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#1268884 - 09/15/09 05:31 PM Ear First?
jazzyclassical Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/26/07
Posts: 154
Loc: California
Haven't been on this forum in a while. Hello everyone! First off, let me say what I love about teaching is that you are always learning.

About me: I've was traditionally taught. Yet always followed my ear.
Up until about several months ago I have primarily been a traditional style teacher. Using standard method books such as Piano Adventures and Piano Town.

Lately I've been experimenting with ear-first approaches with great success. I have been interested in Suzuki, Simply Music and Music Moves for piano.

Has anyone had experience with the ear first approach?
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Casio PX-350

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#1268971 - 09/15/09 08:03 PM Re: Ear First? [Re: jazzyclassical]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 15148
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I looked at Simply Music once, but it seemed a very expensive endeavor, and I wasn't so sure about the results. Certainly, you get people playing pieces faster, sooner, but there is actual value in reading music that cannot be replaced by skipping it, or putting it off. I know some very good Suzuki teachers who are sensitive to this and teach reading alongside the Suzuki programs. Those students have greater success than Suzuki students who don't read for quite a while and then when they are ready to read, have to take a big step back in the difficulty of pieces they are playing. However, I don't notice a general better success rate than any traditional approach.

Perhaps the best thing is to do your own, as you seem to have been doing.
private piano/voice teacher FT

#1268987 - 09/15/09 08:52 PM Re: Ear First? [Re: Morodiene]
Sparkler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/09
Posts: 177
I am a strong ear player who has been taught traditionally from day 1. I am glad of this personally, as in my experience, it seems that my ear tried to dominate no matter how strongly my teachers encouraged reading. So basically, my ear was a super bonus/complement to my playing, and has always been.

Thanks to traditional teaching, I can now play either way - by ear or by reading - with equal ease. I really like this versatility and use both skills pretty equally.

I would not trade that... I'm afraid that if I hadn't been taught traditionally, reading wouldn't come as easily to me.

I think people with sharp ears just tend to develop their ears fairly naturally, with a little encouragement. I don't think reading should be left aside.

Edited by Sparkler (09/15/09 08:54 PM)
Piano Teacher
and best of all...

#1269207 - 09/16/09 10:11 AM Re: Ear First? [Re: Sparkler]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 15148
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Excellent point, Sparkler. I, too, had more "ear than eye" in my playing, and was taught traditionally. No doubt, I would have flourished in an ear-only approach or ear-dominated approach, but because I was taught to read music, that actually helped me with reading words too, which wasn't my strong suit as a child. Not only that, it helped me to be more well-rounded as a student.

When I have students who are like me, I can relate to the difficulties of reading, but I encourage it and work with them on it so that they can be independent and learn by reading if they ever had to. How many times have I picked up a piece of music I've never heard before and something about it seems interesting and I wonder what it sounds like? I want my students to be able to figure this out on their own just like I can.

And then there are those students who have no ear at all. They play by sight or feel, and don't seem to notice wrong notes or that they aren't playing with proper dynamics or articulations. It's all a mechanical approach. Those student do need to focus on ear training and listening as they play.

Of course, you do not do one and neglect the other. A student who is strong in something can always be stronger, and so it is good to cultivate and encourage their strengths as well as work on improving their weaknesses. It's all a balance. I think that is why I was hesitant about these other approaches, because they seemed to be skewed one way...throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
private piano/voice teacher FT

#1269211 - 09/16/09 10:14 AM Re: Ear First? [Re: Sparkler]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1269
Loc: California
I believe in the 'ear first' philosophy, which is why I like programs like Harmony Road and Yamaha. I think where these programs differ from Suzuki and Simply Music is that they also teach note reading from the beginning. My understanding is that Suzuki and SM delay note reading until much further into their curriculum, a concept I don't agree with and I don't think can be successful for the student in the long run.
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#1274567 - 09/24/09 10:36 PM Re: Ear First? [Re: dumdumdiddle]
jazzyclassical Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/26/07
Posts: 154
Loc: California
Thanks for the responses. At this point, it is true I am simply using my own unique combination of approaches. I think this works for me. I hope with time I can better learn to synthesize the two philosophies into a total approach that doesn't short change the student yet lets them experience music for what it truly is: melody, harmony and rhythm, and not just a series of black dots on a page.

A side note:

Up until recently when I thought of music, I always thought of the notation first. Then the sounds and rhythms. I now think of notes as a kind of script, it helps the composer get his idea across to other players. Yes it is beneficial to be able to read these scripts with ease at first sight, but should we place all importance on this? Yes it is important to be literate, but I think it must be more important to be a musician first, then the alternative which could be just some sort of note reading robot. Perhaps we can teach students how to read after they at least have some musical grasp of the instrument such as how to phrase, legato, stacatto etc.?
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Casio PX-350

#1274591 - 09/24/09 11:18 PM Re: Ear First? [Re: Morodiene]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7639
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I know some very good Suzuki teachers who are sensitive to this and teach reading alongside the Suzuki programs. Those students have greater success than Suzuki students who don't read for quite a while and then when they are ready to read, have to take a big step back in the difficulty of pieces they are playing.

Early this week, I had an interesting discussion with a piano teacher from Japan - it seems that Suzuki didn't teach note reading because it wasn't necessary - it was and is part of the core curriculum in elementary schools in Japan. I would guess that most American Suzuki teachers are not made aware of this, and don't realize that Japanese students are learning note reading concurrently with their instrumental learning!
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

#1274613 - 09/25/09 12:25 AM Re: Ear First? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
DoReMi Katie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/06/07
Posts: 114
Loc: Illinois
I had the privilege of being Suzuki-trained in Japan as a child, as well as attending the Japanese school system. Note reading is indeed taught and valued - but also is playing by ear and memorization.
I grew up a very ears-only person, and note reading was a huge struggle, although it was introduced to me at a young age. I was always reading beginner material and got frustrated with the huge effort it required. The advanced repertoire I played at a young age didn't frustrate me because I didn't have to decipher or analyze it - simply play it! Not until I submerged myself in reading music in high school did it begin to come naturally. It takes lots of effort to get to that point. Some wonder why exert that effort when playing by ear may come so much more naturally? A well-rounded musician ought to be able to to do both. For the last 8 years or so I've solely relied on printed music which has definitely interfered with my past ability to play well by ear without music. I've lost a lot of the ear I had as a child - simply because I'm not encouraging myself to use it much. Note reading is so much easier now. I do feel a sense of loss - but the price is well worth being a good sight reader.


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