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Topic: Musicality vs techniques for child?  (Read 455 times)

Offline mingyzeyuan

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Musicality vs techniques for child?
on: April 30, 2023, 02:40:47 AM
Like the title, I admit the question is quite clinche. But it is also a practical problem for children who just start to engage with music. I myself is an amateur music fan. I can play a few instruments but i was not trained since childhood. I followed the path of getting to know music before learning instruments in adulthood so for me I think I am quite ready for the richness of feelings and emotions in music when learning instruments.
My son is six years old and has studied for about half a year. We started with a teacher using the Thompson's. We progressed really fast yet it was all about hitting the buttons. We practiced arm weight for the whole first two books before moving to focusing on finger weight from the third book on. I think my son is happy about being able to play out the melody. Then we paralleled with another teacher using the Piano Adventures. The teacher focused more on dynamic musical expression from the very start, stressing about dynamics, legato, relaxing, and more such. I think my son, however, has little idea of such concepts in music and he does not have the mental capacity to understand music from this perspective.
Now we are wondering if there is any conflicts here and if any approach is better or problematic. I do want my son to build up this music aesthetic and I am not pushing him to become professional anyway. But i am not sure at his age he is able to learn very much that he does not even understand.

Offline keypeg

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #1 on: April 30, 2023, 09:25:17 PM
Thots:

My first question is whether your son himself is expressing any worries or problems.

There are a couple of sides to this.  To ask someone to play "expressively", with feeling or emotion, to just use dynamics or such if they've never learned it is asking too much.  Gradually showing a student one of the elements, like how to play louder and softer, hearing louder and softer, that is a child level.  It depends  on how the teacher is handling it, whether it's an unrealistic thing or a guided reasonable thing.

At the other end, a teacher can ask a student to try to make something be loud like an angry elephant, quiet like a timid mouse, what might notes sound like if you were a scared mouse or an excited woodpecker. This becomes childlike.

So the question is, how is the teacher approaching this, and how is your child responding or reacting?

Offline mingyzeyuan

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #2 on: May 01, 2023, 01:03:47 AM
I think the teacher is not using a child way of communication, which is also why my son cannot seem to internalise what the teacher attempts to do easily. I think it is indeed a missing point in our currently learning experience. The teacher mainly uses demonstration. I do think he tries to carry something really advanced.... For one exmaple, when the teacher talks about legato in a continuous phrase, he says it is smooth to slightly roll the wrist and forearm towards the direction so that the weight centre would fall on the finger to hit the key next when it is its turn. I personally think this is a hell of technique to train if it does not occur naturally to you, and my son is six and just started for less than half a year.... Of course I am able to tell the difference when the teacher is doing demonstration. but i am not sure whether my son is approaching music in the same way, or he needs more than just listening to it.
It is also part of a problem for me that I do not know how to support him for a better understanding of all this while practicing at home. Simply saying that "playing this phrase forte/piano/smoothly" does not make sense to him, or i guess it does not make total sense to anyone. Or saying that "this is what it sounds like when you play it happily" would be any better. your metaphor sounds very genuine to understand but i am so bad at coming up with such ideas...
It is not like that my son does not have any taste in music at all. He likes, like all children i guess, light and cheerful pieces. Yankee doodle is his favourite. I look to start from there to introduce more.

Offline ego0720

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #3 on: May 02, 2023, 12:45:48 PM
Hi,

In a way, I am your son.  My parents put me with a teacher who put me through methodical training with limited variance.  Overall I really hated it because few of the songs appealed to me. It wasn't my choice.  I achieved some decent technicality but it became a real chore eventually and I quit after 10 years.  That's 10 years of pain.  With my kids today I focus on what makes them happy. When they are happy they have more motivation to do it.  It's not perfect.  But there needs to be the right ratio of work-fun to keep the child going. My answer to your question would be musicality over technicality.  The journey is a long one so we have to focus on the big picture. At age of 6 the focus is on making them want to do it and create an an environment thats conducive.  During their teenage years they will have to be self-motivated to get the technicality down because that's the real barrier.  No piano player naturally likes to work the technical part because thats the vegetables or chore component of playing the piano that is very boring.  The art is overcoming it and keep yourself motivated. If your child, esp at age 6, gets frustrated at some point because of the technicality, its called "learned helplessness" that will give them premature death in piano. You want to avoid that. Unfortunately not all music teachers are equal.  And not all are child friendly. Sometimes you have to make difficult choices to find the right teacher. The really good teachers depend only word by mouth to advertise themselves.  Others who aren't so good rely on websites.  Some exceptions apply. From age 4-10, the focus should be on making music a fun hobby.  From that point forward you cross your fingers and hope they choose to continue it.  The other pitfall to avoid is burnout.  The better teacher acknowledges it and allows a hiatus when needed. They will never ask you to do that. It's your job as a parent to figure that out.

And to create the environment, note that all the superstars in the world had a first teacher who was NOT the best at their trade but were probably the best teacher because of one attribute: They cared more about the student as a person than the art or subject matter.  Many studies have reached that conclusion that a supportive teacher and parent is the main contributing factor to a child's success in whatever endeavor they choose. In the words of Dr. Andrew Jacob, just let 'em play!

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #4 on: May 02, 2023, 03:56:40 PM
As a teacher I am first and foremost wary not to get in the way of my students too much as this can crush individual creativity and drive for exploration. I don't necessarily teach technique or musicality in a direct way, rather I build my students with music they enjoy, provide the right material to grow with which they can predominanalty play without a riddle of errors accompanying the challenges they must contend with. From building from this guided experience they learn to make a tonn of connections, all I must do is give a slight nudge. To me this is a much more elegant way to teach rather than use a sledgehammer and broken record to enforce ideologies.

I think most students have a lot of creative ways to solve problems and discover knowledge and I merely push them in the correct direction without dragging them through it all or crushing their own sense of a relationship with music. We are teachers of creative arts so why do some treat it like a sport or set of precise instructions that must be followed? Yes there are times for that when the student is specifically interested in such things AND are ready for it AND it is a better approach than just learning it through experience. Most of the times though when you have to do this I feel there is a failure in solving it side-on with appropriate building of experience. Certainly if the student hasn't material to experiment with no amount of surgical advice about technique or musicality makes much lasting nor flexible sense.

Young students also develop musical maturity at various rates. Some have zero interest to play something louder or softer, smoother or more detached,  what have you, that is fine we don't force them into this, it always will come that they will want to do it because they hear themselves the difference and understand it in an intrinsic manner rather than just a direction that should be followed.

Listening experience is very important, students should listen to much music that interest them, that exposure is critical to develop a good ear. A teacher can demonstrate it or show examples or the student can seek it out themselves, the internet makes that incredibly easy these days. Students who enjoy listening/watching music usually enjoy creating music and tend to take more responsibility to make the music sound (recording sound good)/physical playing (pianists look so relaxed) better. When you have a student who doesn't listen/watch music you face more challenges, the teacher must excite the student to seek out the experience.


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Offline mingyzeyuan

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #5 on: May 03, 2023, 12:27:09 AM
Highly appreciated. I must say it is the approach that I dreamed of. But when it comes to actually doing it parents often have too much unnecessary thoughts. I think it is because for the past half a year he progressed too fast, beyond expectation. If my son is not interested in practicing I definitely wont push him. What puzzled me was that he seemed to be ok, or even committed to practicing his left and right hands coordination. It feels like that he likes to overcome each piece as a physical challenge, yet paying less attention about how to play it beautifully.
I think this is reflected in his recent effort to do Little Sonata. It is like a milestone piece given to him. The piece has a mirroring theme in the tremble and bass parts. It is clear to me that I play better when I am able to decode it into two lines. However my son struggles to match the two parts together as the rhythm is slightly off beat.
I think I have made up my mind to redirect the focus onto musicality. I tried to do more play and sing together with my son, which helps adding meanings to the melody so he can approach music more as a communication and less as a technical combination of notes. And we need to slow down the pace and try to relearn the pieces we practiced before in this new way. Would be a challenge for both of us as this requires more time. 

Offline ego0720

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #6 on: May 03, 2023, 06:26:20 PM
Being a parent does have its burden. Always remember to focus on what is happening now and to adapt to new information as in comes in. Sometimes errors are made but itís part of the process. You fix it as you go. I know everyone has this idea of ďhad IÖĒ moment and give advice what not to do.. but I will validate any of those experiences as necessary to highlight a persons focus. So enjoy the process, donít overthink it, and fix problems as they come up. Music is so complex itís really impossible to do it right the first time. Pick a starting point and keep going. Take in new information and adjust. Thatís the realistic way to go. The end goal is not to quit and make it a lifestyle. Bring good karma to people.

Offline mingyzeyuan

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #7 on: May 04, 2023, 08:38:40 AM
Hear hear.
I myself is only an ameteur so not even sure where the end game will be.
hope that my son is able to take it further than i do.

Offline mingyzeyuan

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #8 on: May 30, 2023, 11:34:39 AM
OK
So we switched towards focus on musicality. We greatly slowed down the progress of learning new melodies. And we review old pieces by adding appropriate dynamics, staccato, legato and other small elements.
It seems to be a complete disaster. Lucas (my son's name) has no interest at all in replaying these simple pieces in different style. Lucas has lost initiative in practice at all. Now we have to push him for every session.
It is a super hard journey trying to let him relax her fingers, wraists and arms. Fundamentally he only knows one single technique which is pressing the key firmly. We have a diffiicult time to lead him to play softly, to relax fingers after touching the key, to play the legato with the sense of flow. The obstacle is much greater than I anticipated.
I think those concepts are just too advanced for him. I also struggle outside of the piano lessons. I tried to get him more exposure but he does not even listen to music.
I think we are going back to square one to explore new directions.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #9 on: May 30, 2023, 04:56:40 PM
Musical maturity for some does take times to develop and as you now notice if you try to force it you are going to make the student hate learning music. Music is a creative subject and students creativity should never be strangled, doing so can totally destroy a life long journey with music, be warned.

Technique and Musicality is NOT the reason why people learn music, they learn music because they should enjoy the process of creating music and be excited to play music no matter how terrible someone might judge it sounds or how poor their technique it might be. This is first and foremost the most important aspect of learning music, to be creative, to enjoy the act of creating music without the constraints of authority telling whether what you are doing is worthy or not. I honestly think people forget this, even those who are experienced and well trained musicians!!

When teaching children you should be only encouraging them to fully enjoy creating music and learning music, do not stifle them with specifics if they are not interested in it, there is plenty of time for it later on and you can still include that in the current education but much diluted! Once a student has the love for music they will naturally want to improve their technique and musicality, it is always the case. Instead would you rather a student who improves their musicality and technique at an accelerated level but actually resent having to learn it?




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Offline ranjit

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #10 on: May 30, 2023, 06:30:03 PM
So we switched towards focus on musicality. We greatly slowed down the progress of learning new melodies. And we review old pieces by adding appropriate dynamics, staccato, legato and other small elements.
It seems to be a complete disaster. Lucas (my son's name) has no interest at all in replaying these simple pieces in different style. Lucas has lost initiative in practice at all. Now we have to push him for every session.
I think that's a sign that one should backtrack. Keeping a child's interest so that they are motivated to play the piano 10 years hence is so much more important than trying to attain perfection right now. Technique can be corrected and musicality can be developed later on, but once someone loses that interest, it can be very hard to proceed.

From a child development perspective, I think that children develop certain things at different rates. Just because they have developed one thing quickly doesn't mean that they should be treated like someone older than their age. It depends on their natural inclination as well.

There are children who are interested in musicality while not caring about technique, and vice versa. These things can be developed later on, and it's probably counterproductive to try to force something too early which will automatically come about in a few years.

Online, we see videos of prodigies or very talented children who start young and learn everything correctly. But this is rare, and not just because of lack of effort. Those children naturally understand much more than your average child, and so a routine like that works well for them because it builds upon what they already understand and want to achieve. Now, I can't comment on specific cases, but it's just something to keep in mind.

It appears like your child enjoys the physical challenge of coordinating both hands, and enjoys the sensation of playing. That is a very good thing, and I think it should be possible to approach teaching from that perspective, and gradually ease him into playing more musically rather than the converse.

For example, one thing I like to do when I demonstrate things to people is pick an appropriate piece of music which makes that thing inevitably come up. For example, you could pick a difficult fast piece which feels great under the hands, but which is simply impossible to play with a lot of tension. You can pick a piece which makes a certain fingering choice way better than another. You can pick a piece of music where a grand crescendo is a very obvious way to interpret it. What exactly you do will depend on the individual.

Quote
It is a super hard journey trying to let him relax her fingers, wraists and arms. Fundamentally he only knows one single technique which is pressing the key firmly. We have a diffiicult time to lead him to play softly, to relax fingers after touching the key, to play the legato with the sense of flow. The obstacle is much greater than I anticipated.
This is one of those places where suggesting harder pieces can be appropriate, if the child takes to that well (some get frustrated by it, some take it as a challenge). I think teachers often teach methodically and rather dry, afraid that they will ruin something in the child's technique if they learn anything wrong. I'm not necessarily saying this is wrong, but I often see people burn out from this sort of teaching. I know I would. In a way, I'm glad I taught myself advanced pieces and all the basics back in the day, because it makes it so that I'm never afraid to take on a challenge.

Basically, the harder a piece gets, the more impossible it becomes to play simply with firm fingers. What if you have jumps? Fast arpeggios? Some people might stick to trying to apply whatever they know and constantly fail, and I have seen this. But I think many realize that other approaches work better and once that realization comes about, set about to incorporate those techniques gradually in their own playing. I feel like this would be more appropriate to a student who is a sort of technical experimenter. The trick is to provide as much context as possible to make the realization as natural as possible.

Quote
I think those concepts are just too advanced for him. I also struggle outside of the piano lessons. I tried to get him more exposure but he does not even listen to music.
Keep in mind that children passively pick up music most of the time, much like language. Even without a clear indication that he's paying attention, he might be listening to whatever music is playing at home. This is far more true for children than for adults. But of course it depends on the individual -- I recall that as a child, I knew way more music than most people realized because I would pick up whatever songs were played by people or on the radio, or by my parents without even thinking. After a few years, musicality will automatically increase in many cases, with experience.

Offline ego0720

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #11 on: May 31, 2023, 05:21:17 AM
OK
So we switched towards focus on musicality. We greatly slowed down the progress of learning new melodies. And we review old pieces by adding appropriate dynamics, staccato, legato and other small elements.
It seems to be a complete disaster. Lucas (my son's name) has no interest at all in replaying these simple pieces in different style. Lucas has lost initiative in practice at all. Now we have to push him for every session.
It is a super hard journey trying to let him relax her fingers, wraists and arms. Fundamentally he only knows one single technique which is pressing the key firmly. We have a diffiicult time to lead him to play softly, to relax fingers after touching the key, to play the legato with the sense of flow. The obstacle is much greater than I anticipated.
I think those concepts are just too advanced for him. I also struggle outside of the piano lessons. I tried to get him more exposure but he does not even listen to music.
I think we are going back to square one to explore new directions.

Sorry your experience isn't panning out too well.  Here are my thoughts.

Musicality has many different meanings depending on who you ask. I took this from musical-u.com and they say "Musicality is a set of 'inner skills' which let you freely and confidently express yourself in music." Loosely, when I think of kids 9 years old and younger musicality is simply listening to music they enjoy and emulating any aspect of it.  It's having fun.  They can clap to the rhythm. They can sing it if it contains lyrics. They can listen to the piano play. They can see mommy playing it. It can even be the approach you took.  But it's focusing on the *feelings* for music and giving them positive vibes.  Your only goal is setting the stage for them wanting to do it later when their musculature develops at age 7-9.  Any earlier age the child has not developed the finer motor skills sufficient to learn the articulations and techniques you mentioned.

The other mistake I saw was revisiting old songs.  If the song was already passed, its discouraging to be placed back.  Move on to different songs. Boys can have competitive spirit and when you take them back to something they already accomplished they may feel demoralized (like repeating a grade or being downgraded).  They want to feel like they are moving forward not backwards. There are so many songs out there. Find songs he likes. 

There is mention how he only plays firm hands and cannot relax.  This you shouldn't belabor at this time.  The main problem is the age.  Their musculature is still developing so they aren't exactly in control of their muscles just yet. Its not wrong to start early but asking children <= 6 to relax their hands can only have limited success.  Maybe interject now and then but I wouldn't focus too much here.

I also read that you greatly slowed down learning new melodies.  Not sure if you focused on the "melodies" or the "new" part. The melodies are where its at.. knowing and learning melodies are what children are natural at and should be expoited to the max.  The melody-environment complex is the difference if the child finds it catchy because the melody on its own intrinsically has no meaning.. just a bunch of soundwaves. We create meaning ourselves at this stage and usually its the childs experience learning with you. Make sure there is laughter and good memories involved.. because the feelings the child experience to a song is now linked.  That's how they will remember it. 

Does your son have alone time with piano where he just messes around?  Like he will walk up to it, opens up the piano, and just bangs it out?  Sometimes 5-10 minutes where he plays on his own whatever he wants.. that's the natural process you want to encourage.  And don't judge him.  This is a time where he puts it together.  This is probably more of a metric than it is a process.

One other thing.  Do you play the piano?  I know some parents are non-musical.  But it doesn't mean you have to play well.  To a child there are many inferences to make when their parents play (good or not).  I wish you good luck and always remember that it's all about fun and spending time together.  Don't focus too much about the boring stuff.  Until they are about 9-10.. just let 'em play.

Offline mingyzeyuan

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #12 on: May 31, 2023, 06:27:01 AM
I highly appreciate all discussions here. It is all apparent that I am getting frustrated. The sole reason is that now I start to care too much. Back to when Lucas started I did not hold high expectation for him. Now as we are moving somewhere I start to get all kinds of concerns. I am also at lost about how to support music learning at home. Well I had zero music education experience so that is only natural.....
Anyway it is always true that the kid wont do what he dislikes. Forcing him to do anything wont get any outcome anyway. So I definitely need to ease all those expectation and requirements. That said, I will continue trying and this is noway the end of it.

Offline mingyzeyuan

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #13 on: May 31, 2023, 06:38:20 AM

One other thing.  Do you play the piano?  I know some parents are non-musical.  But it doesn't mean you have to play well.  To a child there are many inferences to make when their parents play (good or not).  I wish you good luck and always remember that it's all about fun and spending time together.  Don't focus too much about the boring stuff.  Until they are about 9-10.. just let 'em play.

He prefers improvise more than learning pieces.... I know it is a good thing but it becomes annoying when you sit down and get ready to teach him a new piece, then he starts to do random bangs after just 1 bar. I definitely need to improve but I must admit this piano tutoring experience is making myself anxious as well as my son.
I play other instruments, not the piano. I tried to learn together with Lucas. Whatever pieces he is learning I also learn to play. My son is not strong in sight reading directly into new pieces. I still show him bar by bar which is easier.

Offline lelle

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #14 on: May 31, 2023, 12:54:15 PM
I highly appreciate all discussions here. It is all apparent that I am getting frustrated. The sole reason is that now I start to care too much. Back to when Lucas started I did not hold high expectation for him. Now as we are moving somewhere I start to get all kinds of concerns. I am also at lost about how to support music learning at home. Well I had zero music education experience so that is only natural.....
Anyway it is always true that the kid wont do what he dislikes. Forcing him to do anything wont get any outcome anyway. So I definitely need to ease all those expectation and requirements. That said, I will continue trying and this is noway the end of it.

One thing to consider is that in the end, do you want your son to become what you expect him to become, or do you want him to become his truest, most authentic self even if that is different than what you expect? Do you want to teach him to bend to what everyone around him wants from him, or to stay true to himself and what makes him the happiest even if that means disappointing others sometimes?

He prefers improvise more than learning pieces.... I know it is a good thing but it becomes annoying when you sit down and get ready to teach him a new piece, then he starts to do random bangs after just 1 bar. I definitely need to improve but I must admit this piano tutoring experience is making myself anxious as well as my son.

That sounds like no fun for either of you. Maybe you can adjust your approach. Why not let him explore the piano, make his own improvisations free from expectations and get to know the instrument that way? Your kid is six years old, that's a rather young age to sit down and focus on a difficult task, especially for some kids, and especially if you are not really into it. You have time, let him be a kid and play. I can see ways you could guide him towards basic skills, technique etc with his improvisation as a base rather than existing pieces.  You don't need to hurry towards sitting down and studying music seriously, that stuff will come on its own if your kid is interested. Example: I became genuinely interested in piano after my parents introduced it to me, and was basically self motivated to teach myself ways to both read and write down music I liked.

Offline brogers70

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Re: Musicality vs techniques for child?
Reply #15 on: May 31, 2023, 05:22:53 PM
I highly appreciate all discussions here. It is all apparent that I am getting frustrated. The sole reason is that now I start to care too much. Back to when Lucas started I did not hold high expectation for him. Now as we are moving somewhere I start to get all kinds of concerns. I am also at lost about how to support music learning at home. Well I had zero music education experience so that is only natural.....
Anyway it is always true that the kid wont do what he dislikes. Forcing him to do anything wont get any outcome anyway. So I definitely need to ease all those expectation and requirements. That said, I will continue trying and this is noway the end of it.

One thing you could do, if you're not doing it already, is just listen to a lot of music around the house. Don't force him to listen, just have it in the atmosphere. Also, just go about practicing your own instrument. No need to draw attention to the fact that you are doing it. Kids notice, and since they admire and want to imitate their parents, they may be more inclined towards music. In any case, if he's got the music bug somewhere in his little six-year old self, lots of exposure to music around the house may help it come out, without other forms of pressure.
 

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