Aug 3 2012, 08:07 AM
I'm a relatively new teacher and am preparing one of pupils for piano grade 1. We've been working on Menuet in F from list A. She is finding it extremely difficult. Fair enough, it's not an easy piece at all. Every week we work on a section of it together and she seems happier, the following week it's back to square one again. (her problem is playing it hands together, right notes, etc...it's the moving about the keyboard that's bothering her) I'm wondering at this point whether to swap to a different list A piece..but at the same time don't want to give up on her because I know she can do it. Just takes a little focussed practice and patience. Anyway.....my questions are... has anyone else found their pupils struggling with this piece, and am I panicking too soon? at what point do you start to consider changing pieces?
Aug 3 2012, 08:15 AM
Is she doing much practice at home? I would give her a practice chart, just to check that she is working on it at home. Also break it down to smaller sections, only give her a couple of bars to master at home so that it doesn't seem like such a huge task.
Aug 3 2012, 08:39 AM
Yes I have a pupil struggling with this piece. He's struggled more with the change of fingering than with the two against one quaver/crotchets. He also had an aversion to playing the Bflats in the second half but played them all in the first.
We highlighted all the bars that are repeated; practised the finger hopping to aid playing smoothly; listened to recordings on youtube, and I've also played it to him, with him, and left a recording of it; we've broken it down so that he plays two bars only hands together before moving on to the next two bars..and still he struggles!
He was originally wanting to play the Surprise Symphony, but changed his mind to do this one. I have advised him many times that he ought to consider changing back again, or looking at one of the pieces he liked on the alternative pieces list, but he's adamant he wants to continue with this piece.
However, he is struggling to the point where he will not pass it unless he suddenly gets a lightbulb moment and everything falls into place. (The little tyke is not the world's best at practising either, so I've had to tell him constantly that the deadline for entries is fast approaching). We are doing a mock exam next week (his last lesson until September) and he will not pass this piece. Maybe that will jolt him into practising more. If not, then I will tell him to go back to the Surprise as he was playing this well.
Has your student tried any of the other pieces? If so, I would be doing the same if I were you and getting her to change. Make sure you give her a sound explanation as to why you want her to change though. If she is starting a piece from scratch and is good at practising, there is still time to try something new. The Minuet can then be learned as a piece of music in it's own right without the pressure of an impending exam. I don't want my student to drag this on until next Spring (he doesn't either), so we are looking at the next session. If he's not ready (other areas of the exam need tidying up too) then we'll look at the new syllabus instead.
Aug 3 2012, 08:56 AM
It is likely that she's not doing any practice. You could ask her and her parents how much is being done (just in case you have someone with a learning issue of some kind - I have 2 highly intelligent adults who practise alot but have fundamental problems with various aspects of music processing, so their progress is very limited). Some parents assume that the lessons will be sufficient for progress, and leave the child to it. Point out that learning an instrument is hard work - something which most of us avoid if given a choice! You could draw up a chart with column for specific bits to be practised each day, and another column for time to be spent on it, and another for parental signature. I've just had to have a crack down on some of mine - it's a nuisance having to waste lesson time messing about with charts but you could include the lesson notes on the chart which would save some writing. The charts have made alot of difference!
Aug 3 2012, 09:32 AM
I think you're right. She's obviously not practising. I think what I'll do is gently suggest we learn another A list piece but keep the other one going perhaps for a later school concert or something. I think i will also set up a practice chart. Haven't decided which other list A piece would be better for her yet...
Aug 3 2012, 09:34 AM
I think there's almost certainly an issue about practice, or at least meaningful practice. There's also an argument which says that if she's struggling to this degree, maybe she's just not quite at that standard. I've just started teaching a pupil who came from another teacher who presents a similar scenario - he's working on Grade 1 pieces, but he's just not at that level yet. Every week, we do a line and then the next week it's back to square one again...and he does practise.
Aug 3 2012, 10:09 AM
QUOTE(Seer_Green @ Aug 3 2012, 10:34 AM)
I think there's almost certainly an issue about practice, or at least meaningful practice.
I have found it very useful to pick an error in a piece and, rather than jump in with an exercise that is going to help with that error, to take the opportunity to say imagine you are at home practising and you make that slip, what do you do next? A shrug of the shoulders is revealing indeed. "Do it again" is reasonably common, which is fine for some errors, but in other cases it repeats and ingrains the error rather than improving it. "Start from the beginning again" also popular, so the student practices only the bits that are fine, and every time a mistake is made they return to the secure part. It's useful to see if they have any grasp of meaningful practice - a tough ask for a younger child for sure, but a skill that needs to be developed otherwise all the hours in the world sat at the piano and not quite actually practising will not see any meaningful improvement.
Since it's coming together for her in the lesson then either she is not putting in the hours at home or she's not practising in a useful manner.
Aug 3 2012, 10:16 AM
Agree with Seer_Green.
My youngster actually asked me if he could take the exam, which I was really pleased about as he'd always balked at the idea before. I explained from the start the amount of work that would be required, and he was full of enthsiasm. However, I go to his lesson and first of all school work got in the way (yawn!
) and now he's tired because he's still recovering from being at school! Call me harsh, but really...????
In hindsight, although two of the other pieces are going reasonably well, along with the scales and aural work, he's not playing anywhere near the standard required to pass. So maybe he's just not at grade one level yet? Yet when he does practice, he can play really well. Very frustrating!
I've even written a list in his practice book about what examiners will be listening for and the standard expected, and he agreed he wouldn't pass. Mum and dad think he's playing well though. I'll be speaking to them after the lesson next week to try and encourage him to do more or the exam will be on hold until he can commit to the work required.
Aug 3 2012, 01:37 PM
Primrose - How about setting him a goal to get the piece ready for a festival or to play in school assembly? If he has a target that is not the exam, that might motivate him as he'll know it has to be learned for that date.
Aug 3 2012, 03:58 PM
I've had several pupils who do practise, or a reasonable amount at any rate.
And they've struggled with this piece too.
I love it but I've kept it for my more able Grade one-ers.
If you're worried about switching, sometimes I start a new piece as a sort of sight-reading exercise i.e. the pupil doesn't see it as a real new piece. Sometimes I do this just with the tricky bit i.e. you could set the last lines of the Haydn as an 'exercise', just a couple of bars, say, or the arpeggio bit, and if the pupil manages that quite well then add a bit, safe in the knowledge that they'll have absolutely no prob with the first lines if you do decide to make the switch.
Aug 5 2012, 09:21 PM
I recently panicked, (about 6 weeks ago) and took my 13-year-old girl pupil over to Gavotta, which she is enjoying. I know it's probably too easy, she's doing Tarantella as well, both without hand position changes, but she can pass now (hopefully), and I don't think she could have made it with Menuet. Yes, it's hard for grade one.
Aug 10 2012, 10:50 AM
Strangely enough, after I have been stressing out for a few weeks over Minuet in F, she came to her lesson on Monday far far improved and I was very impressed. Maybe something I said over the past couple of weeks made a difference. One of my other pupils has chosen Soldier's March....which I also think is a difficult grade 1 piece, but she's flying with it. children constantly astound me! thanks everyone for your comments though, they were really helpful.
Aug 13 2012, 06:31 AM
Pianolady, maybe it's not a co-incidence that it's the school hols now and she has had more time to practice? Anyway, I too have had one particular child who has struggled really badly with Menuet in F, and we have now decided to do the Bach on the alternative list. Other children have just picked Menuet up, fine as anything! It's interesting how each pupil is so different, as I would not have necessarily predicted the ones who can and the ones who struggle.
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