Okay, I have to vent about my new neighbor. Pardon the burp. It does have a point at the end, if you can make it through my sarcasm, LOL.
See, the current methodology and pedagogy practices out there for piano-learning pretty much ... well ... um ... suck. You know, there are MUCH better ways, but they are rarely, rarely taught and it’s taken years of talking to teachers, reaching across to other areas (I get half my ideas from "motivating employees" books, child development books, sports coaching books, child psychology, even sometimes a nugget or two from self-help), and workshops and continually improving my knowledge of teaching to achieve the knowledge I have now.
Ohmigosh, if I knew then what I know now ...
It used to take me two - three years to have a student sight-playing the whole staff fluently(method books will take up to five years), both bass and treble, fluently. Reading music is MUCH simpler than that: my students can read and play the whole staff within a week or two, and achieve fluence by three or five months. Even first graders or kindergarteners or dyslexic students.
What the hard part of teaching piano is, is that WHATEVER "mistakes" you make in the first year, EVERY TIME you ever said to yourself, "let’s just have fun, who cares about getting it right today, he’s just a four year old", will bite you in the ass, week after week, for a DECADE. Worse, it can cripple a student. (I made that mistake seven years ago. Still trying to fix it.) But NOWHERE in the world does a method exist, or the knowledge I hold now, exist. I couldn’t have acquired it without constantly questioning and constantly reaching outside the box. And, sadly, without making mistakes.
It is much better to be strict with high standards that first year and the first few months, so their foundation is rock solid. Then you can have YEARS to show them how much fun music is. (They usually automatically think it’s fun the first year, anyway, so it’s not like it’s a choice.)
In my old martial arts studio, the Master passes a lot of the teaching on to the other teachers, but he ALWAYS spends time with the beginners. Most people assume it’s so they’ll stay and pay. It’s not.
The foundation is everything.
So on to the point of this vent: my new neighbor approached me about her son taking piano lessons with a KEYBOARD. I said, no, I don’t accept students who don’t have a real piano because 1) it’s a DIFFERENT INSTRUMENT with a DIFFERENT TECHNIQUE and 2) it messes up their piano technique so that I have to spend YEARS little more than nagging them to correct it so they’ll be able to achieve the next level. Not fun.
(I then proceeded to tell her how she can buy a cheap piano "risk-free" and return it for a full refund after one year if her kid quits, so it’s not like I was suggesting she break the bank. She didn’t appreciate the information.)
The "weighted" keyboard that the salesman tells you is "just" like a piano? It is not. (And it’s even MORE expensive than a cheap "real" piano!) NO keyboard has an escapement, which the finger needs to learn to navigate even if it doesn’t even know what an escapement is, LOL! A real piano, even a dinky, cheap one, ugly one, is better than a fake piano.
When given the choice between playing on a keyboard six months and then upgrading to a piano, or just waiting six months to start on a real piano, there is no contest. Why waste two years of lessons correcting a problem you created in six months? And is the student going to be able to survive all that nagging? And you’ve just thrown 2 1/2 years of lessons out the window (that can be thousands of dollars!) and achieved what you could have achieved in a couple months if they had had a real piano.
So anyway the neighbor, after explaining this to her as well and as helpfully as I can, gets all huffy and acts like I’M personally denying her kid the JOY OF MUSIC, that playing on a keyboard didn’t matter and SHE KNEW THIS BETTER THAN ME, even though I’ve spent about thirty years accumulating this knowledge of mine for 3 - 14 (mostly 10 or so) HOURS a day?
Then I couldn’t say anything. Then I just stood there nodding dumbly, which is this annoying thing I do when everything I’m thinking gets caught in the That’s-Not-Polite-To-Say-Out-Loud filter.
What I wanted to say was, "Lady, of course. Go find a teacher who will tell you you’re right (because even though you don’t even know how to play piano, you would know about piano technique), just so they can take your money rather than tell you the truth or look after YOUR CHILD’S BEST INTERESTS. Or better yet, find a teacher who doesn’t know better and actually doesn’t know there’s a difference between a real piano and a fake piano.
"They’ll probably be much cheaper, too. So there you go.
"Even better, believe what the salesman told you who’s not a teacher and doesn’t even know how to play the piano, because of course a piano salesman would know more about teaching and piano technique than a person who’s been pursuing the mastery of it for longer than you’ve even been in the career force!"
Whew. That felt better.
People have this prevailing that we should "just teach them the joy of music," and that that is an excuse to give them an INCORRECT, BAD foundation. Because, let me tell you, when they hit third - fifth grade, the only thing that’s going to keep them going is have they have some level of competence and have the reward and satisfaction of some level of mastery.
It is possible to teach someone the joy of any subject without teaching them bad habits or giving them a faulty foundation. It’s ridiculous.
The neighbor hasn’t talked to me since, even though I didn’t say any of that stuff out loud and I truly tried to explain why policy was in place to PROTECT the children and provide the best possible musical education, NOT to deny them the joy of music.
I always find it annoying that people mostly believe what they believe because they want to believe it. And they seek out people who will tell them they’re right.
I do it, too, probably lots more than I’m aware of.
I think I should entertain the idea that I’m wrong much more than I do. I’ve been struggling to put change in my writing, to find techniques and to continually look at my writing and writing-training in new and different ways. It’s how I became known, to my astonishment, as a "progressive" teacher, even though mostly everything I do is borrowed or old-fashioned, LOL. Constantly changing has been one of major keys of success and improvement in my teaching.
Any thoughts? What long-held belief have you recently questioned and honestly tried believe the opposite to be true? What radical change have you made in your writing, just as an experiment?
Of, if you’re not in the mood, LOL, how was your weekend? Anything to vent about?