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#2123265 - 07/26/13 11:21 AM Switching teachers  
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Sally C Offline
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I apologize if this post is in the wrong forum, as this is my first time posting here. My son and I both play the piano. He is a beginner and I am an adult student. We moved recently and are taking lessons from someone who lives nearby. She has great credentials but I feel her approach is a little rigid. We have to decide soon if we want to continue for the fall term or find another teacher. I have interviewed so many people at this point that I am entirely confused. How long does it take to get a feel for how to work with a student? As teachers, how flexible is your approach? My son is very young and just starting to read music. We are using the Faber books and he is so confused by the "play with your finger number" thing. I'd appreciate advice on a typical time frame for "settling in" with a teacher and also any words of wisdom on Faber books and teaching beginners. I have my own issues as an adult, but I think finding the right teacher for my son is a more pressing matter.

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#2123283 - 07/26/13 11:48 AM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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bzpiano Offline
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Quote
How long does it take to get a feel for how to work with a student? As teachers, how flexible is your approach?


I am a piano teacher, it usually takes me three months to have the feeling of settle in with a transfer student's habit, deficiency etc and be able to make better judgement in adjusting the curriculum. So, that means, in lesson 1 to lesson 11, I am in trial and error period for the transfer student. During trial and error period, I will be very flexible, usually won't ask parents to buy books until I settle-down with which material to use after the trial and error period.

Of course if student is brand new fresh beginner, I won't have this issues.

Quote
My son is very young and just starting to read music.


In this case, it would be better if your teacher can treated your son as a brand new fresh beginner and ask her to give you the material that she would give to a brand new fresh beginner. I would think that this route is easier for your teacher and your son. Of course would not be easy for you because you will feel that your previous tuition fee had been wasted, but trust me, it is really better for your son and teacher.

Good luck!!

Last edited by ezpiano.org; 07/26/13 11:49 AM.

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#2123290 - 07/26/13 11:52 AM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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Sally C Offline
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OK, that is good to hear. It being summer she teaches every other week, which I also think is part of the issue. He really needs a lesson every week (which will begin again in August). Her style is really different than our last teacher, so it's an adjustment (honestly more for me than for him -- he's happy to do whatever). I think I will just be honest with the teacher and ask if she has any supplemental materials (other than Faber). He likes the theory book, but the singing with the finger number thing trips him up EVERY time!

#2123294 - 07/26/13 11:56 AM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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oh, and I don't feel like our previous lessons were a waste. He got to appreciate music, sing songs, learn to move his fingers on the keys (great for fine motor skills). Eventually it's going to sink in!

#2123297 - 07/26/13 11:58 AM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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sonataplayer Offline
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Lots of questions before I would have any idea how to answer your query.

Hi SallyC,

What do you mean when you say your teacher has a rigid approach? "Rigid" could mean so many things. Do you mean that she won't stray from the Faber series? That she insists on "perfect" playing? Something else?

When you say your son is confused by the "play with your finger number thing" do you mean that he has trouble knowing what his finger numbers are, e.g. does he have trouble remembering that his thumb is finger #1, etc, etc.? Or is it something else?

And probably the most important question would be: How old is your son? If younger than six, perhaps he needs to start in a lesson book geared to preschoolers rather than the primer level Faber.

#2123303 - 07/26/13 12:19 PM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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Sonataplayer,
I guess I feel like she is pretty tied to the book. I am not sure how I feel about the Faber books. I think he gets confused because he is supposed to say the finger number he's using while he plays, but he also is attempting to count out the beats. I can see how this would be confusing. He's saying 4-3-2, 4-3-2, but also trying to remember to count 1-2-3-4 for a whole note. He knows that his thumb is #1, etc.

He is almost 7, so definitely ready to start reading music. He can sit down and draw the notes on the staff when he's not actually playing. Implementing this when he plays is a different matter. I think we should probably sign up for the fall and give them both a chance to know one another better. Again, i think weekly lessons are going to help a lot.

#2123625 - 07/27/13 01:36 AM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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Peter K. Mose Offline
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If each of you is a beginner, lessons conducted at the interval of every 14 days are - how to be tactful here - stupid. No wonder your boy is frustrated, and I'm sure you are as well.

Also, the rigidity you sense in your teacher is probably an accurate perception. Many piano teachers have a rigidity about their teaching style. Many students put up with this, some flourish under it, and some hate it.

I am astonished how many N. American piano teachers are subsidizing the Faber enterprise, but whatever. It's an ok method. If your son has developed any bond yet with his teacher, I'd say give this another year on a weekly basis.

However, I would look for another teacher for yourself. Wait until next fall, and do it weekly for a year. Find someone with a real comfort dealing with you as an adult learner. She sounds wrong for you.

To answer your specific question, it usually takes a few lessons for a piano student and teacher to develop an educational comfort. How many lessons is a few? For me, maybe three or four. There's no clear answer.

It's surprising to me that your head is spinning from talking to so many piano teachers, though. We're not that interesting.

#2123667 - 07/27/13 05:02 AM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Peter K. Mose]  
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musicpassion Offline
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Originally Posted by Peter K. Mose

I am astonished how many N. American piano teachers are subsidizing the Faber enterprise, but whatever. It's an ok method.

I don't understand that either. Marketing?


Pianist and Piano Teacher
#2123758 - 07/27/13 10:57 AM Re: Switching teachers [Re: musicpassion]  
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I use Faber and Faber, along with several binders of supplemental materials. I like their program because it incorporates theory, technique and artistry, and also many types of performance/fun books, along with the standard lesson book.

I give my students a binder of my own making and add pages as needed to work on concepts, new music they like, worksheets, review, etc... no two binders are the same.

For a student that already knows how to count measures, I would skip the first unit or two and start around the time the clefs are introduced.

I have a sheet/quiz that students fill out so I can see what they know if they are a transfer, or "have played around with a lesson book on their own at home."
I ask for definitions of terms, a sample of sight reading, marking the count, etc...

If they can answer it all, they start in level one, not the primer. if just a bit more is needed, I let them borrow my personal set of primer books, since they would only need it for a few weeks.

Some of the on-line Faber videos take 10 minutes per page. while it seems they are having fun, I myself might go crazy at that slow pace!

I try to do a few pages in each book per lesson- warm-up, review old work, work on new concepts, demo what is needed for next week.

Also, once every two weeks, esp. for a beginner, is nuts! since music is a language, that is like going to a foreign language class twice a month only. Frustrating!

Sounds like your son is eager to learn, and the teacher need to jump him ahead to get to where he is.

Good luck!


Learning as I teach.
#2123853 - 07/27/13 03:59 PM Re: Switching teachers [Re: missbelle]  
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musicpassion Offline
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Originally Posted by missbelle
I like their program because it incorporates theory, technique and artistry, and also many types of performance/fun books, along with the standard lesson book.

But every other series does that too - most piano teaching series have the multiple books co-ordinated by level (including the old Alfred, the new Alfred, Piano Town, Bastien, etc.). This has become an expected feature.

I don't greatly dislike the Faber series - I use it sometimes - but I don't understand why it is so widespread. I think marketing must be part of it, and perhaps teachers' conclusion that it's "good enough" Or maybe teachers just use it because that is what the other teachers are using.


Pianist and Piano Teacher
#2124004 - 07/27/13 10:33 PM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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Originally Posted by Sally C
Sonataplayer,
I guess I feel like she is pretty tied to the book. I am not sure how I feel about the Faber books. I think he gets confused because he is supposed to say the finger number he's using while he plays, but he also is attempting to count out the beats. I can see how this would be confusing. He's saying 4-3-2, 4-3-2, but also trying to remember to count 1-2-3-4 for a whole note. He knows that his thumb is #1, etc.
. . . .


When I have a student who is mixing up finger numbers with counting - and believe me that is not unusual - we always switch over to counting "ta". Are you familiar with that? It is the European method I believe - ta = quarter note, ta-ah = half note, ta-ah-ah = dotted half, ta-ah-ah-ah = whole note. The students having that problem are always relieved when I ask if they would like to count "ta".

Last edited by Joyce_dup1; 07/27/13 10:36 PM.
#2124057 - 07/28/13 01:24 AM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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Candywoman Offline
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With respect to the finger numbers, why not play "Telephone" with him. Ask him to place his right thumb on d. One finger covers each white note. Then draw on a page a phone number: 121 The number will get longer for each phone number. So the final number could be seven digits. He could also make up phone numbers that sound good.

I don't think the teacher should ask him to say his numbers as he's playing them on the piano. Rather, ask him to place his fingers on the palm of the opposite hand. Then he could be expected to play a series of finger numbers for one phrase (in one hand only at first) while singing the numbers.

#2124474 - 07/28/13 10:19 PM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Candywoman]  
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missbelle Offline
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I call that
"Phone-In Fingers" and sometimes joke that no long-distance calls are allowed.
smile






Learning as I teach.
#2124751 - 07/29/13 11:30 AM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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Sally C Offline
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these are all good tips! I put my finger on another reason I think the teacher is "rigid": when I told her I really wanted him to start reading music, she said he wasn't ready because he was not always using the correct finger numbers and forgetting proper hand posture. I guess I don't think that everything develops all at once, or that he couldn't learn to read music while still being corrected for using improper technique. He is good at math and can whiz through the theory book, but making that mind-body connection is a different story.

#2124755 - 07/29/13 11:35 AM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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Sally C Offline
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The same teacher didn't want me to read ahead in my music because according to her, if I made a mistake it would be too difficult to then learn it correctly. Um, is this common? I am a fairly advanced student. I have lots of room for improvement but I read music very well. I have never felt unable to make changes to music, even music committed to memory. Currently working on a Mozart Sonata and Shostakovich's Three Fantastic Dances. I don't know, this might just be a personality thing and I'm not sure it's a good fit. Particularly with the Shostakovich, when I get tired of practicing the first one I like to read ahead on the second for a change of pace.

#2124760 - 07/29/13 11:38 AM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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AZNpiano Offline
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Originally Posted by Sally C
The same teacher didn't want me to read ahead in my music because according to her, if I made a mistake it would be too difficult to then learn it correctly. Um, is this common?

Yes. And I teach students who are further along. The main reason is fingering and technique, especially at this level.


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
#2124766 - 07/29/13 11:45 AM Re: Switching teachers [Re: AZNpiano]  
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Ok, but do you give them more than 8 measures to work on? Haha. I studied for 15 years as a child, did one year as a non-music major in college (well-known music school). I am rusty but can follow correct fingerings.

#2124769 - 07/29/13 11:47 AM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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Oh, in answer to Peter, my head is spinning in part because I am trying to find one teacher for both of us. I've met several who would work for my son but don't take adults (or, like the current teacher, only have one or two adults). Ideally I'd like to find someone who teaches enough adults that I could find a duet partner , or do adult recitals in an informal setting. It's a challenge. We moved to Ohio recently and I don't have a lot of good referrals.

#2124922 - 07/29/13 05:19 PM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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Peter K. Mose Offline
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People typically think it is sensible to find one piano teacher who will teach both the parent and the child, though in separate lessons (possibly back to back).


Generally I don`t find this a good idea, even if the teacher is comfortable with both student age groups. For that matter, I also think siblings are better off with different teachers.

My views, of course, are far from practical.

#2124926 - 07/29/13 05:24 PM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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Peter K. Mose Offline
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In specific answer to Sally, this teacher sounds far too dreary for you. Keep looking around, and please don`t settle.

#2124929 - 07/29/13 05:34 PM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Joyce_dup1]  
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Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted by Joyce_dup1
Originally Posted by Sally C
Sonataplayer,
I guess I feel like she is pretty tied to the book. I am not sure how I feel about the Faber books. I think he gets confused because he is supposed to say the finger number he's using while he plays, but he also is attempting to count out the beats. I can see how this would be confusing. He's saying 4-3-2, 4-3-2, but also trying to remember to count 1-2-3-4 for a whole note. He knows that his thumb is #1, etc.
. . . .


When I have a student who is mixing up finger numbers with counting - and believe me that is not unusual - we always switch over to counting "ta". Are you familiar with that? It is the European method I believe - ta = quarter note, ta-ah = half note, ta-ah-ah = dotted half, ta-ah-ah-ah = whole note. The students having that problem are always relieved when I ask if they would like to count "ta".
When a student is just learning, I don't worry so much about counting because they're just getting used to finger numbers. It's impossible to think the finger numbers and beat numbers simultaneously. I never have a student say finger numbers out loud, however. In fact, I encourage students to read more intervals than finger numbers as soon as I know they know their finger numbers well. Then they can count the beats out loud.


private piano/voice teacher FT

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#2124930 - 07/29/13 05:34 PM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Peter K. Mose]  
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Sally C Offline
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Peter, I think you may be right. I am never going to be a concert pianist, but I want someone who appreciates how big of an endeavor it is for an adult to take up piano as a hobby, and how much it means to me on a personal level. I have a pretty deep appreciation for music or I wouldn't be doing it every day.
She may be too dreary for my son, too, but that doesn't mean we have to have the same teacher. As it is, we take lessons on different days because I don't want to worry about him getting bored and interrupting my lesson. Not that it would necessarily happen, but my lesson is my own time. As an aside, what are your thoughts on music academies? Specifically, Ohio State has a music academy school run through the conservatory here. It offers lessons and we could take from different teachers (probably at the same time). They also offer other types of lessons (string, woodwind, voice). My only fear is that it could be a graduate student that leaves just as we get comfortable together. I know they have many adult students and performance opportunities for children and adults alike.


#2124931 - 07/29/13 05:34 PM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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And thank you for your thoughtful replies!

#2124971 - 07/29/13 07:08 PM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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Jeff Clef Offline
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It is a crap shoot, Sally. There is really no way to tell about these teachers--- including personal recommendations--- except to roll the dice and give the next one a try. A fair try, of course, and keeping in mind that expecting perfection is to invite a grumpy and sour attitude toward this very imperfect, yet lovely, world. In the end, the teaching relationship either works for you, or it doesn't. Don't be afraid to give notice and try again.

There are teachers who feel that their students are their property, like so many cows wearing their brand. This is deluded thinking; pay it no attention. If you and your child progress, and if the overall experience of music study is positive and enjoyable, then in my book, that is good enough to keep going.

The long haul may be a different story. Some teachers turn lazy, get bored, or develop unsightly eccentricities and bad habits after a certain time, though they may have been entirely fine initially. It is better not to try to maintain or reform these unhealthy relationships--- after all, there is no "til death do us part" contract--- and simply to move on, saying, "Your time is up; thank you for sharing."

There is a certain horror that comes from wondering if these teachers are merely reflecting one's own characteristics--- perhaps unsuspected ones, that are obvious to everyone but us. Your written voice does not make it sound as if you are that kind of person. It may, or may not, be profitable for some of us to give this question due consideration, and to make sure that it is not the case. I offer it for what it's worth.

Good luck to you--- I'm sure you will find a wonderful teacher who can take you a long way.


Clef

#2125074 - 07/30/13 12:33 AM Re: Switching teachers [Re: Sally C]  
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Sally, I sent you a PM. But in answer to your query about a community music school connected to a major university with a good music department and perhaps a piano pedagogy progam, my thoughts are mixed. You probably will get a young grad student teacher, whose teaching is supervised in some fashion, and may reflect current ideas.

That`s good, especially if the teacher you have is studying music education or piano pedagogy, instead of performance.

However, as you have guessed, the chances are that this young teacher will leave the area after a year or two. That`s less good. Also, the chances are that this teacher has little experience. That may be frustrating for an adult student.

I`d say, interview a couple of teachers at such an academy, but don`t consider them automatically right for your or your child.

Last edited by Peter K. Mose; 07/30/13 12:36 AM.

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