Ethel Smith, Arizona
As a new SM teacher, it is sometimes hard to understand why songs are placed in a particular order.
Would it matter if I switched Amazing Grace and Honey Dew? It seems to me that Amazing Grace is perhaps easier, since it only uses the chords just learned in Jackson Blues, whereas Honey Dew adds in some new chords.
I have an adult student who is really struggling and she really wants to learn Amazing Grace. She is on Jackson Blues now, and I thought, why not skip ahead to Amazing Grace as a reward for her hard work, and come back to Honey Dew in a few weeks.
Cindy B., Illinois
I believe that ‘easy’ is not the only criteria. I believe that the order of the songs is designed to make the peaks, plateaus, and valleys a reality for the students from the outset. I asked Neil once about why introduce Star Sp Banner so early, when it’s so complicated. He said, consider it a preview. While I stick to the program order pretty consistently, there are occasions when I present a song out of order. When an adult student wants to learn Amazing Grace really bad, I’ve taught it early – though I don’t call it a reward because I want to avoid too much or the rewards earned mentality.
Kerry V., Australia
Hi Ethel, remember, you call the shots in the lessons not your students. Once you move onto AG because she likes it and wants it then she will push for more. You would then think, well, I changed HD with AG, I can do that with this song and that song. It can become very messy in keeping up. You also mention that AG ‘seems’ easier. Some students do find the shift harder because of a couple of shifts in it.
There is always a method to the madness. When you go into HD, there are similarities with this and Blues in that it is chords but the movement is different and you have different chords to use. HD can help shift from confusion between the two songs. It is not about the chords as such in HD it is about moving easily on the keyboard. Both thumbs are on C. However, play AG now and you will have confusion as the which way to move the right hand, (that can happen with JB too but not as much) and how often one would ask themselves, “which song am I playing?”, and also, AG actually teaches you now to have the bottom C played not the top C in the left hand. There are subtle shifts that need to be noted in AG that are not evident in HD. There is a natural progression with all the songs. Trust the process, as you want your students to trust the process. The only time I skip HD and go to Chester is if the student is really having difficulty with JB. Having said that, I have only done this a few times in 10 years.
What you really want to be asking is “why is this lady having so much trouble with this particular song. Is it rhythm? Is it timing? Has she misunderstood something about the song? Has her mind gone so far into doing AG that she is not focused on the job at hand?
Some people, when they start level 1, can struggle. It takes time so maybe she needs smaller chunks.
Mark M., New York
Grasping the difference positions used between Jackson and Amazing Grace is something that would be complicated by doing them back to back, I believe. Best to let Jackson seep in toward second nature for a while before introducing the switches.