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Coping with non-practising bores who make up the numbers?


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#1 mickey

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 09:49

I used to only teach students who were genuinely interested and at least did some practise during the week, even if it was only just before the lesson. I'm fine with even that small effort, I enjoy teaching and as long a bit of progress is being made and I get paid I'm all good.

Recently due to financial commitments (new baby) I have been teaching all and sundry and not letting anyone go if I can help it. So at present I'm teaching some for whom I am just "artistic babysitting" (middle class parents with loads of money who book piano lessons as one of 10 activities that are simply tick box, and resent having to be bothered to organize even a little practise).

What piano materials do you guys use with the "artistic babysitting" set? I am looking for books whose material is very very simple so that a new page is turned and yet it is pretty much the same level, so that with zero practise and very little skills being developed there isn't the problem of getting stuck on a page for weeks. Also I would like to find books that have a lot of accompanying so that at least I would be getting a bit of sight-reading practise during these clock watching lessons ;)

Thankfully I have only a few of these students, but they do detract from my teaching, which I really enjoy if students are at least a little engaged. I would previously just drop these students after a term of zero practise but financially I need to have a completely full roster at the moment.

Speaking to the parents about practising has already been done, and is usually met with either "yes yes" followed by nothing done or neurotic lazy parenting ######s like "I just want him to enjoy it" followed by nothing done, so forget that option.

Suggestions for materials?

How to keep yourselves occupied? (I have a couple of hand exercises I do)

Thankfully I also have some great students who are a joy and we make music! yes music! :)


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#2 silverlady54

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 10:20

Have you considered offering yourself as an accompanist, perhaps to lower grade instrumentalists/singers in the first instance, to supplement your income occasionally?  This can lead to other opportunities such as playing for dance classes etc.


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#3 BadStrad

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 10:38

Ha! Good luck getting work with dance classes.IDTA wholly use CDs.RAD have the option of cds. Last I heard, only ISTD require the use of accompanists. Flipping disgrace!
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#4 BadStrad

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 10:58

To the OP.  Could you try working on improvisation with a lead sheet. There are plenty out there or you could make up your own.  Showing them how you can play the melody, then add block chords (maybe just the bass note at first) then turn those into a basic accompaniment might give them some momentum, if you can get them to understand using that technique they can play all sorts.   You could do a demo, starting with a simple nursery rhyme or whatever (not sure of the age we're talking here).  Then do it again with something they'd like (Disney/pop/a classical melody that you aren't too precious about and that has a melody that lends itself to a bit of improvisation in the bass).  Then depending on age, etc you could get them learning the melody and so on.  At least with nursery rhymes or songs it's broken down into lines, so you can work on one line at at time and then get to a point of having the whole song to show as an achievement.

 

If nothing else this might add a bit of variation to the lesson for you.  It sounds like you're bored in the lessons and that probably isn't helping you (or the kids).


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#5 Splog

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 11:03

Have you considered bribery? If the parents have no interest in making them practise, can you instigate some kind of reward scheme?


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#6 Piano Meg

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 11:19

Piano adventures moves fairly slowly, there are lots of extra books to augment the tutor book, and they have accompaniments. 

 

Have you tried improvisation with them? The Forrest Kinney 'Pattern play' books are a good starting point and you can spend a while on that (and gradually build towards a sense of pulse and musicality or rhythm patterns/scale awareness) - they can also be good starting points for composition, which can inspire some. Or you can try composition from other activities like rhythm reading. It doesn't sound like the parents will be overly worried if their child isn't playing piano for the full lesson, and developing musicianship is likely to be more productive and fun for both you and the pupil if no practice is happening.

 

Lots of singing and small percussion can be good too. And listening to you play something impressive and tapping a drum lets them develop a sense of pulse (while giving you a chance to play, and maybe inspiring them to want to practice).

 

In cases where the parents don't take any interest, the only chance of getting the pupils to practice is to catch their attention with something. And sometimes it takes a LONG while before that translates to practice! But it does happen... sometimes! 


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#7 Latin pianist

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 11:30

You can get duets with quite complicated secondo parts and easy Primo. I don't know what level these students are, butI've got a Mike Cornick First concert duets, Diabelli duets which are mainly five finger position for student, and Gerald Hengeveld duets, which could all be used for non practisers and give you accompniment practice. Teaching non practisers is tedious, so to make it interesting for you, maybe spend 10 minutes on a piece, 5 minutes Dozen a day, 5 minutes doing theory in the lesson, 10 minutes duets.If you tell us what level the students are, you may get more suggestions of mateial
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#8 erard

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 12:58

I would look also at doing some musicianship and musical appreciation - these kids may not ever become competent piano players, but if you can turn them into keen audience members and listeners that might stay with them for life.  And you get to play to them a bit.


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#9 hammer action

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 14:35

Oh i know the feeling as i've experienced this in the past!  The idea above of bribery is a good one - i've got a big box of stickers and am always amazed at the results it generates!  Stickers are good for motivation, and kids are usually pretty competitive so you could maybe try a sticker chart up on your wall so they can see how they're doing compared to others.  With regard to the box of stickers, i don't let them look through it themselves, i keep them curious - silly i know, but it seems to work.  

 

A few younger ones i have at the moment sometimes come in and play a tune on piano that they've learned by copying a video on YouTube.  Could you alternate lessons each week with one week playing from a book, and the other week copying tunes you play that they will know?  It's not ideal, but at least if it motivates them it might be worthwhile.  I often think it's just laziness that they don't want to learn to read what's on the page, but most will happily copy you.  

 

Another activity i do in lessons, again with the younger ones, is letting them write their own tunes.  For example, a child who has learned RH notes C, D, E, F, G and some basic rhythms can write an 8 bar tune if you provide a template on large stave manuscript with bar lines and a simple 4/4 rhythm written in pencil above each bar for them to use and add notes to (or you can also use rhythms written on flashcards for them to pick).  Writing their own tunes reinforces note reading and gets them to be creative.  They can think of a name for their tune, draw pictures, use stickers on the page etc.  My students enjoy doing this and are always keen to play their own tune to an audience at home.  There's loads of variations you can do on that idea.

 

Hopefully some of those suggestions may help!


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#10 BadStrad

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 15:07

I am sure this is going to be unpopular, but the more I think about the original post the more I think what an unhealthy situation this is for all concerned.

 

The teacher is bored because the kid isn't practicing.

A bored teacher is going to really struggle to motivate and engage a pupil.

An unengaged pupil isn't going to practice.

The teacher gets more frustrated.

And so it goes on.

 

I know we all have to pay the bills but is it really fair to the kids to have a teacher who's heart isn't in it?  Is the stress of the situation healthy for the teacher (and baby)?

 

Mickey, you don't say how many "bores" you have but would it be possible to say tackle just one of them with some of the ideas here.  Say you're trying something new, but give them a deadline that if you don't start hearing some practice has been done, then it's the end of the line for them.  Best case scenario - one of the suggestions gets an improvement and everyone's happier.  Worse case - no improvement, but you lose a pupil who is obviously making you unhappy.  Could you do that? - afford to drop one pupil and be able to tide yourself over until a replacement is found, or make up the money with extending lesson times for other kids if you do part hour lessons, or have kids who need extra time because of exams? 

 

Sometimes, with the best will in the world there are pupils who for some reason we can't reach (and others who no one can get to work).  Sometimes you just have to let someone else try, because that someone else might find the key (or the kid/parents eventually realises that no one wants a lazy pupil and lessons cease).  For our own well being sometimes we have to call time on a no-win scenario.

 

I hope you can find a happy solution to this.  It sounds so sad.


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#11 Fazioligirl

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 17:12

Must say I totally agree with BadStrad- teaching is a two- way thing and if both you and the pupil are bored it's not going to work. You've either got to decide it doesn't matter if they don't practise and do things that don't require it as have been suggested or you cut your losses and get rid of them. I think it comes down to how you feel at the end if the day- if it's stressing you out (& that's perfectly understandable coping with a new baby- congratulations!) then get rid of them. Bribery (sorry, positive reinforcement;-)works wonderfully, I've found, but at the end of the day you need to be happy with the situation- money isn't everything; you need to be happy with what you're doing. Good luck !
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#12 mickey

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 18:38

rest of you thanks for very helpful suggestions:
dance classes - already doing.
gigging at weekends too.
accompanying - haven't done much for a while. Usually have trouble fitting it in, as I get calls and it's just a couple of one off sessions, so I have to give it low priority in my diary.
Diabelli duets - was just thinking of these this week.
Mike Cornick First concert duets and Gerald Hengeveld duets - new to me, thanks will check out.
playing for them - yep doing.
using stickers/bribery - yep doing. comparisons to other students never works IMHO.
composition - yep doing.

issue at hand concerns 3-4 students around ages 6-8.

I think the duets suggestions will be just the ticket to tied me over in this period. I am maximizing my diary this year as I need to sort out buying a bigger flat, and well, have you had a look at the London housing market recently :blink:

Edited by EdGJ, 13 September 2015 - 10:36 .
First line removed - flaming.

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#13 torvaig

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 19:07

Do the parents ever attend lessons? Until children are 8 or 9 I encourage parents to come along to lessons. I engage them in some lesson activities (showing how they can help at home) and also explain practice requirements to them.

 

Have you ever used Paul Harris' Practice Map? For the children it's great as it breaks down their practice into manageable chunks and gives tasks that improve skills in general rather than just for this one piece. It also engages them creatively in the practice process as they might be required to improvise, compose or design an exercise.

 

I use a similar format with my adult students, some of which sound very like yours! I create a series of 5 minute tasks based on their piece. They commit to 5 minutes practice a day, rather than 30 minutes. 5 minutes seems a lot more manageable and often results in them actually practising for more like 15 or 20 minutes. Yes, progress is slower but they accept that. Most importantly though, they enjoy their practice time.

 

Perhaps not relevant for piano but I also insist students keep their violins in sight. No point hiding them in a cupboard all week!
 
 


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#14 Impressionist

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 19:23

.

Edited by EdGJ, 13 September 2015 - 10:35 .
Reference to deleted post removed

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#15 mickey

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 19:24

.

Edited by EdGJ, 13 September 2015 - 10:34 .
Flaming

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