The "perfect" method - What should it include and omit

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

Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Oct 05, 2004 7:33 am

While we (meaning me and many of our authors) have said many times on PEP that teachers should tailor their teaching to the needs and personalities of individual student, we also recognize that a set of well-coordinated method books can be a tremendous aid in teaching, even if the "method" isn't rigorously followed. We have a set of pages devoted to method reviews, in which we try to take a dispassionate view of the strengths and weaknesses (all methods have both) of the methods.

If all methods have weaknesses, then what should be in a "perfect" or "optimum" method, both from the standpoint of the student and teacher? What "mistakes" made in current methods should be omitted? If you were writing a set of method books or advising someone who was, what would you tell them would be most helpful in your teaching? What do you see as the weaknesses of current methods that the new method could rectify? Once done, what would you be willing to pay for such an ideal method set?

To start the discussion, let me mention a few principles that I think should be considered:

1. Avoid at all costs the "play in a day" approach. This doesn't work in the short or long term and just creates unrealistic expectations

2. Avoid position playing approaches, concentrating on sight-reading and intervalic recognition.

3. Maximize flexibility of the method so that teachers can "mix and match" books or book sections to meet the needs of more students.

4. Provide a robust set of teacher tools, so that the teacher can teach the method most effectively

5. Provide written tests so that teachers can check learning of theory and technique and gauge actual progress

These are very general in nature, incomplete, and not intended to limit discussion in any way. I provide these as a means of provoking thought and discussion. :;):




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Postby 75-1095335090 » Tue Oct 05, 2004 4:18 pm

I have a student coming soon, so I'm going to be brief....

My ideal method books would have lots of supplimental material. I thinking of extra books that are around the same playing level or reinforce the same concepts as those in the main book. (And of course, have references to those books in the main book).

This would help reinforce concepts for students who weren't quite ready to move on, and offer alternative music to students who don't find the one in the main book to be very exciting.


Oh, and I'd also want the method books to be filled with music the student will actually like playing. Those little four and eight bar songs that were made up specifically for the method book might work with young students, but I find my adult students don't like them (and neither do I).

Let's hear it for "real" music! Woo!

Gotta run!
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Postby pianoannie » Wed Oct 06, 2004 6:35 pm

I would like a spot on each page (much like Beanstalks does) for the student to check off various important components of the piece when mastered, ie:
I can play and count out loud __

or whatever is appropriate for that piece.

I would also like to see relevant theory scattered throughout the book. In most methods, the theory book covers new concepts, but then those concepts are never drilled again in the theory book. (and yes, I know that is part of my job as the teacher). For students who learn well by writing things out, having one or two theory concepts for each piece would work well.

I would like to see a book that is comprehensive (all-in-one) that included lessons, technique, and (as I already mentioned) theory throughout the book. I would like to see relevant technical exercises right there with each piece, rather than in a separate technique book. Then other books for the series (supplemental pieces) could be purchased separately, but all of the foundational material would be in one main book.

I would also like to have improvisational exercises and student composition work right there in the main book.

I think the reasons I would like to see more included in the main lesson book are:
1. Many students seem to get the idea that the lesson book is the "important" one, and the technique book (which I'll admit is not as fun) gets neglected.
2. Fewer books to juggle at lesson.
3. Easier for students to see the direct relevance of the theory and technique to the pieces being studied.

Wow, I'm drooling just thinking about my perfect method book. Maybe I'll have to publish one!!
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Oct 06, 2004 7:47 pm

pianoannie wrote:Wow, I'm drooling just thinking about my perfect method book. Maybe I'll have to publish one!!

Yours sounds pretty good. Go for it!

Maybe, if we can get a bunch of other ideas from everybody, we can put them all together into the "be-all, end-all method". :D
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Postby pianoannie » Wed Oct 06, 2004 8:12 pm

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:
pianoannie wrote:Wow, I'm drooling just thinking about my perfect method book. Maybe I'll have to publish one!!

Yours sounds pretty good. Go for it!

Maybe, if we can get a bunch of other ideas from everybody, we can put them all together into the "be-all, end-all method". :D

I love teaching piano, but I also love writing and being creative. I would love to be a part of writing a "be-all, end-all method"!!! What a legacy to leave!

Maybe I'll start working on that when I finish the novel I'm currently writing.
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Postby 76-1094931106 » Thu Oct 07, 2004 12:00 pm

I love the idea of having an "all-in-one" book. No matter how much you try to incorporate say theory, for example, into the lesson by having the student analyze his/her piece, for the most part, students still see theory, technique, sight-reading, ear training, and the lesson book as seperate simply because they are in seperate books. I think by having all those aspects of music in one book would help students better understand that they are all connected and useful.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri Oct 08, 2004 10:18 am

One idea that I've toyed around with is that of incorporating a "method" into computer software. The motivation is as follows: Without careful monitoring, even an "all-in-one" book can be circumvented by the student. If the student doesn't like or want to learn theory, they just skip that part and move on to the next section. If they don't like a certain music they are supposed to prepare, they just don't practice it and move on.

A method built into software would force the student to learn certain things before they could move on. Once a critical section was successfully completed, the student would be given a certificate by the software and allowed to move to the next "level". There he could choose one of several things to work on, but all the options would stress the principles and techniques that the student needed to learn at that level. He could print the music and information at that level, and any lower levelsl, at any time to get hard copy of music or text. Since the computer would be keeping track of the student's progress, the teacher could know exactly where he was having problems and spend lesson time focusing on those issues.

Because the method would have some elements of a computer game, it should help the student stay interested. If, on the other hand, the student didn't like spending time on the computer, the teacher could print the levels materials and work through them with the student just as she would with a printed method. Thus, there would not only be tremendous flexibility with such an approach, but it would be considerably cheaper than printed method books which are then useless after the student moves beyond them. Note that it would be easy to embody different elements into such a computer based method for adults or kids, so one basic method could serve a wide range of interests and abilities.

I'm not suggesting that this would be a panacea, nor am I ignoring those computer tools that are currently available, but I have a feeling that, in these days of fast multimedia computers, we could do more with a new method than simply publish more books or put out another computer music game. Let me know what you think about this, since it's just an idea that I'd like to hear comments upon. :cool:
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Postby pianoannie » Sat Oct 09, 2004 10:42 am

You bring up some interesting ideas. It adds the element of having to "beat the computer" to move up a level, like in the computer games that the kids all love. I like how the student couldn't just skip something.
What are you thinking, in terms of the actual pieces? Would the teacher have to check off the pieces on the computer when passed, in order for the student to access future pieces? Or would the computer mostly keep track of theory type things that the computer itself could score?
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Sat Oct 09, 2004 11:30 am

pianoannie wrote:What are you thinking, in terms of the actual pieces? Would the teacher have to check off the pieces on the computer when passed, in order for the student to access future pieces? Or would the computer mostly keep track of theory type things that the computer itself could score?

I would think that each "level" would have several pieces of music, selected from different genres (classical, new age, pop, etc). The student could choose one, two or three of the works (the number determined by the teacher in the program setup) to work on. Each would teach both skills and theory. The student would have to play each piece acceptably (presumably on a MIDI keyboard attached to the computer) as well as answer theory questions to move on to the next level. The computer would keep track of the mistakes the studnet made so that the teacher could reinforce these areas at the next lesson(s). The teacher could choose whether to have the computer allow the student to move on after successful completion of the level's parts or could make that decision herself, again determined by the settings given to the program by the teacher. As I see it, the computer could probably keep track of most items, leaving the teacher to confirm proper form and technique and teach "musicality," which computers are not as good at.

Such software would go far beyond that offered today, in that it would be far more in depth and offer far more choices. The virtues would include greater flexibility, greatly reduced cost for the student (no need to buy method materials), greatly reduced time commitment for the teacher, and better use of the private lesson time. Note that such an approach would require a mix of computer sessions to teach the basics and private lessons to allow the teacher to fill in gaps or reemphasize areas marginally learned by the student.
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Postby 76-1094931106 » Sat Oct 09, 2004 1:12 pm

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:The student would have to play each piece acceptably (presumably on a MIDI keyboard attached to the computer) as well as answer theory questions to move on to the next level.

I am really interested in your idea... I just have one question (so far!): Would the MIDI keybord only be used at the lesson or would the student need to get one as well?
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Sat Oct 09, 2004 2:22 pm

Lisa wrote:Would the MIDI keybord only be used at the lesson or would the student need to get one as well?

I would think that the teacher would need to maintain a working computer and keyboard to use this approach most effectively, since the teacher would licence the software, although the student could buy a less capable home version as well. The MIDI keyboard would be optional for the student, though highly valuable. The whole philosophy of such a method would be to use the advantages and lower cost of computer training to augment, and remove drudgery from, the private lesson. This allows the teacher to spend most time at what she is good at, giving advice and counsel to the student, while letting the computer bring some life and flexibility into the "boring" stuff everybody must learn. I hope that this would give the teacher more time to focus on music and waste less time on mechanics.

What would differentiate such a method from other computer software or method materials would be that the whole method would be embodied in software, where it can be flexibly, cheaply and effectively implemented, as opposed to any number of "expensive" method books that the student uses once and then never looks at again. Ahy thing that needed to be in hard copy could be printed from the program. I can think of several very effective ways to implement this in software, requiring little or no hard-nosed programming, per se.




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Postby 75-1095335090 » Sat Oct 09, 2004 3:37 pm

What about some music history?

The reason I ask is two-fold.

1) I've always imagined my ideal music school where music was taught in a "wholistic" sense. Like, when you are learning to play a piece, you are also covering all of the theoretical things involved, new Italian terms, analysis, chords, etc. You'd also learn about the composer, what he wrote the piece about, the times in which he lived, etc.

Ear training would be closely tied to theory, which is closely tied to performance, which is closely tied to history, and all bundled with some appreciation, master classes... the list goes on.

2) I have just recently started taking piano lessons again. My goal is to audition for university in 3 years. I figure it's time to get my B.Mus. There are only two areas that I am concerned about. The first is performance, but I'm taking lessons to make sure I'm at the right level to get in. The second is History of Western Music. I failed this class miserably the first time I was in university (that time on the trumpet). I have a horrible memory for names and dates. It was taking me 10 times longer to learn and retain the same information as the rest of the class.

I am still looking for help getting some music history under my belt. I figure if I start now, I'll have a hope of passing that class when the time comes.

I am thinking that it would be a bit easier to absorb the information if I had some hands-on experience with the composers.

It seems to me that a well-rounded music student should be at least passingly familiar with music history.

Thoughts??
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Sat Oct 09, 2004 5:14 pm

Kittypalooza wrote:What about some music history?

Although I haven't mentioned it specificially, the multimedia experience naturally lends itself to embodying music history and appreciation, which I agree an "all-in-one" approach should have. The teacher could choose how much or how little to have the students learn in this area. Music history/appreciation has been one of the success stories of multimedia software. Integrating it with the method properly will be the most difficult part of embodying it, but is eminently doable. The neat thing about software is that, with several CD-ROM's one can put as much in as many books worth, but still be able to pick and choose what you want to teach.

Getting back to the core method, per se, what should the pedagogical approach be? Should it be modeled after some other method (though greatly improved and augmented) or should one start completely from scratch?
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Mon Nov 08, 2004 12:19 pm

pianoannie wrote:I would love to be a part of writing a "be-all, end-all method"!!! What a legacy to leave!

Maybe I'll start working on that when I finish the novel I'm currently writing.

Here's a start for the novel:

"It was a dark and stormy night. Someone was playing the Bach Toccata and Fugue in d minor, off key and not up to tempo. Suddenly an anguished female scream rises from the background, "No, NO it's not supposed to be that way at all! Go home and practice!' The equally anguished reply comes, "But I did practice a whole lot!" A woman comes running out of the room, clutching at her hair and screaming, "I can't take any more!" The quiet of a graveyard is all that is left."

Then again, maybe not! :laugh:
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Postby pianoannie » Mon Nov 08, 2004 6:12 pm

:laugh: :laugh: :laugh:
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