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playing without pulse and grades

pulse grade exams pre-prep LCM

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#1 ten left thumbs

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 14:43

The parents of a young student I have been teaching for 3 years now has asked if he can be put forward for an exam. He is nowhere near ready for grade 1, I do often put students forward for LCM preprep when this happens. But this particular kid is different. 

 

He still shows strong left right confusion. He bangs the keys just as hard as he can. More importantly he demonstrates little sense of pulse while he plays. This is what I am most worried about. It's not that he has no sense of pulse - he does. He just can't do anything to steady pulse. Instead he 'buffers'. He'll think hard about what he's about to do, then does it at breakneck speed. Gets through so many notes. Stops to think about the next bit. 

 

It has been 3 long hard years and amazingly we have made progress. I have not insisted on getting things 'correct' before moving on, or we'd still be on the same page we were 3 years ago. Instead I keep going and have moved sideways more times than I can count. He seems to really enjoy piano. His mum has been happy to keep going when I've told her, 'look, this really is slow.' We're on Alfred's Premier 1B and he does hands together, knows the notes and plays them.

 

My question is this - in the experience of other teachers here, does he have a chance at LCM preprep? Is there something else I haven't thought of?


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#2 lingle

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 16:26

I don't know but he sounds fun and your sound like a lovely teacher.

 

I'm in my third year of teaching a little girl. She's just started to play with an independent measured pulse. We aren't doing grades (it's a different sort of lesson) so I've been free to watch her just reach this point naturally.....

 

It would be nice of the mum could hold back a little and let you and the pupil do things like turn-taking and improvising on top of your bass-line - things that would give the child more time to hear pulse...

 

Do you think hearing pulse is something to do with musically recognising that there are "other" things in the world apart from yourself? I sometimes wonder about this.


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#3 BadStrad

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 16:57

Have you tried playing duets with him?  Is there something he can play that you could play a base line to (or vice versa)?  That might be worth a try.


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#4 ten left thumbs

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 17:23

...

Do you think hearing pulse is something to do with musically recognising that there are "other" things in the world apart from yourself? I sometimes wonder about this.

 

I actually think this is it. He is a particularly particular kid. He is into what he is doing. He is an only child - wouldn't like to speculate that this is the cause (I don't think it is, but it may contribute, who knows?). For things like coming into the room, coat on and off, etc, his mum looks after things. If she is delayed, he will do it. But, he never looks out for her. He never notices, for example, if she has her coat on, and is ready to go out the door. My husband thought right from the start he was on the autistic spectrum. Who knows?

 

If we do improvising, I set up a bass line and he does whatever he is doing regardless of what pulse and metre I set up. He is very happy to do his own thing alongside me. But happier to be by himself on the piano stool.

 

In answer to Badstrad's question, yes we have done lots of duets, but there is no accommodation for my pulse, or any pulse we may agree before starting. Doing duets has helped with timing and pulse for all of my students, except this one.

 

If I record him, he is quite happy with his musical output. There is no telling him he got it wrong because he didn't hold it for the right number of beats. He doesn't hear that it's wrong. 

 

But, I don't want to get too distracted here. I'm actually quite happy to teach the kid, we are making progress, and it's not like I've run out of ideas or anything. The question really is about exams - is there any currency in putting him forward for LCM pre-prep? Is there any chance he would pass?


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#5 sbhoa

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 17:26

I'd be reluctant to put him in for it without him being able to play the pieces with a steady pulse and in correct time.


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#6 becster

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 17:29

I have no experience of the LCM preprep so cannot comment on likelihood of passing though I tend to agree with sbhoa's comment.

I know a lot of people dislike the repertoire but what about the abrsm prep test as there is no pass or fail?

Or the abrsm performance assessment? Again, no pass or fail.
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#7 Latin pianist

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 17:31

Can he keep a pulse going when playing tunes he knows? And how old is he?
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#8 ten left thumbs

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 18:16

Can he keep a pulse going when playing tunes he knows? And how old is he?

No. He's 10.


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#9 Splog

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 18:46

Have you tried singing and clapping games with him? Or playing one note on the keyboard per beat and singing?


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#10 jpiano

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 22:07

I haven't experience of the PrePrep but I've used the AB Prep Test - I used it more in the past when I used to work in a primary school with parents who were very keen to start exams. Nowadays I wouldn't use an exam with a pupil such as you describe who has fundamental problems with rhythm and pulse.

 

The other thing is that you mention he's made progress through side-stepping and moving across- I think that's really great and you have done really well to hold his enthusiasm. I've found that exams- even the PT with no pass or fail- can tend to work against the flexibility to move across and work through different material with the very pupils who need that the most.


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#11 ten left thumbs

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 23:04

Have you tried singing and clapping games with him? Or playing one note on the keyboard per beat and singing?

 He won't sing. :( He will occasionally provide the last note of a phrase with his voice, when I really push it. He does it when he feels like.

 

We've done some rhymes. He will say a rhyme rhythmically. But if I ask him to clap at the same time then the pulse goes.

 

The best  I can describe is when I said 'buffering'. He will hare ahead at break neck speed through a few notes, then buffer. He sits, thinking. (Well I'd rather him think than not think). When he's good and ready he'll hare through the next few notes. He'll even nod for a rest (like I tell him to) but soooo fast.

 

The only other way I can describe is like Narnia. Time for him goes at its own speed. Not related to our speed in any way.

 

Many thanks for the replies. They do confirm my gut instinct not to enter him for any kind of formal exam. These are fundamental problems. The thing is, I'm pretty positive in a lesson, so his mum, sitting in, may have got the impression that we have solved things. We haven't. It is incredibly helpful to have folks here to bounce things off sometimes, because by myself, I don't always trust my own judgement. 


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#12 Splog

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 07:14

I'd say you need to persevere with the pulse thing. If he can't clap a pulse at the same time as saying a rhyme, then get him to walk the beat. Or clap both hands on his knees in big gestures rather than clapping. Start rhythm work as soon as he comes in the room. Something as simple as you saying "hello how are you" clapping four beats and him replying "I'm fine thank you" clapping four beats. (Read Paul Harris for some good ideas)


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#13 Splog

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 07:18

Couple of other suggestions: Get him to clap along while you sing, or play. Put on some music and both of you dance or march around the room.


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#14 lingle

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 17:23

Your ongoing help with the pulse thing - whilst staying positive and starting from where he is - could have knock-on effects on his life far more important and beneficial than that exam certificate....

He might get pulse at 15. But then he'd have it for the rest of his life...


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#15 linda.ff

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 17:31

10 is slightly old not to be able to do things to a pulse, isn't it? I did have a boy of 6 who I described to a friend who was a child physiotherapist, and the first thing she said was "have you watched him walk?" 

 

She said that up to the age of about 6, some children don't actually acquire the skill of transferring their weight through balance, but "topple" - they move their body weight forward and only take the step when it is to prevent falling over, like those toys with feet that will walk down a slope. I find this is also the cause of unevenness in runs, when the weaker fingers are not being controlled but just toppling on to the keys. The kids without exception love trying to walk like this, and then feeling the difference between that and proper controlled transfer of weight, and it almost always results in better-controlled runs.

 

However, it doesn't sound as though this is quite the problem with this boy. I have an adult with a similar problem, and he passed grade 1 by the skin of his teeth, pulled out of grade 2 on the day because he said he'd pulled a back muscle - but really, he would not have passed. He hasn't been for a couple of weeks because of persistent back problems, but unfortunately still thinks he will be doing grade 3 in the near future (slow to take hints). He's one of whom I've occasionally said "I really don't know how he manages to get the blood to go round his body".

 

Of course, a good spell of square-bashing... oh no, wait, this one actually has been in the army :lol:  :blink:  


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