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Extremely untalented pupils who don't practise at all and choosing

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#16 jpiano

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Posted 12 November 2014 - 20:44

I sometimes find the problem with singing back is that children can hear the tune and remember the general shape but have trouble physically pitching the note. I think this trouble has got more acute with less singing in schools in some cases these days. I've taught some musical students who have trouble with accurately physically reproducing the pitch of a note. 

 

I agree with Jim about the trickiness of string instruments in the early stages- I took viola as a 2nd instrument and never really mastered correct bowing or intonation and I found it physically hard work as well. 


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#17 linda.ff

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Posted 12 November 2014 - 20:50

When a pupil doesn't seem to be able to get anything right, my mind goes to two really important words: Achievable Targets. Even teeny-weeny achievable targets.

 

The parents also need to understand that progress happens one tiny step at a time, and that ignoring even the small essentials will make it impossible to move on to the next step. They really need to have communication with the teacher, and at the level of the first pupils that the OP describes, they simply have to be involved in the child's practice, at the very least in terms of monitoring that the requirements are being met - if the child can't do it, it's not the child's fault.

 

I never ever heard a young Suzuki beginner who couldn't draw a straight bow, but two things affected this: one was that the steps towards this were small and the second is that the parent was in the lesson and involved in helping the child to achieve their small targets.

 

One does wonder why the parents want their child to learn the violin (though I did hear one mother once say "ooh, I'd love him to learn the violin, but I don't think I could stand the sound of him practising in the house" - I think this came under the heading of Mothers I'd Like To Slap  :rolleyes: )


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#18 Splog

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Posted 12 November 2014 - 22:01

Why would a student be expected to sing back a tune before they had music lessons?

That's how it used to be done. I remember being offered music lessons age nine. Only those who were "intelligent enough to be allowed to skip lessons" were allowed to go for brass tuition. But we then had to sit an aural test and only those who passed were allowed the lessons.

 

Looking back, it all seems so unfair. But was the only error in thinking that the aural test was a test of potential? When really those who passed were the ones who had a basic sense of musicianship because of being exposed to music. Would a trombone in the hands of someone who showed no musical talent (measured as aural perception) have been a major disaster? Is part of the problem nowadays that students are learning instruments without any fundamental musicianship behind them?


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#19 ten left thumbs

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Posted 12 November 2014 - 22:12

From Splog:

Would a trombone in the hands of someone who showed no musical talent (measured as aural perception) have been a major disaster? 

 

Absolutely. I mean, ebola pales in comparison to the thought of the catastrophic effect of an unmusical child trying to get from 6th to 2nd position.


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#20 violinlove

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Posted 12 November 2014 - 22:25

From Splog:

Would a trombone in the hands of someone who showed no musical talent (measured as aural perception) have been a major disaster? 

 

 

A trombone even in the hands of people with musical talent and years of practice can also be a major disaster as evidenced in the performance of Strauss' Alpine Symphony I have just heard tonight....

Sorry :offTopic:


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#21 Halka

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Posted 12 November 2014 - 22:54

I don't think they're too young, having lots of average pupils that age who can play simple tunes around Initial/Prep Test/Grade 1 level somehow and some super talented ones who played around Grade 5-7 standard at the age of 7/8 which are the exception of course, but show it's more down to talent and practice than age.

 

Are you sure they are not too young? At least the 6 year olds really are quite small. My daughter started cello at five and a bit, with a very patient teacher and supportive (pushy!) mother. Though the instrument was her choice, she was a very reluctant bower for MANY months, and progress was really painfully slow. She took grade 1 only after 3 years. Though she gave up cello somewhere after grade 6, she has grade 8 now in 3 other instruments, and musical theatre, and at 18 is still very much involved in music making. I can't help feeling it must be very tough for your young pupils if they are not getting any encouragement at home, and their teacher has also given up on them. My daughter's cello teacher was Italian and, like you, found the English attitude to exams somewhat peculiar. However, in the face of daughter's obstructiveness and occasional naughtiness, she never ceased to proclaim daughter's musicality and persisted in teaching her. Though she is only a very very occasional cellist now, I'm sure my daughter benefited from this early musical training and the faith this teacher had in her.
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#22 Splog

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Posted 12 November 2014 - 23:18

 

From Splog:

Would a trombone in the hands of someone who showed no musical talent (measured as aural perception) have been a major disaster? 

 

 

A trombone even in the hands of people with musical talent and years of practice can also be a major disaster as evidenced in the performance of Strauss' Alpine Symphony I have just heard tonight....

Sorry :offTopic:

 

Yes, enjoying the trombone jokes.  :D  But actually, for once in my life I was making a serious point. Perhaps these Kodaly people actually have got it right, and if the musicianship training is put in place early on, the task of learning an instrument is made easier.


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#23 AirVarie

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 00:03

Thank you for all your answers, highlighting very different aspects. They really got me thinking.

 

 I guess it's more about personality and strengths and weaknesses (both my own and my pupils').

 

I don't think that I'm generally bad with 6-8 year old beginners, otherwise I wouldn't have that many, including one that announced that she wants to be a violin teacher when she is older. With my younger home pupils, I have most parents sitting in the lessons and I guess they'd withdraw their children if they weren't happy and found that I'd put their children off. Yet I'm still teaching many of those former 6-8 year old beginners years later.

 

Also, I think I can tolerate practice with not much talent and some talent with not much practice, in any age group. If there is neither of the two combined with a complete lack of interest in the instrument, no parental encouragement whatsoever to practise at least a little bit occasionally, yet the same parents push for the next grade, it becomes really difficult.I am encouraging and patient and appreciate that my pupils are as different as it gets, but I'm not a cheerleader or a magician..

 

If a parent informs me that a child has a particular learning disability or similar, again, it's different as I then know the reason why a child might struggle with something and try to adjust my approach and expectations better than when I'm left in the dark about it and can only guess.

 

Practice: I'm very realistic about how much energy it takes to get children to practise, how little time there is sometimes, and sometimes the children don't want to stop lessons because they do like the actual weekly lesson, but don't want to practice at home. But a minimum amount should be possible.

 

lindaff: You are right, the one pupil I had in mind had lessons for a year with another teacher but had forgotten almost everything. The child couldn't play even the easiest tunes in the book, even though (strangely) much harder ones had already been ticked off by the previous teacher. I realised (just counted) that the child had only 6 lessons with me and maybe she still has to get used to me. This pupil has already improved her bow hold a lot which is quite an achievement and I realise I have to give her even easier pieces and slow down a lot. I think because of the pieces ticked off exactly a year ago by her previous teacher I simply expected way too much.

 

Left-handed violin pupils: Ironically, two of my pupils you can described almost as "prodigies" are left handed (they started aged 5 and 7 with me respectively). They may be the exception that proves the rule though, I don't know? My "problem" pupils are right handed, maybe that's the problem?  ;)

 

Singing and successful violin playing (i.e. in tune): The more experience I have, the more I'm struggling to see how the two should be related.  In theory, yes, the violinist should imagine everything at least with the inner ear (maybe here is the clue, inner ear, not necessarily sing aloud?).

 

But I have pupils who can play beautifully in tune but  cannot sing in tune, and can't sing back a note played on the violin or the piano. They sing sometimes a whole tone higher or lower but not consistently so, often they sing something else altogether!  But they strangely play in tune or at least correct themselves when playing a note out of tune. Not when singing though.

 

Yet others can sing beautifully in tune, but play so completely out of tune it is unbelievable. I had a pupil who could sing her violin pieces beautifully in tune, but although she could physically play the violin (and yes, even keep the bow on the correct string) it was often completely out of tune, and she didn't notice or correct even though she knew how to make a note sharper or flatter on the violin.  

 

Quite baffling. If anyone has any ideas why that is and what to do, I'd love to know. I would definitely not choose a violin pupil based on their ability or inability to sing because of the above. Probably making them try the instrument is the only way. 

 

 


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#24 Cyrilla

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 00:07

Perhaps these Kodaly people actually have got it right, and if the musicianship training is put in place early on, the task of learning an instrument is made easier.

 

 

:highfive: :goldstar: :highfive:


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#25 AirVarie

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 00:29

 

I don't think they're too young, having lots of average pupils that age who can play simple tunes around Initial/Prep Test/Grade 1 level somehow and some super talented ones who played around Grade 5-7 standard at the age of 7/8 which are the exception of course, but show it's more down to talent and practice than age.

 

Are you sure they are not too young? At least the 6 year olds really are quite small. My daughter started cello at five and a bit, with a very patient teacher and supportive (pushy!) mother. Though the instrument was her choice, she was a very reluctant bower for MANY months, and progress was really painfully slow. She took grade 1 only after 3 years. Though she gave up cello somewhere after grade 6, she has grade 8 now in 3 other instruments, and musical theatre, and at 18 is still very much involved in music making. I can't help feeling it must be very tough for your young pupils if they are not getting any encouragement at home, and their teacher has also given up on them. My daughter's cello teacher was Italian and, like you, found the English attitude to exams somewhat peculiar. However, in the face of daughter's obstructiveness and occasional naughtiness, she never ceased to proclaim daughter's musicality and persisted in teaching her. Though she is only a very very occasional cellist now, I'm sure my daughter benefited from this early musical training and the faith this teacher had in her.

 

With 5 year olds it's (generally speaking) slower than 7 year olds but then again it depends so much on the individual child. Some 5/6 year olds are faster and play better than, say, the older pupil (example B). The problematic ones mentioned above are 7 and have been playing for a while. My own kids started at 6 (2 of them not the violin) and would never have practised without me sitting with them. 

 

I just don't think it works very well at primary school age without at least some parental support. I'm not blaming the pupils, I'm not giving up on them, but think the parents could be a little bit more encouraging if the pupils are supposed to make even a tiny bit of progress on the violin. What is the point otherwise? I would then rather not bother with an instrument at all and do something else, or do nothing. Mostly, pupils do "something else" already anyway, and too much of it, hence no time to practise.

 

Parental support includes, for example, even the practical side of it, to make sure the violin gets taken home from school. I'm not perfect myself and both I and my kids forget things and not everything gets done as it should be.  But if the violin never comes home for the entire school year, something is wrong!


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#26 notmusimum

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 10:00

At 3 or 4 a thoughtless dance teacher told my youngest she couldn't sing. It's something that's never completely left her and she still believes it despite singing back being worked on over the years. Had there been a requirement for her to do an aurl test before starting an instrument she might never have begun.

One thing we realised about learning an instrument quite early on is that you have to recognise your own weaknesses and work on them. Some people won't want to do that and that will hold back progress. People who aren't very secure in themselves may find it a huge challenge.
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#27 Banjogirl

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 10:58

One of ours started on an instrument he liked, but I realised quite quickly that it may not have been the best choice for him for reasons I won't go into here. However, after a slowish start he became a very fine player and I realise now that the challlenges of the instrument may very well have helped him overcome some physical weaknesses. However, no one ever said he wasn't capable of playing it, or did anything other than encourage him.

But I do appreciate how frustrating it must be to teach children who make little progress or who seem physically unsuited to an instrument. The one and only child I ever taught was lovely but never practised, in spite of my using every tactic in the book, and I came to dread her lessons. But sShe loved them and her parents were thrilled when she did her prep test after an age. They had no idea that it would have been possible to make much more progress with a little support from them!


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#28 Minstrel

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 12:10

"What I really wanted to add is that in my experience of teaching (not violin) in a wide variety of schools it is sadly the case in some independent schools that there is an attitude held by some parents that money can buy everything. So they may see violin grades as desirable, without any interest on the part of their child, and feel that by paying for the lessons their child will automatically get the violin grade passes. Without hard work or of course practice. With gcse and a level the attitude was often that they've paid so why isn't their child getting an a? The sad extension of this in some cases is parents paying for everything instead of giving love and support to their child. Such parents would unfortunately not have the time to support their child in practising. "

This is also very much my experience.
Lovely kids (usually) but parents are so busy with their own lives , then compensate by pouring money on anything and everything for a child - who is all too often also an only child - rather than investing their own and their chilld's time in quality time together. Rather sad, really.

Consequently it's maybe more helpful to think of the motivated or unmotivated pupil , rather than capable or incapable. Each child and every circumstance is different and children vary hugely in age, maturity and personality. Young children are best at doing whatever it is that they want to do so all you have to do is make them want to do whatever it is musically that will help them best that week along their own personal musical journey. I prefer to think about teaching the child rather than teaching the violin ( or cello/viola) and can't pretend that I always get it right but I wonder if a more personal and motivation-orientated approach might help?
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#29 Arundodonuts

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 12:11

Just a thought, but if the child is disinterested and the parents apparently disinterested, why do they have music lessons? Is it just something that is expected, like academic subjects or (shudder) games?


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#30 lingle

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 12:24

Some good constructive advice for the OP here which I think will help her.

 

Cyrilla, I am smiling at the idea of you choosing those emoticons.

 

I also agree with what Splog said below. Let's imagine we were trying to stop a bunch of 5 year olds from developing pitch and rhythm skills. Hmm, what technologies might assist us in blocking their musical development? Oooh! I know! A cheap wooden box whose strings constantly change pitch even before you play them.  And is tuned in 5ths which, let's face it, is going to render those "make up a tune" exercises pretty meaningless.   But no - that's still too easy. I know - let's place it at 45 degrees and operate it with a stick that can only be manipulated well by a wrist movement used in no other context in the student's life. And when the intrinsic difficulties of that wrist and arm movement make the student play out of time, let's either say the student has no sense of pulse or train the student to ignore pulse so we can still get some notes out.

 

You couldn't make it up really..... how did Suzuki do it?

 

Perhaps these Kodaly people actually have got it right, and if the musicianship training is put in place early on, the task of learning an instrument is made easier.

 

 

:highfive: :goldstar: :highfive:

 


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