Hard to learn music out of order

Posted by: 4evrBeginR

Hard to learn music out of order - 07/29/09 06:32 PM

We are using the Keith Snell series which has Etudes, Repertoire, Theory, and Technic books in 11 levels. Within each level, the Etudes book seem to be ordered with easy ones first then progressive getting harder to the end (ie Etudes in C-major is the first one for Level 1 book).

I am having trouble with the Repertoire book, which ordered the pieces by birth year of composer (Baroque to Modern) instead of by order of difficulty. The Etudes book do not mention which Repertoire pages correspond to it, so it's very difficult to follow. A C-major song with the left hand playing nothing but C-chords (very easy) appears in the middle of the book while the a song in Bb major (corresponds to last song in Etudes) is near the front of the book because the song is by a Baroque composer.

First of all, why does Snell do that? More importantly, is there a way I could decode the right order for the Repertoire book?

Is a different approach better, like finishing the Etudes book completely then work on the Repertoire book in any order?
Posted by: currawong

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/29/09 06:47 PM

Originally Posted By: 4evrBeginR
First of all, why does Snell do that?
Because it's a repertoire book, not a method book. The idea is for your teacher to choose which piece is the most appropriate for you to work on next. A repertoire book may be arranged in a number of ways: alphabetically by composer, chronologically, or in order of difficulty (which is usually a matter of opinion anyway!).
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/29/09 06:54 PM

Snell does that because every student is a bit different, and he knows that a skilled teacher is a far better guide than any ordering he could come up with.
Posted by: 4evrBeginR

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/29/09 07:10 PM

Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Snell does that because every student is a bit different, and he knows that a skilled teacher is a far better guide than any ordering he could come up with.


What happens if the teacher is teaching from the front to the back. Does that mean we need to change teacher? Or does that mean we need to drag ourselves through the hard ones to get to the easy one? The children in particular are havig some serious motivation problems with this front to back approach.
Posted by: Ebony and Ivory

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/29/09 07:41 PM

By the time we hit these books, I find the kids are pretty good judges of what they are "in the mood for". I think it's empowering to the students to be able to pick which piece they want to work on next. We all have our "moods" and following a set order doesn't always match what they are in the mood for.

It also gives them an idea of how to "sound out" a piece by looking at it. "It looks like I would like it because it has a lot of xxxxx" or "...very little of xxxx". Before they play it, I ask them what made them pick that piece, so they are judging it on what they know without hearing it first. Then when they play it, they find out how close they were to their original ideas. Then we talk a little bit about what they had "right" and what was different..."I thought it was going to be minor, but it was major" for example.

It seems they get more motivated when they have a say in what they are playing.
Posted by: Ebony and Ivory

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/29/09 07:48 PM

Originally Posted By: currawong
or in order of difficulty (which is usually a matter of opinion anyway!).

Exactly! What's hard for one is easy for another...

Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Snell does that because every student is a bit different, and he knows that a skilled teacher is a far better guide than any ordering he could come up with.

I agree. The teacher and student are better at knowing the level of the student at any given moment.

There have been pieces that are level 3 that are harder for some students than level 5. It depends on what is challenging for that particular student.
Originally Posted By: 4evrBeginR
What happens if the teacher is teaching from the front to the back. Does that mean we need to change teacher? Or does that mean we need to drag ourselves through the hard ones to get to the easy one? The children in particular are havig some serious motivation problems with this front to back approach.

This sounds like a recipe for disaster! The frustration must be overwhelming in that situation! If that's what's happening I would seriously have a talk with your teacher about it. IMHO that's no different than having a student start with a level 5 book and then go to a level 4!
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/29/09 10:25 PM

Originally Posted By: 4evrBeginR
We are using the Keith Snell series which has Etudes, Repertoire, Theory, and Technic books in 11 levels.

Is a different approach better, like finishing the Etudes book completely then work on the Repertoire book in any order?


I use this series extensively. At the beginning of the year, or whenever the student is ready to move to a new level, I will play through the entire Baroque and Classical and the Romantic and Twentieth Century books for them. Together, we will pick four, one from each era, to begin study. This way, the student has ownership of the music they are learning and they've had a chance to hear it performed well.

Usually by level 6, I will transition to composer books, usually in Henle, Peters, or UE editions. And often sonatina books a bit earlier.
Posted by: DragonPianoPlayer

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/30/09 04:42 AM

I'm a student working through the Keith Snell series and in my experience, the Etude books are also chronological instead of by difficulty. Most of the time, I find the first few pieces in the Etude books and the last few pieces to be the easiest (although that is quite possibly because I have improved that much by the time I have finished the Etude book). I feel that overall Keith did an excellent job of trying to get all the pieces in each level very close to the same difficulty. Some of the other series (Alfred's Essential Keyboard Repertoire series comes to mind) are not even close to offering pieces of the same difficulty in each book.

As some of the teachers have mentioned above, not every student struggles with the same things. In that sense determining the correct order of pieces is not possible.

Yet another thought, if you never try anything that is a challenge or a bit harder than you can do then you never really improve. Every method book I've looked at has the exact same concern, some pieces are harder than other ones nearby, even while keeping an overall progression from easier to harder. Look at the Alfred's Adult series threads over in the ABF and you will see that time and again people mention that certain pieces are more difficult than one right before or after it.

Rich
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/30/09 12:25 PM

If you, as a teacher, want more guidance, try the Celebration Series. The repertoire is extremely interesting and well graded and the Teacher's Handbook is amazing!
Posted by: Gary D.

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/30/09 03:03 PM

It is impossible to "grade" materials in a way that works for all students, as others have pointed out.

Grading also reflects that style or method used. I teach certain things earlier than other teachers, so some pieces are easier for my students than for students of other teachers. And vice versa.

I agree that teaching a book with pieces arranged in alphabetical order, or by composer, in that exact order, is a recipe for disaster.
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/30/09 05:31 PM

Gary:

That's the beauty of a series like Celebration Series. The pieces are in chronological order and you can choose your own order (or not teach certain pieces, if that's your choice). There is a wide variety of styles.

What the Teacher's Handbook does is provide not only a general suggested order (listing groups of pieces that are of the same approximate difficulty), but there is a bit of commentary on each and every piece in each book. The guide gives historical background, theory ideas, creative work and suggestions for things a student might learn from the piece as well as ways to practice it.

For less experienced teachers, this is a fine learning tool. For us more experienced teachers, it can jog some ideas or simply save time. The guide is not dogmatic in any way, just another tool a teacher might find helpful.

The series also has a student workbook that is not busywork. It has helpful, creative ideas to help the student understand concepts and be more independent in the their learning.
Posted by: Gary D.

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/30/09 05:57 PM

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Gary:

That's the beauty of a series like Celebration Series. The pieces are in chronological order and you can choose your own order (or not teach certain pieces, if that's your choice). There is a wide variety of styles.

I understand what you are saying, and I am in no way suggesting it is not a good idea.

However, imagine for a moment that you are using several such books, at the same time. Each book would cover roughly the same range of difficulty, using different styles, but there would be different selecions in each.

I like that idea even better, but it would take very careful direction from the teacher to guide the student in a way that would not jump from one level to another.

This is what I do with my own materials. I'm not attempting to reinvent the wheel. Instead, for many years I have added EVERY piece I see that is in the public domain into my own "stock-pile" of compositions, using Finale. This allows me 100% editorial control. Other people have expressed interest in seeing what I do in books, but for me that would destroy what I'm doing, because I am free to either skip anything (fast students) or blanket cover something (slow students or problem areas).

In other words, I try to make sure I have double or triple the amount of selections, graded according to the way I teach, then printed out in lessons according to the pace of the student, and to some degree according to personal taste.

When I talked to a representative from Finale, I was told that I was the only teacher he knew about who created a system of this sort, all with their program. I am literally editing things almost every lesson of every teaching day, tweaking, adding new ideas (instructions) or removing things that are either too much help (thus unnecessary) or that are in some way misleading.

So using my own system, I sort all the compositions I have in folders according to what I perceive as the most logical order in which to teach them until we reach more advanced literature, then we move to standard books, such as the Bach Inventions, Chopin Waltzes, and so on.

I'm not really doing anything different. I don't think there really IS anything new to be done that has not been thought of over the last few hundred years. smile
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/30/09 08:27 PM

I spent several years trying to use the Celebration Series. It is a fine series, but for me, it just didn't click. Perhaps it was a bit too fussy. Anyway, I finally settled on Snell's Piano Repertoire series. Not that this is in any way the only source of music, but it's broad enough, with the three books at each level, to take care of 80% or more of students, without compromising in any way. I often use Jane MaGrath's Masterpiece or Melodious series, especially for transfers. There are many others which fill little niches here and there.
Posted by: Jennifer Eklund

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/30/09 08:48 PM

Gary -- I don't find this odd -- I stockpile in the same manner (in Sibelius) and use the same sort of system.

It definitely allows me as a teacher to customize the lesson experience for each student according to what I know about their likes/dislikes.
Posted by: Barb860

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/30/09 09:21 PM

Originally Posted By: Jennifer Eklund
Gary -- I don't find this odd -- I stockpile in the same manner (in Sibelius) and use the same sort of system.

It definitely allows me as a teacher to customize the lesson experience for each student according to what I know about their likes/dislikes.


Jennifer, do you really think there are teachers out there who do not customize the lesson experience for their students?
I've never met a teacher who has his/her students playing the same repertoire as the others.
Posted by: Jennifer Eklund

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/30/09 09:28 PM

That's not what I said Barb! confused I'm just saying that it's easy and convenient when the files are right there on your computer and you have the control over editing/layout/page turns, etc.

And yes I do think that a lot of teachers don't customize the lesson experience, there are plenty who just "use whatever is in the book." I certainly wasn't suggesting that anyone here does that.

~Jennifer Eklund
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/30/09 09:29 PM

Thanks for saying this, Barb. Just because I choose to use the Celebration Series does not mean I don't customize lessons for my students. I use it as the core, but I don't teach the pieces the same way to each student, nor do I teach them in the same order, nor do I use the same set of pieces with each student.

I also make sure that I have supplementary music in the form of sheet music and other books I have in my library. Each student is unique and deserves to be treated as such. I don't see where using a core series like CS negates that.
Posted by: Barb860

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/30/09 09:51 PM

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Thanks for saying this, Barb. Just because I choose to use the Celebration Series does not mean I don't customize lessons for my students. I use it as the core, but I don't teach the pieces the same way to each student, nor do I teach them in the same order, nor do I use the same set of pieces with each student.

I also make sure that I have supplementary music in the form of sheet music and other books I have in my library. Each student is unique and deserves to be treated as such. I don't see where using a core series like CS negates that.


Just to clarify: I don't think "customizing the lessons for each student" has anything to do with a particular series of books that a teacher is using. Minniemay likes Celebration, I like Snell and use it a lot, and there are many other series that we all use, too. These happen to be our favorites, from what I am understanding in this thread. I was replying to what Jennifer said about "customizing the lessons" for each student. I would hope that no 2 piano lessons are the same for any 2 students, ever. How could they be? It's hard for me to believe that any piano teacher would use the exact same lesson plan and repertoire for each of her students.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/31/09 01:13 AM

Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
I spent several years trying to use the Celebration Series. It is a fine series, but for me, it just didn't click. Perhaps it was a bit too fussy.


I avoid using Celebration Series altogether because of the bizarre repertoire, especially the 20th-century stuff. None of my students like the modern pieces.

However, it is still better than Snell. I spend more time catching errors and looking up Urtext editions for notes when I use Snell. Henle Urtext is the way to go.

For repertoire books, I prefer the Magrath publications. Otherwise, I just tell my students to get the composer books from Alfred or Henle Urtext.
Posted by: Ebony and Ivory

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/31/09 08:35 AM

Originally Posted By: Barb860
Just to clarify: I don't think "customizing the lessons for each student" has anything to do with a particular series of books that a teacher is using. Minniemay likes Celebration, I like Snell and use it a lot, and there are many other series that we all use, too. These happen to be our favorites, from what I am understanding in this thread. I was replying to what Jennifer said about "customizing the lessons" for each student. I would hope that no 2 piano lessons are the same for any 2 students, ever. How could they be? It's hard for me to believe that any piano teacher would use the exact same lesson plan and repertoire for each of her students.


Barb, I totally agree. I would bet most of us "customize" for each student as they go.

What Gary wrote:
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
This is what I do with my own materials. I'm not attempting to reinvent the wheel. Instead, for many years I have added EVERY piece I see that is in the public domain into my own "stock-pile" of compositions, using Finale. This allows me 100% editorial control. Other people have expressed interest in seeing what I do in books, but for me that would destroy what I'm doing, because I am free to either skip anything (fast students) or blanket cover something (slow students or problem areas).

In other words, I try to make sure I have double or triple the amount of selections, graded according to the way I teach, then printed out in lessons according to the pace of the student, and to some degree according to personal taste.

I'm not really doing anything different. I don't think there really IS anything new to be done that has not been thought of over the last few hundred years. smile

This thread is taking on the tone of the other thread by Gary "The Right Amount of Fingering" that thread is all about customizing the lesson for each student.
Posted by: Mrs.A

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/31/09 11:23 AM

I am confused by Barb and Ebony’s response to Jennifer Ecklands posts……. Did you read it? Jennifer said “I don‘t find this odd….” That means she agreed with Gary!


I am seeing more and more knee jerk reactions and replies to peoples posts here Take time to read the posts before you quote someone. If someone says “I do it this way” They are not telling you that you do it wrong.

Relax
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/31/09 11:57 AM

Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
I spent several years trying to use the Celebration Series. It is a fine series, but for me, it just didn't click. Perhaps it was a bit too fussy.


I avoid using Celebration Series altogether because of the bizarre repertoire, especially the 20th-century stuff. None of my students like the modern pieces.


How interesting! It is exactly those things my students like! They sound so different from all the standard, predictable harmonies they are used to hearing and they find the imagery fascinating.

Me, I like it all!
Posted by: Ebony and Ivory

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/31/09 12:23 PM

Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
I am confused by Barb and Ebony’s response to Jennifer Ecklands posts……. Did you read it? Jennifer said “I don‘t find this odd….” That means she agreed with Gary!
?? I didn't quote anything she said.


Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
I am seeing more and more knee jerk reactions and replies to peoples posts here Take time to read the posts before you quote someone. If someone says “I do it this way” They are not telling you that you do it wrong.
There was no "knee jerk" reaction here. Just agreeing that we all customize for all our students. I wasn't implying anything else. Thank you for telling me what to do, but yes, I have read the entire thread.


Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
Relax
I am perfectly calm.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/31/09 03:41 PM

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
I spent several years trying to use the Celebration Series. It is a fine series, but for me, it just didn't click. Perhaps it was a bit too fussy.


I avoid using Celebration Series altogether because of the bizarre repertoire, especially the 20th-century stuff. None of my students like the modern pieces.


How interesting! It is exactly those things my students like! They sound so different from all the standard, predictable harmonies they are used to hearing and they find the imagery fascinating.

Me, I like it all!


Well, the Snell has lots of 20th century music; I like it, and I suspect, because I do, my students do also. I'm not so sure about the parents, however. laugh

I use other 20th century material as well; Bartok, Kabalevsky, Shostakovitch, and there's a nice intermediate level book published by Willis Music called Modern Russian Masters. Neat stuff in it.
Posted by: Barb860

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/31/09 05:11 PM

Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
I am confused by Barb and Ebony’s response to Jennifer Ecklands posts……. Did you read it? Jennifer said “I don‘t find this odd….” That means she agreed with Gary!


I am seeing more and more knee jerk reactions and replies to peoples posts here Take time to read the posts before you quote someone. If someone says “I do it this way” They are not telling you that you do it wrong.

Relax


I did not take offense to Jennifer's post at all. She did not say or imply that anyone here was doing anything wrong and that's not what I thought. Posts definitely get taken out of context. I commented on her language: "customizing lessons for students", which I think is ridiculous. No 2 lessons are alike in the first place.
Posted by: Jennifer Eklund

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/31/09 05:45 PM

Again it was just a word --sheesh! By "customize" I meant that I often arrange pieces for particular students to fit their level at any given time. My version of "customizing" means writing arrangements and having the luxury of controlling a lot of facets of the music: fingerings, page layout, chord voicings, etc.

~Jennifer Eklund
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 07/31/09 08:03 PM

All we have on web forums are words, so we all need to take extra care in how we express ourselves. You've stepped on several people's toes because what you thought was clear, general and innocuous actually insulted others.

It's nice you have time to customize things for your students. I'm sure they benefit from that a great deal. Most of us don't have that time even if we have that skill.
Posted by: 4evrBeginR

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 08/01/09 05:44 AM

Amazing opinions from everyone. Thanks for all the input. To clarify, I'm the parent, not the teacher. My kids are a bit too young to know what they want, so I guess I'm doing the choosing. In any case, I chose some easier pieces from the repertoire book, which my daughter was able to learn in a couple of days instead of 2 weeks of not much results, so she is regaining her self-esteem. My daughter also played the easier piece for her lesson this week from the middle of the book, and the teacher did not object. I had suggested another piece at the end of the book (modern) that seem appropriate for her to tackle. I hope the teacher would accept my meddling. One of her "selling" points is that she would teach just about anything. One of her student played some John Williams "Star Wars" piece for his recent recital!

I will also take a look at the Celebration series. Listening to Hickory Dickory Dock and Three Blind Mice and such things for the last year was driving me nuts, and I could not imagine having to endure more years before the teacher's series begin to introduce any classical music. I asked the teacher to teach them the Snell series, not knowing any other. The teacher did not object but obviously had not taught it before, so probably isn't familiar with it. I often wondered if I should have left things alone and just endure the music from the "typical" children series.
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Hard to learn music out of order - 08/01/09 12:37 PM

You need to find another teacher, apparently.