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Advice needed about an adult pupil


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#16 corenfa

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 19:35

As an adult student who has gone through many such plateaus, I can confirm that it is always followed by a sudden spike in fluency. Over the years, this is what keeps me going. I think of it like putting money in the bank and it all paying out at once.
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#17 jenny

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 20:00

 

 

Also, I know it's not against the rules, but it is odd for a student to go ahead in theory well beyond their practical level. It may be he has a strong need to be absolutely correct about things. And that is possible when you're writing down the correct note, but not always the best attitude to take to playing music. Maybe he needs some improvisation to take him out of his 'box'? Of course, he may be doing this already. 

 

I don't feel that it's odd and have experienced it quite a few times with adults. I once taught a retired lady who became fascinated by the theory side of things and reached Grade 5 theory but never got further than a fairly basic level with her playing. I think it's the same with this pupil, who is really enjoying learning about how music 'works'. I have another adult pupil who also feels like this and who started lessons with me last autumn and has already taken the Grade 3 theory exam. I have been passionate about theory all my life and I suppose I'm passing on my enthusiasm to my pupils. And not just the adults.      


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#18 Aquarelle

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 20:45

I am incapable of teaching adults so am not qualified to give advice. So i will give encouragement instead - I'm sure jenny, you will get him going again. The only thing I could think of saying is, would he like to play some duets with you?


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#19 jenny

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 21:00

Good idea, Aquarelle. I do enjoy playing duets with my pupils, but haven't done it so much with this one. I'll find out one of my duet books for his next lesson. 


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#20 jpiano

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 22:40

I've taught many adult pupils and I find that some are especially curious and intrigued by the theory, history and context of the music they're playing. I enjoy this too and I love teaching these areas. The other thing I find with my adult pupils is that the amount of time they either have, or are prepared to put aside, for practice can vary hugely between different individuals, and theory, keyboard harmony and analysis of pieces are activities we can do in the lesson which enormously aid a deep understanding of the music, but are less dependent upon regular weekly practise than the learning of pieces. Of course, children can also vary greatly in the amount of work they put in at home, but generally I find that many adults are motivated by a deep love of music and a desire to learn everything they can about it.


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#21 Hildegard

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 07:38

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I don't feel that it's odd and have experienced it quite a few times with adults. I once taught a retired lady who became fascinated by the theory side of things and reached Grade 5 theory but never got further than a fairly basic level with her playing. I think it's the same with this pupil, who is really enjoying learning about how music 'works'. I have another adult pupil who also feels like this and who started lessons with me last autumn and has already taken the Grade 3 theory exam. I have been passionate about theory all my life and I suppose I'm passing on my enthusiasm to my pupils. And not just the adults.      

 

Do you really feel that theory, at least up to Grade 5, teaches much about how music 'works'? It is mainly about notation, and very little about how and why pieces are structured in the way they are, and how music creates the effect it does. Nor is there much about style and texture - why Bach didn't write atonal music, how ritornello form works, why sonata form started to dominate music after 1750, why early vocal music often needs to be sung at a lower pitch than written, and so on.


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#22 jenny

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 08:04

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I don't feel that it's odd and have experienced it quite a few times with adults. I once taught a retired lady who became fascinated by the theory side of things and reached Grade 5 theory but never got further than a fairly basic level with her playing. I think it's the same with this pupil, who is really enjoying learning about how music 'works'. I have another adult pupil who also feels like this and who started lessons with me last autumn and has already taken the Grade 3 theory exam. I have been passionate about theory all my life and I suppose I'm passing on my enthusiasm to my pupils. And not just the adults.      

 

Do you really feel that theory, at least up to Grade 5, teaches much about how music 'works'? It is mainly about notation, and very little about how and why pieces are structured in the way they are, and how music creates the effect it does. Nor is there much about style and texture - why Bach didn't write atonal music, how ritornello form works, why sonata form started to dominate music after 1750, why early vocal music often needs to be sung at a lower pitch than written, and so on.

 

I tell new pupils that learning the theory of music is like learning a new language. At first they don't understand anything on a page of music, but gradually it all starts to make sense to them. To adult beginners, this is usually fascinating and we connect what they're learning in theory to the pieces that they're working on, which I find really helps them to understand more about what they're playing. I can move on further if it seems suitable, often by analyzing chords and discussing the style and form of the piece. I really enjoy working like this with adults and seeing their understanding grow.         


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#23 Hildegard

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 10:13

 

I tell new pupils that learning the theory of music is like learning a new language. At first they don't understand anything on a page of music, but gradually it all starts to make sense to them. To adult beginners, this is usually fascinating and we connect what they're learning in theory to the pieces that they're working on, which I find really helps them to understand more about what they're playing. I can move on further if it seems suitable, often by analyzing chords and discussing the style and form of the piece. I really enjoy working like this with adults and seeing their understanding grow.         

 

 

Although the big drawback with the theory exam is that it is like a language that you don't get to hear, for the exam is totally silent. It is like an art exam in which you never get to see a painting.


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#24 Dorcas

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 10:20

.

I don't feel that it's odd and have experienced it quite a few times with adults. I once taught a retired lady who became fascinated by the theory side of things and reached Grade 5 theory but never got further than a fairly basic level with her playing. I think it's the same with this pupil, who is really enjoying learning about how music 'works'. I have another adult pupil who also feels like this and who started lessons with me last autumn and has already taken the Grade 3 theory exam. I have been passionate about theory all my life and I suppose I'm passing on my enthusiasm to my pupils. And not just the adults.      

 

Do you really feel that theory, at least up to Grade 5, teaches much about how music 'works'? It is mainly about notation, and very little about how and why pieces are structured in the way they are, and how music creates the effect it does. Nor is there much about style and texture - why Bach didn't write atonal music, how ritornello form works, why sonata form started to dominate music after 1750, why early vocal music often needs to be sung at a lower pitch than written, and so on.

 

I think the beginning theory grades are ideal for those new to music.  They may deal mostly with notation, but they also cover important topics like tonality, how key signatures work, and intervals.  The grounding can lead onto a more thematic understanding of musical form and history.


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#25 hennylemon

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 10:31

If you wouldn't mind some input from an adult student...

 

Learning the piano can be such a lonely experience sometimes.  It's very different from other instruments where you can join a band or orchestra; and even if you have a friend who is learning, say, the sax, you've got to be at quite a decent level before you can accompany.

 

Teachers often say how good this forum is for feeling that they're not alone, and the same can be said for adult students too.  Very often adult students have no-one who they can talk to about their musical journey, or even if they do have someone to talk to about it, very few people except other adult students really understand the journey.  One of the great things about this forum is the feeling that you're not alone on the journey, and that there's always somebody ready to listen to your tale of woe, or to celebrate your achievements with you, or to help you in-between lessons.  I've been a member of this forum for 13 years and it's been a lifeline on more than one occasion when I've felt particularly down about my progress.  So I would suggest to him that he joins this forum of like-minded souls so that his musical journey isn't an isolating one and he realises that we all have the same peaks, troughs and plateaux smile.png

 

As an adult piano learner (about 2.5 yrs) I wholeheartedly agree. I also sing, so I'm very curious about how a melody and piano accompaniment work together, and thus have recently started to explore some cello music I could learn the accompaniments for (cello for the reason that I really love the sound of the cello and piano together). I have obtained some Grade 1 cello books, which have pretty simple piano parts. My teacher knows a cellist so the idea is that once I've learned some accompaniments well, I could get together with the cellist to play, just for the experience. If your student keeps struggling with motivation, perhaps something like this would be interesting for him? Or piano duets as suggested above.


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#26 Latin pianist

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 10:35

I have found more success in theory by not starting it formally till students have got quite a long way with playing. Then it seems to come a lot easier to students. Maybe it's me being lazy but I've inherited numerous young students who've worked through several early theory books and still don't seem to know basic things. Of course adults are different but I still don't start straight away.
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#27 jenny

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 11:27

I have found more success in theory by not starting it formally till students have got quite a long way with playing. Then it seems to come a lot easier to students. Maybe it's me being lazy but I've inherited numerous young students who've worked through several early theory books and still don't seem to know basic things. Of course adults are different but I still don't start straight away.

 

I'm just the opposite! I start every pupil with some kind of theory work from day one. Most of my young pupils are working at the same Grade level in both theory and practical work. It tends to be the adults who 'forge ahead' with theory. I gave a 'one off' lesson yesterday to the little sister of two boys that I teach (she's not ready yet for regular lessons, but is really keen to start, so I get her to come in with her brothers occasionally for a 5/10 min 'lesson') and I got her to write down some notes in a manuscript book, which she really liked. I find that even very young pupils enjoy that and to me, it paves the way for connecting what they're seeing with what they're playing.   


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#28 jenny

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 13:06

May I make the suggestion that if you do encourage your student to joint the forum, that you delete your post. If your student is as shy as you say he might not like the idea of being talked about . I am a student but visit and read posts from every section , not just the adult beginners section.

 

Good point. Thank you.


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#29 DMC

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 13:15

I'd love it if the ABRSM changed the way they presented scales, both in theory and in the scale books. There is only 1 major scale, not 12. Once a pupil understands tones and semitones and knows the layout of the Major scale, they can play that scale on whatever note you name. All that's left to do is learn finger patterns (I'm talking Piano here).


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#30 BabyGrand

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 13:25

Could you link your adult students together?  I run regular group events for my adult students, as well as pairing them up for duet lessons if they wish as well.  Not everyone comes, but those that do really love it.  Often they become friends, and I have some who now arrange for themselves to meet together to play, which I think is great!  I do think learning an instrument, especially can be a lonely activity, and it's really important to me to give all my students opportunities to mix and play together.  

 

Is it also worth just asking your student if there's anything in particular he'd like to play or have a go at?  Or a goal that would help to focus and motivate him again?  It could be there's a particular piece of music he's always wanted to learn, or a band/movie he loves that he would like to try some of their music.  Maybe he'd love to learn to improvise, or try writing his own music.  Perhaps he would like to learn more music history, or a different aspect of music theory.  Or to try transposing, picking out tunes by ear, or playing from lead sheets.  Maybe he'd like to try playing in public, whether that's in front of friends and family, in an old peoples' home, or on a public piano somewhere (like in a train station).  

 

Or is there anything in particular in his practice that he's not enjoying at the minute?  Is it because he's finding his pieces too easy?  Too hard?  Just not enjoyable?  Does he feel he has too much to practise?  Not enough?  

 

Is he just generally having a tough time in life or feeling a bit down, and he'd benefit from just making lessons fun for a while, without too much worry about practising in between, until he's doing a bit better in himself?  

 

I've experienced pretty much all of the above with my adults, at different times.  As others have said, plateaus are really normal.  Maybe it would help just for him to hear you say that - to know that it's normal to go through a phase where things aren't so enjoyable for a while, or when progress is a bit slower, and that it doesn't mean he won't ever enjoy it again, nor that he's reached his limit and won't progress any further. 

 

Maybe ask him, if he say down at the piano just to play, without worrying about what he "should" be practising, what would he play?  And take it from there.    


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