Scales Aren’t Just a Fish Thing™
Sight-reading made easy – The stems are the color of the string on which the note is played (great when shifting) the circle is the color of the note the sharp or flat is moving toward.
Really amazing right?
The structured categorizing of the piano keys by color coding them to match the huge number of books and pieces of sheet music makes learning difficult music somewhat easier without remedial work.
A concept connecting how we learn
and how we process information
with the study of music
I hope that as you progress through this series of newsletters, you begin to realize that the suggestions given can be used to teach just about anything. I am using music as the example. The principles are universal.
Winter – doldrums
January in the Northeast creates a unique yearly passage I would best define as the doldrums’.
Your intensely faithful students don’t want to practice.
Others don’t even bother to show up for lessons without calling, or they do call and don’t have a real reason why they aren’t coming to a lesson.
This behavior is really out of the ordinary.
Respect for the teacher usually extends to not even being late for the lesson.
It isn’t about the teacher.
It isn’t the music or the instrument.
It’s not even the need for a commitment to ‘another activity’
It is the doldrums.
It would be enormously helpful if we could throw the student a lifeline that would pull them through the dark days of winter a little early; somewhat like the paper-white bulbs we have in a glass on the windowsills in January.
Offer a little lifeline. Maybe a musical one.
The students need a little motivation.
There are four kinds of motivation:
1.- Play this song and get a present
2.- Play this song or my teacher won’t teach me anymore
3.- I really want to play this song
4.- I don’t want to play this song.
Only one of these answers creates positive, sustainable motivation.
Help the student to decide which type of motivation moves them and decide what the cost of holding onto their old patterns would be.
it’s not the distance you have to go
but how you choose to make the journey
that will determine how long it takes
or if you ever get there at all.
Here are a few ideas that might be a perfect lifeline for motivation:
1- A carrot on a stick.
If parents don’t mind, you could offer pleasurable rewards.
Remember though, that rewarding behavior that is already an intrinsic (internal-established) motivation isn’t beneficial and if it is simply an extrinsic (external) motivation it is short-lived at best.
2- Simplify, Simplify, Simplify,
…………..and be practical about what you are asking of the student. Simplify the path. They may be on a road that ends with a very complicated goal, but keep them on track by simplifying every step and learning curve.
Have them start a journal of how long they practice, how they feel, what they played.
Feel free to download the pdf at the end of this blog to send home with the students so they, again, have a path to follow even in writing their journal.
3- Define and Identify a goal:
Make the goal as specific as possible for the stage the individual student is in with their studies. Create short and long-term goals.
4- Plan a path
Have a timeline. When do they want to achieve that goal?
5- Teach them to visualize
1- Verbally define: an exercise, a group of songs or a piece they need to improve.
2- Say: “Just for the next few weeks, think about your goals for music at night before you go to bed”.
Their minds will work on it throughout the night.
And the next day, they will already be mentally prepared to move forward.
3- Encourage them to have a plan. Write it down.
This is part of the downloadable journal at the end of this newsletter.
6- Overcome procrastination:
Teach the students various techniques to eliminate the causes of the procrastination.
Again, consider helping them simplify by defining the necessary steps they need to take in their daily practice time. This doesn’t mean reduce. Simplification can be an act of defining what is expected.
7- Help them prepare for the obstacles.
One of the biggest advantages you can give your student to assure eventual success is to help them plan how they will go around what others may call ‘a failure’ but you will call ‘an obstacle’.
Take the time to have a discussion.
Ask: “What will you do ‘if’. “
Then: “What are a few alternative paths you could take if….?
Talk to the student about how the obstacles can actually be a great ‘teacher’ and will provide a story of success to help motivate others.
Kids don’t realize that everyone will go through the same ‘short circuits’ in their practice time at some point in their path toward success.
Remember, failure is on the same road as success.
Kids feel invisible even when in a group. Psychologists will tell you that even the most popular child will feel alone, lonely and isolated. Ignore what appearances might tell you. I would NOT suggest you share your own failures with the student to create a ‘buddy’ mentality. One of my children had a harp teacher that did this. Lessons with her were short lived.
Here is how I would get the student past the obstacles.
I would offer one goal at a time and let the student feel success.
‘Fight only the battles you can win’.
Sounds contrived…and it is.
This means….even with the bow hold.
Some children simply do not have the muscle strength to have a great bow hold on their own.
If you have to, duck tape their fingers in place.
(Of course use brightly colored duck tape)
Force success in tiny bite-sized pieces.
8- Never be negative,
especially during the winter doldrums
If you have to correct the student, be sure they understand the difference between negativity and constructive criticism.
You have heard it many times, but a negative attitude will drain the precious energy that could otherwise be directed into building their skills.
A positive attitude is essential when hoping for success.
Negativity doesn’t keep you realistic.
It just spends precious energy.
Envision with them the feeling of reaching their goal.
Henry Ford said “If you think you can, or you think you cannot, you are right.
I don’t want to get real ‘Power of Positive Thinking’ here but…..
Positive thinking does breed positive results.
9- Somehow bring happiness into the lesson.
Don’t be so serious.
You can laugh, not at them but with them.
We still laugh at times over the duck taped fingers years ago but the great bow hold now.
I mean, when they say, “Santa must make a quick stop in China before he gets here because all my presents say they are from China.” and the child is totally serious, your acting ability is going to be tested.
A bright, cheery, warm room with visual surprises
will also lift their spirits.
Some people feed off of what they see with their eyes and if you have a curiosity in the room, this might be a little ‘bait and switch’ from their classic January doldrum behavior.
It’s not the distance you
have to go to get to the top,
it is what you are bringing
with you that holds you back.
Explore what mental and physical baggage your student is carrying and see if they would be willing to dump it – or at least mentally set it outside the studio door until the lesson is over.
I like to talk to them about “anchors”.
I say, “ok, today we are going to start practicing every day for two whole months.
We start today.
There isn’t a yesterday here.
Just day 1.
Let’s see if we can do it”,
and we mentally set an anchor on that day as the beginning of a new practice schedule.
Every day also means Saturday and Sunday.
I tell them to leave their instrument out and pick it up even on the weekend so they don’t miss a beat.
The ‘control’ here is that there is a beginning and end.
Hopefully, it will have established a willing attitude, teachable spirit, and a better ‘design’ of their practice sessions on the days after the challenge.
Scales Aren’t Just a Fish Thing™
Click to download
Motivation Practice Charts
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Canon Workshop –
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Piano Sheet Music – Paperbacks
The Brain and how we process information
Tools to teach
Violin Sheet Music – Paperbacks
Violin Book three
Big Book of Gum Drop Notes
Violin Great Extra
Big Book of Gum Drop Notes