Teaching piano to "Play by Ear" student

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I have a 15 year old male student who has had several teachers, the last one using the Suzuki method. Basically, this student only wants to play by ear and is totally turned off by reading the notes. It's driving me mad!! I've never had this problem before, as most of my students began with me and have continued. Part of me feels badly for him, and I feel like I am a failure for not helping him "get it"! The other part of me feels it's a rebellion problem - he refuses to learn the notes! If it's something all my 7 and 8-year-olds can do, why can't he? He is very bright, so it's not a problem of being able to learn. If I ask him to point to certain notes on the keyboard, he can do it. When asked to tell what a note is from the score, he can do it...in time. But he can't sit down and play even the simplest of songs. The other day he came to his lesson and as he was about to play his first song he stopped and said, "I forgot how this goes!" AARRRGGGHH!!! I do know that his mother plays some things for him, and I've asked her not to do this since he is just mimicking what she does. Any advice and encouragement would be GREATLY appreciated!

-- Gina King (noname_poster@yahoo.com), February 22, 2005


This may sound silly, but have you asked him how HE feels about piano lessons? Maybe he no longer has any interest, and is just going to please his parents. I could not in all honesty accept money for lessons that a child is truly not interested in.

Maybe he would also do better with one of the chord piano methods out there. Lots of people play this way and you don't have to learn to read music (although the better chord methods do get into it to some extent--about up to the level of what most students learn in band class). If what he *really* wants to do is play pop music, say for a choral group or his rock band, chord method would probably be a better choice anyway.

You are NOT a failure--the student either is interested or is not. He sounds like he is not interested, at least in traditional classical piano lessons. So, talk to him, then talk to Mom, and see if you can work out something else--perhaps you can branch out and look into teaching a chord method, or refer him to someone who does.

Believe me, it isn't you.

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), February 22, 2005.

This may sound silly, but have you asked him how HE feels about piano lessons?

Encouragement is ok , but don't put the pressure too high !! I agree with GT !!

I have a bit too bad-eye-sight to read paperwork , so , I can't read any notes !!

I'm gonna buy myself a Elektric Piano , otherwise , some of my neighbors !!!!!!!!

Salute & Greetings from the maker of music & musick:

-- Laurent LUG (.@...), February 28, 2005.

Elektric Piano , euh .... of course , I mean digital homepiano :)

Salute & Greetings from the maker of music & musick:

-- Laurent LUG (.@...), February 28, 2005.

Get him started in composition right away! Let him work on his own pieces - the more ambition the better. Your requirement is that he actually notate the pieces. This will give him the relevance he needs to go to the effort. If there are any local composition contests, get him signed up!

John Hinson www.johnhinson.com

-- John Hinson (john@johnhinson.com), February 28, 2005.

Thanks! I am getting him started on composition at his lesson tomorrow! Wish me luck!

-- Gina King (noname_poster@yahoo.com), February 28, 2005.

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