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Starting a student over #2566357 08/26/16 09:28 PM
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Arghhh Offline OP
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Originally Posted by AZNPiano
I get transfer wrecks all the time, and they don't always reveal all their problems at first. Get used to getting simpler and simpler books. In some cases, it might be easier to start over.

(from a thread about this student that I opened last year)

I took on a 12-year old transfer student last year who with her previous teacher took the RCM Grade 3 exam and passed with a mid-70s mark. At the first lesson (I mistakenly didn't do an interview for this family!) I discovered that she had almost no idea how to read music, didn't know her finger numbers well (left hand was reversed), had to find all keys on the piano starting from C and going up through the alphabet (so B was found also by going up).

I erroneously decided to do the Gr. 4 exam to keep up the expectations and I supplemented that with the Ultimate Music Theory Prep 1 book for theory and Mikrokosmos book 1 for reading. Mikrokosmos lasted until Christmas when we moved to Christmas songs, and she said she really preferred those over the Mikrokosmos, probably because it was too foreign. However, she has a good ear, so instead of reading the Christmas music she would fumble around on the notes by ear. I also taught intervals up to a 5th, and tried to teach guide notes but she balked on that one saying she is not a good memorizer and consistently "forgot" to study them.

At some point in the past, either her teacher or she gave up on reading music, and now she has zero confidence. It is my goal to build this up.



When trying to finish the Gr. 4 exam material I think we both hit a frustration level of about 4/5. She still passed with a low 70s mark. The last comment on her exam sheet said, "Sight Reading - please add to rehearsal herein."!

There is no way she is doing Gr. 5 this year.

My challenge at this point is to find some material that moves slowly enough for her, and yet doesn't look too much like her old method books that she's been done with for probably four years now. What I've come up with is Edna Mae Burnam's "Step by Step". I really feel that aside from spending a whole week on just middle Cs, this moves at a good pace. Older-beginner and adult series would move too quickly, and Piano Adventures is definitely out.
Pros:
- moves at a consistent but slower pace
- has all the important information on one page/book
- doesn't look like a typical kiddie method book (black and white antiquated drawings are more sophisticated than cartoonish full-colour images)
- won't compare to the books her younger brother is going through
- music sounds normal, but is largely not familiar tunes

Cons:
- It is a middle-C approach (but I'm thinking that if I make sure she can play and name all the notes as we go along, reinforce intervallic reading, and transpose them into F, G, D, etc this might still work.)
- too many finger numbers (so I'll black out all except for the first/essential ones)

Are there any other cons I might be missing from this approach?


I'd also find some other music similar to what she learned last year to have something more substantial to work on.

(sorry, long post!)


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Re: Starting a student over [Re: Arghhh] #2566360 08/26/16 10:09 PM
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What about Hal Leonard Adult Method? It goes fairly slowly, no kiddie pictures, and you can supplement with other fun pieces to ensure that you don't rush through.

Hint: buy the book for her and bill her for it. Remove the CDs prior to giving it to her (you can give her the CDs later smile ).


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Re: Starting a student over [Re: Morodiene] #2566380 08/26/16 11:53 PM
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Arghhh Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
What about Hal Leonard Adult Method? It goes fairly slowly, no kiddie pictures, and you can supplement with other fun pieces to ensure that you don't rush through.

Hint: buy the book for her and bill her for it. Remove the CDs prior to giving it to her (you can give her the CDs later smile ).


I hadn't looked at this series. I did look at the regular one, and on a short glance thought it moved too quickly.


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Re: Starting a student over [Re: Morodiene] #2566411 08/27/16 03:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
What about Hal Leonard Adult Method? It goes fairly slowly, no kiddie pictures, and you can supplement with other fun pieces to ensure that you don't rush through.

Hint: buy the book for her and bill her for it. Remove the CDs prior to giving it to her (you can give her the CDs later smile ).

A word about "kiddie" pictures:

These have to do with level, not kids. Beginning books for adults are also made with lots of "color" and "words". The notes are bigger. And so on.

But if you are teaching a super-talented 7 year old who is already playing Kabalevsky, Bartok and equally sophisticated music by any composer in any style from any period, all the cute stuff is gone - and the notes are small.

There is something horribly wrong about the way piano is taught...

Re: Starting a student over [Re: Arghhh] #2566454 08/27/16 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Arghhh
However, she has a good ear, so instead of reading the Christmas music she would fumble around on the notes by ear.


That's what I would like to learn eventually! It looks easy, but the little I've understood of learning piano, I can see that is not just "good ear", it is a skill in itself that you develop by little by little being able to relate the sounds in your mind to the notes on the piano.

Anyhow, I am learning sight-reading (hoping it'll help me with that above some day laugh ). She (and you) might have a problem now because she's learnt how to trick her playing, so this is probably the most difficult part. Then, I think she needs to spend a long time with 0 level music, to make sure she is actually reading it. The method books I've used are all different, and all are good. I think the best is to use lots of them keeping it as basic as necessary to make sure she is reading (some of the basic method books I've been using are Bastien, Thompson, First Year's Joy). But I am clear it needs to start from total 0 or we'd be soon frustrated not understanding or not being able to read.

I am still at level 1 after more than a year. She could advance much faster than me at her age, but that is something that depends on her and you can't force. She needs to be convinced that she needs sight-reading to be able to read all the music in the world! smile You'll be helping her with things she doesn't understand but her practice is what will really make the difference.

It looks like a very interesting challenge!

Re: Starting a student over [Re: Morodiene] #2566457 08/27/16 08:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
What about Hal Leonard Adult Method? It goes fairly slowly, no kiddie pictures, and you can supplement with other fun pieces to ensure that you don't rush through.



I was looking at method books to order some and I can't remember why but this (level 1 and 2...there's no more) are in my list. smile

Re: Starting a student over [Re: Arghhh] #2566538 08/27/16 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Arghhh
Originally Posted by Morodiene
What about Hal Leonard Adult Method? It goes fairly slowly, no kiddie pictures, and you can supplement with other fun pieces to ensure that you don't rush through.

Hint: buy the book for her and bill her for it. Remove the CDs prior to giving it to her (you can give her the CDs later smile ).


I hadn't looked at this series. I did look at the regular one, and on a short glance thought it moved too quickly.


Well, you may not be able to find a method that fits perfectly with your student. This is common, and so the the best solution is always to supplement with material that reviews what was just learned or what is currently being learned to help the student solidify concepts before moving ahead. This may mean that the student isn't finishing a level in 6 months or something, but so what as long as they can learn to play well at whatever level they are at is what matters, IMO.


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Re: Starting a student over [Re: Arghhh] #2566702 08/28/16 03:13 AM
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Now you figured out those exams mean diddly-squat?

The last time I took RCM transfers I literally started them over because they know NOTHING. How they managed to "pass" for several levels is beyond my wildest imagination. Their mother objected to the demotion and took them to somebody who wouldn't start them over, and eventually they hopped over to one of my friends who has more tolerance for pain than I do. The last time I heard, they both quit lessons--or hopped on over to another teacher who can tolerate even more pain from those hapless students and their clueless mother!

............

Now, about your student, are you sure you're not babying her??

Maybe I'm just lucky that I get stuck with some resilient kids who didn't mind the demotion. In fact, one 10-year-old kid didn't even realize I'm starting him over even though his new book clearly states "Level 1" on it. He's not out of the woods yet, as the damage done by his first two teachers is almost un-fixable. But, again, I'm the piano teacher with the magic dust.

My suggestion is to worry less about how the student would react, but do more about fixing the problems quickly and effectively.


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Re: Starting a student over [Re: AZNpiano] #2566752 08/28/16 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
N... In fact, one 10-year-old kid didn't even realize I'm starting him over even though his new book clearly states "Level 1" on it...


If it starts to bother him you could take a Sharpie and add a 0 so that the book stated "Level 10."


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Re: Starting a student over [Re: AZNpiano] #2566911 08/28/16 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Now you figured out those exams mean diddly-squat?

The last time I took RCM transfers I literally started them over because they know NOTHING. How they managed to "pass" for several levels is beyond my wildest imagination.

I figured that out last year when I took these transfers on. I don't have to imagine anymore. I did it last year. There was much frustration, misery, hair pulling, etc. I can't imagine why any teacher would subject themselves to this for every student.


Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Now, about your student, are you sure you're not babying her??

I might be babying, but only because she has zero confidence. In my experience, I will procrastinate or not try as hard at something where I think I might fail. It's better to not try your best and fail than try your best and fail. This student thinks she will fail, so by starting at the simplest level and making sure she is always successful then she will gain confidence. I would say it is baby steps, not babying.

Last edited by Arghhh; 08/28/16 07:36 PM.

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Re: Starting a student over [Re: Arghhh] #2585781 11/09/16 03:53 PM
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Reviving this thread, because I'm now wondering - how can I know if I'm babying this student?

We've been going through the Hal Leonard Adult method, as well as a couple harder Gr. 5 RCM pieces. When I asked if she wanted me to show her how to play the Gr. 5 pieces, she was determined to read the notes and do it herself. The student seems much happier in lessons, gets practicing in on most days of the week (although I think there is a monetary incentive at home for practicing).

I've started each lesson by asking her to play me a G on the piano. It took about 6 lessons for her to find it without counting up from C, unless I prompted her to find the three black keys and then play G and A. She still will try to count up from C on occasion.

Every couple of weeks I'll ask her to review one of the Rhythm Flags from Piano Adventures, and then I'll quiz her on the names of the notes - half note, quarter note, etc. She almost has those down, but it's still not solid, especially on the weeks she hasn't reviewed them.

I've also given her flash cards to learn the note names of the notes from Bass F up to Treble G, and asked her to choose 4 bass clef or 4 treble clef notes each day to study. She's indicated that she has studied them, but is still really slow at naming the notes. Yesterday she had B below Middle C and G mixed up, occasionally A and F were mixed up too.

At this point, I don't know if she isn't putting a good effort in at home to learn these things, or if she really is that bad at memorizing. If she is that bad, then I can't tell her I expect it to be done next week.

Should I ask her parents to help her study? Should I ask the parent if she has any learning difficulties at school?


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Re: Starting a student over [Re: Arghhh] #2585799 11/09/16 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Arghhh
I've also given her flash cards to learn the note names of the notes from Bass F up to Treble G, and asked her to choose 4 bass clef or 4 treble clef notes each day to study. She's indicated that she has studied them, but is still really slow at naming the notes. Yesterday she had B below Middle C and G mixed up, occasionally A and F were mixed up too.

These mixed up notes, how does this relate to either clef?
(I learned a system outside of flashcards but that's a different thing)

Re: Starting a student over [Re: keystring] #2585886 11/10/16 01:57 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by Arghhh
I've also given her flash cards to learn the note names of the notes from Bass F up to Treble G, and asked her to choose 4 bass clef or 4 treble clef notes each day to study. She's indicated that she has studied them, but is still really slow at naming the notes. Yesterday she had B below Middle C and G mixed up, occasionally A and F were mixed up too.

These mixed up notes, how does this relate to either clef?
(I learned a system outside of flashcards but that's a different thing)


I'm not sure I understand the question. The G and B are the space notes at the top of the bass clef staff - the B is one step below middle C, and the G is one step above Bass F (second line from the top in the bass clef).


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Re: Starting a student over [Re: Arghhh] #2585894 11/10/16 04:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Arghhh
Should I ask the parent if she has any learning difficulties at school?

All you have to do is to ask a math question or ask the student to read you a paragraph out of a music history book. It's very telling.

But I have taught one student who was an honors student at school and excelled in everything. Then when it came to piano lessons it's like he left his brain at the porch. Maybe he wasn't experienced in failure, so he panicked and can't even find middle C. His reading of English was brilliant, and he was very mathematical. Perhaps he has no musical intelligence. That I was pretty certain of. Maybe there were psychological factors, too. But I think he just hates piano.


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Re: Starting a student over [Re: Arghhh] #2585907 11/10/16 05:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Arghhh
Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by Arghhh
I've also given her flash cards to learn the note names of the notes from Bass F up to Treble G, and asked her to choose 4 bass clef or 4 treble clef notes each day to study. She's indicated that she has studied them, but is still really slow at naming the notes. Yesterday she had B below Middle C and G mixed up, occasionally A and F were mixed up too.

These mixed up notes, how does this relate to either clef?
(I learned a system outside of flashcards but that's a different thing)


I'm not sure I understand the question. The G and B are the space notes at the top of the bass clef staff - the B is one step below middle C, and the G is one step above Bass F (second line from the top in the bass clef).

First thing, I did not catch the first time that there was a range of Bass F to Middle G, so you're having her learn to read both clefs at the same time, but within that range. That limits which F, G, A or B you might have meant. "B below middle C" has two possibilities in that range, since it can be shown on the treble clef as well as the bass clef. G could have been G4 on the treble clef, or G3 on the bass clef. Which notes mattered since it gives a pattern, and that is why I asked.

With your new information I drew a picture (see bottom). So now I see that what the student was mixing up were two adjacent line or space notes. It is clear to me, since I have the full picture in front of me. If I were starting off learning, and had separate individual notes on a flashcard I would just be trying to memorize notes and I might not see the relationships. In fact, I had to draw that picture for myself because I was getting mixed up just from reading your response, and I read music fairly well.

I think you're trying to make it easy by limiting the range of notes. But now the student is contending with two clefs, only seen in flash cards one note as a time (if I'm understanding this right), studies in an intellectual manner. It may not be the best way to go about it.

A question to teachers who use flashcards in teaching: Do you teach treble and bass clef simultaneously? Separately? Any particular approach to have the student orient?

(I don't like the idea of flashcards myself, but if they're being used, one might as well explore how they might be used). [Linked Image]

Re: Starting a student over [Re: Arghhh] #2585910 11/10/16 06:16 AM
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Looking at the diagram where I was working out what you are doing, does your approach have to do with landmarks? I.e. "range F3 to G4" happens to go with "bass clef depicts F, treble clef depicts G", where those two lines become "landmarks".

Re: Starting a student over [Re: Arghhh] #2586034 11/10/16 04:42 PM
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Hi Arghhh,

How involved were her parents? I believe they’d be much appreciated if you would bring up the issue for discussion so as to find a way to help her. As a ‘clueless’ parent, I’m still astounded to hear that she could pass RCM Grade 4 and could not find a G on the piano. IMHO, it has to be a deeper issue. Maybe it’s something that they are aware of but would feel, somehow, ‘embarrassed’ to talk about. Probably that’s why
Originally Posted by Arghhh
she balked on that one saying she is not a good memorizer and consistently "forgot" to study them.

As for the RCM exams, sight reading only accounts for 10% of the practical exam; so, in theory, she could still pass the exams with 90% while ‘skipping’ the entire sight reading parts. However, starting at Grade 5, she wouldn’t be able to get her RCM Grade 5 certificate if she failed the required Theory Level 5 (Basic Rudiments) exam even if she passed the practical exam at 100%.

I wholeheartedly agree that students need sight reading to be well-rounded musicians and, of course, we all want our kids/students to be able to sight read fluently. OTOH, sight reading is not a skill that can be acquired easily. Unless you are gifted, I believe it takes time and practice. Given the same training/effort, the ability to sight read will vary widely from one person to the next. If someone knows a shortcut, please tell. @AZNpiano, I wish you can make all your ‘RCM transfer wrecks’ be able to sight read overnight with just a blow of your ‘magic dust’ :-)

If, indeed, she just can’t read music, let’s forget about the exams. She has a good ear; so, teach her to enjoy playing piano and, maybe, inspire her create her own music. Can someone make wonderful music without sight reading skill? Absolutely!
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Has she ever heard of Yanni?
https://www.quora.com/Is-it-true-that-Yanni-cant-read-music

Re: Starting a student over [Re: dha] #2586070 11/10/16 06:42 PM
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Originally Posted by dha
@AZNpiano, I wish you can make all your ‘RCM transfer wrecks’ be able to sight read overnight with just a blow of your ‘magic dust’ :-)

I think I'm all out. No more magic dust.


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Re: Starting a student over [Re: Arghhh] #2586150 11/11/16 02:06 AM
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Keystring - your pictures are correct, although I am not using the B below middle C as written in the treble clef. All the notes on the flash cards are the ones in the pieces she is playing from in the method book. If she gets stuck on B, I ask which is the closest landmark note (which is Middle C). My student finds it difficult to count backwards in the alphabet, so each lesson we also say "A B C, C B A", "A B C D, D C B A", etc.

With the landmark note (what I call guide note) approach, I don't see a problem with learning both clefs at the same time. Also, she's learning the notes at the bottom of the treble clef and the top of the bass clef, and always sees the two clefs together, so there can't be any confusion over the 3rd space in the bass clef is named E while the third space in the treble clef is named C.

dha - When restarting this year, I told my student that some time when she was first learning piano, either she or her teacher gave up on reading. I told her I wasn't interested in blaming anyone for the past, but I wasn't going to give up on her, and all she had to do was do her best. She was allowed to not understand things, and I wanted her to tell me if she didn't understand something so we could work it out. The parents used to "help" out while practicing so that their kids never needed to learn the notes for themselves (if you read DeepPianoFish's post in the note reading thread you'll get a clear idea of their kind of help). If it does turn out the reading is too difficult then I am no longer the right teacher because I don't have enough experience in improvising.


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Re: Starting a student over [Re: Arghhh] #2586190 11/11/16 08:01 AM
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Arghh, thank you for answering. If the approach were working well, then the problem you cited would not occur, which is why I asked for further information to see if we could see further. I would like to know whether other teachers teach both clefs at the same time - if they don't - why, in either case, and what their experiences have been. Maybe a broader picture can emerge.

I'm trying to understand your approach better. So you have the landmarks. You talk about "counting forward and backward". So when the student starts with the landmark, are you having her count up and down from the landmark in this manner? Her particular items of confusion may come from part of the approach so that's worth looking at.

Personally I don't like the flashcard idea that much because it is divorced from the piano, and divorced from music. If I were using flashcards of individual notes, both clefs at the same time, I don't think I would have done well in reading. When we read piano music, we are actually associating that "musical graph" to the piano keys as a single action.

I'm also thinking that if she has done music for a long time without knowing how to read, that when you give her music to practice, she is not going to apply the reading (that she doesn't have) to that music. And you can't suddenly "turn on" the flashcard work and make it work for the music.

What if, for example, you featured a single line for the week, and that line is the one she must find in her music as well, and locate it on the piano. Say the line on the top of the bass clef, which is the first piano key above the three black keys, and we call A. Maybe another line on the bottom of the treble clef (giving us E - same piano keys association). Within a month she would be recognizing 8 notes (two per week) which are in her body, in the piano keys, and in that notation, plus a starting habit in "reading" music. This way you are engaging multiple senses.

To me the flashcards, counting backwards and forwards, and maybe counting up and down to notes, is rather abstract, indirect, and more complicated. Finding a single line on both notation and piano is ultra simple so it might stick.

I've learned a fair bit about teaching in the past years, but when I restarted piano I did not have a reliable way of reading. I was still without a teacher, and I set out to get at very few notes each week, which would always be associated with piano keys. I know better processes now (having been taught them) but the rough idea was right and it worked. The hardest thing is that such a student already has another way of getting at music, and what is easiest comes in as a default and is hard to fight, even if you're motivated to do so, and even if you are an adult.

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