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Advice needed about an adult pupil


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#31 jenny

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 15:23

Thanks for all your suggestions, BabyGrand. The idea of playing in public (in fact, in front of anyone) would be a huge problem for him. Even playing for one person would be very stressful, which is why he doesn't want to take any practical exams. I'm pretty sure that it would also deter him from getting together with my other adult pupils. As he got to know me better, he eventually stopped shaking in his lessons and realized that I am a very calm and relaxed teacher and that I never put any pressure on him. Although he still berates himself when he plays a wrong note. 

I often ask him if there's anything special he wants to play and have introduced him to various kinds of music. He very much likes playing Martha Mier pieces but I think he feels that he shouldn't only play pieces that he enjoys!  It's quite a complicated situation and I'm giving a lot of thought as to how best to help him. Again, thanks to everyone who has offered suggestions - I really do appreciate it.  


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#32 BadStrad

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 17:57

Following on from Babygrand's post - does he just practice or does he play as well? I mean at some point during his "practice" session does he just play something he can play, for the pleasure of it. I think that is a vital part of learning an instrument, having that "fun" time, when you play for pleasure (surely the whole point) rather than just bashing away at problems.

If you think he might stuggle with that as an idea, maybe you could couch it as developing his musical storytelling. So have him choose a piece he can play, then play it happily, sadly, as the sound track to a horror film, thinking about his favourite food, thinking about his worst enemy, or making up some kind of story for the music... Really channelling the feelings about those things, to shape the music depending on the mood.
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#33 BabyGrand

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 22:41

Thanks for all your suggestions, BabyGrand. The idea of playing in public (in fact, in front of anyone) would be a huge problem for him. Even playing for one person would be very stressful, which is why he doesn't want to take any practical exams. I'm pretty sure that it would also deter him from getting together with my other adult pupils. As he got to know me better, he eventually stopped shaking in his lessons and realized that I am a very calm and relaxed teacher and that I never put any pressure on him. Although he still berates himself when he plays a wrong note. 

I often ask him if there's anything special he wants to play and have introduced him to various kinds of music. He very much likes playing Martha Mier pieces but I think he feels that he shouldn't only play pieces that he enjoys!  It's quite a complicated situation and I'm giving a lot of thought as to how best to help him. Again, thanks to everyone who has offered suggestions - I really do appreciate it.  

 

I have some adult students who do not want to perform in front of others or take an exam etc, who still love coming along to our group events.  There is never any pressure to perform in front of the group.  It's like a cross between a group class, an ensemble and a social gathering; it's definitely not a concert!  We do a lot of playing together as a group (this is with a mixture of piano and violin students, and sometimes singing students too), along with learning and discussing things together.  I let them suggest topics, and we have covered things like improvisation, how to play with others, practice strategies, performance nerves, playing in different styles, etc.  When there are 5 or 10 people all playing at the same time, no-one feels "exposed"....it's a very safe environment.  Duet lessons are also popular with my performance-shy students - they feel ok because they are playing at the same time, not in front of one another. 

 

I have also been surprised in the past - when I've asked the group if anyone would like to play something for the others, and a student who had incredibly severe anxiety issues and had told me she never wanted to play in front of anyone piped up "Ok, I will"!  She still would never want to do exams or play in a concert, but she played for our little group.  I would never have dreamed of asking her to do it, but I was delighted that she felt comfortable enough to want to.  smile.png 

I also agree with BadStrad.  Maybe your student needs to be given "permission" to just enjoy his playing - to enjoy where he's at for a while, without feeling any (self-imposed) pressure to progress.  It's fine for him to play some music he likes for a while, and it's fine for him just to sit at his piano and play pieces he loves because he loves playing.  Maybe it would help for him to know that you actually would love to hear that he had gone to his piano and just sat and played for pure enjoyment, rather than him feeling that he's somehow letting you down / not doing what he's "supposed" to / being lazy etc.  He doesn't need to feel bad or guilty about where he's at.  If the best thing for him right now is to play the music he loves, then that's ok.  There's no rule that says he has to be doing X, Y or Z.  Of course you know that, but maybe he needs to hear you say it.  

 

On a practical level, if he loves Martha Mier but feels he "should" be trying other composers, could you try some music in a similar style by a different composer?  There's quite a wealth of material out there.  Maybe just having a new book would feel like a new challenge?  I have a lot of this kind of music on my shelves....roughly what sort of level is his playing?  And I can see if I can suggest some options.  

 

I love teaching my adult students, but they are definitely a lot more complex than children!  It's a great challenge for us as teachers to work out how we can best help each of them.  


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#34 jenny

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Posted 04 July 2019 - 08:13

Following on from Babygrand's post - does he just practice or does he play as well? I mean at some point during his "practice" session does he just play something he can play, for the pleasure of it. I think that is a vital part of learning an instrument, having that "fun" time, when you play for pleasure (surely the whole point) rather than just bashing away at problems.
 

 

I tell all of my pupils that their practice sessions should start with some technical work, then on to the piece(s) that we're working on together in lessons and to always finish by playing something they really enjoy. I'm guessing he always finishes with some Martha Mier pieces.  


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#35 jenny

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Posted 04 July 2019 - 08:36

 

Thanks for all your suggestions, BabyGrand. The idea of playing in public (in fact, in front of anyone) would be a huge problem for him. Even playing for one person would be very stressful, which is why he doesn't want to take any practical exams. I'm pretty sure that it would also deter him from getting together with my other adult pupils. As he got to know me better, he eventually stopped shaking in his lessons and realized that I am a very calm and relaxed teacher and that I never put any pressure on him. Although he still berates himself when he plays a wrong note. 

I often ask him if there's anything special he wants to play and have introduced him to various kinds of music. He very much likes playing Martha Mier pieces but I think he feels that he shouldn't only play pieces that he enjoys!  It's quite a complicated situation and I'm giving a lot of thought as to how best to help him. Again, thanks to everyone who has offered suggestions - I really do appreciate it.  

 

 

On a practical level, if he loves Martha Mier but feels he "should" be trying other composers, could you try some music in a similar style by a different composer?  There's quite a wealth of material out there.  Maybe just having a new book would feel like a new challenge?  I have a lot of this kind of music on my shelves....roughly what sort of level is his playing?  And I can see if I can suggest some options.  

 

 

 

He would say that he is at around Grade 2/3 level and has remarked that the Grade 2 exam pieces look difficult, although he is playing scales from the higher grades. He manages quite well with some pieces that I think are more difficult than that. It obviously depends on the style of the music as he's much more comfortable with the pieces by Martha Mier and Barbara Arens. I've tried some Burgmuller with him, including the Arabesque that is a Grade 2 piece at the moment, and he finds those challenging, mostly because he has large hands and finds fast semiquaver work difficult to manage. I'm going to find out my Gillock/Czerny book for his next lesson and also some duets. Any suggestions would be very welcome. Thanks.  


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#36 ma non troppo

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Posted 04 July 2019 - 09:09

The Gillock/Czerny book is expensive and quite childish looking. The Accent on Gillock Series contains some of the pieces in it plus many others and is cheaper to buy. Many of these go down well with adults. Also, the Adult piano Adventures Classics book 2 and Popular book 2 are nice arrangements that adults enjoy.
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#37 maggie_piano

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Posted 04 July 2019 - 10:48

I always try to incorporate and element of improvisation and playing by ear into my older pupils lessons as well as traditional repertoire. I do this by teaching chords and rhythm pallets and use pop, show tunes, jazz depending on the age of the pupil. After seeing an argentinian pianist do a stunning improvisation on Land of hope and Glory at the proms a few years back. 

 

I also use duet material both for piano and other instruments. In the past I have organised concerts so that they get to play in fron of an audience too. Hope this helps


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#38 Gran'piano

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Posted 04 July 2019 - 19:07

There are loads of ideas on here as to what the teacher might do to help the pupil get over this feeling, which is great, but I wrote the below text earlier on this thread and no-one else seems to think this is important at all.

Do you know why the guy started lessons in the first place? Does he know? Did he have a specific goal or an idea of what he wanted to achieve?

However, Violinlove, on another thread, wrote this:

I find that my adults also have a clearer idea of why they want to learn - e.g. I have a violinist at the moment who wanted to learn to play the violin so she could play folk music in a group. After 3 years she has achieved that goal and is loving playing in the group.

I am teaching a woman piano who wants to be able to play the different parts for her a capella choir and also play and accompany songs, from a melody line + guitar chords. She's getting on well.

It might really be a good idea to try to find out why he chose this instrument. He bought a good piano, has a good teacher and practices hard. So what was/is his goal?

Concerning making mistakes - I think most learner adults panic and are frustrated each time they make a mistake. Having listened to quite a few professional musicians practicing, the main difference, apart from the fact that they make fewer mistakes, is that when they are playing the music through, as opposed to working on specific parts of the score, they simply don't let it show when they make errors.   


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#39 Dorcas

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Posted 04 July 2019 - 21:23

This particular student is very shy, would they necessarily have been forthcoming?  Personally I have found adults can be shy of sharing their specific reasons for fear of appearing foolish.  Some have no problem in being straight forward, but not necessarily giving every detail.  Reasons for learning can be incredibly personal.  I take the reasons people give at face value, but six months down the line, the motivation can shift, like perspective.  


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#40 jenny

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Posted 05 July 2019 - 10:33

The Gillock/Czerny book is expensive and quite childish looking. The Accent on Gillock Series contains some of the pieces in it plus many others and is cheaper to buy. Many of these go down well with adults. Also, the Adult piano Adventures Classics book 2 and Popular book 2 are nice arrangements that adults enjoy.

 

I can't thank you enough for this, ma non troppo! I ordered The Adult Piano Adventures Classics book 2 and it's just arrived. I must admit that I've never been keen on the Piano Adventures series for young people, but I'm so impressed with this. It's exactly the kind of book my adult students will really enjoy and the arrangements are so much better than in other books I've used. I'm planning to order the Popular book as well. Thanks again!


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#41 Latin pianist

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Posted 05 July 2019 - 10:48

I love the Bach Cello piece in the Classic book. All the pieces sound authentic. I've used Popular and Classic with many students this year.
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#42 ma non troppo

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Posted 05 July 2019 - 10:57

I like the Beethoven arrangements and Clair de Lune. Adults really feel they are playing these "difficult" pieces - the simple arrangements really work.

In the pop book, the arrangement of "Let it Go" from Frozen is far better than the ones in the Disney books. The Fabers are very good at arrangements for beginner or early intermediate pianists and it is so clear to read.
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#43 jenny

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Posted 09 July 2019 - 20:01

Just wanted to add a quick update. The pupil came for his lesson this afternoon and it was clear right from the start that he was feeling much brighter than last week. I started by telling him that I given a lot of thought to today's lesson and before I could say more, he told me that he had had a much better week, had enjoyed practising and had realized how much progress he had made since he started. I had planned to include some duet playing in the lesson and started with a fairly easy one so that he could sight read his part first and then we could try it as a duet. This worked really well and when we tried it together, it was obvious how much he was enjoying it - in fact, I've never seen him so confident and enthusiastic. He is going to work on a more difficult duet ready for next week's lesson as well as working on a couple of other pieces he's been playing at home. He is also going to buy the Piano Adventures Adult Classics book that I showed him today and was very enthusiastic about starting on that. Thank you all again for your support and advice - it was was very much appreciated and I'm just so pleased that we're 'back on track'. smile.png    


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#44 Gran'piano

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Posted 10 July 2019 - 07:15

This sounds very positive indeed. Thanks for coming back to let us know how it went.


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#45 HelenVJ

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Posted 10 July 2019 - 07:22

Excellent news, Jenny! Just curious as to which duet you used? A favourite new book that I'm enjoying with my adult students at the moment is Let's Swing, Mr Diabelli - which is a jazzed up version by Ute Korn of the trad Diabelli early duets. I must say that the teacher has the more interesing part smile.png but it's useful for teaching swung rhythms to the students as well. Possibly too easy for your gentleman though.


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