Cerebral palsy and piano

Share your experiences or ask for help with special needs students

Postby 112-1156457400 » Thu Aug 31, 2006 2:27 am

hello

i am actually a studnt, not a teacher.

i have Cerebral Palsy and have a lot of trouble reading and understanding music as well as hand positioning and fast, complex movements. i also find it hard to play chords. my hands are shaky which make it hard to play aswell.

any tips? i am a beginner

Thanks
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Postby Stretto » Sat Sep 02, 2006 2:02 pm

Unfortunately, I've not had an opportunity to teach piano to someone with Cerebral palsey or other physical things that might get in the way of one's playing. I know someone that has it and they have a lot of leg pain, and one leg turns as they walk and also they have more trouble with manual dexterity getting frustrated a lot easier when trying to use their hands. They did learn guitar.

I think it hard to give specific teaching directions in writing or via a forum. A teacher really needs to be able to visually see what a person is doing that is getting in their way or bogging them down trying to learn and offer guidance from there. The advice would be different from individual to individual regardless. There are so many variables that can get in the way of playing the way one would like so a teacher can only really give you exactly the advise you need by watching what your doing and helping you try various things until you and the teacher find something that works for you. It's hard to explain in writing what to do also without sitting right by someone to demonstrate so they can see what it is the teacher is suggesting to do.

I might suggest seeing if there is a Suzuki teacher in your area. I don't have first-hand experience with the Suzuki approach but as I understand it, you first learn by listening and playing the keys with good movements without any music. Then later, start learning to read the music. The reason I mentioned trying a Suzuki teacher is because it might be helpful to only fully concentrate on the movements first without being bogged down trying to read the music at the same time.

One of the most challenging things about playing an instrument like the piano but also sometimes the most frustrating thing is that there are soooo many things a person has to keep in mind all at once. For example, what the movements are needed, where the notes are on the keys, what fingers to use, keeping count, being expressive, keeping a steady tempo, etc. and trying to read the music and also play two hands at once!! BUT, when a person is able to accomplish all that and play a piece of music, it is so wonderfully rewarding and exciting. It's what makes playing an instrument so fun.

One has to have lot of patience with yourself. Break every aspect down into smaller bits, and smaller bits, and smaller bits until you can get one thing down, then add one more thing. For example, on a piece of music, only concentrate on one thing at a time, maybe get familiar with the notes first and don't worry about anything else. Then check if using correct fingering. Then get the counting down, etc. Do this all hands separate and then again together.

I am a one-tracked person mostly and I am not sure why I am into playing the piano because I am the type of person that likes to think about only one thing at a time. So this is how I've always mostly practiced at least until I had gained more experience although I still get pieces down in small chunks usually. I take the smallest little amount of music and play it until I get it usually one hand at a time. Then the next smallest bit. Then put the two bits together and play over and over, then the next little bit, and so on. Keep doing that and you will have the whole song learned. Then go back and do that again bit by bit hands together. At the same time I'm doing all that, I only think about the notes, get that, then think about the rhythm - get that, etc. Try to be asking yourself how you are making the movements, if you are as relaxed as possible.

If you learn to read intervals, which are the distances between notes, it makes reading the music a lot easier and quicker too. Also, if you learn to recognize at least some simple chords.

Also, go as slow as you have to. Even a lot of really experienced pianists practice really slowly first, then a tiny bit faster, then a tiny bit faster until they get up to speed.

In short, my main advice would be to break everything down into as small of amounts needed and keep adding one by one from there. The more you do this over time, the easier it will become to play and you'll probably find yourself being able to take bigger chunks at a time and think about more things at once.

Stay as relaxed as possible while playing. Don't worry about some wrong notes here and there or perfection. I really hate the word perfection because it's not reality. No one is perfect nor can play perfectly. If they did, it would be boring.

Most of all, just enjoy making music!!

Good luck! :cool: :)




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Postby 112-1156457400 » Sun Sep 03, 2006 1:41 am

thank-you so much for ur reply. what is a Suzuki teacher?

i will write more soon. am on a time limit..
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Postby Stretto » Sun Sep 03, 2006 8:49 pm

princess_92 wrote:thank-you so much for ur reply. what is a Suzuki teacher?

i will write more soon. am on a time limit..

By Suzuki teacher, I meant a teacher trained and teaching using what is called the Suzuki method or approach to learning an instrument such as piano. As I mentioned I don't have first hand experience but from talking with a teacher I know who teaches it, one first learns without reading the music. From what I understand, one does not learn to read music at first, but focuses on listening, imitating or playing by ear, and how to make proper movements in playing the keys.

I should clarify that I'm not saying this is THE thing you should do, but it was just an idea. The only reason I mentioned the idea was because rather than trying to coordinate the movements and read music at the same time, this approach sounds like it would allow you to focus only on the movements to play first and then later add learning to read the music. It's just another idea of how to learn by breaking things down into a more manageable way to learn. The only thing is I've heard it requires parental involvement at lessons and practice but I'm not sure if they do it that way for teenagers or not.

You can do a web search on the Suzuki method and find information on it and some sites that might have a teacher locator.

I'm not saying again that it's exactly what's right for you. You would just have to look into it and ask.
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Postby 112-1156457400 » Sun Sep 03, 2006 9:24 pm

HI,
I live in austalia. in brisbane, so i don't know if there is one in my area. it sounds like an excellent idea though. but i still haven't quite got what a sukiki teacher is-sorry if i spelt that wrong. you say u know a teacher who teaches that method. maybe u could get him'her to write/post something on this forum? does it cost money?

ok, thank=you for ur time. u sound like a really nice perosn so than-you for writting to me.
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Postby Stretto » Sun Sep 03, 2006 10:04 pm

Well, that's about as far as I know about it. It just sounded good as far as I mentioned from the standpoint of concentrating on making the movements to play the piano without being bogged down by reading the music at the same time.

You'd have to just research it to find out more about it or ask your parents to research it for you. Here's one website I was given in case I was interested in learning more about it.

Also, I'm sure a good piano teacher regardless of method or approach could help you learn to play the piano in a managable way and guide you on what and how much to focus on at a time. Ask your parents to do some checking on it.

Suzuki Piano Basics

Well, I'm pretty sure I have covered all the advice I can come up with.
I wish you the best of luck on your quest to learn to play the piano!




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Postby 112-1156457400 » Tue Sep 05, 2006 9:21 pm

hi Stretto.
guess what, i went onto that site that you gave me, and there are none in australia. what do i do, because it sounded like an excellent idea-and one that could work too!!
i know that you are not an expert on life situations, but i have found all your comments extremly heplful, so i thank you very much for taking the time to listen to me and help me. hey, just out of curiosity, how long have you been teaching for. you do not need to tell me if you don't want to

thanks :;): ???
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Postby Stretto » Wed Sep 06, 2006 12:47 pm

Sorry, I really can't think of any more advice than what I already offered except to say, you really need to get your parents or relative or such and have them check around what teachers, if any are in the area you live and find out what and how they teach, if they can help you, and select one that sounds like they would work the best for you if you don't already have a teacher.

If you're teaching yourself, all I can give is the basic advice I gave in this thread and the piano teacher's forum, which I would give anyone beginning, and also I would think it would be especially good general advice for anyone trying to learn with a physical or mental impairment getting in the way of playing:

1. Break all music down into small bits you can manage.

If you don't have a teacher to guide you, you have to figure out how to break a piece down yourself. I never had anyone show me even though I had lessons and I just came up with my own way at your exact age to break a piece of music down little by little. You have to ask yourself how you learn best and apply that to learning music. When it comes to how to practice, what I figured out myself without anyone showing me is exactly what I've read a lot of other pianists even professionals practice. Actually, although I had teachers, starting at age 12, I figured out a lot if not the majority of stuff by myself. Except a good teacher is vital in learning how to make better movements with hands, arms, etc. on the keys.
A teacher is there to offer guidance, help when stuck, show you correct movements in playing not to do everything for you!

2. Choose easy enough music you can handle.

3. Learn slowly, don't be in a hurry to progress way too fast. If you start learning this year by the time your 20, you'll have been playing 6 years. You'll be amazed where you're at in that time if you work hard and keep at it.

That basically sums up everything I've already written.

I've taught for 10 years by the way just a handful of students at any given time. - enough to know what doesn't work but maybe not quite enough to know what does work :D !




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Postby Stretto » Wed Sep 06, 2006 12:57 pm

p.s. If you ask any general questions on learning to play the piano, it would be better to ask under the "Learning Piano" forum unless they're directly related to trying to play with cerebral palsy.

Maybe you could teach us teachers something about cerebral palsy and in what ways does it make it harder to play the piano?

What advice would you give to teachers trying to teach someone with cerebral palsy? What would you say to teachers in trying to help someone?

What do you think is a good way for a teacher to best teach someone with cerebral palsy?

Also, how long have you been playing? How did you get started? What songs have you learned? Do you have a piano? Do you have a teacher?

If you haven't already, you really should click on and read this link:
Learning to Play the Piano. If you go to that link, you'll find links to lots of PEP articles on learning to play the piano and how to find and choose a teacher.




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Postby Mins Music » Wed Sep 06, 2006 8:49 pm

guess what, i went onto that site that you gave me, and there are none in australia. what do i do, because it sounded like an excellent idea-


There are plenty of Suzuki method teachers in Aussie - I've had students transfer from this method. Sometimes you'll see them advertise in the paper. Your best bet is to go down (or even phone) your local music store and ask if they know any in your area. You could also tell them your circumstances, and ask if they know any specialist piano teachers - Brisbanes' a BIG place and full of 'experts!' If you're really keen, talk to your Mum or Dad, tell them you'd really like to progress and would do better with some help.

Princess, even though you have something 'extra' to contend with, learning to play the piano is hard for EVERYONE - don't feel discouraged because your progress is slow. Really smart people - even adults - find learning the piano a challenge. It's hard, it can be REALLY boring because you have to repeat things so many times AND it can even be a bit lonely!!! That's why a lot of kids your age (and older ones, including adults) just give up. So take heart, if you're really keen, you'll be able to make progress with a lot of effort - and always remember - it's hard for EVERYone!

I think it's possible for you to teach yourself, but if you'd like help, do it through your Mum or Dad. Get their help and advice - they can really get that ball rolling for you!

lot of trouble reading and understanding music as well as hand positioning and fast, complex movements. i also find it hard to play chords. my hands are shaky which make it hard to play aswell.


Reading music takes a lot of practise - so again, you're not alone here. Would it help to find some large print music?

Also, Princess, you say you're a beginner and then talk about 'fast, complex movements'. Could you define beginner?

Once again, EVERYONE has difficulties learning to use their individual fingers because we're so used to using our hand as a whole. You type well, and that skill is similar to playing keys on the piano - do you type with only one finger, or can you use many? Typing is also good practise using the smaller movements needed in piano playing.

If you're finding the 'fast, complex movements' difficult, is the music your tackling a little too hard for you at the moment? Most beginner pieces don't involve fast, complex movements. Perhpas you need to start with some easier music.

If chords are difficult and piano keys are hard to press down because of your shakey hands, have you considered learning to play the keyboard - the skills you need for this instrument are different from the piano.I have taught many kids using a keyboard with keyboard skills - not piano skills, and it can be a lot of fun!

For a start, the keys are 'lighter' you don't need correct hand positioning - you can even play them with a flat finger. You can also have great fun with glissandos using the back of your fingers. Every keyboard has an automated accompaniment that you can play with just one finger. Also, keyboard music is written ONLY with the treble clef and the chord letter above. Emphasis is then on how you ARRANGE the music - using the different voices, the different drum beats, all the different 'fills' - it becomes more about TIMING, RHYTM, CREATIVITY, then whether or not you're shaping your fingers accurately. It's also a bonus that you can wear headphones so as not to disturb anyone else.

Keyboard methods today even come with a CD, so you can listen to how it's supposed to sound, and then play along with them.

If you do go ahead with keyboard skills and still would like a teacher, make sure you get a teacher who knows KEYBOARD skills - otherwise you'll end up trying to learn piano skills, but just practising on a keyboard!




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"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby 112-1156457400 » Wed Sep 06, 2006 9:27 pm

hi
i do have a keyboard at the moment (it is only a half keyboard-doesn't have 88 keys and it is not weight controlled-doesn;t not have very good/much weight in the keys)-which i am hiring from the school. only thing is-it has to go back in a few weeks-so i am trying to work something out-that is a cheap opition (am thinking of my parents..) and that is not too big. don't really know what to get though... i am using a book, it is Alfred piano book-don't remember what it is exactly called, and it has on it-"for the later beginner". i don't really at the moment have one favourite syle-i like all syles (at the moment...)-i don't think that i ahve heard all the styles-i don't know... i think my attention span is pretty good-i do have a piano teacher(tell u about that in a minute) and he says that i am very keen! so that must be good. could i be too keen? i can play a few simple peices-i don't think you would know them though because they aren't popular-but then again, you might if you know the book. i can play-the clown, old uncle bill- all the way up to the clown-if you know what i mean-if you know what book i am talking about then you'll understand. at the moment i have just learnt "The Clown". any way-my piano teacher (i don't think....) has never taiught someone with CP- as i said before i don't know. i have only been learning for about (maybe) 3 months or so??

ok, thanks for all your help and advice-i really appreciate it. i will write back soon
as i have more to say

thanks
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Postby 112-1156457400 » Wed Sep 06, 2006 9:35 pm

it is me again.
it would probably help me if i had large easy music to try and get better at reading music.
yes, i am a beginner-maybe my teacher is progressing me too fast? if i am doing chord stuff already??
even though i am keen in progressing fast (that is a whole new story itself :;): )

oh, one problem-my parents have never been all that keen in me playing piano/music related things. so that is why i could not learn when i was 5 years old-i have wanted to learn since i was 5.

i do type with only two fingers....so yer.....
my movement/cordination in my hands/fingers isn't ll that great


i'm really sorry, but at one time, i can only write small amounts at a time-as i am on a time limit, with school, parents etc

so i will promise to write more soon-i want to anyway

one again thank-you
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Postby Mins Music » Wed Sep 06, 2006 10:05 pm

could i be too keen?


NOPE!! Glad to hear you have a teacher Princess - do you feel comfortable talking to him about your concerns?

Your Alfred book is for piano skills. If you wanted to try a keyboard book - treble clef only, I could recommend one. Probably a good idea to talk it over with your teacher. If you WERE going to go down the keyboard path, you could buy a brand new one for about three hundred dollars. But if you keep your eye out on Ebay, they're selling second hand ones - and new ones from shops all the time. Just check how much postage will cost - if you're buying from an Ebay shop, even though you live in Brisbane, they still won't let you pick it up. I'be bought keyboards for as little as $50 - postage included (they're not the same as digital pianos).

Don't worry about not starting at 5!!! I'm teaching an absolute beginner at the moment and she's 15! I also have 2 over fifty's learning - I've taught all age groups - so you're not alone in starting a little later. You're never too old, so don't worry about what you've missed out on, focus on what you'be got now! And if your parents are paying for a piano teacher, they couldn't be too against this music stuff!
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby 112-1156457400 » Fri Sep 08, 2006 1:19 am

thank-you both very much!!

ok, first the advice i'd give to a teacher is that cerebral palsy affects the muscles of a person. sometimes the muscle can be too tight or too relaxed-and sometimes the movements that a person makes is either hard to control, or they are involunantary. like stiff hands.... if u want more information on CP u can look it up on the internet-i will tell u more about it later

2nd, i do have a piano teacher. i have only been playing piano for about 10 weeks-i think.i don't think that my piano teacher has ever taught anyone who does have CP...

3. i am at the moment hiring a keyboard from the school, it is very light weighted-not much weight in the keys,and it only has 50 something keys-not 88-no pedels. only problem is, is that it has to go back in 3 weeks. any suggestion on what to buy/hire? it needs to have 88 keys, weight controll in the keys (the more the better) and the three pedals

4. i am learning out of a book called "PIANO, lesson book 1, for the later beginner" from Alfred's basic piano library

5. yes, i do type,but only with mainly one finger....

6. yes, big,simple music would probably/hopefully help me learn. as i find it hard to go from bass to treble and so fourth.

7. maybe my piano teacher is progressing me "too" fast? because i am already doing 2nds, 3rds, 4ths and fifths.... and playing a few peices with flats... he (my piano teacher) tells me to learn as many pieces i can-basically teach myself, then show him at my next lesson. my piano lessons only go for 30 minutes and are once a week

8. he says i am really keen-is that a good thing? can i ever be TOO keen?...

i will write more soon...have to go-sorry
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Postby 112-1156457400 » Fri Sep 08, 2006 1:33 am

hi
i didn't check the second page-so i didn't think my reply got through, so that is why i wrote another one.

musicman u said u know about the susiki method-how music does it cost, if u could give me all the info u, then that would be great!
thanks
will write more soon...
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