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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Rubens
If the child can read music but just lacks confidence, the teacher could assign an easy piece that the student has to learn on his own (with no "showing" from the teacher) and bring to the teacher at the next lesson. The piece would have to be quite easier than what he's playing now; it's another challenge.


S42
It’s not clear to me if your son is being taught to read music at his lessons. Is he? Or is he learning to play by ear?

It's both.

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Originally Posted by s42
Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Rubens
If the child can read music but just lacks confidence, the teacher could assign an easy piece that the student has to learn on his own (with no "showing" from the teacher) and bring to the teacher at the next lesson. The piece would have to be quite easier than what he's playing now; it's another challenge.


S42
It’s not clear to me if your son is being taught to read music at his lessons. Is he? Or is he learning to play by ear?

It's both.

Then I would encourage the teacher to do that. I remember this is how my first teacher did it. There is a sense of accomplishment and fun in bringing to the teacher something you learned "by yourself" without having heard it played by the teacher beforehand.


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Originally Posted by Rubens
Originally Posted by s42
Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Rubens
If the child can read music but just lacks confidence, the teacher could assign an easy piece that the student has to learn on his own (with no "showing" from the teacher) and bring to the teacher at the next lesson. The piece would have to be quite easier than what he's playing now; it's another challenge.


S42
It’s not clear to me if your son is being taught to read music at his lessons. Is he? Or is he learning to play by ear?

It's both.

Then I would encourage the teacher to do that. I remember this is how my first teacher did it. There is a sense of accomplishment and fun in bringing to the teacher something you learned "by yourself" without having heard it played by the teacher beforehand.


S42
Does your son ever play anything by reading the music? Seems like the recording you posted would be above his reading level.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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S42, I will again just caveat all this with the disclaimer that I’m not a piano teacher, and I don’t play pop piano. But I have a few additional thoughts after reading your posts and watching the videos of your son play. The first is related to him playing pop music. I understand that the approach to pop piano is often quite different from classical piano — and is much less reliant on detailed and precise reading of sheet music. I don’t play pop piano, but my understanding is that often, it is played from a lead sheet — which is a sheet that shows some very basic aspects of the music — the melody is written out, and there will be indications of what the harmonies/chords are, but it is the pianist who decides how to ‘fill out’ the music and the setting (are you playing by yourself? With a singer? With a band? Different settings can mean different approaches for performance). How you ‘fill out’ the music can be done in many, many different ways, and it can be more or less intricate. This is quite different from classical piano, where all the notes are written, and a lot of additional information (dynamics, articulation, etc) is conveyed in the score. Since your son is playing pop music, it makes some sense to me that reading has not been greatly emphasized in his studies.

You are clearly concerned about the direction of his lessons. But my advice would be to talk to his teacher about what they are doing, what your concerns are, and what the teacher’s philosophy is. The teacher is clearly doing something right as your son is enjoying his lessons and learning songs.

But it sounds to me like you think that the lessons should emphasize reading more. If this is the case, I think there should be some thought to whether he would benefit from classical training rather than pop. With classical training, he will definitely need to work a lot on his reading. With pop, I suspect the emphasis will ultimately be more on improvisation. Basic reading skills are always helpful, but I think the importance of good reading skills is much less in pop piano than in classical training. Other aspects which are not emphasized in classical piano will be more salient. Talk to the teacher and talk to your son. Please do not make him cry! Music making should be fun.

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I guess that showing how to play is quite broad. That is - teaching can also include showing visibly what keys to push, and then teaching nuances, etc etc, so that the piano music being 'played' gets to a level that somebody might be aiming for - in terms of sound/expression,smoothness, loud and soft etc etc. Teaching reading and nuances, finger and hand technique is also 'teaching' - and teaching how to 'play'. As is also teaching music theory, and composition, 2-5-1 (and related methods), patterns, ear training ..... is also teaching how to play. So it's all teaching how to play - just at various different levels.

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Just for clarification ----- showing how to play is part of teaching how to play the instrument.

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I liken learning music to learning a language.

Some children are "offended" by the little paper readers they get in young elementary school. They have been read chapter books, can recite poems, they do not like "baby" books.

But, everyone has to begin somewhere. And the more they read, the more they learn.

For music, there is a balance of ear training/playing by ear and rote/memory, and then all the interpreting of symbols- note values, staff, dynamics, tempo, etc...

Just because a child can say or play something, does not mean they understand it.

Example-

I taught a preschool summer class to say "USA!" years ago for an Olympic summer theme.

I realized some students were actually saying "You, Yes, Hey!" when they pointed to me (you) nodded for Yes, and raised arms up or waved for Hey!

So they has the right sounds, but no understanding.

In piano, I had a boy that insisted he play "hard" music for upcoming recital. This was after all music was chosen. He was out of time to learn a new piece. He just developed an ego. While I was teaching his sibling, I gave him a book two levels up of his chosen piece, and set him at the keyboard with headphones to eek out what he wanted to play.

At the end, he said, "you are right Miss Belle, this is above my level." (he is a beginner, Faber and Faber level 2A)

Another boy had chosen a reach piece for recital, and we took all of very lesson time to work on only that recital piece. He did very well. However, when we returned to the curriculum books, he realized, "oh, this symbol/note was in the recital piece. If I had kept on working through, I would already have learned this!"

So he and I discussed and decided that for our twice a year recitals, one would be a reach piece that is mostly rote learning and memorized, and the other recital music would be at his level, and more than one piece.

A piano teacher can offer different things. But, they should teach how to read and interpret music.

OP, since your child is reluctant to play/practice at home, I would suggest that you attend a lesson or two and see what is the difference.


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Originally Posted by missbelle
Just because a child can say or play something, does not mean they understand it.

That is indeed true. That's because adequate experience is often needed to understand particular things. Exposure to various sorts of music ----- and a person's own liking of music, plus affinity etc ----- counts toward understanding. Possibly adding adequate music theory/knowledge (including composition theory, or anything else) can help out in various ways too. And that can apply to anybody - not just a child.

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Originally Posted by s42
Originally Posted by Greener
Learning by rote is not such a terrible thing. The narrative that it is completely bad is completely wrong.

For one thing, by learning this way at a young age, they are playing more interesting music sooner. There are schools that teach by rote, before teaching to read and especially for young children. Suzuki for one and there are other masters I've read about that totally believe in this approach. But, it isn't traditional and unfairly gets labelled bad. But it isn't.

The biggest misconception is that they are being shown how to play instead of learning to play. No. They are learning to play before they are learning to read and at this stage of their young minds development, it is more rewarding for them and they are progressing faster than they would otherwise as they enjoy it more.

You don't need to force it. They will want to learn to read eventually and when they do, they will pick it up much faster as they already know how to play, at least to some degree. Like, they already have good hand/finger coordination and sense of rhythm and likely already starting to rely on their ear more. All of which is good.

There are many examples of great artists that started this way. The classical traditional approach works, but it doesn't work for everyone. Just think about the drop out rate.

Do they need to be a classical musician that reads well, or is it ok if they just settle for a lifetime of loving to play the piano however they do it? I settled for the latter and still play everyday.

One thing I can say is that 1. my son loves piano class 2. is always super happy after class.

Based on this maybe he wouldn't be like that if he didn't enjoy what was happening in class be it learning by rote. I think by spending more time with him practice reading at home could synergize well with his lessons and over time everything will come together when the times right.
The most important thing I think you can do for your child is to facilitate that inner love of music he clearly has and not destroy it by making too many demands on him until he is ready. But from my own experience he is probably ready now to work on the things that he needs to work on to be a complete pianist. How you and his teacher does that I think is the critical part. He sounds like a sensitive kid like I was at his age. You need to find creative and caring ways to start teaching him how to understand all the parts about making good music at the piano without destroying his love for the instrument. That includes reading music as well as understanding how to read rhythm and not just feel it and play by ear. I know this because your kid plays a lot like I did when I was his age. But I stopped music lessons at his age because I was introduced to a piano teacher who thought I was a train wreck because I played like your son. Instead of identifying what I was good at he only identified the bad and he was clearly more frustrated than I was and I lasted only about 2 months with him before I was so put off by his exasperated looks that are very impressionable on a 9 or 10 year old so I quit lessons after loving the experience for 5 years with my former teacher and taught myself the piano into adulthood.

That’s not to say looking back that first organ teacher was faultless because she indulged me too much and let me play by recognizing the notes and then playing by ear. I was very much like your son. I could listen to anything she played and play it back to her using the notes as a rough guideline. Your son has a good ear but I’m sure he can read the music. It’s just much easier to play by ear when you’ve figured out all the notes. He has a very good sense of rhythm and good hand eye coordination and coordination between his hands. He’s not playing rote, as in he studied the teacher’s hands and memorized the movements. He’s playing by ear and I can tell this because he’s naturally recognizing harmonic changes and pedaling pretty good with those chord changes.

The problem is he’s not counting and he’s relying on his good sense of rhythm. But having a good sense of rhythm is not the same as reading and understanding the rhythm on the page. He needs to know how to subdivide and he should learn the ability to count out loud or he will have difficulty later with more challenging pieces. Trust me know this from my own personal experience.

With time and practice he will learn to read while looking at the music but if he was like me he needs to learn to count out loud while playing sooner than later. The key is how you introduce this and it will require a lot patience on you and your teacher. Yes let him indulge sometimes but there is a little work to be done sometimes. If he starts crying or gets frustrated pull back and ease up on the reins a little. Don’t frustrate your child but don’t let him get away with too much either. I spent 40+ years indulging myself too much on the piano simply because I didn’t know any better. I was just a kid who wanted to play but I loved every minute of it and I gained a lot of skills. But if I could save 1 child from future difficulties I thought I would share this little advice with you. Your son is going a good pianist. Maybe not a professional but I think pretty good for his own and others personal enjoyment which really is what it’s all about -creating music lovers to support the musical arts. Give him lots of positive reinforcement and patience. Tell him all the good things he’s doing right and gently work on the other important details as well. Like scales and theory. Nothing wrong with him learning off pieces he loves. In fact it’s probably one of the best ways. Stick him with boring music and it’s like feeding him Castrol oil. Who likes that? Classical pieces can come later if he chooses. Remember especially for kids and also adult learners it’s about having fun first and the hard work will soon follow.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by s42
the problem is he's teacher has been coasting him in a way where the aim with her help is getting him to play a song asap then move onto another song and side stepping the theory ie knowing everything written on a page and having the confidence and curiosity to discover the joys of doing it on his own.
What do you mean by 'theory'? Kids don't need to know much in the early years other than being able to read music properly and decipher the expression indications etc. There's no need to go any further, like learning harmony, until he's 12 and above.

If he can read music, just give him lots of easy pieces (like the one I linked - did you try it?) and let him figure them out and sight-read them. I'm still not understanding what your son can actually do on his own without help.
I agree completely. Theory usually refers to harmony and knowledge of harmony is not needed in the beginning. If the OP means something else when using "theory", they should explain what they mean for us to give an opinion on this.

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