 123 123 ... learn to bring those two together as two separate steps to begin with 321 (pause) 123 -- 321 (pause) 123 - eventually turning into 32123 maybe even 3212321232123 like an exercise.

Get him to go home and just become familiar with his fingers: play with combinations of those three fingers. Forming 3212321 etc. is like a video game skill that boys tht age like to master. In what you write, it seems that his first problem is the simple coordination of his fingers.

What if, in this way, Mary got shaped over a number of weeks: he masters the 321 123 coordination one week, and you build the rest of the song the same way. In a couple of weeks he has played the whole song in this mechanical way: now you link up to the fact that it is a song, music, join the two together.

 Quote:
In the past, I have had adults who were in this category; I continued with them until they voluntarily left.
This struck me: that boy is also half ways toward being an adult. When I began violin as an adult student, I was also given a beginner book that based itself on well known nursery songs. It happens that I do have talent, and so this approach did me a disservice in the same area as the problem of that boy - namely, I did not get into the mechanics of playing. I did not learn to use my hands in a new way. In my case I was able to wing it and produce the melodies quickly so that I was outwardly successful. I covered three RCM grades plus the beginner stage in a one-year period, and got a high mark in the grade one RCM exam after playing barely 6 months. However, I was missing very basic mechanical motions that had not formed, and they tripped me up. Several years later this is what I am chasing.

Essentially there is music, and there are the mechnics (technique) and we combine the two. We can get at the technique through the music. We can also be very mechanical about it deliberately and then join the music to it. The little kids have no experience in music, either, so the music is woken up in them through the kind of book I had. They are still working on coordinating their little fingers so it all falls into place. We older people already have formed habits, we are already coordinated or uncoordinated as the case may be, so the focus can be a little bit different.

I hope I haven't overstepped, since I'm a student, although I teach/tutor (academically) focusing in particular on learning difficulties that can't be addressed well in the classroom. My particular talent lies in turning things upside down and inside out so that there is a new perspective, and often this seems to work. [/b]
Your post is really fantastic. I'm an adult learner (27 years old). And I learn using the same methodology you've outlined above.

I treat piano practice as though I am playing a 'video game'. In some of the games I've played there are large 'combos'(combinations) of button presses and this fits in really well with playing the piano because you can play it like a computer game.

Piano is much more difficult than any game I've played but it is similar given that there are specific patterns that one needs to practice in order to play a song as you say.

I don't have much to add to the discussion except that I can definitely confirm that there is a lot of commonality between playing a game and learning to play the piano in a mechanical way.

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#954288 - 02/18/08 02:00 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
[QUOTE]Originally posted by watchyourmind:
[QUOTE]In some of the games I've played there are large 'combos'(combinations) of button presses [quote][/b]

Mortal Kombat? \:D

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