Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums
Over 2 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers (it's free)
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!

SEARCH
the Forums & Piano World

This custom search works much better than the built in one and allows searching older posts.
(ad 125) Sweetwater - Digital Keyboards & Other Gear
Digital Pianos at Sweetwater
(ad) Pearl River
Pearl River Pianos
(ad) Pianoteq
Latest Pianoteq add-on instrument: U4 upright piano
(ad) P B Guide
Acoustic & Digital Piano Guide
PianoSupplies.com (150)
Piano Accessories Music Related Gifts Piano Tuning Equipment Piano Moving Equipment
We now offer Gift Certificates in our online store!
(ad) Estonia Piano
Estonia Piano
Quick Links to Useful Stuff
Our Classified Ads
Find Piano Professionals-

*Piano Dealers - Piano Stores
*Piano Tuners
*Piano Teachers
*Piano Movers
*Piano Restorations
*Piano Manufacturers
*Organs

Quick Links:
*Advertise On Piano World
*Free Piano Newsletter
*Online Piano Recitals
*Piano Recitals Index
*Piano Accessories
* Buying a Piano
*Buying A Acoustic Piano
*Buying a Digital Piano
*Pianos for Sale
*Sell Your Piano
*How Old is My Piano?
*Piano Books
*Piano Art, Pictures, & Posters
*Directory/Site Map
*Contest
*Links
*Virtual Piano
*Music Word Search
*Piano Screen Saver
*Piano Videos
*Virtual Piano Chords
Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 >
Topic Options
#954229 - 02/15/08 08:07 AM How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
I have a relatively new student who appears to have zero ability to play the piano.

He (12 years old) has virtually no control of his fingers. For example, he can barely play a note with #2 finger, which should be the most controlled, (on his dominant hand, no less). His hand position falls apart, and the other fingers "fly".

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".

He is an otherwise intelligent person, and I have had good success teaching children over the years.

When faced with such a situation, do you tell the parents that this is not the best avenue for the child? I do not want to have his lessons turn into a frustrating turn-off towards music for him.

In the past, I have had adults who were in this category; I continued with them until they voluntarily left.

Any suggestions?
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

Top
(ad) My Music Staff
Check out the new way to manage your music studio
#954230 - 02/15/08 08:46 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11764
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Forgive me, but it sounds as though you are giving up on him after one lesson. Everyone learns at their own pace, and sometimes there is latent talent. Are you only in the business to teach the talented? Then let the parents know right away that this is not a good match and recommend another teacher for him.

I believe everyone can benefit from piano when the desire is there. If the child seems to want to learn, then why deny him lessons? Show him how to practice and what to work on. You may be surprised what he brings to you next week.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

Top
#954231 - 02/15/08 09:09 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: 11657
Loc: Canada
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.

Top
#954232 - 02/15/08 09:09 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
lalakeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/06
Posts: 286
Loc: Chicago 'burbs
I'm wondering whether this young man might just have been nervous at his first lesson, to the extent that he was unable to concentrate, follow directions, or remember a tune. In my experience, anyone with normal intelligence and basic coordination can learn to play the piano well enough to enjoy it as a rewarding hobby.

I'd suggest finding his strength (can he keep a steady beat? is he detail-oriented? is there a particular style or piece that is motivating him to want to play the piano?), and spend most of the next lesson reinforcing that skill. Then "sneak in" the ear-training and finger dexterity exercises once you notice he's gained some confidence.

I've had several students who disappointed me at their first few lessons, but I've often been pleasantly surprised a few months later!

\:\)
_________________________
Private piano & voice teacher for over 20 years; currently also working as a pipe organist for 3 area churches; sing in a Chicago-area acappella chamber choir

Top
#954233 - 02/15/08 09:16 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
LisztAddict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/05
Posts: 2896
Loc: Florida
That boy is just like me when I was 11. For the first 3 months, I could barely play C D E F G.

Top
#954234 - 02/15/08 09:22 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
eromlignod Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/04/04
Posts: 379
Loc: Kansas City
Double his rate.

Don
Kansas City

Top
#954235 - 02/15/08 09:30 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: 11657
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Double his rate.
... of practicing. The real work belongs to us students. If we don't work at it at home, that half hour to an hour per week in the studio won't do much.

Top
#954236 - 02/15/08 12:34 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Karisofia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/13/08
Posts: 201
Loc: Wisconsin
I think it is not wise to judge a student by a couple little tests in one lesson. My sister worked with a student for years who just seemed to make no progress. Some of the problem was practice, but there seemed to be more. Recently, she was diagnosed with dyscalculia. A little reading on the subject suggested that multi-step methods were too overwhelming to a child like this. Also, concept of time (as a general thing--not rhythm) is non-existent. A change in her assignments and in the approach to certain tasks seems to be really turning things around.

All of that to say that each student is a puzzle. There is no such thing as "no ability." The question is "what ability does he have and how can it be adapted to piano."
_________________________
Private Teacher
Member MTNA, WMTA, CVMTA
Local Association President
The Achievement Program Center Representative

Top
#954237 - 02/15/08 01:02 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
dvs cycles Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 158
Loc: SoCal
He might be playing stupid because the lessons aren't his idea. Pushey parents. Hand him a video game and see if he has dexterity.

Top
#954238 - 02/15/08 01:59 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Which hand is his dominant hand?

Does he know RH from LH?

Did you discuss finger numbers? Or, are you playing only by C D E.

Are you using music or working by ear and repetition? Does he have visual problems? Or, hearing loss? Have you checked his handwriting done in front of you - long sentence not just name or short words.

Perhaps he has digital confusion where the message is going to wrong fingers. It seems like he might need to learn how to access finger movement.

You sound accusatory of it being his "fault" - and maybe you don't have the ability to recognize some learning differences in him or others.

Some teachers look for this kind of teaching, diagnostic and remedial in work, identifying the capacity of the student and structuring the work load to the needs of the student for development purposes.

So, he's not a fast start. What are you going to do about it? Whatever is done, don't make him think he is a failure or that something is wrong with him. This is a great opportunity for you to get an education in reaching this child.

His age is full of growth and puberty, perhaps this is a factor. What other activities does he participate in? Does he have any disorders for which he is taking medicine?

I notice all the fun rhythms you teach - at this point it seems like he would not be a candidate for this as he is having trouble playing the key much less in rhythms.

When you have had 10 lessons with him you will be in a better place to know what is happening with him.

You won't be able to teach him without his interest and his permission, which is true of every teacher-student relationship.

It would be interesting to know your progress here on the forum.

Betty

Top
#954239 - 02/15/08 02:23 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...
You failed to mention the most important ingredient; Can he sing?
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


Top
#954240 - 02/15/08 02:33 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: 11657
Loc: Canada
At that age he may in the middle of a voice change. Don't young teen males feel awkward about singing because of that?

Top
#954241 - 02/15/08 02:47 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Cultor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/25/07
Posts: 342
Loc: BsAs
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
You failed to mention the most important ingredient: Can he sing? [/b]
Right!
There’s an old tale that may help.
A Sufi master was just to admit new disciples. The required test was recognizing a rose among many other flowers.
Eighty per cent of the aspirers chose the wrong option.
After the test a disciple asked the master: Isn’t that a frivol exam to be admitted into the way of knowledge? The Master said: If somebody can not distinguish a simple rose, how can he/she recognize the difficulties of the Way?

Top
#954242 - 02/15/08 02:57 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: 11657
Loc: Canada
The master must also be able to distinguish roses.

Top
#954243 - 02/15/08 03:01 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...
I have never taught a child who wouldn't sing. I had an adult once who wouldn't. I couldn't get my head round it
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


Top
#954244 - 02/15/08 03:50 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
doubleplay Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 13
Sometimes I do this with kids who don't have dexterity-

The first week, they practice 121212...131313...141414....151515... each pattern over and over until they get comfortable....

Hands separately, in any place on the keyboard you choose (I use middle C for the 1). Or it can be practised on a tabletop, while watching TV, on an airplane, wherever- just so the hand position is correct.
The next combinations:

2323, 2424, 2525,
3434,3535,4545

When they are comfortable with those, we do three at a time-
1232, 1242,1252
2343, 2353,3454
1242, 1252, 1343, 1353,1454

Then four-
123432, 123532, 234543, 124542, 134543

Then five- 12345432...

This takes place over several weeks. By the time they get through all the exercises, they're pretty 'good to go'. And it helps them learn their finger numbers, concentration, and control (they have to think about what fingers to use, skip, etc.)

Top
#954245 - 02/15/08 04:19 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
 Quote:
Originally posted by Morodiene:
Forgive me, but it sounds as though you are giving up on him after one lesson. Everyone learns at their own pace, and sometimes there is latent talent. Are you only in the business to teach the talented? Then let the parents know right away that this is not a good match and recommend another teacher for him.

I believe everyone can benefit from piano when the desire is there. If the child seems to want to learn, then why deny him lessons? Show him how to practice and what to work on. You may be surprised what he brings to you next week. [/b]
Actually he has had three lessons. And no, I am not "in business" to teach only the talented.

The reason I am asking for advice is because this boy is the absolute worst example I have ever seen...I have been teaching full time for 8 years with an average load of 22 to 25 students.

I do not plan on giving up on him...I just wanted some advice and feedback on what other teachers have done in this situation.

Betty...please explain more about handwriting and its connection here.
Thank you for your help. \:\)
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

Top
#954246 - 02/15/08 05:45 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5459
Loc: Orange County, CA
Does the kid have an iPod? What kind of music does he listen to?

Try to recommend some classical music, especially piano music.

Singing helps, too.

I know exactly how you feel. Those students exist, but you shouldn't give up on them, unless they give up on themselves first.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

Top
#954247 - 02/15/08 06:50 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 rocket88:
I have a relatively new student who appears to have zero ability to play the piano.

He (12 years old) has virtually no control of his fingers. For example, he can barely play a note with #2 finger, which should be the most controlled, (on his dominant hand, no less). His hand position falls apart, and the other fingers "fly".[/b]
Guide him more thoroughly.
Sometimes there are people who have a strong kinesthetic sense. This means that instead of choosing a bad coordination (when they can't figure out a good one) they don't move at all.

The fact that there are so many students who can on their first lesson play a note is not necessarily a positive thing. Most of them don't have enough kinesthetic sense to realize they're playing that single note with the worst coordination and body condition possible. Tension and miscordination already creep into one note and one can only image the result when you don't have to play just one note anymore but thousands of them.

In other words this kid is lacking a good foundation but his body is recognizing that preventing him from using a faulty one. Many people can easily play one note but they lack a good coordinative foundation and this lack stays with them for a long them or forever.

Hence this is a very good chance to focus on the most important aspect of piano technique: the coordinative foundation of playing just one note in the best way before adding more challenges.

When I say guide him I mean that you should show him how you play just one note slowly and tell him to focus on the motion of your arm, upper arm, hands and finger.

You should find the correct distance at the piano and height of the bench for him so that that he is in the best position to activate the playing mechanism easily and without effort.

You should check his posture making sure he is NOT raising the chest or the shoulder, hunching or louaching, arching the back or sitting on the thighs.

You should ask him to relax the arm completely and obverse the shape of the arm and hand and fingers when the arm is completely relaxed. Raise his dead arm yourself and bing his naturally arched hand to the keyboard and place the second finger over the key. This guy should feel all of this passively.
Touch the shoulders to remind to relax them and do it again. Between each note played bring back the arms to the legs so the his hands rest on the ties.

If the sitting position, posture, tension/relaxation level and natural arch of the hand is all corrects there no way his finger will collapse or worse yet his nail joint will.

Playing with the arch of the arm and hand (the top being the straight wrist and the pillars being the fingers and the elbow) is the best way to produce a sound at the piano in the most economical and efficient way and hence the best beginning foundation.

I would focus for some time on just this exercises where he keeps his playing apparatus completely relaxed and you just guide his arm and hand to the keyboard and let the finger play the note automatically.

Eventually you'll ask him to repeat the same thing but this time actively but maintaining the same sensations of when you did it for him.

Eventually ask him to exercise on balancing the hand on just one fingers starting with the third then second and fourth and fith and eventually thumb (the hardest)

Change gradually the playing fingers till he is able to do simple 5 fingers scale exercises still focusing on the same control and efficient coordination at each note.

Consider it a kind of The Karate Kid training.
Learning the coordination to fight by waxing the porch, cleansing the cars or painting the fence allows one to prevent the artistic/sportive focus to distract the beginning foundation construction of perfect coordination.

Top
#954248 - 02/15/08 07:10 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: 11657
Loc: Canada
Clarification, Daniel:
 Quote:
You should check his posture making sure he is raising the chest or the shoulder, hunching or louaching, arching the back or sitting on the thighs.
Do you mean - make sure he is NOT raising (pushing up, maybe) the chest or shoulder etc.?

Top
#954249 - 02/15/08 07:18 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 keystring:
Clarification, Daniel:
 Quote:
You should check his posture making sure he is raising the chest or the shoulder, hunching or louaching, arching the back or sitting on the thighs.
Do you mean - make sure he is NOT raising (pushing up, maybe) the chest or shoulder etc.? [/b]
Yeah, thaks for pointing out the mistake
I correct it

Top
#954250 - 02/15/08 07:38 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 keystring:
At that age he may in the middle of a voice change. Don't young teen males feel awkward about singing because of that? [/b]
Allow me to be a bit off-topic.
I have been singing since I was 9 in a choir and found the same problem of suddenly having an awkward voice. But the truth is that my problem and my hatred for my voice coincided with my coordinative problems at the piano. In other words while I too believed it was just a matter of age and that my nice voice had become cold, harsh and dark I realized later that I was causing my own awkawardiness and it was affecting everything from my playing to my walking to my speaking and singing. I have studied Speech Level Singing and the Linklater method and found out that my voice didn't have to be liveless and so low. Yes growth made my chords thicker but it's not the tool that makes the difference but how you use it. I believe nowadays that the thickening of my vocal chords just triggered a dormant vocal miscordination that caused a stronger change than what really happened. My voice retains nowadays certain innate characteristics of my childhood voice which miscordination was destroying, in spite of the pitch. It has a certain pitch but it's not bear-like anymore.

I guess we're going to be punished for all the OTs keystring, but I love off-toping with you so at least when we're going to serve detention we won't get bored ;\) \:D

Top
#954251 - 02/15/08 08:02 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: 11657
Loc: Canada
Oh, I'm a free spirit, so I don't serve detentions. If I did get one, I'd let my imagination fly.

I think what we really need is a new topic called (what?) I was going to write that it's all in the body regardless of the instrument, but it goes further than body: there's the way that body and mind are a unit and whatever it is that goes into producing music. You have the same postural principles in singing as elsewhere. Alexander, for an example, was an actor who lost his voice, and what he came up with has been used by every musical discipline. Though I have a weird hunch that we've gone the other way - first of all not catching that he talks about the natural use of the body before it deviates, rather than some new unnatural use that swings the other way. He was taught to be "grounded", and ground himself into the ground so thoroughly that he became heavy. But nowaday we try to stand so tall, we're so much up in the head and shoulders, that I think some of us have to get grounded again.

Top
#954252 - 02/15/08 09:38 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Debbie57 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/27/07
Posts: 258
Loc: Kansas
 Quote:
In the past, I have had adults who were in this category; I continued with them until they voluntarily left.
May I move this thread sideways a bit? As a 50 year old adult re-learner I have struggled with this thought - does my teacher just tolerate me? And here is the concern I have, validated in the quote. (Note* my teacher treats me wonderfully. I really like her.) It leads into my question -
teachers do you teach differently to adult beginners/re-learners? Maybe pass them through pieces more quickly for reasons such as a fear of a hit to their self esteem. Personally, I would love to know how you feel about us as students?? I am aware my question is driven by my own concern that I stumble over the same kinds of things week after week. I would hate to think my teacher is just patiently waiting for me to give up.
_________________________
A Hero is one who hangs on one minute longer. Author: Unknown

Top
#954253 - 02/15/08 11:52 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
duplicate post.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

Top
#954254 - 02/15/08 11:54 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

Top
#954255 - 02/16/08 12:24 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: 11657
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Given the right teacher (who, to some, is obviously not me!) and the right approach, everyone can learn to play the piano reasonably well.
This is not how I have read the responses. There is a general pattern: the students who you see as having difficulties, some of whom (esp. the adults) have quit, are all having them in the area of physical coordination. All of the suggestions that have come in have moved from the musical to a very physical mechanical approach, and some of those suggestions went into quite some detail. They did not seem like a condemnation of your teaching, but alternatives in order to address a specific area that has left you stymied. Instead of saying "This person has no ability/is uncoordinate/can't play a simple song" - which cannot be solved - they were redefining the problem as "This person cannot put three fingers down in sequence - how will we get him to do that?" That becomes solvable. What nobody knows is if you have tried that already.

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.

I, too, noted the comment about adult students, but it was because the boy in question was 12 and so no longer a small child, and because you must have had a reason for mentioning it. I'm an adult learner, also in my 50's. My teacher expects his adults to progress faster, and he expects more of them. I did my exam at 6 months, and the little boy ahead of me was at the same level after 2 years. I was truly astonished when I first came on the Net and discovered all the things we were not supposed to be able to do. That said, I don't think that we don't learn as fast - I think that a) we already have established habits which interfere, while small children are in the process of forming their physical habits b) we can bring intellectual analysis into what is being taught and again interfere. I think there is a whole area to explore. It might be pertinent if such a thing is also true for an older child who needs to train his fingers, and if this is also true for an adult in the same manner. You have grouped the two together in your post: the 12 year old and the adults - maybe there's a link that can be used.

Top
#954256 - 02/16/08 12:35 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
 Quote:
Given the right teacher (who, to some, is obviously not me!) and the right approach, everyone can learn to play the piano reasonably well.
This is not how I have read the responses. There is a general pattern: the students who you see as having difficulties, some of whom (esp. the adults) have quit, are all having them in the area of physical coordination. [/b]
No, it is much more than that! It is a lack of musical ability in general...here is the quote from my last post:

I am talking about a very tiny percentage of students who simply cannot grasp the fundamentals of playing the piano, cannot control their hands so they can reliably press one key at a time, have no sense of rhythm, and no ear for music.[/b]

The physical co-ordination is typically a component of the problem, NOT the only part.

Furthermore, many of the responses suggested doing things such as those that you advocate that I already do, or do in a very similar manner when my students have problems.

I could write a book about my attempts to teach that man...I did not write that book in my posts, so forgive me for being incomplete.

My point is that some people simply do not have the talent/ability to learn how to play, and a different method will not grant them talent, any more than a new "method" will change my body and reflexes into a athlete. I have seen a few as students.

However, your point is well taken...I do not give up on people, and do try many approaches. For example, I have worked with students who learn quickly by ear, but have difficultly with reading music. So we study things by ear, and then I show them a simple version of the notation, often writing it out, and they learn that way.

Regarding wherether or not I am the right teacher, here is one response:

Are you only in the business to teach the talented? Then let the parents know right away that this is not a good match and recommend another teacher for him.[/b]

I do not think that is a helpful answer.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

Top
#954257 - 02/16/08 12:54 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: 11657
Loc: Canada
edit

Top
#954258 - 02/16/08 01:02 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: 11657
Loc: Canada
 Quote:

Furthermore, many of the responses suggested doing things such as those that you advocate that I already do, or do in a very similar manner when my students have problems.

I could write a book about my attempts to teach that man...I did not write that book in my posts, so forgive me for being incomplete.

The people making the suggestions could not know what you have already tried. We saw that you percieved him as not having ability and talent, that he could not coordinate his finger, that he was a beginner, and that you had tried to get him to play a song. So the suggestions came in about addressing just those three fingers because one could not know what you tried. Saying what you have tried may help those who are trying to help get more on track in doing so.

I wish you the best of luck with this student regardless of the outcome.

Top
#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: 3158
 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.

Top
#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/


Top
#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: 4261
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.

Top
#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/


Top
#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: 4261
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.

Top
#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/


Top
#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.

Top
#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.

Top
#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: 4261
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.

Top
#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: 3158
 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.

Top
#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: 11657
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.

Top
#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..

Top
#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

Top
#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/


Top
#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: 11657
Loc: Canada

Top
#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...

Top
#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/


Top
#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

Top
#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: 3158
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.

Top
#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.

Top
#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...

Top
#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: 1520
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.

Top
#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: 3158
 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.

Top
#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

Top
#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.

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

Registered: 04/19/05
Posts: 1474
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.

Top
#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.

Top
#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

Top
#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.

Top
#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

Top
#954289 - 02/18/08 05:27 PM 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 Danny Niklas:
[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 [/b]
haha yeah mortal kombat had some good combos but the 'Marvel Vs Capcom' series is great too \:\)

http://youtube.com/watch?v=T0Z3onF0bKE&feature=related

Top
#954290 - 02/18/08 07:43 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
bukopaudan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/03/06
Posts: 506
Loc: USA
Perhaps give him some theory first. I had do do sitting exerices and hand stretching exercise and theory before I could even touch the piano. Maybe he's not gifted and maybe he has no given "ability." Maybe instead of the traditional "Mary Had a Little Lamb" as a first piece, give him something from the "Easy Piano" pops music for a try, like the Beatles or easy arrangements of Billy Joel, something like that.

I would say don't give up on him yet, make sure he practices a lot. Make him log his practice time--I had to do that for a while, though not anymore, and it's gotten me into the habit of practicing for a long time--if I sit at the piano for less than an hour, it makes me feel like I've accomplished only a little bit than what I should have. Think "outside the box." Maybe this boy needs something different than the usual Faber&Faber to stir his inner musician!
_________________________
"Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable." -Leonard Bernstein

Top
#954291 - 02/19/08 03:14 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
My professor in college once said that he could teach anyone to play the piano.

To be honest with you, I'm not sure he could, but with patience and making hard to teach student's goals very, very small and building on each one after it is mastered is the trick that I use.

It's the student that could care less that I won't put up with.

Good Luck! Hope things work out somehow!
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

Top
#954292 - 02/19/08 03:29 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
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianobuff:
My professor in college once said that he could teach anyone to play the piano.
[/b]
I could agree with such a sentence only as long as "anyone" means "anyone who wants to play the piano and is attracted to the piano in the first place". I agree that you can't take average people from the street and make pianists out of them.

Top
#954293 - 02/19/08 08:53 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: 11657
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
could agree with such a sentence only as long as "anyone" means "anyone who wants to play the piano and is attracted to the piano in the first place". I agree that you can't take average people from the street and make pianists out of them.
May I surmise: intrinsic motivation? Motivation meaning that the person has the drive within to learn, and is driven or moved by that drive. The student has the spark, and the teacher responds. The opposite is "motivation" in which the teacher has the spark to which the student is to respond, a more passive relationship in which to "be motivated" means to have someone do the motivating for you. We ought to have two separate words.

Top
#954294 - 02/19/08 09:28 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
I'd just put it as "as long as the student wants to".

Top
#954295 - 02/19/08 09:42 AM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Minaku Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 1226
Loc: Atlanta
After my few years of teaching I don't believe much in inherent musical ability anymore. I have maybe a couple of students who pick things up quickly and have an understanding of how to do things at the piano. Those students are in general quite smart and would be able to pick anything up, I'm sure, if they set their minds to it. The other students who do well have the discipline and work ethic to be successful at piano. I have come across many students who are interested in music because they like noise or like singing or whatever. Some of them have excellent ears. I don't count this as gifted or talented unless the student passes my diagnostic tests with flying colors.

That said, teaching a student without discipline nor desire is very hard going, and you should question whether he has any desire to play, and not whether he has talent. Talent is, for me, something that usually appears only after a piece has been finished. One can develop talent through hard work. One may be bereft of talent yet still be able to play. Talent may go wasted if the desire to learn and create is not there. If the student still wants to learn, then you'll have to take things extremely slowly. I currently have a student that never progresses week to week. She has poor coordination and couldn't repeat a 4-note phrase back to me to save her life. Yet she sings as she plays and sings the song she's working on while she's waiting for her lesson. So I continue teaching her, no matter how fast we go.
_________________________
Pianist and teacher with a 5'8" Baldwin R and Clavi CLP-230 at home.

New website up: http://www.studioplumpiano.com. Also on Twitter @QQitsMina

Top
#954296 - 02/19/08 05:01 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 keystring:
 Quote:
could agree with such a sentence only as long as "anyone" means "anyone who wants to play the piano and is attracted to the piano in the first place". I agree that you can't take average people from the street and make pianists out of them.
May I surmise: intrinsic motivation? Motivation meaning that the person has the drive within to learn, and is driven or moved by that drive. The student has the spark, and the teacher responds. The opposite is "motivation" in which the teacher has the spark to which the student is to respond, a more passive relationship in which to "be motivated" means to have someone do the motivating for you. We ought to have two separate words. [/b]
I absolutely agree.
It reminds me of politicians.
Politicians work for us, they're the ones who should suits the needs of the citizens who vote them. We've the power over them, not the other way around. But often it seems like the opposite.
We feel as if we are the slavers of politicians and as we are supposed to suits their own schemes.

A teacher is hired by the student.
It's the teacher who works for the student not the other way around. It's the teacher who must suits the needs and demands of the student not the other way around. The teacher is the facilitator the students wants by his/her side to help himself/herself overcome obstacles and be supported in the path.
But often it seems like the opposite.
Students feels as if they are slaves of the teachers and the system and they feel like they are supposed to tolerate and conform themselves to the teacher expectations and weird behaviors or ideas. On problematic teacher-student relationships it's the student who feels threatened in a position of submission. If nothing it should be opposite. Without the teachers a student is a self-learner, without students a teacher is an homeless unemployed.

Top
#954297 - 02/19/08 05:08 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
The important thing, I think, is whether the kid is enjoying music - and here, I think that "talent" is a pernicious myth that can often drive people away from music.

My mother is a case in point. She likes music quite a lot. She took lessons as a teenager, but stopped when she realized that music was a lot easier for other people than it was for her. Some of her friends could just sit at the piano and play by ear. She had to laboriously memorize every note. So she quit - after all, she had no 'talent'. She regrets it now.

Mind you, I do think that musical talent exists and that some people have more of it than others. But I really don't think it matters as much as people think it does. In the end, it's what you do with the musical talent you've got that matters.

Top
#954298 - 02/19/08 05:16 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
I think that "talent" goes hand in hand with passion and willingness. I can't imagine a person having a vibrant passion for music and a desire to play the piano lacking whatever bit of predisposition and musicality. Such lacks would never lead him/her to the piano and such passion would exist within him/her.

On the other hand a person with a burning passion for music and the piano might seems like talentless but I believe that no matter what, the passion itself is the guarantee that consistent work and desire will bring him/her far.

Top
#954299 - 02/19/08 05:25 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Willingness. Intentions. Actions. Acquired Skills. Talent as Available. Time. Effort. Consistency. Interest. Success.

Top
#954300 - 02/19/08 07:29 PM Re: How do you handle students who have zero talent and ability?
LiszThalberg Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
At that age he may in the middle of a voice change. Don't young teen males feel awkward about singing because of that? [/b]
Uh, Yes! *voice crack*.... I mean YES!

Top
Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 >

Moderator:  Ken Knapp 
What's Hot!!
HOW TO POST PICTURES on the Piano Forums
-------------------
Sharing is Caring!
About the Buttons
-------------------
Forums Rules & Help
-------------------
ADVERTISE
on Piano World

The world's most popular piano web site.
-------------------
PIANO BOOKS
Interesting books about the piano, pianists, piano history, biographies, memoirs and more!
(ad) HAILUN Pianos
Hailun Pianos - Click for More
Ad (Seiler/Knabe)
Seiler Pianos
Sheet Music
(PW is an affiliate)
Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale
(125ad) Dampp Chaser
Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver
(ad) Lindeblad Piano
Lindeblad Piano Restoration
Who's Online
72 registered (AndrewJCW, 88 Fingers Jeff, Alux, 21 invisible), 1023 Guests and 14 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
75984 Members
42 Forums
157154 Topics
2308094 Posts

Max Online: 15252 @ 03/21/10 11:39 PM
New Topics - Multiple Forums
New start - wish me good luck:)
by FarmGirl
Yesterday at 11:21 PM
Automatic Piano Players...
by tksler
Yesterday at 10:33 PM
No one home?
by ScottM
Yesterday at 08:05 PM
Prokofiev's 5 piano concertos, live: Marinskij/Gergiev etc
by fnork
Yesterday at 07:36 PM
Has anyone here studied with S. Babayan
by Serge Marinkovic
Yesterday at 07:05 PM
(ads by Google)

Visit our online store for gifts for music lovers

 
Help keep the forums up and running with a donation, any amount is appreciated!
Or by becoming a Subscribing member! Thank-you.
Donate   Subscribe
 
Our Piano Related Classified Ads
|
Dealers | Tuners | Lessons | Movers | Restorations | Pianos For Sale | Sell Your Piano |

Advertise on Piano World
| Subscribe | Piano World | PianoSupplies.com | Advertise on Piano World | Donate | Link to Us | Classifieds |
| |Contact | Privacy | Legal | About Us | Site Map | Free Newsletter | Press Room |


copyright 1997 - 2014 Piano World ® all rights reserved
No part of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission