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#1972903 - 10/13/12 07:48 PM Do you ever let students choose their songs?  
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Brinestone Offline
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While controlling the options, of course. But have you ever played two or three songs, all of which would teach the student a specific skill or technique, and asked the student which one they'd prefer to learn?

I do it, and I find it helps kids to stay excited about music, since they're playing music they like. I also find that when I ask, once in a while, which songs they prefer, they surprise me with what they choose and how hard they're willing to work to play the songs they love. The drawback, of course, is the time it takes to play through two or three songs, which could have been spent teaching if I had just picked one ahead of time.


Piano teacher since 2008, member of NFMC
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#1972938 - 10/13/12 09:30 PM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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You mean some teachers .... don't .... ??? mad


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wink

#1972944 - 10/13/12 10:03 PM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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Exactly, Piano*Dad! If I found myself with a teacher who chose all my pieces for me, I'd be looking for a new teacher ASAP!

Understand that I am not a young child (not by a long chalk!), and I do understand and accept those pieces that ARE chosen for me are for specific techniques/skills work.

But for a teacher to choose EVERYTHING I work on? Nuh-uh... can you say "No fun?"


Collector of sheet music I can't play.
#1972945 - 10/13/12 10:05 PM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: JeanieA]  
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Originally Posted by JeanieA
Exactly, Piano*Dad! If I found myself with a teacher who chose all my pieces for me, I'd be looking for a new teacher ASAP!

Understand that I am not a young child (not by a long chalk!), and I do understand and accept those pieces that ARE chosen for me are for specific techniques/skills work.

But for a teacher to choose EVERYTHING I work on? Nuh-uh... can you say "No fun?"
I'm pretty sure this is about kids, not adults.


A linguistics major who loves piano and knows too much theory/history without knowing how to play it as well as he wants to be able to.

Let's hope that changes. Taught piano for almost two years and currently working on:
"Going back to the basics..."
#1972966 - 10/13/12 11:45 PM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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I let my students play any song they like. [Linked Image] Just not on my time.

However, when it comes to selecting pieces (repertoire or etudes) for their advancement, I'm really not very flexible until they achieve some level of advancement and maturity. And that seldom happens before the teen years.

Consider, their parents are paying me for my expertise. As a teacher, you ought to be able to outsmart a willful child and achieve your teaching goals for each student.


"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
#1973011 - 10/14/12 03:55 AM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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The teacher who started this thread wrote:
Originally Posted by Brinestone
But have you ever played two or three songs, all of which would teach the student a specific skill or technique, and asked the student which one they'd prefer to learn?

So in this case the teacher has chosen music which will teach the skills the teacher is after, but is giving the student an option among a limited choice. How about that scenario?

I understand that teachers don't just choose repertoire that will contain the skills that they want to teach. They have also studied a given piece, and know how they want to teach it, and how it fits in their program as a whole. That would be another consideration.

What I got from Brinestone's post is that since the student chose the piece, he is especially motivated to learn it, and puts more work into it.

#1973030 - 10/14/12 06:10 AM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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How does that work with their sheet music?


Private piano teacher since 2003
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ASME (Australian Society for Music Education),
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KMEIA (Kodály Music Education Institute of Australia).
#1973073 - 10/14/12 09:19 AM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: keystring]  
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Actually, for my advanced students, I do that a lot (as you know from my previous posts on this subject). Eventually, we cover a lot of ground. When you get into advanced Romantic lit, there isn't much a student won't like when you play it well, and also know that at this level, you're refining technique, while expanding the student's musical lit horizons.


"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
#1973074 - 10/14/12 09:19 AM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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I do that all of the time. This particularly happens if the student is a fast learner and doesn't need to go over all of the pieces reviewing a single concept. If they have a good grasp on something, I'll let them pick one of two or three pieces to go over. I'll only have them do both if they really need further study or review.

For supplementary books, I'll play the entire book for them when they first receive the book, and ask for their input for what pieces they would eventually like to play. I'll then introduce pieces as they correlate with their method or their learning capacity.

Doing both these things brings even the non-practicing students to want to spend more time at the piano!


Pianist/Accompanist/Piano Instructor
#1973172 - 10/14/12 12:55 PM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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My daughter's teacher doesn't have her pick out music, but she does ask what she likes and lets her have input. She knows blues, swing, and jazz are all preferences.

When it comes to recital pieces she brought is several pieces of music and asked which she liked.

#1973508 - 10/15/12 09:26 AM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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I use a method series, but after the primer level or second book, I let most (not all) of my students choose an alternate book to Performance if they want. When I notice a student getting "stuck" on one genre, I will add an additional book and/or sheet music of my choosing.

I will also give several choices to *most* of my students for recitals and Christmas. (I have a large library of loaners.) There are a few scenarios where I don't offer a choice. I may choose a piece I think a certain student would benefit from learning. Once in awhile I have a student who hates everything I offer, and I have learned to not offer them a choice. I also have a student here or there who moves so slowly that offering an additional piece would derail us all together, and those students simply play from rep they've already learned.

I do like my students to balance work with play, so try to make sure they are playing things that are fun for them. (Reminder, I do teach only beginners. I'm still working on helping them "fall in love".)


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#1973513 - 10/15/12 09:45 AM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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Of course, a teacher can have strong feelings about the importance of teaching a certain set of primer pieces in a particular order to very young children. But that is not the issue here, I think. If that is all, then the discussion is trivialized.

I don't think this issue is about how to outwit a youngster. And even students who are quite young can be given an option with regard to certain portions of their work. Even from his earliest years, my son was give some choice over what he played. Most pieces were assigned, of course. But his teacher often allowed him some options in selecting recital pieces. These were all selections she knew would fit the bill, so the real control over pedagogical content remained with her. Part of the rationale was indeed to motivate him to bond with the piece in ways that made him work harder to do well, and to get the musical point of the work. I credit that behavior for part of his success in advancing quickly, and for surviving the great middle school drop out time.

#1973535 - 10/15/12 10:39 AM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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I usually assign about five pieces. For my younger students, two or three come from the "lesson book" I use. One or two come from supplementary but complementary material, which I lend them from my library. Usually I have them working on Dozen a Day or scales or something like that as well. Often, one is being learned by rote or by ear. Not every student has the last one all the time, though. As they advance past the lesson books, they usually are doing all "supplementary material." That is, they'll be doing a Burgmueller piece, a Kabalevsky, a duet with another student, and a piece of sheet music, for example.


Piano teacher since 2008, member of NFMC
#1973542 - 10/15/12 11:04 AM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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P*D, I specifically stated outsmarting a willful child. Perhaps you've not run into those, but perhaps 1 in 15 or 1 in 20 fall into that category. They have all the answers, they know what they like, etc., etc. Won't try anything outside their comfort zone. A good part of our job is to expand student's musical horizons. That doesn't imply no choice, but it does necessitate limited choice.

And what is the purpose of choice in the first place? To placate students? To motivate students? To make students feel good about themselves? IMO, these are really sorry reasons/excuses, and implies a certain amount of laziness on the part of the teacher.

I attended an interesting conference this weekend, with a presenter, Dr. Sasha Starcevich. He teaches his beginning students nothing but technique for months, before introducing note reading and the first piece. By year's end, most of his students are playing the early Bach dances. By the end of year 3 or 4, they are into early advanced lit. With the technique to do so successfully.

Isn't that what a parent really wants for his child? Or an adult student for themself? Attaining the skills so that they can play what they want when they want to? In the least amount of time? Deviations from a proven curriculum become time wasters at some point and it's probably wise to minimize these.


"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
#1973546 - 10/15/12 11:21 AM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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This discussion is too abstract. At the end of the day you are going to make your decisions according to the student in front of you and the needs that you see. If you have a timid, overly obedient child who is there because his parents want him there, then maybe you would give him choices among several pieces that will all teach the same skills. If that child can start practicing because of his own motivation, there are many positives from it. If your student is the opposite, then your choices will be different. Any good teacher will have general principals of what works, but also be flexible according to the student's needs and strengths.

Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Isn't that what a parent really wants for his child? Or an adult student for themself? Attaining the skills so that they can play what they want when they want to? In the least amount of time? Deviations from a proven curriculum become time wasters at some point and it's probably wise to minimize these.

There is only one question I have in this: the OP's premise was that of having several pieces which would each give the same skills. If that is possible, then there would be no compromise on that account.

I'm also thinking that the how of learning to play is the most important thing that should not be compromised. I.e. no skipping of skills because somebody doesn't "feel like it". And yes, that is what an adult should want for him or herself, and also what the child wants deep down. All children try to become skilled at things when the motivation is their own.

I actually agree with you in the main, John, because of my own experience as parent of a music student, and then as the student.

#1973547 - 10/15/12 11:32 AM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: keystring]  
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I think you've fairly well nailed it, KS. Over the years, I have found pieces which teach the same technique, in widely diverse styles. For example, a set of pieces by Rollins teach the same skills as a Clementi sonatina. Which one is more fun for the student? Often, the former. But at some point, you need to introduce the classical style and sound, and then it's more of a choice between a Diabelli, Clementi or Kuhlau sonatina.


"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
#1973564 - 10/15/12 12:15 PM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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John,

In response to the OP, I don't think anyone has said, "choice? NEVER!!!" So the discussion is beyond that.

I really don't want to get into semantic deconstructions, but some of the things you are saying seem odd, to say the least, and actually rather extreme.

Quote
And what is the purpose of choice in the first place? To placate students? To motivate students? To make students feel good about themselves? IMO, these are really sorry reasons/excuses, and implies a certain amount of laziness on the part of the teacher.


My mouth kind of dropped open at that one. Choice is the technique of the lazy teacher? Hmmm. Earlier, you said that "I" was unable to grasp the concept of the unruly student, the perhaps 1 in 20. Grasp? Of course I can. Rule out a strategy -- choice as a tool, and only a tool -- on the basis of 1 in 20 where you have to force the unruly to submit? Hmmmm. And why is choice identified as teacher laziness? Couldn't it be something else? Maybe "motivation" is NOT just the method of the post-modern "feel good," "self-esteem" movement. Maybe it is good solid pedagogy with a long tradition, and one that can work quite well for many students who are quite normal.

#1973565 - 10/15/12 12:20 PM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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That's the main problem with these types of discussion. I'm talking about "choice" in foundation material when the teacher knows they should be giving X or Y but is placating a recalcitrant student by giving the B or C. Giving into a student when you know better? How would you classify that if not teacher laziness? Perhaps we can come up with a better word choice.


"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
#1973569 - 10/15/12 12:34 PM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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Who has advocated for that? Who has suggested that a teacher should deliberately allow their students to select works that are pedagogically inappropriate just in order to placate them? It's easy to smack that little straw man to pieces!

The area becomes a bit more grey if we are talking about how best to reel in the recalcitrant student. One approach is subtle and slow, and it may involve allowing students to do things in the short run, things that may seem pedagogically inefficient, in order to change the student/family outlook over time. Another approach is firm and absolute -- my way or the highway and here is why. One can argue both cases. I have seen the former approach work. I suspect, based on what you have written, that you would choose the latter. For some students, I imagine thunderbolts about what they must study and tablets of stone engraved with rules of pedagogy could be the best approach! (Forgive me, I'm on a roll here ... smile ).


#1973686 - 10/15/12 04:59 PM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
For some students, I imagine thunderbolts about what they must study and tablets of stone engraved with rules of pedagogy could be the best approach! (Forgive me, I'm on a roll here ... smile ).

I think you're describing me. tiki ha ha ha


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
#1973695 - 10/15/12 05:20 PM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: AZNpiano]  
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
For some students, I imagine thunderbolts about what they must study and tablets of stone engraved with rules of pedagogy could be the best approach! (Forgive me, I'm on a roll here ... smile ).

I think you're describing me. tiki ha ha ha


If you listen to From the Top, it sounds like a common stance of teachers of great young musicians. The kids sound giggly and silly and then they talk about their teacher and there is a LOT of respect in their comments. Very, "my way or the highway" from the teacher. Love too. But also professional.

#1973717 - 10/15/12 06:04 PM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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It's healthy for anyone to choose and play music they enjoy but not always appropriate to work on them in lessons. In fact if someone wants to learn a particular piece there is not much you could do to prevent it. I remember spending a lot of time as a child playing things not assigned by my teacher and it never occurred to me to take it to a lesson. I played what my teacher had set and also music I enjoyed and sometimes I even enjoyed what he gave me haha!

I give a limited choice but must admit often try to steer them towards certain pieces. The biggest problem I find is if you ask which one they want to play they just say, 'which is easiest?'. I guess that's normal for most kids. Also it's very rare that they really don't like a piece when they are able to play it whether they have chosen it or not.


Pianist and piano teacher.
#1973720 - 10/15/12 06:12 PM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: AZNpiano]  
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
For some students, I imagine thunderbolts about what they must study and tablets of stone engraved with rules of pedagogy could be the best approach! (Forgive me, I'm on a roll here ... smile ).

I think you're describing me. tiki ha ha ha


I'm sitting here imagining you standing on a hillside with your robes flowing, holding aloft two stone tablets engraved with a list of etudes, preludes, ballades and sonatas. Quite an image. grin

#1973740 - 10/15/12 07:10 PM Re: Do you ever let students choose their songs? [Re: Brinestone]  
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P*D, nothing worse than discussion interruptus. Had to run off to a rather lengthy med appointment.

As a general rule, I attempt to teach basic piano playing technique within the first three years of lessons. From that point on, we're refining, and when and if a student gets to advanced literature, there are additional techniques which must be taught. However, what is taught in the first 3 years is very critical and generally sufficient for playing music through early advanced lit, which is the goal of most of my students (can't speak for others here).

Piano playing technique is only one aspect of music I teach. The other major aspect is literature. Piano playing didn't begin with boogey woogey, even though there are many pianists who seem to believe this. If you're going to play Romantic literature at all, a foundation understanding of Classical and Baroque is necessary. For instance, if I'm teaching dance styles, I begin with the Baroque, and JS Bach, although Handle, Scarlatti, or others would be just as appropriate. Generally speaking the French Suites present a very nice collection of dances in various styles, and it doesn't matter which one of the six you choose, but choose one you must, or you don't learn the basics. That is, to learn a Gavotte, you can choose from on of the six. Ditto a Courante, Allemande, etc.

I am well aware of what the OP wrote, and answered that, along with dozens of other teachers who stated similar thoughts. I was attempting, obviously unsuccessfully, to refine the topic a bit. Hope this clarifies.


"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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