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philosophy of music #1648234
03/26/11 09:11 AM
03/26/11 09:11 AM
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This post is about 8 and 9 year olds who approach playing music as a race. A race to move ahead. Lesson as a test.

John has mentioned in a previous post the idea that music is something that takes continual refinement. And that refinement takes time and listening.

I have an additional 8 year old who is also motivated to work and move ahead, yet he plays his pieces beautifully. So this is not about the kid who works hard and plays beautifully.

I'm considering saying: "Music is not a test. You've played this piece like you've just endured a test. I'd like to hear you play this musically." Maybe: "Play this piece with love." Or "How does this piece make you feel?"

Or ask "Why are you learning music?" and see what they come up with. Is it all about getting ahead of a friend? It can't be about playing against someone else. When that is the case, the music is dead.

OTOH, they are 3rd and 4th graders. Not sure whether to address this at all.

Any suggestions about how to present a wholesome philosophy of music to this age group?


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Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1648241
03/26/11 09:37 AM
03/26/11 09:37 AM
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I imagine you'll get a variety of responses.

I personally very much like the idea of removing the idea of "a test" from pieces. There are moments, sure, when there is some kind of test/benchmarking but if you can get your young players to play the way the music makes them feel - to look deeper than the black dots they see on a page, you will be giving them a gift of perception that they will very likely carry with them and apply to any music they come across in their futures.

I'd say go for it.


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Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1648242
03/26/11 09:38 AM
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Hmm. It occurred to me to help kids refocus the racing mentality. They want to move ahead in books as a sign of winning. I could say "You want to play better than so and so?" And then inform them of how to play better...getting down to basics of no pause at bar lines etc. So when they are reassigned a piece, I can preface it with "I know you want to play music well...you are motivated to do a great job...I want to help you with that." Something like that.

Maybe skip the whole philosophy discussion.

This is the underlying belief: child thinks if she is assigned pieces further along in the method series, that it means she is winning.

Replace it with: The real sign of progress is in learning to play fluently and expressively.

OK. So I'm thinking out loud. Have answered my own question. Still, discussion is welcome.

Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1648243
03/26/11 09:39 AM
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Thanks casinitaly. We must have been posting at the same time. smile

Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1648249
03/26/11 09:58 AM
03/26/11 09:58 AM
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smile I think we were posting at the same time. I also think it is worth thinking out loud when you are tossing around new ideas.

I really like your thought on "I know you want to play well, and I want to help you with that".

I think you're on the right track Anne!


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Re: philosophy of music [Re: casinitaly] #1648264
03/26/11 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by casinitaly
smile
I think you're on the right track Anne!


Ditto.

Occasionally, A student that age (or older) will eagerly blurt out "Did I pass this song?" barely nanoseconds after the last note is released.

At first, moments like those seemed so empty and soulless to me.

But they're still kids, and you're right, Ann - many of them are just wired that way.

Last edited by Gerard12; 03/26/11 10:43 AM.

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Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1648279
03/26/11 11:03 AM
03/26/11 11:03 AM
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I get around the whole issue of "passing" pieces simply by making playing musically part of the passing process. For a student to convince me they are ready to move on, they have to play a piece with expression, including some dynamics, good rhythm/tempo, phrasing, pleasing endings/cadences. I don't emphasise note-for-note perfection. I will "pass" a piece that has the odd mishap, so long as it contains musical expressivity. Once you lock that in, they are motivated by expressiveness and they try hard to include it in every piece. I think it's best to build that into lessons as early as possible. Letting students play like note-perfect robots and trying to add expression in later is a dangerous path to take. I don't philosophise directly with young children, but I do engage them on an imagination level. If the book has illustrations, I will use them to try and conjure up how the music should "feel". eg. "see that kangaroo? we need to make this music hop like that kangaroo!". It's amazing how imagination can inform the fingers and dynamics.

Re: philosophy of music [Re: ando] #1648290
03/26/11 11:46 AM
03/26/11 11:46 AM
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Like Ando, passing a piece is just never an issue coming up for discussion. We make music to make music, not to pass pieces. Perhaps one way to get away from this mentality is to begin selecting pieces for student repertoire. "Oh, you play this particularly nicely. Let's add it to your repertoire." Have them memorize it for the coming week, then continue to review it as you add more and more pieces to their repertoire.

Children this age are perfectly able to understand that they need to have pieces they can play for friends, families, and even strangers, without having their music in front of them, and that is what repertoire is all about.

We use methods as a means of introducing new skills to the students; developing and maintaining performance repertoire is another step in developing the whole musician.


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Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1648303
03/26/11 12:12 PM
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I appreciate each of your comments. Just came across this in "The Piano Shop on the Left Bank": "Getting all the notes right isn't the point. It's how you express the music that counts." (Goes along with what ando was saying.)

OK. I need to help kids develop and maintain performance repertoire...more than just preparing for recitals twice a year and a festival.

Re: philosophy of music [Re: John v.d.Brook] #1648308
03/26/11 12:19 PM
03/26/11 12:19 PM
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I like the idea of repertoire-building, John. It directs them away from thinking that "passing" pieces is the sole aim of music by reminding them that ultimately, music has an entertainment function, and a personal satisfaction function (amongst many others).

For better or for worse, I think younger students are motivated by the "hurdle" mentality - that "passing" pieces indicates progress and this boosts self-esteem and motivation to continue. Rather than trying to extinguish this tendency, I try to harness it in the way I described earlier. That is, to use it to address the various priorities of music: dynamics/expressiveness, combined with technical accuracy and proficiency. As long as the "pass" concept is framed around the idea of quality and value in the way they play, it can be very useful. Also inherent in that is the abolishment of the traditional counterpart of "passing", that is, "failing". There is no need for that, and if a student attempts to introduce that into the discussion of how they are doing, I am quick to disabuse them of that idea. There is no "fail", there are just things to work on. Once they "pass" a piece, it gets the opportunity to become part of their repertoire. I think that if handled correctly, the "pass" mentality eventually matures into a sense of "I play this piece this way for the following reasons...", rather than just, "I can play this piece".

I should also add that I don't dictate all the terms of how a piece is expressed. I try to get the student involved in a dialog so we can discuss how a piece might be approached. For example, if there is a repeated section, we discuss the ways we might make the first repeat different from the second. I leave the final decision up to the student so that they feel they are steering the ship and taking responsibility for how the piece will sound. This is another aspect of what expands the process beyond the usual bounds of just "passing" a piece. It all grows from these humble origins.

That's the idea anyway. Some students won't go along with it in the way you would like. Some remain very simplistic Some are just resistant and you have to chip away at them. Some quit before you can get there. That's the way it goes. It's the ones that do follow this process that make the job worthwhile.

Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1648370
03/26/11 02:02 PM
03/26/11 02:02 PM
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Several side benefits of repertoire building - you help them build performance stamina; it shows them what you feel is important - performance (playing), not passing this grade or that grade; they'll never be trapped in that bind where someone out of the blue asks them to play something, and they are lost without their music.

Once they build a repertoire of ten pieces, you can drop older or less favorite ones, replacing them with newer once.

And a sneaky, only-a-teacher-would-think-of-this-reason: it keeps them playing at the piano longer periods, which has the great benefit of helping them improve a skill without realizing they are working at improving a skill!


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1648381
03/26/11 02:32 PM
03/26/11 02:32 PM
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California
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Smallpiano Offline
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I think a good balance is needed between passing pieces fast enough to show progress and also to maintain a good performance practice at certain repertoire.
I can see that both of these aspects are same important in musician growing.
The problem is how you maintain them to make them balance.


English is my 4th languages, please excuse my grammar. Thanks
Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1649994
03/29/11 03:46 AM
03/29/11 03:46 AM
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Italy, Torino
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We sometimes are the worst anemies of ourselves :-)
A program based on pieces unintentionally fosters the "race" reaction on others. It sends inadvertently the message that the number is important and that if MY number is higher I'm better.

I don't have a magic solution, but if "It's how you express the music that counts", well the program/curriculum should be based on that. Say that you focus on expressing sadness (joy probably would be better for such a kid :-) ), then a few sad pieces should be aimed to that target and make sadness the goal.

I'm probably getting too philosofical here :-D but I'm not a piano teacher. But for professional reason I'm involved in the learning business and if one think I've learned along that journey is that people behave according to the way they are measured. Moreover, communication is a tricky thing that escapes easily the "word" based assumptions we too easily make. Behaviors are much more effective ways to communicate than words; your kids most probably are responding to your behavior. Finding creatively a way to convey the new message will work much better than trying to rationalize for them your intentions.

Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1649999
03/29/11 03:55 AM
03/29/11 03:55 AM
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Italy, Torino
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An additional thought that might help has come to my mind.
I'm loosely involved in teaching classical dancing (ballet). I have the chance to observe them and I like to rationalize the differences between teaching art in such a different setup like classical dancing.
They work hard on they technique, they work on classical well known choreographies, they build their own ones, and so on.
So, it could look very similar to piano playing but I've never noticed the "race" factor there.
Expression is really the goal there; it doesn't matter if somebody is able to get to the end of a "piece", the way is the only important thing to consider.
Obviously all the right movements must be there, but the mere sequence of them doesn't tell if somebody execute it well or not.

I would love to see the same approach how it would work in piano teaching.

Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1651971
03/31/11 07:14 PM
03/31/11 07:14 PM
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i notice this more with boys than girls. i mentioned this to my husband the other day and he started laughing. He reminded me that boys are obsessed with speed - whether it's playing a piece really fast or finishing it in only a week or two. boys also assume that speed impresses everyone else. so it finally hit home that when my boys come in and play all their pieces at triple the tempo, etc. they're probably actually trying to impress the socks off me. so i'm trying to say things like, "you know what would really impress me today? hearing this piece played REALLY carefully." it does seem to add something to their playing when they know i'm going to be "impressed" haha


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Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1652299
04/01/11 07:55 AM
04/01/11 07:55 AM
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MrsCamels, thanks for your ideas. "you know what would really impress me today?..." will come in handy!

This week the 8 year old choked up again (just when I thought we were past that). She worked ahead (as usual) but feels offended when the pieces require more work. Mother is in agreement with me at least...that it is not a good idea to check off pieces until the child gets timing issues worked out. (Still I'm checking off aspects of pieces like "notes" and it helps some.)

I'm realizing this is a child who wants everything yesterday. Your post helps me to see that part of what she is doing is trying to impress me.

This week I made some suggestions about shaping a phrase in a piece. The student hesitated and then slowly said "well, okaaay". She did as I asked, but with her frequent disapproving attitude. Next time I may preface my suggestions with "you know what would really impress me?" and then give the advice.

Still I find this situation to be an interesting adventure since this child LOVES to be on stage performing and she practices 30 minutes daily. (Started lessons in August.)

Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1653351
04/02/11 09:53 PM
04/02/11 09:53 PM
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I am not a piano teacher (except for my 7-year-old grandson, who I take care of several days a week so we started working on piano lessons a few months ago -- yes, I know a neutral professional teacher would be ideal but that's not possible for his parents right now).

I notice the same tendency in him -- not tears, but more just frustration and crabbiness if some aspect of a piece seems to elude him. Some pieces DO come easily to him, but he doesn't have sufficient experience yet to trust the practice process with the other, and this sort of panicky perfectionism creeps in. (Yet he will persevere at a piece and when he does master it, he's overjoyed.)

One trick I've tried that does seem to work with him when he's copping an attitude (and I'll just throw it out there in case it helps) is to ask him to switch places with me. He's the teacher, I'm the student. Can he help me learn this piece? Sometimes I'll play something with exaggerated mistakes and he giggles at correcting me.


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Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1653643
04/03/11 10:35 AM
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Thanks for your response Lisa. This may come in useful. I'm thinking that when the child says she's worked ahead (and anxiously awaiting being checked off), then I could suggest "Oh, in that case you can teach it to me". At least it will slow down the process and get her to thinking about what would improve the piece. smile So we'd be talking about the piece and what would make it good, and not focus on what SHE could do better...hopefully sidestepping her sense of being criticized.

Could work. Unless she is unable to pick up on any of the mistakes. I'll give it a try though.

Last edited by Ann in Kentucky; 04/03/11 10:37 AM.
Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1654341
04/04/11 02:17 PM
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Like Lisa, I am no piano teacher. But I have two suggestions that I'd like to toss out.
Having been a boy (obsessed with speed) and an adult beginner (again obsessed with speed), I know what it's like to want to get past the piece and move on. After all, progress is improvement. Right?
I don't know if teachers today still use gold stars or stickers or anything. (I know my grandchildren love them). But if you do I might suggest two different stickers for each piece. They get the first for playing it correctly and "passing" it. Perhaps a green star.
They get the second (and you might even suggest that they give it to themselves) when the piece is played musically, with feeling. If it's a happy piece, they get to the star when the piece truly feels happy, or bouncy, or funny.
This way, as they look through their book, they may see a series of stars that show they "passed," but they'll be seeking those elusive second stars that show they really "got it." And that just might be the incentive they need to keep revisiting those pieces.
Just a thought.


I'm getting there--note by note.
Re: philosophy of music [Re: Overexposed] #1654389
04/04/11 03:26 PM
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Thanks for your input Michael. Minniemay suggested stars to me in another thread...three levels...working up to polished pieces. I think it's a good idea. Just having a block about spending money on stars. Thinking if I do it for one, I may end up doing this for all...and with the number of pieces they go through...$ adds up.

Maybe I'll just use stars for this child and her buddy in lessons. They will compare books and I think the other child would want stickers too.

Your post may be the push I need to go ahead and get stars (and not be such a penny pincher). Thanks. smile

Last edited by Ann in Kentucky; 04/04/11 03:28 PM.
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