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New student can play but nothing else
#1651022 03/30/11 12:56 PM
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This student is 10 years old. He came and played amazing pieces with no music and all goofy fingerings.

His parents bought him this electric piano that you plug in the song you want and the keys light up so you can play/learn it.

Trouble is, now he doesn't want to learn anything easier and he can't read anything. He doesn't know his note values, note names, dynamics. He knows absolutely nothing except these pieces that he plays well.

I need suggestions on what to do with him, he has had 6-7 lessons so far and is already fighting his parents cuz he wants to quit. I understand his frustration! He goes from beautiful and fairly difficult pieces to beginner things so he can learn what he needs to know.

I have not shut off his difficult stuff, but we have "fixed" fingerings, and added dynamics to them.

HELP! Please before he quits!!

Thank you!!!


It is better to be kind than to be right.

Professional private piano teacher since 1994.
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Re: New student can play but nothing else
Ebony and Ivory #1651034 03/30/11 01:13 PM
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Can you list for us the pieces the student can play?


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
Re: New student can play but nothing else
Ebony and Ivory #1651039 03/30/11 01:31 PM
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I don't know them off hand, but they're all recent popular pieces by bands like Linkin Park.


It is better to be kind than to be right.

Professional private piano teacher since 1994.
Re: New student can play but nothing else
Ebony and Ivory #1651044 03/30/11 01:36 PM
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By playing "well," do you mean he has correct fingering, hand posture, articulations, and dynamics?

I've seen these students before. They do not last very long in piano lessons. They will fight you all the way if you want them to start over.


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Re: New student can play but nothing else
Ebony and Ivory #1651050 03/30/11 01:46 PM
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No. Hence the mention of "goofy fingerings" smile. If a lay person were to listen, they would be impressed with the sound. That's all. Everything else needs to be learned.

It's not even learned by ear, it's learned by each fingering lighting up and him memorizing it. This just messes with the process!


It is better to be kind than to be right.

Professional private piano teacher since 1994.
Re: New student can play but nothing else
Ebony and Ivory #1651068 03/30/11 02:02 PM
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Do you know if he perhaps learned some of his songs from YouTube. There are endless tutorials on there taught by teenagers for songs from groups like Linkin Park among others. These types of videos often have a million plus views and many comments like "I don't know how to play the piano, but I can play this Linkin Park song thanks to your video."

Often, rather than learning principles, kids are just learning to press the right keys and then they can hear the song they want to play. Unfortunatley, some may prefer this to formal lessons as it is more of an instant gratification (without significant depth).

Perhaps, if there is a piece you could teach him along the lines of the ones he wants to play, you may garner his interest? It sound like he is stuck on current pop pieces so he may want to learn others?

Re: New student can play but nothing else
Ebony and Ivory #1651106 03/30/11 03:24 PM
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that's a tough one. my son is difficult in that regard..

"MOM! please, I just want to 'learn walking in the snow'.. just play it again".

Reading music drives him bats. I have no suggestions except to appeal to his logic and somehow teach him a lot of theory and how to read the bass clef before he gets away. .. maybe give him candy or something.


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

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
Re: New student can play but nothing else
Ebony and Ivory #1651110 03/30/11 03:31 PM
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I would select a piece that's on his DP that he hasn't played yet. Get the score to it. Have him learn just a few bars with his DP and then, match what he's learned to the score so he can see how it relates. Keep letting him learn that piece so he doesn't have to completely go into beginner pieces. In parallel, have him study a beginner piece and relate as much of the concepts to the DP piece as possible.

Re: New student can play but nothing else
Ebony and Ivory #1651184 03/30/11 05:41 PM
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I REALLY like miaeih's suggestion.


Piano teacher since 2008, member of NFMC
Re: New student can play but nothing else
Ebony and Ivory #1651405 03/31/11 03:44 AM
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It seems to me that if somebody learns to play even a few pieces using these rather odd methods, he or she has achieved something of value that might not otherwise have being achieved. If your goal in playing the piano is to entertain your friends at parties, I'm not sure it really matter how you come by the skill.

But I doubt that an 'ordinary' (i.e., conventionally trained) piano teacher would have much to offer a person who wanted to learn to play in such a way. So the question comes down to: is the child willing to try to learn to play conventionally?

I had the same problem as a child. I could play simple pieces by ear and, as I got older, I learned to play complex pieces by ear. 'Proper' training seemed to offer me nothing.

As a result, I didn't start to learn to read music until I was in my mid-40's, and by then it had become a struggle. But it was really only the realization that I was not going to be able to play Chopin Etudes by ear that motivated me to go through this pain.

My point is that kids find it hard to take a long view. To do something that involves effort you have to see the benefit, and children don't always see that far. There may not be much that can be done about that.


Re: New student can play but nothing else
Ebony and Ivory #1651817 03/31/11 03:33 PM
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Rather than tearing down everything that he's worked so hard to build, you should continue on with it. That is, start a new piece of about the same level as he's playing, and let him play it in his own quirky way, with just a pointer here and there from you (your playing of the new piece will be the equivalent of the "lighted keys"; this would be Suzuki-like teaching)--and in this context, you explain notation, time, etc. If you're unwilling to do this, then you need to hand him over to another teacher who would be willing to teach him like this, nurturing his unique talent instead of destroying it.

Last edited by Gyro; 03/31/11 03:36 PM.
Re: New student can play but nothing else
Ebony and Ivory #1651895 03/31/11 05:09 PM
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With all due respect, there is not much here of value to be torn down.

Any motivated child can learn to play rather sophisticated sounding pieces with poor or non-existent or even potentially damaging technique by rote and brute force.

What is good is his motivation. This can be built on.
Why did his parents bring him to you and what does this have to do with his own motivation? How can you reconcile the two?

What piece would he like to learn that is NOT on his dp?
Has he thought about being able to make up his own music?
What rewards and reinforcement does he experience when he plays the learn by the light pieces?
How long did it take him to learn by the light and how was he stimulated to put in the effort step by step?

Re: New student can play but nothing else
Ebony and Ivory #1651945 03/31/11 06:24 PM
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I will talk to him about getting a piece that we can learn together both ways, that's a good idea thanks!

He said he wanted to learn how to play and how to read music, I think he didn't realize it wasn't going to happen in a week.

He is motivated to play well, he loves playing for people.

Thanks for all the ideas! I hope I can keep him coming by using some non-traditional methods.


It is better to be kind than to be right.

Professional private piano teacher since 1994.

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