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As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks.... (Read 9948 times)

Offline ranniks

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As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
« on: June 14, 2013, 10:38:01 PM »
Counting and rhythm abilities? Technical playing is great and reading is also decent, he's just weak at counting and rhythm. He is however able to express himself with feeling (so no robot pianist).

Have any of you teachers ever succesfully liberated a student of this inability to follow beat/concentrate enough on beat? I'm not talking about a student who in three lessons shows weakness and the fourth and from there on shows he's liberated, I'm talking about long term students min. 3 months or more.

Would make my day. Thanks...



Offline timothy42b

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #1 on: June 15, 2013, 04:08:32 AM »
I'm more sensitive to rhythmic inaccuracies than wrong notes.

I've come to think it's related to an asperger's like background.

I can handle limited rubato, but failure to have a pulse is physically painful.  If you find a cure, let me know; I work with a lot of church musicians and the time problem is common.

Many years ago I had a regular gig with a polka band.  The leader was a good promoter and got us lots of work.  Unfortunately he had an extreme form of some dyslexic like rhythm disorder, and you could never count on any given measure having the prescribed number of beats.  You could be playing a waltz in 3/4, and measure 8 might have 3 beats.  Or 2, or 4, or 3 1/17th, or 2 19/27ths. It did teach me alertness.  He played Cordovox (do they even make those anymore?) and we had to follow him. 

I do think this type of rhythm problem is more common in more solitary instruments - pianists who practice alone, rather than say a clarinet or trombone who plays in an ensemble.  The worst in my experience are organists, and I attribute it to the delay between key press and the pipe resonating in the room.
Tim

Offline outin

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #2 on: June 15, 2013, 06:35:12 AM »
I have a friend who is an adult starter. We discuss our lessons quite a bit. Ever since the beginning she has told me that she doesn't play with correct rhythm (meaning she cannot keep a pulse). Her teacher tells her that but as far as I have seen doesn't really address the problem much. I went through the theory part with her to help, after a year of lessons she still had trouble with simple note and rest values. I think it's a bit better now.

So I wonder, maybe some teachers feel they would drive away their adult students by making them clap simple rhythms? They may just let the student play and tell them that they need to correct the rhythm but don't actually show them how?

Also they may assume that the student understands basic concepts such as pulse and beat, but maybe they don't. I think at least it would be approriate to test this by making the students clap different rhythms from the sheets. Some might be able to mimic the rhythm when they have listened to a recording of the piece, but they may not really understand where the weak and strong beats are supposed to be and why.

Offline pianoslav

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #3 on: June 21, 2013, 07:15:53 AM »
I think it depends on the amount of experience your student has had playing piano. If after 5 or 6 years of playing, the student transferred to you and has a horrible sense of rhythm, I  think there is very little you can do if they still haven't grasped the concept by now. Plus, they've had so much time to learn to play wrong.

However, if they student has problems with counting and playing the correct rhythms and the student has only had a year or two of piano lessons, I think you can fix this with a lot of work. Most likely, the previous teacher didn't do a good job of explaining (or no job at all) that you shouldn't simply slow down on the hard parts and speed up on the easy parts. I think this is where almost all of the rhythm problems come from with my students. For this, I first have them learn to play the entire song very slowly, counting out loud. Then, I will turn on the metronome at the same speed that they are comfortable playing when they count out loud. The metronome and counting out loud should happen at the same time to keep them going the same speed. However, this process can be very frustrating because the student will often ignore the metronome entirely. So, you will have to keep stopping them and telling them to restart together with the metronome. You have to extra patience for this.

I think the main thing here is to have them play in one constant tempo (even if it's super slowww) so that they will start to distinguish between different note lengths and timing.

Hope this helps!

Offline lilla

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #4 on: June 21, 2013, 10:21:06 PM »
Am I the only teacher who has students who just don't seem to get it?  I have done every possible scenario to encourage them to feel the beat, incorporate the beat, count, clap, tap, point and say words, sing, feel the phrase, work two measure at a time and link the next two, etc., etc.  The assignment books are filled with COUNT! in Red, underlined, starred, emphasized.  Notes are sent to parents to ask for help at home.  And STILL.  The student comes in, plays incorrectly.  I ask them to count that section for me.  They look at me in horror.  "I don't like to count."  I cruelly tell them, "that's why you're playing it wrong!  You must count!  Or at least feel it!  Yes, yes, I know.  Piano lessons are for fun.  etc. etc.  But the reason I bring this up is that it annoys me to hear other teachers assume that the former teacher didn't bother to teach rhythm.  Or didn't teach it properly.  I have award winning students.  They play beautifully.  They all know how to count. Amazing.  But, please.  Can I be the only teacher with students who just refuse?

Offline pianoslav

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #5 on: June 22, 2013, 03:34:18 AM »
But the reason I bring this up is that it annoys me to hear other teachers assume that the former teacher didn't bother to teach rhythm.  Or didn't teach it properly. 

So instead of assuming that the former teacher didn't do a good job, you assume that every teacher out there teaches rhythm perfectly?? Can't you concede that there's even a slight possibility that the previous teacher wasn't very good?

I've personally observed teachers that ignore mistakes played by their students and never correct them! If my student makes a mistake I will make sure that they understand why they were wrong and how to play it right by the end of the lesson. However, these kids were making the same mistakes during the recital that they were making during lessons and the teacher seemed to perfectly content with that, never bothering to correct it. Are you really so na´ve that you think every teacher has taught rhythm correctly?

Offline pianoslav

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #6 on: June 22, 2013, 03:35:52 AM »
The student comes in, plays incorrectly.  I ask them to count that section for me.  They look at me in horror.  "I don't like to count."

So your student doesn't count because they don't like to? It looks like you have a defiant student, not one who "just doesn't seem to get it". Your student's problem is behavior, rather than comprehension of the concept.

Offline outin

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #7 on: June 22, 2013, 06:50:21 AM »
So your student doesn't count because they don't like to? It looks like you have a defiant student, not one who "just doesn't seem to get it". Your student's problem is behavior, rather than comprehension of the concept.

In a case like this I wonder if the student really wants to learn? Counting may not be fun but sometimes it's the only way to get something right. So maybe the problem is that they do not really care for what they are learning so have no inner motivation to "get it"? They just want to be able to play the piece through somehow so that they can move on...Maybe they are just bored with the material given to them. I know I was as a kid.

I am sure a lot of you teachers have young students who only come to lessons because they are supposed to. With kids I wonder if it would help to teach them some pop tunes with different kinds of rhythms? Or something else they really want to learn even if it's a bit too difficult in general, but to just get them to want to count to get the rhythm right?

Offline lilla

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #8 on: June 22, 2013, 06:14:42 PM »
To answer a couple of points brought up. Of course, there are all levels of teachers.  I've seen the results of poor teaching.  But sometimes I think you need to spend some time with the student and be certain you understand why the teacher did as they did.  Sometimes you discover their logic, sometimes you just don't agree.  I've even had transfer students from one of the most successful teachers in our community.  Her students win national competitions.  But sometimes her teaching is too stressful for the younger students and they resist.  So that's one example of how teaching may just not be the right match for a particular student.  I think overall that as teachers, we should be more supportive of one another and not so quick to judge.  And if the teaching is truly incorrect and non-productive, well, maybe that teacher is learning from experience.  We can hope.

As for defiant students, luckily, I have never had this situation.  The students I have who don't want to count, are actually nice students.  They just don't want to follow all the instructions.  And their parents complicate matters but praising them and not realizing they are not playing properly.  so they come in to play for me not realizing their rhythm is wrong.  It's a lot more fun to play by ear, or even rote from the parents, then to pay attention to the pesky details.  So, yes, for these students I am not as strict as I should be.  And if they should transfer?  Well, the next teacher can use their skills to manage this type of student.

But all in all, my point is that there are many issues that go into successfully playing piano assignments.  We should consider the entire package.  It reminds me of a rule of thumb I created when working in the corporate world.  I used to rush to change something that didn't seem to make sense to me, only to find out later that there was a reason the previous person had done it the way they did.  I've learned to slow down and check things out first.  A good rule of thumb I think.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #9 on: June 24, 2013, 12:20:17 PM »

As for defiant students, luckily, I have never had this situation.  The students I have who don't want to count, are actually nice students.  They just don't want to follow all the instructions.  And their parents complicate matters but praising them and not realizing they are not playing properly.  so they come in to play for me not realizing their rhythm is wrong.  

Problems with pulse and with counting are widespread enough that I suspect the root causes are often misdiagnosed.  Using terms like "defiant" or "don't want to follow instructions" may just reflect that the teaching strategy is wrong for that particular child, even if it worked well on many others. 
Tim

Offline mcdiddy1

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #10 on: June 27, 2013, 01:05:24 AM »
The only student who I struggled to count was an autistic student but even he was able to to play well by rote and basically imitating me.

What type of rhythmic errors is the student making? Is it missing a beat on a whole note hear and there, is it a lack of keeping the same tempo, is the student not able to play it correctly after you play it?

You may want to consider the student may be a special needs students or problems with vision. One of my student realized he needed glasses and his reading improved remarkably.

That being said you may want to consider the age of the student. Is the student very young 3- 6 age? These students do not associate symbols very well and without a great deal of imitation they will not play it correctly.

That being said, for me students who have the mental capabilities of learning rhythm but choose not to need to have a reality check. I often use the analogy that rhythm is the outline of the pictures we try and create. Without the structure and definition of rhythm we may be able to make beautiful art but it may not be clear and not serve what we were intended. I use the musical analogy of playing a theme everyone knows like the star spangle banner or jingle bells. I play all the right notes but I play completely out of rhythm. I ask them to guess it and when they struggle with it for a couple of tries I play the correct rhythm and they recognize it instantly. I use this to drive home rhythm defines the music. I found it pretty effective that if you do not play in rhythm you are not really playing anything at all.

I think some practical things you can do is playing duets. Students need to understand that music is not just a solo endeavor and musicians must be able to play with others. They can be very simple and great sight-reading practice. The duet can just be a simple duet where they student keeps a steady beat of quarter-notes while you as the teach play a musically satisfying accompaniment.

Have the student clap with you while you play, stand up and walk to the music, say the letter names in rhythm, sing with the student.  You could also record the student so they can hear how they sound while their playing.

I think by having the student doing something physical, fun, and imitative is a great way to make counting enjoyable for the student. Students run into problems when students think counting is just numerical when it is actually based on rhythmic feeling. After the student is capable of playing the piece correctly then quizzing the student on the rhythmic values and how long each one is held is taught in an environment where there is not a feeling of failure of not being able to play correctly but adding on top of their ability to play correctly they know the theory behind the notation.

It sounds like the problem with this student is more of an attitude towards counting and if you can change the students experience of what rhythm is the student will enjoy it and will learn to play with rhythm.

Offline virtuoso80

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #11 on: June 27, 2013, 08:13:25 AM »
My approach is the naturalistic one: We all have rhythmic abilities. If we didn't, we couldn't walk or talk. Ask them to repeat a somewhat rhythmic sentence back to you. They'll usually have no problem doing so. Remark on how the rhythm was totally correct, and then write down in notation what it was they did. Then ask them to apply that rhythm to the piano. Keep it simple.

Offline ted

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #12 on: June 27, 2013, 09:28:11 AM »
I am not a teacher but I would try giving him boogie, rag, swing and stride pieces. These idioms are meaningless without perception of a beat, and might more or less force the issue, given time, provided he enjoys the music.
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Offline timothy42b

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #13 on: June 27, 2013, 12:04:07 PM »
I am not a teacher but I would try giving him boogie, rag, swing and stride pieces. These idioms are meaningless without perception of a beat, and might more or less force the issue, given time, provided he enjoys the music.

Many of the old jazz greats learned their craft by playing along with LPs.  I'm thinking of horns and guitar mostly. 

And, of course, lots of listening, and transcribing for those who read music. 

I think that's pretty rare on piano today, but maybe it would be worthwhile?
Tim

Offline danhuyle

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #14 on: June 29, 2013, 12:37:57 AM »
I'm still one of those pianists who can play expressively and, due to the inability to clarify rhythm and count, it all goes down the drain.

While playing expressively is good, counting and rhythm are WAY more important than expressive playing.

To solve this problem
- Pick a piece they're already familiar with - like a Waltz
- Practice counting while playing - use a beginner book if they're not used to it
- Metronome - the ultimate tool for a musician

This student could potentially be one of those who - if you get the rhythm and counting right, then you'll have a much easier time putting things together.

I did aural training at the time of studying music and the teacher would make us count while clapping rhythms. It put me off, so I decided to use the method on piano music and this ability to feel the rhythm is so powerful beyond words. All the competition winners have proven so.
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Offline rembetissa

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #15 on: July 11, 2013, 03:34:22 PM »
My first real gig was teaching elementary school general music, so I would draw on the ideas of Orff. Pull in all the learning modes (aural, visual, kinesthetic, tactile) too.

Start with steady beat. If your student has steady beat, you can skip this step. Explain that steady beat like a heart beat or "tick tick" of the clock. Sing a simple song, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Draw or print out a sheet of paper with 24 boxes that represent the beats (4 or 8 boxes in each row). Have the student point to each box in order while you sing the song. You may need to demonstrate. Tap the beat of the song on the student's shoulder while singing.

Then, present quarter notes and pairs of two eighth notes. It would help to have several flashcards, some with one star (to represent quarter notes), others with two (to represent eighth notes). Arrange the cards, four cards in a row, in various combinations. Practice saying "twinkle" for the two stars and "star" for the one. Eventually your last combination should be "twinkle twinkle twinkle star", as this is the prominent rhythm in the actual song. :) One important point is to make sure the student understands the difference between rhythm and beat. So, as you recite each rhythm on the cards, you can also go back and tap each one once, saying "beat beat beat beat".

Now go back to the sheet with the boxes. As you sing and point this time, one row at a time, ask the student to draw one or two stars, depending on the rhythm of the song. You may have to demonstrate.

Finally, make the connection that the two stars have a special music symbol-- the two eight notes! And the one star is a quarter note. Practice various combinations of quarters and eighths. The student can still say "twinkle" and "star". Other possibilities are "running" and "walk". Or maybe the student's name is one or two syllables, and a family member's name is one or two syllables. Or "cherry" and "pie". The possibilities are endless. :)

You will want to transfer this new understanding to actual piano pieces. Pick some out that only have quarters and eighths. The first sight reading should only focus on correct notes and fingerings. Then the second, you can isolate a few passages or measures and challenge the student to play it with rhythmic accuracy.

From there, move on to more complicated rhythms. The next one I'd do is four sixteenth notes. For many students, it's easier to think of smooshing more notes into one beat than it is to extend one note for more than one beat. Lots of fun four syllable words: watermelon, Mississippi, etc. etc.

Test "dictation" skills by playing a short passage and asking the student to notate the rhythm.

Sorry for the long post. :) The gist is to expose the student to many ways of understanding rhythm, then apply it to real pieces.

Offline elizasays

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #16 on: December 18, 2013, 06:32:03 PM »
I have had students who have been able to understand phrasing and tone production, and really play with feeling and emotion, but struggled with rhythm. With very young children, I usually teach them to dance, and this does the trick. But, with older students or adults, getting them to sing songs and listen to music usually works. For all students weak in rhythm, playing at least once a day to the metronome helps. At first, they usually play out of time, but gradually, learn to play to time correctly.
Anitaelise

Offline etoapps

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #17 on: February 07, 2014, 02:10:10 PM »

Hi there, we are music educators and performers ourselves but have started to create and publish new Apps to help with practise. I would welcome your thoughts on our techniques, and in particular our first Bach piano practise App;
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Thank you for your kind interest and advice, from eto Apps


Offline xdjuicebox

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Re: As a teacher, how would you tackle a student who lacks....
«Reply #18 on: February 12, 2014, 09:00:02 PM »
Have him sing along to some jazz, or something catchy; teach him to feel a groove. I learned how to rap at a really young age, and that has helped me tremendously in terms of rhythm. You might want to encourage that except without the 50 million f bombs lol
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