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Teaching despite limited skill (Read 2281 times)

Offline qpalqpal

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Teaching despite limited skill
« on: August 11, 2013, 02:17:36 AM »
So I've been wanting to teach my little sister who just turned six years old the piano and music. I tried to teach her with a few 'theory' lessons away from the piano. In essence, I want to teach her solfege before the piano like my mom was taught in the conservatory (mind you, she only learned piano for a month [my mother]). I've been reading a lot of different opinions about music and music in general, about theory and counterpoint and harmony and piano technique etc., so I thought 'I know a lot that I can make my sister a beginner pianist. She wants to get to the piano and QUICK! I tried teacher her solfege and music theory and she was very patient (I hadn't realized 2 hours had passed  ::)). However, it's painful. I don't make a lot of sense and I teach too much too fast so I can get to teh piano.

I stopped this nonsense 3 months ago. I want to try again, once a week, but this time I want to try the pragmatic approach instead of the logical approach. I'll ask her "what do you want to learn, what do you like to play." She'll definately have something. I'll get to that and then teach notes and the music and hand position etc, but not too fast.

Any tips for the pragmatic approach, how to do it so that she is interested and learns and what do I teach at what intensity? What are teh important fundementals. Thanks!
Working on:
Bach Invention 7 (also Tureck's book)
Clementi Sonatina 3
Rachmaninoff Moment Musicaux no. 3
Skrjabin Prelude op.11 no.4
Joplin The Favorite Rag

Offline ajspiano

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Re: Teaching despite limited skill
«Reply #1 on: August 11, 2013, 06:35:34 AM »
You will learn a lot through teaching - be sure to register that the "teaching" part is a skill in itself to develop, its not just piano - piano is just the subject you are teaching.

Don't expect your sister to have the same musical interests as you, and as you have obviously observed already - don't expect her to see the value in following a logical approach to learning piano.

At your sisters age, unless she's a prodigy (we'll assume she's not) then you're going to spend some time just getting her to experience playing the keys. Kids at this age are just learning how to write properly, how to use a pair of scissors accurately or how to colour in and stay within the lines. This stuff requires them to develop both the observational skills and connect that to their also developing physical coordination. You'll notice that a lot of beginner books targeted at this age group use a long and steady stream of small pieces with hands separate 5 finger positions (no requirement for the hand to move laterally). This gets their fingers moving one at a time, and allows you to introduce new musical concepts one piece at a time while they develop their motor skills with repetition of very similar figures from piece to piece.

If you are going to let her choose what to learn outright then YOU need to arrange it into something REALLY SIMPLE to start out with. And, don't underestimate the potential difficulties found in the differences that you take for granted, such as between playing notes next to each other vs notes apart (ie. C, D vs C, E) - Not saying these will necessarily be hard, but you need to observe fine details and not brush over them if your sister is finding something difficult - move at her pace.. and in small pieces.

..........

Assuming that you have a good relationship with your sister (especially if she looks up to you) you're going to be able to fuel her motivation to learn things by being excited about them yourself. If you're having fun and are getting into it, she will be too..  kids TV makes a lot of use out of this. If you've seen much of it you'll note how excited they seem to be about everything.

Quote
what do I teach at what intensity?
Just for the sake of pushing you're thinking a bit. - Reply with 250 words (minimum) on 3/4 time and how you'd approach it in a lesson with someone who knows nothing about music.

Offline Bob

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Re: Teaching despite limited skill
«Reply #2 on: August 11, 2013, 03:52:19 PM »
At that age it's more music exploration.  Just keep it fun.  More about experiencing music than rigorous learning or understanding.  Unless she's a prodigy.  Then go nuts I guess.

Solfege wouldn't be so bad, but I'd use the "Do a Deer" song instead of flat out teaching it.  Playing or singing little snippets of melody back and forth as a game would be good.  Or even just matching one pitch at a time, "Name that pitch."  If that's not too dull for her.  She might still be in the window where she could get perfect pitch.

Focusing on a steady beat is good.  Exposure to different concepts in music without discussing it is good. Have her dance to a waltz rather than talk about it.  She doesn't need to understand time signatures.  She needs to experience what 'in 3' feels like.  Things like fast/slow, loud/soft, high/low... basic concepts, contrast, similar/different.  I'd focus on those.

That takes a lot of work though, and it's the piano isn't even necessary.

If she's going to read music now, I'd do something very simple, like having her play off a card with three notes written on it.  Play music, then have her fill in those three written notes.  Something like that.

Changing up activities every 5 minutes is good.  Their attention span is that low.  Two hours is impressive, but that's not going to last.  "Music" will become "boredom" in her mind.  That can have more of an effect, even if she's learning things.  She won't stick with it.


If you wanted to focus on ear training.... I'd find songs that introduce pitches note by note.  Three note song... then "here's 'fa' for another song."  She might be thrilled if she can plunk out the notes on the piano by rote.   Have her do sirens with her voice -- so she'll match pitch.  Teach her a bit on how to breath so she can sing halfway decently.  Big breath, lead with the abs...  Do bee buzzing, snake hissing, etc. to get breath support.  If she's matching pitch with her voice that would be a huge asset, and it's possible for kids that young to match pitch.  That and a steady beat would be good grounding.  Later on she could learn the solfege names. 
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline qpalqpal

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Re: Teaching despite limited skill
«Reply #3 on: August 12, 2013, 02:05:52 PM »
I'm on vacation now but thanks for the replies! I will respond more fully when I get back on Wednesday or perhaps one of these days. I will do the explanation on a 3/4
Working on:
Bach Invention 7 (also Tureck's book)
Clementi Sonatina 3
Rachmaninoff Moment Musicaux no. 3
Skrjabin Prelude op.11 no.4
Joplin The Favorite Rag

Offline qpalqpal

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Re: Teaching despite limited skill
«Reply #4 on: August 13, 2013, 02:01:27 PM »
So one thing I can relate to was about the attention span. She doesn't seem to stick with a certain idea for that long of time. I was thinking maybe to make it more fun through games. What I don't want to do is dumb it downs for her. That seems like it would develop ads habits or a dumbed down understanding. I actually did games on the piano of find ing notes. Because of that she now knows what the different notes and that wen t smoothly. But the bad part was when I mentioned the major scale and how it works. She didn't at all understand so I don't know what to do with that type of theory.

Working on:
Bach Invention 7 (also Tureck's book)
Clementi Sonatina 3
Rachmaninoff Moment Musicaux no. 3
Skrjabin Prelude op.11 no.4
Joplin The Favorite Rag

Offline Bob

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Re: Teaching despite limited skill
«Reply #5 on: August 13, 2013, 11:18:29 PM »
Games are good.  They don't even have to make sense. You just say it's a game and... it's a game! 

I wouldn't focus on understanding.  I'd focus on experience -- actually creating music or responding to it (like marching the beat) -- and experience in terms of a positive vibe from the session.  Experiencing stepping up or stepping down (and then up/down five notes, then up/down the whole scale) is better than just knowing what a major scale is. Maybe better yet -- Make a game out of collecting the notes from a piece.  Collect them, put them together... guess what you end up with? 
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline ajspiano

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Re: Teaching despite limited skill
«Reply #6 on: August 13, 2013, 11:36:00 PM »
Bob is right. Forget trying to get her to understand what a scale is - it is totally irrelevant to her at this point in time. Same with the 3/4 time question, its about how to make that concept relevant to a 6 year old.. how to make music out of it, not so much understand it on paper.

Scales are well beyond the typical young beginner, playing them is made difficult by the need for a thumb pass. Understanding them is made difficult by their general lack of exposure to music,  and their "in the moment" approach to sound. They are not analytical, at this stage they simply couldn't care less about theory, they only care about whether its fun and sounds cool..

If you plan to get such material across you have to expose them to it as music and without  theoretical understanding. Its like the karate kid, they learn the skills without realising, and when the time comes for understanding they will already have the skills and just have to make the mental connections.

....

remember where she is at regard to everything in school. Plenty of kids are ahead of the game at this age but the school system at this point is teaching things like counting, the alphabet, how to construct simple sentences, how to read..

you dont dumb it down for her - you have an awareness of what she is capable of handling and present it in a way that fits her mental development stage.

Offline qpalqpal

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Re: Teaching despite limited skill
«Reply #7 on: August 14, 2013, 02:46:12 PM »


Scales are well beyond the typical young beginner, playing them is made difficult by the need for a thumb pass. Understanding them is made difficult by their general lack of exposure to music,  and their "in the moment" approach to sound. They are not analytical, at this stage they simply couldn't care less about theory, they only care about whether its fun and sounds cool..

If you plan to get such material across you have to expose them to it as music and without  theoretical understanding. Its like the karate kid, they learn the skills without realising, and when the time comes for understanding they will already have the skills and just have to make the mental connections.


That being said, can't you teach certain skills, namely the passing of the thumb and scales, through certain piece sand make it seems psychologically more exciting by applying it to a certain piece, perhaps transposed to c major? I think you seriously limit if you don't know at least how to go an octave with both hands.

The question is where to start. For me naturally I would begin with a piece she would like (I was thinking first variation of twinkle twinkle little star by Mozart) played as a duet at first with one hand, and then switching etc. as agame. How do I introduce reading music at that point?

I think it's instrumental to learn at the very beginning because it'll pay huge dividends. I told her for example about FACE and she totally understood and I told her about the pentagram and then the treble clef. I told her that it looks like a capital G. The music I gave her I put the two dots between the second line to signify G and she was in complete understanding. Intervals was a little harder but that take slow exposure to few notes I guess. So giving her a piece of music with notes going up and dwn was a bit tricky for her but it would work eventually. Note values and rhythm was a bit harder but I kind of stopped there because unfortunately she was losing interest (now I'm not surprised).

I know her potential at least but keeping it interesting will probably be the challenge. I'm thinking daily lessons and stopping at her will. That way the time is more flexible. It jut seems more disorganized but you tell me. I think she is very smart but at the same time she loves the game part of it. The good thing is I don't have to make all of this metaphors (which can be confusing).

What do you think?
Working on:
Bach Invention 7 (also Tureck's book)
Clementi Sonatina 3
Rachmaninoff Moment Musicaux no. 3
Skrjabin Prelude op.11 no.4
Joplin The Favorite Rag

Offline keypeg

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Re: Teaching despite limited skill
«Reply #8 on: August 15, 2013, 11:48:43 AM »
I've always understood that the beginning stage is the most important stage for a student because all concepts and habits are formed at that time.  So I'm surprised that the teachers here think this is a good idea.  I read that this may be good for the student doing the teaching, because it's a good way to learn.  But is it good for the child being taught?  Would you like to have this girl as a transfer student a few years down the line?

Offline ajspiano

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Re: Teaching despite limited skill
«Reply #9 on: August 15, 2013, 01:20:39 PM »
..I don't think its a good idea for the student generally .

but I also think its a bad (and likely futile) idea to tell siblings not to share music with each other.

qpalqpal is also passionate about learning the piano, aware of his lack of knowledge and questioning his processes which is a great start and more than can be said for some professional teachers.

Offline qpalqpal

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Re: Teaching despite limited skill
«Reply #10 on: August 15, 2013, 01:53:50 PM »
I've always understood that the beginning stage is the most important stage for a student because all concepts and habits are formed at that time.  So I'm surprised that the teachers here think this is a good idea.  I read that this may be good for the student doing the teaching, because it's a good way to learn.  But is it good for the child being taught?  Would you like to have this girl as a transfer student a few years down the line?

Why would this be a bad idea? I think starting young is great! I'm not a qualified teacher but I can get her exposed I guess?
Working on:
Bach Invention 7 (also Tureck's book)
Clementi Sonatina 3
Rachmaninoff Moment Musicaux no. 3
Skrjabin Prelude op.11 no.4
Joplin The Favorite Rag