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Younger Students #2645879
05/21/17 11:55 PM
05/21/17 11:55 PM
Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,675
Arghhh Offline OP
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Up until now I have not started students before they were able to read, or in Gr. 1. The youngest I've had is a 6 year old boy.

I've been asked to teach the younger brother of another student, who turned 5 in January and will be starting full-day kindergarten in the fall. Originally I said he was too young for me, but now I'm thinking maybe I'll do some research into teaching younger students and try it out. The plan is to only accept this if I can get someone to come into the lesson each week to take notes and help him practice.

What are some resources out there to learn about child development in music and in dealing with children's behaviours? What challenges would I face with a 5-year old that I wouldn't face with a 7-year old? Is it even worth it to start earlier, given that it takes longer to learn? I was suggesting general musicianship classes (Kodaly, Orff, etc.) instead of piano lessons, but I know a lot of kids start piano at 5 (including myself).


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Re: Younger Students [Re: Arghhh] #2645916
05/22/17 03:51 AM
05/22/17 03:51 AM
Joined: Dec 2014
Posts: 563
Hawaii
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TheHappyPianoMuse Offline
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I hate to throw a damper on this idea, but having tried a five-year old once, I would never attempt this again. The father was a passionate lover of classical music and wanted to give his son the proverbial "head start". I declined but he was so persuasive that I agreed to at least meet the child. Who was a little charmer. Bright and energetic but well-mannered. So I explained to the father it would be an experiment since children that young would need a special approach.

Well I gave it my best. I tried pasting little cartoon notes on the piano keys. I made up little rhymes for the staff lines. Which I drew out in enlarged form. I tried to make each lesson fun. But it was simply a struggle. The little boy was NOT Mozart in spite of his father's deepest convictions. Eventually I had to advise him to give the boy a year or two and "he will learn so much faster and enjoy it so much more."

The father agreed with some ill humor and muttered about "finding another teacher". Not being susceptible to blackmail of this sort, I agreed it might be a better idea.

Well a few years later, I ran into the father at a Council Meeting and he rushed up to tell me how wonderfully well his son had progressed. He was playing simple classics. I smiled and said that I was so pleased the boy had continued with his music and asked how old he was. "Nine" said the proud Papa ... and then he added ... "And he's only had a little more than a year of lessons." he bragged.

A quick calculation said that the boy had resumed his piano at around seven and a half. An excellent age to begin. To say I was now somewhat ruffled is an understatement.

A seven or eight year old will learn at a much faster speed. And above all, the child will not get bored and will not be so likely to stop lessons after a year or two. One has to remember that Mozart was a rare phenomenum ... and he was a composer and not just parroting a performance like the youngsters on YouTube. You as a teacher have choices. I would simply smile and decline. And asked the parent to bring him back in a year or two and you'd be happy to teach him. Save yourself the hassle. And spare the little one! crazy

Re: Younger Students [Re: Arghhh] #2646068
05/22/17 03:32 PM
05/22/17 03:32 PM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 16,954
Boynton Beach, FL
Morodiene Offline
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I think the best tactic with a young learner is more general music. Also, they should be doing off-bench activities that involve movement to music and singing and playing simple percussion instruments. Make this an activity with the parent in the room and instruct them on what they can do at home together. So what you do in class they will repeat at home.

Start with basic concepts like keeping a steady beat, and finding that beat in a song by dancing/walking, playing a percussion instrument, and singing. For movement, try using things like a scarf to wave around as they move, or if you have a marching-type piece to move to (either you play it or just play a piece off Youtube), maybe have little flags they can wave. For percussion instruments, this can be fun to make your own with an empty water bottle and something inside to rattle around - popcorn kernels, or whatever. That can be an "assignment" at home to do with the child. Just recommend that once they decide what goes in, it's a good idea to glue the cap on just to avoid a big mess one day!

For songs to be sung to, choose ones that are in a comfortable singing range for a child this age. Going lower than Middle C is tough for girls or boys, and it starts to get tough the C above that, so within that range. Choose folk songs, and if possible, you play them on the piano and sing with them, and also provide a means for them to practice singing at home - if the parent plays piano, they may want to play and sing at home with the child. Otherwise, you may want to make a playlist available to them to download from dropbox.com or other file sharing websites.

Think about other concepts going forward - and usually in opposites: fast/slow, high/low, loud/soft, and come up with ways to either show those with movement or singing first, then bring them over to the piano to learn how to make those sounds on the piano.

Improvisation together is also a great activity.

Does he read at all? If not words, does he know his 1-2-3 and a-b-c? You can do fun coloring activities with learning finger numbers as well as learning the notes of the musical alphabet. Teach the concepts away from the piano first, and then take them to the piano to see how it works there. Teach songs by rote, have them sing it first, and then work with finger numbers only in a fixed hand position (pre-staff notation).

There is the My First Piano Adventures books which you can use, but I think the more you do your own ideas and just use those books for reference, the better off the child will be.

As to whether or not it can be an advantage to start this young depends a lot on how your lessons are structured, what home life is like, and how much the parent is able to do with them at home. I've had great success with some students, and not so much with others.


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Re: Younger Students [Re: Arghhh] #2646094
05/22/17 04:44 PM
05/22/17 04:44 PM
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 8,200
Orange County, CA
AZNpiano Offline
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I typically don't take kids this young unless they act and behave well enough to sit through a 30-minute lesson. Sometimes I can find out during the first lesson if things will go well. But sometimes things can be more subtle.

The problems I encountered with this age group is no different than older kids ages 7-9. Some kids are extremely slow--painfully slow. At some point you'll have to decide if the effort is worth the trouble. On the other hand, the extremely talented kids will be able to move through the materials much more quickly than the average student 4 or 5 years older. It really depends on the individual student.

FWIW, I don't really like the books that cater to this age group. I think it's more of a marketing ploy than anything useful. But that's just my opinion.


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Re: Younger Students [Re: Arghhh] #2646113
05/22/17 05:51 PM
05/22/17 05:51 PM
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 5,442
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Today I worked with a kid who was playing with an ipad app called Musical Me, which I found not entirely objectionable. My student was at the level of exploring cause & effect, and the room was too noisy to hear very well, but still, some parts of it may be interesting for some young kids.


Learner
Re: Younger Students [Re: Arghhh] #2646212
05/22/17 11:59 PM
05/22/17 11:59 PM
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 2,161
South Jersey
DameMyra Offline
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Morodiene's suggestions are all spot on.


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Re: Younger Students [Re: Arghhh] #2646228
05/23/17 01:12 AM
05/23/17 01:12 AM
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 730
California
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I started piano at 4, but I was also a pretty ideal piano student.. :P Quiet, obedient, good listener, could sit still for a very long time. So every kid is different. At that age though, provided that behaviorally they're o-k, the other challenge you would run into is that they can't read. I think at such a young age it's nice also since they seem to soak up so many sounds, to teach some playing by ear, singing, do-re-mi, rhythm (have them get up especially if they're active) in a full body experience kind of way ...


~piano teacher in training~
Re: Younger Students [Re: AZNpiano] #2646269
05/23/17 06:59 AM
05/23/17 06:59 AM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 16,954
Boynton Beach, FL
Morodiene Offline
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Morodiene  Offline
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
FWIW, I don't really like the books that cater to this age group. I think it's more of a marketing ploy than anything useful. But that's just my opinion.
I'm glad I'm not the only one. I've tried MFPA a few times and really gave them a shot, but didn't really find them effective.

I actually have a 5 year old working out of book 1 of Piano Town. She does well for the most part at the piano, and we usually have a game we play at the end of the lesson. She's a handful, but I love her enthusiasm and she has special circumstances at home that make practice sometimes not happen. Her progress is a bit slower than if she were older, but she is learning and doing quite well. You just can't expect children this age to progress as quickly.


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Re: Younger Students [Re: Morodiene] #2646343
05/23/17 12:11 PM
05/23/17 12:11 PM
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 8,200
Orange County, CA
AZNpiano Offline
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
You just can't expect children this age to progress as quickly.

I think picking the right materials for each child is very important. I've had students who were bored to death with MFPA, but found Hal Leonard a suitable match. In fact, I quite enjoy Hal Leonard (since it's already slower-paced to begin with) for the younger crowd.

I have older beginners who, quite frankly, could benefit from the slow pace of MFPA, sans all the silly pictures.


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Re: Younger Students [Re: Arghhh] #2646355
05/23/17 12:28 PM
05/23/17 12:28 PM
Joined: Jun 2005
Posts: 655
Minneapolis
SonatainfSharp Offline
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Minneapolis
I usually tell parents of very young children to try general music and movement, as Morodiene said. Although, one time I started a very immature 5yo boy, and he was my little superstar student. But that was only once in almost 20 years of teaching. smile


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Re: Younger Students [Re: DameMyra] #2646853
05/24/17 11:50 PM
05/24/17 11:50 PM
Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,675
Arghhh Offline OP
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Arghhh  Offline OP
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HappyPianoMuse - you were the one I had in mind when I asked if it is even worth it to start at an earlier age.

Originally Posted by DameMyra
Morodiene's suggestions are all spot on.

I agree. Some day I wish to be as wise as Morodiene smile Morodiene, how did you become so wise???

I haven't actually met with the boy since I had the interview for his older brother in September, so I don't know if he knows his letters or numbers. I assume he would know that going into kindergarten.

It's interesting to me that both Morodiene and AZN disliked MFPA, because I know a lot of teachers like that one for younger students. I suppose though, that they are also the ones that like the regular Piano Adventures, and for me, for some reason I can't put my finger on, I really dislike them.

As for materials, I'm not that creative myself, so I don't know if going with my own ideas would be better that what is already published. I would never have thought of making a percussion shaker with a water bottle, for instance. There is a new method out called Piano Safari (see pianosafari.com) that I've been interested in trying. It has a combination of rote pieces, simple technical exercises, and reading pieces. The reading pieces have effectively avoided cluttering the page with extra illustrations.

AZN, you mentioned picking the right materials for each student. When and how do you know what would be good for them? After your initial interview, or after a little while in a series that something doesn't seem right?


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Re: Younger Students [Re: Arghhh] #2646864
05/25/17 02:13 AM
05/25/17 02:13 AM
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 8,200
Orange County, CA
AZNpiano Offline
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Orange County, CA
First of all, my beef is with MFPA. It's ludicrously slow, and it's catering to the younger crowd that should NOT be starting piano, anyway. Music for Little Mozarts is just as bad. I am actually ambivalent toward Piano Adventures (it's a solid course) and I actually enjoy using some of the Fabers' supplementary materials, including Gold Star Adventures.

Originally Posted by Arghhh
AZN, you mentioned picking the right materials for each student. When and how do you know what would be good for them? After your initial interview, or after a little while in a series that something doesn't seem right?

I can glean quite a bit from the initial interview. But there are always surprise developments, which may not become manifest until a year later. I use Alfred Premier for most students. The slower ones can use Hal Leonard.

As soon as I discover the student is falling behind, I switch methods, or supplement. I've taught a couple of kids who literally stayed in Piano Adventures 2A for over a year--no matter how much I supplement with other books and drill-and-kill, they never progressed much.

And then, for those advanced learners, I simply move them faster through the books and transition them out of method books by 2B or 3. I once taught a very brilliant kid who could handle 7 short pieces a week, and we were playing sonatinas by the end of his first year in piano.


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Re: Younger Students [Re: Arghhh] #2646879
05/25/17 06:14 AM
05/25/17 06:14 AM
Joined: Apr 2015
Posts: 514
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pianoMom2006 Offline
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My son started piano at 6 almost 7 and as a parent I loved MFPA. My son finished the books A B in six months so I felt like he was making very good progress even if from a piano teacher's perspective he was going at a snail's pace. He was taking lessons at a music store.

When his teacher left, we switched to private in home studio and his teacher moved him quickly into level 1 books. She definitely picked up the pace and I'm glad she did. However, I'm not sure that a slow beginning was a mistake.


Yamaha G2
Re: Younger Students [Re: Arghhh] #2646918
05/25/17 11:28 AM
05/25/17 11:28 AM
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 1,950
USA
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Arghh, The MTNA June/July article, "Through the eyes of a child: pianistic paths for the smallest learners" may be of interest.

I also avoid MFPA, as it moves painfully slow. I would not teach a child who would benefit from that pace--in my opinion, they would be too young for me. There are many teachers who love very young students, and in some ways, I enjoy the "play time" that comes with younger students, but when they cannot read, and parents are not completely involved in the lessons and practice, I find that progress is very slow. I would prefer they start at age 6, to avoid a negative impression by child and parents, of what piano lessons are all about.


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Re: Younger Students [Re: Arghhh] #2646959
05/25/17 02:39 PM
05/25/17 02:39 PM
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 730
California
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I use MFPA with two of my students and I like MFPA cause it's really creative and slow. I'm not sure it's the most sound pedagogically speaking. One of my students probably could handle something else since he's 7 now, but the other one I'm not too sure about, she really needs the slow pace I think and she has attention difficulties. I'm not too sure the pictures help or hurt more in her case. I do like gleaning things from MFPA though, they have a lot of really fun duets, like If You're Happy And You Know it .... find two D's! I just did that the other day with one of my older students who has some learning differences I suspect, and she loved it and asked to do it again. I also really like the first song, where you play together with the child and they play short and long notes during the breaks.


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Re: Younger Students [Re: pianoMom2006] #2647015
05/25/17 05:08 PM
05/25/17 05:08 PM
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 8,200
Orange County, CA
AZNpiano Offline
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Joined: Aug 2007
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Orange County, CA
Originally Posted by pianoMom2006
My son started piano at 6 almost 7 and as a parent I loved MFPA. My son finished the books A B in six months so I felt like he was making very good progress even if from a piano teacher's perspective he was going at a snail's pace. He was taking lessons at a music store.

When his teacher left, we switched to private in home studio and his teacher moved him quickly into level 1 books. She definitely picked up the pace and I'm glad she did. However, I'm not sure that a slow beginning was a mistake.

Pacing is very subjective. It is quite possible that 6 months is a perfect pace for your son.

Most transfer wrecks I get come from teachers who tried to push the students too fast. I lost a pair of very talented beginners in the last few years, and there's no way their next teacher can accuse me of moving the kids too quickly through the materials. They were rock solid.


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Re: Younger Students [Re: Arghhh] #2647016
05/25/17 05:10 PM
05/25/17 05:10 PM
Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 6,521
South Florida
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Gary D. Offline
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What is MFPA?


Piano Teacher
Re: Younger Students [Re: Gary D.] #2647020
05/25/17 05:18 PM
05/25/17 05:18 PM
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 8,200
Orange County, CA
AZNpiano Offline
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
What is MFPA?

My First Piano Adventures


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Re: Younger Students [Re: Arghhh] #2647526
05/27/17 08:43 AM
05/27/17 08:43 AM
Joined: Apr 2015
Posts: 514
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pianoMom2006 Offline
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My son had probably 3 months worth of lessons in 6 months... he was sick and his teacher didn't teach every week at the store. After moving through A B primer for 6 months, he finished level 1 in another 6 months which really built up his confidence. Of course, I don't have the experience of knowing how he would have done if he had started in level 1. I do know that primer made piano seem deceptively easy.


Yamaha G2
Re: Younger Students [Re: Arghhh] #2655580
06/22/17 12:11 PM
06/22/17 12:11 PM
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Posts: 30
K
Kingfisher Offline
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Apologies if this isn't exactly the correct thread to post this question.

My 5-year old child started instrumental lessons in Jan this year. We have this teacher who is assigned to us by the school based on our available lesson timing. I found out from the school that he had been teaching kindergarten and elementary school students for ~3 years. Since the teacher had experience teaching young children, I thought it should be fine.

The teacher was nice enough to allow me to sit in during lessons. At home, I was with my child when she practiced and I knew that she put in some effort to practice what she was asked to. Although there were, of course, many aspects of her assignment which can be much improved on, I sometimes felt a little sad for my child when the teacher didn't acknowledge the effort that was put in at home. For young kids, I thought more encouragement from the teacher will be good. However, I think the teacher may have a pessimistic trait by nature and does not provide praises easily. I'm not sure what to do as I am not the confrontational type and hence would like to seek advice. Thank you.


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