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What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ? (Read 6721 times)

Offline pianoplunker

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What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
« on: February 09, 2018, 12:36:13 PM »
I am just curious because I saw piano classes listed for "50+" .  What is it about 50+ that creates a category for music teachers to teach with ?   Is teaching someone > 50 different than teaching someone < 50 ?   Or is this a social thing to keep all the old farts in the same room if they want to take lessons ? 

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #1 on: February 09, 2018, 06:09:37 PM »
Where did you see them listed?  Is it possible to link?  It would be interesting to see what they say about it.  Ofc it could be a marketing gimmick to pull in retiring baby boomers.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #2 on: February 09, 2018, 06:54:50 PM »
I googled "50+" and found a series (type of method book or approach?) intended for students 50 and older.  There's a web-site, where there is also a section advising teachers.  Teachers are referred to as "coaches" and older adults wanting to find a teacher are invited to contact them to see if there is a "coach" that has been trained to use this method.

The site uses the term "pedagogy"  and "geragogy", where the "pedagogical model" is defined as "teacher directed" - repertoire being chose as appropriate to the child's level, and musical concepts are taught in a preconceived sequence.  The "geragogical model" is said to be "student directed", with lessons being driven by student needs and goals.  This first puzzled me, because the "needs and goals" for any beginner are the same --- that is, they need to learn the things they need to learn, and learning to play itself is the goal.  But then it went on: "need" seems to be - desire to play your favourite music.  Oka, gotcha.

Well, pedagogy actually means "method and practice of teaching".  If you decide you'll let a student tell you what piece he wants to learn, and that shapes your lessons, that is still your pedagogy.  If you mindlessly follow a method book page by page, or wing it because you can play the piano, that is also your pedagogy.  They're poor ones, but that's what pedagogy is.

The distinction seemed to by "choice of repertoire".  That's not pedagogy, nor (imho) does it reflect "student needs".  I looked the person up (esp. given that teachers are being advised), and did not find any background of pedagogy training.  I'm wondering if they are basing themselves on their own childhood lessons.

Cutting to the chase, I saw the same old, same old.  Familiar or beloved music, simplify it for the student if it's too hard, give basic chords (esp. triads) - also, go toward the ability to conceptualize.  There were some useful age-related things, such as large print for eyes that don't see well; pronounce things like "C" "G" "D" clearly for aging ears.  But then - isn't music written for child beginners also in large print?

The thing is that adults come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.  We don't all fall into that stereotype.  What wrong with my first lessons (not piano) was somewhat around these things.  Had I known to say "I want to learn everything, in as much depth as a child does, as thoroughly, and maybe more." it would have been differently probably.  If a teacher teaches children well, aiming for skills and not just pleasing parents and passing exams, then that's a teacher for me.  I don't want someone who specializes in older adults in this sense.


Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #3 on: February 11, 2018, 12:56:22 AM »
Hmm, it seems I come under the category of 'old fart'!  Oh well, that's life. The good news is that you, like everyone else, will one day join the category! :)   I'm assuming, of course, that you must be a 'youngster' to describe us older folk in such a manner.  The thing is, though, that if I call you a 'youngster' then I would be categorising you in the same way and we all know that people shouldn't be categorised and labelled because everyone truly is unique!

However, I have taught young and old alike and I have noticed some differences.  Older people have a tendency to believe they will learn something quickly because they understand it intellectually and forget that piano playing involves a fair amount of repetition (ie Practice) in order to achieve their goal.  Also older people tend to have stiffer joints in their hands and struggle with legato.  They may raise their shoulders while they are concentrating and suffer from an aching back and shoulders after a short time of practice.   Older students tend to be very nervous about that first play through in their lesson - fear of failure or not reaching their own, or their teacher's, expectations can be very high.  They may not be able to see their music as clearly as a younger person due to bad eyesight.  They definitely wouldn't want to learn from a children's book with titles like 'The Fat Toad' or images of gnomes and the like. 

Have you ever tried teaching someone who has typed for years and years with their hands in an awkward position and who finds it almost impossible to change that position for the piano keyboard?  Not an easy task!  I once tried to demonstrate to an older lady about her hand position and I mentioned that I was finding it very difficult to copy her position in order to show her how to change it.  She said, you can't do my hand position and I can't do yours'.  That made me thoughtful for a while, I can tell you!  Such a situation doesn't tend to occur with younger students. 

At the end of the day, I think that what the teacher is actually teaching is going to be the same but the method of passing on that information during lessons is going to be different, as with students of all ages.  I think it's impossible to categorise and label students but if teaching in groups of students, then perhaps older students together will perhaps feel less intimidated by younger, more flexible students.

Offline pianoplunker

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #4 on: February 11, 2018, 01:02:51 AM »
Where did you see them listed?  Is it possible to link?  It would be interesting to see what they say about it.  Ofc it could be a marketing gimmick to pull in retiring baby boomers.

It was a mailer publication for local  activities where I live. I can completely understand how it might be preferable to teach a certain age group but just curious what differences might be prevalent in a teaching scenario.  I am freshly retired and looking at taking music lessons but not sure since I have already been playing through my life - although plenty of room to still grow and learn.   

Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #5 on: February 11, 2018, 01:11:12 AM »
If only I had left in my comment that older people have an ability to laugh at themselves because your more recent post, stating that you are retired, would have confirmed my thoughts.  I wrote it in my post and then deleted it.  Darn :)

Offline pianoplunker

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #6 on: February 11, 2018, 01:25:21 AM »
Hmm, it seems I come under the category of 'old fart'!  Oh well, that's life. The good news is that you, like everyone else, will one day join the category! :)   I'm assuming, of course, that you must be a 'youngster' to describe us older folk in such a manner.  The thing is, though, that if I call you a 'youngster' then I would be categorising you in the same way and we all know that people shouldn't be categorised and labelled because everyone truly is unique!

However, I have taught young and old alike and I have noticed some differences.  Older people have a tendency to believe they will learn something quickly because they understand it intellectually and forget that piano playing involves a fair amount of repetition (ie Practice) in order to achieve their goal.  Also older people tend to have stiffer joints in their hands and struggle with legato.  They may raise their shoulders while they are concentrating and suffer from an aching back and shoulders after a short time of practice.   Older students tend to be very nervous about that first play through in their lesson - fear of failure or not reaching their own, or their teacher's, expectations can be very high.  They may not be able to see their music as clearly as a younger person due to bad eyesight.  They definitely wouldn't want to learn from a children's book with titles like 'The Fat Toad' or images of gnomes and the like. 

Have you ever tried teaching someone who has typed for years and years with their hands in an awkward position and who finds it almost impossible to change that position for the piano keyboard?  Not an easy task!  I once tried to demonstrate to an older lady about her hand position and I mentioned that I was finding it very difficult to copy her position in order to show her how to change it.  She said, you can't do my hand position and I can't do yours'.  That made me thoughtful for a while, I can tell you!  Such a situation doesn't tend to occur with younger students. 

At the end of the day, I think that what the teacher is actually teaching is going to be the same but the method of passing on that information during lessons is going to be different, as with students of all ages.  I think it's impossible to categorise and label students but if teaching in groups of students, then perhaps older students together will perhaps feel less intimidated by younger, more flexible students.

Well, I only meant "old fart" as a sarcastic description, but I do qualify now - even though I dont look a day over 42. You can call me a youngster and I will just brag. Anyhow, I used to have lots of bouts with tendonitus when I actually was younger. I finally realized I had thrown technique out the window so actually went and worked on some of those things that my teachers had been trying to show me when I was a kid . Going on seven years with no problems now. And that is after nearly 45 years of playing and revisiting.  As I think about someone trying to teach me now, I might be able to take more criticism and insight than I used to.

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #7 on: February 11, 2018, 01:39:37 AM »
It's been my experience that 50+ students are quite wonderful to teach. They tend to be patient, and have a certain seriousness with re to being consistent with their practice.. (and usually, the endeavor is something they have always wanted to do..)
They also have good focus in the lesson, and don't drag their feet when it comes to really working out difficult spots.  Yes, kids can be more flexible, and sometimes serious, and can pick things up quickly, but not always..
I like teaching that demographic - probably about a third of my students..
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Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #8 on: February 11, 2018, 05:17:27 AM »
Older people have a tendency to believe they will learn something quickly because they understand it intellectually and forget that piano playing involves a fair amount of repetition (ie Practice) in order to achieve their goal. 
My experience when I first took lessons on a new instrument when I just turned 50 is that (some) teachers will think these students want to learn quickly, and will rush through things.  When I asked to go back a grade because it felt like something was missing, the teacher looked puzzled.   Teachers will also tend to present things intellectually, explain concepts, and forget that the body and nervous system are just as slow as for children, and the real learning happens there.  Sometimes they don't dare teach the simple things as slowly and thoroughly as with a child, because they are afraid if insulting the older student.
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Also older people tend to have stiffer joints in their hands and struggle with legato.  They may raise their shoulders while they are concentrating and suffer from an aching back and shoulders after a short time of practice. 
If things are taught too quickly, and especially too intellectually, then the body does not have time to learn.  As an older person, you will have a lot of poor physical habits, and you need to learn to move your body and how the body moves.  More, not less, time should be spent on that.
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 Older students tend to be very nervous about that first play through in their lesson - fear of failure or not reaching their own, or their teacher's, expectations can be very high. 
This is true.  The first thing you need to impart is what the nature of lessons actually is, and what the goals truly are.  Then you can get past that impasse in time.
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They may not be able to see their music as clearly as a younger person due to bad eyesight. 
I can relate to that.
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They definitely wouldn't want to learn from a children's book with titles like 'The Fat Toad' or images of gnomes and the like.  
Sure I would!  Just don't give me a book called "adult method book" or something with the word "adult" in it, because almost always the attitudes will be wrong.  I might draw a fat toad on it, though. ;)
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Have you ever tried teaching someone who has typed for years and years with their hands in an awkward position and who finds it almost impossible to change that position for the piano keyboard? 
I am that person.  I have relearned a lot of things about body use since my first encounters, and am happier for it.
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I once tried to demonstrate to an older lady about her hand position and I mentioned that I was finding it very difficult to copy her position in order to show her how to change it. 
Does it actually help someone to change what they are doing by copying what they are doing wrong?  Or do you start by exploring what is right.  There is no  such thing as a "hand position" though - that is a static concept.  Learning and exploring how things move -- I hear Alexander technique is fantastic (and as  a teacher studying these things may also help you teach, from having that angle ---- or sending your student to Alexander).
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...but if teaching in groups of students, then perhaps older students together will perhaps feel less intimidated by younger, more flexible students.
I wouldn't want to be in a group, period.  When I had in-studio lessons, though recitals were mixed and I felt the most shy among other adults because you can't be compared with the kids.

I had an exam when I had been playing for 6 months.  The child ahead of me was doing the same exam after playing for 2 years.  I sounded more musical.  He sounded more solid.  That solidity was not because he was 7, but because they took 2 years.  I prefer solidity as a first skill, rather than musical feeling I can pull out of a hat because I've heard music for decades.

Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #9 on: February 11, 2018, 01:10:37 PM »
It's been my experience that 50+ students are quite wonderful to teach. They tend to be patient, and have a certain seriousness with re to being consistent with their practice.. (and usually, the endeavor is something they have always wanted to do..)
They also have good focus in the lesson, and don't drag their feet when it comes to really working out difficult spots.  Yes, kids can be more flexible, and sometimes serious, and can pick things up quickly, but not always..
I like teaching that demographic - probably about a third of my students..

I absolutely agree with you!  After many years of teaching I finally came to the realisation that my favourite lessons are those spent with adult students.  And some of the different challenges they bring really do get the mind ticking over on how best to help them.

Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #10 on: February 11, 2018, 01:30:12 PM »
Quote Pianoplunker: ĎWell, I only meant "old fart" as a sarcastic description, but I do qualify now - even though I dont look a day over 42. You can call me a youngster and I will just brag. Anyhow, I used to have lots of bouts with tendonitus when I actually was younger. I finally realized I had thrown technique out the window so actually went and worked on some of those things that my teachers had been trying to show me when I was a kid . Going on seven years with no problems now. And that is after nearly 45 years of playing and revisiting.  As I think about someone trying to teach me now, I might be able to take more criticism and insight than I used to.í

To be honest I think I would qualify as an Ďold fartí, perhaps not with the older generation but certainly with the younger!  Iím ok and came to terms with it long ago.  I would definitely say that I DO indeed look a few days (years) over 42.

Sorry to hear about the tendonitis years back but pleased to hear that you have worked on possible causes and still managing to enjoy playing the piano.

I do think youíre right about the ability to take in more insight in later years although Iím not totally certain that Ďeveryoneí is able to take more criticism, which can hurt! In some ways adults can be more laid back about their playing but at the same time, can also worry more about their playing.  Weíre certainly complicated beings, thatís for sure.

Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #11 on: February 11, 2018, 03:37:52 PM »
Hi keypeg, youíve raised quite a few points in your post so I will have to respond to various points as and when I can.  To start, I will look at the first point you raised about teacherís expectations of the older student.

I think you may be right that some teachers may offer more information than the student is perhaps ready for but at the same time, it can also be the student who may attempt to lead the teacher beyond his or her own capacity. For example, I have frequently found that some older students may bring some music they have downloaded from the internet which they aspire to learn but which the teacher knows is far too difficult for them.  It may be that it is specifically that particular piece of music or song, or similar, which has actually inspired the student to initially take lessons.  The teacher may allow the student to attempt the piece to a certain degree but at the end of the day it is the teacherís job to guide the student in the right direction without losing sight of the studentís aspirations.

Also there is the possibility that a student may have a belief that a half learnt piece is a fully learnt piece. There is a very fine line between teaching what might be best for the student while at the same time ensuring the studentís optimism and aspirations continue to be met.  Adults can sometimes be the quickest students to quit!  In general, I think it is possible that it is the studentís own expectation that a piece or technique can be learnt quicker than they initially believe.  It takes the skill of a teacher to guide them through this situation.

I totally agree that more time has to be spent on physical techniques which the adult student may have more problems with.  Inflexible fingers and bad habits can be particularly noticeable in the older student, especially when they have practised typing with the wrists leaning on the keyboard rest and the fingers are flat with the knuckles raised.  This is something that cannot be rushed but at the same time, doesnít necessarily mean that they canít cover other ground at the same time.  It all comes together eventually with continued practice, particularly of the practicaly, repetitive kind.

I will return later to respond to some of your other comments when I am less likely to be disturbed.  :)

Offline Bob

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #12 on: February 11, 2018, 06:37:28 PM »
I remember a chapter or article in a piano pedagogy book....

Depends on where the age is.  You could also split that into retirement.  50 might be different than 65.

There are pros and cons any age range, although realistically I would think younger also includes more hope.

Younger... More plastic brain.  More able to absorb things.  Older is less flexible, slower, possibly more set in ways of thinking.

On that... Younger -- No biases, nothing set really solidly yet, until about junior high/high school.  ie You can tell them what to do and what to think, and they'll probably just do that.  Older... Might disagree with you.  Might not do what you say just because you're the teacher.  Might not tell you this either or be honest with you.

Motivation?  Older might be looking for therapy or something like that, a friend maybe.  Younger could be looking for nothing though or could just be there as an activity their parents decided on.

Older... Has other responsibilities and things that are probably a higher priority than piano/music.  Like a job, a spouse, kids.  Practice time or lesson meetings might get bumped.

Older... Has the money to buy things -- music, cds, maybe that grand piano.

Older... Has a lifetime of hearing music.  They've probably heard any style you'll bring up whether they paid attention to it or not.  They probably know what it "should" sound like.  Younger... Might have no clue.  You might be the only example or a style for them, in that one lesson meeting per week.

On that lifetime of experience... Older might have more of an expectation to play at the level they hear or have heard.  They might walk in expecting to play a Mozart sonata like a concert artist and in that long of a time.  When they can't, then they're discouraged.  Younger.... If they don't know what it's supposed to sound like and don't have an expectation or goal in mind, they might just happily go along with what you say for as long as you say.

Younger... More responsive to praise.  Older... You might have to convince them or they can see right through a generic, "Good job."

Older... Might have motivation in place for being there, ready to work, ready to commit to practicing, etc.  Younger... Maybe not.  Maybe their parents forced them to be there.

Physically?  Older might have more solidified, brittle, achy bodies, arms, fingers.  Younger... Might be too small for a while but would grow.  Physically more able to bounce back from stress and injuries.


I think in general older is less flexible (physically, mentally), more set, less dependent on the teacher for motivation or evaluation, and more independent for them deciding what they're going to do and when.


Ego-wise, I remember one example of someone being successful and "adult" in their career field, but then becoming aware they're a beginning level (esp. physically) for piano.  On the mental side, they might know a lot about piano, about music, but physically they might not be that great with coordination.  If they go into lessons thinking they're a smart adult, success in their career and life, etc., what do they think when they fall flat just trying to play a simple piece of piano music?  Can't quite seem to coordination the hands, even after a few months... Might not do anything hand tapping exercises if they think it's silly... And then what happens when they realize a beginner kid who started after them is making faster progress?  De-motivation City.


I've also run into a few adults who don't say it, but are really thinking jazz I think when they start lessons.  I don't think the classic route is bad at all and there are materials for adults, but I'm not a jazz teacher.  That might be part of the life experience thing, if an adult walks in expecting some romanticized jazz/jam session type of thing.

Also on the life events idea, adults might come in with the influence of some previous teacher, not necessarily in music.  Whether that's good or bad.  What you say might not gel with what someone told them int he past, and they might not listen to you.  They might not even be aware of it.  For kids... You might be that teacher setting the initial pattern.



Does it do any good to separate out groups?  Maybe a little.  Things make a little more sense.  Then again everyone is an individual though.  I'd push everyone as much as possible to improve. 
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline pianoplunker

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #13 on: February 11, 2018, 07:53:07 PM »
I remember a chapter or article in a piano pedagogy book....

Depends on where the age is.  You could also split that into retirement.  50 might be different than 65.

There are pros and cons any age range, although realistically I would think younger also includes more hope.

Younger... More plastic brain.  More able to absorb things.  Older is less flexible, slower, possibly more set in ways of thinking.



LOL, younger more "plastic brain" -- reminds me of my kids and grand-kids. What are the pros and cons about teaching someone with a plastic brain vs an experienced brain ?

Offline Bob

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #14 on: February 12, 2018, 01:23:55 AM »
After early adulthood the brain snips off the connections it doesn't need.  Kids still have that so it's easier for them to absorb things.  For adults...?  With the same amount of work?  Less results or they have to work more.  I think the hand coordination issue is one place where that's more obvious.  A young kid can start coordinating and they'll get it.  For an adult it's going to take longer (if ever), and they might give up.  It's kind of like using your non-dominant hand.  It works but not as well as the dominant one.  Language/pronunciation is another one.  It why people have a hard time really matching accents if they didn't speak the language as a kid.  ex. Native Asian speakers with the English R sound.  I ran into a German speaker who pronounced R very differently too.  That person had a patchwork of accents in their English speaking.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synaptic_pruning
https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20803-brains-synaptic-pruning-continues-into-your-20s/

On the hopefully/optimistic side of kids and on the negative side for adults, how much longer do they live?  What's the payoff?  How much would they achieve before they run out of time?  Take the average life span, subtract their age... Are they going to get their 10,000 hours in?  For kids the connections are as much there as they will be.  It just needs to be used and strengthened.  They're pretty much starting off in a much better place than adults.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #15 on: February 12, 2018, 02:39:42 AM »
duplicate

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #16 on: February 12, 2018, 02:41:48 AM »
What are the pros and cons about teaching someone with a plastic brain vs an experienced brain ?
How about an experienced, plastic brain?    ;)

Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #17 on: February 12, 2018, 07:32:33 AM »
Bob said: 'Ego-wise, I remember one example of someone being successful and "adult" in their career field, but then becoming aware they're a beginning level (esp. physically) for piano.  On the mental side, they might know a lot about piano, about music, but physically they might not be that great with coordination.  If they go into lessons thinking they're a smart adult, success in their career and life, etc., what do they think when they fall flat just trying to play a simple piece of piano music?  Can't quite seem to coordination the hands, even after a few months... Might not do anything hand tapping exercises if they think it's silly... And then what happens when they realize a beginner kid who started after them is making faster progress?  De-motivation City.'

So true! We seem to be on the same page because your words outline my own experience with adult students.  And I love your phrase - De-motivation City! 

Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #18 on: February 12, 2018, 08:00:40 AM »
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Sucom:I once tried to demonstrate to an older lady about her hand position and I mentioned that I was finding it very difficult to copy her position in order to show her how to change it.
Keypeg: Does it actually help someone to change what they are doing by copying what they are doing wrong?  Or do you start by exploring what is right.  There is no  such thing as a "hand position" though - that is a static concept.  Learning and exploring how things move -- I hear Alexander technique is fantastic (and as  a teacher studying these things may also help you teach, from having that angle ---- or sending your student to Alexander).


I'm not sure of my initial reason for attempting such a weird hand position.  I had never seen anything like it before and found it so unusual and unnatural that I simply had to try it out for myself.  Also, imitating a gesture can sometimes help put you in a similar mindset of the student.  Once in that position, which I found nearly impossible, I was able to demonstrate the exact movements required to move out of it.  This is why I said it made me thoughtful when she said 'You can't do my hand position and I can't do your's.'  She was so used to this unnatural positioning of her hand that she found it almost impossible to alter her position to a more relaxed position, so necessary for pianists. It appears that, in some situations, merely trying to copy a position is not enough.  This woman needed to know exactly what movements were required to make the adjustments.

Regarding the use of my words 'hand position'.  I was talking about the position of 'hands in space' rather than, for example, the position of 'thumb on C, little finger on G'.  Having said that, and slightly side stepping for a moment, I do believe that beginner students find the concept of 'hand positioning' helpful in the early days.  They like to know where to put their hand to begin a piece.  Once out of this '1st beginner position' they begin to stretch out their hands to reach a 6th, thus learning where a 6th is in relation to their original hand position covering a 5th.

To be honest, I do think relating to hand positions is helpful because when placing a hand on the keyboard, it should naturally fall where the fingers covers a 5th and then after stretching out for a greater interval, bring the hand back to cover a 5th.  In this way the student learns where they are in space.  Without this feeling of 5 fingers over 5 notes, students can become completely lost about where they are on the keyboard.  For example, if I begin with my right thumb on C and the piece requires me to stretch a 6th to A and remain there, my thumb will naturally move up to D. There HAS to be an awareness of hand position, in my view.  I'm not saying that this should be taken to the extreme and there will always be situations where this might not be the case, but in general, covering 5 notes with 5 fingers is vital for learning how to get around the keyboard and learning where you are in space.  From that point, the hand stretches out a further distance and either returns back or moves to a new position with a different set of 5 notes.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #19 on: February 12, 2018, 08:51:12 AM »
So true! We seem to be on the same page because your words outline my own experience with adult students.  And I love your phrase - De-motivation City! 
Bob's words do not outline my own experience AS an adult student.  I will redefine "De-motivation City".  It's when you start lessons expecting to be taught properly and thoroughly, and discover that you've been fed a diet of candyfloss.  It's when you want to learn and get patted on your pretty addled head and a hand points "Look, squirrel!" distracting you with fun things (or trying to).  It's relearning what you thought you had been taught, which takes twice as long.  The biggest demotivation, however, is reading the kind of information that you have quoted in part, when it supposedly describes you and "your kind".  The motivating part is that I do have a decent teacher who takes me seriously.

Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #20 on: February 12, 2018, 09:19:20 AM »
Bob's words do not outline my own experience AS an adult student.  I will redefine "De-motivation City".  It's when you start lessons expecting to be taught properly and thoroughly, and discover that you've been fed a diet of candyfloss.  It's when you want to learn and get patted on your pretty addled head and a hand points "Look, squirrel!" distracting you with fun things (or trying to).  It's relearning what you thought you had been taught, which takes twice as long.  The biggest demotivation, however, is reading the kind of information that you have quoted in part, when it supposedly describes you and "your kind".  The motivating part is that I do have a decent teacher who takes me seriously.

To be honest, Keypeg, I wasn't really referring to your own personal experience when I made my posts. I was speaking very generally indeed about 'certain' situations, definitely not 'all' situations. I think it is very unfortunate to discover your teacher has not created a good experience for you in the past but also I think it is important not to allow that to colour your thoughts in such a way as to become the only possible experience out there.  I was talking about a different experience, from a different perspective.  It can never be 'one size fits all' because everyone is so unique.  Everyone has different expectations, a different perspective, a different experience and in no way would I tar everyone with the same brush.  In the same way that you cannot possibly label everyone over 50 years as an 'old fart' (although many are! - no, I'm joking) you also can't label everyone over 50 as wanting to rush things way beyond their limit.  Some students do, some students don't.  In the same way, some teachers are good, some not so good.  Also some teachers are good for some students but not all teachers are good for all students.  Everyone is unique and we all have our own journey to make.  I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Still, you have made me realise how important it is not to generalise too much in posts as it can cause much misunderstanding.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #21 on: February 12, 2018, 09:23:34 AM »
I almost missed this one.  Thank you for responding. :)  I'll respond in kind, to keep the dialogue going.
To start, I will look at the first point you raised about teacherís expectations of the older student.

I think you may be right that some teachers may offer more information than the student is perhaps ready for but at the same time....
To be clear, we may be talking about different things already.  When a teacher zips a student through several grade levels, that may be more "stuff", but it is less information.  Above all, the physical act of playing cannot be hurried, because the body and nervous system need to grow.  Among some lesser teachers there is also ignorance (poor pedagogy) when they think simple music is "easy" and rush through it.  The point of the simple music is for acquiring basic skills, and the simple music is the "practice field" for that.  An adult will be able to quickly play the simple music and make it sound right --- yet not learn to recognize notes, have a good feel for how to handle the keys, learn how to count.  
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.... it can also be the student who may attempt to lead the teacher beyond his or her own capacity. For example, I have frequently found that some older students may bring some music they have downloaded from the internet which they aspire to learn but which the teacher knows is far too difficult for them.  It may be that it is specifically that particular piece of music or song, or similar, which has actually inspired the student to initially take lessons.  The teacher may allow the student to attempt the piece to a certain degree but at the end of the day it is the teacherís job to guide the student in the right direction without losing sight of the studentís aspirations.
I know this exists, especially among the teens.  I have never done that.  It is not what I'm talking about.
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Also there is the possibility that a student may have a belief that a half learnt piece is a fully learnt piece.
Here we get into some pedagogical ideas.  For example, is the purpose of lesson that of learning pieces, or learning skills?  For example, the teacher I study with finds reading skills to be important, and he will not polish pieces to death in general, in order to get this reading going.  On other occasions one might use some pieces to get at particular skills but again not push that piece to the hilt, because the it's the skill you are after.  Different teachers will have different approaches.

I don't relate much to "learned pieces" because to me it's not about learning pieces.  That said, for the pieces that have been developed, I have had very positive comments by other teachers and musicians.
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There is a very fine line between teaching what might be best for the student while at the same time ensuring the studentís optimism and aspirations continue to be met.  Adults can sometimes be the quickest students to quit! 
That is precisely the thing that traps the adult student who does want to learn, and can study properly.  The teacher does not dare teach.  When I got a piano again (I was self-taught decades before and wanted to learn properly, after my lesson experience with the other instrument), I encountered this teacher and that before before finding my present teacher.  Some treated me like a wounded kitten, "reassuring" me.  Others wanted me to "let go and have fun".  The one I chose to work with heard a recording another had gushed about (reassuringly), and said "Many of your quieter notes are fading or gone - there is some technique to fix."

 If I say "I don't like how measure 43 sounds in the last two beats." I don't want to be told, "Don't worry.  It takes time, and even professionals don't always like their playing."  I want to hear: "Yes, it's harsh because of what you're doing with your thumb.  Try this / (or, we'll be working on that technique down the line.")
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In general, I think it is possible that it is the studentís own expectation that a piece or technique can be learnt quicker than they initially believe. 
In this, one must understand how learning works, and even, what technique is.  It can consist of small things to aim for.
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I totally agree that more time has to be spent on physical techniques which the adult student may have more problems with.  Inflexible fingers and bad habits can be particularly noticeable in the older student, especially when they have practised typing with the wrists leaning on the keyboard rest and the fingers are flat with the knuckles raised. 
There is a whole kettle of fish here. ;)

"Bad habit"--- If a student is brand new to piano, she cannot have any bad habits, because she is new to piano, so there are any habits yet.  Meanwhile when you write about typing: piano playing is nothing like typing.  We use the whole body in playing. One thing however is learning how the body works because we may have lost touch with our bodies.  Are you familiar with Alexander Technique.  On the piano front, have you ever seen the introductory course by Piano-Ologist, where he has students become familiar with every part of the body and how it moves, then combines movement, and finally brings that into producing notes?  If you do that, you are far away from typing.

I have had to do a fair amount of this. I did not have good body use.  Am still learning.

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This is something that cannot be rushed but at the same time, doesnít necessarily mean that they canít cover other ground at the same time.  It all comes together eventually with continued practice, particularly of the practicaly, repetitive kind.
One can certainly go to different areas.  To the "repetitive" I would add exploratory, what do you think?

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #22 on: February 12, 2018, 09:32:33 AM »
To be honest, Keypeg, I wasn't really referring to your own personal experience when I made my posts. I was speaking very generally indeed about 'certain' situations, definitely not 'all' situations.
I understand.  Actually I have heard enough from teacher to know that the negative experiences are very prevalent, and those of us who are serious and see things through, we are the minority.  It is the negative experiences teachers have that make good teachers reluctant to take adults on, and if they do, they may walk on eggshells not daring to teach what they could.  Then when the good teachers won't take the adults, they may get the poor teachers, and so it goes.

It is also true that students who show up in forums such as this one tend to be the serious ones.

I think that I'm trying to create awareness of the other side. There is an "adult market" with baby boomers retiring, an industry with "adult method books", "adult-oriented lessons" - and that market says that adults want to play their favourite "songs", not work or study hard, not take long, give them some common chords - part of the industry even "teaches" teachers to approach everyone who is older in this way.  There is no such singular stereotype for an age group.  We have to guard ourselves against it (unless one actually wants that sort of thing) and just know it exists.

At the same time your concerns are very real.  On that point it's up to the adults to work with the teacher, maybe educate themselves a bit on what learning is about.  Sometimes the adult students with a bit of experience can also act as a bridge for the beginners.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #23 on: February 12, 2018, 09:48:32 AM »
Thinking about this one:
I'm not sure of my initial reason for attempting such a weird hand position.  I had never seen anything like it before and found it so unusual and unnatural that I simply had to try it out for myself.  Also, imitating a gesture can sometimes help put you in a similar mindset of the student.  Once in that position, which I found nearly impossible, I was able to demonstrate the exact movements required to move out of it.  
Actually, I have a vivid memory when I still had not managed to bring my body in synch since originally I played "with my arms" -- my teacher at the time showed me my movements and I looked like R2D2 (the old Lost In Space Robot) -- that did help me move out of those stiff movements (somewhat).
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This is why I said it made me thoughtful when she said 'You can't do my hand position and I can't do your's.'  She was so used to this unnatural positioning of her hand that she found it almost impossible to alter her position to a more relaxed position, so necessary for pianists. It appears that, in some situations, merely trying to copy a position is not enough.  This woman needed to know exactly what movements were required to make the adjustments.
It is quite hard to get out of habits and into free movement.  I'm thinking though, with this idea of typist, that she was actually envisioning herself as typing notes on the piano.  New imagery?

I played piano self-taught as a child, starting first on a little organ.  The music I got for piano was mostly Clementi sonatinas.  So I didn't have to move around a lot.  I've had to literally discover the "space my hands can occupy 3-dimensionally".  The hands can go in to the black keys and back out; be higher or lower; rotate, go side-side at the wrist, be slanted (not parallel to the keyboard), do swirlygigs.  As soon as I am conscious of the 3D space, I can occupy it.  Otherwise I'm in this narrow railing "holding me in".  Quite uncanny and weird!  ::)

Regarding the use of my words 'hand position'.  I was talking about the position of 'hands in space' rather than, for example, the position of 'thumb on C, little finger on G'.  Having said that, and slightly side stepping for a moment, I do believe that beginner students find the concept of 'hand positioning' helpful in the early days.  They like to know where to put their hand to begin a piece.  Once out of this '1st beginner position' they begin to stretch out their hands to reach a 6th, thus learning where a 6th is in relation to their original hand position covering a 5th.
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To be honest, I do think relating to hand positions is helpful because when placing a hand on the keyboard, it should naturally fall where the fingers covers a 5th and then after stretching out for a greater interval, bring the hand back to cover a 5th.  In this way the student learns where they are in space.
I'm thinking about this.  There are two things here.  For "stretching for a greater interval" -- there is an injury risk to "stretch".  You want to learn to move your hand with a loose wrist and be able to swirlygig yourself around, because the habit of a continual stretch (which we can fall into too easily) creates stiffness.  I'd rather say that my hand can occupy different spans - the fingers become flatter, the hand goes lower - but it can relax to a smaller span.

For orientation, however.  There is a danger of associating fingers with notes.  1 = C, etc.  It is easy to find D4. There are 2 black keys, and D is the "dog in the doghouse" between them.  The markers are right there in front of you.
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  For example, if I begin with my right thumb on C and the piece requires me to stretch a 6th to A and remain there, my thumb will naturally move up to D.
You mean like a body awareness thing?  Because your hand wants to keep the P5 span? But for orienting on the keyboard, we've got the keys themselves with the 3 + 2 black key patterns.  (I'm not quite picturing this part).

Offline klavieronin

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #24 on: February 12, 2018, 10:02:10 AM »
ÖR2D2 (the old Lost In Space Robot)Ö

Somewhere out there a Star Wars fan just had a stroke.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #25 on: February 12, 2018, 10:27:30 AM »
Somewhere out there a Star Wars fan just had a stroke.
Oops.   ;D

Looks like I meant G.U.N.T.E.R. or General Utility Non Theorizing Environmental Robot.  This fellow:


Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #26 on: February 12, 2018, 11:03:21 AM »
Hi Keypeg

You said ĎAbove all, the physical act of playing cannot be hurried.í   How true this is! I think many adult beginners donít realise this.  Iíve seen it many times and of course, it has happened to me at certain times!  You get a difficult passage in the music or whatever, so you give it a really good blast of practice on one particular day.  Your mind gets it, you remember the notes intellectually and your hands begin to fall into place, but then, after all this practice, you come back to the piano the next day and you seem to be back where you started, as if you hadnít practised it at all!  What theÖ.?

This can be very unnerving for the adult beginner who may believe that if they canít play something after all that practice yesterday, whatís the point?  They will immediately think they are useless and not suited to the piano.  I see this so often, and it is so discouraging for beginners.  But the truth is, in my own experience, this is actually quite normal.  You have to persist, and keep persisting until you get it.  It may take one day, two days, three days, four days but one day you will go to that piano and there will be a breakthrough.  My motto - if at first you donít succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try, tryÖÖÖÖ.. ad infinitumÖÖÖ..again until you can.  The truth is, a person WILL succeed if they keep at it.  The problem is that some students self limit themselves and give up too early because of their own overly optimistic expectations of what they think they SHOULD be able to do.  No one SHOULD be able to do anything; itís what we CAN do after some effort in our own unique way which is so important.

To answer another point you have raised, I believe that unless a piece is going to be performed, in which case it needs to have some fluency and a good degree of practice, then a piece can be left at the point where it has achieved its goal.  This is enough.  Like you, I donít believe in polishing every piece attempted either or practising it to death.  If it has served its purpose, move on.  Sometimes a student may really NOT like a piece and they dislike it so much they stop practising because they stop feeling any sense of enjoyment while sitting at the piano.  Feeling inspired is so very important for motivation and enjoyment (which after all is the main reason for taking up an instrument) that I am always prepared to drop a piece if I suspect a student is giving up on it or losing enjoyment.  A new piece which the student really enjoys can bring fresh optimism into practice and has to be considered.  At the same time, however, in order to fully enjoy playing, there has to be some self discipline.  You have to sharpen your tools if you want excellent work.  The more you sharpen your tools, the better the quality and the better the enjoyment, so if someone is giving up on something because they canít be bothered, that is an entirely different story! 

And you are right - itís not all about learning pieces although if someone aspires to learning a particular piece and they feel a sense of achievement, that alone can motivate the student to aspire to greater heights.   

Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #27 on: February 12, 2018, 11:22:26 AM »
Keypeg said:  I'm thinking about this.  There are two things here.  For "stretching for a greater interval" -- there is an injury risk to "stretch".  You want to learn to move your hand with a loose wrist and be able to swirlygig yourself around, because the habit of a continual stretch (which we can fall into too easily) creates stiffness.  I'd rather say that my hand can occupy different spans - the fingers become flatter, the hand goes lower - but it can relax to a smaller span.

For orientation, however.  There is a danger of associating fingers with notes.  1 = C, etc.  It is easy to find D4. There are 2 black keys, and D is the "dog in the doghouse" between them.  The markers are right there in front of you.


There are always going to be frequent occasions when the music demands stretching between the fingers, such as playing a dominant 7th for example.   However, a general rule of thumb would be to always extend the hand between the thumb and the index finger whenever possible, which would avoid any injury.  That is, of course, unless the person's thumb is particularly rigid and won't pull out away from the palm.  However, in general, extending between the thumb and index finger while keeping the other four fingers over four adjacent keys, will help to avoid any injury and also help to positioning the hand so that the player knows exactly which notes are below his fingers at any one particular time.

You are absolutely right when you say there is a danger of associating notes with fingers.  For example, I might ask a younger student to name a certain note and they will answer 4.  Is 4 a note?  No, what is the letter name that your 4th finger is playing?  It comes up a lot with very new beginners before they understand the idea of moving around from that very precious, safe starting note of middle C.  But we all have to start somewhere and even working out that F in located under the 4th finger, or even sending a message from the brain to the 4th finger itself can be tricky!  That person may never have tried moving the 4th finger independently, let alone learning the 4th finger is sitting over the F key.

Then to have to mention 'You know that your thumb was on middle C before?  Well, it's now going to be sitting on D which means a different note is going to be below each finger.  Surely we have all been there?  Is there any way around this?  Possibly, but I have found that even when a student begins with their thumbs in a classic 'Middle C Beginner's Hand Position' (as per most method tutor books) they don't have too many problems adjusting to the idea of moving away from this 'hand position' when the occasion arises. I have always found that students who don't follow suggested fingerings (which naturally hold to a five finger hand position until an extension is required) are those who tend to become the most lost on the keyboard.  There has to be a sense of 5 fingers covering 5 notes which the student then extends to cover more notes and more positions. Bunching up of fingers or stretching out unnecessarily from 5 notes can leave students totally confused.  I think that is one of the reasons I am so hard on my own students to follow suggested fingerings in the very early stages of their development, a critical period for building up patterns.  I wouldn't include this at a later stage because not all fingering suits everyone and may have to be adapted but it certainly helps in the very early stages.

Offline pianoplunker

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #28 on: February 12, 2018, 04:15:03 PM »
Somewhere out there a Star Wars fan just had a stroke.

LOL, now THAT is some 50+ material

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #29 on: February 12, 2018, 07:54:06 PM »
Sucom, it looks like we have just moved out of "50+ students" and into teaching and piano technique.  I'd like to address each of the two things you brought up separately.

So this one is about "stretching the hand". I should qualify: stretching the hand from a static position or a "home position".   There were things I had to learn to change.  Somebody linked to a lesson recently.  I did not learn from this teacher, but he shows what I learned.  For his alternative, jump to 3:41 - that is what I learned to do.
=121

If you are talking about a wide block chord of course you can't use this solution.  But for a grouping of notes played horizontally one at a time, you can.  I was playing in the way he first showed.

I have learned principles such as that things are in continual motion, and that reduces effort and strain. 

I have a video on this which I'll share privately, where I was working out a passage in this manner as a student.

This is actually pertinent to older students!  If there is less flexibility, or if the body is less forgiving to injury, then effective movement, learning to move effectively, is paramount for an older student.  I'm in my mid-sixties.  I practised yoga started as a teen so I have always had more flexibility than my peers, but I do not have the flexibility that I had 20 years ago.  I balance daily on my "wobble board" which keeps ankles and hip joints flexible, strong and primed. That proprioception goes to piano playing.

A thought: if you see what Dr. Mortenson does as of 3:41, this starts to be quite dissimilar to typing.

Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #30 on: February 12, 2018, 09:35:10 PM »
I think there is some misunderstanding here.  I absolutely agree that the hand should never be 'static'.  The fingers, hands and wrists should always be flexible, even when the fingers are covering five adjacent notes so I therefore agree with the youtube video you linked to.  My point was more about how to find specific notes by covering five adjacent notes and how to find notes when the hand has to extend beyond the initial five note hand position with the beginner in mind. I was also considering how to extend the hand beyond a five finger position while moving from one note to another rather than chord playing. Frequently I see students extend the hand between the 2nd and 3rd fingers or the 3rd and 4th fingers rather than from between the thumb and index finger, which can cause a student to lose their sense of where they are on the keyboard.  Laying down good fingering patterns in the early days is extremely helpful. 

Also, my thoughts relating to finger inflexibility was simply that - a general stiffness of the fingers which is commonly found in older adult beginners. Flexibility of the fingers, hands and wrists in general is something I haven't so far touched upon.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #31 on: February 13, 2018, 02:02:40 AM »
Thanks, Sucom.  Well, as I wrote, I intended to talk about one issue at a time, and "stretching for a note" was one such in case that is what you meant.  Since the topic is students who are over fifty, where the body becomes less forgiving of poor movements and injuries take longer to heal, it was well wroth exploring this side of it.

By the same token - still on this subtopic:
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Also, my thoughts relating to finger inflexibility was simply that - a general stiffness of the fingers which is commonly found in older adult beginners. Flexibility of the fingers, hands and wrists in general is something I haven't so far touched upon.
Where this exists, the ideas of Dr. Mortenson, or Taubman or similar, all of these should help with that.  I also find that quite a degree of "inflexibility" actually involves body use that is not optimum.  I think they play into each other.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #32 on: February 13, 2018, 02:53:47 AM »
Again responding to Sucom.

The other subtopic that has come up is Orienting on the Keyboard

I copied over everything you wrote about it as a reference, to get an idea. Bits from various posts:
Quote from: sucom
My point was more about how to find specific notes by covering five adjacent notes ...

.... in general, covering 5 notes with 5 fingers is vital for learning how to get around the keyboard and learning where you are in space.

.... For example, I might ask a younger student to name a certain note and they will answer 4.  Is 4 a note?  No, what is the letter name that your 4th finger is playing?  It comes up a lot with very new beginners before they understand the idea of moving around from that very precious, safe starting note of middle C.

..... Surely we have all been there?  Is there any way around this?  Possibly, but I have found that even when a student begins with their thumbs in a classic 'Middle C Beginner's Hand Position' (as per most method tutor books) they don't have too many problems adjusting to the idea of moving away from this 'hand position' when the occasion arises.

The prevalent thought is that we learn to find where we are in space through the placement of hands and thus fingers.  I have seen methodologies that teach this way.  YOu refer to the "middle C hand position" - many method books start that way. There are "hand positions" where both thumbs go on C which also gives you an octave .

So what you have is a particular methodology that puts the hands into positions, and the student is taught to orient along these positions.  There is indeed a certain association with fingers, otherwise F would not be 4.  You may have been using this methodology for ages, and won't want to change to something else at this point because it has worked for you to a large extent.  But it's not the only way, and may have some drawbacks.

In actual fact, why would I need to orient via my fingers, or the fingers being placed over keys?  Take the note that hangs right under the treble clef that we call "D".  The piano has a pattern of 2 black and 3 black keys.  D is always the note between the two black.  Some kids learn "Dog in Doghouse".  Our D is the one right in front of you.  I don't need my hand position to tell me where that D is.  If I want to walk into the kitchen, I don't have to be touching something to find the kitchen.  It looks like a kitchen.  It's right there.

I've seen this methodology and it's probably common. I wouldn't have wanted to learn that way.  In any case, you seem to be very much inside this paradigm and way of thinking.  Now I understand what you've been saying overall from that context.  Since there are other ways of approaching keyboard orientation and note recognition, I didn't catch on right away.

One thing I don't like about that system is the very fact that the fingers have to be "over those 5 notes".  Immediately this makes things more static.  Why should non-playing fingers be over any particular note?  If this is your "safety place so you don't get lost", there is a certain potential stiffness to that.  It also strikes me that this resembles typing where the fingers start in home position: ASDF - JKL;   (I learned to touch type).  You have the older student, the awkward "position", and the discussion about typing.

I am suggesting that there may be a way different way of approaching this (or several).

Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #33 on: February 13, 2018, 09:24:31 AM »
@ Keypeg

I think the most important thing to point out here is that Iím talking about early beginners learning how to find their way around the keyboard, learning notes and fingerings which will help to lay down patterns which can be called upon later without too much effort.  The more automatic that process, the better.  Repetitive patterns help this process.  Sight reading, for example, comes to mind here.  If, when placing the right thumb on Middle C, the student easily remembers that when the thumb is placed on C, the little finger will be poised ready to play G, this has to be a good thing because they will very quickly learn to move to G without too much thought.  Without Ďanyí thought actually, once the pattern has been learnt.  How slow would this process be if they first had to Ďlookí down at the keyboard for G before wondering which finger to place on it?  If playing G immediately after C, the student sometimes uses the 4th finger, or reaches out to use the 3rd finger, how confusing would that be? 

Having said this, let me also touch on extending the hand from this position.  Letís say that the thumb is required to play middle C but then has to play the C one octave above.  If this higher C is an isolated C and the following notes are still back in the starting position, it would require an extension of the hand, the spacing of which the student will learn and remember.  Once the higher C had been played, the hand would naturally close back down into its original placement of 5 fingers over 5 adjacent notes.

However, letís suppose the music continued with notes just below the higher C, in the octave above middle C.  At this point, once the hand has been extended to reach the higher C, the thumb would close up the octave gap and rest now on F, which places the fingers on the adjacent notes, F G A B C.  This can now be considered a new Ďhand positioní.  The student may be used to this position because he has practised a simple piece using these very notes.  If this is the case, he will move through these notes very easily indeed because the placement of the notes below his fingers will already be set in his memory. 

You said:  ĎI don't need my hand position to tell me where that D is.  If I want to walk into the kitchen, I don't have to be touching something to find the kitchen.  It looks like a kitchen.  It's right there.í 

You surely donít advocate having to look at notes before being able to play them?  And I would question your statement that you donít need your hand position to tell you where the D is?  When my thumb is placed on C, I know instinctively that my 2nd finger is placed over D.  I donít have to think about it at all.  I just know, because I have repeated this pattern so often that it sits there in my subconscious memory.  Itís an automatic response.  I donít need to look at the keyboard to find that D.  This process speeds up my sight reading, a particular strength I have always been well known for.  Also automatic, is my response if I extend my hand up to a different note outside my immediate position.  Immediately, should the music call for it, my hand will return to cover 5 adjacent notes in a new area of the keyboard.  Again, I will return my hand to a five finger position, based on whatever notes follow. 

Your reference to D for Doghouse is not relevant in the point I am making.  That is relating to learning how to find and name notes.  I am talking instead about how to find notes with your fingers without first having to look at the keyboard.

There is absolutely NO WAY holding the fingers in a relaxed position over 5 keys creates a Ďstaticí position.  Thatís ridiculous unless we are talking about a different issue of stiffness, for example. The hand should always be ready to move, as they teach tennis players to stay on their toes while waiting for a serve.  The pianist, also, has to stay on their toes.

You mentioned that you wouldnít have wanted to learn that way and that is your prerogative.  You mentioned you were self taught so how did you teach yourself?  Do you consider yourself successful in your own self teaching?  I am lucky that I have some time on my side because it has given me a lifetime (44 years of teaching) of opportunity to test many method books with many, many students, frequently over a span of ten years watching those students develop.  Certain method books work well for some but not for others.  It is the teacherís skill which will determine how well a student will respond to a particular method.  I donít think you should assume I, personally, have any particular Ďmethodí in my own teaching because one has to consider which method will best serve any particular student. 

Beginners do indeed get lost on the keyboard, especially if they frequently play the same notes but with different fingers.  Learning where notes are below the fingers also allows muscle memory to come into play.  I feel this is very important.

You mention a safety place but I think you are taking my point too far forward.  Iím talking about the early beginner, the very early lessons when pattern learning is just beginning.  The student will learn that F is below their 4th finger while their thumb is on C.  Thatís how it should be.  I certainly wouldnít allow that student to play F with their 3rd finger because that would not be laying down a pattern which will help them for the future.  One individual piece may be learnt using whatever fingers a person wishes to use at the time, but this wonít be helping that student further down the line.   Repetitive pattern building is important. And it is in this context that I mention Ďhand positionsí. 

I think it is very easy to misunderstand what someone is trying to put across within a forum, especially through words.  Demonstration is far more useful.  Anyway, this post is far longer than I intended or might have preferred! :)

Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #34 on: February 13, 2018, 09:38:34 AM »
Just before I leave my computer, another point.  You mentioned my thoughts resemble touch typing and actually, thinking about it, you are right.  The two are similar in a way although the wrist position I personally use to type is most definitely NOT my position for playing the piano, but that could be because I played the piano first, before I attempted touch typing so the correct positioning of my hands for the piano was already well set in stone.  I do lean on the table, however, when I'm typing!  Eeeek!! Bad habits!!!! :)

However, I mentioned that sight reading is one of my strengths.  I put that down to never, or very rarely having to look at my hands unless there is some particularly awkward thing going on, and even then, I don't always have to look.  My touch typing is similar, as you can possibly see by the length of my previous post.  I type at the speed I think and I put that all down to knowing where the keys are below my fingers.  Yes, I do indeed know that if I extend my left index finger slightly up and to the right, I will find T.  I don't have to think about it at all!  Not at all!  Same with the piano and I put this down to knowing where all my fingers are at any one time.

So yes, finding your hand position on the piano, and touch typing are very similar indeed but don't necessarily use the same wrist position, which would be very bad practice!


Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #35 on: February 13, 2018, 12:52:26 PM »
Hi Keypeg, I'm responding here because otherwise I could get mixed up with what I have or not said.

I think we need to define this phrase Ďhand positioní which you seem to dislike so much.  If I were to play a C major scale over just one octave, in my mind I could maybe see two clear positions.  Firstly, I would see fingers 1 2 3 on C D E and then I would see fingers 1 2 3 4 5 on F G A B C.  Now in reality, I donít see two positions at all because Iíve played the C major scale and pieces which include it so many times I could do it in my sleep.  However, if I had to analyse this, (which Iím now doing) I would use the phrase Ďhand positionsí because while demonstrating it, I have found that students tend to learn scales better when shown the Ďhand positionsí involved in moving through the scale.   Just to expand this for a moment, playing individual notes without relating them to each other is much harder that playing a group of notes which your mind can more easily group together.  In this way, one could suggest the use of the phrase Ďhand positioní but is it really a Ďhand positioní?  Iím not totally convinced myself.  For me, itís simply a set of notes within the scope of my hand which I just group together.  Also, it doesnít need to be adjacent notes here.  I could equally group up notes which jump around all over the place but my mind may make an attempt to group them together in some way so that the whole picture can be remembered more easily.  Would that jumping through random notes be a hand position?  No, but my mind might group them together in such a way as to make the more easily memorable.  The same applies to Ďhand positionsí which I have previously been speaking of.  

You keep suggesting that I am a slave to following a particular Ďmethodí involving hand positions  but in all honesty, itís not a Ďmethodí in my eyes.  Itís just a way to move from A to B without losing your place.  I think you are putting far more weight on it than I am.  

If I said, could you please repeat these numbers immediately, without cheating, 103784765960783736575696048373, could you do it?  It would be difficult wouldnít it?  But supposing I broke those same individual numbers down into phone numbers, (years ago, long before people had contact lists on their phones and actually had to remember phone numbers in their head, yes, Iím THAT old) it would be a relatively easy task to roll out several phone numbers off the top of your head.  This would be because you grouped those numbers into manageable blocks.  For me, itís the same with hand positions - you group notes up into manageable blocks which makes learning them that much easier.  Well, it does in my own experience.  And itís also one of the ways I tend to memorise a piece of music myself.  I put the notes into groups, blocks, lines, bars, pages -  all over the place.

Anyway, it doesnít really matter at the end of the day because everyone is entitled to their own view, whether another sees it as right or wrong.  All views are valid in the eyes of the universe because we are all on our own unique journey.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #36 on: February 14, 2018, 10:14:45 PM »
Sucom, thank you for your patience.  One thing I want to get out of the way right away:
Quote
You keep suggesting that I am a slave to following a particular Ďmethodí involving hand positions  but in all honesty, itís not a Ďmethodí in my eyes. 
I am not making any judgment or have any image of what you are doing.  The first step is to understand what a person is doing and saying, by exploring back and forth to get an idea.  It's like a game of "warmer warmer - how you're colder - warmer" while stabbing about. So that's a first thing.

The other is exploration itself. You are actually the first person who has ever set out the reasoning for these ways of proceeding.  You have thought them through.  Mostly people will cite how the method book proceeds and that's it. I think this is valuable for now and for future times, because it may lead people to think "How do I, in fact, orient on the keyboard?" and perhaps "What ways might one do so?"  That can lead to various explorations at some future time.

I do understand your explanation, and how "hand position" in this way becomes an orientation toward other notes by association.  When you first wrote this was not clear, because it came as a kind of shorthand.  Now what you refer to makes sense. :)

One premise is that one should not look at the keyboard.  I'm just putting it out there to be visible. ;)
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I am lucky that I have some time on my side because it has given me a lifetime (44 years of teaching) of opportunity to test many method books with many, many students, frequently over a span of ten years watching those students develop. 
Just in order to understand.  You mentioned 44 years and 10 years.  How do they fit together?
Quote
You mentioned that you wouldnít have wanted to learn that way and that is your prerogative.  You mentioned you were self taught so how did you teach yourself?  Do you consider yourself successful in your own self teaching? 
I should clarify this.  I was a child when I was given a keyboard (organ), then a piano, some books and left on my own.  After age 18 I had no piano or keyboard.  Decades later I had violin lessons, and when that was over I got a piano and realized "I don't know how to play properly, and what I'm doing isn't reading either."  That was 35 years after I had a piano.

Since then I have been with a teacher.  What I've learned, can do, and how I understand things largely come from my teacher.  At this point I'm in a bind, because I cannot represent anyone else's thoughts but my own in a public forum.  Just like you wouldn't want one of your students try to represent your teaching.  I'll share this part in a pm.

Offline sucom

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #37 on: February 14, 2018, 11:53:43 PM »
Hi Keypeg,

I think that trying to put something across in words is so much more difficult that demonstration so I can see where you are coming from! 

You asked me to explain 44 years and 10 years.  :)  The 44 years I referred to is the number of years I have been teaching the piano and the ten years I mentioned is an example of how long one particular student might continue lessons with me.  Not all children continue throughout all their school years but many do and I always feel privileged to watch a student grow and develop over those ten years. 

Itís quite late here so I will return tomorrow when I will have more time to read and absorb what has been said so far. 

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #38 on: February 15, 2018, 03:33:53 AM »
Sounds good.   I also wrote a PM about the part with my present teacher since I can't write his ideas in a forum - it may also give some additional perspectives.  I plan to discuss this exchange with him, for one thing because it gives fresh insights in both directions.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #39 on: February 18, 2018, 04:51:55 AM »
I discussed these things with my teacher at the end of my last lesson.

One of the core concepts that is taken for granted and came up here was the idea of not looking at the keyboard in order to find notes when reading.  The reason for this is clear.  People want to prevent the act of hunting for notes, which is a prolonged and so ineffective.  What I have been learning is a close connection between notation and piano keys, and it includes quick glances.   He calls this "fast eyes".  It's not that far removed from the other way.  You still have "guide notes", if you've played D with your thumb, you don't need to look down to know that E is right next door.  It does need to be trained in a particular way.

The big thing here is that the idea of never looking at the keyboard while learning to read, that concept is set aside.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #40 on: February 18, 2018, 05:02:50 AM »
You also asked about how it was when I was only self-taught.  Well, as a child I "sang my way into the music" because all I had was movable Do solfege.  I found which piano key was Do (the minor Tonic was La) - a diagonal line of music obviously sketches out a scale.  The music that was passed on to me was quite diatonic (sonatinas, esp. Clementi) so this worked.  I developed the ability to "sight sing" diatonic music, hearing what was on the page in relative pitch.  I could essentially predict Clementi's Alberti bass.

I have a mild LD (as I now know) - things that are visually symmetrical can disorient me, so I tended to play like a blind person.  I stared at the page or out into space.  I resumed piano after a 35 years absence.  When we were working out stiff habits, one source of stiffness was in fact my head, which was motionless staring at the page.  The up-down glance - looking at times toward where I was going - had an "unstiffing" effect.  After all, that is how we use our bodies normally.

The music I played as a child was diatonic, and you largely keep your hands in a 5-finger position with Clementi et alia, and on the white keys - so you keep one shape to the hands.  This has a stiffening effect, esp. on older hands.  Quite a few of the habits we had to undo can be traced to the repertoire I played.  Go to Chopin and Debussy - your hands do not stay in static positions, 5-finger, white keys.  Otoh, diatonic music with "C position" or "G position" doesn't work with that kind of music.


Offline outin

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #41 on: February 18, 2018, 09:52:05 AM »
I discussed these things with my teacher at the end of my last lesson.

One of the core concepts that is taken for granted and came up here was the idea of not looking at the keyboard in order to find notes when reading.  The reason for this is clear.  People want to prevent the act of hunting for notes, which is a prolonged and so ineffective.  What I have been learning is a close connection between notation and piano keys, and it includes quick glances.   He calls this "fast eyes".  It's not that far removed from the other way.  You still have "guide notes", if you've played D with your thumb, you don't need to look down to know that E is right next door.  It does need to be trained in a particular way.

The big thing here is that the idea of never looking at the keyboard while learning to read, that concept is set aside.
I was never told not to look by my teacher and often she tolds me to look to see what my hands are doing, but the need to do it naturally diminishes when I read more...especially since I am yet to find glasses that allow me to make such quick glances comfortably.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #42 on: February 19, 2018, 05:53:59 AM »
I didn't read responses but some ideas.

1) DON'T TEACH THEM LIKE A CHILD: You are generally not going to teach an adult from a "child like" position, that is teaching from childrens books speak to them in a simplistic manner, give child like analogies when teaching etc etc, it can make them feel ridiculous and as if they are doing something quite childish it can certainly demoralise them. You are not going to play musical games with them like you would a child. You are not going to give them stickers and prizes for doing things right as you might do to motivate a child to work hard. You can approach them somewhat like you would a child perhaps for a small few lessons but only to get them the bare basics then you need to teach them at a level which they will feel is related to their age group.

2) MOST OF THE TIME THEY KNOW WHAT MUSIC THEY LIKE:  Many adults have a good detailed idea what kind of music they enjoy where many young children often have not had the time to develop their taste for music. When you teach an adult you need to teach relevant issues which will help them achieve their desires asap. With young children you often have to work at developing their taste for music by exposing them to it.

3) MANY HAVE EXTRA TIME TO PRACTICE: Many 50+ year olds who are in their retirement will have that extra time to actually work on studying. Many also do not have children to raise and look after any more, all of this gives them more time to do what they enjoy doing. Some have many hobbies and social lives so indeed this many impact on their study time just as any other age but there are those who have a lot of time to study.

I have taught several 70+ year old beginners/intermediates who devote 2-3 hours a day to practice, I find that I need to give them a detailed plan as to how to practice to ensure they do not flounder about repeating unnecessarily or indeed incorrectly. You may also have to encourage them to stay in contact with you if needed throughout the week to give them extra advice etc. It is not unusual for me to get phone calls from my older students who reveal to me some of their weekly practice concerns or answers to questions or practice methods they are not totally sure about. Especially when I work with those who were in professions which were very business like they enjoy having this contact outside of the lessons and I am very happy to give it freely.

4) THE SHORTENED TIMELINE OF THEIR TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT: With children you have much more time to form their technique, I am not one to force children into proper movements immediately and like to form it over time, this in my experience creates a technique that they intrinsically understand rather than merely mimic because the teacher says so. With older adults however I find that you do not have as much time to allow their technique to form and indeed it may be important to improve upon poor technique more immediately and directly. Of course you must allow some freedom of movement, to force anyone into technique they do not understand and appreciate somewhat naturally merely sets them up to play like a mindless parrot.

5) DEALING WITH NEGATIVE THOUGHTS WHEN COMPARING ONESELF TO OTHERS: With the internet these days older adults can become disillusioned when they see young players playing brilliantly, it can certainly demoralise them and make them feel that what they do is so much lesser. I am often telling them that many videos posted online are of exceptional students and it is not the norm to see a little child play some things you see posted up there. You also have to really ensure that they focus on their own path without being distracted by other peoples, I find this is much more important with adults than it is with children, although even during teenage years this can start to become a problem also as they compare themselves with those younger or their peers. I think this is something however that can make an adult quit much easier, they can practice hard for a year and yet see a child many times younger than them play much better and with less effort. As a teacher you really need to act as a psychologist to defuse these negative thoughts of comparisons.

I am sure there are more points I could come up with but these are the main ones that stood out for me so far.
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Offline klavieronin

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #43 on: February 19, 2018, 12:56:25 PM »
2) MOST OF THE TIME THEY KNOW WHAT MUSIC THEY LIKE:  Many adults have a good detailed idea what kind of music they enjoy where many young children often have not had the time to develop their taste for music. When you teach an adult you need to teach relevant issues which will help them achieve their desires asap. With young children you often have to work at developing their taste for music by exposing them to it.

While this is certainly more often the case for adults than it is for children you can't count on it being true. Most of the students I get are adults and when I ask them what sort of music they are interesting in most of them don't know how to answer. They can usually tell me what sort of music they listen to (though many of them give rather vague answers even to that question) but then when I ask if that's what they would like to play they often seem very noncommittal and then suggest that they "start with the basics" (as though there is one set of basics that covers everything).

Generally speaking, and if I were in one of my more cynical moods, most adult beginners are more interested in the idea of learning piano, rather than having any particular interest or commitment to music or piano playing.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #44 on: February 19, 2018, 01:35:35 PM »
While this is certainly more often the case for adults than it is for children you can't count on it being true. Most of the students I get are adults and when I ask them what sort of music they are interesting in most of them don't know how to answer. They can usually tell me what sort of music they listen to (though many of them give rather vague answers even to that question) but then when I ask if that's what they would like to play they often seem very noncommittal and then suggest that they "start with the basics" (as though there is one set of basics that covers everything).
I feel that there is a contradiction if you say they dont know how to answer what music they are interested in but know what music they do listen to, it would appear to me logical that the music they choose to listen to is what they are interested in. The majority will not be "vague" in what music they would like to play in the future, it doesn't have to be the very first pieces they learn. It is important information for the teacher to know what a student would be excited to be able to play, you can create a course for learning that caters for their interests.

The fact that they can explain what kind of music they listen to and are interested in is what I am getting at. The older the student is the more listening experience they have and the more chance they actually have a collection of favourite music that they do listen to. Being able to play music that they are connected with is much more interesting. Subjecting them to "the basics" is a very broad term and can have many different starting points correlating to their musical interests.

Generally speaking, and if I were in one of my more cynical moods, most adult beginners are more interested in the idea of learning piano, rather than having any particular interest or commitment to music or piano playing.
I don't see how this can apply in my experience because in the hundreds and hundreds of students I have taught they are motivated by learning music they are connected with and are personally interested in. If they do not know what music interests them I make it my duty to make them aware of it, I find with younger students I have to do this much more often, with older students I do not have to. Even with young students they tell me computer games that they play or movies they love and the music from this inspires them a great deal. Gone are the days of teaching a basic course that is the same for ever person, good teachers can create a course that specifically relates to a students personal interest, this of course doesn't mean we ignore certain standards of teaching but it can be presented through various mediums which are mutually inclusive of a students musical interests.
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Offline klavieronin

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #45 on: February 19, 2018, 03:03:25 PM »
I suspect our different experiences may have something to do with where we both live. I envy you if the majority of the students that come to you already have a clear picture in mind of what they would like to achieve. For me it often takes some work and some time to get a picture of what they are hoping for.

I obviously didn't give a very clear picture of what I often see with new adult students so let me give you an example of a typical conversation I might have during an intro lesson. After introductions and a bit of preamble;

Me: "So, what made you decide to come in today for a piano lesson?"
Student: "Um, it's just something I always wanted to do."
M: "Great! Have you had lessons on the piano or any other instrument before?"
S: "A little bit as a kid but I don't really remember anything."
M: "And what are you hoping to achieve? Do you have any particular goals in mind?"
S: "No, not really. I'd just like to be able to play."
M: "Is there any particular style of music you like or want to play?"
S: "Um, no. I'm happy to play anything."
M: "Okay. Do you listen to a lot of music?"
S: "Sometimes."
M: "What sort of music do you like to listen to?"
S: "Um, I like the theme from Amťlie. I usually just listen to the radio though."
M: "Ah yes, the theme from Amťlie is very popular. Is that the type of thing you would like to play?"
S: "Oh, I don't think I'm ready for that just yet."
M: "No, of course not, but one day you will be. I'd just like to set you out on the right path. So, is that the sort of music you would like to play?"
S: "Yeah, I guess."
etc.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #46 on: February 19, 2018, 11:43:25 PM »
Ok, I'm the "THEY" you guys are talking about, telling each other what "we" want.

Some years ago I was in a music store, browsing, and noticed that they also had piano lessons so I asked how that worked.  The teacher suggested that I make an appointment, and tell the teacher what kind of music I like.   I asked her, "If a student allowed you to teach the things that you feel are the most important as a teacher, what would that be?"  She talked for a straight 5 minutes with lots of gestures, talks of loose wrists and other things.  When she finished I asked her, "Would there be particular pieces you would choose, that would be best suited to teach those things?  She said there were.  I answered, "That's what I would want to learn: the skills that you think are important for me to learn, and the repertoire that will give that to me.

I do NOT want to be asked what pieces I like.  In fact, I find that my knowledge is limited, and I want to expand beyond my limitation.

Secondly, I want to be taught "like a child".  Not in terms of "stickers" and pretty pictures.  There are teachers who don't do the sticker thing.  But they go slowly enough with children --- concretely enough --- less intellectually, more real.

Adults are not an homogenous group.  There's a lot of "we's" and this is my "they" for what "they" want.

-----
Meanwhile you said you didn't read the thread.  There were things of value in that thread.

Offline klavieronin

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #47 on: February 20, 2018, 12:12:59 AM »
Ok, I'm the "THEY" you guys are talking about, telling each other what "we" want.

Yes, you do sound like a lot of the adult students I've had in the past. However, I don't believe I said anything in my previous posts to suggest I know what you want. In fact, I think I was saying almost the exact opposite. I was saying that I don't know what a lot of adults students want because often they themselves aren't sure exactly what they want (other than "to be able to play piano"). It's my job then to try to coax a little more out of them so I can make sure I set them out on the right path. Learning to play classical music will require a very different set of skills to learning, say, Gospel piano. People often aren't educated enough to realise this.

Offline outin

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #48 on: February 20, 2018, 05:14:57 AM »
Yes, you do sound like a lot of the adult students I've had in the past. However, I don't believe I said anything in my previous posts to suggest I know what you want. In fact, I think I was saying almost the exact opposite. I was saying that I don't know what a lot of adults students want because often they themselves aren't sure exactly what they want (other than "to be able to play piano"). It's my job then to try to coax a little more out of them so I can make sure I set them out on the right path. Learning to play classical music will require a very different set of skills to learning, say, Gospel piano. People often aren't educated enough to realise this.

I on the other hand knew exactly what I wanted. I also am glad my teacher ask me to bring music that I wanted to play when we started. Then we both knew where we stood. She told me I could play some of it in a few years, some maybe one day (Chopin etudes) and some we could start right away if suplemented by something she prescribed.

My first teacher was different, I told him about the music I wanted to play when I started but insisted on me playing something different (non classical). We did not last long.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What is different about teaching someone who is 50+ years ?
«Reply #49 on: February 20, 2018, 05:58:56 PM »
Yes, you do sound like a lot of the adult students I've had in the past. However, I don't believe I said anything in my previous posts to suggest I know what you want.
Sorry, I should have specified that my response was aimed mainly at LiW.

He is proposing to ask older students what pieces they want to play, and not teach them like children.  Assuming that a teacher is teaching children thoroughly and slowly enough, focusing on the concrete side of playing (I don't see "stickers" as necessarily being a children thing) --- then I want to be taught like children, and I do not want to be asked what kind of pieces I like.  We are also individuals.

I was disappointed that the rest of the thread was not read (as was stated).