What is 'positional' vs 'interval' vs 'landmark' approaches

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I'm a beginner, beginner so pls pardon my ignorance:

What are the differences (pros and cons) between these different teaching methods: 'positional', 'interval', 'landmark'?

Right now my 6 yr old, who JUST started lessons, places her fingers (right hand) on middle C position before she starts playing her little simple song by reading the notes. Is this bad? Is this considered 'positional'? Is this considered 'learning via middle C'?

What is 'interval'? What is 'landmark'?

If this is how her current teacher teaches, should we find another teacher?

-- b pat (ec111@hotmail.com), October 28, 2003


b pat, I'm going to start by saying that when I read your other question (about what things should a child accomplish after a month, which I answered already) I had the feeling that your underlying question was really "does my daughter's teacher know what she's doing?" Now that I read this question, my hunch is confirmed. I'll say next that I'm not totally comfortable with the fact that you are asking stangers online about this teacher rather than talking directly with him/her. I would not be pleased if the parent of a brand new student of mine were asking such questions to others behind my back rather than treating me with trust and respect by talking with me. For all I know, maybe your daughter is one of my students! But on the other hand, at least you are being involved in your daughter's music education, which is a terrific thing, even if I disagree with your method. So....I will try to answer your question, but encourage you to talk with her teacher, sit in on a lesson (quietly-- don't ask questions then), talk with other parents of this teacher's students, attend her recitals and see first-hand the students' progress, etc. And if you've already done these other things, and are just seeking additional advice, please forgive me if I sound harsh--I just really really want parents to be upfront with me, as I am with them.

Regarding positional playing, most piano books use this to some extent, and is quite common in the beginning. I do think it's important for the hands to play in *different* positions, so the student doesn't pick up the false notion that middle C always equals RH1, E equals RH3, etc. The only time positional playing produces this problem, in my opinion, is if the student plays ONLY in one position for week after week after week, and then has a hard time starting on other notes. Interval playing is generally tied in with landmark approach; ie the landmark lines of treble G, middle C, and bass F are thoroughly mastered, then other notes are played in relation to these. For example, the student sees a note on the space above Treble G; even if she doesn't instantly recall the *name* of that note, she knows that it is simply one note higher than G, which has been thoroughly drilled. Interval playing includes a lot of noticing when notes "step" or "skip" (also called 2nd and 3rd intervals), and the student plays thinking more of the pattern of ups and downs by these intervals (larger intervals usually come later) rather than thinking of every single note letter. Of course, all the note letters do eventually need to be learned well, but pianists do not think them in their head as they play (because with later music, there may be 8 or even more notes being played at one time, and the pianist couldn't possibly think all those letters, but we do see the intervals, that is the distance, from one note to the others).

Regarding "should we find another teacher?", I don't think what you've described warrants that. You do seem to have various concerns about him/her, so I'm curious how you chose this teacher? Are you also learning piano, as you describe yourself as a beginner? Annie

-- annie (no_name_poster@yahoo.com), October 28, 2003.

First, let me thank you for the explanation to my question regarding ‘positional’, landmark and interval.

Second, my motivation for asking this particular question was NOT to question "does my daughter's teacher know what she's doing?" I read these terms somewhere in this forum and truly did not know what the difference was and am trying to understand as much as I can about what should go into a good learning foundation.

Now...as an aside... as a parent who does not play piano and who is trying to get a piano teacher for a beginner child, I do not think it inappropriate at all to ask questions regarding what to look for. How else would one be able to access whether one teacher is ‘the best’ teacher for the child. In my opinion, it is best to access this as early as possible so that no bad habits are formed. One can only do this by asking questions to educate yourself. Asking questions of ‘strangers’ in a public chat forum is NOT at all ‘ talking behind her back and showing disrespect’ – quite the contrary. If I wanted to show disrespect, I would ask such questions to people she knew. I chose not to do this.

This forum (and any forum) is full of messages regarding individual’s personal situation. I would hope that anyone could feel free to ask whatever question they desire. With all due respect, I think we should not be so quick to judge the ‘motive’ behind a question and also perhaps not try so hard to ‘read into’ who it may be who’s posing the question. Just take it at face value and choose to answer or not.

-- b pat (ec111@hotmail.com), October 28, 2003.

Well, I guess I ruffled a few feathers. You did come out and ask if you should look for a new teacher, and I stand by my position that you should be talking directly with the teacher if you have concerns to the point of considering a new teacher. The teacher could have also answered your questions about positional, landmark, and intervallic note reading, and told you exactly how, when, and why she uses her particular combination of these approaches. She could give you a lot more information about how *she* teaches than anyone here could. To *me* it sounds like you've hardly given this teacher a chance (I think you said your daughter had been with her for a month) before you started thinking of finding a new one. If you have serious concerns please sit down with her and let her explain her goals, her methods, etc.

To try to give you a little more of a teacher's perspective: I know there are many things I do with my students that may *seem* a little odd to parents, like if the parent hears the student playing 2 notes over and over and over, which I have them do as a finger 4-5 strengthening exercise; or when one of my intermediate level students practices some simple little tune like Twinkle Twinkle over and over (the parent may not realize that the student is learning to transpose a tune into all 12 major keys). See, a parent may think "This teacher is giving my child assignments that are FAR below her level" when in actuality the parent just doesn't have any idea what the student is really learning to accomplish with that particular assignment. If the parent then went online to ask strangers what they thought of the situation instead of just coming directly to me, I would feel very a tremendous lack of respect. I would also feel disrespected if a parent questioned me in a condescending way rather than a genuinely curious way. Fortunately I have had very few such problems. Now, maybe you have talked with the teacher, but you've made no mention of it. I do hope you can develop a trusting and honest relationship with her. Annie

-- annie (no_name_poster@yahoo.com), October 28, 2003.

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