Need advice on a 10-yr. old student : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

Hello. I am so glad I found this website!! I am a new teacher, with 15 beginner to intermediate students. I recently took on another student. She is the cutest thing! Her mother sent her to me because she has been taking lessons for 2 years at another studio, and she is only at Level 1. I thought they were just taking their money, but when she came to me, I realised why: She knows where the notes are on the keyboard and on the music, but when she starts to play, she always starts about a fourth lower or higher! It's like she has a sort of "dyslexia" of the piano. Have any of you seen this, and can you suggest any advice? Thank you!

-- Deanne Petras (, February 22, 2002



Yes, I've seen it. I bet that she isn't listening. She is trying unsuccessfully to correlate patterns on the sheet music with patterns on the keyboard, and she is not using her ear--she is just putting her hand down, usually in the wrong place, and playing.

I find the most important first step is to teach her to play by ear. You sing the notes of a tune (no sheet music), you both sing the notes, she sings them alone. Then, while singing, she uses her ear to find the right notes on the keyboard. Sometimes you have to sing along in order to reinforce the pitch. Every student should be able to do this. Avoid showing her which keys to play, let her find the answer using her ear.

Without using music, also sight-sing patterns like do-mi-sol (which represent line-line-line) or re-fa-la (space-space-space) or do-re-mi- fa (line-space-line-space). When it is clear to you that she can easily find tones on the keyboard that she hears, then begin to work on sight singing.

Using easiest beginner sheet music, point to the notes and sing them (no piano). Stay with very easy music until it is clear that your student understands that each note on the page represents a particular tone. When she can see do-re-mi-re-do and sing those tones, she will be able to play that pattern on the piano as a result of the ear training done above.

It can be hard work, but you will discover whether or not she is truly dyslexic. While a dyslexic student can sing do-re-mi-fa without sheet music, s/he may sing them in the wrong order or with the wrong tones when working from sheet music. If she is truly dyslexic, then you can work on playing by ear. Some dyslexic students really excel at playing by ear.

For homework, ask her parents to buy a tuning fork a=440. Practically everyone can learn to produce this sound if she works at it. Parent and/or daughter can take the fork everywhere, and dozens of times a day they can strike the fork and sing the tone (sing la or "a"). When the student can sing la anytime from memory, then use that note "la" to learn the series fa-sol-la-ti (a whole tone series). Then add the half steps on either side. The function of this exercise is to instill a memory of a particular tone (la) and an awareness of particular tones and their relationships. After the student can sing these notes on pitch easily, point to fa-sol-la-ti on the staff while you both sing them. And so on.

Probably this would be a good way to proceed with every student, but it is truly necessary for someone who needs remedial work the way your student does. Her primary goals should be to learn (1) to play on the keyboard any tone that she hears and (2) that each note on the page represents a particular tone. If she can accomplish the first goal, she will be on her way to being able to play by ear whether or not she is dyslexic. Goal #2 is something every student who reads well also needs to learn.

-- alan (, February 23, 2002.

I'm glad to see someone using solfege (do, re, mi) in relation to notes. Singing letter names (as some of the method books suggest) does nothing for developing the ear, because the letters "B", "C", "D", "E", and "G" all end with the same long E sound, and the ear can't tell them apart. Than

-- Miss Alix (, February 23, 2002.

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