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#1766045 - 10/06/11 07:02 PM The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots  
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balalaika Offline
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Very often to overcome a technical difficulty or to produce a required quality of the sound we need to focus on a very small part of the piece. But here I have a BIG mad problem. Most of my students resist starting at the point where I want them to start and stopping at the point I want them to stop. It is as they are hardwired to play from the beginning to the end of the piece. Sometimes I have to stop them by holding their hands (I know I shouldn't do that cry ). Otherwise they will keep going up to the end. All my explanations why it would be beneficial for them to focus on a short part of the piece do not produce any effect. And it happens not only with the kids but with some adults too... tiki

Dear colleagues, do you experience the same problem with your students and, if so, how are you dealing with it?

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#1766049 - 10/06/11 07:09 PM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Sometimes I divide the piece into parts of the form or other obvious but simple divisions. I'll tell the student to only practice A on M,W,F and B on T, Th, S. Then at lesson I'll ask them to start in the B section (or whatever). Some days we will have lessons on just the B section or the second expression of A in each piece. We will do that until they learn to practice sections on their own. Periodically, we will have a refresher.

#1766078 - 10/06/11 07:52 PM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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I divide EVERYTHING into parts. We start with the LAST part first for elementary pieces, hardest part first for advanced music.

That is my number one rule. If any student objects to this, I will not teach that student.

No exceptions.

Almost everything else is negotiable. But not playing from the beginning. I won't allow it. smile

Last edited by Gary D.; 10/06/11 07:53 PM.

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#1766099 - 10/06/11 08:35 PM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Would you believe that I actually crafted a stop sign and held it up to get their attention? That was for the younger ones, but it works! Tell them that you are the conductor. Using hand motions, have them practice stopping and starting according to your motions. The other suggestions here are good, too.

Last edited by LeaC; 10/06/11 09:34 PM.

Working on: Reworking Bartok's Suite Opus 14, Chopin's Polonaise Op.40, The Military (so much fun!)
#1766126 - 10/06/11 09:25 PM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted by balalaika
Very often to overcome a technical difficulty or to produce a required quality of the sound we need to focus on a very small part of the piece. But here I have a BIG mad problem. Most of my students resist starting at the point where I want them to start and stopping at the point I want them to stop. It is as they are hardwired to play from the beginning to the end of the piece. Sometimes I have to stop them by holding their hands (I know I should do that cry ). Otherwise they will keep going up to the end. All my explanations why it would be beneficial for them to focus on a short part of the piece do not produce any effect. And it happens not only with the kids but with some adults too... tiki

Dear colleagues, do you experience the same problem with your students and, if so, how are you dealing with it?


I run into this a lot, but I've found a great solution. I ask them, "If you always make a mistake at measure 5, and then you always go back to measure 1 to get a running start at it, what gets the most practice? Measure 5 which gives you trouble, or measures 1-4 which are easy? Why would you want to waste time playing the easy parts and never get the hard parts learned?" They always get the right answer and realize that it is silly to start over again. At least they know better than to do it in front of me again smile.

I want to add that I then have them start right at the difficult measure and play only that passage in question. Then we step back and try to figure out what exactly is going on. I try to help them look for patterns and make sense out of it before trying to play it again. Sometimes this is all it takes. Other times there are issues that need to be worked out (practicing in rhythms, blocked chords, etc.) which I will show them. This way they know exactly what they must do when they are practicing at home.


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#1766206 - 10/07/11 12:27 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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<< Most of my students resist starting at the point where I want them to start and stopping at the point I want them to stop. It is as they are hardwired to play from the beginning to the end of the piece.>>

As an adult returner, I'll admit to being guilty of this.

The simplest solution is to prepare a 'study sheet' of just the required phrase or bars. I tend to paste them into MSWord, increase the size of the phrase (it looks less frightening) and also write in some notes, info and annotations. Put the study sheet on the music stand and not the full score.

#1766261 - 10/07/11 03:18 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Hi Balalaika,
I understand what you mean.
I often feel, that the student would like to continue playing or starting from the very beginning again. Then I just pay attention not to do this. I have never had to go that far to grab hands and stop.

What helps a lot to make it easier to get students attention and make the student want to make things as you teach is by my experience:

Ask questions. Fro example you say.. da-da-da-da lets stop here now, thank you.
And you ask: "Why is it good to you stop here?"
Now the students brain starts to work on the issue. He/she bets different reasons. So the situation where you speak and the student thinks his/her own things and does not want to do things according your teaching is avoided.

The best way to teach is make the student find out the right things by himself/herself and you just give a little supportive push. Then he/she has also thoroughly undestood why to do certain things because the chain of thoughts has been gone through.

And after he/she has told you the right answer about why to stop you can say: "Now let's make a deal that you stop if this happens. And just because of the same thing you told me."

It is very easy to make deals with kids. Now lets make a deal, you concentrate on this, and you will start to play much better. OK? He/she answers: "Yes." And by my experience the kid is really concentrating from that moment.

GL with your students and best wishes.
Hope I gave some ideas.
Jaak




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#1766262 - 10/07/11 03:25 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: Morodiene]  
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Originally Posted by Morodiene

I run into this a lot, but I've found a great solution. I ask them, "If you always make a mistake at measure 5, and then you always go back to measure 1 to get a running start at it, what gets the most practice? Measure 5 which gives you trouble, or measures 1-4 which are easy? Why would you want to waste time playing the easy parts and never get the hard parts learned?" They always get the right answer and realize that it is silly to start over again. At least they know better than to do it in front of me again smile.

I want to add that I then have them start right at the difficult measure and play only that passage in question. Then we step back and try to figure out what exactly is going on. I try to help them look for patterns and make sense out of it before trying to play it again. Sometimes this is all it takes. Other times there are issues that need to be worked out (practicing in rhythms, blocked chords, etc.) which I will show them. This way they know exactly what they must do when they are practicing at home.
thumb
The bottom line: people enjoy practicing in a way that does not work well only as long as they have not yet experience practicing a much better way. Once they learn how to get a lot done quickly, being intelligent about it, they don't even want to return to practicing the old, inefficient way. wink

Last edited by Gary D.; 10/07/11 03:27 AM.

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#1766307 - 10/07/11 07:39 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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I use Post-it notes to block off the measures before and after the problem measure(s). Works every time.


Piano teacher and Blues and Boogie-Woogie pianist.
#1766322 - 10/07/11 08:17 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Thank you all for your ideas. I will post in detail later - have to go now.

I think using stickers is a smart idea. I used to make a copy of the page and then cut it into small pieces.
It requires lots of work. Stickers should work much better.

The problem is student's attitude does not change. You remove the stickers and the student goes back to his way of practicing. It is kind of spontaneous rejection of playing parts especially very small ones. Actually they are not really practicing but rather performing all the time (or maybe sight reading non-stop?).

#1766444 - 10/07/11 12:43 PM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Originally Posted by balalaika
Most of my students resist starting at the point where I want them to start and stopping at the point I want them to stop. It is as they are hardwired to play from the beginning to the end of the piece.


At the bottom of things, isn't this a reading problem ?

That is to say, are the kids really reading the score as they play ? It sounds like they are playing that which they have read more or less plodingly and memorized.

#1766492 - 10/07/11 02:44 PM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: rocket88]  
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Originally Posted by rocket88
I use Post-it notes to block off the measures before and after the problem measure(s). Works every time.


This is what I do, too. We call them curtains, and they are only to play what is "in the window." They always ask to bring the "curtains" home with them. wink


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#1766500 - 10/07/11 02:59 PM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: MsAdrienne]  
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Originally Posted by MsAdrienne
Originally Posted by rocket88
I use Post-it notes to block off the measures before and after the problem measure(s). Works every time.


This is what I do, too. We call them curtains, and they are only to play what is "in the window." They always ask to bring the "curtains" home with them. wink

Brilliant minds think alike!


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#1766504 - 10/07/11 03:07 PM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: landorrano]  
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Originally Posted by landorrano
Originally Posted by balalaika
Most of my students resist starting at the point where I want them to start and stopping at the point I want them to stop. It is as they are hardwired to play from the beginning to the end of the piece.


At the bottom of things, isn't this a reading problem ?

That is to say, are the kids really reading the score as they play ? It sounds like they are playing that which they have read more or less plodingly and memorized.


That is my suspicion, too. None of the students who started piano with me have that problem. I get that problem from those transfer students who are weak readers or (gasp!) non-readers. The worst offenders are the ones who learned to play by ear; it's like they can't sing the middle of a song unless they start from the beginning.

I have yet to find a good solution to this problem. These students are usually allowed to advance way too quickly at the expense of reading notes (I just got one of those students yesterday!). I think the best way is to send them down 3-4 levels, or just start over with the Primer book and learn piano correctly.


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#1766700 - 10/07/11 11:18 PM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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This is a great question. I teach about 50 students a week for the last 25 years. I rarely see a student that can push themselves to practice correctly as much as I can push them to do it correctly in the lesson. My lesson almost always consist of at least 10 - 15 minutes of students practicing in front of me so I can see how they practice at home. The ones who don't know how to break things down to work on things in small groups with small goals are the toughest to make understand that that is what they should be doing.

I make them set goals in front of me and then practice those goals. It is the intention that they must complete a goal before we are done with that part of the lesson. There goals have to be spoken out loud in great detail. Example - "I will work on these 2 measure. I will get just the notes correct and do that 3 times in a row without a mistake." So they have to figure out, how many measures or notes, what kind, like rhythm or notes or articulation, and they have to do it 3 times in a row. (If they are going to perform the piece live it is 5x or 10x in a row)

There are a couple of things I interrupt them for. If the goal is too easy, they will be able to do it in the first (3x) try. If the goal is too hard, it will take them more than 5 minutes to complete. I will just keep reminding them of there goal, or make them change there goal till they complete it and are able to do something 3 times in a row.

The ones who never want to break things down, take years to finally get what I am looking for. There are many reason, if they don't want to take lessons and there parents are making them play piano, there goal is always to get through the song quickly to move on to something else. Or if they were never taught to think for themselves and they were always just given an answer, they don't know how to work on something.

I find the biggest thing is goal setting. For some students it works great to have them write down there own goals. I never write down a students small goals. Because the goals should be always changing and always evolving. They always ask me, "so I should do 1 line each day, or 2 measures a day." But there is no answer because some things are harder than others. They need to recognize there goals and complete a goal.

I just recently started with a transfer student. He was doing the same thing, starting from the beg and going to the end. This was a few weeks in a row of the same song. I talked to the parents who said he had ADD and could not focus on a piece long enough to finish it. I told them my strategy and we had him writing down 1 goal a day for the next week. This kid completely turned around. He comes in every week now completely knowing every song. It is night and day. This is a rare, most students will not turn around that quickly, but it felt good to me to know I made such a difference.

#1766729 - 10/08/11 12:58 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Thank you, mikey keys, for your in-depth response. I am really impressed by your focus on the goal setting.

There is one more issue that exacerbates the problem. There is a “magic” number of half-an-hour that most of the parents coming up with in regards of the student's practice. This kind of parental practice setting leads to the mindless repeats of the piece from the beginning to the end by the child.

I am constantly educating the parents on smart practising. Nobody knows in advance how much time it takes to solve a math problem. Maybe half-an-hour or maybe one hour or maybe only 5 minutes. The same with piano practising. It should take as much time as needed to accomplish a reasonable and achievable goal. But again and again I hear that their child is not practising “enough”. They listen to me but they don't hear me! So they are putting a timer on the top of the piano eventually killing any brain involvement in their child's practise. Just recently one parent decided to stop the lessons not because his child is not doing well but because he is not practising “enough” in his opinion.

#1766740 - 10/08/11 01:11 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Thank you for your post, landorrano, but I cannot see the connection here. How is student's desire to always perform the piece (vs practising or working on it) corresponds to the note reading issue? Recently, one of my students brought to the lesson Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin which he learned from scratch within a couple of weeks (from the music of course). You should see the displeasure on his face when I asked him to repeat a single bar of it couple of times. Trust me he would be more than happy to repeat the whole thing from the beginning to the end! It is an emotional issue not the technical one.

#1766743 - 10/08/11 01:21 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Originally Posted by balalaika
Thank you for your post, landorrano, but I cannot see the connection here.
Maybe not, but I think landorrano makes a point worth thinking about. I have come across many pianists who can't play an isolated bar or two of a piece they supposedly know quite well. They are relying on the "get the fingers going and let them go to the end" method. Sure they may have read the music to start with (but who knows how slowly and laboriously!), memorised it in small sections and never engaged with the written music again. You might at least want to consider whether the student is resisting this because it's difficult for them to isolate and read an individual bar without the assistance of what comes before. It's not an unusual situation.


Du holde Kunst...
#1766751 - 10/08/11 02:00 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Thank you for your input currawong. You are right in the sense that it is not easy to start from the middle of the bar. Sometimes it requires an additional practice hands separately and then hands together to be able to do it. The very least it requires some effort. Still, I do not see the connection between this issue and poor note reading unless the person who studied Rhapsody in Blue in 2 weeks IS a poor note reader which seems quite unlikely to me (actually he is good at it).

As you may know in computer science there is a term of Random Access Memory (RAM) which allows access to any part of the memory from any point on. And there is a Sequential Access Memory which allows to access only starting from the beginning. RAM is more desirable but requires additional resources – more effort to achieve. The piano playing is quite similar – it is easier to memorize from the beginning to the end. The ability to start from any part of the piece or even from any bar is harder and requires an additional effort. And it is not because the student is a poor reader but because he or she has to work on this skill to obtain.

#1766756 - 10/08/11 02:16 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Originally Posted by balalaika
Still, I do not see the connection between this issue and poor note reading unless the person who studied Rhapsody in Blue in 2 weeks IS a poor note reader which seems quite unlikely to me (actually he is good at it).
You'd be surprised at how much effort a poor reader can go to in order to avoid having to read! This situation would set my alarm bells ringing, and reading would be the first thing I'd check out.

But if you're convinced they can do it, I guess you just have to insist that they do, as Gary said earlier.


Du holde Kunst...
#1766757 - 10/08/11 02:20 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Originally Posted by balalaika
The piano playing is quite similar – it is easier to memorize from the beginning to the end. The ability to start from any part of the piece or even from any bar is harder and requires an additional effort.
Yes. However, we're not talking about memorising, but reading, playing a bar when it's up there in front of you in black and white. No memorising needed.


Du holde Kunst...
#1766758 - 10/08/11 02:22 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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There is a limit how much I can push the student without harming teacher/student relationship. It is different for every student. I am not in the position to dismiss a student just because he does not like starting from the middle of the piece (as one post suggests). I consider it as an extreme approach. I am more in the middle of the road person.

#1766764 - 10/08/11 02:39 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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So you believe that you can play a bar of music without at least partially memorizing (or knowing) the texture? Studying IS memorizing. You maybe are not memorizing the complete set of your sounds and movements but for sure the most of the bits and pieces of it. You are reading only to link those bits and pieces of your memory, knowledge and experience together. Otherwise we all be doing sight reading all the time. More over, very often it is very beneficial to keep your eyes at the keyboard particularly when the shifts are involved. For an example, it would be very interesting to see one mastering the beginning of Campanella by Liszt with his or her eyes glued to the music. The one has to completely memorize it before being able to polish it bar by bar.

#1766766 - 10/08/11 02:57 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Certainly memory is involved. I just read what you said and suddenly thought you were talking about a completely memorised performance, without the music. However, I still think you need to be able to read the bar in question. Any bar of the piece. At sight. La Campanella with eyes glued to the page is perhaps an extreme example smile I assumed you were talking about something simpler.

(btw I think the post-it notes or printing out small sections were good ideas.)


Du holde Kunst...
#1766769 - 10/08/11 03:30 AM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Thank you for your input, currawong. I appreciate your opinion.

#1767459 - 10/09/11 06:13 PM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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This is something that I constantly deal with as well. I actually had a younger student get very upset that I was making him not start at the very beginning but at a measure near the end of a 16 measure song. I always try to reason with them, but like what as already suggested here before there is a hard wiring for students , especially the young ones to start at the beginning and not focus on the new problem measures.

Often I try to cover the rest of the music on the page with blank paper except for what i want the student to work on....this seems to work in some cases

With the particular student I mentioned, this has been a HUGE problem of his for almost two years now. I finally decided to be more strict, that is why became upset. I plan on bringing in that particular song to the next lesson where I will make it broken up into four measures per page. He will have to master each page starting with the last. Hopefully he will see the benefit of breaking music down in sections after this.

#1767465 - 10/09/11 06:39 PM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: melodian]  
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Maybe someone else also suggested this, but how about having your students do "backwards practice" with pieces they have trouble with? Choose a page or start right at the end. Have them play the last 2 measures. Then have them play the last 4 measures, then the last 6, etc. They will be making the very end of the piece/page/section much stronger, so it will be almost as familiar as the beginning.

With very young students playing those 8-16 measure pieces, you could even have them do backwards practice one measure at a time. Within a section, try one note at a time! You could even "give" them the starting note the first time around, just to get them started.

You might try having students use backwards practice before they get to the point that they are doing full play-throughs with motor memory, to kind of "head it off at the pass." Kids usually think this is kind of fun, too, so they may not balk at it as much as having the teacher say "start here." Just a thought.
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Another thought: How many of us are using the "scramble game" idea from the Valery Lloyd Watts piano teaching manual? This is potentially another useful way to avoiding the "start from the beginning every time" phenomenon.


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#1767471 - 10/09/11 06:51 PM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted by balalaika
There is a limit how much I can push the student without harming teacher/student relationship. It is different for every student. I am not in the position to dismiss a student just because he does not like starting from the middle of the piece (as one post suggests). I consider it as an extreme approach. I am more in the middle of the road person.

If I were a mean, autocratic, unreasonable teacher, my students would be afraid of me, and many would quit.

I was talking about drawing a line in the sand and making it clear that *some* things are not negotiable.

In general, I won't bend on these things:

1) Coming frequently to lessons with no music is not OK.
2) Showing up, week after week, with no practice done at home is not OK. I will not accept the job of Personal Piano Trainer.
3) When trying to help a student polish something, always starting at the beginning is insane.

Listening while a student gets stuck in the same place, time after time, is not only encouraging a way of practicing that will ultimately result in very slow progress, at best, it is also unbelievably stressful for me.

For the record, I don't think any student has ever quit taking lessons from me because I insisted on not starting at the beginning, as a default. I think in the long run it leads to keeping students longer, since teaching students HOW to practice in a highly logical and efficient manner leads to success for everyone.


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#1767472 - 10/09/11 06:53 PM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: currawong]  
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Originally Posted by currawong
Certainly memory is involved. I just read what you said and suddenly thought you were talking about a completely memorised performance, without the music. However, I still think you need to be able to read the bar in question. Any bar of the piece. At sight. La Campanella with eyes glued to the page is perhaps an extreme example smile I assumed you were talking about something simpler.

(btw I think the post-it notes or printing out small sections were good ideas.)

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#1767638 - 10/09/11 11:26 PM Re: The problem with starting and stopping at the certain spots [Re: balalaika]  
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CarolR Offline
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Sounds like a lot of muscle memory at work. How about this; copy their music, cut it up in pieces, rearrange it and have them play through it. Then rearrange it again. This is a great way for them to LOOK at the music and be able to start anywhere.


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Rachmaninoff: Daisies
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