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What to do with an unusually talented/hard working child!


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#1 zwhe

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Posted 03 April 2019 - 19:04

I have a year 8 pupil who started lessons with me last January. He did grade 2 last November and did very well. Since then, he has progressed massively, to the point where I asked his mum to buy the grade 5 book last week, with a view to doing it in November. The book arrived at the weekend. He came to his lesson to day and played me one of the pieces he had been working on for the last three days. It was beautiful! He had perfectly captured the mood of the piece, and all the phrasing. He made 3 minor mistakes and played 2 pp sections too loud. Apart from that I had nothing to add. I have never had a pupil like this before - he just brings me pieces he has learnt himself and I work on interpretation and occasionally points of technique. In fact, we seem to spend most of the time at the moment learning scales (he finds them boring so doesn't spend much time on them) and working on theory. 

Does anyone else have a similar experience? Do you just follow where they lead and offer words of wisdom rather than guiding the learning as with 'normal' pupils? I feel a little out of my depth as piano is my second instrument. I think I will have to pass him on to someone else at some point, especially as he is so young and has the potential to go beyond grade 8 before leaving for uni.


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#2 carol*piano

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Posted 03 April 2019 - 21:55

How is he with A list pieces - baroque/counterpoint? I only ask, because I have a gifted pupil I inherited at grade 5, who is now working for grade 8, and we have discovered a weakness with "multi-track" playing - possibly because she came up the grades so quickly. It is extremely possible to have students who play very well when the hands move together, but struggle with counterpoint.

 

Of course this may not be the case at all with your pupil, but I just thought I'd throw it out there as something to check smile.png


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#3 zwhe

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Posted 03 April 2019 - 22:19

We've done some Bach and the first movement of the 'easy' Mozart sonata in C. He hasn't done any 3-part counterpoint, but is fine with 2-part. He just seems to be able to play most things he tries (his mum plays so they have loads of music at home) - he will keep working at it until he can do it. He once came to me with a piece he had learnt 'on Saturday'. When I asked further questions about how long he had spent on it, he said about 6 hours! His biggest issue has been dynamic range, but that is now much better.

I am definitely better at chordal pieces myself - I found Bach preludes and fugues really difficult, but Brahms easy to learn as a kid.

 

Do you organise/plan where you are going with your pupil, and if so, how do you structure it? I'm used to being more in control!


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#4 Lucid

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Posted 03 April 2019 - 22:38

Not at all a piano teacher, but I would be inclined to get him exploring as many different types of music as possible. Like carol*piano has highlighted, there might be techniques in certain styles that present issues that need work. The more exposure he gets to various styles now, the better he'll learn and develop as a musician. Another idea is to get him to work on memorising his pieces as he picks them up so quickly from the music. Also I'd work on developing his sight reading to a high level too. I'm sure there's many other ideas that will be suggested by piano teachers, but I think some of those will help to open up more options for him if he wants to take the piano further when he's a bit older. 

 

Lucid :)


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#5 carol*piano

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Posted 04 April 2019 - 09:18

Do you organise/plan where you are going with your pupil, and if so, how do you structure it? I'm used to being more in control!

 

To be fair, the pupil I was referring to doesn't very often turn up with complete pieces learnt - especially now she has more school work, and is preparing for grade 8. But yes, I've always roughly planned where I was going with her - you need to know that you're covering the technical aspects/repertoire you need to be covering. If the pupil has picked something that happens to be appropriate, then great - otherwise you do their piece, then your suggestion afterwards. It's nice to have a pupil who brings their own pieces - I find I have less and less of those these days!

 

You mention picking him up on dynamics and occasional points of technique. How is his articulation? How is his hand position? How is he with using arm weight? What are his fingering choices like? How does he fare playing at speed? Just throwing out all the questions that come to mind right now - there are probably more! Your main concern with a fast moving pupil is to check that you're not missing anything that might hold him up at the higher grades.

 

I always joke with my pupils that however well they play, there's always something I can point out that they can improve. With the greatest of respect, if you are finding yourself unable to add anything to his peformance, and piano is your second instrument, it may be better to pass him on to a specialist piano teacher? However, it may just be that he is a brilliant pupil, and you are not lacking in any way!

 

(Edited to say "a brilliant pupil" instead of "that one brilliant pupil", because the latter sounds like I don't think they exist, but they do!)


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#6 Gran'piano

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Posted 04 April 2019 - 09:50

Mr.G had t-shirts made with
"PRACTICE DOESN'T MAKE PERFECT" on. Folk thought this crazy till they read the back
PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.
His idea was that practicing without aiming at a specific 'point' for improvement merely enables you to make your mistakes more quickly.
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#7 ma non troppo

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Posted 04 April 2019 - 10:39

Yes, I have had students like this - I have one a little like this at the moment only the circumstances and back story is different. I think, for starters, that "grades" become irrelevant. Grades can slow up progress. I work out where we are going on the hoof, partly leading, partly being led, and being aware and checking for holes in ability and experience - there always are some. One pupil I taught for two years from scratch then left me to go to Chethams. He hadn't done any actual exams. Music colleges don't tend to care about grades, only the audition.
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#8 zwhe

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Posted 04 April 2019 - 11:32

Thank you - I was feeling a little insecure last night! I was really taken by surprise. Apart from the things I mentioned, it could have been a recording. It brought a tear to my eyes (mind you, that could have been the menopause!). I was left feeling a little inadequate as he will play better than me before long. But like you have all pointed out, that time has not yet come, and there is plenty I can still teach him - like playing really quietly!

I totally agree about exams usually, but in this case I actually wanted to slow him down. I want him to put in the effort with the scales, and to play pieces he may not have chosen up to performance level. I had really not anticipated him loving the syllabus so much and working so hard in just a few days. We are doing Trinity grade 5 but doing the AB theory so he can have the choice for the higher grades. His sight reading is dreadful as he has an unusual way of learning pieces by slowly working it out a few notes at a time and memorising as he goes along (he played it from memory yesterday). He is excellent at aural tests and improvisation, so will do those for the exam (sight reading is optional for Trinity until grade 6). He has good technique, and we have been looking at different types of staccato recently, and when they would be appropriate,  but again there will be more to do for the higher grades.

I think (provided he learns the other pieces as quickly) we will do the exam this summer, and then work intensively on sight reading, do the grade 5 theory and see how he progresses. I've already told him I wouldn't recommend either skipping grade 6, or doing it too quickly after grade 5 as there is quite a jump between the two grades, and as he is only 12, we have the time to take it slowly and still leave options open if he should choose to pursue it as a career. I would normally anticipate passing pupils on after grade 8, but I will have to see how he goes - it may be sooner for him so that someone can really push him on the more advanced techniques.


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#9 HelenVJ

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Posted 04 April 2019 - 11:57

Just to point out that Trinity Grade 5 Theory is transferable to ABRSM. I get my students to take this in case they want to take an AB exam on another instrument in the future. The Trinity Theory Workbooks are very well thought out, and the harmony component is carefully graded.

Maybe he would like to attend a summer school for a week, if that appeals? This could be a great opportuity for meeting and playing with others of a similar level, and working on complementary activities with inspiring tutors, plus it'd be good to make some musical friends. Intensive piano practice, although clearly enjoyable for your student, can be quite isolating at imes.


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#10 BadStrad

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Posted 04 April 2019 - 17:45

 

Maybe he would like to attend a summer school for a week, if that appeals? This could be a great opportuity for meeting and playing with others of a similar level, and working on complementary activities with inspiring tutors, plus it'd be good to make some musical friends. Intensive piano practice, although clearly enjoyable for your student, can be quite isolating at imes.

I would imagine the kid would find that a bit of a shock if his sight reading isn't good.  He wouldn't have the time he usually gets to learn the pieces note by note.


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#11 HelenVJ

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Posted 04 April 2019 - 18:06

That is very rarely an issue, BadStrad. Very few young pianists on the courses that I've been involved with have had impeccable sight-reading. Often there is an emphasis on improvisation and even singing. They get plenty of time to look at their parts in any ensembles.


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#12 BadStrad

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Posted 04 April 2019 - 22:11

That sounds like a super course. There is so little room for improvisation in the exam trajectory, great to hear that summer schools cover it.
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#13 HelenVJ

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Posted 05 April 2019 - 07:53

Plenty of teachers cover improvisation too! And it's an option in the Trinity exam syllabi up to and including Grade 8. Many of my students opt for Improvisation rather than attempt sight-reading ( 'You mean we can just make it up?' ) laugh.png.


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#14 SingingPython

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Posted 05 April 2019 - 08:07

I wonder if "working at two different levels" would be part of the way to sort out his reading - give him the "easy" stuff with strict instructions that it is to be learned as quickly as possible with no expectation that it be memorised.  That might also help you cover lots of ground.  I know that my piano reading was developed by just playing from a variety of books - though for me, music reading and recorder came first then violin and formal piano only after that.

 

I hope you can keep enjoying your student!


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#15 BadStrad

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Posted 05 April 2019 - 11:33

Plenty of teachers cover improvisation too! And it's an option in the Trinity exam syllabi up to and including Grade 8.

I had the idea (from here in particular) that not many teachers cover improvisation. Perhaps because this is the AB forum. Good to know there are plenty teachers who do encourage it.
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