Teaching Foundation Only?
Karen D., Canada
I am just covering my bases/honesty here – I just had a student inform me via email that she only enjoys learning the video-supported material and wonders if I can teach her only this, or if I know a teacher who teaches only the SHM video-supported material. This student is nearing the end of Foundation Level 3 (also mid-Accompaniment 1 and with around 3 to 5 Arrangements).
I have written back informing her that I do not know of any Simply Music Teacher who does not also teach variations and arrangements, etc., but I also told her that I would ask to make sure I am not mistaken (although I phrased it a bit differently).
So, to be sure, are there any Simply Music Teachers who teach only the SHM video-supported Foundation program (no variations, no arrangements, not sure if she’s having issues with accompaniment)?
This is an adult student who has been trying to claim territory since her first lesson. I think she also perceives herself as having issues with learning & remembering the variations and arrangements when this does not seem to be the case, in my opinion. She can be quite hard on herself.
Regardless, I do want to make sure I am providing her with accurate information by stating that every Simply Music Teacher teaches outside of the video-supported materials and sees value in the depth provided by the variations and arrangements.
Judy F., Georgia
To continue this conversation, most of my adult students feel the same way as Karen’s adult student, about trying to remember the variations and arrangements without video support, and comment frequently that they wish Simply Music would add that to the curriculum, even though I continually try to remind them of the reasoning behind NOT having the video and NOT taking notes. I, too, have lost adult students because of this very issue.
I believe Ernest A. once commented (and correct me if I am mistaken) that he does not always stress (enforce) the muscle memory with adults students like he does with younger ones, since they are learning for a different reason and lose the joy of learning due to the stress and fear of not remembering. I have softened my “requirements” in this area and just keep trying to reinforce learning by developing muscle memory.
I was wondering if Laurie R. (or others) would be willing to post the reasons again for not taking notes for all of us teachers, since she just referred to this topic in her recent post regarding giving out the music books before the reading program. I always feel like I am not convincing my adult students of the value and benefits of learning without supplemental materials/notes.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
This is so common with adults. You’re probably spot-on about it being a claiming territory issue.
The Simply Music curriculum is designed as a complete curriculum, not a collection of stand-alone programs. Each stream complements the others. I understand making the occasional exception with a few students due to their circumstances, but it wasn’t designed to be presented in that way to the average person (even adults!!).
I always look at it as an opportunity for adults to experience breakthroughs beyond their playing – in their thinking, in their assumptions, etc. I have a VERRRRY stubborn adult student with prior experience who gives me such a hard time about not being able to take notes for arrangements. She gets frustrated, mad, even curses sometimes, but she knows absolutely that I won’t budge, and we have conversations every week about this. Most adults need to be guided over time toward a different way of processing information than they ever have before.
What we do in class is really talk about the learning strategy used in any section of an arrangement, repeating verbally several times anything she needs to remember. I tell the class, “If you just trust your brain to remember this, it may or may not happen. But if you have a specific phrase or verbal instruction that you can recall and say out loud at home, then you will have that clue to rely on.” It might just be a starting position for an arr. – quick example, Night Storm #1 might be “3 on C, everything but finger 4”. We say it out loud several times and again as they walk out the door.
I also encourage students regularly to come up with their own clues that make sense to them. Often I will use their clues with other classes. Another example from Night Storm #1 – an adult student would put both thumbs up and say “Aaaay” like the Fonz (for us old people) – that was her clue that both thumbs start on A. Hilarious, and it works great that generation.
If people just don’t think they WANT to learn a specific stream, I simply say that in my studio I am only interested in offering the complete curriculum because of the amazing results it brings, and because it was designed to be presented that way. Every piece serves a purpose.
The main exception would be a specific-focus class; for example I currently teach a Worship Acc. class using all the accompaniment materials and other resources from Ernest’s and Ray’s workshops.
Karen D., Canada
Thank you all for the fabulous feedback. I’ll be talking to her tonight (she didn’t come to yesterday’s class because she didn’t think we’d be covering things she’s interested in – AHHH! and also AH HA!). Have been re-listening to requirement vs. request coaching too to make sure it’s well within me.
Marg G., Australia
I have had a few of students question this . Sometimes it’s because they keep wanting to move on to the “next book” and sometimes it’s because they don’t believe they can remember and learn without the support of the videos.
This is my usual response: I draw on the whiteboard as I explain, as it has WAY MORE IMPACT. In lieu of whiteboard I draw on a piece of paper.
Basics are the Roots of the tree
SM Foundation is the Trunk of the tree
[so far I’ve drawn roots and a trunk (wide and tall)]
I then ask – -What is missing?
Even one of my 7 year olds knew that the tree had no branches and no leaves.
I then DRAW in the branches and label them –
Accompaniment, Arrangements etc….
Lastly I use a green whiteboard marker and scribble around the outside to represent leaves. This demonstrates how BARE music would be if we didn’t add the extras which are DEFINITELY part of the whole program.
When teaching the supporting programs, especially to adults, I make sure they go home with a clear idea of what they need to practice and reinforce that they must do it AS SOON AS THEY GET HOME or – Yes – they will forget if they leave it to the next day!!!! They must be responsible to play as soon as they get home.
Adults are usually the ones who are more insecure about begin able to learn without the video support. I make sure for these that I just go over and over things in every possible way both at the lesson when it is introduced and the follow up lessons. I’ve found that a couple of my adults simply don’t trust themselves to remember so I see my job as reinforcing that “yes they can”.
One adult (new to Simply Music in February this year and a bit of a struggler) was in tears a couple of lessons ago because she was convinced she couldn’t really play Dreams Come True. “Oh” – she added “I can play it on the black keys”. So I closed the lid of the piano and asked her to forget about keys, not look at her hands, and play it on the lid. She did it perfectly. I then asked her to trust me and close her eyes. I opened the lid and placed her hands in the correct position on white keys and asked her to keep her eyes shut, imagine them on the black keys and play Dreams Come True. Again, it was perfect. I reminded her she had to trust the process, trust me, and trust herself that SHE COULD DO IT. The following week I had a different person arrive for her lesson she was much more relaxed and was playing in a freer way.
Good luck with your student. I think it’s important for them to realize that the Foundation is just that a foundation on which other things are to be built. Of course we can’t build without the foundation but our music is going to be lifeless without the supporting branches.
Kerry V., Australia
I simply take it slower. Also, I’ve stopped ‘trying’ and I’ve stopped ‘convincing’. I allow them to go through their processing of this (adults).
Thanks for the post Judy as it got me thinking of looking at my ‘conversation’ about these two streams towards adults. As you say, it isn’t so much for the children as we can work with them. It is with the adults’ long term “belief” of memory. Hm, thanks for the prompting to thinking differently.
Terri P., Michigan
If you don’t teach all of the Simply Music streams, you aren’t receiving all of the tools needed to succeed with this method. If they are having trouble remembering, you just need to slow it down, find other ways to help to remember, etc. The only way to utilize the tools (hidden in ALL of the Simply Music curricula) is to know/remember them. This is also the reason you should not write too many notes. If everything is written down, You will not work as hard to remember them.
Barbara M., New Jersey
Many teachers use little reminder phrases like “family dreams.” Relying ONLY on muscle memory would be not even to write that reminder.
Memory does change as we age. Look at how much easier it is to learn a language as a child. You could learn it with no written cues! But a learner over the age of 12 will also be using the written language to help them learn. I think the brain of an adult engaged in a learning process would look much different on a CAT scan than that of a child.
I have always interpreted “don’t write extra notes” as meaning mostly note names. Like I would describe the chord in Ode to Joy variation one (BDF) as a “bottom down” chord and I would allow them to write that.
For notes to learn arrangements I might occasionally use note names as part of a memory cue.
Nightstorm 3 – the first clue I give is A2AUPUP – the number 2 could alternatively be AtoAUPUP. I would write that clue on the board for them to copy. What I would not allow is writing A-E-A-B-C. The next week I would give the clue A2BUPUP. It would take several weeks to learn this arrangement.
Please note that I have not begun using the new playlist book, and Sheri and Jy probably have a different clue for this one.
Sheri R., California
Just want to add a little something to this. I think we all have had the experience of many (if not all!) all our adult students not feeling comfortable with the fact of our expectations of them to not take notes. There are some good rationalizations for this in the transcript library for those adults who can better get behind this expectation if they only knew why we were asking it of them. The kids of course never question it, right?!
Did you know that when Simply Music was first conceived there were absolutely no materials (books, videos, audio files, etc.)? Students relied solely on memory for Dreams Come True, etc. Obviously something was gained when the materials were produced, but in order not to lose the unique benefits of learning without material support, the arrangements program was conceived which allowed students to keep developing that other way of learning because of how powerful it is to all their future playing, be it reading, composing, memorizing from a written page, etc. As such, it has always been my understanding that we are to write absolutely no notes for the arrangements and variations, and I have had much success with this approach when set-up and ongoing conversations are in place.
Beyond that, in the Playlist and Notesbook training there is a section that gives teachers tools to enhance the likelihood of all of our students (yes, even the adults) remembering what we teach in class. In order for students to not get confused about which piece is Arrangement 1, 2, or 3 we renamed all the arrangements to have a little memory jogger embedded in the title but this was done mostly to keep arrangements straight, not to remember how to play them. However, the new titles have also served to help with memory, so strictly speaking, there is a little note for students to remember now and nothing further is really needed.
For example, Honey Dew Variation where the LH placement is on Low C (like Amazing Grace) rather than “ones on C’s” as we teach the original version (that is, LH being on F) has been renamed Low 5, Honey! (yes, with the exclamation mark too.) The clues here are that it is a version of Honey Dew and that the LH low finger (5) moves to a lower position. For this one we also get to physically be playful and say “low 5 honey” to students while giving each other a low 5 with just our LH pinkies! Fun and memorable!
I always try to teach new arrangements at the start of class so that every few minutes throughout class I can then ask students to describe the new piece (showing is different than describing–both are powerful and only one at the expense of the other is less effective although the describing process throughout class, I have found, usually suffices). This reinforcement throughout class really helps the memory for the week of processing and perhaps you’ll have time for them to physically do it one more time at the end of class on the keypads too.
Be sure to let your adults know that it is normal to forget, even with all the steps, but with time they’ll gain confidence in their abilities and they will get better at it. Tell them it is a personal guarantee as long as they follow your guidelines! With note taking they will be robbed of that incredible and far-reaching opportunity.