June 11, 2007 at 2:21 am #87572
On a thread on Coffee Break, Carl mentioned that if a student takes longer than 2 weeks to learn a page of music, the piece is too difficult for the student.June 11, 2007 at 3:23 am #87573jennifer-buehlerMember
I’m having some trouble posting so I apologize if this comes through more than once.June 11, 2007 at 11:47 am #87574
I would agree that ruling out a learning disability or ADD would be the first step. If those are not the problem, then it’s time for either a different approach or a different teacher. I’ve had similar situations in the past and I won’t do that any more. If the student is not making tangible progress, then I don’t want to teach him/her.June 11, 2007 at 2:18 pm #87575
“If I leave the goal setting to her, then nothing.”
I was just curious as to whether your student was an adult or a young woman, mostly because I ask myself the same question as to goal setting.June 11, 2007 at 4:00 pm #87576
On our last piece, I laid down the law.June 11, 2007 at 5:15 pm #87577
Diane- I’m a big fan of memorizing a piece right away. I do that all the time for myself and I like my students to do it too. It’s the traditional way French students learn music.
Once you have the music laid out,(pedals written in, fingerings, etc.), you start memorizing. You play the first measure or two and concern yourself only with memorizing it, at whatever tempo is very comfortable for you. When you can play the first measure or two without looking at the music, you work on the next measure or two and then connect that to what you’ve already learned. Once you get the first line memorized, then work on that, entirely from memory, until it starts to feel a little comfortable. Then you start the same process on the second line. Each time you add a measure or two, you work only on those two new measures until you can wobble through them from memory. You don’t keep starting from the begining.
Depending on the difficulty and complexity of the piece, the first 3 or 4 days are pure hell. Each time you sit down it’s like you’ve never seen the piece. But each time what you’ve memorized comes back a little faster. Once you have the first page memorized at what I call the wobbly stage you should stay there and not go further until that first page is pretty secure. That means you can sit down at random moments, or the following day, and play that material, slowly and probably wobbly, without ever looking at the music.
My own feeling, for myself and my students, is that you don’t really ‘own’ a piece until it it memorized. If you memorize it at the begining of the learning process, then you can practice it pretty much from memory. Having it memorized right off the bat gives you encouragement to play and perfect the piece. Only you would know if this approach would work for this girl.June 11, 2007 at 6:13 pm #87578
This is great advice, Carl, and was part of our practice chart.June 11, 2007 at 6:32 pm #87579TacyeParticipant
Assuming her parents are paying for the lessons I would consider, with her knowledge, sending a note home pointing out how much more value for money they get when she practices well.June 11, 2007 at 7:35 pm #87580sherry-lenoxParticipant
This is very interesting to me as a rank beginner. I resist memorizing because I think of it (for me) as the easier of ways to play- much harder for me to watch the music and not my fingers. I was always a poopy pianist and I felt it was partially because I was never taught real hand positions, therefore had to memorize everything I had to play (one summer I played America the Beautiful from dawn ’till whenever my sainted mother could extricate the keys from my fingers- good thing we lived on a farm, although the milk was sour for several weeks after I went back to school)
Anyway, my teacher is becoming frustrated with my rendition of Good King Wenceslaus, and I really do practice it. Daily. I apparently play too fast, and never really accurately. One of the books I bought has Mikrocosmos(s) in it. Maybe I’ll ask her if I can do some of those…..June 11, 2007 at 8:44 pm #87581
Diane- If all of your good ideas have not rubbed off on her by now, then they are not going to. It’s time for this girl to sink or swim on her own effort. You can’t blame yourself if she’s not making progress.
I think you should tell her and her parents together, either face to face or in a letter, that there is a serious problem here and you’ve done as much as you can do. If they and the girl cannot whip things into shape at this point, then you have to drop her as a student. Maybe THAT will light a fire under her. Personally, I would never have stayed with her as long as you have.June 11, 2007 at 8:49 pm #87582
I think this is a fascinating and difficult question and I love that you care enough about your student toJune 11, 2007 at 9:23 pm #87583
I was struck by several things on the preceeding posts.June 11, 2007 at 10:31 pm #87584Saul Davis ZlatkovskiParticipant
Two weeks is an incredibly short time to learn a piece unless it is a Tiny Tale, and even then. Some people absorb slowly, but they may be learning it far better or deeper than someone who gets the notes and doesn’t let them sink in. Too fast learning is no good. Two months is a much more reasonable goal I think. It really seems like you have unreal expectations. First there are the notes to learn, the coordination of the hands, then the musicality and expression, the intent of the composer, and then trying to get it into memory, not to mention applying technical goals. There is a lot to take in. I have never learned anything that quickly. If the student had no other activities or obligations, and could practice 4-6 hours a day, then I would say it is somewhat realistic to expect learning in just two weeks.June 11, 2007 at 11:55 pm #87585
Saul- I didn’t say to learn the whole piece in two weeks. What I said was two weeks per page of music. 5 pages- 10 weeks. 3 pages- 6 weeks. That will vary according to the difficulty of the piece and the ability of the student, but if it takes substantially longer than that, then the piece is not appropriate at that time for that student.
I’ll tell you just one of many horror stories I have witnessed over the years. I rented a harp to a student of another teacher years ago, a teenager, who worked on the Harmonious Blacksmith for 8 months! That’s 5 pages of music for 32 weeks. And at that she still couldn’t play it because she could barely read music and she had virtually no technical foundation. And her teacher kept telling me how beautifully she was doing.
The two week goal is as much a standard for the teacher as the student, and is meant to avoid situations like the one mentioned above.June 12, 2007 at 3:13 am #87586
Thanks to all of you for your suggestions, insights and personal experiences.
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