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Re: Slow Fingers [Re: SchroedersCat] #2699369 12/24/17 06:50 PM
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I agree that lack of practice, or inefficient practice may be a culprit here. Does the student keep a practice log? You could assign him one. He could record day date time and duration of each practice session, what pieces, techniques, etc... were worked on, how well he subjectively rated the practice (some people do well by themselves and fall apart when in front of a teacher or others), etc... Also if he has skype you could perhaps periodically agree to tune in and watch him practicing it at home to see if there are any issues there (maybe there's some crazy noisy background or something he doesn't think to tell you about, or maybe he's being interrupted by his cell phone every 3 minutes, or whatever).

Another thing to possibly try is to teach him something different. Maybe he shouldn't be learning traditional classical repertoire right now if he's constantly getting compared to his more talented/experienced brother. Can he sing? Maybe you could teach him to accompany himself singing some of his favorite pop songs. If he can learn to do that well it coud be a confidence boost to help him try some of the other stuff again. Or you could focus on teaching him to improvise creatively so he doesn't have to focus on hitting the "right" notes but rather just notes that sound good. For a good introduction to that, you can teach him some patterns to play on the black keys improvisationally (and teach him about pentatonic scales and why all the notes sound good together). Teach him how to do something you haven't already taught his brother. Build confidence, give him something to be proud of.

If it's really a coordination issue, you might also take dynamics out of the equation. Does he (and do you) have a digital piano with a harpischord sound (that behaves properly)? You could teach him some harpsichord repertoire which in some ways should be easier than playing the pieces on the piano (where clunking around at different volumes could be jarring).

Mainly my advice boils down to keep trying different things until you find something he CAN do well. once he gets some confidence in his abilities, you might find a completely different student.


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Re: Slow Fingers [Re: SchroedersCat] #2699417 12/25/17 02:48 AM
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Iaroslav Vasiliev Offline
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I agree with hreichgott and fizikisto. Most weird problems usually have very simple explanations. Most probably this student doesn't practice at home at all. Or he deliberately plays badly, because he wants to quit, but he wants it to be your decision.

It is very unusual when someone so good at sports (if his archievements are real, of course) is so bad at piano technique. What you describe is not just "slow fingers", it looks like a kind of disability. But such disability, if it had existed, most likely could not has left other areas unaffected.

And it is obvious to me that he plays pieces and exercises that are beyond his reach for now. No matter how old he is, but if he can't play Hanon's ex. #1 evenly, it is too early for him to play scales and arpeggios. If he is to continue playing, he should start from scratch, from the simplest 3-notes exercises and do it until a solid foundation is built (or rebuilt), no matter how long it takes.

Last edited by Iaroslav Vasiliev; 12/25/17 03:20 AM.

| Taa atu uka taa aatk tuku taka tuku |
Re: Slow Fingers [Re: SchroedersCat] #2699421 12/25/17 03:20 AM
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I think the student has major issues with his fine motor skills. You can take him off the recital track and turn piano lessons into Musicianship 101 or Music Appreciation 101. There's plenty to learn there, and it can enrich his life as much as learning piano.

I've had my share of "slow fingers" students, and most of the time they are also not the brightest specimen on Earth. I make sure I don't push them at all and I try to make each lesson as enjoyable and educational as possible. But I agree it's no fun to teach siblings with such diverse abilities.


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Re: Slow Fingers [Re: SchroedersCat] #2699449 12/25/17 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by SchroedersCat
We all know this student: that kid that starts lessons as a first grader because it's just what you do. Kid progresses at a reasonable rate, is intelligent and hard working, sweet and genuinely curious, completes assignments, excellent comprehension, a whiz bang at naming notes and terms, but just sorta muddles through the actual playing part. Good brain, moments of actual musicality....slow fingers.
I've had soooooo many of these kids and the story has always been the same. I get them young, we give it our best, they quit in junior high- definitely before entering high school-as it becomes apparent to anyone with eyes and ears that the child just isn't built to be a pianist, not even the hobby kind. They tried! It was fun! It's time to move on.
No, I don't "know this student". I run into the results you are describing when the student won't work... at all... or enough to progress. Is is possible that he isn't working as much as you think? Lazy students are a very common issue, and I certainly "know that student."

We all have our challenges in teaching, and I think that we become better teachers when we evaluate our studios and make changes to better ourselves and our students. So I think it's worth asking if you are describing a systemic problem in your studio. We can't answer that from here, and I'm not making presumptions. But being willing to ask such questions of myself over the years has made me a better teacher.

Here's the part the really jumps out at me: you're describing this aspect of piano playing as if it can't be taught. It most certainly can be taught and most of the time needs to be taught. Very few students just naturally develop perfect technique without any hangups. I think your poor 15 year old student is expecting that you'll teach him how to do it, and rightly so.

Given diligent work, and the level of intelligence you're decribing it should absolutely be possible for boy to achieve at least a "hobby level" playing. Unless there is some cognitive problem or physical problem...


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Re: Slow Fingers [Re: SchroedersCat] #2699477 12/25/17 11:14 AM
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Teachers don't know what their students do at home - how much (or whether) they practice, or whether they spend their time at the piano just noodling around instead of actually practicing. So, it's not even much use asking a student to keep a log book of their practicing. Not only do you have to rely on their honesty (unless you have the confirmation of their parents), you also have to assume they are doing mindful practicing during that time.

When I was a student, there were lots of things I didn't tell my teachers, and they never found out - like having fun playing pop songs by ear, and improvising on their tunes with a violinist friend. Or playing (or attempting to play) all sorts of stuff that I found in the school music library, including organ, vocal and even orchestral scores, as well as banging my way (with more wrong notes than right ones) through pieces that were beyond me at the time, like Chopin's Heroic Polonaise and Revolutionary Etude. My teacher didn't even know that I'd joined the school choir, until she saw me a few months later during our school concert, performing Vivaldi's Gloria with the Chapel Choir and senior orchestra. (And I didn't know she was in the audience, until the next lesson when she mentioned it, and complimented our performance of it. grin).

So, if there seems to be a strange discrepancy between the levels of ability in related activities in the same student, it could be because he's not actually spending time practicing the ones which he's failing at. Common things (and common reasons/explanations) are common, as I know very well in my own profession.......


"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."
Re: Slow Fingers [Re: SchroedersCat] #2699510 12/25/17 03:21 PM
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The person you're forgetting in all of this is yourself. As piano teachers, we need to step back and ask ourselves what we are accomplishing. If you are not getting anywhere with this kid, have some mercy on yourself and let him go. Of course, it might hurt his feelings, but you have feelings too! You might lose the sibling, but as my piano teacher said, "You're better off without them."

You've heard the expression, stop beating a dead horse. This is a dead horse.

Last edited by Candywoman; 12/25/17 03:23 PM.
Re: Slow Fingers [Re: Candywoman] #2699512 12/25/17 03:49 PM
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Last edited by keystring; 12/25/17 08:31 PM.
Re: Slow Fingers [Re: SchroedersCat] #2699527 12/25/17 04:33 PM
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If my teacher started a thread about me it would probably be something like Slow Brain.

If not that, it would be Goofy Sense of Humor or possibly Weird random stuff.


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Re: Slow Fingers [Re: Candywoman] #2699568 12/26/17 12:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Candywoman
As piano teachers, we need to step back and ask ourselves what we are accomplishing.

When I read that sentence, I thought for a moment something great was going to be written next. But that didn't happen.


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Re: Slow Fingers [Re: SchroedersCat] #2699586 12/26/17 02:35 AM
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Gary D. Offline
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I know that the student is described as being an excellent athlete, at least good at languages, and coming to lessons because he wants to come to lessons.

I can't imagine having problems working with a kid like that, and I've been teaching kids for 45 years.

Practice log: I ask each student to write down how many minutes played each day. Not all do it, and some who do not play pretty well, in rare cases very well. But those who cooperate give me all the info I need, without their understanding how.

I tell people only to write down the minutes they do what I ask for. But I never tell them not to do other things. I did, just as Bennevis said. And some of those extra things were valuable.

Once I have a baseline of time, I can spot when the reported time goes lower, YETthere is extra progress. The moment this happens, I can point that out.

"Do you know you did less time last week? So why is it that you improved more? We need to talk about this, because the secret it to get more done in less time, not less done in more time. And you did the right thing last week. Now, if we can keep that going, eventually you will do more time and it will be incredible."

That's the start of a breakthrough.

Re: Slow Fingers [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2699587 12/26/17 02:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
INo matter how old he is, but if he can't play Hanon's ex. #1 evenly, it is too early for him to play scales and arpeggios.

I start the Db scale with beginners, getting to both hands in the first month, so you are wrong about this. It's never too early to learn how to play one scale.

Arpeggios are either impossible or doable depending on how you are taught. But I do start them later.

Re: Slow Fingers [Re: AZNpiano] #2699761 12/26/17 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by Candywoman
As piano teachers, we need to step back and ask ourselves what we are accomplishing.

When I read that sentence, I thought for a moment something great was going to be written next. But that didn't happen.


How much evidence do you need that a student is not designed to play the piano?

Re: Slow Fingers [Re: Candywoman] #2699767 12/26/17 07:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Candywoman

How much evidence do you need that a student is not designed to play the piano?


ANY evidence.

There is no "evidence" here.

A teacher we don't know is talking about a student we don't know.

Last edited by Gary D.; 12/26/17 07:39 PM.
Re: Slow Fingers [Re: Candywoman] #2699772 12/26/17 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Candywoman
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by Candywoman
As piano teachers, we need to step back and ask ourselves what we are accomplishing.

When I read that sentence, I thought for a moment something great was going to be written next. But that didn't happen.

How much evidence do you need that a student is not designed to play the piano?

I deleted my response to the same post before AZNpiano wrote his. The one thing I did not expect, however, was any implication about a student not being "designed to play the piano".

The fuller post was:
Quote
The person you're forgetting in all of this is yourself. As piano teachers, we need to step back and ask ourselves what we are accomplishing. If you are not getting anywhere with this kid, have some mercy on yourself and let him go...


I will make my post general and not in any way about the OP or any teacher. Starting with "If you are not getting anywhere" (with what you are doing, I'll say), and also "ask yourself what you are accomplishing".

If a teacher is not able, after a length of time, to help a student move forward, or overcome significant problems, or even the student ends up going backward; maybe the teacher can look at the picture anew and try new things, learn new things to do. Or decide that s/he cannot help. Then yes, you let the student go ..... so that the student can get help with someone else who might be a better match for those particular difficulties. It is not just a kindness to yourself; it is also a kindness to the student. This is also no sign of being a poor teacher, because nobody is an expert in every wrinkle that can crop up. In fact, the person who can say "This particular thing is outside of my abilities." is showing signs of professionalism and competence. It's the person who says he can do everything under the sun who'd tend to get my distrust.

I had expected a different continuation to that first sentence as well - various possibilities.


(afterthought: I remember reading somewhere that we human beings were not designed to play music instruments, period, none of us. wink )

Re: Slow Fingers [Re: SchroedersCat] #2699794 12/26/17 09:48 PM
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Seems like an opportunity for an excellent teacher to set him or herself apart. A chance for teaching skills to shine.


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Re: Slow Fingers [Re: SchroedersCat] #2699796 12/26/17 09:50 PM
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edited to make a new post.

Last edited by Candywoman; 12/26/17 09:52 PM.
Re: Slow Fingers [Re: SchroedersCat] #2703035 01/07/18 10:43 PM
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As a non piano teacher, all I can say is "wow". Not every student is going to be talented (me included), but I would never give up on someone that professes to want to try. Obviously, not every teacher should be a teacher.
Makes us all thankful for those truly "caring and dedicated" teachers.



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Re: Slow Fingers [Re: SchroedersCat] #2706539 01/19/18 04:28 PM
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I wanted to update the situation and thank everyone for their input. My initial post definitely came from a place of end-of-semester burn out combined with a very disappointing recital performance. After a nice holiday break, a chance to talk things over with the parents, and coming up with a new plan, I'm feeling positive about this boy's chances to improve. He had his first lesson of the year this week, with those changes implemented, and it was a good lesson!

Re: Slow Fingers [Re: SchroedersCat] #2707240 01/21/18 10:55 PM
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Hooray, good to hear smile


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Re: Slow Fingers [Re: SchroedersCat] #2707294 01/22/18 01:51 AM
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Originally Posted by SchroedersCat
I wanted to update the situation and thank everyone for their input. My initial post definitely came from a place of end-of-semester burn out combined with a very disappointing recital performance. After a nice holiday break, a chance to talk things over with the parents, and coming up with a new plan, I'm feeling positive about this boy's chances to improve. He had his first lesson of the year this week, with those changes implemented, and it was a good lesson!


This is great to hear.

My 2 cents on the original post: I think you are looking at this situation with too much of a 'piano focus'. For most students, learning piano is beneficial for cognitive development and valuable soft skills such as hard work, discipline, grit and commitment. 99% students are not destined to be concert pianists or music professionals. But, learning piano is incredibly valuable for 100% of all students - irrespective of their piano playing skills when the students quit their lessons. And, that is because of the soft skills learned along with piano and music skills.

This is an excellent opportunity for teaching these soft skills to this young person in his formative years.

If anything, I am actually very impressed by this student for the following reasons:
  • He came back to it after quitting earlier. How many young students ever do that? As late adult beginners - sure - but not when they are still kids.
  • He isn't saying 'enough piano lessons' after that humiliating public performance. He is *not* afraid of public humiliation in pursuit of his goals. That is commendable. Do not take him off the recital schedule next time. It is OK if he fails again. Do not teach him to give up as a result of the first failure. Reward his persistence by doing the best you can to make him better..
  • He is not afraid to look 'weaker' than his *younger* brother. This is courageous - especially considering that the better brother is younger.

He is never going to be a concert pianist for sure - but when he quits lessons, would he have learned valuable life skills? That should really be the goal in such cases.

Osho


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