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student suddenly forgot how to read notes
#2898359 10/08/19 07:37 PM
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I've been teaching a recently turned 6-year-old boy for about 2 years. He has struggled with learning note recognition -- until a few weeks ago when he seemed to suddenly "get it". He practiced and it showed. I gave him random notes to identify and he could say the note names and play them on the piano. He even likened piano playing to playing video games (that is, keep your eyes on the music, not on your hands). Then, for his 6th birthday, his family traveled somewhere and stayed at a hotel. That's all I know because I don't ask a lot of non-music questions of parents. Now here's the thing: At his very next lesson, this child suddenly forgot how to read the notes. How does that happen? I have never had a student forget something they had already learned. I am baffled about this. Has anyone out there ever encountered such sudden note-reading amnesia?

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Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
cinephile #2898431 10/09/19 02:12 AM
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I'm not a teacher, but to me it sounds like the boy mastered the exercise using short term memory. So he mastered your test momentarily then subsequently lost the skill since it wasn't really committed to long term memory. Is this really that unusual? As far as I know, it happens all the time.

Btw, why would you expect a 5-6 year old to master note reading? These seem to be really high expectations for a Kindergartner.

Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
cinephile #2898456 10/09/19 04:27 AM
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It is not uncommon for young children to forget something that they have learned. At the hotel, I guess he didn't practise, and he forgot. He'll learn it again.


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Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
cinephile #2898526 10/09/19 08:53 AM
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I agree with Animisha that it is not unusual for kids to forget.

Regression can also be caused by serious problems, but in those cases it would be unlikely for parents to be unaware of other symptoms.


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Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
cinephile #2898715 10/09/19 05:56 PM
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I have students who forget everything over "summer break" most often, b/c they don't practice. Some are away or at camps. The only student I have ever taught who never remembered notes from week to week was a true mystery to me. She did well until she moved out of primer. Despite using magnets (for spaces, lines), flashcards, composition projects, tons of easy supplemental material, etc., she couldn't even see that two notes in a row were the same. Thankfully, mom finally dropped b/c of policy issues. Your student's lapse seems normal to me.


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Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
navindra #2898781 10/09/19 11:39 PM
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Originally Posted by navindra
Btw, why would you expect a 5-6 year old to master note reading? These seem to be really high expectations for a Kindergartner.

Well, lots of kids that age can read music fluently.

But, I would focus on intervals before I worry about note recognition.


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Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
cinephile #2911917 11/14/19 01:47 PM
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Not unusual for under 8's. I had a 7 year old who learnt all his grade 1 pieces in a couple of months. After the summer hols he had no inkling at all and in fact it took 9 months to learn them again! He got his grade 8 at 14.

Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
cinephile #2923808 12/17/19 07:57 AM
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My daughter learned how to read music but then forgot as she would memorise each of her pieces and always play them from memory, never reading from the score. It cost her a mark higher than a straight pass in her Grade 1 harp. Now I (and her teacher) have to teach her again, or rather do a major refresh. Apparently it's pretty normal for children to take the path of least resistance.


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Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
The Hound #2923828 12/17/19 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by The Hound
Apparently it's pretty normal for children to take the path of least resistance.

That is also the smartest way, generally. Children need to learn so much!
But also we adults, even those of us whose memory is not what it used to be, cannot play our pieces without at least parts of them memorised.


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Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
AZNpiano #2924091 12/17/19 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by navindra
Btw, why would you expect a 5-6 year old to master note reading? These seem to be really high expectations for a Kindergartner.

Well, lots of kids that age can read music fluently.

But, I would focus on intervals before I worry about note recognition.


Yes, that was what I was thinking. Both points. Start with intervals, and link to note reading as the child soaks up the basics. Many introductory books do exactly that. Note reading is essentially part of the process from the get go, with the initial emphasis on intervals. The staffs are there on the page, and the teacher can introduce it gradually.

Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
cinephile #2924342 12/18/19 02:31 PM
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The video below is for the bass clef but can also be applied to sight-reading in general. A lot of people would tape the letters of the alphabet ABCs onto the keys of a keyboard. You can do something similar with a piano. Don't like to jump to any conclusion regarding the cause of the memory lapse. We all get into stressful situations in life that cause us to forget things. Practice naming notes using cue cards once in the morning and once before going to bed for a few minutes can reinforce memory recall.


Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
cinephile #2924433 12/18/19 05:51 PM
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The summary of the opinions expressed in that video is:
That people tend to read treble clef better, and they do so because they tend to follow the melody, which tends to be in the treble clef (in the kind of music he's looking at). He suggests that to get better at reading bass clef, start reading bass clef. Then he brings out flash cards, a flashcard thingy with movable notehead which I think has the note name on the back (?), and a keyboard chart to place on the piano. The latter I have seen used effectively, but of a better design. Ledger lines between the clefs are not addressed in the keyboard chart beyond middle C. He demonstrates using it, via existing music, and is careful not to go to, for example, G4 on the 3rd ledger line of the bass clef since the chart doesn't show it.

I didn't find much in there. The idea of "reading" treble clef because of following melody makes me wonder if real reading is involved. How was the reading taught? Was the bass clef neglected? Was music for beginners always the kind that had treble clef melody, bass clef chords? How is this taught in the beginning. And if using flash cards, how? And how, vis-a-vis the piano.

Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
thepianoplayer416 #2924574 12/19/19 03:27 AM
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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
A lot of people would tape the letters of the alphabet ABCs onto the keys of a keyboard. You can do something similar with a piano.

STOP RIGHT THERE.

That is a horrible suggestion, and I hope nobody else does that.


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Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
keystring #2924575 12/19/19 03:31 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring
I didn't find much in there. The idea of "reading" treble clef because of following melody makes me wonder if real reading is involved. How was the reading taught? Was the bass clef neglected? Was music for beginners always the kind that had treble clef melody, bass clef chords? How is this taught in the beginning. And if using flash cards, how? And how, vis-a-vis the piano.

Unfortunately, despite the advancements in piano pedagogy, much of the method book repertoire is still heavily "treble melody; bass accompaniment." In the ideal world, it should be 50-50, or do more contrapuntal playing from the beginning.

Even when kids get into real repertoire, most of the pieces by major composers after J.S. Bach are heavy toward the right hand, so I have to do quite a bit of supplementation for bass clef reading among my intermediate students as well.

Maybe this is why we get threads like "Bach is Hard"??


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Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
cinephile #2924609 12/19/19 07:53 AM
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I've played different instruments over the years and tend to be better reading the treble clef (including piano scores written with both staffs in the treble clef due to my early exposure to the recorder & violin.

The easiest piano piano music involve playing the first 9 notes in the C position. The L plays only F-G-A-B-C & the R only C-D-E-F-G. These songs has just the 1 melody line with both hands alternating playing 1 note at a time (no chord or second note as accompaniment). Recently a teacher posted the video of a student playing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" with just 1 line.

There are 2 aspects to learning to play music: good reading skills & listening skills (playing by ear). I'm sure people with good listening skills can reproduce the melody line (1 note at a time) to songs we heard many times. Even if they are hitting piano keys at random, a few minutes would do. I'm talking about "Marry Had a Little Lamb" or "Twinkle". A more complicated piece like "Minuet in G" from the Notebook for Anna M. may be / may be not.

Some people like myself are better listeners which tend to disguise poor reading skills. Last Saturday I was at a party. A lay played all sorts of holiday tunes and asked me to join in with my violin. The next song was "Ding Dong Merrily on High" and the starting note was Bb. I played through the rest without looking at the page.

I rarely rely on sheet music to play a song. If I played a song enough times, I either recall the notes or the finger sequences (muscle memory). Party of the learning is listening so I'd usually make a quick sound recording of a new piece with my phone.

Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
thepianoplayer416 #2924613 12/19/19 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
A lot of people would tape the letters of the alphabet ABCs onto the keys of a keyboard. You can do something similar with a piano.

I sort of think that in order to give non-mainstream advice on the piano teachers forum, then one should at least be a piano teacher. 🤣


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Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
Tyrone Slothrop #2924635 12/19/19 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
A lot of people would tape the letters of the alphabet ABCs onto the keys of a keyboard. You can do something similar with a piano.

I sort of think that in order to give non-mainstream advice on the piano teachers forum, then one should at least be a piano teacher. 🤣



+1 Makes complete sense.



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Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
keystring #2924665 12/19/19 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring
The summary of the opinions expressed in that video is:
That people tend to read treble clef better, and they do so because they tend to follow the melody, which tends to be in the treble clef (in the kind of music he's looking at).


I think you read better what you're exposed to more. If your first instrument was trombone or tuba, you may be much more comfortable in bass clef.

I sing in a choir, and have to read both. Often a tutti passage is written in treble but both women and men sing it. For me it's maybe a tiny bit easier in bass clef but again it's mostly familiarity.

Last night I played trombone at a concert, reading music that I'd played before but was not familiar with, essentially sightreading. A few pieces were tenor clef as opposed to bass. The player next to me is much more accomplished than I but could not read tenor so we swapped parts for those.

If you started on violin and learned that weird French clef you might never get past it! Hee, hee.

Probably not relevant to this discussion, but... the night before my handbell group had several absences. I attempted to ring F5 and G5 while singing C6 and D6. I wasn't very successful. Although I could learn to do it on any given piece, I couldn't sightread at tempo that way.


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Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
cinephile #2925062 12/20/19 01:07 PM
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Based on the original post, the word that comes to mind is "experience". Many people on the forum have been playing an instrument or singing for decades. Taking time off to travel for even 6 months my reading ability becomes rusty but won't lose it completely. A child who started 2 years ago it's still more hit-and-miss. At this point I don't think anybody has to be overly concerned.

Once I was at a party. 3 kids were sitting in front of a keyboard with a piece of sheet music. They had lessons for a year. It had just 4 lines and obviously the teacher they had thought the piece was at their sight-reading level. The 3 took turns trying to reproduce the piece but not 1 came close. The father took piano lessons before hated it. Their parents weren't too concerned about their lack of reading abilities. It takes years to get good a sight-reading. Some people are better at it

Re: student suddenly forgot how to read notes
cinephile #2925080 12/20/19 01:40 PM
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Based on the original post, the word that comes to mind is "experience". Many people in the forum have been playing an instrument or singing for decades. Taking a few months off we wouldn't lose our reading ability completely. A child who started 2 years ago it's still more hit-and-miss. At this point I don't think anybody should be overly concerned.

Once I was at a party. 3 kids were learning a piece of sheet music with 4 lines. Their teacher thought it was at their reading level. All 3 took turns at the keyboard trying to reproduce the piece but not 1 came close. The father who took lessons years ago wasn't a big help. The parents weren't too concerned. It takes years of consistent practice to get good at reading music. Some people are better at it sooner.

Christmas is around the corner and there is a lot of holiday music even in shopping areas. Yesterday a friend came over and we played some holiday pieces as violin duets. We both read through the pieces we played. Since many of the holiday pieces were familiar like "Frosty the Snowman", "O Come All Ye Faithful", etc. part of the playing was by ear. My friend tend to rely more on reading while I tend to play more by ear. When I'm learning a new piece, I'd take out my phone and make quick recordings along the way. Listening to recordings help to reinforce the learning.

In the beginning, many of us would put letters next to the notes on paper and ABC labels on the piano keys so we play by matching the letters. The only thing we need to do to reproduce a piece is proper counting. After 6 months the letters on the piano keys start to come off 1 by 1. You'd still leave a few letters for reference until you are confident enough to do without the labels on the keys.

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