Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice?

Posted by: chueh

Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/10/12 09:25 PM

I have a 17 year old male student who has been studied with me for about 2 years. He had other teachers before me. He is about early intermediate level. He was doing OK. Recently, he has told me that he does not like to play piano by reading music. He feels frustrated when reading it. In reality, he likes to play the piano like he is walking all over the places on it with grand and full sound of sophisticated music, while he is not able to play this level of difficulty music. He does not want to play the music for his level. He does not want o practice, but he likes to perform.

He is a church pianist at a small church, so he reads the chord indication with the melody numbers or without melody (the melodies he is familiar with). He plays blocks of chord to accompany the melodies. I suggested that he can play more sophisticated accompaniment by learning more theory with me. However, he does not want to because he does not have time for homework. He says that he is happy with what he is doing at the church now.

He is never happy with any music I have found for him to play, but he always brings the music he wants to play. However, every single piece he brought in was not played successfully even for the first few measures and then he got tired of them.

A few times, I mentioned that we should do improvisations, so he does not need to read. He refused.

Today, he mentioned that if I did not want to teach such a pain in the neck student (he calls himself that, while I have never showed any emotional distress about how he acts or call him names), just tell him to quit. OK... so I used his words and let him know that if he would have to think it over if he wanted to quit, for it's not easy to get to where he is now and just quit. However, if indeed piano practice has made him lose interest, then I will be fine for whatever his decision will be. I won't force him to do things he is not interested in it.

However, he said "I like you, so I would continue." Then, I said, "so we both have to think a way to change our lessons."

OK....so no music reading, no improvisation, so what else can I do with him for lessons......What do you suggest?

Thanks
Posted by: kayvee

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/10/12 09:51 PM

You could work on chord theory in a practical sense. Ie, find a text that covers gospel piano in the way he plays at Church.

http://www.amazon.com/Gospel-Piano-Leonard-Keyboard-Series/dp/1423412494/ref=pd_sim_b_2

It doesn't have to be THEORY-theory, especially in the beginning. Otherwise, maybe find easier arrangements of the songs he brings in - or offer to spend time during one lesson to arrange them yourselves (so he learns a bit about this as a skill) so he can play it.

You should also spend time training his ear, since it sounds as though he's interested in that (but not improvising? what does he want to do if he doesn't want to read and he doesn't want to improvise?).
Posted by: LoPresti

Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/10/12 11:38 PM

I have always thought the ONLY legitimate reason for taking (or giving) lessons is IMPROVEMENT. From a student's perspective, why spend the time, energy, and money, without the prospect of getting better? From the teacher's point-of-view, why waste your time when there is little-to-no hope of progress?

So, if one can frame things in those terms with the young man in question, maybe ask him exactly what he hopes to IMPROVE by coming to lessons.

The following bothers me, and I think it should bother you, and any teacher:
Originally Posted By: chueh
I have a 17 year old male student . . . . .
However, he said "I like you, so I would continue."

It sort of implies that your student is doing you a favor by continuing lessons. In my opinion, you need to make it clear that it is you who is doing him the favor by continuing to have him as your student. If you do continue with him, that would be a first place to start.

Ed
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/11/12 03:00 AM

Sounds like he wants to do lead-sheet reading. It's a valid way of playing. smile
Posted by: apple*

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/11/12 07:32 AM

I would say a 17 year old boy would be hard to keep and I'd try to go along with what he wanted to study.

With my church work, i have to create accompaniment for almost every song i do... it's written for piano with very little melody and I have to stick it on an organ. it's kind of fun. (maybe that is lead sheet creating). Maybe he'd like to play with a group.. and any skills you can give him would help.

I really hope you work things out. It sounds like it would be fun to work with him.
Posted by: pianomouse

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/11/12 07:42 AM

Originally Posted By: LoPresti
I have always thought the ONLY legitimate reason for taking (or giving) lessons is IMPROVEMENT. From a student's perspective, why spend the time, energy, and money, without the prospect of getting better? From the teacher's point-of-view, why waste your time when there is little-to-no hope of progress?

He's 17, a teenager, this might also be an age thing...
Concerning 'improvisation', are you sure he knows what this word really means? It might be worth to try doing this in the lesson without labeling it. If he would have an instant success with trying something new, you may be able to break his defence. (Having to 'learn' or to 'improve' might frighten him though)
Also, it comes to my mind that there could be something entirely else behind all this. Do you know, if anyone has made some strange remark about him playing piano, etc.? In my experience, teenagers at this age can be very emotional, unpredictable and insecure...
Have you asked him, WHY he's attending your piano lessons/how much he likes piano playing?
Posted by: chueh

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/11/12 09:16 AM

Thank you; all sound fantastic. To answer your question, pianomouse, the reason why he came to me lessons, because he took 4 years of lesson with others but quit and later he missed playing the piano. Then, he got the referral from his voice teacher who took lessons from me. He told me that he likes to play the piano in front of people or in a group and likes performances. That's all he likes, and he did not tell me why he is taking lessons.

I am not sure why he wants to take lessons but does not seem to like LEARNING. He refuses everything I suggested. Long time ago, we were working on a festival piece, he played all the 16th notes unevenly. I asked him to spend time doing the rhythmic exercises, so his 16th notes would get even and clear. He wouldn't do it. He has a very strong mind of his own, always very opinionated.
Posted by: kayvee

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/11/12 12:28 PM

If you wouldn't be suffering financially from losing him, tell him:

"I'm happy to continue teaching you, but things need to change. If I assign you something, understand that I have a reason behind it. If you don't want to learn what I have to teach, then there is no reason in continuing lessons. I think you are more than capable of the material so, in the end, it just depends on how much you want it.

If you want to continue lessons, that means we need to *start having* lessons."

Or something to that effect.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/11/12 03:04 PM

Originally Posted By: chueh
He refuses everything I suggested. Long time ago, we were working on a festival piece, he played all the 16th notes unevenly. I asked him to spend time doing the rhythmic exercises, so his 16th notes would get even and clear. He wouldn't do it. He has a very strong mind of his own, always very opinionated.

Why are you putting up with this??

You should FIRE this student. tiki
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/11/12 05:27 PM

I repeat, sounds like he wants to be reading from lead sheets (i.e. playing freely by chord), not playing note by note. It's a valid approach. He will need to learn the theory in his mind and fingers. Either you teach it or you don't. Either way, it doesn't sound like he's a bad student, just perhaps not suited to what he's learning just now.
Posted by: Bluoh

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/11/12 09:58 PM

Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
I repeat, sounds like he wants to be reading from lead sheets (i.e. playing freely by chord), not playing note by note. It's a valid approach. He will need to learn the theory in his mind and fingers. Either you teach it or you don't. Either way, it doesn't sound like he's a bad student, just perhaps not suited to what he's learning just now.

Just what I was thinking. Why don't you try lead sheets with him?

Also, do you explain how to practice and why? A lot of students don't know how to practice and don't know why some things are the way they are. I.e. playing a piece over and over again isn't practicing, it's playing.
Posted by: Candywoman

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/12/12 02:03 AM

Has he improved in the two years you have taught him? If so, what improved?

What specific skills would you like him to improve?

Why not give him short pieces which address specific skills?

For instance, Eleanor Rigby teaches coordination between the hands. The left hand is not difficult to read and the right hand is memorable.

Try getting him to do the left hand of a boogie woogie riff, while you play the right hand part.

I think you need to play things for him a lot, and ask for his "opinions". So for instance, play the piece with uneven sixteenths and see if he notices the problem.

I would enlarge the scope of the lesson to music appreciation. He may be the recording engineer type.
Posted by: Marco M

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/12/12 04:18 AM

Originally Posted By: Bluoh
... do you explain how to practice and why? A lot of students don't know how to practice and don't know why some things are the way they are. I.e. playing a piece over and over again isn't practicing, it's playing.


I absolutely agree. I quit my lessons when I was that age, because I didnĀ“t see anymore why I am taking lessons, although I still liked to play my instrument. I should have received 4 full lessons, in which the teacher stopped to teach me on my instrument the way like before, but instead should have guided me to understand how an adult should learn something, and especially why to do it that way. Maybe my teacher should have let me work out an written assay on it in this 4 lessons. And afterwards lessons should have been of the form: the teacher guides and controls me in my way of self-teaching (because in that age I have my strong own opinions and want to have the feeling that I am progressing by my own genius), I want to say the teacher much(!) stronger should guide me in may developement to take over responsibility in how I am _efficiently_ using my practicing time and how I have to autoevaluate that I have real progress, instead of asking me to follow plain suggestions on how to better play the piano. Over in the Adult Beginners Forum this "how to learn something and why to approach it that way" is often popping up, and usually is received to be very(!) helpful for the people around.
Posted by: chueh

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/12/12 01:19 PM

I did explain how to practice from time to time when I did not see any improvements at certain segments. For example, if it's rhythm problem of stopping from one measure to another or notes from notes, I would tell him to regroup perhaps 2-3 notes at the time, and practice that. Once it sounds good, add a few more notes. If he kept stopping at a bar line, I would tell him to play the last note/s of the previous measure and continue to the first note of the next measure, and then add more notes from the previous measure backward and the other direction too.. and I always tell him "that's how you practice! You don't play the entire piece 3 times and call it practice. Practice means you nail the problematic area and work on it."

So basically, I showed him every kind of problem he has had and how to practice them, but he just never did. He does not like repetitiousness much, but he likes to just play an entire piece once, and that's all..... practice means too much time involved and boring.

Well, these two years, he has had slight improvement at the beginning, when he was younger and I was new to him. He did listen to me a little big back then. He would play pieces I asked him to do, but then became more rebellious after a short time. Then, once he got very comfortable with me, like a friend, he just wants to use his own way to do things.

He even does not like some part of some music, and from time to time, I would change it and play the way he might like it. OK.. so I even used computer to make sheet music for him, but guess what he does not even practice what I wrote for him.... He said that he liked them... but never practice.... so I don't know!!!! The key is that he only like ONE-TIME deal....
Posted by: BrainCramp

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/12/12 01:41 PM

I'm a language teacher, not a piano teacher, but I'm puzzled about why you're spending so much time and energy on this non-learner.

If you were a math teacher and had a kid like this in your class, what would you do? He doesn't do the homework, he changes your assignments, and he does poorly on the tests. How long before you stopped trying to "reach" him, and just gave him a failing grade?
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/12/12 02:19 PM

Originally Posted By: BrainCramp
I'm a language teacher, not a piano teacher, but I'm puzzled about why you're spending so much time and energy on this non-learner.

If you were a math teacher and had a kid like this in your class, what would you do? He doesn't do the homework, he changes your assignments, and he does poorly on the tests. How long before you stopped trying to "reach" him, and just gave him a failing grade?


Generally speaking, these students or their parents are paying us a significant amount of money for individual tuition...

Plus, this student, by the sounds of it, is musically capable, respectful of their teacher, and keen to improve. Just not keen on classical improvement. But, as I have said, their is more to music...
Posted by: BrainCramp

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/12/12 03:01 PM

I guess I read the OP's account of it differently.

It doesn't sound to me like he's at all respectful of the teacher. He's polite, but clearly disregards what the teacher tells him he needs to do.

I'm not convinced he's keen to improve, either. It sounds like he'd love to improve, but not if it means doing anything he doesn't like to do. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

I don't think the money has much to do with it. My parents spent a lot of money putting me through an expensive prep school as a teenager. If I hadn't done the homework, my teachers would have flunked me.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Any Idea Please for a student not like to read or practice? - 10/13/12 02:51 AM

One reason I think my teacher is so successful is because he's up front regarding expectations and regarding the fact that a teacher isn't there to simply watch you practice, but instead, there to teach a student how to practice, so that they may be forever successful in their own piano endeavors. It seems like this issue ought to be addressed.