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student can't count -- Help
#929336 04/21/08 06:17 PM
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Polka Offline OP
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He is a transfer student.
This student is soooo special.
I've never had this problem with other students.
He simply cannot count, even with help of metronome.
His note reading is much more advanced than beat counting. I've tried several ways to help him --
metronome, counting for him, even played duet that primo is just simple whole note per measure line, and secondo does all the harmony change and beat counting...

Anybody has experience working with this kind of students before? Please help.


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Re: student can't count -- Help
#929337 04/21/08 06:33 PM
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This may be a dumb question but are you sure your student actually knows the note values? Does he understand why it is important to count? I've had a few transfers recently who could play very well but had no clue about note values and counting. Perhaps they learned by mimicking beats from the teacher or just winging it.

Re: student can't count -- Help
#929338 04/21/08 07:46 PM
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Of course, your student knows how to count, but for whatever reason, chooses not to!

First lesson with transfer student includes the following comment: All musicians count - that is, we keep the beat, we have a sense of the pulse of a piece. It's like your heart - it's got to go on autopilot, but it can't do that without some training, so we're going to count out loud for a while. I'll help by counting with you.

Okay, that's a bit over the top, but I do use words to that effect, but softer. And I play and count with the student, so that as soon as they lose the beat, they become aware of it.

Have I mentioned this before? It's really important for the teaching studio to have two pianos, one for the student and one for the teacher. Sometimes we play with a student, sometimes we illustrate for the student, but it's impossible to do the former without a second piano, and it's awkward to do the latter with only one instrument.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
Re: student can't count -- Help
#929339 04/21/08 07:47 PM
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BTW, miaeih makes an excellent point. I'm surprised how many transfer students actually don't know note values very well.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
Re: student can't count -- Help
#929340 04/21/08 07:52 PM
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Does this student have arrythmia?

Re: student can't count -- Help
#929341 04/21/08 09:10 PM
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haha...if I were you...I'd get him to learn a couple of drum lessons...and leave the problem to the drum teacher!!...

Nah, just kidding...I would actually suggest that your transfer student goes back to the basic...a 4/4 time signature...and get your student to use a drumstick/pencil to tap all the half(crotchet) note beats till he/she gets it right...and probably progress to 2/4 time signatures...without inserting the inner details yet...such as 1-e-+-a...the sixteenth(semiquaver) and eighth(quaver) notes...these exercises have got to be reviewed time and time again...just to ensure that he/she gets it right...after they get these two time signatures right, introduce a fun song for them to play!!...(of the time signature they have just learnt, of course...)

I would also suggest that the student does not learn more than 2 exercises of beats until they get the previous ones right...the progress is slow, I will admit...but at least we know that it is secure...

Erm, I wonder how old your student is?...if he/she is any older than a teenager, they may not like this idea of 'going back to basics'...though I really believe it helps a lot...

Miaeih does have a point...I have gone through heck, explaining to my stubborn students (the last one took me 5 months...I just had victory with her three weeks back)...the importance of counting...and how they will find playing music much easier in the near future...and best of all, I made a deal with them...that unless they have mastered counting, I will not be introducing to them any difficult songs...but 'baby songs' as they call it...

Haha...we can really see the need of those students to impress...because they got to their counting and nailed it down right away...even my stubborn ones!!...

And now, I have no qualms about teaching my students at all...*grin*

Re: student can't count -- Help
#929342 04/22/08 01:20 AM
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Hi, Polka:

That is such a common problem around here, it's not funny anymore!!

Perhaps your new student was taught to imitate the teacher, or listen to recordings and imitate that. I am partially guilty of this myself. One of my youngest students used the Piano Adventure Gold Star Adventure series (the ones with an accompaniment CD, as well as a piano track). For almost a year she was just imitating the CD; though, to her credit, she was making amazing progress, probably because she absolutely loved the music. She played with fabulous rhythm, until we started doing sight reading exercises, and then everything fell apart. She can't even count quarter notes vs. half notes in 4/4 time. That's when I got the wake-up call. We started over with rhythm and I am making her do sight reading every day.

Sight reading is a great exercise. It exposes all sorts of problems--note reading, note value recognition, counting, etc. etc. etc.

Re: student can't count -- Help
#929343 04/22/08 01:21 AM
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Quote
haha...if I were you...I'd get him to learn a couple of drum lessons...and leave the problem to the drum teacher!!...
I was seriously toying with that very idea in my mind today. A couple of years ago I walked past an African drumming lesson that had moved outdoors in a park, and when they discovered I took music lessons they invited me to sit at a table in the middle of the "classroom". I sat in on a 2 hours lesson and was awe-struck at what they were learning.

I know this is OT, but maybe it's worth sharing. They had to learn basic rhythms, which is sort of like pieces, or Alberti bass, and possess this repertoire. The "notes consisted of two drum sounds and an additional sound which could be a gong, a slap to the side of the drum. Music consisted of the chorus rhythm, to which a solo was added which had to fit or come from the basic rhythms.

The students had been assigned to write a solo to one of the basic rhythms, and each of them took turns drumming his solo to the chorus drumming. Some of them struggled with their own solo. The best solo was chosen. One of the students objected "But sir, his is very simple and easy to play - of course he could play it with no problem." The instructor told the class that he had trapped them in order to drive a point home: simplicity was the key, and effective simplicity was more difficult to achieve than complexity. I made a big mental note.

I was thinking about this today while I worked on some of Guhl's rhythmic exercises, and seriously considered finding who that was and joining the next class. The instructor was excellent. But mainly, the African drums suspended from your waist and the action means that you are working rhythmically and musically with the whole body, having this permete you so to say. In my case, rhythm of music seems to be sitting at the very surface, close to intellect and it's not internal like melody or mood I noticed. That's when I thought of the African drumming lesson.

Seriously, might such a thing not be an effective tangent if the right opportunity came about at the right time, which would have a positive effect on instrumental music?

Re: student can't count -- Help
#929344 04/22/08 02:24 AM
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Polka, and everyone else - I agree that this appears to be a widespread problem (and other things too) when you get a student that has had less than adequate instruction prior to coming to you. Then you have to "clean up" after a semi-literate teacher has done all the damage. All of the advice given is sound and should be applied.

However, sometimes, this can be a signal that there is a learning disability present. By default, simply because I taught so many of them, I began specializing in teaching gifted children with learning disabilities - mainly Dyslexia and ADD/ADHD, and that is the topic of my dissertation and of the book I am working on. Rhythmical problems are one of the red flags for a possible presence of Dyslexia. It can be just a touch of it, it can be combined with ADD ... there are many possibilities, and there are many different techniques you can use to correct this problem and help your student. So as not to bore the whole group, PM me and I can write more.

The same goes for anyone who's interested in learning more about gifted children with Dyslexia and/or ADD/ADHD and tips on how to teach them succesfully. I just presented this topic at the MTNA conference in Denver and it was unbelievable to hear all the questions and the interest.


Musically yours,
Dr. Jelena Vladikovic, NCTM
Kawai Artist
Piano and pedagogy Professor, Grand Canyon University
Founding Teacher, Royal Conservatory Music Program
Member, College of Examiners: Royal Conservatory
Center Representative, Royal Conservatory
www.vartabedianpianostudio.com
Re: student can't count -- Help
#929345 04/22/08 06:49 AM
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I'm a bit rushed for time and just skimmed most of the posts... When I've had trouble with students not counting or having a beat, I use the "ta" "half note," and "hold this whole note" method... it's so much easier to pick up than memorizing note-values. Then after a bit I start using them interchangeably and haven't seen much of a problem.

I've also stopped the lesson and marched in place with students while saying/clapping the rhythm--feet keep exceptional tempo and I've had success with this.

I'm also working with one of my students letting HER keep the beat while I play the song and purposefully speed up/slow down so that she's aware of it.

Another idea is to record his playing so he can hear just what it is he's doing (perhaps alongside a metronome.) I haven't done this with any of my students (yet,) but it helps me in own practicing.

Good luck.

Edit:
I've also noticed that sometimes when I think they "can't count," it's because they're saying the words at variable speed. It's impossible for me to pick up on this problem until I have them count aloud.

Re: student can't count -- Help
#929346 04/22/08 08:21 AM
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Jelena, would you let us know when your book is out? I have some training in learning disability teaching and am currently a music student. It would be fascinating to read!

Re: student can't count -- Help
#929347 04/22/08 02:56 PM
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Jelena, here you are! wink

I'm so excited about what you have to offer in this topic! I'm going to want an autographed book, too, Jelena! (Hint, hint!)

Sal,

I use the "Magic Counting - Note Value System" too - of whatever you are calling it - from where ever you got it. I love it! It has been the liberating force in easily counting all music - duration counting! All it needs is to be put upon a steady beat and it behaves beautifully. I use this as the form of counting, as it is the best one for a pianist, but we also learn to do metrical mathematical counting too, as chorus, orchestra, band, ensembles work best with the conductor/director in this format. Our playing is so full of multi-tasking we need to reduce everything to it's smallest common denominator and to keep it simple at the same time.

Betty

Re: student can't count -- Help
#929348 04/22/08 07:33 PM
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I just finished lesson with the kid. He is 10 years old, BTW.

Today, I turned on metronome, and asked him to count, only count beats without playing at all.
It's 4/4 time signature, and I asked him to count 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 instead of 1+2+3+4+ .
Well, he couldn't even count precisely at the right time. I really suspect that he has learning disability. Believe me, I did almost everthing you suggested, except I don't have 2 pianos here. I am kind of frustrated. But, that's a challenge, right? If I can teach him well, I am actually move forward a huge step.
I guess he needs a lot more time to be on the track. We'll see.

Thanks for all your kind supports.


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Re: student can't count -- Help
#929349 04/22/08 07:41 PM
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The first time I ever played together with a musician, it was a duet piece that I had played my entire life, on an instrument I had played my entire life. I discovered I could not count. I was devastated. Later my children asked me questions. I said, "Don't ask your mother anything. She can't even count to two."

Can he count to two? Seriously. Is that a place to start? Rhythms without numbers? 2/4 time which is literally counting to two and uses two feet?

Re: student can't count -- Help
#929350 04/22/08 08:49 PM
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Not being able to count at the right time to the metronome is not unusual when starting out. Many kids I have taught do not understand what is meant by counting with the metronome on the ticks even when I demonstrate it. Also, some are nervous and cannot count rhythmically while the metronome is on while others just cannot feel the beats.

Re: student can't count -- Help
#929351 04/22/08 09:24 PM
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Yes, miaeih, that's the point.
He cannot feel the beats.
Even I count out loud for him, he can't feel the beats at all. Guess I have long way to go.


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Re: student can't count -- Help
#929352 04/23/08 07:22 AM
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Betty, I got it from you. I owe you many thanks for the ease it's brought me and my students. smile

I personally have a hard time feeling the beats of a metronome--it's almost like they grate inside me and become an obnoxious tick/beep rather than something I can relate with. More often, I opt to tap my pen on the piano, my foot loudly--anything. I really try to get them to feel the beat with their body and not just in their mind. If he's not feeling the beat, I'd move away from the inhuman box and numbers, just focus on just that--getting him to feel the beat with his body.

Maybe you could try marching (stomping, even) in place with him and just try clapping every time a foot hits the ground--then every other time, then try to fit two claps into a step, and so on--gradually, of course. The idea is to move outside of the brain and involve the whole body, and then apply the same method to simple songs (singing while stomping/clapping), and eventually move it to the piano. This should be a fun activity for the both of you.

Or maybe what you need is a good rock/pop song with a heavy beat...

Re: student can't count -- Help
#929353 04/23/08 09:14 AM
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As has been mentioned, the more you can isolate rhythmic exercises away from the keyboard, the better your student will tend to grasp note values. My percussion students (I teach band s well as piano)do a lot of clapping of beats away rom the drums.

I would also suggest to give your student time (pardon the pun). Everyone has their weaknesses and your pupil will come around eventually. If you get frustrated and show it in the least, your student may shut down. Good luck.


Daniel E. Friedman, co-owner of www.pianolessons101.com
You CAN learn to play the piano in a fun and positive way.
Re: student can't count -- Help
#929354 04/23/08 09:37 AM
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I suggest going into a long hallway, or outside where there's some space, and start with the very basic of basic eurhythmics exercises - walking and clapping. Walk a good length, settle into an easy pace. Then ask your student to clap every time his foot touches the ground. This is harder than it looks.

Once he's done that with a good amount of success, and it make take a while, then start asking him to speak "one" for every step so that he's stepping, clapping, and speaking quarter notes. Sometimes I bring shakers with me so we shake, step, and speak at the same time. Small drums work, too. Change the tempo, see if he can accomodate that. Once he's done that reasonably well, then you can bring him inside and start playing easy things on the piano (I just make it up, in true eurhythmics fashion). Stick with 4/4 for now. See if he can find the beat and march along with it.

With the difficulties you've described so far, this'll probably take 3-4 lessons... but the goal is to get the student feeling the beat in his body so he can start internalizing it.


Pianist and teacher with a 5'8" Baldwin R and Clavi CLP-230 at home.

New website up: http://www.studioplumpiano.com. Also on Twitter @QQitsMina
Re: student can't count -- Help
#929355 04/23/08 11:01 AM
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Sal,

That is great news! The thrilling thing about it is that the students take to it. I'd say that my students start their strenghs in the fingering and counting area using "Magic Counting", keeping a steady beat becomes a given. We use metronome only to establish the tempo, and to verify any section of the piece that needs improving upon.

Polka,

Would you be willing to try an alternate system of counting where the word used to count it is exactly the duration of the present moment count. No numbers are involved in counting. At a later date, when the student begins early classics and sonatinas, I teach the metric system which is then easily understood and usable, too. At some point rhythm becomes unconscious.

I recommend this highly. I get the impression Sal does too.

Betty

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