Those Last Five Notes

Heather Reichgott said: Dec 6, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
95 posts

Hi everyone,

I’m looking for suggestions for working with students who pick up repertoire by ear very quickly and accurately but resist correction on those few notes that were not learned accurately. I don’t mean that they get mad at me for correcting them, just that the corrections take a very long time to be learned. The students I have in this situation happen to be in the stage where they really should be using the score as a supplement, but aren’t yet reading fluently, partly because their ears are so strong that they resist opening the book at all when practicing, preferring to problem-solve by ear instead. (We do sight-read in lessons.) These students can learn a piece with near-perfect accuracy and beautiful playing in 3-4 weeks, then it can take another 8-12 weeks for the last few notes to be fixed reliably. But I would appreciate suggestions for if this problem should arise with a pre-reader or with a more fluent reader, too. (if it does arise there.)

The parents for the most part are engaged and supportive, but not musicians themselves, and they do not catch these note errors either. I encourage parents to give honest praise for practicing and to leave criticism to me, so I don’t train them to pick out wrong notes at home anyway. There are no more than the normal amount of kid behavior issues.

I have tried the following in lessons.
Circling problem notes in score in a bright color
Listening while following along in score to see and hear the problem notes at the same time
Playing one hand while the other hand points to notes in the score (THESE STUDENTS ALL HATE THIS AND IT TAKES THEM ABSOLUTELY FOREVER)
Playing the problem spots from memory 10-20 times correctly, then zooming out to play a larger section

Typically the spots sound ok if shaky by the end of the lesson, but then the improvements go away over the course of the week, until it’s been several weeks and things are finally better.

Fabio Dos Santos said: Dec 7, 2013
Fabio Dos Santos
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Campinas, SP, Brazil
11 posts

Hi Heather,

By the way you describe your student’s problem, it sounds to me like your student has “wrong notes” in the version he has in his ear.

If this is the case, approaching it as a reading problem will make the whole thing more confusing.

Have you tried approaching it as listening problem? Is your student able to distinguish between the “right” and the “wrong” version of the song, when you play it? Can the parents do it? Can he tell the note is wrong at a slow tempo, and at a fast tempo?

I hope it helps!
All the best,

Heather Reichgott said: Dec 7, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
95 posts

Thanks Fabio. I think my assumption has been that if the student does not hear these few notes accurately, but can hear the rest of the piece, that those notes need to be approached in another way (reading). Those listening suggestions are certainly worth trying and may be more effective with these students!

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