Adult Student Moving Too Fast?
Brianna B., Arizona
I have a very challenging student and would like some ideas. This student is an adult. I guess partly why she is hard for me is that I am very new teacher. I have only been licensed since like September. She is definitely a challenge. She has never had lessons, but she seems really good to me. She plays for her church. I have now given her 4 lessons. I taught her 5 songs the first lessons, five the second, and the third we just reviewed. The fourth one I gave her 7 or 8 variations for the foundation 1 songs, and I gave her the first 2 Dreams arrangements.
I am not sure how fast to allow her to go. Do you think this is too fast? She is a really good student– she practices regularly the way I have requested and everything. I am not all the way through the arrangements 1 myself yet. And I am still struggling with Composition. I have finished Foundation 1 and am halfway through Foundation 2.
I knew her before starting lessons. I think she would be willing to wait on me to get a little further along if necessary.
Thanks in advance for any ideas.
Sheri R., California
I have a student that also has previous experience and learns quickly. However, because you are a new teacher you’ll definitely need to figure out how to stay at least a few steps ahead of her! That will be challenging!
She is obviously on the extreme side of the learning curve. If she is learning and retaining (that is key!) everything, then I wouldn’t worry. However, I imagine soon the pace will need to slow down–it can be
easier for an experienced student to learn level one more quickly than subsequent levels. And as you go through the levels come back frequently to the playlist–sometimes when someone learns so quickly, they are more prone to forgetting the earlier songs–so do lots of review.
I would encourage her to take the songs that she knows so far and start using them as templates of improvisation and/or composition. It’s great fun to take the foundation songs and change the rhythms and/or the order of the notes and is a good way to ease into improvisation.
Perhaps, to slow her down a bit to give you time to put some space between yourselves, have her write new lyrics to all the songs. Or have her try to play the songs in different keys by using her ear (since she doesn’t know about keys yet). (Like Dreams Variation but now have her place her hands on E, or F, or G, etc. That is not something I ask students to do at this level, but she will learn a lot in the process and it will slow her down too.)
You’ll want to be sure not to give her written instructions for the arrangements so she can get the full benefits of learning that way. I would be very surprised if she were able to remember all the variations you gave her if you gave them to her without written instruction. (It’s tempting to write the instructions but in the long run it is more beneficial not to–you can find the rationale for this on the intranet.) While teaching arrangements, also have her figure out the melodies to Honey and A. Grace, and then add the left hand for the complete song.
I would definitely start her in the Accompaniments Program right away. This will give her lots of great stuff for playing and composing.
I would also be sure at the lessons that she is able to reproduce the songs on the keypad, not just on the piano. This really shows whether she is developing a good relationship with the patterns which are crucial for later reading as well as memorizing.
Have fun with her!
Sharon B., AU
Some of the lessons I’ve found useful for students who pick up everything so fast:
- use Dreams Come True arrangement #3 as a composition exercise. The left hand stays the same and she makes up a new melody with the right hand..(can also be good for improvisation)
- introduce blues improv-working with the C blues scale, and the use of different rhythmic devices in the melody eg, repeating notes, playing octaves, playing short ‘stabbing’ notes occasionally, taking a 3 note phrase and copying the rhythm using three other notes in the scale. She can practice improv at home by putting on one of the blues cd’s- B’street blues,
- Jackson B’s and putting the cd on ‘repeat’.
- start the rhythm program
- get her to bring in what she plays in church and see if you can introduce a few new ideas for her (like varying the left hand)
Hope this may help.
Cindy B., Illinois
Is she also mastering her playlist, video and audio recording skills? She must watch and listen to all of the home materials if for no reason than to develop the habit and efficient use of these tools while it is still easy. I agree with Sheri when she says not to be writing extra notes or instructions – that’s a ‘shortcut’ that will destroy the process.
Be careful to avoid any hint of “making work”. If an adult student thinks you’re just ‘filling in’ the lesson to keep her busy, she’ll resent it, but if all the extra-foundational assignments have a purpose in her musical education, she’ll be glad to do them.
In the end, you can only teach her what you know – so do your best and rest with that.