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Shoudl I be upset with this music teacher?

(28 Posts)
steppemum Tue 28-Mar-17 11:31:52

OK, we are not a musical family, but I have encouraged kids to learn an instrument.
dd2 is learning clarinet, she is 9, year 4 and has been learning for about a year. She is very conscientious and practices for 15 minutes every single morning, but is making slow progress.

I used to play the clarinet 30 years ago, only to grade 3 level, but I do play other things and currently play in the training part of a brass band with dd1, I only say this to show I can read music etc, but not to a high level.

dd1 has her clarinet Prep test tomorrow. At her last lesson, the teacher told her she wasn't ready and didn't know the pieces well enough. She has practised and practised and I can't see how she can play them any better really, she isn't always note perfect, and she sometimes gets the timing a bit off, but they are fine, and I am sure good enough to pass. On a good day, they are perfect, with good dynamics and sound great, so she can do it on a good day, just not every time.

One piece is supposed to have a piano accompaniment. There is no piano at school. We live round corner from school and have a piano, but it needs tuning. Teacher has failed to make any suggestions or arrangements for her to practice this with a piano. I am willing to take her to the Music Cente etc and teacher knows this. Her final suggestion is that she comes to the exam early tomorrow and they will practice the piece with the piano then. I am pretty sure this will be a bad experience for dd as she won;t get it first time and it will dent her confidence for the exam.

Then this morning, I noticed in the back of the Prep test book, it says the examiner will play these games with her, clap and repeat rhythms, beat time to a piece of music, play 3 notes and sing them back, and comment on dynamics of a piece. I asked dd if she had practiced these with teacher. No.

I tried one or two with her. She hasn't a clue, can't sing the notes back, can't beat time. She can repeat the clapped rythmn as they do it at school.
I am so cross. She could have learnt these. If I had realised earlier I could even have done them with her. She needs to be taught them, she obvioulsy isn't a natural musician, but she loves playing her clarinet and I wanted this to be a positive experience for her. Never mind that it has cost enough to enter her for it!

Is this my fault? dd's fault? Teacher's fault?

I am I just being precious considering that this exam isn't marked anyway? None of this is helped by the fact that dh will take her to the exam, so he will need to talk to the teacher, not me.

steppemum Tue 28-Mar-17 11:32:54

sorry, too long.
and now I have to go out, so can't reply til tonight.

se22mother Tue 28-Mar-17 11:41:32

Hi, if it is the Abrsm prep test you can't actually fail I believe. Your child will get a mark sheet then and there with plenty of constructive feedback..

Taft said your teacher should have explained the whole test set up to your dd

Jng1 Tue 28-Mar-17 11:43:46

Sounds like a crap music teacher - we have had these. Is it an ABRSM exam? If so, you can usually download practice tests and piano accompaniments from their website.

I think the more important issue here is whether your daughter is enjoying playing the clarinet, or whether she is doing it because you want her to?
I only ask this, as I fell into the 'I played a musical instrument, so my children will too' trap. DS1 loved it, was naturally talented, and has progressed to Grade 8 with ease and plays in numerous bands/ groups etc. DS2 hated his first instrument, so we swapped to another. Hated that, so we swapped teacher. He was making painfully slow progress and eventually I just said to the teacher 'I think this is a waste of time and he doesn't even enjoy it'. Huge sigh of relief all round.

LesLavandes Tue 28-Mar-17 11:45:27

For the Prep Test, the examiners are very encouraging. There is no pass or fail. I would contact the teacher and ask her why she has not rehearsed the piece with an accompanist and also question the lack of aural practice. She could always do it next term. If it was me, I would change the teacher. I am a musician myself. Good luck sorting this issue.

SarahMused Tue 28-Mar-17 11:50:44

Firstly don't panic, if it is the ABRSM one there is no pass or fail, just helpful comments. There is information on the website which should put your mind at rest.

Is it a private teacher or does she learn at school, in a group or on her own? The problem with school based tuition is that to keep the cost down the lessons are often only 20 mins with several students of different abilities and by the time they are ready and tuned up the lesson is virtually over. The teacher may not have a lot of time to prepare for the aural and with no piano at school it is difficult to practise with the accompaniment. If she has 30 mins on her own, the teacher should have time to cover it though.
For future reference you can buy mp3s of the accompaniments which you can use to play along with at home from the main exam boards and cds and books for the aural.

CotswoldStrife Tue 28-Mar-17 12:00:04

If it is the ABRSM prep test then it's not a fail thing - she will get a report and if she hasn't done well in an area then I'd expect some tactful feedback. Is the teacher referring to pieces that are played from memory on the day?

I am surprised that the teacher hasn't covered the rythmn section though, I would ask her why not (via note if needed) tbh. My DD learns an instrument at school and did the prep test for it last year, she was a bit nervous but enjoyed it in the end. We had one private lesson with the teacher (requested by the teacher) to practice the piano accompaniment as although DD's school has a piano they can't always use it.

DD had also already done some of the rythmn exercises in dance exams so she was used to that.

Good luck! I hope your DD enjoys the test!

musicmomma Tue 28-Mar-17 12:01:44

Hi steppe - I'm a music teacher who has just embarked on maternity leave as I'm 38 weeks pregnant. I have just had children going in for their Abrsm exams this time and one is taking their exam tomorrow! I have made sure they have thoroughly practised their aural tests (clapping, singing etc) and I have rehearsed with them with the piano religiously. I can't go with them to the exams now as I am too pregnant but I have put in place a foolproof plan with an alternative piano accompanist with whom they have already practised several times. The teacher should have arranged al of this for you-it's their job! Sending children in for exams before they're 10000% ready is a crap idea. I'm sure she will be fine as it is only a prep test and they are pretty relaxed to encourage the children. I would definitely have a word with the teacher about this.

Noteventhebestdrummer Tue 28-Mar-17 12:04:11

Yes, you should be annoyed with the teacher if she really hasn't practised the Listening Games. That's tough on the kid because if you hadn't seen them she would have been really thrown in the deep end.

Now for the next exam...priority is getting the rhythms correct above all else. Because the right note in the wrong place is the wrong note, yes?

Does your DD know how to practise logically? Target tricky sections first rather than playing through pieces and reinforcing mistakes.

Sure the Prep Test will be fine though, most examiners are very encouraging.

RiverdaleJughead Tue 28-Mar-17 12:11:23

My teacher did the same thing - I never practiced and she told me all of my friends would pass and I would fail. My best mate told me we had to do one of the scales right before I went in 🙄 I still fucking beat them all. Music teachers are shit and I don't think kids should be made to play instruments they're no good at. I wanted the drums not the bloody flute

PhilODox Tue 28-Mar-17 12:20:45

Who entered her for the exam? Because if it was the teacher i would be very cross with them for essentially setting her up for failure (you can fail Trinity​ prep test!).
My DS nearly failed his- entirely his fault, lack of preparation and practice, teacher had done everything needed.

musicmomma Tue 28-Mar-17 13:37:09

RiverdaleJughead - we're not all shit, honest! Although I totally sympathise, there are some shocking music 'teachers' out there. I have had to endure some truly truly awful ones in my time. Some really sarcastic and down right resentful of teaching.

steppemum Tue 28-Mar-17 14:21:03

Thanks all.
It is the ABRSM test. She has a private lesson at school, but it is only 15 minutes long. It is paid for by PP money, so I am very reluctant to change as we won't get anyone else under PP money.

She really likes playing, I encouraged each of mine to have a go, they have all chosen an instrument and had a try. dd1 is quite good, plays in a band, but doesn't practice at all! ds played drums, was good and enjoyed it, but as he went to secondary, decided not to continue. dd2 chose clarinet as her school was offering 3 or 4 instruments and I still had my old clarinet, and she decide to play that.
I am glad to be honest, as if it was another insturment I wouldn't have a clue how to support her.

She is always keen to practise, and she practises with me or dh, not on her own, and I know how to go over tricky bits etc, and we have worked hard on timing. If she didn't want to play, I wouldn't push it, but she is as proud as anything that she can play an instrument.

The teacher entered her for the exam, she gets really nervous about new stuff, so we thought an exam with no pass/fail would be a good starting point for her.

steppemum Tue 28-Mar-17 15:02:23

I should add, teacher is very nice, and dd likes her.

AlexanderHamilton Tue 28-Mar-17 15:08:29

I had exactly this problem with dad's Grade 1 piano exam.

I have a music degree & dh is a music teacher but we left dd's teacher to it as we didn't want to be interfering, pushy parents. Then we realised just before her exam she'd not done any aural or sightreading & had only just started her third piece. In fact she wasn't reading the music at all she had memorised the patterns (I'd taught her for 12 months prior to her starting proper lessons & her sight reading was fine/level appropriate back then)

So you have every right to be cross.

Fluteytootey Tue 28-Mar-17 15:10:45

Another music teacher here and I have to say that is pretty crap of the teacher. Neither me, or any of my staff, would get away with this. I'd find a new teacher...
On another note, she can't fail an ABRSM prep test and the examiner will be very kind and welcoming. They'll also accompany for you too. They only do this for the prep test. Has she learnt the 3 little exercises off by heart?

steppemum Tue 28-Mar-17 15:44:10

yes, she can do her 3 little exercises by heart, and can play her 2 pieces too. It's just that some days she plays them really well and others days not!
She also plays 2 scales (G major and F major) and tells me their name and which sharps/flats they have. No idea where that came from as it is never in her note book to practice.

Fluteytootey Tue 28-Mar-17 16:36:15

That's good. They expect there to be a drop in their playing in their first exam due to nerves, that's why the Prep Test is so helpful. So don't worry that sometimes she plays well and other times less so. It's a shame her teacher hasn't prepared her properly but she should still get some helpful comments.
You can practice clapping along in time to any music. Just turn the radio on. And the last question is really easy, she just needs to say whether they piece her examiner plays is loud/quiet or fast/slow. It'll be really obvious! Don't worry too much about singing. Lots of students at the beginning of their learning find it hard to pitch.

Ferguson Tue 28-Mar-17 20:55:17

OP - A shame you didn't come to MN earlier, as - you can see - we can often give help. Do you really want her to take it this time - or might it be better to postpone??

The 'variation' in her performance could possibly be because either it isn't a very good instrument, she hasn't 'warmed it up' thoroughly, or it needs a new reed.

There is a vast amount of on-line help for learning music, and if she does go on to Grade 1, you can probably get CDs of the pieces and other help from ABRSM and other sites.

This site has a lot of helpful stuff:

steppemum Wed 29-Mar-17 08:53:48

Ferguson - I have just been through a whole pack of reeds and found a nice, one, so she has improved a lot this week!
She does play better once warmed up, and she will get a warm up this afternoon, so that is fine.

She played them all this morning really well, and I really encouraged her, dh walked in and said how amazing it sounded as he came downstairs etc, so confidence is well and truly boosted.

She is going to take it, there is no pass or fail. I know the teacher will then want to start heading towards grade 1, which is fine, but I will sit down with her and ask about the aural stuff.
I did try to find the accompaniment online, but couldn't find the prep test, only the grade1 and up, but next time we will buy it.

I didn't come on earlier, because I only discovered the aural stuff on Tuesday morning!

One problem I get is that if I suggest anything, but teacher hasn't specifically said to do it, she won't do it as I am not the teacher. We had this with the dynamics. One piece has a massive crescendo/decrescendo on the middle line, once she knew the piece I pointed it out, and played it to her with the crescendo, and suggested she try it. No, teacher hasn't told me what that is. I put a note in her book saying she was asking what it was, but didn't believe me as I am not the teacher! Teacher taught it that week, and she now takes great pride in remembering to put it in when she plays.

ellesbellesxxx Wed 29-Mar-17 09:04:53

I am a music teacher and am shocked by this.. I make sure that they have gone through the pieces with the piano with me (although give the parents the job of getting the accompanist if I can't do it) and aural is such a basic.
If school are paying for the lessons it might be worth saying to them about it?

AlexanderHamilton Wed 29-Mar-17 09:20:09

To be fair to the teacher 15 minutes is a ridiculous amount of time. A friend who is a flute teacher has similar problems. Schools expect her to prepare students for exams but by the time they have played one of their pieces and gone through a few corrections the lesson is over.

There would simply be no time for aural tests

steppemum Wed 29-Mar-17 15:32:53

well, I've picked her up and dh has taken her to the test.

There is another girl doing her grade 1, who has a lesson after dd. Her grandma was picking her up and she said to me - teacher is lovely but isn't consistent, she hasn't done the aural, or practised with a piano, and her GD is doing grade 1.

I know her fairly well, and I said to her we will get our piano tuned and 3 months before the next exams, I will be proactive and get teacher to have lesson here, and her GD is welcome to join us, for piano practice and aural. Lessons are straight after school and we live on same road as school, and teacher went to this girl's house to practise on the piano with her last year, so I know it is possible.

As we are getting lessons paid for, I am willing to do quite a lot myself (eg aural stuff) if dd will let me, as long as I know that it is needed. It is realising the day before what has been missed which is so galling.

SarahMused Wed 29-Mar-17 20:43:28

It will make all the difference to her to have you proactively involved. The teacher may appreciate your involvement as well with such a short lesson especially if there are specific things you can take on. Hope the prep test went well and your daughter gets some positive comments from the examiner.

steppemum Thu 30-Mar-17 08:55:43

She came out buzzing, with her 'certificate' (comments written on lovely posh crested paper)
Comments were lovely, very encouraging, she is taking it in to show her class today.

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