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I HATE John Thomspon...
#1400403 03/21/10 12:49 AM
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Gary D. Offline OP
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I have a student who stopped playing at about age 15. She only used John Thompson. She is now in her 50s. I had an opening, I need money this year, so I agreed to teach her. She insisted she ONLY wanted to use those same books.

I never for a moment planned to actually do this, and from day one I gave her my materials in addition to JT, but the insanity of JT Book I has lead me to dream about tearing the book into pieces and throwing it in the garbage.

I can't for the life of me figure out how anyone could possibly learn to read music using this method.

Last edited by Gary D.; 03/21/10 12:49 AM.
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Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
Gary D. #1400424 03/21/10 01:50 AM
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Gary D., I love your passion! And do you know, John Thompson is still the single best selling method book in many markets of the world???!!!


Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
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Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
Elissa Milne #1400426 03/21/10 02:00 AM
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There are good selections in almost every method book I've seen. It is the presentation of those materials, and the mindset behind them, that just about drove me mad. We hit "The Robin", which insisted on keeping the RH in a five-finger position, C, so that no reading is even remotely necessary, then transposing that same position up an octave, by rote, so that there is STILL no reading taken place.

Then the LH is put in the G position, causing a two-finger overlap that is both confusing and uncomfortable.

Not only is this strictly over-fingered 5-finger positio teaching, it is a poor example of it.

I can only hope that in time I can convince this stubborn student that other materials teach better, work faster, sound better, etc. smile

Last edited by Gary D.; 03/21/10 02:01 AM.
Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
Gary D. #1400455 03/21/10 04:43 AM
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I really like the material in the First Grade Book in terms of the musical concepts, however, the HUGE mistake he made with this book though is the insistence of putting the finger numbers under every single note - even when there are consecutive notes of the same pitch!

This is almost certainly why your student won't play other material, as she is 'reading' the music by numbers. You could try to negotiate a compromise - you let her continue with the book on the condition that she snopakes every finger number in the book. This is what I've done for my daughter - a tiresome task, no doubt, but well worth it IMO.


Last edited by Ben Crosland; 03/21/10 04:48 AM.
Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
Ben Crosland #1400492 03/21/10 07:27 AM
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Slightly OT question here:

In the US, we would use Liquid Paper or White Out and we would say that we would white out the finger numbers.

I've been trying to google "snopakes", and I'm not finding a definitive explanation of why this is being used in the above context. In the interest of improving international communication here on the forum, can someone enlighten us as as to the origin of this term?

Thanks
Rich


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Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
DragonPianoPlayer #1400495 03/21/10 07:32 AM
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DPP - brand name. In the 80's I "snopaked" things.
company site

Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
keystring #1400497 03/21/10 07:44 AM
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Sorry, for some reason I thought 'Snopake' would translate better than 'Tippex', which is what most people call liquid paper in the UK.

Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
Ben Crosland #1400506 03/21/10 08:09 AM
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Showing my age, but I've only heard of it as "white out!"

Gary, you might try some psychology with this student.

"How would you like your lessons at half price?"

Explanation to student: "Well, if I use well written and thought out materials rather than JT, you'll progress twice as fast, thus, cutting the cost of your lessons effectively in half."


"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
Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
John v.d.Brook #1400523 03/21/10 08:56 AM
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Bit of trivia for you:

Tippex (or 'liquid paper') was invented by Mike Nesmith's ('The Monkeys') mother.


To DragonPianoPlayer, Snopake = Snow (white) and opaque.



Rob
Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
R0B #1400524 03/21/10 09:04 AM
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John: An interesting approach to the issue, no doubt! smile

Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
John v.d.Brook #1400530 03/21/10 09:22 AM
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gosh - I really like Thompson books. I fondly remember learning the later books on my own after my teacher moved.

(I am looking forward to the 'Fundamental Keys' book coming any day now).

I teach sight reading by working in keys and supplementing the written page with scales and arpeggios in that key. Tho I start out with finger numbers, I try to convey that the fingers will automtically choose the correct fingering, particularly if the student remember that an F is 'usually' a 4 in the right hand (in the key of C).

I find great beauty in those classical melodies.

What books are better and why? I have many method books (like every set) and prefer Thompson because it has such a wonderful classical foundation.

I am fairly simple tho.

Last edited by apple*; 03/21/10 09:22 AM.

accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
John v.d.Brook #1400535 03/21/10 09:32 AM
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Explanation to student: "Well, if I use well written and thought out materials rather than JT, you'll progress twice as fast, thus, cutting the cost of your lessons effectively in half."

I think the problem is the perception of fast by either party. If fingering is written in, the notes and technical demands not challenging, the melody catchy and easy to remember, then you will be able to play the piece quickly = "fast". You will soon have a largish number of pieces under your belt which will be easy to remember, so again you have "progressed quickly". You'll be able to churn them out with ease because of their nature. All of this gives the impression of progressing quickly.

However, if the aim is to get skills such as note reading, finding your way around the keyboard without depending on finger numbers, and maybe some of the skills mentioned in the "fundamentals" thread, possibly the very fact of what makes the book easy will also prevent this from happening. The teacher will see that behind this quick acquisition of pieces very little is being learned by the way of skills. He sees "slow" where the student sees "fast".

Turn this around: the "better" books may require more work, take more time to master. The teacher will see that the student is getting skills which will eventually make this student independent and in control of his playing. The student, however, will see this as "slow" because he may not be aware of what skills he is getting - there isn't that same sense of mastery, polishing off, getting tons of pieces that you can play with ease.

If that is the case, the argument you make, John, may be incomprehensible - or it would have to be taken in trust.

Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
Gary D. #1400687 03/21/10 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.

I can't for the life of me figure out how anyone could possibly learn to read music using this method.


... with a good deal of remedial work after the fact! (If my childhood memory serves me)

I hate those finger numbers.

Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
Nikolas #1400711 03/21/10 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Nikolas
John: An interesting approach to the issue, no doubt! smile

We live in trying financial times, so I thought perhaps this might appeal to her pocketbook!


"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
Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
John v.d.Brook #1400746 03/21/10 03:27 PM
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I would only use BOOK 3

I love the pieces in that book.

Students really feel accomplished playing them!


"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."
Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
John v.d.Brook #1400750 03/21/10 03:36 PM
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In the last century, when I was still a teenager taking piano lessons, I remember borrowing John Thompson's Grade 3 book from a classmate and learning and memorizing the Spinning Song. I really wanted to learn that song because everyone at my high school who played the piano seemed to know how to play that song. Plus it was a very catchy piece at least to me as a teenager. Many years later, I am still able to play that song from memory.

With regards to the OP, it's quite possible that this student like me may have been taught and/or learned some pieces on her own from these books and these pieces bring back hopefully happy memories from her childhood. Or it could be the experience of taking piano lessons that she could be trying to relive again.

As an adult piano student, I have found it very helpful to be open to ideas and suggestions from my teacher with regards to repertoire. There is so much repertoire available that it is unwise for a student especially an adult student to limit himself/herself to one specific approach or method.

I can only wish the OP success in weaning this student off the JT books to more methods that he feels are more appropriate.

Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
Musictuary #1400780 03/21/10 04:19 PM
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Here's a funny thing. As a child, I taught myself to play piano by using a John Thompson 1st grade book. And I loved those numbers, because they helped me learn what the notes were, and match them up with the little pictures of the keyboard they had at the top of some of the pages. But after I learned how to read notes, I totally ignored any fingering numbers in any other music I read. I thought that since I already knew the notes, I didn't need to have to think about the fingers that you use to play them. Needless to say, this got me into some trouble when I started lessons last year, and my teacher had me learn Bach's Invention in C. smile Even now, I still have to work at reminding myself how important the correct fingering is when learning a new piece.


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Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
MaryBee #1401042 03/22/10 12:17 AM
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I stopped using John Thompson years ago. Fingering is just one of the many problems.


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Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
AZNpiano #1401117 03/22/10 05:14 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
I stopped using John Thompson years ago. Fingering is just one of the many problems.


Please enlighten us as to what these many problems might be!

Also, what material do you use now?

Re: I HATE John Thomspon...
Ben Crosland #1401184 03/22/10 08:45 AM
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Ben, some digging on past topics in this forum will give you many examples from teachers not thrilled with JT. I use Piano Town, which probably is not available in the UK, as my primary method. Others here are great supporters of Faber's methods. As I suggested before, a good teacher can probably teach successfully using any method, and the best method in the world will fail in the hands of a poor teacher.

The American music teacher's publication, Clavier, has run evaluations on contemporary methods in the past, and are doing so again now. My recollection was that JT did not hold up well in comparison to other available methods.

What I'd like to see is a grad student, doing a dissertation on pedagogy, evaluate methods, not on what we think they will do for the student, but what they actually do for the student. Of performing artists, how many used what method, if any. Of college and conservatory teachers, how many began with what method, if any. Of independent piano teachers, how many began their studies with what methods, if any.

That would be truly informative!


"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
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