Student having difficulty with reference clues
Heidi M., Canada
One of my new students is progressing quite well but she says she doesn’t find all the reference clues helpful although I take time to explain them. Some she gets but not others. Tonight when I was teaching Chester Chills Out, she said she needed to write down what to play with her fingers, which fingers play black notes, which ones play white ones, etc., in the Chinese music format. I asked her why she needed that and she said the reference clues aren’t helping. So I explained them again and also explained that these reference clues are important.
She can play it slowly and can play both hands to together but she thinks she cannot use the reference clues to remember it. I don’t want to be too rigid but am concerned she won’t learn it the SM way and therefore could have problems later.
She also keeps pulling out the sheet music; for example, today she asked me, “Is the upper part played by the RH and the lower one by the LH?” I told her she should not be using that now. She joked about how she wishes she could use it because it “looks more sophisticated”. I laughed and said “if you now are willing to use the no-so-sophisticated looking method then you will learn to play more quickly and soon sound more sophisticated”. She accepted that. But it is not the first time her obsession with wanting to use the score sheets even just a “little bit” has popped up – in spite of my repeated explanations from the beginning about how SM is different from traditional methods and why we delay the reading.
In short, I feel she is a bit resistant to fully trusting the SM way. She never had lessons before, but she is from China where the approach to music lessons has been very rigidly based on score sheets. Also, she is a scientist so she is more used to using the logical part of the brain. I can understand why she struggles with this, but I would value some suggestions on how to deal with this. I thought of taking away her sheet music but since she has digital access she (as an adult) could just print it again.
Cate R., Australia
As all students are different types of learners I also use the dinosaur chord here:
- Chord 1: two legs, horn in the middle and two legs on the other side
- Chord 2: also two legs but he also has two horns so that means one leg on the other side
- Chord 3: all white up and just the middle black one on the way down
Get her to look at and feel the hand shapes. If she can play it slowly, really get her into how it feels on the piano.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
Your student is trying to ‘fit’ a completely different way of learning into something she already knows. It doesn’t fit, so she resists. She has to be open to letting go of her expectations and trusting you as her teacher as well as the method. The only way for her to do that is through your coaching. That’s challenging if you haven’t been teaching very long, I understand – I’ve been there.
A few main points to communicate in this situation:
- If your perspective is that you’re just learning a bunch of songs, you’re missing the point – you are learning a new way of learning. You are teaching your brain to process music in a different way.
- If you avoid the diagrams because they don’t immediately fit with something you know and consequently you use the music or make your own notes, you are not using the Simply Music method and you will not achieve the promised results.
I like to give some reassuring information communicated very confidently (even if you don’t feel confident in this yet), that the method is constructed very intentionally, with each concept you teach leading into something – a scaffolding effect.
Some students, particularly adults, seem to be dead set in their views. I look at these as opportunities to help them open their minds to new possibilities. I like to ask a question starting with “Are you willing to consider the possibility that….” e.g. “Are you willing to consider the possibility that you are capable of having enormous success even if you let go of your expectations and follow all of my instructions? Are you willing to give it a try, do ONLY what I ask you to do, and just see what happens?”. Some are, some aren’t.
The ones who aren’t willing probably will not stay with you long and will continue to undermine your teaching. Those who ARE willing have an opportunity to discover something wonderful and to maybe even be more open-minded in other areas once they experience success.
I recommend listening to several of Neil’s core conversation audio files in the initial training. They will boost your confidence in communicating the more fundamental things.
Jacqui G., Canada
Laurie, I love “are you willing to consider…” It really throws the ball back into their court, doesn’t it? My adult student (who has 2 more songs in Foundation 3) has always been impatient about learning to read music. One day I sat her down and said, “Do you trust me?” She thought a minute and said, “Yes”. So the wistful hints about reading have stopped.
Heidi M., Canada
One thing I am thinking of trying is asking her (as a scientist) to try an experiment – see what will happen if she entirely trusts me/SM in this process for a certain time (let’s say a year) and then she can reevaluate. In her field, you have to conduct an experiment over a long period of time before getting conclusion so she may be able to relate to this. Scientists LOVE experiments!