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How do I know if dd's piano teacher is right for her?

(23 Posts)
IfIonlyhadsomesleep Mon 08-Jul-13 08:14:46

Dd has been learning piano since September last year (started just before she was seven). She's making progress and has learnt to practise although needs encouragement to do it.
She has recently been getting cross when practising because of some of the things her teacher asks her to do and says she's not enjoying lessons. This could well be because she's hit a patch where it's harder for her.
The thing she really hates doing is saying the note names out loud while playing. This is a bit foreign to me as I've only played wind and brass instruments so clearly didn't have to do that and I wondered if it is usual to get children to do this. If it is, we'll carry on but of not then I might mention it to her teacher.
Also, last week, dd's grandma bought her two books of pieces for the holidays. She was really thoughtful about it and asked us exactly which book dd was working through and how far she'd got and the music shop lady recommended a couple of titles. Dd managed to play a couple at sight and was really fired up about having them for the holidays. She asked to take them to her lesson and I got a sharp toned note back saying they were too hard or not suitable and we should take them back. Dd was really upset.
I don't know how to explain this really but I just feel somehow that the teacher has a method and sticks to it rather than working out how dd responds best.
Do piano teachers have different styles that just suit some students better than others or do we need to get dd to work harder to fit in with what the teacher wants? Or maybe a bit of both?

AmandaCooper Mon 08-Jul-13 08:30:22

I'm hardly qualified to advise but I will tell you that my very capable teacher helped my very musical sister move nimbly through the grades on a fairly rigid syllabus while facilitating a wholly different musical experience for me, handwriting the music for whatever pieces I wished to play adapted for my very amateur ability. Not playing the piano not being an option! I feel that a good teacher should be flexible and student led - but you should speak to this tutor to find out whether there is method in her rigidity.

Amazinggg Mon 08-Jul-13 08:38:06

She sounds very old fashioned with the saying the notes thing, and there's nothing to knock the love of playing out of a child like telling them the pieces they want to play are too hard! sad it's a controlling thing to do - suits some learners but not most! It's so important to individualise teaching so if they want to whizz through grades and enjoy the maths-like discipline of scales etc, or just want to learn lots of pieces chosen jointly, or tell you what songs they want to learn and you can help them work out chords and melodies, etc.

Where are you based? PM me if you want the details of an amazing piano teacher wink

valiumredhead Mon 08-Jul-13 09:17:47

Saying the notes aloud really helps me, it's something about verbalising then that makes them stick in my memory. My teacher is the polar opposite of traditional and dated yet she encouraged it in the beginning.

Wrt books, I know music teachers who have done the same, they all seem to have their own way of teaching.perhaps she doesn't want your dd to get confused?

Ime it's about now that learning gets really hard and you have to persevere if you want to carry on. I really wasn't enjoying it but I seem to have come out the other side and have fallen in love with it again nowsmile

valiumredhead Mon 08-Jul-13 09:19:10

Your dd should be encouraged to play anything she likes at home though, music should be about playing what you wantsmile

IfIonlyhadsomesleep Mon 08-Jul-13 09:33:24

Thanks! I suspect there's a bit of everything in the solution. I have definitely told dd that learning an instrument can feel frustrating at times and you have to work your way through those patches and out the other side. I would tell her not to say the notes but her teacher won't move her off a piece if she doesn't do the note thing (even if she plays it fluently). I've also said to dd that we'll keep the books, she can play them, but we'll get the approved ones too. I do t at the piano, but I do check carefully that fingerlings are correct and I can tell the difference between a challenge and too difficult. Smacks a bit of primary teachers who discourage an enthusiastic reader from reading something that they consider beyond them. I figure that if they're too hard and I'm not insisting on her playing them that she'll give up anyway.
On the flip side, dd does need strong encouragement to persevere with stuff so it may be that she doesn't give of her best always in lessons (although the reports have all said excellent for effort, progress and practice). Who knows? I don't think she's the most amazing teacher but neither do I think she's horrible.

valiumredhead Mon 08-Jul-13 11:11:20

I imagine she makes her say the notes even though she can play the piece fluently to ensure she actually knows the notes. Because you can recognise groups of notes/ chords it's easy to memorise them and then when you go on to something more challenging you become unstuck as you're not able to read the notes fluently. That's my experience learning as an adult anyway.

Does she do theory lessons as well because they can seem very rigid and repetitive but actually it's all for a reason that becomes clearer the longer you play.

Sorry if that sounds patronising, if I'm teaching my granny to suck eggs then just ignore the abovesmile

ZZZenagain Mon 08-Jul-13 12:52:57

I would look for another teacher.

IfIonlyhadsomesleep Mon 08-Jul-13 13:38:25

Not at all, Valium. It's a long time since I had lessons, I was older and it wasn't piano. I appreciate your input. My gut says this isn't the ideal teacher match for dd and that she's more interested in very able pupils. But she's able to do lessons at school. Might investigate the other teacher who gives lessons at school-she's local and it wouldn't be dreadful to be dropping her off there for lessons. I also need to remember its nearly the end of term and dd is tired. It might be a whole different thing come September.

valiumredhead Mon 08-Jul-13 13:46:23

They're are tons of good teachers out there, the lessons need to be fun or she won't learn, so don't stick it out if your gut tells you that this one isn't right.

Its quite nice learning as an adult as I can tell my teacher what I want to learngrin

Amazinggg Mon 08-Jul-13 13:59:27

Really, the saying notes aloud thing - there's no way your daughter should be made to do it once she's fluent in a piece, that just makes no sense! It might be helpful as a learning device, but not once she's fluent, she should then be able to play it freely.

I would definitely look into another teacher, there are lots around, you need someone who your dd will click with and be motivated by.

I treat all my students like the paying customers they are, and make sure they're happy and smiling. If they're not enjoying it, they won't practise or only with pressure. I want to instil a love of music including the learning process. There are unfortunately teachers out there who are stuck in a learning by rote type system, and miss being able to rap knuckles with rulers wink

I would however support the teacher's demands re the other music, it's not quite the same as reading more difficult books outwith school - ideally the teacher would treat the new book with enthusiasm and help her with it, but if she won't - if your daughter tries them on her own then technique will almost definitely suffer - things like wrist position, body tension and so on always suffer ime, and her teacher should be guiding her in how to attack a new piece - how to break it down, how to practise. Yeah it's not the same as reading harder books I'm afraid.

valiumredhead Mon 08-Jul-13 14:14:28

I misunderstood, saying the notes out loud ^ while^ playing sounds odd. Not even sure I could do that tbh,I thought you meant just say the notes out loud.

valiumredhead Mon 08-Jul-13 14:14:46

Italics failhmm

IfIonlyhadsomesleep Mon 08-Jul-13 20:27:44

For me, the piano has always felt like trying to run my tummy whilst patting my head. Adding in saying the notes out loud would be like hopping up and down too! Hence I chose an instrument where my right hand generally did nothing but support it, bar handstopping later on. Must not let my inadequacies impede dd's progress grin.
Appreciate the balanced advice, amazinggg. Will respect piano teacher and get different books. Unless or until we change teachers, we need to support what she's doing with dd.

IfIonlyhadsomesleep Mon 08-Jul-13 20:28:13

Rub my tummy, clearly!

valiumredhead Mon 08-Jul-13 22:01:36

That's exactly how it feels to me too -I'd get very confused having to say the notes as well! grin

SanityClause Mon 08-Jul-13 22:08:27

DD2 had a violin teacher with a very rigid method of teaching.

At Christmas time, we decided it wasn't working out for her, and changed teacher on a recommendation. We did loads of soul searching, and spoke to the school music teacher, among others.

Two terms later, I am so pleased we did. She admitted that she used to dread Tuesdays, when she had her lessons, but now she loves going into her lessons, and the quality of her practise has improved no end.

MadeOfStarDust Wed 10-Jul-13 08:34:02

the only time my dd dreads piano lessons is when she knows she hasn't practised - and she doesn't want the teacher to be "disappointed " in her... he never is - it is just her internalising what she should have done..

Our teacher is great - he DOES do the "say the notes aloud" when playing - for the first 2 or 3 play throughs, and I believe dd does well in her sight reading because of this. But once the rhythm work is well under way, he drops it for counting..... again good for sight reading...

Sounds like maybe the teacher is not for her if they are not very supportive of her music likes though...

IfIonlyhadsomesleep Wed 10-Jul-13 11:29:20

Thanks all. I've had a day or two of thinking about this and I think this teacher isn't right for dd. I also chatted to a good friend who's very sensible about this and has had two children through the school doing piano and what she said confirmed my gut feeling-dd's teacher is very rigid, and a bit inflexible on music played and changing a bit to suit the child's needs. This morning, dd had a real paddy about a piece which she's for some kind of block about and has been playing for a month now. I wanted to call the teacher and say how it's been going practising it and I felt too nervous! What's that all about? I have investigated the other teacher who works at school and she seems to be the opposite-high standards but works with the child to make sure they make progress and enjoy things. To avoid treading on toes we're going to do lessons outside school. I feel relieved, which I think means we've made the right decision. I've really appreciated sensible perspectives about this.

valiumredhead Wed 10-Jul-13 12:11:08

Oh get rid, and find someone else OP!

One thing my teacher says is if I ever get a mental block about a piece then we leave it, go onto the next bit and in a month or so go back to the original piece. This works really well.

ZZZenagain Wed 10-Jul-13 12:18:52

I hope you and dd are happy with the new teacher. My dd has never had to say notes out loud whilst playing. I suppose when you are Setting out and cannot read music, it might help some dc but I would find it very distracting.

IfIonlyhadsomesleep Wed 10-Jul-13 13:34:24

I hope it'll work out. The teacher dd has would be perfect for some characters and for really able pupils. I just don't get the feeling that she has a different approach up her sleeve if her student doesn't respond. I would love dd to play long term and that's not going to happen with this teacher. If the change doesn't work, with all I've heard about the other teachers child centred (but rigorous and technique focused) approach then I'll have to conclude piano isn't for her.

puffinnuffin Wed 10-Jul-13 21:46:55

I teach Music. I have never heard the saying aloud the notes for piano when playing- seems very dd.

I would change teachers otherwise your DD could go totally off the piano. I wish I had done this for my DD. She has had lessons for 5 years with the same teacher and only just took Grade 1 in the Autumn. I should have listened to my gut reactions as I am sure she should have made more progress than that! We have just changed teachers so fingers crossed.

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