When To Move Ahead
Carol Z., Ohio
I have been teaching an 8 year old for 4 months. He’s a really bright kid and generally picks things up pretty quickly. We are just finishing up Chester and I’d like to begin Ode to Joy this week. The reason I haven’t moved ahead sooner is because he is still slow on the Jackson Blues and Honey Dew rhythms, hesitating between each chord change. My question is when do you typically advance to the next song? He has the what to play down, it’s the how to play that I’m concerned about.
Do I move ahead and continue to check in on those two pieces? Dreams and Night Storm are absolutely no problem and I’ve taught him the variations for them. I just don’t know if I’m getting too hung up on the HOW to play part.
I’m considering showing the first Dreams arrangement as well this week. Not sure about that one yet.
Cheri S., Utah
Great question, not only for these songs but in general–how good do songs need to be before moving on to the next one? I’m very interested in hearing other teacher’s input on this.
Another question is how to help students smooth over those gaps between chords. Sometimes that happens naturally with time, but other times students need to go through the “Leaving Early” process. (Foundation TTM materials–comes up a couple times)
Meanwhile, here are a couple more things you could do if you decide to wait, or to introduce the next songs in smaller doses:
1) Before the Dreams arrangement, you could introduce some simple variations on Dreams and Night Storm (if you haven’t already). Teachers have come up with a few beyond the ones in the Level 1 TTM. Including the “official” variations, here are some I use (I don’t always use all of these–it depends on the student): Soaring Dreams (or Dreams High on D), Chinese (or Asian) Dreams, Space Dreams, Night Dreams, and Night Bridge.
2) Comp/Improv: Here are a few C/I ideas: fiddle around in the Dreams & Night Storm positions, make up new lyrics for a Foundation song, create a 3-note song (from C/I TTM materials), say a line from a poem and then play that rhythm on the piano (try in class and then they can play around all week with that sentence, or even add another line of their own), improv around a theme (clouds, rain, fire, Halloween …).
3) More chord practice: Songs for Children is a great resource for this, but you can also find lots of public domain songs online that use only CFG (or I IV V and you can make it CFG).
Vicki J., Colorado
I have a student who was 8 when she started and she picked up everything very quickly EXCEPT changing chords smoothly in Jackson Blues. I had Mom or Dad clap extremely slowly along with her as she played. Slowing way down enabled her to get those chord changes in tempo without pauses. Then she could gradually work up to speed. We have to do that same process with other blues pieces as they come along. Slowing down enough is sometimes difficult – I know from my own experience with difficult passages!!
Cate R., Australia
I have sometimes noticed that if children learn how to find the notes as their ABC’s and do them well forward they seemed to get stumped at Honey Dew. Maybe it’s not a rhythm thing but a finding notes thing? Can he find the notes without reciting his ABC’s. Is he using the black notes as his location finders?
Rochelle G., California
I just move forward as soon as the what to do is down, and the how to do has a good start. Whether it is with an arrangement, etc. or the next foundation piece depends on different variables, but I have found that if we move forward (even if it is very slowly) while still working on the rough spots of the playlist, then we are happily moving forward while the whole playlist continues to improve. Especially with younger students, the coordination required for certain pieces may take some time. I don’t want them to feel stuck in one place, and possibly feel defeated. Then one day when they play those chords, when they play those blues, it has “magically” come together and we all rejoice! The magic, of course, is weeks of playing!