Not using method books - Does anyone not use method books?

Discuss the pros and cons of various "methods" with other teachers

Postby Stretto » Mon Dec 05, 2005 5:09 pm

Does anyone not use method books particularly lesson books in methods?

I've recently thrown method books "out the window". My current students agreed on "doing away" with their method books. I haven't had any new students yet now since changing my teaching approach and am still formulating ideas as to how I will teach any new beginners. I still will be using some method's supplemental books just not the lesson books. Does anyone not use lesson books or method books at all? To those of you who use method books, which one's have you used?

Incidentally, for information on the Piano Education Page regarding methods, click on this link: Choosing a Teaching Method. It appears the link won't work, it's under the article "Starting a Teaching Studio" on the Piano Education Page.




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Postby 108-1121887355 » Mon Dec 05, 2005 9:57 pm

Stretto,
You know my reply - no!
I do use books for supplementing - Alfred, Bastien, Brimhall are some. My students are playing Hedwig's Theme (Harry Potter), Star Wars theme, Do Re Mi, My Favorite Things, Jingle Bells and Christmas carols, Dreydle Song, Fur Elise, several Bach Minuets from a Bach book, Pink Panther theme. Selections by Rimsky-Korsakof, many folk songs, pieces from Frost book (an old one), Contemporary music . some by Bartok Streabog, and Kabelbevsky. pieces from Gurlitt book and Burgmuller book.
I try to have students play a variety of styles. Had some Rags earlier this year (more last year). I encourage composing and playing duets. Both great tools for learning reading and rhythm.
This "method" takes more time, finding the pieces in books and singles that fill the needs and likes of the student. I have folders for each that I keep revising. After MANY years of playing and teaching, I have LOTS of music. I still buy more - really need to stay away from music stores!
Bought the "Music by Me' series today. Thanks for the reccomendation. They offer a lot of what I do but write out myself!
Joan
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Postby Stretto » Tue Dec 06, 2005 7:43 am

lovapiano,

I should come up and take some lessons from you! What books do you get most of your folk songs out of?

What methods do others of you use or have used in the past? Or do you use method books?




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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Tue Dec 06, 2005 2:37 pm

I've always felt that method books are like stretch socks: they can be made to fit if you're not fussy, but they don't really fit anyone very well. That's not to say, though, that there are not many swell ideas in some of them (the methods, not the socks), or that we should be too uppity to peruse different methods and be willing to learn from the experience of others (my wife and I personally think Frances Clark had the best approach we've seen so far). A method also offers long-term organization of material, which many teachers don't have the time to do.

But years of teaching a 125-member Music Appreciation class while also giving individual lessons has made me acutely aware of the tremendous advantage we have in being able to work with students one-on-one. Here is this golden opportunity to adapt to each individual's needs, skill level, talent and personality for a half hour or an hour, focussed on one person at a time--no method can do that.

Teaching individually and creatively in this way means, of course, that the teacher is equipped to find the right approach and materials for each student, and that's difficult and never-ending work. Along with that, we have to stay in touch with ways to keeps ours minds and attitudes fresh, when so often we get weary and discouraged. Teaching mechanically is easy--teaching creatively is a tough job!! I'm sure there will be a lot of agreement to this.

Dr. B.
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Tue Dec 06, 2005 5:17 pm

Bill, I think I will have to come to NM to see you! Teaching "individually and creatively" says it all for me, and there surely is not one method for everyone. Thank you for putting it so well. You and the PEP are helping keep my mind fresh with new ideas! It IS hard work but I enjoy it!

My daughter has my big book of Folk Songs right now. I am not sure of the name. I will get it tho. I also like Stephen Foster, by Stickles (not sure you can still get it) and if you want some exact titles, I can send them. Some I have are Bastien and Eckstein and Bermont.The ones I use for my beginners are from Dr. Burrows' books. The early ones are 5 finger pieces - I can write out some of the melodies if you would like. Yes, we do need a way to send music to each other. You may know some, but names are often changed. There is "Little River Flowing", "To New York". "Lightly Row" "The Duke of York" and MANY more. Are you looking for any particular level? Of course, I don't think much of levels I II and III etc. as they vary so with each publisher. But is you can tell me what the student is playing, I can get an idea.
I have many books and use pieces in them as needed - I have Glover, Bastien, Clarke, Alfred, Eckstein, (like books 1 and 3, and Brimhall, Frost and more. I have a composer series - different publishers (Alfred, Jessie, etc.) and more. I should inventory it all some time and put it all on the computer!
Joan
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Tue Dec 06, 2005 5:55 pm

I should add, too, Joan, that I don't mean NEVER use a method--sometimes one of them seems to work best for a particular student, or a student is more comfortable with it, or maybe it helps the parent be of assistance in practicing.

But it's SO easy to get wedded to one method or one approach or one group of pieces--I've done it, too, because it's a cinch to spot things when you know a piece well yourself (I just KNOW that 90% of my students will play a C-natural for the last r.h. note of m.11, and a B-natural for the last l.h. note of m.19, in the Bach C-major Invention).

So we have to keep kicking ourselves to:

Stay Creative!
Stay flexible!
Keep your options open!
Be an individual (even a kook if necessary)!
Never stop learning!

B. L.
Technique is 90 per cent from the neck up.
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Postby Stretto » Tue Dec 06, 2005 6:43 pm

I don't mind being creative. I'm all for the creative approach. It seems to keep me more enthused. I have had many sources of frustration with some aspects of the methods that have left me and the student paying for it 2-3 years later. I mentioned I recently threw the method I was using out the window. I have looked through a lot of various methods over and over at the music stores and see advantages in each one but disadvantages as well.
A couple students who had been on the method books I was using, I switched to a couple different books at their skill level of just familar tunes. One a supplemental book of the same or similar method, one not. They have come to be way too dependent on me and the lesson to figure out new music that they should at least now be able to figure out at home by themselves (at least get the notes and rhythm). They will hardly figure anything out for themselves as they are used to being "spoon fed" sort of speak so that puts me and them in a rut we have to dig ourselves loose from.

When it comes to matching the teaching style to the individual, it is my favorite part of teaching, but also can sometimes be my biggest frustration in teaching at the same time.

I'm in frustration-mode as we speak with my last lesson that just left. Now I'll be thinking on how to make changes to solve the problem for the next lesson. I already have an idea so now I have to wait a whole week to "try it out".




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Postby 108-1121887355 » Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:12 pm

Stay Creative!
Stay flexible!
Keep your options open!
Be an individual (even a kook if necessary)!
Never stop learning!
----------------------------------------------------
Bill,
Your advice is so good to 'hear' - words for piano teachers to live by - all teachers, actually.

I thoroughly agree with some method books and I have used them with some students. When you teach to each student, it takes all that you stated above.

I have experienced the "I know where the problem spots will be". That is why I am always exploring new music. My brain needs a workout too.

Thank you!

Joan
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:14 pm

Re: last post. I am sorry I do not know how to a quote on the reply. The beginning are Bill's words for those who may have missed his post.
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:28 pm

Stretto,
That is why I have so many books - I may use a few pieces from each.I can go along in one book for a while and then need to find another way so search other books. There is no one book. Wouldn't it be nice if we could make up our own and put each student's name on it?
An 11 year old in her third year is frustrating me now.(today) I know she can so more and better. Unfortunately she is working with a keyboard - smaller than regular piano keyboard - no pedal-no weighted keys ... I thought a piano was to be purchased over the summer. I am still trying hard to have the Mother realize the need! I hope this is the only reason for the student not performing up to her potential - it is a good reason! She has talent and I hate to see her where she is now. She composed a great piece of music last year, she has a lovely singing voice and likes to act and dance. She does not take any other lessons, tho, except in soccer.
She is enjoying the holiday music now - but balking at the left hand even with simple chords she knows!?
Joan
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:28 pm

Stay Creative!
Stay flexible!
Keep your options open!
Be an individual (even a kook if necessary)!
Never stop learning!
----------------------------------------------------
Bill,
Your advice is so good to 'hear' - words for piano teachers to live by - all teachers, actually.

I thoroughly agree with some method books and I have used them with some students. When you teach to each student, it takes all that you stated above.

I have experienced the "I know where the problem spots will be". That is why I am always exploring new music. My brain needs a workout too.

Thank you!

Joan
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Thu Dec 08, 2005 7:28 am

You just rang another bell in my head, Joan--a bell that keeps ringing often on the Forum. I'm talking about a thing that keeps coming up in different subjects and threads, and that's the one about trying to get around the problem of students working with a keyboard instead of a piano. I'm not going to get into the relative merits of acoustic and digital. It just occurs to me that there are some advantages to being older in that you often see more things in long term perspective.

When my mother was a kid, practically every home had a piano, and families had to make music for themselves--there wasn't anything else. People played the piano, sang and played other instruments (can anybody today imagine courting a girl with a ukelele?) Then silent films, talking films, 78 rpm records and radio came along. In my childhood it was TV and the LP, then the computer showed up and everything went digital. So here we are at the end of a whole century that's seen home entertainment shift gradually from active to passive. This, overall, is really what we're fighting, not just two-octave Casio keyboards--it's harder to get kids interested in something that isn't quick and easy and that takes effort and frustration over a long time frame. (I'm well aware of how ancient I sound here.)

I have an ongoing agreement with my own kids (and it was as much their idea as mine) that the three grandchildren receive toys at Christmas and on birthdays that call for active involvement; very little motorized, digitized stuff where the kid watches while the toy does all the playing.

Bill.
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Postby Stretto » Thu Dec 08, 2005 7:47 am

Dr. Bill Leland wrote:I have an ongoing agreement with my own kids (and it was as much their idea as mine) that the three grandchildren receive toys at Christmas and on birthdays that call for active involvement; very little motorized, digitized stuff where the kid watches while the toy does all the playing.

Bill.

And the parents I'm sure will appreciate less noise from the toy itself as a result. :)
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Postby Stretto » Thu Dec 08, 2005 10:43 am

Dr. Bill Leland wrote:Stay Creative!
Stay flexible!
Keep your options open!
Be an individual (even a kook if necessary)!
Never stop learning!

B. L.

Perhaps we should all frame that someplace where we will be reminded. I've always thought of staying flexible as meaning not to get stuck in one approach as we have mentioned. This last week, I learned out of the "frustrating" lesson I had that flexibility also means something else as well. I learned flexibility also involves having a back-up plan or another avenue one can take (improvise, compose, listen to music, look at a new piece, etc.) if the student comes unprepared. All too often I've gotten in a rut using lesson time going over a piece note by note at the lesson because the student didn't go over it at home according to the assignment. I have always had back up plans, but I've never thought of going down another path at lessons than originally planned as a form of flexibility as well.

When it comes to making a decision not to use method books, here are a couple of dilemnas I've encountered. This summer I mentioned I "threw lesson books out the window" for my current students. I had done away with lesson books in the past for a few students and my current experiences reminded me of the problems in doing this. My beginner students, for example, (were just starting level 2 in a mainstream "position" book). I switched them to a supplemental book of familar tunes in the same or similar method and also another children's song book of simple pieces. Here's what happened and it reminded me that it happened once before: All of the sudden, there were a lot of new concepts being thrown out in a single piece at once. Some of them were syncopated rhythms, fingerings that "go all over the place", first and second endings, etc. - basically several concepts all at once. It's fine and better that way as they can learn more in a shorter time, but it throws them for a loop and bogs them down for a few pieces at least until they start getting the hang of it. With the early-intermediate students and up, not using lessons seems to stagnate them more where the motivation to advance is "getting through all the levels" in the books. I've tried to combat this by making my own 'level' requirements in order to advance which allows for more flexibility in the pieces they can use to move up.

One of the reasons I got tired of lessons books is that kids were so motivated to move up to the next level in the series, they would only practice lesson book music and nothing else. The problem was they were never learning any pieces with familiar tunes or pieces they might enjoy more. By about level 3, they began getting bored with the lesson book music. Only ironically that's still what they would practice most because they wanted to get through the levels. These are the main reasons why I did away with the lesson books and created my own level requirements.

The value of lesson books is that they are carefully graded so only one new concept is presented per piece of music. And they do provide motivation to move to the next level. So it creates a dilemna, work with music students recognize or might enjoy more but have to learn more concepts at once or have carefully graded pieces that no one recognizes or may not always sound that great. Any advice?




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Postby 108-1121887355 » Fri Dec 09, 2005 12:12 pm

Stretto wrote:
Dr. Bill Leland wrote:Stay Creative!
Stay flexible!
Keep your options open!
Be an individual (even a kook if necessary)!
Never stop learning!
B. L.

I copied off Bill's words and enlarged the copy on my copier and mounted it on colored paper and it is now on the wall by my piano, over the table where I keep some supplies and pencil and paper for lessons, so I will see it often! (My English teacher would surely gasp at that sentence!)

A back up plan yes! I learned from teaching nursery school and having a cub scout troop that is is always good over-plan. I have a folder for each student and go through often to add and subtract music. I always have books for sight reading and books and single copies for new music. I also have some theory sheets. Each student has a manuscript book, so we can always compose.

(Side note: I had a group of 16 Brownies in my home and it was lovely! I had a group of 6- 8 Cub Scouts and it was ....not so lovely. If you were not ready to begin something right away after completing a project (and all did not finish at once) something was broken, someone was hit...etc. The girls could sit and do arts and crafts and music and drama for ever! The best two sessions with the boys were making pancakes and sledding.)

I have not had too many students concerned about levels (perhaps because I do not use a lot of books in order!), so that is not a problem. Some will ask why they are only doing level two and I explain that levels do not mean much and each series is different. Motivation focus maybe should be rechanneled from what level to what music they can play and enjoy.

An important note you mentioned was that too many concepts may be given at once in other books. This is why it is even more time consuming and why I use more than one book at a time and one piece at a time. At this time of year the students have, favorite pieces, memory pieces, a piece to 'polish' and a new piece, or section of a new piece. Some have exercises and scales, although I use them more to help with a piece rather than given indiscriminatly. One student WANTS to learn all the scales in all the keys - we are on the flats now and fingering is slowing her. We began all three minor scales too in the sharp keys. Others do not even wish to look at Dozen a Day or Hanon, so again, I use an exercise as needed. (I still have an old Czerny book - it is hard to look at! I was one who did not like exercises.)

I make notes after every lesson and when a student has some rhythm problems, I look for pieces to help with that and so on for fingering, bass, notes, etc. I have emassed much music in single copies and have files and folders with some labled: minor songs, variations, rhythm pieces, marches, folk and on. I also go through my many books to look for something.

As Dr. Bill noted, this is time consuming but the only way I can teach. With siblings, it is even more of a challenge as I try not to have one playing the same piece. After the first one has learned it, the sibling may play it...but usually she has moved on with her own favorite.

Joan
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