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#2674641 - 09/12/17 05:35 AM Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner  
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To make a long story short, I'm not a piano teacher (yet, it's a goal of mine), I've never had a teacher, and I've been playing since I was 3, so I don't have much experience to help me out now. And in any case, teaching a little kid is different from teaching an adult whose goal is not to be able to play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. And I have a friend who wants to learn and is asking me for advice, and I'm stuck. Every beginner book in the house is very much for little kids and I've never watched an adult starting from complete beginner before. What sorts of things do I start with? When do scales and Hanon come in? If starting with simple hymns in the hymnbook is a good idea, where do I bring in the other parts and in what order? Melody first, of course, but alto or bass next?

In other words, I really don't know what I'm doing here and any and all advice is much appreciated.

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#2674644 - 09/12/17 05:45 AM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: 17MomentsOSpring]  
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He wants to play from sheet vs ear? Classical vs Blues&Jazz, might bring in some more advise...


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#2674649 - 09/12/17 06:40 AM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: 17MomentsOSpring]  
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Both sheet and ear, classical and hymns (which is one very good reason I thought easy hymns might be a good place to start).

#2674652 - 09/12/17 07:00 AM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: 17MomentsOSpring]  
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I am no teacher myself and also learning, but maybe start with some note recognizing away from the piano and some Paul Harris' "Improve Your Sight-reading"
Try to learn how to sing DO-MI-SOL-DO along with the piano...


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#2674654 - 09/12/17 07:06 AM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: 17MomentsOSpring]  
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I have a teaching background, have learning some elements of piano pedagogy, and am an adult student and was a self-learner. I took lessons as an adult on another instrument, first time with that instrument and first time for lessons. Piano was self-taught as a child, abandoned 30 years, rel-learning once I got back while receiving teaching. Here goes.

It would be preferable for your friend to get help from an actual teacher, one who knows what types of things need to be learned first, and also knows what s/he is doing. Your friend is probably opting out of that for their own reasons, which may be quite legit. Here goes:

Focusing on pieces (is Twinkle too boring? hymns or classical) etc. is the wrong focus. Your starting point is basic skills to be built incrementally. The pieces are the practice field for this rather than the end goal, and pieces also need to be measured according to those skills. You would be hard put to organize this by yourself. You'd have to figure out which skills are needed, what skills sit under those skills, how to present them, etc. Skills include things like reading notes (and what that actually means for an instrument), and the physical playing in a relaxed non-awkward way. It begins, actually, with how/where to sit. Music theory is in there as a practical sense, in terms of things like key signatures, time signatures, note values - you use these every time you play.

The physical part of playing is actually a big deal, and piano presents a particular trap. Chickens have been seen producing sounds from light keyboards, and dogs and cats produce sound from regular pianos. They could not do so on a saxophone, guitar, or violin. But piano notes can be produced in all kinds of awkward ways, and then you're trapped in habits of awkwardness. Children are more physical than adults, and adults tend to be trapped by years of sitting still. It may work in the beginning, but later you can't play past a snail's speed, or evenly, because you get all cramped up. .... Same if you've learned to "read" by counting up Every Good Boy, or bypassed it by memorizing simple things. That's where adults tend to quit a year or two down the line.

There are some on-line resources, and that includes an entire course by Jaak Sikk which may seem tedious but sets up this first physical side of it wonderfully. Meanwhile don't totally diss the method books. There is nothing wrong with babyish music if it gets the job done. What went wrong with my own first studies is that the teacher rushed me forward, possibly thinking I'd be bored by the simple stuff, and I ended up with all kinds of technical issues. I've gone back to restudy that instrument and guess what - starting with the baby stuff.

#2674655 - 09/12/17 07:10 AM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: 17MomentsOSpring]  
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Neither people responding (I include myself) are piano teachers. I imagine that the piano teachers are heaving a big sigh. They end up with "transfer students" who started off teaching themselves or being taught by someone not experienced in teaching, and then have a much bigger job fixing the results without discouraging the student, than if they had started with them. They are less likely to write in.

That said, there is a big caveat (imho) in regards to teachers "specializing in adults" who might be the eezy piano in 30 days quick fix kind of folks riding the lucrative "adult market". You want a teacher who gives all students skills regardless of who they are. If going that route ultimately, listening to what teachers present as priorities, and stating you want to get skills, is the way to go (and then co-operating).

#2674666 - 09/12/17 08:31 AM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: 17MomentsOSpring]  
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FWIW- My 10 year old has been playing piano for 4 years and his best friend who is an academic "genius" has asked him for "lessons". I told my son that he's unqualified and that he could ruin his friend from ever learning to play piano properly. I told him that I was okay with him teaching his friend a few simple pieces but nothing more than that. He needs to tell his friend to get a proper teacher.

Last edited by pianoMom2006; 09/12/17 08:36 AM.

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#2674667 - 09/12/17 08:47 AM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: 17MomentsOSpring]  
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Isn't there some kind of art academy in the UK where adults can participate? Evening group lessons or...?


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#2674673 - 09/12/17 08:58 AM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: 17MomentsOSpring]  
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You could tell your friend that you will practice with him and possibly play duets when he has engaged a proper teacher.


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#2674675 - 09/12/17 09:00 AM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: 17MomentsOSpring]  
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You say you are interested in becoming a teacher, so why not take the time now to learn about how to teach? If you think you might enjoy teaching adults - which is different entirely from teaching children - then instead of flying blind, why not read up on what it means to teach before trying to jump into that role?

I do believe you are at a distinct disadvantage not having had lessons yourself. At least if you had lessons you would have your teacher's example to learn from.

In teaching, you will encounter problems that you never did - how will you address those things? What if your student starts having pain while playing? What if they get frustrated because they're trying to play something that you assigned that's too hard for them - or rather, that required skills you had not given them?

And that's not even considering the problems that you won't even be able to identify.

There is a sticky thread on this forum HERE that has a lot of good information on how to get started in teaching. Many of the pedagogy books out there address teaching adults too.


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#2674681 - 09/12/17 09:12 AM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: keystring]  
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My first students back in 1992 were taught by a voice major at my graduate school who was moving after graduating. She asked me if I wanted to take her her small studio of about 12 students. Sure. I didn't know she was that good of a player (much less a teacher) beyond the piano class requirements she had to fulfill. Her answer was - "oh, I'm not. I am learning along with them." I can't even describe the problems with technique, note reading, counting, etc I had with those students. The other downside is that I was put in the position of being the "mean teacher" because I was gently trying to fix all these problems she had created. This sadly also happened when I graduated and took a church job that required teaching a minimum of 15 students (supplement salary). They also had horrible problems.


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#2674687 - 09/12/17 09:29 AM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: bmbutler]  
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Originally Posted by bmbutler
My first students back in 1992 were taught by a voice major at my graduate school who was moving after graduating. She asked me if I wanted to take her her small studio of about 12 students. Sure. I didn't know she was that good of a player (much less a teacher) beyond the piano class requirements she had to fulfill. Her answer was - "oh, I'm not. I am learning along with them." I can't even describe the problems with technique, note reading, counting, etc I had with those students. The other downside is that I was put in the position of being the "mean teacher" because I was gently trying to fix all these problems she had created. This sadly also happened when I graduated and took a church job that required teaching a minimum of 15 students (supplement salary). They also had horrible problems.

Exactly! And often if a student has to do remedial training after they've been taking lessons for a year or two, they are more likely to quit. For adults, the likelihood of quitting after something like that is even greater.

If you want to assist you friend, help them find a good teacher of adult students.


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#2674777 - 09/12/17 05:37 PM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: 17MomentsOSpring]  
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Originally Posted by 17MomentsOSpring
To make a long story short, I'm not a piano teacher (yet, it's a goal of mine), I've never had a teacher, and I've been playing since I was 3, so I don't have much experience to help me out now. And in any case, teaching a little kid is different from teaching an adult whose goal is not to be able to play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. And I have a friend who wants to learn and is asking me for advice, and I'm stuck. Every beginner book in the house is very much for little kids and I've never watched an adult starting from complete beginner before.

In other words, I really don't know what I'm doing here and any and all advice is much appreciated.

If your friend is serious about learning to play piano properly, I'd say that you would be doing him/her a big favour by advising him/her to get a proper teacher.

And I'm saying that as a pianist who had non-stop lessons for ten years as a kid, but would never dream of teaching anyone piano, knowing how much my first teacher had to do, just to get me through the beginner stage.

BTW, I know an adult beginner who started lessons at 60 and is now playing intermediate-advanced rep. He has a great teacher. And the book he used at the start was this:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thompsons-Easiest-Piano-Course-Part/dp/0711954291/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505252529&sr=8-1&keywords=john+thompson%27s+easiest+piano+course+part+1

.....which took him from the basics up, with nothing skipped. Yes, it's designed for children, which is why it's so good.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
#2674900 - 09/13/17 04:11 AM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: 17MomentsOSpring]  
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I'm going to address this thread from a different angle...

What is "teaching," exactly?

Any piano teacher, obviously, hasn't mastered ALL the standard repertoire. We are all at different stages of performance-readiness. I know for a fact many piano teachers stop practicing completely. I know of one teacher who doesn't even own a piano.

So, in essence, we are all ahead of the student to various degree, and we are trying to bring the student along to a more proficient stage of piano-playing. And if the student has advanced to a stage where we can no longer teach them, we pass the student along to those who are further along.

I'm just going to arbitrarily say that those piano teachers with a B.M. degree is at 100. M.M. degree would be 200. D.M.A. would be 300. And then of course there are professional artists who are much higher than that.

And then we have "teachers" who are really at 3. They will bring those starting from scratch from 0 to 3. And if the goal of the student is to get to 3, everybody is happy and they can go home.

However, the problem I'm seeing more and more frequently is that students (or their parents) want to get to 80, and the previous teacher is a 3. By the time I get the student, I find out that the teaching has been so horrendous, it's really NEGATIVE 40. I have to work extra hard to get the student out of the hole, and then progress toward 80.


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#2675217 - 09/14/17 12:14 PM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: AZNpiano]  
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
I'm going to address this thread from a different angle...

What is "teaching," exactly?

Any piano teacher, obviously, hasn't mastered ALL the standard repertoire. We are all at different stages of performance-readiness. I know for a fact many piano teachers stop practicing completely. I know of one teacher who doesn't even own a piano.

So, in essence, we are all ahead of the student to various degree, and we are trying to bring the student along to a more proficient stage of piano-playing. And if the student has advanced to a stage where we can no longer teach them, we pass the student along to those who are further along.

I'm just going to arbitrarily say that those piano teachers with a B.M. degree is at 100. M.M. degree would be 200. D.M.A. would be 300. And then of course there are professional artists who are much higher than that.

And then we have "teachers" who are really at 3. They will bring those starting from scratch from 0 to 3. And if the goal of the student is to get to 3, everybody is happy and they can go home.

However, the problem I'm seeing more and more frequently is that students (or their parents) want to get to 80, and the previous teacher is a 3. By the time I get the student, I find out that the teaching has been so horrendous, it's really NEGATIVE 40. I have to work extra hard to get the student out of the hole, and then progress toward 80.

It's true. I always say no teacher is better than a bad teacher. And by a "bad" teacher, that could very well be a student self-teaching. That all depends on how in tune the student is with their body and if they have experience as a teacher at all to understand certain basic principles of how to learn a craft. So not all self-learners are "bad" teachers, but certainly many are.


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#2675368 - 09/14/17 09:39 PM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: 17MomentsOSpring]  
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Originally Posted by 17MomentsOSpring
To make a long story short, I'm not a piano teacher (yet, it's a goal of mine), I've never had a teacher, and I've been playing since I was 3, so I don't have much experience to help me out now. And in any case, teaching a little kid is different from teaching an adult whose goal is not to be able to play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. And I have a friend who wants to learn and is asking me for advice, and I'm stuck. Every beginner book in the house is very much for little kids and I've never watched an adult starting from complete beginner before. What sorts of things do I start with? When do scales and Hanon come in? If starting with simple hymns in the hymnbook is a good idea, where do I bring in the other parts and in what order? Melody first, of course, but alto or bass next?

In other words, I really don't know what I'm doing here and any and all advice is much appreciated.

You should set expectations by being bluntly honest - something like "I've never taught piano and I don't know where to begin; but I know a few things I could show you, would you like that?" Nothing wrong with that, you're just starting out. But you're on a beginner's learning curve same as the student - it's only fair to be honest about the situation.


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#2675960 - 09/18/17 12:25 AM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: 17MomentsOSpring]  
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Hi there! I just began teaching a year ago, so I think I can try to see where you're coming from. When I first started looking into these things, I thought I had to invent the whole wheel by myself. The first time I was asked to teach as a high schooler, and that fell apart very quickly. I started the poor girl with the C major scale because it was the most basic thing I could think of, and she didn't last longer than two weeks. Why I didn't think about books and the possibility that someone out there probably wrote textbooks on the matter, well.. I guess I was a teenager smile While I haven't figured out quite when is the best time to teach scales, Hanon, and SATB (you'll find that teachers differ on their opinions), there is a wealth of material out there that can help with lesson planning.
Assuming your friend is not willing to find a teacher and you want to learn a few things to teach your friend and your friend simply wants to dabble...

Nothing wrong with working out of children's books, assuming your friend is okay with it. I know a teacher who prefers this, if the adult is willing. In terms of order, if you hop over to a music store and take a look at the category of what are called "Piano Methods", you might start to see a pattern in how they present topics. Of course, the method itself does not do the teaching, but it's a good skeleton to work with.

However, I find it interesting that you play and have never taken lessons. Do you play mainly by ear? I know a guy who does this, zero years of piano lessons, yet can play in church if he knows the way the hymn goes and creates recordings too beyond what I can do.
For me to copy what he does, I'd have to analyze it and break it down theoretically. I would imagine that for him to teach what he knows would be difficult to put it into words since he has never studied it. Have you ever tried teaching your friend the way you learned yourself? I would be interested to see if that is possible. Anyhow, now assuming it's not and it totally flies past your friend, you could reach for the method books and go from there. It's a safe way to begin.

There are a number of method books geared towards adults and free of colorful pictures. Some include,
Alfred Adult All In One, Faber All In One, Gillock, and I'm sure there are probably others, but these are the ones I'm familiar with.

For hymns, sure, start with the basic melody, as that's the most important part right? I think for hymns, just think of functionality. What's the goal? If it's just to lay down a harmony as you sing, you could try some ear work. If it's to play a hymn and find out what the tune is, then you'll want to find the melody. Everyone plays hymns a little differently. I generally sight-read, as that's my strongest skill. But getting through a hymn with a congregation singing involves at least some butchered sight-reading and some knowledge of chords (whether by sound or by sight) and a steady tempo.


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#2676014 - 09/18/17 09:41 AM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: hello my name is]  
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Originally Posted by hello my name is
Hi there! I just began teaching a year ago, so I think I can try to see where you're coming from. When I first started looking into these things, I thought I had to invent the whole wheel by myself. The first time I was asked to teach as a high schooler, and that fell apart very quickly. I started the poor girl with the C major scale because it was the most basic thing I could think of, and she didn't last longer than two weeks. Why I didn't think about books and the possibility that someone out there probably wrote textbooks on the matter, well.. I guess I was a teenager smile While I haven't figured out quite when is the best time to teach scales, Hanon, and SATB (you'll find that teachers differ on their opinions), there is a wealth of material out there that can help with lesson planning.
Assuming your friend is not willing to find a teacher and you want to learn a few things to teach your friend and your friend simply wants to dabble...

Nothing wrong with working out of children's books, assuming your friend is okay with it. I know a teacher who prefers this, if the adult is willing. In terms of order, if you hop over to a music store and take a look at the category of what are called "Piano Methods", you might start to see a pattern in how they present topics. Of course, the method itself does not do the teaching, but it's a good skeleton to work with.

However, I find it interesting that you play and have never taken lessons. Do you play mainly by ear? I know a guy who does this, zero years of piano lessons, yet can play in church if he knows the way the hymn goes and creates recordings too beyond what I can do.
For me to copy what he does, I'd have to analyze it and break it down theoretically. I would imagine that for him to teach what he knows would be difficult to put it into words since he has never studied it. Have you ever tried teaching your friend the way you learned yourself? I would be interested to see if that is possible. Anyhow, now assuming it's not and it totally flies past your friend, you could reach for the method books and go from there. It's a safe way to begin.

There are a number of method books geared towards adults and free of colorful pictures. Some include,
Alfred Adult All In One, Faber All In One, Gillock, and I'm sure there are probably others, but these are the ones I'm familiar with.

For hymns, sure, start with the basic melody, as that's the most important part right? I think for hymns, just think of functionality. What's the goal? If it's just to lay down a harmony as you sing, you could try some ear work. If it's to play a hymn and find out what the tune is, then you'll want to find the melody. Everyone plays hymns a little differently. I generally sight-read, as that's my strongest skill. But getting through a hymn with a congregation singing involves at least some butchered sight-reading and some knowledge of chords (whether by sound or by sight) and a steady tempo.


As a long time church musician, I would hope that playing for congregational singing is not "at least some butchered sightreading....." If that is the case, I would concentrate on playing different styles of hymns and also getting the person leading the music (and maybe choosing the hymns) to give you the selections ahead of time for practicing. Only in the worst case scenario should anyone be sight reading for congregational singing.


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Master of Church Music (organ, music education)
Piano Teacher since 1992
Church Musician since 1983
#2676531 - Yesterday at 01:21 PM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: 17MomentsOSpring]  
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Hi Bmbutler,

I forgot that our congregation singing time is quite different from traditional places. People call hymns spontaneously during the meeting so the pianist has to be prepared to play anything.


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#2676553 - Yesterday at 04:16 PM Re: Help! Non-teacher trying to assist adult beginner [Re: hello my name is]  
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There are only 721 hymns in our hymnal, and some of the tunes are duplicates. If that were my job I would simply learn them all.

But ours is a traditional liturgical church which really focuses on a smaller set of familiar ones, and the congregation does expect to hear something close to the ink in the book - you couldn't treat it like a fake book or lead sheet, which I've done in other churches.

Back on topic. If the OP has never had lessons, that can be remedied. He/she can take lessons for a short time and stay one step ahead of the student. As he's an advanced player now, he can put much more of his attention on what his teacher is doing, something that a beginner struggling can't do.


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Problematic trill in minute waltz
by zsolpyW. 09/21/17 04:34 AM
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Yamaha P255 controller iOS app
by fary. 09/20/17 06:06 PM
Suggestions needed
by Twinstter. 09/20/17 04:23 PM
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