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Looking for Advice: how to teach without sheet music? (Read 1266 times)

Offline samlindholm

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Looking for Advice: how to teach without sheet music?
« on: November 18, 2016, 09:35:37 PM »
Hello,

I'm a newer piano teacher with a student who is about 15 years old. She left her previous teacher because she did not like the teacher's emphasis on sheet music. She plays congregational worship style music most of the time and that's what she likes (like Chris Tomlin and Elevation worship). She can transpose, understands the basics of chord inversion, she knows how to find a melody and harmonize it by ear, etc. But because she does not want to learn sheet music pretty much at all (and I don't want to force her; I give her doses of it, but I don't require her to only read sheet music), I'm starting to run out of ideas on how to teach her improvisation in a format that would enhance the congregational worship music that she loves to play. Note that she has no desire to be a concert pianist or a performer; she's more of a hobbyist.

Does anyone have any ideas for exercises or concepts I could introduce to challenge and stretch her that aren't sheet-music heavy?

Thanks for your insight!

Offline mimifasol

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Re: Looking for Advice: how to teach without sheet music?
«Reply #1 on: November 18, 2016, 10:11:58 PM »
Have you every used the Pattern Play books?

I've had several students who prefer to play by ear and I juts pull out the Pattern Play books when they seem to be in a rut. It adds new chord progressions and melodic tricks to their improvising toolbox!

Offline vaniii

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Re: Looking for Advice: how to teach without sheet music?
«Reply #2 on: November 18, 2016, 10:53:19 PM »
Try improvising on standard progressions.

If you understand harmony, you can simply make up somthing within the structure using standard 8 bar phrases and simple tunes.

Nursery rhymes are a good place to start. Most use simple diatonic scale patterns and can be adapted to five finger patterns.  If you use this in duet format they can focus on the tune.

When they feel more open, you can give them the task of vamping chords using rhythmic syncopation patterns.

I use this in my lessons as light relief after exams performances and competitions. No matter how old or seasoned, people cannot resist a jive.

Offline asiantraveller101

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Re: Looking for Advice: how to teach without sheet music?
«Reply #3 on: November 19, 2016, 02:39:02 AM »
To learn to play everything by ear is limiting. Try convincing her that she at least need to learn to read lead sheet, which the conventional way to play pop and contemporary music. Reading lead sheet is a great way to learn.

Offline quantum

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Re: Looking for Advice: how to teach without sheet music?
«Reply #4 on: November 19, 2016, 05:32:57 AM »
How about incorporating visual art and graphic scores into improvisation.  For example, have her improvise and compose to a painting.  What would this squiggly line sound like if it were music? You could also do the reverse, have her record an improvisation then make visual art that reflects it.  Have her exercise the connections between aural and visual stimuli.  You could work in standard score elements and chord names into the visual art.  

How is the student's vision?  Does she use or need prescription eye wear?  Sometimes students this age don't like to admit they need glasses and would rather tout preference to memorization as a personality trait than deal with vision correction.  
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Looking for Advice: how to teach without sheet music?
«Reply #5 on: November 19, 2016, 07:49:40 AM »
Record the lessons so your student can listen back on all the ideas. Study fake books. Avoiding notation altogether seems irrational.
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Offline samlindholm

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Re: Looking for Advice: how to teach without sheet music?
«Reply #6 on: November 21, 2016, 07:17:32 PM »
She already reads lead sheets very well. I like the idea of studying using fake books since most of the lead sheets she's interested in only use really basic worship-music style progressions (I - IV - V -I, etc.) I'm wondering if using some fake books and giving some basic diatonic melodies wouldn't give her a springboard to start elaborating on those melodies. I want her to learn to take the basic melodies she's used to playing in her right and to be able to vary them rhythmically or create spin-off melodies and variations on them.