Piano World Home Page

new transfer student who cannot read much

Posted By: chueh

new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/27/19 02:22 AM

I have two new sister students at a music store 3 weeks ago. They came without anything for their first lessons. I asked them to play something for me and asked how long they have taken lessons. Both were taking lessons about 10 years.

The 17 yr-old had her lesson first, playing Chopin's Db "Minute Waltz" briefly and said she forgot. Then, we went to the front of the store to pick up several books for both her sister's and her levels.

I told her to sight-read and to start learning a new piece. She asked me which hand to do first. I responded that she should sight-read both hands. She was terrified and asked for only one hand at a time. I said OK. Still, I couldn't believe that every note was wrong with even one hand. I suggested to change to an easier piece, but she was offended and said she was more than capable to play this piece.

During the lesson I asked her quite a bit of questions including her former teacher's teaching approaches. At the end of the lesson, I told her to study the new piece as much as possible with hand separately.

Since I had the experience with the older sister, I purposely picked a lesser level book for the younger one, Specifically a very short Baroque piece. She sight-read slightly better than the older one, yet I was still very disappointed with her 10 yr piano studying.

Despite of very slowly reading and learning, this younger one at least followed my instructions. We've come along a little for these 3 weeks. On the other hand, the elder one did not study the new piece I assigned her, yet she said that she would rather play the forgotten one and refreshed the minute waltz. She was very defensive

OK then, literally, she played by heart without knowing how to read the first page. We worked on the "turns" because she played the turns at the wrong spots. I analyzed the reading with her for these turns, but she had no idea what was what, unless I slowly demonstrated beat by beat. I asked her how she could arrive at the point where she could play it "a tempo." She said that she just played over and over again.

She couldn't remember how to play the 2nd page (B section). So we went over the chords, but she had no idea what-so-ever any chords. I reviewed chords and how to make these chords with her, yet she couldn't play the correct notes. Even I showed her which notes to play together, she took a long time to get them. Obviously she has always played from "monkey see monkey do" without any musical knowledge and forcefully memorized each piece.

I don't know what to do with her for her keeping her old habit yet not willing to have the new adventure with me. Being so defensive, she did not want to learn something easy.....

Any suggestions? Thanks
Posted By: missbelle

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/27/19 03:42 AM

There are books that have review pages at the beginning... Specifically Piano Adventures.
Also, Joy Morin has a blog page called ColorIn My Piano that has theory test level pages.

I have used these for transfer students. I tell them that I am looking for gaps, and how they think. I watch them take the test, but not by staring at them. Pretend to be writing notes, or shuffle papers.

The results can be quite informative.

Rote memory is not a way to learn.

Liken it to a child learning to sing the alphabet song, but then learning the sounds of each letter, and grammar rules for reading, that takes lots of time, practice, work, and understanding.

Learning to mimic sounds is just the beginning.

Good luck!
TEN YEARS?

Any chance you could talk to the past teacher? 😟😟
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/27/19 08:11 AM

I'm no longer shocked by such situations.

However, it is entirely possible that the student is the actual problem. You should tell her to switch to violin or something completely different.
Posted By: pianist_lady

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/27/19 03:42 PM

Some things I have found useful in similar situations:

1. Explain to new students that I always start with review at a more basic level so that I can get to know them better. This allows me to figure out what the student's strengths and weaknesses are before learning new pieces/concepts. If the student has too many challenges, it's hard to walk things back without making them feel like they are being demoted, so I like to start with something they have a chance at being successful at and build up from there.

2. Separate reading practice from learning repertoire. If they have reading challenges, I spend a great chunk of the lesson on sight reading exercises. They may only have 1 or 2 pieces to practice at home, but I'm spending the bulk of the lesson helping them develop reading skills (again, starting at a very basic level where they can find success).

3.Choose repertoire that is similar to what they like to play, but at a more appropriate level. If your student likes the Minute Waltz, find pieces that have a similar mood or style (especially if they are the category of pieces that sound harder than they actually are to play).

4. Accept that it will take time for them to adopt a new way of learning. It can be frustrating to see a student going off in a wrong direction when you know there's a better way, but I try to take note of small changes even if they haven't converted %100 to a new approach.

Hope this helps!
Posted By: mostlystrings

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/27/19 04:29 PM

I'm curious about the circumstances of the transfer - did they move from out of town, did the teacher move or retire, how did they come to this store, etc. The 17 year old previously learned pieces by copying the teacher? Refreshed Minute Waltz by copying a performer on YouTube? (Presumably, she is no longer seeing the old teacher...) On the bright side, she/they have excellent memory training.

For me, meet and greet or first lesson of a transfer student includes pointing out something they are doing well (respecting the old teacher as a person even if you don't necessarily agree with the teaching), having a mutual exchange of ideas and goals, and going over what the first 6 months might look like, that it absolutely takes time to adjust to a new style. My point is that I'm not in the business of continuing in the old teacher's way; they should have stayed (if possible) if that's what they wanted or should keep looking if they aren't interested in my offer.

A situation like this would warrant a talk about "things that I expect students to learn that aren't playing through pieces" that are important for one's development as a well rounded musician, etc. and is that something she/they are willing to work on?

Other considerations: does the store expect you to keep these students (not chase them away)? Would you rather recommend them to another teacher in the store and is there a protocol for that?

On the other hand, the 17 year old is maybe a senior in high school? It's something like 6-7 months left, maybe 1-2 more if she stays for the summer, and in my experience it can take that long for a transfer student to adjust and made huge progress on remediation. If you're really stuck with or intent on keeping them, what if you relax your standards - not completely but enough that you at least spend a little time doing pieces she wants at the level she thinks she is - just to get through the year?

One of my colleagues regularly takes students up through high school graduation, and his mindset is that they can back off the strict technique regimen in the last year if they want. If they want to learn a too-difficult piece or just play different stuff, he goes with it because their time of 10+ years together is coming to a close.
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/28/19 07:50 AM

The first thing is to be upfront that you are going to do things your way and at the same time willing to compromise. Your student wants to work on a Chopin piece which is fine but on condition that he/she master an easier piece at the beginning of the lesson (up to half of the lesson). Put a book full of notes on the piano stand and you will be doing the coaching. The student is supposed to figure out all the notes and you will make suggestions along the way. Avoid showing finger patterns unless the students already figured out the notes and the issues have to do with counting or the style of playing (more staccato or legato). You don't want a students to hear you play the notes and get to memorizing the melody and the harmony routine.

Instead of telling the student to drop to a basic level and play from a beginner's book which can be insulting, find easier and fun pieces along the way and get the student to agree to play the easier piece at a competent level before he/she is allowed to touch an advanced piece. You may even introduce an exercise piece from the Hanon or Czerny book in the beginning of the class as a pre-condition for playing the advanced piece.

There is only so far I'm willing to accommodate someone learning to play. Once I met a retired man who practices piano regularly. Within the first year, he learned to play very few advanced pieces which he imitated the hand positions and the notes painstakingly by watching YouTube videos without reading symbols on paper. Just watching him on the piano, a lot of people were convinced he has been playing for many years. It would take him over 3 months to learn a 5m piece to a competent level by using video demos. He told me that the symbols on paper is like a foreign language that is impossible to decipher. As a piano teacher, you want your students to pick up some techniques along the way. We listened to a few pieces off the radio and when a piece has trills, he would say these are too technical and don't sound pleasing to the ear. The point of learning to play piano is to get yourself exposed to different styles and genres of music. The music before the 19th century tend to be stylized which don't sound very expressive to him. This is not the way I approach music. I have no trouble playing Bach or Handel pieces. When I get into a discussion of music history, specific composers and why they wrote certain pieces, he wasn't interested. Some people just like to do their own thing. At some point I found him impossible to talk to so we went our separate ways.
Posted By: Candywoman

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/28/19 06:04 PM

It's a very difficult situation. Just remember, the problem is probably not the last piano teacher. I do all I can to get students to read music properly. Still, if you were to meet some of my former students after say, seven years, you'd wonder about their sight-reading and my piano teaching. My theory is that unless it's "necessary" to them or they are curious enough, those students will not really learn how to read on their own.

Supposing the 17 year old does want to learn, my guess is that it will take three years to make you feel like she is your student.

Try an easier Chopin piece such as the E minor prelude which is one page long. Start with the right hand. For the left hand, circle each note that is different from the note in the previous chord.
Posted By: Piano*Dad

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/29/19 03:02 AM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano


You should tell her to switch to violin or something completely different.


At age 17??? grin

How about accounting ...
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/29/19 09:09 PM

The older one (17-year-old) may be past your power to overcome her decade of having been poorly taught and having poor study habits and a defensive attitude. At that age, she's probably a candidate for either continuing on her own or stepping away from the piano entirely, at least for a time.

What a sad situation. IMO, unless the student has a sudden change of heart and agrees to step back several levels, you're going to be beating your head against the wall of her defensiveness and some deeply entrenched habits. P.S. Any parental input on the situation?
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/29/19 09:31 PM

I have been in the role of a teacher offering remediation to students who had missed out on basics along the way (non-music), and I have also been a student who discovered after several years that foundations were missing, and that this was in large part the cause of the "sudden, unexplained, and increasing difficulty, despite effort" in the higher grades (last etude was at grade 7 level). It was with an instrument where technique, rather than reading, was the most important challenge - with piano reading is extremely important. (I didn't have real reading either but how I got to the notes was more complicated).

Remediation is really, really hard, even when you are an adult, a teacher, and are convinced that it is necessary and know what it will bring you. For the average student caught out in this: What she has done the last 10 years has seemed fine. It's "how she knows things are done" because that was the world. A studio is a closed world, for a student. If you didn't get taught to read and study a score, you cannot suddenly read and study a score. You will also be very slow, very clumsy, as you catch up to what you didn't learn. Going by rote, memorizing, copying movements or whatever - as soon as you switch to that, suddenly you feel you're flying again - and you won't know your own weaknesses as the teacher does, because your hearing is limited to your experience.

If a person has a big weakness in reading music, you can't fix it by having them read music you put in front of them, at a lower level. You first need to find out what they actually do and don't know. At the simplest level, if they see D below the treble clef line, can they relate it to the white key between the two blacks in front of them? If they don't have that, then how do you expect them to "read simpler music"? It will just make them feel stupid, helpless, and inept.

Secondly, it can't just be once a week in the classroom. If you really do want to give this ability at this age (17 - moving into adulthood, maybe moving to another city for college etc.) - then there has to be activity that is done every day at home, with the purpose of bringing in the missing skill. Without making it so tedious and unpleasant and all-encompassing that piano becomes a hated thing.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/29/19 09:40 PM

I recommend teaching this girl good aural skills, so that she can at least play by ear. No Chopin (at least, not as Freddy wrote it), but songs she might enjoy and play for her own enjoyment.

Every now and then, she can go to Synthesia (or whatever) and learn classical stuff by rote. Note by note.

I think - after ten years - she's too far gone to be able to get back on track to learning to read music properly. She should sue her first teacher who took her down this route (or allowed her to do so, and continue doing so). After all, she was only seven when she started piano - she could only learn what she was taught........
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/29/19 10:15 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
I have been in the role of a teacher offering remediation to students who had missed out on basics along the way (non-music), and I have also been a student who discovered after several years that foundations were missing, and that this was in large part the cause of the "sudden, unexplained, and increasing difficulty, despite effort" in the higher grades (last etude was at grade 7 level). It was with an instrument where technique, rather than reading, was the most important challenge - with piano reading is extremely important. (I didn't have real reading either but how I got to the notes was more complicated).

Remediation is really, really hard, even when you are an adult, a teacher, and are convinced that it is necessary and know what it will bring you. For the average student caught out in this: What she has done the last 10 years has seemed fine. It's "how she knows things are done" because that was the world. A studio is a closed world, for a student. If you didn't get taught to read and study a score, you cannot suddenly read and study a score. You will also be very slow, very clumsy, as you catch up to what you didn't learn. Going by rote, memorizing, copying movements or whatever - as soon as you switch to that, suddenly you feel you're flying again - and you won't know your own weaknesses as the teacher does, because your hearing is limited to your experience.

If a person has a big weakness in reading music, you can't fix it by having them read music you put in front of them, at a lower level. You first need to find out what they actually do and don't know. At the simplest level, if they see D below the treble clef line, can they relate it to the white key between the two blacks in front of them? If they don't have that, then how do you expect them to "read simpler music"? It will just make them feel stupid, helpless, and inept.

Secondly, it can't just be once a week in the classroom. If you really do want to give this ability at this age (17 - moving into adulthood, maybe moving to another city for college etc.) - then there has to be activity that is done every day at home, with the purpose of bringing in the missing skill. Without making it so tedious and unpleasant and all-encompassing that piano becomes a hated thing.
For remediation to work, the person on the receiving end has to be willing to be remediated. For the student in the OP, there would need to be a change from a defensive attitude to an attitude of determination to do what needs to be done. And, yes, at age 17 there may be a lot of competition for her time and attention.

It must have been quite a shock to the student in the to go to this new teacher and be told that she needs to make (drastic) changes to her technique and learning style. The student may need some time to adjust (the optimistic outcome) or she may just say no, I'm not willing to put in the effort (or admit to myself that something's awry) and walk away from it.
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/29/19 10:18 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
....I think - after ten years - she's too far gone to be able to get back on track to learning to read music properly. She should sue her first teacher who took her down this route (or allowed her to do so, and continue doing so). After all, she was only seven when she started piano - she could only learn what she was taught........
It's called malpractice. smile
Posted By: malkin

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/29/19 10:28 PM

Some people seem to be saying that because the student has some proficiency it is now impossible to learn to read.

Have I misunderstood this?

If someone had the potential to learn something is it possible that the learning of something else forever shuts the door on the first thing?

Even for something as concrete as music reading?
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/30/19 02:08 AM

Originally Posted by Stubbie
For remediation to work, the person on the receiving end has to be willing to be remediated. For the student in the OP, there would need to be a change from a defensive attitude to an attitude of determination to do what needs to be done. And, yes, at age 17 there may be a lot of competition for her time and attention.

It must have been quite a shock to the student in the to go to this new teacher and be told that she needs to make (drastic) changes to her technique and learning style. The student may need some time to adjust (the optimistic outcome) or she may just say no, I'm not willing to put in the effort (or admit to myself that something's awry) and walk away from it.

Absolutely. Well, breaking this down a bit:

A good teacher knows what is missing, and what difference it will make if the missing things are brought in. The student doesn't know any of this. She only knows her own reality. So somehow the student needs to be brought to that realization - by getting to experience something - and that can switch on the motivation. I've been told of strategies where exactly that was done. It's very hard I imagine.

As a student who has had to remediate, I did get that picture. It was actually outside of what I was being taught, because I was still taking lessons, and still struggling. I started looking at cause, effect, what people learn with that instrument, and experimented. By focusing on one missing skill one week .... literally turning my back on the music I was playing, and for the entire week ... then going back to the piece, which I could now play effortlessly after struggling for 6 weeks - well that gave me the picture, dramatically. Most students won't have that picture. How do you give them that picture?
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/30/19 02:13 AM

Originally Posted by malkin
Some people seem to be saying that because the student has some proficiency it is now impossible to learn to read.

Have I misunderstood this?

If someone had the potential to learn something is it possible that the learning of something else forever shuts the door on the first thing?

Even for something as concrete as music reading?

I think ......
The problem is that we are inherently lazy, and do what comes the easiest. If you can get at the music by memorizing and imitating, and it's "easier", then you want to continue doing so. It is also your habit, and "natural" to you. Another thing is that even if you want to get what you don't have, there are traps. For example, you cannot teach somebody to latently learn to read music, if you give them music they already know, or can predict. The strengths take over; the habit takes over. There has to be an intelligent strategy to get at the thing.

I do not agree, if anyone is saying it, that it is impossible.

--------
The suggestion to do ear training for the 17 year old might, however, be realistic. As in: is she willing and motivated enough to remediate this late in the game, and at this point in life?
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/30/19 03:48 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
I think ......
The problem is that we are inherently lazy, and do what comes the easiest. If you can get at the music by memorizing and imitating, and it's "easier", then you want to continue doing so.


Being lazy not to learn to read is the case with some people. However, "easiest" isn't necessarily the case. I know a man who learned to play Debussy "Clair de Lune" on piano entirely by watching hand gestures on video demos and imitating note sequences. It took him more than 3 months to learn 1 piece that is just 5 minutes long. To this day he still refuses to learn to read. When he is at the piano, the people around him are convinced he has been playing for at least 10 years although he started playing for just over a year. Learning a piece like this isn't "easy" but this is 1 of the few pieces he liked. He wouldn't push himself to learn new pieces unless he listened to the piece and liked it and on condition that a video demo is available without having him to read.

In my opinion, there needs to be a balance between good reading skills in order to learn new pieces easily and good listening skills. There is nothing wrong with imitating other people's hand positions or memorizing music as long as you also have the ability to read unfamiliar pieces.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/30/19 10:03 AM

Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416

In my opinion, there needs to be a balance between good reading skills in order to learn new pieces easily and good listening skills.

There is nothing to 'balance'.

Both needs to developed equally well, starting with the first minute of the first lesson (as long as the child is old enough to read: if he/she can read "Mary had a Little Lamb", he/she can start learning to read music).

The only exceptions are adult beginners who know that they only want to play non-classical by ear.........in which case why would they waste money on a teacher? There's plenty of stuff on YT for people who want to learn this way.

Quote
There is nothing wrong with imitating other people's hand positions or memorizing music as long as you also have the ability to read unfamiliar pieces.

There's everything wrong with learning pieces purely by imitating other people's hand positions (if classical music is the goal) unless you could already read music very well.......but if you already could, why would you want to learn any piece by imitating others' movements, which is so laborious and inefficient?

Copying others is what children do very well - after all, almost everything they ever learnt in their first few years was by imitation. The problem is that when they find out how easy it is to learn a new piece by copying their teacher's movements, after a certain amount of time, they become resistant to learning to read.

And that's probably what happened with this teenager (assuming her first teacher wasn't a complete fake): whether it's the Suzuki method or whatever it was she started with - or whether her teacher "demonstrated" each and every new piece by playing it for her in full before she was given the chance to try to read it by herself (surely the most silly way to teach) - she soon became resistant to reading when she realized that she could rely on her teacher to teach her everything by rote. By the time the teacher realized what was happening (assuming the teacher actually realized it), it was too 'late' to make her go back to very simple beginner pieces to start learning to read, and likely just gave up. After all, which kid would want to go back to learning how to stand 'properly' when she could already run, jump and hop??
Posted By: outo

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/30/19 11:16 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416

In my opinion, there needs to be a balance between good reading skills in order to learn new pieces easily and good listening skills.

There is nothing to 'balance'.

Both needs to developed equally well, starting with the first minute of the first lesson (as long as the child is old enough to read: if he/she can read "Mary had a Little Lamb", he/she can start learning to read music).


Obviously bennevis is an idealist...but the world just does not work like that. Sometimes one needs to balance because all parts of the brain cannot develope and perform equally.

I have always studied the piano his way and in a way I turned out miserable. I can read music, but I cannot perform with music. I also mostly cannot play well from memory, because it tends to fail me. The only pieces I can play from memory reasonably well are those I memorized right from the beginning. And my relationship with the piano is limited because I cannot do anything on it without notation.

I was struggling with this dilemma with my beginner cello studies: My problems with symbols, numbers and notation on the page started to interfere the same way they do with piano. So instead of suffering through, I decided to memorize the simple pieces before even trying to work on the intonation, posture etc. I have no way of knowing for sure, but maybe if I was taught in a different way as a child, I did not have to take an almost 30 year break from playing any instrument...
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/30/19 05:15 PM

Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416

In my opinion, there needs to be a balance between good reading skills in order to learn new pieces easily and good listening skills.
There is nothing to 'balance'.
Both needs to developed equally well, starting with the first minute of the first lesson (as long as the child is old enough to read: if he/she can read "Mary had a Little Lamb", he/she can start learning to read music).
Obviously bennevis is an idealist...but the world just does not work like that. Sometimes one needs to balance because all parts of the brain cannot develope and perform equally.

I have always studied the piano his way and in a way I turned out miserable. I can read music, but I cannot perform with music. I also mostly cannot play well from memory, because it tends to fail me. The only pieces I can play from memory reasonably well are those I memorized right from the beginning. And my relationship with the piano is limited because I cannot do anything on it without notation.

I was struggling with this dilemma with my beginner cello studies: My problems with symbols, numbers and notation on the page started to interfere the same way they do with piano. So instead of suffering through, I decided to memorize the simple pieces before even trying to work on the intonation, posture etc. I have no way of knowing for sure, but maybe if I was taught in a different way as a child, I did not have to take an almost 30 year break from playing any instrument...
But you could memorize the simple cello pieces by starting with the notes, by reading them yourself. The student in the OP cannot do that; she will need to have someone demonstrate for her--over and over again--now to play each and every piece she might want to learn. She has virtually no note-reading skills with which to 'balance' her imitative skills. Both reading and hearing skills are needed.

Being able to watch someone play and imitate that in the absence of reading (if that is indeed what the student was doing) seems to me to be very limiting and thus a less valuable skill, in the long run, compared to the others.
Posted By: outo

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 11/30/19 07:34 PM

Originally Posted by Stubbie
Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by bennevis
[quote=thepianoplayer416]
In my opinion, there needs to be a balance between good reading skills in order to learn new pieces easily and good listening skills.
There is nothing to 'balance'.
Both needs to developed equally well, starting with the first minute of the first lesson (as long as the child is old enough to read: if he/she can read "Mary had a Little Lamb", he/she can start learning to read music).
Obviously bennevis is an idealist...but the world just does not work like that. Sometimes one needs to balance because all parts of the brain cannot develope and perform equally.

I have always studied the piano his way and in a way I turned out miserable. I can read music, but I cannot perform with music. I also mostly cannot play well from memory, because it tends to fail me. The only pieces I can play from memory reasonably well are those I memorized right from the beginning. And my relationship with the piano is limited because I cannot do anything on it without notation.

I was struggling with this dilemma with my beginner cello studies: My problems with symbols, numbers and notation on the page started to interfere the same way they do with piano. So instead of suffering through, I decided to memorize the simple pieces before even trying to work on the intonation, posture etc. I have no way of knowing for sure, but maybe if I was taught in a different way as a child, I did not have to take an almost 30 year break from playing any instrument...[/quote

]But you could memorize the simple cello pieces by starting with the notes, by reading them yourself. The student in the OP cannot do that; she will need to have someone demonstrate for her--over and over again--now to play each and every piece she might want to learn. She has virtually no note-reading skills with which to 'balance' her imitative skills. Both reading and hearing skills are needed.

Being able to watch someone play and imitate that in the absence of reading (if that is indeed what the student was doing) seems to me to be very limiting and thus a less valuable skill, in the long run, compared to the others.


Which is why I totally agree with you: Everyone should be taught notation to some level. But how much and in what way depends...
Posted By: FarmGirl

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/01/19 05:41 PM

I think anyone can learn reading by sight if they do desire to do so. I grew up in a small town in Japan’s northern region. My husband calls it a truck stop of Japan. Pretty much devoid of culture. The only one piano instruction was provided by three people, a mother - daughter team and a violin teacher. The younger one had a music degree and taught only “talented” kids. I was not fortunate enough to get her. Anyway, it took forever to learn a song with the old one. She told me to work on one hand at a time and then put pedal after both hand is done. It was almost a torture. Anyway I never learned to sightread until I came to the states. It was tough. But it came slowly as I worked through easier pieces, like Christmas music.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/01/19 08:41 PM

Originally Posted by FarmGirl
I think anyone can learn reading by sight if they do desire to do so.

The problem with the OP's student is that she cannot even read a note, let alone sight-read.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/01/19 08:44 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by FarmGirl
I think anyone can learn reading by sight if they do desire to do so.

The problem with the OP's student is that she cannot even read a note, let alone sight-read.

I interpret this as an exaggeration, as I don't even know how this is possible after 10 years of lessons, absent a cognitive impairment.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/01/19 08:46 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by FarmGirl
I think anyone can learn reading by sight if they do desire to do so.

The problem with the OP's student is that she cannot even read a note, let alone sight-read.

I interpret this as an exaggeration, as I don't even know how this is possible after 10 years of lessons, absent a cognitive impairment.

Actually, it can happen quite easily..........as I discovered in a previous thread. (Send me a PM if you want to know which one)
Posted By: Nantes

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/01/19 09:44 PM

You could soften their mental resistance against reading notation by presenting an (alternative) notation that's custom-made for be as easy as possible for keyboard instrument players, which is Klavarskribo. I've made a free video course about it: https://www.skillshare.com/classes/Klavarskribo-A-Revolutionary-Way-of-Reading-Music/1355508151

The moment 0:45 in the introduction video showcases exactly why note-reading with Klavarskribo is so easy. It's a similar to Flowkey or Synthesia in its intuitiveness, but being an actual paper notation instead of a digital app. Then after you understand the notation yourself, you could download the PDF lessons from here: https://www.klavarskribo.eu/en/downloads . The "free lesson piano 1-2" file contains some very easy beginner exercises.

Then, once Klavarskribo helps them realize how reading from notation isn't impossible, you can eventually transition to the traditional notation.
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/01/19 11:35 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by FarmGirl
I think anyone can learn reading by sight if they do desire to do so.

The problem with the OP's student is that she cannot even read a note, let alone sight-read.

I interpret this as an exaggeration, as I don't even know how this is possible after 10 years of lessons, absent a cognitive impairment.
It's not that she can't--that she lacks the mental and physical apparatus (apparatuses??) to do so--it's that she doesn't appear to want to step back and learn how to read a score.

Originally Posted by chueh
.....I told her to sight-read and to start learning a new piece. She asked me which hand to do first. I responded that she should sight-read both hands. She was terrified and asked for only one hand at a time. I said OK. Still, I couldn't believe that every note was wrong with even one hand. I suggested to change to an easier piece, but she was offended and said she was more than capable to play this piece.

During the lesson I asked her quite a bit of questions including her former teacher's teaching approaches. At the end of the lesson, I told her to study the new piece as much as possible with hand separately.....[she] did not study the new piece I assigned her, yet she said that she would rather play the forgotten one and refreshed the minute waltz. She was very defensive

OK then, literally, she played by heart without knowing how to read the first page. We worked on the "turns" because she played the turns at the wrong spots. I analyzed the reading with her for these turns, but she had no idea what was what, unless I slowly demonstrated beat by beat. I asked her how she could arrive at the point where she could play it "a tempo." She said that she just played over and over again.....

Being asked to sight read (prima vista sight reading), hands together, a new piece at one's current level and in front of a new teacher would throw a lot of students off, and I can sympathize with her. Playing hands separately should be doable. Hands separately on an easier piece, also doable. But ignoring the teacher's practice suggestions and getting into a defensive mode at subsequent lessons--that's digging in your heels and refusing to make any changes.

I think a teacher has limited options (read: virtually none) when a 17 yr. old with 10 years of lessons under her belt digs in her heels and refuses to make any changes. Again, really sad. Where are the parents here and how (and why oh why) did her former teacher let this pass?
Posted By: dogperson

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 12:01 AM

It would be interesting to hear her previous teacher’s perspective... I suspect it was a difficult ten years without parental support. But now, miracles can’t be done in her senior year of high school.regardless of the student’s willingness. I would try some things to help her play by ear; reading won’t happen.
Posted By: Pau Gasol

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 01:09 PM

Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Originally Posted by AZNpiano


You should tell her to switch to violin or something completely different.


At age 17??? grin

How about accounting ...


I am reminded of some of the guitars I know; they can't read sheet music (well, not the kind we're all familiar with), because they all learned using tabs.
Posted By: Pau Gasol

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 01:28 PM

Guitar PLAYERS, I mean.
Posted By: LarryK

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 01:37 PM

Originally Posted by Pau Gasol
Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Originally Posted by AZNpiano


You should tell her to switch to violin or something completely different.


At age 17??? grin

How about accounting ...


I am reminded of some of the guitars I know; they can't read sheet music (well, not the kind we're all familiar with), because they all learned using tabs.


I can’t stand tabs. My first guitar “teacher” would conduct his lessons by writing down a few tabs. I had spent ten years reading treble clef and playing the violin, so that was not going to work for me. With tabs, you can’t see how the musical line flows, how the voices change. So, I found a Juilliard grad, a wonderful classical guitarist, and have spent the last ten years studying with him, and, yeah, I can read music, and I have mapped it to the guitar. Now, I need to remap for piano and an extra hand, lol.
Posted By: TimR

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 05:01 PM

Originally Posted by LarryK

I can’t stand tabs. My first guitar “teacher” would conduct his lessons by writing down a few tabs. I had spent ten years reading treble clef and playing the violin, so that was not going to work for me.


When I first took piano lessons, our only local choice for a teacher got out the beginner method series, probably Alfred's, that she used with all the children. She had me play from the beginning to see where we'd start, knowing I was an experienced musician but new to piano.

That first method book didn't start with the notation I'm used to. It had some kind of weird graphic that represented notes and fingers. I hurt my brain trying to figure it out and play that stuff until we got past it into simple pieces on a staff. I ended up in book 3 but almost didn't make it through book 1.

With a conductor program, you almost have to be able to play from one of those scrolling "guitar hero" type of scores. I guess I can learn it but it's not intuitive.
Posted By: LarryK

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 05:57 PM

Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by LarryK

I can’t stand tabs. My first guitar “teacher” would conduct his lessons by writing down a few tabs. I had spent ten years reading treble clef and playing the violin, so that was not going to work for me.


When I first took piano lessons, our only local choice for a teacher got out the beginner method series, probably Alfred's, that she used with all the children. She had me play from the beginning to see where we'd start, knowing I was an experienced musician but new to piano.

That first method book didn't start with the notation I'm used to. It had some kind of weird graphic that represented notes and fingers. I hurt my brain trying to figure it out and play that stuff until we got past it into simple pieces on a staff. I ended up in book 3 but almost didn't make it through book 1.

With a conductor program, you almost have to be able to play from one of those scrolling "guitar hero" type of scores. I guess I can learn it but it's not intuitive.


My piano teacher quickly passed over the baby stuff and got me playing hands together after only a few lessons. She impressed on me the importance of playing at a tempo that allowed me to figure out where both hands were going, in time. Of course, I was always trying to play too fast.

When trying to play some of Bach’s two part inventions for classical guitar duo, I kept running into editions that had both tab and standard notation. I find that particularly annoying. It is visually confusing and makes the pieces much longer. I know tab comes from lute music, and is a worthwhile thing in its own right, but I prefer standard notation.

I don’t do those hero programs.
Posted By: j&j

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 06:01 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by FarmGirl
I think anyone can learn reading by sight if they do desire to do so.

The problem with the OP's student is that she cannot even read a note, let alone sight-read.

I interpret this as an exaggeration, as I don't even know how this is possible after 10 years of lessons, absent a cognitive impairment.

Maybe. Have you ever heard of people, who, for whatever reason, never really learned how to read and write in grade school and slipped through the cracks because they memorized the exact wording rather than decipher the printed words on the page? Maybe the older one memorized what her teacher played rather than learning to read music. Famous songwriter Paul McCartney can’t read music. It happens.
Posted By: LarryK

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 06:17 PM

Originally Posted by j&j
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by FarmGirl
I think anyone can learn reading by sight if they do desire to do so.

The problem with the OP's student is that she cannot even read a note, let alone sight-read.

I interpret this as an exaggeration, as I don't even know how this is possible after 10 years of lessons, absent a cognitive impairment.

Maybe. Have you ever heard of people, who, for whatever reason, never really learned how to read and write in grade school and slipped through the cracks because they memorized the exact wording rather than decipher the printed words on the page? Maybe the older one memorized what her teacher played rather than learning to read music. Famous songwriter Paul McCartney can’t read music. It happens.


I read that Eddie Van Halen faked his way through every piano lesson and still cannot read music. Some people have incredible ears and can get away with not learning to read music. It can be limiting to not be able to read music because there are often wrong notes in recordings.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 06:35 PM

Originally Posted by j&j
Famous songwriter Paul McCartney can’t read music. It happens.

Most pop & folk singers are self-taught, and cannot read music, but then they can't play Chopin either (not even on guitar wink , let alone keyboard).

They play by ear, and learn from a hand-it-down tradition, which serves them fine in what they do. Of course, if they then choose to foray into classical-like genre (like Paul did with his "Liverpool Oratorio", for which he teamed up with Carl Davis), they have to enlist the help of someone who can write music, and flesh it out properly.
Posted By: Pau Gasol

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 06:35 PM

Originally Posted by LarryK

It can be limiting to not be able to read music because there are often wrong notes in recordings.


And in printed sheet music too, unfortunately.

I download music from Musicnotes .com and have come across a few typos; usually a sharp or flat somewhere they forgot, or one note on the wrong line. A good ear helps spot and fix the typos.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 06:54 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by j&j
Famous songwriter Paul McCartney can’t read music. It happens.

Most pop & folk singers are self-taught, and cannot read music, but then they can't play Chopin either (not even on guitar wink , let alone keyboard).

They play by ear, and learn from a hand-it-down tradition, which serves them fine in what they do. Of course, if they then choose to foray into classical-like genre (like Paul did with his "Liverpool Oratorio", for which he teamed up with Carl Davis), they have to enlist the help of someone who can write music, and flesh it out properly.

Perhaps in a folk tradition, but George Winston supposedly also cannot read music. On the other hand, perhaps he does read music and is purposely project a persona of not knowing how to read music. I could see how this could be helpful in shaping his image as an artist to be thought to be self-taught and not read music.

I find it ironic that one who does very similar compositions to George Winston, Ludivico Einaudi, not only reads music but holds a music theory degree from the Milan Conservatory. Just shows how often, there are multiple paths to the same places.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 07:08 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
George Winston supposedly also cannot read music[/url]. On the other hand, perhaps he does read music and is purposely project a persona of not knowing how to read music. I could see how this could be helpful in shaping his image as an artist to be thought to be self-taught and not read music.

I find it ironic that one who does very similar compositions to George Winston, Ludivico Einaudi, not only reads music but holds a music theory degree from the Milan Conservatory. Just shows how often, there are multiple paths to the same places.

It's only in Anglo-Saxon countries where certain musicians cultivate a mystique based on their supposed lack of education, as if their gifts were G**-given and should not be tainted by 'learning'. Paul McC does that too.

Whereas Italians and East Europeans and Asians make a virtue of their immense learning, and want people to know it.......
Posted By: LarryK

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 07:12 PM

Originally Posted by Pau Gasol
Originally Posted by LarryK

It can be limiting to not be able to read music because there are often wrong notes in recordings.


And in printed sheet music too, unfortunately.

I download music from Musicnotes .com and have come across a few typos; usually a sharp or flat somewhere they forgot, or one note on the wrong line. A good ear helps spot and fix the typos.


True, but I would hazard a guess that there are more wrong notes in live performances than there are in sheet music.

I learned that having a classical guitar duet where one person sticks to the text, me, and the other person mainly plays it by ear, my duet partner, does not work out well. It is difficult to save yourself when playing by ear when you make a mistake, while if you are following the score, you can more easily figure out how to get back on the track.

When playing a Bach two part invention on two guitars, there is absolutely no room for any mistakes. If you miss one note, the whole thing collapses. So, I decided I’d better learn the piano in order to play all of the notes of the two part inventions with my own two hands, lol.
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 09:07 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by FarmGirl
I think anyone can learn reading by sight if they do desire to do so.

The problem with the OP's student is that she cannot even read a note, let alone sight-read.

I interpret this as an exaggeration, as I don't even know how this is possible after 10 years of lessons, absent a cognitive impairment.

Of course it is possible to play music for years, with lessons, without ever learning to read. Your teacher plays everything for you and you copy it. You have a fast memory for such things and rely on it. After playing the piece a few weeks this way, and "passing" it in lessons, you never look at it again, so there is no way of testing whether it became a short memory thing.

A few days ago I wrote things pertaining to the actual teaching and remediation in such a situation. Part of it got quoted, out of context, turning more into a kind of general philosophy. The whole topic has gotten lost. There is no question that such difficulties can be created. The issue is how to solve them, and whether to solve them, given circumstances.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 09:19 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
I interpret this as an exaggeration, as I don't even know how this is possible after 10 years of lessons, absent a cognitive impairment.

When you teach as many Transfer Wrecks as I have, you'll see how this is entirely possible.

However, there's another possibility: the student is defensive to the point of stubbornness. Obstinate stubbornness.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 09:53 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
However, there's another possibility: the student is defensive to the point of stubbornness. Obstinate stubbornness.

Any teen would be defensive when a glaring deficiency - after ten years of lessons - is pointed out to her, possibly for the first time. In fact, any adult would be.

She should never have got to this stage, and it's obvious her first teacher (- and subsequent teachers, if any) did not know how to teach and should never have been let loose on any student. When she was starting lessons at seven, she most certainly wasn't "defensive to the point of stubbornness" (as she had nothing to be defensive about).

Blaming a teenager for poor teaching which started ten years ago - and continued on - is like blaming a five-year-old for his inability to eat with chopsticks when he's never been taught how to use them.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 10:12 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
George Winston supposedly also cannot read music[/url]. On the other hand, perhaps he does read music and is purposely project a persona of not knowing how to read music. I could see how this could be helpful in shaping his image as an artist to be thought to be self-taught and not read music.

I find it ironic that one who does very similar compositions to George Winston, Ludivico Einaudi, not only reads music but holds a music theory degree from the Milan Conservatory. Just shows how often, there are multiple paths to the same places.

It's only in Anglo-Saxon countries where certain musicians cultivate a mystique based on their supposed lack of education, as if their gifts were G**-given and should not be tainted by 'learning'. Paul McC does that too.

Whereas Italians and East Europeans and Asians make a virtue of their immense learning, and want people to know it.......

I think for a composer-musician like George Winston, not knowing how to read music must be a special challenge. He's composed several hundred piano pieces. Can he possibly remember them all? If not. then when one of his compositions fades away, how can he bring it back? With Synthesia? LOL. (That's only partly a joke because I am thinking his only way of bringing a piece back is probably by listening to himself play it, or watching a video of himself playing it. Of course, this is all assuming he really doesn't read music and it's not a self-taught "persona" he adopted.)
Posted By: LarryK

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 10:28 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
George Winston supposedly also cannot read music[/url]. On the other hand, perhaps he does read music and is purposely project a persona of not knowing how to read music. I could see how this could be helpful in shaping his image as an artist to be thought to be self-taught and not read music.

I find it ironic that one who does very similar compositions to George Winston, Ludivico Einaudi, not only reads music but holds a music theory degree from the Milan Conservatory. Just shows how often, there are multiple paths to the same places.

It's only in Anglo-Saxon countries where certain musicians cultivate a mystique based on their supposed lack of education, as if their gifts were G**-given and should not be tainted by 'learning'. Paul McC does that too.

Whereas Italians and East Europeans and Asians make a virtue of their immense learning, and want people to know it.......

I think for a composer-musician like George Winston, not knowing how to read music must be a special challenge. He's composed several hundred piano pieces. Can he possibly remember them all? If not. then when one of his compositions fades away, how can he bring it back? With Synthesia? LOL. (That's only partly a joke because I am thinking his only way of bringing a piece back is probably by listening to himself play it, or watching a video of himself playing it. Of course, this is all assuming he really doesn't read music and it's not a self-taught "persona" he adopted.)


Musical notation was invented in order to help young monks learn how to sing chants that they had never heard before. This was back in the year 1025. Before musical notation, the monks had to memorize all of the chants, a job that became more and more difficult over time. Before notation, they had neumes, little squiggles above the words that told them the contour of the melody but not the note values.

See:

https://www.wqxr.org/story/how-was-musical-notation-invented-brief-history/
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/02/19 10:43 PM

Originally Posted by LarryK
Musical notation was invented in order to help young monks learn how to sing chants that they had never heard before. This was back in the year 1025. Before musical notation, the monks had to memorize all of the chants, a job that became more and more difficult over time. Before notation, they had neumes, little squiggles above the words that told them the contour of the melody but not the note values.

See:

https://www.wqxr.org/story/how-was-musical-notation-invented-brief-history/

Of course, today, we have the Youtube crowd who consider a "tutorial" to be a video of a pianist's hands playing the piece for which the tutorial was made, either with or without a Synthesia overlay. Perhaps Youtube tutorials are the new musical notation of this era?
Posted By: Andamento

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/03/19 01:53 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Any teen would be defensive when a glaring deficiency - after ten years of lessons - is pointed out to her, possibly for the first time.


Actually, no. I don't believe in broad-brushing teens, who are a much-maligned group in some circles. Some young people roll up their sleeves and work to remedy deficits when they realize that's what's needed.

I've got one such teenage student right now (and he's not the first) who never learned to read music during his six years of lessons before he came to me. Nonetheless, this young man has willingly set out to do what I ask of him to develop his reading ability. He's shown nothing close to defensiveness at any time since joining my studio last year.

There are teens out there with a good work ethic and great attitudes, even when they were the victims of poor teaching. Those kids are so cool, in my book. They rise above challenges. I've had the privilege of meeting some of them -- I hope you get to, too! -- and look forward to meeting more hardworking youth, whatever their backgrounds. smile
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/03/19 02:09 AM

Originally Posted by LarryK
Musical notation was invented in order to help young monks learn how to sing chants that they had never heard before. This was back in the year 1025. .....

That is certainly the simplified version we tend to get told.
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/03/19 02:11 AM

Originally Posted by Andamento
Actually, no. I don't believe in broad-brushing teens, who are a much-maligned group in some circles. Some young people roll up their sleeves and work to remedy deficits when they realize that's what's needed.

I've got one such teenage student right now (and he's not the first) who never learned to read music during his six years of lessons before he came to me. Nonetheless, this young man has willingly set out to do what I ask of him to develop his reading ability. He's shown nothing close to defensiveness at any time since joining my studio last year.

There are teens out there with a good work ethic and great attitudes, even when they were the victims of poor teaching. Those kids are so cool, in my book. They rise above challenges. I've had the privilege of meeting some of them -- I hope you get to, too! -- and look forward to meeting more hardworking youth, whatever their backgrounds. smile

It's good to hear from someone who actually teaches and works with students, and goes by observation, rather than how things probably might be maybe and therefore they are.
Posted By: LarryK

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/03/19 03:34 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by LarryK
Musical notation was invented in order to help young monks learn how to sing chants that they had never heard before. This was back in the year 1025. .....

That is certainly the simplified version we tend to get told.


Hmm, the article goes into more detail. What is the complex version?
Posted By: bennevis

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/03/19 07:07 PM

Originally Posted by Andamento

Actually, no. I don't believe in broad-brushing teens, who are a much-maligned group in some circles. Some young people roll up their sleeves and work to remedy deficits when they realize that's what's needed.

I've got one such teenage student right now (and he's not the first) who never learned to read music during his six years of lessons before he came to me. Nonetheless, this young man has willingly set out to do what I ask of him to develop his reading ability. He's shown nothing close to defensiveness at any time since joining my studio last year.

There are teens out there with a good work ethic and great attitudes, even when they were the victims of poor teaching. Those kids are so cool, in my book. They rise above challenges. I've had the privilege of meeting some of them -- I hope you get to, too! -- and look forward to meeting more hardworking youth, whatever their backgrounds. smile

I know there are teens who are that way inclined, but I'd say there is a huge difference between six years and ten years of poor teaching. I see - and help - a lot of young people in my work, and usually when they are aged over 16 (i.e. technically adults in most countries), they have a different attitude towards 'authority' and 'teachers'. Of course, it also depends on how aware they are of the problems they're encountering and how much they want the help - and how much they're willing to take several steps back in order to get it.

So, I'd say that the OP's student's attitude at 17 is pretty typical of someone who thought she'd reached a high level after ten years, only to find out that something very important had been missed. It doesn't surprise me that her younger sister is much more willing. How much time and effort is the elder one willing to devote to learning to read from scratch - bearing in mind she is behind her younger sibling (and she's lost the usual sibling rivalry), and likely soon moving on, or away from home? Time is not on her side.....

From what the OP has said, I think the best way forward is to teach her something different from her younger sister (i.e. play by ear), something in which she wouldn't be constantly reminded of her inadequacy in comparison, and can feel she is still progressing and making new inroads in her playing.
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/03/19 10:24 PM

Originally Posted by LarryK
Hmm, the article goes into more detail. What is the complex version?

Sorry Larry, I meant to write more and also get back to you on this. I was quite under the weather, more than I realized, which also accounts for the grumpy terse tone. wink

I got the version that you told originally, and as a learner had also wanted to learn. It wasn't quite that way, and this miffed me. We get this simplified picture where a hero, Guido, rides along and does this magic with music. The real story is more interesting, and so is how music evolved. It also means something for how it is now.

So: Yes, the chants took a long time to learn. Various people invented devices to help; the C and F idea existed before Guido. The neumes, yes (as per the article). Above all, around Charlemagne, there was a goal of standardization, so that there would be one Christian world, one kingdom (also insert power, politics). The music was studied, patterns were found, and music that didn't fit was quietly changed or thrown out. It evolved, and Guido played a significant role. He happened at the right time - if not Guido, someone else experimenting in this area.

Mensuration: yes. Time before that was notated as rhythm patterns; "dee dada" might be shown through one symbol. Bar lines came later. You had "perfect" and "imperfect" modes - three, the trinity, being especially sacred so our 9/12 time (3X3) would have been especially perfect. This also suggests some things about "simple" and "compound time" - the music that is in triplets, or quarters and halves.

When you expanded from everyone singing the same thing, to ever-complex polyphony, everybody had to sing the right thing at the right time, so you had to divide up time. Also, written notation made it possible to create more complex music: you can't invent that all in your head and as a group. They went nuts with what they could do, if you follow the story, until someone said "whoah there".

These things "aren't important", these details. But as an overall view of music, I think maybe it is. We have not arrived to some perfect version of music in a linear fashion, and what exists now is ideal. Instead, people were experimenting with time, harmony, whatnot, and are still experimenting. When I started to study music history, I found this more fascinating, and with more potential about music and where it can go, warts and all (and that there are warts) - and I felt I had almost been cheated by the initial simple story of Guido.
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/07/19 05:00 PM

In the Middle Ages, people would learn church hymns from memory many years before standard notation was invented.

Anybody who have experience with Suzuki music would know the students are supposed to learn all the song in Book 1 by imitation starting from "Twinkle", "Lightly Row", "Honey Bee", etc. Learning to read is not introduced until the students get into Book 2. There is a lot of imitating hand gestures and finger sequences. The first year is to develop a good ear. According to Shinichi Suzuki who founded the music program, we learn our mother-tongue by listening before reading & writing. Why should music be any different?

The issue comes after the second year when a student is not learning to read. There are all sorts of complicated pieces that we have to learn off sheet music. Otherwise it would be too tedious and time consuming to learn pieces by watching people's hand positions.

2 decades ago a violin teacher in NYC Roberta Guaspari made headlines with her fundraising campaign to save her violin program in public schools. Her students were taught to read as well as play by ear. She used Suzuki violin repertoire books. In all her concerts she required that the students play by ear without the paper copies. Shouldn't matter to the audience whether a pianist performed all the pieces from memory as long as the sound is good. Of course students need to be able to read at a basic level. It doesn't make sense if someone claims to be able to play Chopin but he/she can't play something basic like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or "Lightly Row" off a piece of paper.

In my school days when I was playing violin, I relied on memory very much. In group performances I can take my eyes off once in a while and look at the conductor waving the beats. When it comes to playing piano, I relied on memory just as much, I can sight-read the easier pieces without a lot of sharps & flats. The end of the day it's good to have reading and listening skills. Once I was at a birthday party. 3 kids were sitting in front of a DP with a piece of paper that has 4 lines of music. They spent at least an hour trying to decipher the piece and none of them came close to getting the song. Some people are better at reading while others are good listeners. The worst case scenario is that someone is not good at either. Their ears are not well trained to put a melody together by listening and can't read very well.
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/07/19 11:47 PM

Just on this part.
Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
According to Shinichi Suzuki who founded the music program, we learn our mother-tongue by listening before reading & writing

This was Mr. Suzuki's idea about how language is learned. He based his music system (violin) on how he imagined children learn their first language, mostly due to what society does - this is not necessarily how language is actually learned. As long as one is clear on this point. smile
Posted By: DFSRN

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/08/19 12:54 AM

I think of all the money the parents wasted on lessons for 10 years if the child can't read music. I agree, after 10 years you should be able to do something. My mom wanted to know what my lesson was for the week and she would listen to me as I practiced. The child could have a learning disability and that would be another issue that the parents should have discussed with the teacher.
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/08/19 05:58 AM

Here we have claims the students were playing for many years and reached a level of being able to play 1 difficult piece (Chopin Minute Waltz) but not the easier pieces? The story isn't very convincing. I'd go to the former teacher (assuming to be a parent with kids interested in piano) and ask to come to a lesson to observe. If a child had taken to conservatory exams, sight-reading would have been included as a requirement for passing. Over the years people who took piano lessons would have a few repertoire books in their collection starting from a beginner's book (Book 1). Unless a student is learning on his/her own by watching video demos, ask the student to bring the books he/she used previously and just pick pieces at random to assess the playing ability.

My former piano / violin teachers would assign new pieces and ask me to work on them during the week. The only thing I had were pages of sheet music. Even the repetitive hand exercises were on paper. A teacher wouldn't normally play through a whole piece and allow a student to imitate by ear without reading a single note. The music teachers I have over the years would be able spot my problem of not being able to read early on. Even in Suzuki music, a student would be learning to read by Book 2.
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/08/19 08:04 AM

Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Here we have claims the students were playing for many years and reached a level of being able to play 1 difficult piece (Chopin Minute Waltz) but not the easier pieces?

The teacher stated (not claimed) that the student played the MW, but was unable to read the easier piece. There were also problems with the more advanced piece, when it was played. There is nothing implausible of being able to play something if for example it's been copied and memorized, but not being able to read if, for example, reading was never taught or learned.
Posted By: scirocco

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/09/19 02:49 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
There is nothing implausible of being able to play something if for example it's been copied and memorized, but not being able to read if, for example, reading was never taught or learned.


Are there really classical teachers who would play a piece repeatedly for a student often enough that the student could learn the whole piece simply by observing and copying? My own teacher only ever demonstrates phrases or small sections that I might be struggling with, and not repeatedly enough that I could learn it if I hadn’t done so already.

Isn’t it more plausible that the student in question learned the piece by reading notation slowly enough to memorise it, but cannot read well enough to read at tempo, and has to play by rote?
Posted By: LarryK

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/09/19 03:01 AM

Originally Posted by scirocco
Originally Posted by keystring
There is nothing implausible of being able to play something if for example it's been copied and memorized, but not being able to read if, for example, reading was never taught or learned.


Are there really classical teachers who would play a piece repeatedly for a student often enough that the student could learn the whole piece simply by observing and copying? My own teacher only ever demonstrates phrases or small sections that I might be struggling with, and not repeatedly enough that I could learn it if I hadn’t done so already.

Isn’t it more plausible that the student in question learned the piece by reading notation slowly enough to memorise it, but cannot read well enough to read at tempo, and has to play by rote?


I find that hard to believe. I think most lessons feature the student playing and the teacher observing. My teacher will play through something once but certainly not repeatedly such that I could memorize it without reading the music. My teacher will play a piece four hands with me but I have to read the music.
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/09/19 04:33 AM

We tend to know only what we have experienced ourselves, and cannot imagine something that is different. We associate, with a subject such as piano, our own experiences. Those who have been taught well, or those who teach well, often cannot imagine poor teaching. That is, teachers who get transfer students will get an idea, from what the kids don't have at a given grade level & years of study. They may get clues - for example, finger numbers written in perpetually; a single piece studied over an entire year.

The important thing in a case like this is to find out what a student can and can't do, knows and doesn't know, and then figure out which things you will actually fix (given the age & point in life), and which you circumvent.

Btw, students can find videos of pieces like the Minute Waltz on the Internet. One of the teachers here discovered that one of her students had been doing that for three years, under the parent's guidance - I suppose wanting the child do produce nice playing in the next lesson - and thus couldn't read music as the teacher had supposed. The proper playing of the right notes were not a sign of proper reading. These things can happen, for different reasons.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/09/19 07:02 AM

Originally Posted by scirocco
Are there really classical teachers who would play a piece repeatedly for a student often enough that the student could learn the whole piece simply by observing and copying?

OH MY GOD, YES! Students are spoon-fed one bar at a time.

Originally Posted by scirocco
Isn’t it more plausible that the student in question learned the piece by reading notation slowly enough to memorise it, but cannot read well enough to read at tempo, and has to play by rote?

We are all just guessing here, but my guess is that the student REFUSES to read music, and will ONLY play what is spoon-fed to her.

Right now I am teaching two kids in second grade who absolutely refuse to read lines and spaces. They are obstinate beyond belief. They are setting all sorts of records in my studio for their slow progress.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/09/19 07:05 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
We tend to know only what we have experienced ourselves, and cannot imagine something that is different. We associate, with a subject such as piano, our own experiences. Those who have been taught well, or those who teach well, often cannot imagine poor teaching.

Thanks for being the voice of reason. It does bother me somewhat that non-teachers are chiming in here with their perspectives, but I guess part of the reasons for posting here is to expand their horizon.
Posted By: dogperson

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/09/19 08:59 AM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by keystring
We tend to know only what we have experienced ourselves, and cannot imagine something that is different. We associate, with a subject such as piano, our own experiences. Those who have been taught well, or those who teach well, often cannot imagine poor teaching.

Thanks for being the voice of reason. It does bother me somewhat that non-teachers are chiming in here with their perspectives, but I guess part of the reasons for posting here is to expand their horizon.


Sadly, no other teachers have participated in this thread past page 1. I hope it is not that they feel drowned out by all of us that are non-teachers.
Posted By: pianist_lady

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/09/19 02:03 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by scirocco
Are there really classical teachers who would play a piece repeatedly for a student often enough that the student could learn the whole piece simply by observing and copying?

OH MY GOD, YES! Students are spoon-fed one bar at a time.


Yep. I have a student who came to me 4-5 years ago, and the first few months of lessons were incredibly frustrating for both of us, until one day he said, "my old teacher used to just show me which notes to play". He was used to sitting there passively while the teacher fed him the notes, and could not understand why I was asking him to read the music. It was hard work to change his approach to learning music, but he stuck with it.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to teach by feeding students each note-- how could you do that day after day?

It would be interesting to hear an update from the OP.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/09/19 02:11 PM

Originally Posted by scirocco
Are there really classical teachers who would play a piece repeatedly for a student often enough that the student could learn the whole piece simply by observing and copying?


When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. - Sherlock
Posted By: WeakLeftHand

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/09/19 03:56 PM

I would really like to hear back from the OP.
Posted By: missbelle

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/09/19 04:06 PM

teacher here-

I have a young boy, 7ish, who supposedly had a year of lessons before me. Began with basic evaluations. He got half notes and quarter notes mixed up. Did not know the words for forte and piano. Absolutely could not read on the staff.

So I treated him like a beginner instead of a transfer.

And then it comes time for Christmas recital. He chooses a piece, and proceeds to mash and bang the heck out of it, unrecognizable!

"Oh, I played this last year, I already know it." He was set on the piece, (a hymn) so I found it in another key with a different arrangement.

I literally had to draw a picture of the keys on the page and write in finger numbers so he could find his starting position. And he still banged out whatever he wanted. It was horrible!

I showed him how to practice- many ways. During lesson, I covered his hands. I covered all but a few measures. I had him tap out rhythm. I had him sing. etc...


And, when he would go home, he would do NOTHING.

This boy has the mom that reported, "Oh, we did not have time to practice this week."

And the next week, I got,
"he told me he already knew it. Practicing is becoming a battle of wills."

So, I held out some play money and said, "put your money where your mouth is. PROVE it by playing this ONE line correctly now."

He bombed. Recital was less than a week away.

I had him stand is a way where he could look at the music, but not so much my hands, and played the piece so he and mom could hear how it it supposed to go. He actually argued with me that his notes were correct. He had played it wrong so that his ear heard it as that way only now. Mom seemed surprised. (so much for good listening of good music!)

As for practicing, I told mom to incorporate practice as a part of life- no emotional fussing. Set the table. Feed the dog. Practice piano. Get ready for school. Say please and thank you. etc...

I'll report after recital how it goes.

He will keep lessons going next semester. And I'll continue to work with him. But, if he refuses to practice, and only bang out what he wants, even when I allow him time to "compose" and improvise, and never does any book work or assignments, then he will most likely drop piano over the summer,
and mom will most likely say that her artistic son was too much to be shaped and trained.

So, all that to say, if I had a non-reading student that insisted to keep lessons for years, I would refuse to teach by rote, but I can see how it could happen.

His one lesson tires me out more than a full slew of students back to back.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/09/19 04:51 PM

Originally Posted by missbelle



So, all that to say, if I had a non-reading student that insisted to keep lessons for years, I would refuse to teach by rote, but I can see how it could happen.

His one lesson tires me out more than a full slew of students back to back.


With young children (and not just pre-teens) it's imperative that a teacher teaches right from the start as she intends to go on.

Meaning that if note-reading (and eventually, the ability to learn new pieces by themselves purely from the score - which is of course the goal of all good classical teachers) is an essential part of learning to play the piano, the teacher needs to start with that right from the beginning. Not by "showing" the child how to play pieces by playing them for him first. Never underestimate the ability of some kids to imitate (or "memorize") what a teacher 'shows' them - remember, that's how they learnt to speak, to walk, to cycle, to......

I've seen the consequences when teachers - and parents (especially with behaviour, dietary habits etc) - don't start as they mean to go on. Kids need to know what's expected of them from the beginning. Confusing messages - like being taught by rote (as with Suzuki) at first, then told they have to start learning to read notes after several weeks, months, or.....years later are grist to the mill for lazy kids or those who have problems with authority or are just plain stubborn. Or even "normal kids" when they have been at it for as long as a decade. (How many adults here would go back to the beginning to re-learn something from the basics, at which they have already been learning and been taught for a decade? For instance, if you can already swim front crawl very well for years, but always with head above water, would you want to re-learn to swim 'properly' - with head in the water? - and that's a whole lot easier than learning to read music.)

Some parents may know no better - mine, for instance, knew nothing about how music should be taught, nor anything about music - but teachers definitely should.
Posted By: Andamento

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 01:47 AM

Originally Posted by dogperson
Sadly, no other teachers have participated in this thread past page 1. I hope it is not that they feel drowned out by all of us that are non-teachers.


I'm a teacher who participated on page 2 of this thread, but, rest assured, I didn't feel drowned out by non-teachers. (Life suddenly got much busier than usual, and I had no time to post, so I dropped out from here temporarily.) Anyway, IMO, there have been some very good considerations posted by teachers and non-teachers in the teacher forum in the years I've been reading here. Diversity is good!


Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
I would really like to hear back from the OP.


Me, too. :-)
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 03:10 AM

If a student is in Suzuki music where students are expected to memorize all the Book 1 pieces before learning to read. The Book 1 pieces are quite basic like a 1 note melody goes with a 1 note bass. There are several things on the list: a parent is supposed to accompany the child to each lesson to reinforce what is learned. The parent would also learn the Book 1 pieces by imitation. And then there is the Suzuki CD at the back of each book.

Even Suzuki don't expect students to play 100% by imitation beyond Book 1 like learning "Minuet in G" from the Anna M Notebook. A teacher may get a student to learn by imitation in the beginning to develop a good ear but when you get beyond a certain point, a student should start to read.

People spend more time online than ever before. There are demos from repertoire books posted by teachers & student performances of the same pieces. Many online video tutorials are open to the public so the unintended consequence is for people to learn without reading. For a Suzuki student, all the songs are grouped in Books with song titles & song numbers. He / she can go home, look for videos on a specific piece. In 1 case, a retired man learned to play Debussy "Clair de Lune" from video demos without reading a note. Took him 3 months to get comfortable enough playing the piece. Of course he had no concept of dynamics (piano & forte) or even how to count. He would imitate a video as much as possible. On the other hand, he doesn't have a teacher and starting from the easiest pieces wasn't his goal. He just wanted to learn the 1 piece.

In a performance the audience wouldn't care if somebody plays the pieces by reading or by memory as long as the music sounded good. When someone claims to be able to perform a piece but stumbles all over is a serious issue.
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 03:44 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
](How many adults here would go back to the beginning to re-learn something from the basics, at which they have already been learning and been taught for a decade?

I've encountered quite a few, in addition to myself. And some of them were madder than wet hens at what led to that necessity. (Not sure why you asked that question.)
Posted By: dogperson

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 06:55 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by bennevis
](How many adults here would go back to the beginning to re-learn something from the basics, at which they have already been learning and been taught for a decade?

I've encountered quite a few, in addition to myself. And some of them were madder than wet hens at what led to that necessity. (Not sure why you asked that question.)


Keystring
Im surprised you learned for 10 years with a teacher and started over
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 07:30 AM

Originally Posted by dogperson
Keystring
I'm surprised you learned for 10 years with a teacher and started over

I wasn't answering literally in years, and don't think it was meant literally. But it was, in fact, about 5 or 6. It then took me several years to pick up the instrument again, and then only briefly and sporadically for some time.

Of course it seems foolish for a student to stay for years and years, and it would be. But the student has no way of knowing what "right" looks like, and may even think things are fine. In my case, technical difficulties came in. But imagine the student who is fed music line by line, or with finger numbers and choreography, getting praise, climbing up the grades. How will the student know anything is wrong or missing? We are in a tiny closed world when we take lessons with a teacher, and the same teacher for years. It must be quite a shock for a kid to go to another teacher and discover a whole bunch of things have been missing all this time, if he didn't have any misgivings.
Posted By: Whizbang

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 08:10 AM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Right now I am teaching two kids in second grade who absolutely refuse to read lines and spaces. They are obstinate beyond belief. They are setting all sorts of records in my studio for their slow progress.


Is this a phenomenon of the tablet generation?

Were most students post-recording age this way?

Were most students pre-recording age this way?

I only know from my own experience. I was a lazy student but at least I puzzled out the lines and spaces. I think most teachers here are also self-selecting. Did they have peers that they did not see when they were pupils that were also doing equally awtul things?
Posted By: LarryK

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 09:26 AM

Is it a phenomenon of the YouTube generation that expects to be able to figure out how to play everything by watching someone’s hands in a video?
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 11:04 AM

Originally Posted by LarryK
Is it a phenomenon of the YouTube generation that expects to be able to figure out how to play everything by watching someone’s hands in a video?

I sometimes wonder what would happen if the YouTube generation had to learn to read and write that way? What would be a Synthesia and "Tutorials" equivalent for reading & writing? Or is reading / writing itself the thing that needs to be replaced by another way of conveying (some) information?
Posted By: bennevis

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 12:04 PM

Expanding on what I wrote earlier about having to go back to the basics to re-learn something that was 'missing', I mentioned swimming, because that was the only thing I ever learnt that required me to take several steps back in order to move forwards. Luckily, in everything else I learnt with teachers or instructors, everything had been well-taught and comprehensive from the start.

And I remembered how difficult it was with swimming - yet I didn't even have to go entirely back to basics to achieve it. I was taught to swim properly from a young age (around six), attending a swimming class for kids for two years. Front crawl was the most difficult to master, and we were all taught to breath on one side only (for right-handers, the right side), which I think is the way it's usually taught. But when I became interested in long-distance open-water swimming, being able to breathe only on one side became a serious handicap, because if the big waves came from the same direction, I got gulpfuls of sea water. Not to mention the fact that I couldn't keep an eye out for sharks etc coming from the left (as they usually do). And after an hour of turning my head to the same side to breathe, I started getting neckache.

So, a few years ago, I decided to teach myself to be able to breathe on the left as well.......and discovered how difficult it was, even in a swimming pool with no waves - including swallowing a lot of water during practice. I forced myself to breathe only on my left side every time I went swimming. Such was my clumsiness that other swimmers thought I was a novice, and gave me advice on how to breathe properly while swimming. I felt like I was gasping and snatching at my breaths when trying to breathe on my left side, whereas when breathing on my right, it felt as natural as walking. For the first time since I was a kid, I knew what it was like for a novice to learn to swim.

How long did it take me be able to breathe as easily on my left as on my right? Only........one year of twice-weekly practicing at my local swimming pool whistle. But it was worth it - now I can choose which side to breathe on, and usually, I'd turn alternately on each side, so my neck doesn't get crooked. And I never have to fear sharks lurking towards me on the wrong side again.....
Posted By: TimR

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 12:51 PM

Originally Posted by LarryK
Is it a phenomenon of the YouTube generation that expects to be able to figure out how to play everything by watching someone’s hands in a video?


Here I think we are at risk of confusing a couple of different concepts.

The original student could not read sheet music, but also could not play without stumbling even simpler pieces.

Generations of professional musicians learned to play superbly by ear, by listening to recordings and by going to live venues and watching their heroes become their peers.

It is not necessarily true that a student who doesn't read can't acquire technique, expression, and musicality. Of course a lot more is involved in that beyond being spoonfed note by note. But on the other side, a lot of students do learn to read, but do not acquire fluency or musicianship along the way.

In some ways the youtube generation is a return to an earlier approach.
Posted By: LarryK

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 01:16 PM

Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by LarryK
Is it a phenomenon of the YouTube generation that expects to be able to figure out how to play everything by watching someone’s hands in a video?


Here I think we are at risk of confusing a couple of different concepts.

The original student could not read sheet music, but also could not play without stumbling even simpler pieces.

Generations of professional musicians learned to play superbly by ear, by listening to recordings and by going to live venues and watching their heroes become their peers.

It is not necessarily true that a student who doesn't read can't acquire technique, expression, and musicality. Of course a lot more is involved in that beyond being spoonfed note by note. But on the other side, a lot of students do learn to read, but do not acquire fluency or musicianship along the way.

In some ways the youtube generation is a return to an earlier approach.


Are you talking about pop and rock musicians? Generations of classical musicians learned by reading the scores. You’re at a serious disadvantage in the classical world if you can’t read music.
Posted By: mostlystrings

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 01:39 PM

I gave up during the 2nd page because: I had nothing to say about the tangent on music notation, too much about the tangent on Suzuki, and we haven't heard back from the OP, so everything remains as speculation!

But I'll say my piece on by rote vs. by ear vs. by reading:
Rote - being fed finger numbers or copying positions
Ear - hear two pitches, decide if the second one is higher or lower and by how much, and locate the note
Reading - see the notation and locate the note
Audiation - when reading, it's still really helpful if you know what to expect to hear rather than hit the note, then hear that it's right or wrong

Ear and rote are not mutually exclusive; if you're copying someone, you're of course hearing the playing. Suppose you are able to pick out a melodic line by ear, perhaps you still need to be shown a proper finger sequence in order to help you learn fingering logic so that you know what to do when you encounter similar patterns in the future (do your own choreography). If you read accurately, great, but if your reading accuracy is low, then you need other skills to help you know that you played it wrong and to check again.

It doesn't do to dwell in extremes. The OP's teenager is apparently an extreme although personally I don't feel it's necessary or beneficial either to require a young child to read every note he plays. I find that problems with authority or stubbornness show up in the general learning and are not specifically linked to reading or not.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 01:41 PM

Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by LarryK
Is it a phenomenon of the YouTube generation that expects to be able to figure out how to play everything by watching someone’s hands in a video?


Here I think we are at risk of confusing a couple of different concepts.

The original student could not read sheet music, but also could not play without stumbling even simpler pieces.

I think you're misunderstanding what the OP wrote.

At no point did he/she say that the student is unable to play the notes because of deficient technique. She couldn't play because she didn't know which notes to play.

Quote
Generations of professional musicians learned to play superbly by ear, by listening to recordings and by going to live venues and watching their heroes become their peers.

You have a habit of conflating jazz with classical in your posts.

Jazz is all about copying "heroes" and playing by ear. No jazzer ever needs to learn to read music.

Classical is about playing what's on the printed score and interpreting the notes. Yes - even if you're the composer. Composers who perform their own music often play from their own scores - in fact, Stephen Hough says he always plays his own music from the score so that the audience won't think he's just improvising:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FmvkYURUKc

Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 03:38 PM

The ideas for helping with the actual situation, mostly from piano teachers, are mainly on the first page, a bit on the 2nd. So far the OP has not been back so nobody knows anything to date.
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 06:29 PM

A while back I came across a set of cartoons on learning to play an instrument. There are parents & students who have no respect for a music teacher and simply insist on doing their own thing. They set the lesson material what they want to learn and the teacher is supposed to go along with it whether the demands are reasonable or not.





I've come across young people from non-musical families who got enrolled into a music program by their parents. Parents couldn't really help the kids or give constructive feedback except criticize their playing is not good enough. Playing music was often treated as academic exercises. After a few years, the kids didn't get very far and the parents let them quit. When it comes to paying for lessons at least the parents are sensible enough to see that their money would be going down the drain. Parents who insist their kids are talented is too much.

Christmas is around the corner and there are many video performances of seasonal tunes posted online. Some of the students play easy arrangements of popular songs like "Silent Night", "Jingle Bells", "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". Even when they're playing easy pieces you see that they're reading off a piece of paper. The easiest way you can arrange a piece together is a 1 line melody (1 note at a time). The L & R would take turns playing the melody without accompaniment. The next level of difficulty would be playing a chord or 2 to end the piece. Some students really have issues and need to start with the basics but nobody like to be told to start with "Mary had a Little Lamb" or "Lightly Row". I don't think anybody would have an issue playing a simple version of "Jingle Bells". Here we're trying to teach students who have been playing for a few years the basics without being too insulting to his/her lack of abilities. Arrangement of seasonal tunes can be used to teach reading skills.
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 07:02 PM

Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
I don't think anybody would have an issue playing a simple version of "Jingle Bells". Here we're trying to teach students who have been playing for a few years the basics without being too insulting to his/her lack of abilities. Arrangement of seasonal tunes can be used to teach reading skills.

No - bad idea. If someone has a good ear and has played by ear for a few years, if you give them an arrangement of familiar music, the ear will take over and the notes will never be seen. Even if you want to learn to read, this will create problems. When I tried to turn around my mess, I sought out random notes and unpredictable, unfamiliar music.
Posted By: missbelle

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/10/19 07:41 PM

I like to do sight reading as a warm up. One piece I give newish students that can read ok, is "Good Morning to You."
They play it, but often do not "know" it. They have the counting, the melody, but cannot HEAR themselves. I have them do it a time or two again, and tell them to literally touch their ears to turn them on.
Almost all the time, they finally get to hear the tune, which is:
"Happy Birthday."

You can also tape off the title of a familiar tune and have them "guess" it. (yes, I go down a level or two for sight reading.)

For students that want to develop their ear, I go back to what I first taught them in beginning lessons- Jingle Bells and Mary Had a Little Lamb. Both are simple 5 fingers, 5 notes. I had them play in C back then. But now, I have them move to G position. And, ask them to sound it out. They start off confidently, thinking how easy it will be. Sometimes it is! Sometimes, not. Now, transpose to D! To A! more, more, more!!! Oh my!!

Then, I have them add I and V7 chords. They realize they DO need theory. They DO need to understand scales and whole and half steps to build chords.

As for the videos above, YES for the first one- bang head on wall!
The 2nd one was too much cursing and I will not endorse that one.
Posted By: Opus_Maximus

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/22/19 11:27 PM

I didn't read all the comments, but this sounds to me very much like Suzuki training. Not to put down this method, since I have heard very effective stories -- but in the past when I have had students come to me playing POLISHED, GOOD performances of ADVANCED music (Mozart and Beethoven Sonatas), yet barely be able to read a note of music, they always had a Suzuki background.
Posted By: mostlystrings

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/23/19 02:03 AM

Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
I didn't read all the comments, but this sounds to me very much like Suzuki training. Not to put down this method, since I have heard very effective stories -- but in the past when I have had students come to me playing POLISHED, GOOD performances of ADVANCED music (Mozart and Beethoven Sonatas), yet barely be able to read a note of music, they always had a Suzuki background.

Contrary to popular belief, Suzuki is not meant to be "don't read" but "read later". It's common these days to start working on reading when starting book 2. Regardless of the actual timing, reading level takes a while to catch up to playing level. If a "Suzuki teacher" doesn't have a plan for developing the reading skill, that would be bad teacher, not bad Suzuki.

One could say "traditional" students can't play anything that's not written down, aren't attentive to the sounds they are making, etc. It wouldn't be bad method; teachers can decide whether or not to train those things. Also, keep in mind that if someone were satisfied with the teaching they were receiving, they most likely wouldn't have looked to transfer.

Many posters have made suggestions but still no follow up from the OP, oh well.
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/23/19 05:10 AM

Originally Posted by mostlystrings
... but still no follow up from the OP, oh well.

Especially that.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/23/19 06:01 AM

Originally Posted by mostlystrings
Contrary to popular belief, Suzuki is not meant to be "don't read" but "read later". It's common these days to start working on reading when starting book 2. Regardless of the actual timing, reading level takes a while to catch up to playing level. If a "Suzuki teacher" doesn't have a plan for developing the reading skill, that would be bad teacher, not bad Suzuki.

There have been other Suzuki-bashing threads in the past, so I won't expand upon those. Suffice it to say that what Opus_Maximus wrote is not an uncommon occurrence. I've seen enough good results from a couple of Suzuki teachers to know that a great teacher can make any substandard curriculum work.
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/23/19 06:36 AM

Actually, there is no sign that this has anything to do with Suzuki, and Chueh, the asker, has not come back once to this thread. Perhaps the problem is solved?
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/23/19 08:00 AM

There are only 2 ways to reproduce a piece: by ear or by reading. I've been to concerts where a pianist read through entire pieces and ones who performed by ear. As someone in the audience, I only cared that the music came through.

Many beginners struggle because they reading skill is not yet well-developed and they don't have enough ear training to perform piece without reading. Once I was in a piano store. Several teenagers walked in. 1 of them went to a DP and said he can play Beethoven "Für Elise". After a few notes he couldn't continue without the sheet music. It was clear he hadn't got the piece memorized or had enough ear training to fill in the rest of the piece. I didn't know how good his reading was so had to assume he could read the rest of the piece.

While the debate between learning to read or play by ear should come first, students who can play a few songs even at the beginner's level would boost their self-esteem and provide the incentive to continue playing for years to come. The Suzuki approach is not intended for students to play without learning to read altogether. Reading & ear training complement each other. After learning a song by ear, you would make the connection when you see symbols on the page for the same piece. There is the issue that a student had already learned a song by memory that he/she would not be reading the notes. Besides the Suzuki CD at the back of each Book, there are online videos of the Suzuki pieces made by teachers & students. It is possible to learn many Suzuki pieces by watching videos without having to read.

By the time a Suzuki student finished Book 1, he/she would have participated in the first recital performing "Twinkle Variations" and other piece in front of the parents from memory. When I was a child, there was a battery-operated toy keyboard in the house with very few keys each with a different color like red for C, blue for D. I was supposed to learn the notes on the staffs but all I had to do was to match the colors. Piano didn't work for me at age 5 so I didn't get into piano until 2 decades later. Besides learning to read, L & R coordination was the main issue that got me into learning violin first.
Posted By: keystring

Re: new transfer student who cannot read much - 12/23/19 08:57 AM

Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
While the debate between learning to read or play by ear.....

This thread is about a teacher who has a transfer student, and as far as I can tell, wanted some help or ideas regarding a reading problem. It is not about any debate. Or Suzuki.
© 2020 Piano World Piano & Digital Piano Forums