Playing-Based Methodology

Experienced Students

HeatherLee S., Canada

I find I have to remind myself to breathe as my first lesson looms ever nearer. With more information from the dad about my very first 2 students, I am getting more nervous by the minute. He has told me that he has had Traditional Training, which tells me to leave out the “Music Book” from the Home Materials. I don’t want to give him the opportunity to sabotage my lessons/efforts.

I am also suspicious that my students have also had prior learning. This scares me because I don’t know how fast to go with the materials, meaning how quickly do I get them through each song and when do I add supplemental programs?

Hilary C., Australia

Relax – just be very quietly confident and sure when you explain (and every time you have to explain, and you will) why we delay the reading process – and the more you teach the more convincing you will become because you have your own experience to draw on. I think that students with experience need to realize that the apparently simple pieces are about learning a way to learn, not just to be able to play the simple songs. If they are quick to pick up Dreams at the first lesson for instance ask them to add to it or do a variation of their own. I would teach an arrangement at a later lesson.

Teaching an accompaniment is good as it is most unusual for them to have done that: getting them to make something up is also usually new.

I always explain that i am taking away the temptation of the music book because from my own experience as a long term reader I know how my brain rebelled against having to function without the crutch.

Also, what does it mean to say that the father has traditional training? You could gently explore this –
Is he a drop out – see how reading first up is too hard and doesn’t work for too many people. Does he still play – if not why not? – and find discussion points to reinforce the SM methodology.

In my view one goes as fast as the student can solidly go – AND you won’t deliver everything you know in one lesson.

Joanne J., Australia

Firstly – we have all been there!!! Oh how we would like to have our first students over again!

3 things I feel to keep uppermost when traditional learning is likely to have an impact:

1. Have Dad doing exactly what the children are doing during the lesson for the entire level 1 on the Key Pad and then on the Keyboard.

(This may take some convincing but it will transform the whole learning experience for the children if Dad is engaged in the process and therefore using Simply Music language when he helps them at home – it is worth everything it takes to have this happen)

2. Explain at the very beginning that knowing how much or how little to deliver at each lesson is going to be an ongoing judgment call and you need them to work with you on this – i.e. let you know if it seemed too much or too little at any time. You will find you will sense this quite easily once under way with them. There will always be the odd occasion that we don’t get it right but having given them permission to discuss it with you it is very easy to deal with when we over or under do it. The golden rule which I know I still have to remind myself of (after 7 years teaching!) is that LESS is more!

3. An absolute requirement is that Dad TRUSTS THE PROCESS. Let him know that you appreciate how hard this might be at first but assure him that his trust will not be misplaced – I (and no doubt a thousand others now) can promise you that from my own experience.

Good luck – you will be wonderful.

Cate R., Australia

I’m only a new teacher.  I haven’t even started my first student but have starting tomorrow and 6 in the pipe line. I have had a enquiry from a Mum whose 9yr boy has had prior experience – 3-4 years with a traditional piano teacher. From what I can gather he site reads well but Mum is frustrated because he doesn’t like doing the piano and wants to learn violin. Mum says he can play Fur Elise and probably has managed to memorize it. She wants private lessons which is OK by me.

I feel that they might think level 1 is too simple for him. She says that both she and Grandma have been pushing him to practice a lot and it now has become an issue between Grandma, Mum and child. What have other teachers come across.

Melinda P., Michigan

I don’t know that there is a magic solution to this problem that we all encounter from time to time with our students. Pushing the child too hard is going to end in rebellion in most kids – not all – and end up making music an unpleasant part of the day. I don’t like to use the word bribery, but a reward system is the only thing that I know of that has potential to work well. It should be something that the child and parents and grandparent sit down and talk about – and the child has a SAY in what he wants as a suitable reward for his efforts. He doesn’t get final word on it, but he has to feel he has some influence.

If violin is something he wants to do – then I say – DO IT!!!! How many times have you heard the story – I wanted so much to play _____fill in the blank, but I never got the chance and I regret that. That can be part of the reward system. Ex. – son, you continue to take piano lessons, because they are important to me, mom and grandma and because they are a wonderful foundation for other musical learning – such as violin. In the next month, you show me that you can commit to a regular practice time without fighting and arguing, and after that month of time, you continue to take piano and we will add violin.

Two instruments is not a big deal for someone who loves music. I played many – and I am sure many of you also learned multiple instruments. Music needs to have fun put back in – when it becomes a drag. What about his composing skills? What about jazz improv on the piano?? What does he love to do?? Make sure it is part of every lesson and every weeks practice – let him have some say within guidelines so that he feels a partner in the process. What a balancing act it all is – good luck!!!!!

Kitty M.

ALL my students, on starting SM, were experienced. I would recommend that you brush up on the arrangements and composition in order to introduce them as soon as Dreams Come True is learned, because outside your usual expectation to incorporate these, an experienced student will appreciate the more complex nature of what you are presenting and asking.

All my students are enjoying what they are doing – it is so different from their previous lessons. In any case, best meet for an FIS and explore the possibilities in person. I think you will find your answers after doing this – if Mum is on board, and son seems excited with the new music he will be playing, this can be a win win situation. Last, talk with Mum about the violin lessons. Is she liable to agree to his taking both instruments? Is it necessary for him to being violin at this point to be in school or community orchestra (that is, are there overriding concerns with regard to starting age?)? How would both Mum and son feel about committing to piano, fresh with SM, for one year, and then make decision whether to continue while taking violin?

Finally, you being a new teacher – is this new to SM only, or completely new to teaching? Listen to what you are thinking – don’t discount your own feelings in the process. You’ve been through the training, you are equipped, but you do have a full plate just starting out. Do be mindful of yourself!