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Kids who will not read the notes
#2888867 09/10/19 08:15 AM
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Background - two young siblings, 8 and 7 years old. Fairly able, esp the older. He has just passed his G1 ABRSM, she is working towards it. I've taught them nearly a year, they had a teacher before that who retired from ill health, and I think some early lessons in pre school.

They just will not read the notes. They can, but just try to memorise. This isn't uncommon of course, but these two just take to beyond. I've tried teaching intervals, using Every Good Boy, sight reading and learning simple pieces quickly, explaining to them why it matters, holding a bit of card over their hands so they can't see them! :-) but nothing seems to stick.

Every lesson they stare at their fingers as though the meaning of life is written there, guessing notes.

The parents are keen for them to learn, aware of the issue, but with little if any musical training themselves.

Anyone got any ideas and tips to work on this?

Thanks

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Re: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2888887 09/10/19 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by JimmyShand
Background - two young siblings, 8 and 7 years old. Fairly able, esp the older. He has just passed his G1 ABRSM, she is working towards it. I've taught them nearly a year, they had a teacher before that who retired from ill health, and I think some early lessons in pre school.

They just will not read the notes. They can, but just try to memorise. This isn't uncommon of course, but these two just take to beyond. I've tried teaching intervals, using Every Good Boy, sight reading and learning simple pieces quickly, explaining to them why it matters, holding a bit of card over their hands so they can't see them! :-) but nothing seems to stick.

Every lesson they stare at their fingers as though the meaning of life is written there, guessing notes.



I assume the boy passed his sight-reading test in Grade 1? If so, he already has acceptable reading skills, and he needs to be challenged with something he really likes and want to play - maybe Für Elise (the easy parts of it) - which he'll have to read to get the right notes. The reward is there for his taking, but you won't help him 'find' the notes. He has to sight-read in front of you.

Do you ever play advanced appealing pieces for them, reading from the score? (Never play from memory - he'll think that's what good pianists should do). My first teacher did, at the end of every lesson, when I was a kid. She never played any classical piece from memory, and even let me choose (from the volumes she always brought to the lessons at my home) which piece I wanted her to play for me. It was ingrained into my mind that reading skills were of prime importance in being able to play a huge range of advanced music, and I followed her example.

And she never played for me any piece that I was learning, until after I'd learnt it and she was ready to move me on. She would put each new piece on the music rest, and I would be expected to sight-read it, however slowly, in front of her, without any prompting or directions from her. (All my four teachers did the same). The only way I could hear the music was if I played it myself. If you play the piece for them first - even if only once - they already know how the piece goes, and they can start guessing the notes (not difficult when there are only a few easy notes). Don't give them a chance to take the easy way out.


"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: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2888932 09/10/19 10:48 AM
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Thanks for your thoughts.

He DID pass the sight reading - just :-)

I don't know if some previous teacher encouraged them to memorise - I know the only time I've played them a piece before learning was if they had to make a choice, eg the exam pieces.

They try to 'practise' a new piece from memory, even after only one to two play throughs ...

Re: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2888963 09/10/19 12:31 PM
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The 'trick' is to get them to enjoy reading music for fun, just like a child might enjoy reading Noddy books (or even Harry Potter) for fun - because the story is interesting, and they want to find out what happens next.

Not so easy these days, when it seems that kids prefer FB to chatting to friends or kicking a ball. As well as adults (yes, many adult beginners also find memorising easier than reading, to the detriment of their reading skills - have a look at the Adult Beginners Forum). Do you give them lots of easy pieces to sight-read and play for themselves? Like the volume of Denes Agay's Easy Classics to Moderns https://www.amazon.co.uk/Easy-Classics-Moderns-Music-Millions/dp/0825640172 (all original Grade 1 to 3 short 'classical' pieces by great composers) in a bright red cover. The second volume (More Easy Classics to Moderns) is in blue, for the boys.

When I was a kid, though my teacher (who gave me the book) taught me some pieces from it, I eventually sight-read through all of them by myself for fun. Another thing is that they should have a few pieces on the go at any one time, and try to push them through a lot of rep fairly quickly. There's no need for them to be able to play every piece note-perfect before they move to something else - only their exam pieces need to be perfected. Students who only learn a few pieces a year will inevitably have very poor reading skills (as well as get bored) because they'll memorise every piece even without trying.


"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: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2888997 09/10/19 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by JimmyShand
Anyone got any ideas and tips to work on this?

This is indeed common. It's a communicable disease.

I would immediately take these kids off the exam track. I would say that, "Until you learn to read notes fluently, we are going to play very easy pieces out of method books."

Don't let the kids move on until reading is mastered. You're the adult here, so you should take charge of the situation.

These kids might need to revisit intervallic reading. They are probably very weak in 4th and 5th intervals. Also, make sure they know what octave they are playing in, in relation to middle C.


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Re: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2889184 09/11/19 06:21 AM
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Thanks for your ideas.

I don't think any kids I teach ever sit down on their own and try to play a piece that hasn't been set ...

I don't know if its they have so much more to entertain them these days, all the various clubs and devices and parents devoted to their amusement that they never find themselves in the position we regularly used to of having to fill a rainy afternoon with our own plans :-) or if kids are so regimented now they are afraid of showing any initiative. Or both perhaps.

Re: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2889201 09/11/19 07:59 AM
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I am not a teacher, but have a thought anyway
....,. Find at least one piece of music they yearn to play ( could be a current pop tune) but keep it for their lessons a few minutes at a time

When they can fluently read it all, let them take it home


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Re: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2889440 09/12/19 10:51 AM
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A general thought. Skills are developed through daily practice. If a skill is not reinforced in regular practice at home, it will not develop. Working on new pieces of music is supposed to be the thing that helps develop reading abilities - but since the kids learned to do that differently, which is now the "easier" and familiar habit; this is not happening at home. Every time a piece is taken home, the child will "practise" that piece in a way that circumvents reading. (I know, I'm being Captain Obvious.) ............ Would it make sense to outline how practice, with reading, should happen - showing this to the parents - giving the parents guidelines - so that something along those lines happen at home?

Re: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2889483 09/12/19 12:36 PM
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bennevis, your tips would be correct if kids today were as curious as you were. You might have even been special for your time. wink

I believe Jimmy Shand's suggestion that many kids never get bored enough to be inventive. I think video games have ruined a lot of their brains. They're used to having to deal with being whisked from one place to another, so it's harder for them to be in one place. They often have to deal with parents splitting up or really crazy things at school even well before puberty.

Also, their parents have few hobbies, so it's not being modelled for them. I'm from a large family in which my parents worked all the time, and still I saw my mother sewing one day per week and my father reading. They had time for Church and visiting friends on Sunday.

When parents are sitting in the studio, they're hooked on their smart phones. Why not bring a book or some embroidery? Because their interest lies in keeping up with the world. When they put on music in the van, it's junk. Really, like I said in another post, many of them are ruining their kid's music education without knowing it.

Re: Kids who will not read the notes
Candywoman #2889678 09/12/19 09:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Candywoman
bennevis, your tips would be correct if kids today were as curious as you were. You might have even been special for your time. wink.

I wish I was......I might even be a concert pianist now, if so. grin

But in reality, when I was a student, I wasn't the only one who thought of the piano as the principal means of entertaining myself. Once I'd started lessons, every time I visited my cousins (who lived 100 miles away) during school holidays, I looked forward to trying out their music books, as well as playing duets with them (frequently, when I wanted to try out a piece that looked difficult, I'd ask one of them to play the RH or LH notes while I played 'the other part' with my two hands, thereby turning a tricky solo piano piece into a somewhat easier duet). I also loved partnering one of my cousins who played the violin as well as the piano. We sight-read through lots of fun stuff in his violin books.

Later on, at high school (with its well-stocked music library), I borrowed volumes of scores (not just of piano music - organ, chamber, even orchestral music in piano reduction were all fair game) to try out on the piano, either by myself or with like-minded friends.

It probably helped that I was hopeless at sports, and kicking a football or throwing balls around wasn't my idea of fun.

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I believe Jimmy Shand's suggestion that many kids never get bored enough to be inventive. I think video games have ruined a lot of their brains.
When parents are sitting in the studio, they're hooked on their smart phones.

I agree.

Sometimes, I cannot believe how people today seem to have lost the human touch, preferring to go on FB or whatever social media they use, than actually listening and engaging in social discourse with those around them. A family sitting at the dinner table (rare enough these days), every one of them lost in their own world gazing at their mobile devices......


"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: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2889846 09/13/19 08:46 AM
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I have some students with same problem. Try also having them write some random notes on the grand staff you give letters to. Also, some basic harmony populating a melody makes them think.
In the end, I think they are afraid of making a mistake if they don't look at the keys.
I tell them it's a balance, look down when needed but know where you're at on the music.
I do like the advice of not playing the piece for them until after they try learning it themselves.

Re: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2889905 09/13/19 10:27 AM
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Thanks for your ideas everyone, much food for thought.

Re: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2890233 09/14/19 10:15 AM
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Bennevis - it was the same when I was a kid. Certainly none of my teachers would have described me as an overzealous student :-) but I would try to play the pieces my brother did if I liked them, and also as you did my friends and I made duets out of random pieces - we had a book of Strauss waltzes often pulled out for this (in fact if memory serves we tried it as a trio also).

Re: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2890294 09/14/19 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by JimmyShand
Bennevis - it was the same when I was a kid. Certainly none of my teachers would have described me as an overzealous student :-) but I would try to play the pieces my brother did if I liked them, and also as you did my friends and I made duets out of random pieces - we had a book of Strauss waltzes often pulled out for this (in fact if memory serves we tried it as a trio also).


But isn’t this the underlying point of your OP: you have students who are not as eager to play LOTS of music. If you did, they would not be memorizing but would doing everything possible to learn to read as well and as quickly as possible. . . so they could read that big stack of music that is waiting for them.

So what can you do to make reading more appealing to them than memorizing ???? Do you know what music they listen to? What music they REALLY want yo play? Find a 🥕

Re: Kids who will not read the notes
dogperson #2890808 09/16/19 01:10 AM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
So what can you do to make reading more appealing to them than memorizing ???? Do you know what music they listen to? What music they REALLY want yo play? Find a 🥕

What if the kid doesn't want to play anything? Or doesn't listen to ANY music?

Some people have zero penchant for music.


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Re: Kids who will not read the notes
AZNpiano #2890831 09/16/19 04:25 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by dogperson
So what can you do to make reading more appealing to them than memorizing ???? Do you know what music they listen to? What music they REALLY want yo play? Find a 🥕

What if the kid doesn't want to play anything? Or doesn't listen to ANY music?

Some people have zero penchant for music.


Don’t you think most everyone has a particular style/piece of music they like. But If they really have no interest in music of any kind, and don’t want to play anything ....., why is their teacher continuing lessons??????


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Re: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2890843 09/16/19 05:17 AM
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Good thoughts and suggestions thanks

Re: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2890848 09/16/19 05:46 AM
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In order though for a child to be able to articulate what kind of music they enjoy, they actually need to have been exposed to that kind of music. I feel that many kids - at least the ones in the school system round here - are exposed to very little. None have ever been to a classical concert. Most of my students don't have parents that play anything. They don't seem to sing much either in school or out of it. They only know what they want to play when they play something and enjoy it. One of my kids is learning Ode to Joy. She likes it. Neither her, nor her family, knew the piece, or had heard of the composer ...

Re: Kids who will not read the notes
JimmyShand #2890857 09/16/19 06:38 AM
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Originally Posted by JimmyShand
One of my kids is learning Ode to Joy. She likes it. Neither her, nor her family, knew the piece, or had heard of the composer ...


eek

That's quite extraordinary (I hope)!!!

Re: Kids who will not read the notes
johnstaf #2890862 09/16/19 06:58 AM
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Originally Posted by johnstaf
Originally Posted by JimmyShand
One of my kids is learning Ode to Joy. She likes it. Neither her, nor her family, knew the piece, or had heard of the composer ...


eek

That's quite extraordinary (I hope)!!!


Nope.not extraordinary. If you are not part of a musical listening family, you would not know it existed.
I was not, and I did not.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It's ok to be a Work In Progress
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