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Dear Bernhard (Read 63975 times)

minsmusic

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Dear Bernhard
« on: February 09, 2004, 04:42:39 AM »
Hi!

You've mentioned a number of times that you don't have the half hour lessons once a week for young students.

I'm interested in how you go about it.  When do they come, how do you get the parents to agree, how much do you charge, when (if ever) does this change, and how many students do you have on this approach?

I can see the benefits, but how do you implement it?

Appreciate your thoughts.
Jenny


Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #1 on: February 10, 2004, 12:44:15 AM »
Briefly (as if!):

1.      I don’t do lessons. I do courses.

2.      Course 1: Standard for children and complete beginners: 1 hour per week.

Students start by having the hour spread during the week: 10 – 15 minutes everyday 5 days/week. After 3 – 6 months (depending on progress) students are upgraded to two 30 minute lessons per week. After 1- 2 years (depending on progress) students upgrade to one hour per week. After 3 years student is independent to pursue his/her own interests. S/he is given two choices depending on how s/he wants to move on. S/he can continue with me, but this time through advanced classes centering on a particular piece that take 2 – 2 1/2 hours and are one offs – or they can be referred to a performer teacher.

Course 2 – Mainly for adult students. (I will accept children in special circumstances). This is an intensive course. Daily lessons lasting 45 minutes – one hour, five days per week.

3.      Every prospective student is given thorough explanations in writing on how all this works and why. Every prospective student/parent has an interview to make very clear that there must be an agreement: I will teach to the best of my ability, but I expect the student to learn to the best of his/her ability. The student must understand that I expect piano to be his/her priority in life. Practice is the single most important activity (although I tell the parents that it should come right after homework in my heart I believe it should come first).

4.      At 6 months if the student has failed to progress to an expected standard (taking into account his talent/efforts) s/he will be referred to another teacher. This happens rarely these days because I don’t take time wasters in the first place. As my experience grew over the years I developed an uncanny ability to spot them.

5.      I prefer to work with students from scratch: it is easier to develop technique and good habits this way. I will take advanced students that learned form other teachers on the basis of an audition. If I consider that I can help them I will. If an advanced student comes to me with too many bad habits I may give him/her a three months trial period to see if s/he can change. If s/he can’t change in three months, I will probably not be able to help him/her and I will refer him/her to another teacher.

6.      Payment is monthly, in advance, all months of the year. Fees are very high. There are no cancellations. If possible (and I will bend backwards here) I will always try to make up lessons missed for good reason (e.g. sickness).

7.      Parents who do not agree with these conditions (and others) are welcome to look for another teacher. I get many enquiries, and I reckon that about 90% decide not to pursue a course of study with me. Yet my waiting list is now two years long.

8.      I have never advertised, I only teach privately (I have an intense dislike for Institutional education) and I am always surprised how some people get to hear about me.

9.      Ideally I try not to teach more than 25 students at any given moment. At the moment, because of unforeseen circumstances, I have 29 regular students varying in age from 4 – 64 and at different levels. Plus a few advanced students who come infrequently for one-off advanced classes.

10.      None of my students is a prodigy (although I have a five year old that may surprise all of us). They vary in talent form highly talented to desperately untalented (and thrown some learning disabilities in the pot too). But talent is of no importance to me. The only important consideration as far as I am concerned is capacity for work, and obedience (I expect my students to follow instructions to the letter). If I have to choose between a hard working obedient student and a wilful prodigy, I will always choose the former.

11.      For me, personally this is the most rewarding way of teaching music (if you share my concept of reward which is to see a student grow musically). However it will limit your intake of students severely. When I first started teaching like this, I could only cope with 7 – 8 students. As I learned the ropes of this system, I became more efficient.

12.      Ultimately I don’t think of myself as someone who teaches the piano, but as someone who teaches how to learn the piano.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I am happy to elaborate, but it might be easier if one concentrates on one issue at a time.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

minsmusic

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #2 on: February 10, 2004, 02:30:22 AM »
Do you teach in groups? or individually?

How did you arrive at your strategy?

Offline chopiabin

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #3 on: February 10, 2004, 03:24:41 AM »
WOW! Did you come up with this method yourself? I wish my teacher would make me do this.

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #4 on: February 12, 2004, 12:27:19 AM »
Quote
Do you teach in groups? or individually?

How did you arrive at your strategy?


I only teach individually. (I have taught groups in the distant past).

Teaching in groups is a great idea if you want to make easy money (hence schools, where you can milk the most from a great number of students, paying the least to the poor teacher). However nothing beats individual tuition for quick progress, which is all I am interested in.

The strategy is nothing new really. If you read the lifes of all great pianists, all of them had daily lessons and daily supervision. We tend to be obsessed by the idea of “genius” and “prodigy” and pay little attention to all the effort and discipline that runs along with it.

Ultimately what drove me to it was sheer frustration with the lack of progress of my students. I knew the problem was not with me, or with the students, but with the system. So I changed the system and everything changed.

Imagine for a minute trying to teach a child to read and write with weekly 30 minute lessons. So why do piano teachers do it? Part of the reason is that you will not be able to have 60 students. Part of the reason is that most parents are not really interested in their children learning music. All they want is the “façade”. But contrary to many so called music educators, I have no interest in teaching music to the masses (the masses are not that interested, believe me). So this way of teaching will not reach to the millions, but this is perfectly fine with me. :)


Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline rebecca

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #5 on: February 20, 2004, 04:46:44 AM »
Hi Bernhard,

I read all your comments.  They are very inspiring and helpful.  

You seem to be running your studio successfully with great studio policies and innovative teaching ideas.  May I know what method book(s) you use for teaching?  What are your comments on the method books that are available in the market?  Do you use other instruments to assist your teaching (e.g. percussion instruments)?  

- R

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #6 on: February 20, 2004, 11:56:29 AM »
Quote
Hi Bernhard,

I read all your comments.  They are very inspiring and helpful.  



Thank you :)

Quote
You seem to be running your studio successfully with great studio policies and innovative teaching ideas.  May I know what method book(s) you use for teaching?  What are your comments on the method books that are available in the market?  



I do not use method books.

I teach according to the student’s capabilities and tastes. For me the most important step is to find a piece the student really likes. A piece s/he is prepared to go to hell and back in order to learn. If I succeed in finding this one piece then I know I will be able to successfully teach the student.

It will also take care of the single element that will make or break a piano course: motivation.

Once I find this piece, all the teaching goes from there: technique, theory, scales, harmonic analysis, everything is taught using that piece. We then move on to the second piece the student would like to learn. And so on and so forth. By the fifth piece the student is beginning to grasp the principles of music and has also five pieces s/he loves in his/her repertory. This is very quick because of the daily lesson scheme. In fact it is common for my students to have about 15 – 20 pieces in their repertory after 3 – 4 months.

The difficulty of the piece is completely irrelevant. The only important consideration is the desire of the student to play it. If the piece proves to be impossible (like someone wanting to play the Revolutionary Study on the first lesson), I will:

a)      find a piece of similar character that is possible

b)      work towards preparing the ground for later tackling the impossible piece.

In the meantime I will be exposing the student to pieces s/he never dreamed existed, since many times their taste is very limited. After about a year they are choosing pieces in a wide rage of styles/composers. But I always start with something they like. You can only lead if you join them first (Or as Ghandi said: “There goes my people: Let me run ahead of them so that I can lead them”).

The real problem starts when the student comes to the lesson and has no idea of what piece s/he wants to play. This is surprisingly common with children. For all the muzak around, they have no connection to music (I blame the parents). Typical conversation:

-      So Mary, which tune would you like to play?
-      I don’t know.
-      Well, what kind of music do you like?
-      I don’t know.
-      Have you seen Beauty and the beast (or any other Disney movie)?
-      Yes.
-      Did you like the songs?
-      I don’t know.
-      What about this (I play something) Or this?
-      I don’t know.

I turn to mother who is there watching (I usually ask one of the parents to attend the first lessons so that I can explain to them what I expect in terms of practice, etc.)

-      What kind of music does she enjoys listening at home?
-      Er… We actually don’t listen to much music at home…

This is really the most difficult scenario that can possibly exist. It means that you have to postpone piano lessons (as most people would understand them) and work on music appreciation. I will give children like that 6 months trial to see if I can interest them (I reckon my success rate is about 30-40%), otherwise I will advise the parents to wait until the child develops some sort of interest – otherwise piano lessons become a torture and a sure way to put the child of music for life.

Having said that, I am not against methods. I just don’t use them. I think they can be important for teachers who are just starting, or who do not yet feel confident or experienced enough to tailor their teaching to the student (you can almost say “improvise” here – except that I do a lot of preparation – which to me goes against the idea of improvisation).

Methods (the good ones anyway) provide a grade progression and lesson plans you can rely on if you don’t know yet what to do. The main problem I see with methods is that they are basically what some other teacher does. It may or may not work. It certainly will not work for everyone (I know my methods don’t work for everyone).

At the moment there are so many methods in the market that I don’t know even where to begin. But of many I have seen through the years, I was very impressed with Jon George’s “Artistry at the Piano” series, Candida Tobin’s methodology (which uses colour and is a big hit with the little ones), and Walter and Carol Noona “Scriva” series.

Quote
Do you use other instruments to assist your teaching (e.g. percussion instruments)?  


Yes. I do use other instruments in my teaching. The basic one is the recorder (which I play). All my piano students must learn the accompaniment part to a recorder piece, and then play it with me since I believe that nothing furthers musicality more than ensemble playing. I encourage them to bring me duet pieces they can play with their friends who play another instrument (flute, violin, etc.), and in the case of my recorder students, they must be part of a recorder consort. I often have my recorder students being accompanied by my piano students. And there is no greater joy than to find out that they are exploring duet repertory behind my back and playing unassigned pieces on their own (it does not happen as often as I would like, sadly :().

We also work through a lot of four-hand and two piano repertory.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

minsmusic

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #7 on: February 20, 2004, 01:22:34 PM »
I didn't know you taught the recorder as well Bernhard.
I've had a few requests to teach recorder - as it is I teach piano, keyboard (you know, with all the auto accompaniment, drum fills, breaks, what have you) singing, and guitar.  I think,  ::) another instrument.  
Don't get me wrong, I love playing the recorder, just not the ole three note songs you have to start with.   I think ahead about four years and get thrilled at the idea of a baroque recorder quartet, but then think, ah! I have to persevere with all those horrible sounds first.  

Mmmmm.  I have to be inspired and filled with information.  I've got a recorder book (sorry, can't remember the name - the book's downstairs in my studio and I can't be bothered getting it ... had a long teaching day today ..) that I'm happy with.  Piano accompaniment to solo recorder.  And I record my own backings on CD for my other instruments, so it's no problem doing the same for recorder.  So what's my question ...

How do YOU go about it?  (I made it as general as I could so you can anwer any ole way you like)

Thanks Bernhard.  I really appreciate the time and consideration you put into your posts on this forum.  (I'd give you a kiss smiley but you might take it the wrong way ;D)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #8 on: February 20, 2004, 09:16:14 PM »
Quote
I didn't know you taught the recorder as well Bernhard.
I've had a few requests to teach recorder - as it is I teach piano, keyboard (you know, with all the auto accompaniment, drum fills, breaks, what have you) singing, and guitar.  I think,  ::) another instrument.  
Don't get me wrong, I love playing the recorder, just not the ole three note songs you have to start with.   I think ahead about four years and get thrilled at the idea of a baroque recorder quartet, but then think, ah! I have to persevere with all those horrible sounds first.  

Mmmmm.  I have to be inspired and filled with information.  I've got a recorder book (sorry, can't remember the name - the book's downstairs in my studio and I can't be bothered getting it ... had a long teaching day today ..) that I'm happy with.  Piano accompaniment to solo recorder.  And I record my own backings on CD for my other instruments, so it's no problem doing the same for recorder.  So what's my question ...

How do YOU go about it?  (I made it as general as I could so you can anwer any ole way you like)

Thanks Bernhard.  I really appreciate the time and consideration you put into your posts on this forum.  (I'd give you a kiss smiley but you might take it the wrong way ;D)



Er, what exactly is your question? ???

I am not sure I should be talking about the recorder in a piano forum. But very briefly:

1.      I use the same system for recorder as for piano (lessons everyday, etc.)

2.      I spend a lot of time of the first month just teaching to hold the recorder properly and to get a good intonation (basically breath control). Then a lot of time is dedicated to tonguing (the most under taught recorder skill, but probably the most important since articulations and dynamics will completely depend on it).

3.      I try to start on the treble recorder: the sound is nicer and the majority of the repertory is written for it. However size of hands may not allow it.

4.      I expect students to be at grade 8 (playing baroque sonatas) at the end of one year: the recorder is far easier than the piano.

5.      Recorder consort music is far easier than recorder solo music. I use the Steven Rosenberg books (they are collections of original recorder consort music from all periods) from the very beginning. After two or three months everyone can be playing music that sounds very professional and impressive together, even though the individual parts are terribly simple.

6.      I do not use educational music. I only use the real stuff – there is plenty of it at all levels.

7.      I do not start with three notes (BAG – soprano; EDC – treble), since this will create all sorts of wrong habits. I start with GED – soprano and CAG – treble since this forces the student to use both hands from the start. I move to six – seven notes as fast as I can possibly do (two–three days). Then I will stick there for quite a while. There is quite a lot of wonderful repertory using only six –seven notes.

8.      The most important reference books for a teacher would be Anthony Rowland-Jones (Introduction to the recorder, Recorder technique and Playing recorder sonatas) all published by Oxford University Press and the indispensable Walter Van Hawer – The Modern recorder player (Schott). You don’t really need any other books, and at the same time you cannot do without them; although there are other nice ones out there.

9.      Contrary to popular perception the recorder is a very difficult instrument to play well (aren’t they all), a difficulty that is complicated when you enter the minefield of “authentic” baroque/renaissance performance. Nevertheless it will teach one everything there is to know about things like style and ornaments. In fact I am grateful to the recorder because I now have a very solid foundation of ornamentation practices – something that most pianists do not have.

10.      Finally I make no concessions to age. I expect my six year olds to play Handel sonatas, and not just some silly nursery rhymes. And I don’t take kindly to the notion that some parents have that the recorder is a provisional instrument “until Johnny grows old enough to learn the clarinet”. I make it very clear that I am not going to waste my time just to see little Johnny drop the recorder after six months because he likes the saxophone better.

Sorry to all piano buffs for including this here.  :-[(Complaints to Minsmusic, please – she brought it up ;D).

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

minsmusic

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #9 on: February 21, 2004, 02:01:57 PM »
Interpreted my incoherent ramblings beautifully.  Thank you for risking a piano forum lynching.  Will look up the  recommended books and never mention the word 'recorder' again.

(The only - - - - - - - - forum I found doing a quick search was filled with eight year olds wanting the notes from the Simpson Theme.  Someone gave them the notes, but they filled the next two pages with the exact same request :(  Know any worthwhile ones? you can post in the non-piano forum if you feel like you're sinning)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #10 on: February 21, 2004, 07:21:37 PM »
I don't know of any recorder forums (I am not sure I want to. As it is this one already takes a big chunk of my time! ;))

However, this is the best site I've ever come accross for recorders. They have loads of links. Try it:

http://members.iinet.net.au/~nickl/recorder.html

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

minsmusic

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #11 on: February 22, 2004, 06:46:42 AM »
Ah yes, I've come across this site too. Lead me on some pretty interesting adventures.  Downloaded a few things.  

Thanks Bernhard.

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #12 on: February 22, 2004, 04:43:43 PM »
You are welcome. :)
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #13 on: February 28, 2004, 12:32:28 PM »
Quote


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Let's start a new thread GUESS HOW OLD BERNHARD IS, and if anyone gets it right, he HAS to say which one  
       




Do I have to? ;D

Here is aproblem I have with my age: I can never remember it, since it keeps changing every year.   ;)
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline rlefebvr

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #14 on: March 01, 2004, 05:37:21 AM »
Never heard of such a thing.
Greatest thing I have ever heard.

Wish we had teachers like you where I live.

When I first started playing, friends would say, what king of music would you like to learn and I would always answer...Music....no...I want to play Moonlight Sonata and feel my soul leaving my fingers.

And by God, one day I will

Ron
Ron Lefebvre

 Ron Lefebvre © Copyright. Any reproduction of all or part of this post is sheer stupidity.

Offline pianista

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #15 on: March 01, 2004, 01:45:20 PM »
Hello!

Re; Bernhard's commentary:
-------------------------------------------------------
The difficulty of the piece is completely irrelevant. The only important consideration is the desire of the student to play it. If the piece proves to be impossible (like someone wanting to play the Revolutionary Study on the first lesson), I will:  

a) find a piece of similar character that is possible  

b) work towards preparing the ground for later tackling the impossible piece.
-------------------------------------------------------------------
QUESTION no.1:
Similar piece, like what piece is comparing the revolutionary Study?

Question no.2:
Do you have any idea to recommend a few interesting pieces for four-hands repertoire ? ex. to a 9 years old boy (played piano for 1/2 years ago).
Thanks  :D


Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #16 on: March 02, 2004, 01:14:32 AM »
Quote

QUESTION no.1:
Similar piece, like what piece is comparing the revolutionary Study?




When faced with an impossible (at that moment in time) request by a student my question is:

“What in this particular piece attracted the student? And where can I find a piece within his level that will exhibit the same characteristics? At the same time will this new piece prepare the student to later on tackle the piece s/he is interested in?”

Now, many times the student himself cannot answer these questions, so you will have to probe. Once you have the answer, it will all depend on how much repertory you know. But given the ridiculous size of the piano repertory chances are that there are several pieces that will fit the bill.

I cannot give you a complete list because it would depend on what attracted the student to the piece in the first place. But I can give you some examples and then you can go and apply the same principle/strategy to whatever impossible piece they ask for.

So the revolutionary. What is it that attracts people to it?

1.      Maybe it is the fact that the left hand is so prominent. If that is the reason, then any piece with a lot of left hand movement will probably do.

2.      Maybe it is the fact that they have seen someone play it, got thoroughly impressed and now they want to impress people the same way.

3.      Maybe they like the feelings of revolt and urgency that study elicits. Are there any other pieces that elicit the same feelings?

4.      And so on and so forth.

If I do not know an alternative replacement, I will be looking for it everywhere. Eventually I will find something. But I will not be happy. I will keep looking. Forever. Then bit by bit I will create a database of pieces that can be related to impossible pieces. I suggest you do the same

So to get you started.

It is almost sure that for any piece by Chopin you will find a similar composition, but somewhat simpler by one of his less known contemporaries. Remember that in those days there was a big market for printed music that was not too difficult to play. True it is not the highest quality music, but sometimes you will be surprised by a real gem.

For Chopin the sure bet is Stephen Heller, who modelled most of his studies in Chopin’s and Liszt’s pieces. One such example (amongst others) is his study op. 46 no. 21. It makes a good preparation for the revolutionary. It is fast, most of the movement is in the left hand (which is of course much simpler), the right hand consists mostly of chords, and most important, its main difficulty is the co-ordination of the chords with a running left hand as in the revolutionary. So, this is manageable piece that gives a student a taste of what may come his way later. And on top of that it is a nice piece of music, not just some dry boring technical study (one reason I like Heller studies). So the student gets pacified: he is learning a real piece, and that will eventually lead to the piece he wants to learn.

But there is also great music out there that resembles the revolutionary and is nowhere so difficult. A good example is Mendelssohn’s Song without words Op. 53 no. 3 which actually sounds very similar. And has similar technical demands albeit on a much lower level.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.



The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #17 on: March 02, 2004, 01:18:21 AM »
Quote
Question no.2:
Do you have any idea to recommend a few interesting pieces for four-hands repertoire ? ex. to a 9 years old boy (played piano for 1/2 years ago).
Thanks  :D



This is such a good question that I started a new thread in the repertory question asking for four-hand repertory. Have a look there:

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=repo;action=display;num=1078182413

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline anda

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #18 on: March 03, 2004, 04:45:50 PM »
29 students??? how can you handle that? i've never had more than 10, and i could hardly ever find time to practice!

your methods are at least interesting - but i don't think they apply to well to other kind of students than amateurs who learn playing the piano just  for the fun and usually don't reach beyond clayderman and stuff like that.

how about methods for very young beginners? most of my students are 5-9 year old beginners, and i'm developping right now a method of my own - i usually keep them for about 3 months strictly on exercises, and i never teach notation and keys simultaneously. what do you think?

minsmusic

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #19 on: March 04, 2004, 03:10:05 AM »
Quote

- i usually keep them for about 3 months strictly on exercises, and i never teach notation and keys simultaneously.


Why?

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #20 on: March 04, 2004, 04:16:00 AM »
Quote


Why?


She believes in FUN! ;D
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #21 on: March 04, 2004, 04:52:20 AM »
Quote
29 students??? how can you handle that? i've never had more than 10, and i could hardly ever find time to practice!


1. I am not a professional performer, so practice is not a matter of life and death, I am a professional teacher.

2. 29 is a small number. Successful piano teachers have between 60 - 80.

3. 29 was a momentary situation, now things have eased a bit again, and I am down to 24 which is about right.

4. When I first started everyone was having lessons everyday I could barely cope with 7 - 8 students. Then as I learned the ropes of what I was trying to do it became easier: I got organised but also, only a small fractions (6 actually) of these students have lessons everyday. The others have been upgraded to two or one lesson per week.

Quote
your methods are at least interesting - but i don't think they apply to well to other kind of students than amateurs who learn playing the piano just  for the fun and usually don't reach beyond clayderman and stuff like that.


I am not in the business of proselitism. I talked about my way of teaching because someon asked. I expect no one to follow me. It is just one more option to try if you are dissatisfied with the way things are going. I myself keep changing things all the time. The way I teach now is radically different from the way I started teaching. And the way I teach tomorrow will probaly be different from today. The only question I ask myself is: "Is it working?" If it is not, I change to something else.

Quote
how about methods for very young beginners? most of my students are 5-9 year old beginners, and i'm developping right now a method of my own - i usually keep them for about 3 months strictly on exercises, and i never teach notation and keys simultaneously. what do you think?


I have talked about this briefly here:

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=teac;action=display;num=1075591135

Have a look.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

minsmusic

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #22 on: March 04, 2004, 11:11:22 AM »
Quote


She believes in FUN! ;D


I'm not sure if you're having a go at me or anda  :-/

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #23 on: March 04, 2004, 11:21:42 AM »
Quote


I'm not sure if you're having a go at me or anda  :-/


Both, he he ;D
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline anda

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #24 on: March 04, 2004, 03:13:08 PM »
Quote


Why?


why what? why don't i let them learn the written notes at the same time with the keys on the piano? because the connection they would make would be between the written note and the key on the piano, leaving out the most important - THE SOUND! in those three months (not always the same time - depends on the kid how long s/he has to make these exercises before we go to short little pieces) the kid has to:

- learn very well the keys on the piano - worse, his/her hand has to find the keys without visual help (i let them choose a key to put their finger #1 on and then they have to play various notes (in hand reach, of course) with different fingers while looking at the ceiling

- learn a correct position of the body as well as of the hand; learn various ways of attack (play leagato, play staccato, play chords), always concentrating on the quality of the sound.

i think for a young beginner having to concentrate on so many problems with the hands as well as on keeping the sound good (i never allow them to beat the piano - and i request small sized kids to play soft since they don't have the height or the weight to get a ample good quality sound) is bad enough not to add the written notes.

i know what you think - my classes are boring and i'm a tyrant :) - well, i'm not! i cover the sour pill in a sugar coat - i make the exercises seem fun by colorful comparitions and i compensate my severity by joking and making fun of them all the time. and, in spite of this, i must admit i can't understand for the world how come they still love me and are so obviously dissappointed whenever i have to cancel a class :) (i know i wasn't when i was their age :))

minsmusic

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #25 on: March 05, 2004, 10:17:40 AM »
Quote



i know what you think - my classes are boring and i'm a tyrant :)  :))



Not at all anda!
I asked because I was curious, as I aksed why Bernhard teaches the way he does.  Learning from each other is what this forum is all about, and I have learned much.
Thanks for responding.

minsmusic

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #26 on: March 05, 2004, 10:23:17 AM »
Quote


Both, he he ;D


Are you doing an Ed impersonation now that he seems to be missing?

Just as well you're a brilliant teacher, 'cause you're a lousey comedian!! :P

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #27 on: March 05, 2004, 12:28:45 PM »
Quote


, 'cause you're a lousey comedian!! :P


:'(
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline aki

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #28 on: August 28, 2004, 05:01:22 AM »
So where do you teach, as in in which city?

Offline IllBeBach

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #29 on: August 29, 2004, 11:51:24 PM »
Quote


why what? why don't i let them learn the written notes at the same time with the keys on the piano? because the connection they would make would be between the written note and the key on the piano, leaving out the most important - THE SOUND! in those three months (not always the same time - depends on the kid how long s/he has to make these exercises before we go to short little pieces) the kid has to:

- learn very well the keys on the piano - worse, his/her hand has to find the keys without visual help (i let them choose a key to put their finger #1 on and then they have to play various notes (in hand reach, of course) with different fingers while looking at the ceiling

- learn a correct position of the body as well as of the hand; learn various ways of attack (play leagato, play staccato, play chords), always concentrating on the quality of the sound.

i think for a young beginner having to concentrate on so many problems with the hands as well as on keeping the sound good (i never allow them to beat the piano - and i request small sized kids to play soft since they don't have the height or the weight to get a ample good quality sound) is bad enough not to add the written notes.

i know what you think - my classes are boring and i'm a tyrant :) - well, i'm not! i cover the sour pill in a sugar coat - i make the exercises seem fun by colorful comparitions and i compensate my severity by joking and making fun of them all the time. and, in spite of this, i must admit i can't understand for the world how come they still love me and are so obviously dissappointed whenever i have to cancel a class :) (i know i wasn't when i was their age :))


Anda, I think you have some good points.  I think if it works for you then just keep up the good work!  I think it would require a lot of ingenuity and imagination to make that approach fun for the child, but if you can do it, then kudos.  
     I use simple pieces and focus on reading from the beginning, but I also with each lesson teach short technical exercises by rote at the start.  I find that kids are not as bored with purely technical exercises as most people seem to believe, if the material is presented imaginatively.  In fact, I have a few that really enjoy the exercises--loving the physical sensations of running up and down the keyboard in various ways and experimenting with the different sounds that you can make on a piano.  
Soli Deo Gloria

Offline reinvent

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #30 on: September 02, 2004, 08:49:46 AM »
Anda,
How do you teach exercises without written music?
Do you give them a CD to take home?

Offline Mayla

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #31 on: May 04, 2005, 05:02:35 AM »
.
"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Offline robert

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #32 on: May 04, 2005, 09:16:56 PM »
Bernard: Something that I am impressed by is that you can handle so many short teaching sessions (I am talking about the 10-15 minutes sessions for beginners). They really must be there exactly on time and you must finish in time for next. I imagine you have a clock just in front of to keep track of everything.  :D
But you are very correct in your method. The mthod of 5 sessions of 10-15 minutes every week for beginners is so much better than 1 hour once a week.
My mistake is that I mainly teach in the students home.
I might consider to rearrange things for me after reading this thread. But I am only a part time teacher and only take on students that I believe in.
Download free classical piano recordings and free sheet music at Piano Society (http://pianosociety.com)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #33 on: May 11, 2005, 09:52:52 PM »
Bernhard wrote :
Well, I am wondering if you could elaborate a little on your teaching everyday for a few months plan. 
sincerely,
Mayla

I cannot really answer your question because it is too variable. Each student follows a different path. I have a master plan, but it is adapted to each case. I can give you some general principles.

These are very important in my teaching (I suggest that you take this as an example: you may decide your priorities are quite different).

1.   Sight-reading. I aim that all my students can read music. To me this is the basis for musical independence. If they can read music, they can proceed to explore their own musical interests. So music literacy takes up a great chunk of my lesson and my materials.

2.   Practice methods. Unless the student knows how to practise he will drop out eventually out of sheer frustration. No one will put up with learning the piano for ten years and at the end of it not being able to play properly more than a couple of pieces.

3.   Theory. By this I mean how music is structured. Just like an architect looks at a building and appreciates how it was all put together, just like a car mechanic can look at an engine and see what makes it tick, just like a medical doctor “understands” how the human body is put together, so a student of music should be conversant with the anatomy and physiology – so to speak – of a piece of music.

4.   Repertory – Every student should start building up repertory from day 1. This means that every piece they play must be the real thing: worthwhile repertory. There is enough superior piano music at all levels for this to happen. There is no reason whatsoever to assign to a student of any age pedagogical monstrosities by mediocre composers.

Have you noticed that technique is not included in my priorities? That is because technique is a given. You cannot play the piano without it, so technique will develop of its own accord by simply working on the areas above. (But the areas above will not develop of their own accord even if you play the piano for years: one must develop them – they will not happen by themselves). Also interpretation is not given any formal place. Like technique, interpretation will always be there (good or bad). You cannot play without interpretation (doing so is already a kind of interpretation).

Now let us see the very first week for a child of 6 with no previous piano experience, having 15 minutes everyday (usually I will extend this time if the child can take it, since there is a lot of information on the first week).

Here is my master-plan (what I expect to achieve) in that first week:

1.   Identifying the white keys of the piano (that is, knowing which key is A, which is B and so on)
2.   Learning the names of the lines and spaces on the G and F clef.
3.   Learning a piece.
4.   Learning the B major scale
5.   Learning a duet.
6.   Learning about pulse (beats)
7.   Improvising.

If I cannot do it all in the first week we proceed with the same targets for the second week. There is no hurry to achieve targets. If a child learns it all on the first day, then we add new targets on the second day. Time is of no consequence. This master plan is secret. No one knows about it, except me. The reason for that is that the concept of success is very important. Although the master plan and its aims exist, the real aim is always whatever the child achieved on a lesson. This means that the outcome I get is always the outcome I want. In this way the child always succeeds.

One more thing: Parents are welcome to sit through all the lessons (specially with young children), and on the first two weeks their presence is compulsory (so that they can see what I do, how I do it, and what is expected form the child). After two weeks they can keep coming if they wish (sadly most parents do not wish to :().

Now let us have some imaginary lessons with the secret plan as background.

Lesson 1.

On the first lesson the students get a pack with:

i.   Assignment book (this is no simple affair, believe me, more like a planner with all sorts of divisions and stuff)
ii.   CD with over 70 beginner pieces of superior repertory  - stuff that is so good musically, that I myself play it.
iii.   Invoice (I expect to be paid per month on the first lesson of the month).
iv.   My guide to sight reading. (This explains in detail to the parents how the method works, and has all the drills we do in the lesson, so that they can repeat it at home if they wish).

Start with the exciting stuff: Tell the child to go to the piano and make noise!. They can use their fists, their forearms, whatever. If they are too shy I will demonstrate. I will even use my butt! :o This should take only a couple of minutes. (aim: to explore the possibilities of the piano as a sound creating device: later on we will try to attach emotional value to the sounds: sad sounds, happy sounds, scary sounds, and so on). Point out to them that right now the sounds are not very nice. So you show them how to play in such a way that whatever you play will always sound nice: play only the black notes (that is the beginning of improvisation). If they don’t have a clue, I will demonstrate, and soon they are pushing me off the piano bench to have a go. ;)

Now some more challenging stuff. They must identify the groups of black notes. I don’t tell them. I cue them by asking questions. Eventually they see the pattern: two black notes and three black notes all over the keyboard. Then I tell them that the white notes all have names, and today we will learn the name of the white note to the left of the group of two white notes: C. Now they must do “Jumping”: They must jump from C to C up and down the keyboard, and as they do so they must say aloud “C” every time they press C. (Verbalising is essential, since it engages the conscious mind and does not allow the child to do it in a semisonambulistic state, just to get it over with). So, as you can see, from the very beginning we use the whole keyboard.

Now fun stuff: We are going to learn a duet. I tell the child that her fingers are numbered 1 to 5. I make her say their numbers a few times. (If they know a bit of maths you can tell them they have 11 fingers. How come? Count the fingers with them: little finger on the left hand is finger 10, ring finger is finger 9, middle finger is finger 8, index finger is finger 7, thumb of LH is finger 6. Add five fingers of the right hand, and there you have it: 6 plus 5 is 11 ;D). Anyway, as soon as they have the finger numbers figured out – they will not have memorised it yet, but it will get reinforced everyday of the week – let them play the groups of two and three black notes with finger 23 and 234 as chords(this prepares for the B major scale which they will learn on the second week).

Now I tell them to play these chords as a clock: tic tac tic tac. I then play the duet below with them – this gives them no end of pleasure: 5 minutes onto their first lesson and they are playing some real music!



Next some more challenging stuff: I ask them if they know their telephone number. They usually do. I feign surprise. I call them memory prodigies. How did they manage to know by heart 6 numbers in sequence? They tell me that they repeated it over and over again until they knew it. So I tell them that I want them to memorise a different kind of telephone number: it is made up of letters. So I say it and they have to say it after me:

E
E-G
E-G-B
E-G-B-D
E-G-B-D-F
E-G-B-D-F-A
E-G-B-D-F-A-C

And now they can loop it: EGBDFACEGBDFACE etc.

This prepares the way for learning the name of the lines and spaces on the G and F clef later in the week.

Now comes the most challenging part of the lesson: They are going to learn their first piece. I usually use Marshmallow sundae, as it covers the entire keyboard and it is a very impressive piece. On this first lesson we only learn the first four bars. It is taught by rote. We use all sorts of games and implements to make the student “repeat” which is really tough when they are young. They must not realise they are repeating. Yet we must repeat at least 10 times each little bit (7 to learn, 3 to perfect). I have toys around (like abacus, and wooden rings that go on little pegs), this sort of thing that serve as counters. You would be amazed how many adult students get into them as well. There are also games like the “Misery game” (you can check it out at http://www.practicespot.com/) that have 7 repeats inbuilt in the game.

And that is it for the first lesson (10 – 20 minutes depending on the student).

[to be continued...]
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #34 on: May 11, 2005, 09:59:29 PM »
[…continued from previous post]

Second lesson

We start by playing on the black notes only (improvisation). I might demonstrate a bit more, or I might join in and make it a duet, or I might simply watch. At this point (I use a state of the art digital piano when teaching) I may arouse interest (if it is waning) by using some of the special effects of the digital (marimba sounds, or their favourite: “scat” sounds :D).

Now hard work: Yesterday we learned the C, so I check if they still remember it. If they don’t we repeat what we did yesterday. If they do (usually the case) today we learn the F (the note that is just like C, but on the group of 3 black notes). Again, she jumps up and down saying F.

Because her piece “Marshmallow Sunday” has G jumping all over the keyboard, I might introduce a 3rd note in this lesson, if I think she will be able to handle it.

[Let me digress for a moment. I usually teach the names of the keys in the following order:
C – to the left of the two black notes and F – to the left of the 3 black notes.
Then E – to the right of the two black notes and B – to the right of the 3 black notes.

Finally D – in the middle of the two black notes and GA – in the middle of the two black notes.

G and A are the ones that usually give trouble, since the “middle” of the3 black notes is not as unambiguous as the middle of the 2 black notes.

I sometimes do a different order, starting with the middle notes, D and GA.

I have not seen any significant difference between these two approaches – and I mean significant difference in the statistical sense – so I tend to think that the order of the notes may be important perhaps personally but no general rule can be inferred].

Now a bit of piano fun again. Back to the Chinese clock duet. Today I encourage her to jump between different groups of black notes (yesterday she followed the score. I myself start improvising my part (pretty much anything you play on the black notes will sound good and “Chinese”).

Next some hard stuff. If she has memorised EGBDFACE, I move on (if not we just stay) to bring up a big display of the grand staff and we proceed to learn the names of the lines and spaces on both clefs: G clef – lines: EGBDF. Spaces: FACE. F-clef: lines – GBDFA. Spaces – ACEG.

Next we go through the EGBDFACE sequence. If she has memorised it, I will bring out a huge card with the two staves with black lines: the G clef staff and the F clef staff. In between both of them there will be a red line (the invisible middle C line). I will make sure she understands the difference between a line and a space. No notes are place on the staff at this point. This will come later. Now I name all the lines, showing that they follow the EGBDFACE pattern. I stress that the bottom line on the G clef is always an E, and the bottom line on the F clef is always a G. The red line is of course, a C. The important point here is that it is not the notes that are named, but the lines and spaces. This means that in the future I will not refer to notes as being A, B or C, but rather as notes being on the line A, the line B or the line C.

In this lesson my aim is that she succeeds in identifying the G-clef lines from bottom to top (always read from bottom to top): EGBDF; and the F –clef lines: GBDFA. We will spend as much time as necessary on this task. Usually after 3 – 5 minutes she gets it. If necessary we repeat it tomorrow. This is the golden rule: Never move to the next bit until the one is presently in is firmly ingrained. We are not in a hurry. There are lessons everyday. If we don’t accomplish something today, we will tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. The whole secret is having a plan and being consistent in its implementation (of course I am assuming it is a good plan – if it is not, change the plan – a teacher must be always attentive towards inefficiency in his/her approach, and change it accordingly. When I first started teaching I did not follow any of this. I gradually figured it out by examining my failures and never being totally happy with my successes: it can always be improved, even my present system).

In both, the naming of keys and the naming of lines/spaces we avoid following an alphabet progression since this is a very inefficient way to go about it: superlative sight readers follow the procedure I am describing. (I can’t explain every single detail – it would take too long and be too long – feel free to ask specifics).

Don’t try to give too much information at this stage. Retention is the aim, not quantity of stuff taught (and not learnt). Also try to do twice as much fun stuff as you do the boring stuff, so 2 – 3 minutes of the above, and 5- 6 minutes of playing the piano.

Next back to the piano. See if she still remembers the first four bars of the piece (in our imaginary case Marshmallow sundae). If not, repeat it. If yes, learn another four bars and join them. There is no worry about technique at this stage. The only concern is that they use the same fingers every time, and that they play the right notes at the right time. At this age, superb technique seems to develop by itself (since children are always looking for the most comfortable way to do things). So flat fingers, dropping wrist, etc. I completely ignore for the first couple of months (the reason is simple: it makes no difference if you pester them about it or not). After the first couple of months 90% of the children have good technique by themselves. The other 10% I intervene so that bad technique does note become comfortable. This is a bit like a cold: In four-five days it gets better by itself. If not you need to go to the doctor. However going to the doctor on the first day of a cold is not going to make any difference: you will get better in five days, but the doctor will get the credit.

And that ends our second lesson. You will know you judged things right if they don’t want to go. Always get rid of the little Mozarts with them wanting more. They should feel upset that they are leaving, not elated!  ;D(Think of a toy shop!)

[to be continued…]
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #35 on: May 11, 2005, 10:05:01 PM »

[…continued from previous post]

Third lesson

This time we start straight away with the Big staff naming the lines on the G-clef EGBDF and the lines on the F clef GBDFA. If she can do it, I will do them out of order (instead of form bottom to top I will point to random lines). I expect them – and encourage them – to name the lines from bottom to top until they reach the line I pointed. Later they will be able to name a line or a space without bating an eyelid. But for the moment, naming all the lines reinforces the names.

If they succeed, I introduce the space names on the G clef – FACE and on the F clef – ACEG. Now they know all the lines and spaces within the staff. We are going to stick to that for a couple of weeks, maybe even a month. Ledger lines are introduced only when the staff lines and spaces are completely mastered.

Now to the piano for some fun. At this point I show them another duet that requires them to play only on the black notes. (It is too large to post here). This one sounds much more like a tune than the Chinese clock, and it is very very easy (at least their part is), so she will learn it almost instantly.

Back to hard work. Can she still jump on all the Cs, Fs and Gs? Then I will introduce the Es and Bs (to the right of the groups of two and three black notes respectively). We are almost there. Tomorrow she will be able to name any key on the whole keyboard!

We now have a look on the first 8 bars of Marshmallow sundae and if they are ok, we learn another 4 bars. She does not know this yet, but tomorrow she will be able to play the whole 24 bars of this piece, since the next twelve bars are an exact repeat of the first 12 bars played one octave lower. But I keep this a secret for the moment.

Now I will ask her to play (hands together) the groups of 2 and 3 black notes with fingers 23 and 234 over the whole keyboard (preparation for the B major scale).

Finally we finish by improvising on the black notes (I may join in).

Fourth lesson

Again we start with the stuff they find most difficult: identifying the lines and spaces. Yesterday we managed to learn all the lines and spaces within each staff. If things are looking good, today I will introduce actual notes. She will be asked to name, not the notes, but the lines/spaces where the notes are placed always from bottom to top. She will be encouraged to follow this routine:

1.   Is the note on a line or on a space?
2.   Name all the lines (or spaces if the note in on a space) of that particular staff until you get to the note.
3.   That is the name of the line (or space) and therefore the name of the note.

In the beginning I expect this to be done aloud. Later she will do it silently. In the future she will use intervals – which is the most efficient way to read/sight-read music.

Naming the notes on a score is very tiring, so we never do more than one or two bars per lesson (later this will increase). We are not playing anything yet, just verbalising what we see in the score. (By the way, this is not real music)

Now it is time for some fun. So we play duets: The Chinese clock and the black note duet she learned yesterday (if she forgot I will teach it again).

Today she learns the last two keys: D and A. As before she will learn those by reference to the black keys. In fact, if I have done my job properly she will not even have realised that the white keys follow the order of the alphabet. By now the reference to the black keys is so ingrained that she will always locate the position of the white keys by reference to the black keys – which is just as it should be. This means that in order to find a white key, she will never need to look at the keyboard, since the black keys – and only the black keys – can be identified by touch. Today she gets a sticker, a chocolate and her name goes into the golden book of piano students accomplishments: she can name all the keys in the keyboard. :D

Back to Marshmallow sundae. I now tell her that she can already play the whole piece and we proceed to do just that. Again her name goes on the golden book and she gets another sticker.

We close the lesson by playing duets.

Fifth lesson

We start with the sight-reading exercise: she names all the notes (by naming the lines-spaces bottom to top) on two bars of the special sheet music I gave her yesterday. Now I produce another prop: a card with the grand staff that when turned sideways fits on the keyboard so that you can see how each line and space corresponds to a white key on the piano. Now she can not only name the notes on the score, she can associate the position on the score with a key on the piano. This is of course just the first introduction. For this information to become useful will take at least two or three months of consistent work and repetition of drills. But the seed has been planted.

Then we play Marshmallow sundae. But today I add a surprise: the metronome! She must listen carefully and make sure that her notes sound exactly together with the metronome (Marshmallow sundae is ideal: each note sounded at the piano corresponds to one beat of the metronome). The goal here is to differentiate between pulse and rhythm. Children rarely have a problem with rhythm. Often they have no sense of pulse (I mean here conscious sense). (By the way I am no great lover of the metronome. As soon as its target is reached I discontinue it). Now that she has learned this piece we are going to be perfecting it over the next few weeks, and I expect her to be able to play it forever. This is repertory. In my view of things there is no such a thing as learning a piece and then dropping it. If so, why learn it in the first place. Choose a piece you will not want to drop! Such attitudes must be instilled form the very first lesson.

At this point they have listened to the CD and have chosen a few favourite pieces, so we usually will start two of them at the same time next week.

Now I come up with cards. The card has a letter on one side, and on the other its location in relation to the black keys. Her job is to play all the keys corresponding to the letter in the card. If she cannot remember the location I will turn the card over and there is her reminder. There are 21 cards that have been shuffled, so each note is repeated three times. If she can do this very well, I will put the metronome on and we will see how fast she can play, say, all the Cs in the piano (in time with the beats). She is given a set of such cards to take home and practise.

We now play the groups of two and three black notes with fingers 23 and 234, but now we are going to add the thumbs playing B and E. This is the B major scale in chords. Next week we will break the chords, and she will be playing the B major scale at speed, thumb over.

We finish the lesson (last lesson of the week) with the duets we have learned.

Everything we did has been written down in detail in her assignment book, so that she can repeat it over the weekend and mum or dad can supervise that she is doing the right thing.

What have we accomplished at the end of five 15 – 20 minute lessons over the course of a week?

1.   She has learned her first solo piece and two duets.
2.   She has learned to locate and name all the white keys of the piano.
3.   She has used the whole keyboard – both black and white notes.
4.   She has laid the foundation for her first scale: B major.
5.   She has learned how to read notes within the staff in both treble and bass clef, and their location on the keyboard.

I said this before, but I will repeat here. This only works because it is being done on a daily basis. Follow all the same steps with weekly lessons and you will get nowhere. I know, I tried!

Finally, the progress above is fictional (but based on true stories). Some students may need more than a week to get to the same level. Some may get there in a couple of days. Most often, their progress is not "even" across the different areas. They may learn several pieces and make little progress with the sight-reading or vice-versa.

So it is very difficult to say what comes next because it will depend completely on the student. As I said, the basic principle is that we never move forward in a subject until it has been thoroughly mastered. This means that at the end of three or four months, each student will have a different progress profile.

And by the way, the adult students follow the same process (yes, they get stickers too! :D) except that with children the emphasis is on doing, while with adults you can afford to explain a lot more, and trust them to do it when you are not around.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

THE END :P (for the moment ;D)
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #36 on: May 11, 2005, 10:11:51 PM »
Bernard: Something that I am impressed by is that you can handle so many short teaching sessions (I am talking about the 10-15 minutes sessions for beginners). They really must be there exactly on time and you must finish in time for next. I imagine you have a clock just in front of to keep track of everything.  :D
But you are very correct in your method. The mthod of 5 sessions of 10-15 minutes every week for beginners is so much better than 1 hour once a week.
My mistake is that I mainly teach in the students home.
I might consider to rearrange things for me after reading this thread. But I am only a part time teacher and only take on students that I believe in.

1. I am very organised.

2. I try to teach only a maximum of 25 students.

3. Daily lessons are reserved only for total beginners. After 3 - 6 months they are upgrade to two 30 minute lessons per week, and after 6 months 1 year they are upgraded to a single one hour per week. This means that usually there are onl a few (4 or 5) students coming everyday. The majority will be coming twice a week or once a week.

4. If a student comes early, s/he sits quietly listening to the other lesson (and provides an "audience" for the other student), or s/he can practise with headphones in one of the other digital pianos around, so it is not really a clockwork operation.

5. Most of my students live very near me, so it is very rare that they are late or ahead of time.

6. I try to leave a 10 -15 minute "buffer" between students (mostly because I need a break too!)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline abell88

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #37 on: May 12, 2005, 11:46:31 AM »
I'm sure this will be only the first of many, many "thank you"s for this detailed explanation, Bernhard! Merci, mille fois!

One thing I would like to know more about is the way you teach note values -- at what point in the master plan and in what order.

Thank you again,
Alice

Offline Mayla

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #38 on: May 12, 2005, 04:06:15 PM »
.
"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #39 on: May 16, 2005, 08:00:14 PM »
I'm sure this will be only the first of many, many "thank you"s for this detailed explanation, Bernhard! Merci, mille fois!

One thing I would like to know more about is the way you teach note values -- at what point in the master plan and in what order.

Thank you again,
Alice

Note values are the very next topic. As soon as the material of the first week is in place (it may take more than a week) then I introduce note values by themselves. This is done first by clapping the note values on the score (to start with only whole notes, half notes, quarter notes and eighth notes – the other values are added much later), and then by playing the rhythm on the piano (same note played on both hands).

The relative nature of the values is stressed form the beginning to avoid the misconception that a quarter note is equivalent to one beat. We ingrain the following procedure:

1.   Look at the score and find the note with the shortest time value.
2.   Make this note one beat.
3.   Figure out how many beats the other note values in the score will have.
4.   Now with the metronome, either clap or play the rhythm on the score.

Once this is truly understood and figured out, I double the beat value, that is, if before an eighth (the shortest note) was one beat, now a quarter is one beat, and the student has to work out how many beats the other notes are. He must also play two eights for one beat.

All this may take a while. But once it is understood (and all along we will have been working on pitch alone in parallel), then it is time to join pitch and rhythm.

For that I use Edna Mae Burnam’s “A dozen a day”, which I consider absolutely brilliant in the clever way it introduces all sorts of basic figurations (scales, triads, and so on).

We start by working only on the pitches and completely ignoring the rhythm. Then we work on the rhythm alone (by playing  whatever pitch in the same key). Finally we join both.

From time to time I check the student by making him work on the full score. Soon we do not need to separate pitch and rhythm anymore.

Throughout all this the metronome is used.

The next step is to use real music rather than “A dozen a day”. For that I use:

1.   Very easy (but very nice) grade 1 or below pieces.

2.   Duets. (Both Diabelli op. 149 and Joseph Low’s “Teacher and pupil” are nice).

3.   Recorder duets. There is a wealth of attractive recorder pieces with piano parts that are very elementary, and yet the combined result is very imporessive. IN general children love these because they tend to associate the piano part with the teacher, so they feel really important to be accompanying. I use recorder duets because I happen to paly the recorder, but I am sure that similar and equally useful material exists for other instruments as well (flute, violin, cello, etc.).

Sight reading material is usually one or two grades below the grade the student is in at the moment.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.



The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #40 on: May 16, 2005, 08:02:33 PM »



Here you go... virtually all the money I have... lol

I am going to be scouring and scouring and experimenting and learning and questioning...

Thank you very much, Sir Bernhard

sincerely,
Mayla

Thank you Mayla, your offer is much appreciated. But keep it. Right now I have enough money to last me for the rest of my life (as long as I don't spend any ;D)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline i_m_robot

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #41 on: May 17, 2005, 08:39:27 AM »
wow must take a lot of time and discipliine just to teach

how do you find time for practice
WATASHI NO NAMAE WA

AI EMU ROBATO DESU

立派のエビの苦闘及びは立派である

Offline sarahlein

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #42 on: May 17, 2005, 10:50:53 AM »
Bernhard, you have heard this a million times but allow me also to say, thank you for all the valuable information you have posted (and hope) will keep posting in the future. :)
That said, let me mention the reason for posting:
Earlier, you have said  that on the first lesson you give your students, along with other things, a CD with over 70 beginner pieces of superior repertory.   
Excellent idea since most do not listen to enough classical music at home so it gives them a nice start. 
Could you perhaps provide a list with the composers you have used for this purpose? ( I would actually beg you for a list of the pieces but if that's too much to ask then never mind :P)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #43 on: May 17, 2005, 09:04:22 PM »
Bernhard, you have heard this a million times but allow me also to say, thank you for all the valuable information you have posted (and hope) will keep posting in the future. :)
That said, let me mention the reason for posting:
Earlier, you have said  that on the first lesson you give your students, along with other things, a CD with over 70 beginner pieces of superior repertory.   
Excellent idea since most do not listen to enough classical music at home so it gives them a nice start. 
Could you perhaps provide a list with the composers you have used for this purpose? ( I would actually beg you for a list of the pieces but if that's too much to ask then never mind :P)

BEGINNER’S CD TRACKS

1.   Martini – Plaisir d’amour
2.   Pachelbel – Fugue
3.   Mozart – Minuet in F K2
4.   Diabelli – Sonatina
5.   Cimarosa – Sonata
6.   Alessandro Scarlatti  - La folia
7.   Le Coupey – Air Tendre
8.   Krebs – Rigaudon –
9.   Shostakovitch – Merry story
10.   Exercise
11.   Purcell - Air
12.   Exercise 13
13.   Rameau – Rondino
14.   Exercise 8
15.   Exercise 9
16.   Exercise 10
17.   Leopold Mozart – Minuet
18.   Attwood – Sonatina in G (3rd mov)
19.   Exercise 8
20.   Exercise 8
21.   Exercise 10
22.   Jose Mauricio Nunes Garcia – lesson 1 – 2
23.   Lesson 3 – 4
24.   Lesson 5-6
25.   Howard Skempton – Air
26.   Saltaire melody
27.   Campanella
28.   Michel Jacques – Sticky toffee
29.   Sandre – Mr. Happy go lucky
30.   Schubert – Landler in Eb D679/2
31.   Blow – Air
32.   Faina Lushtak – Running and Skipping
33.   Gedike – Russian Song
34.   J. S. Bach (attr.) – Musette
35.   Christian Petzold – Minuet in Gm
36.   Schumann – Melody (op. 68 no. 1)
37.   Schumann – Humming song (op. 68 no. 3)
38.   Schumann – Chorale (op. 68 no. 4)
39.   Schumann – Little piece (op. 68 no. 5)
40.   Arnold – Giga (op. 12 no. 3)
41.   Attwood – Andante (from sonatina in F)
42.   Haydn – Tedesca (Hob IX no. 3)
43.   Anon.  – A toy (Fitzwilliam Virginal book)
44.   Martin Frey – Little Canon
45.   Brunner – Lesson in F (Op. 487 no. 38)
46.   Czerny – Study in D op. 187 no. 49
47.   Diabelli – Bagatelle in C
48.   Brian Chapple – In the Pink
49.   Hovhaness – Sleeping cat.
50.   Bartok – Children at play
51.   Purcell – Rigadoon
52.   Telemann – Minueto
53.   Gedike – Barcarolle
54.   Maikapar – The moth
55.   Kabalevsky – Waltz in Dm (op. 39 no. 13)
56.   Vogel – Moderato in C (op. 34 no. 10)
57.   Colin Matthews – Rosamund’s March
58.   Christopher Norton – Get in step
59.   Peter Gritton – Time warp
60.   Lajos Papp – Rhythm playing
61.   Prokofiev – The cat.
62.   Hammerschmidt – Sarabande
63.   Wilton – Little sonata
64.   Gurlitt – Allegretto grazioso
65.   Adair – Thumbelina
66.   Bergerac - Marshmallow Sundae
67.   Rebikov – The Bear
68.   Will Baily – Carnival
69.   Will Baily – Horseplay
70.   Will Baily – Prarie dog Jamboree
71.   Will Baily – Wheat fields
72.   Turk – Spring and winter


Best wishes,
Bernhard
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline sarahlein

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #44 on: May 18, 2005, 07:43:54 AM »
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

Offline ptmidwest

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #45 on: May 18, 2005, 01:44:20 PM »
Dear Bernhard, 
I am certainly not the only teacher who has benefited from your generous helpfulness.  We are all better teachers when we have (yet another) "fresh start" to energize us in our programs!

THANK YOU.

Offline Mayla

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #46 on: July 26, 2005, 10:03:30 PM »
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"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #47 on: July 26, 2005, 11:04:19 PM »

Oh boy, ain’t you gonna have fun! ;D

Yes, you are going to learn a lot with this student, and it will be the next ones that will benefit. (it took me a couple of years to sort it out :P)

To answer your questions (bring me your doubts and I will add some of my own ;)):

1.   Yes. I believe it to be very important that a student start playing as soon as possible a complete piece. So in the first lessons, I try to use a repertory that allow that to happen (simple enough that it can be taught by rote in one or two lessons). However, the lessons is not totally dedicated to the piece. Specially with the little ones that have no attention span, changing the subject often is important. So from the very first lesson I will be teaching to read music in gentle steps (following Howard Richmann’s plan). Because they are coming everyday, I tell them (in the first two-three weeks at least) that they do not need to practise at home. They will practise in the lesson – this also make sure that they do not develop bad habits since the practice is supervised. After the piece and sight-reading, the next important subject that should be covered every lesson is scales (I start with B major, plus whatever scale is in the pieces they are learning). As soon as they understand the concept of scale and scale degrees, (one week should be enough) I immediately introduce free-improvisation on the scales. This, I encourage them to explore at home to their hearts content.

2.   After they choose their pieces, I order them from easiest to most difficult, and start straightaway (by rote) on the easy ones. However I do not want them to get too good at learning by rote (and by ear), so as soon as it is feasible I will insist on “reading” the music even if this is a slow laborious process. If you leave it for too late, they become really good at learning by rote, and will have tremendous resistance to learn by reading (since by rote is so much easier). So the secret is to start introducing reading while learning by rote is still difficult.

3.   That’s OK. If she cannot read music, there is no point in giving them music to work at home. In the beginning the best homework is scales and scale free improvisation. Also, try to always give a duet and a solo piece (unless they have someone with whom to play the duet – since duets only become palatable complete).

Finally at this stage, perhaps the most important consideration is to have a plan. By all means improvise and disregard the plan if you feel the conditions are favourable. But you will be glad you had a plan to fall back on.

Good luck!

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline Mayla

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #48 on: July 27, 2005, 06:19:25 PM »
.
"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Offline bernhard

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Re: Dear Bernhard
«Reply #49 on: July 27, 2005, 11:35:46 PM »
You are welcome, and I am really happy you found it useful. :)
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)