OMG I am LOSING MY FLIPPING mind with piano practice and my DD

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Posted 12/3/2012 by kms66 in NSBR Board


PeaNut 184,535
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Posted: 12/3/2012 5:54:29 PM
She has been taking lessons for nearly a year. She still can't read the basic notes automatically. It is frankly making me insane! I try to help her and she gets mad at me. The thing is is that she is so talented at many things...she sings beautifully and on pitch. She can actually pick out music on the piano at times. But it's almost like she's just flat refusing to learn the damned notes.

Do you piano people/teachers have something I can help her learn them? She has flashcards. And I bought an app for the ipad to help her practice.

Are there actual workbooks you've used and liked that I could buy?


Captain K

PeaNut 247,594
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Posted: 12/3/2012 5:59:55 PM
If she's good at other things and doesn't show a natural aptitude for piano, why does she need to learn it? Focus on what she is good at and work on making that great, don't try to get her to become a mediocre pianist.

Beyond that, I'd suggest considering if her teacher is doing the right things for her style of learning. Perhaps a teacher change is in order.


PeaNut 273,504
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Posted: 12/3/2012 6:04:14 PM
Maybe have someone else talk to her about it. It's harder sometimes when it's our children, sometimes someone might have a different approach.... Good luck !!!!

boring + nerdy

PeaNut 52,817
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Posted: 12/3/2012 6:07:53 PM
What does her teacher recommend? Are they happy with her progress?

I'm not sure why this is something to get so frustrated with. People have different strengths and it sounds like reading music isn't one of hers. Drilling her on it probably will not be beneficial and will turn music in to a stress instead of an artistic expression/release.

I'd talk to the music teacher about their recommendations and if you aren't sure that's the right music teacher for her, start looking for another one.


PeaNut 3,015
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Posted: 12/3/2012 6:12:55 PM
Does she LIKE piano? Sounds like she doesn't. If after of year of trying, I would think she probably doesn't care for it if she's not picking it up.

Is there a reason why you are making her stay in piano? Is it what she wants or what YOU want? Like others have mentioned, focus on what she is talented in. She may not be a pianist, which is ok.


PeaNut 13,660
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Posted: 12/3/2012 6:27:18 PM
I was going to suggest flashcards and the iPad app. Does she do any kind of regular theory as part of her weekly practicing? If not, I would definitely suggest getting her some theory books. Most piano book series have theory included as the set. It's really basic memorization. Maybe you should try to incentivize her in some way. I have 2 kids in piano and my second child did not have the notes down solidly until her 2nd year of taking lessons.


Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 497,090
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Posted: 12/3/2012 6:35:23 PM

Have you asked if she likes her lessons or teacher?

I had to actually write out notes on to staff paper, just like spelling lessons. that might help her to learn them by sight.

even if she is singing she needs to learn the notes.


PeaNut 184,535
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Posted: 12/3/2012 6:55:57 PM
Thank you for all the input.

I'm going to have her practice writing them on the staff. That's a great idea!!

I don't feel like I'm forcing her...she loves her teacher, she actually loves to play the songs she has learned...she just doesn't like to practice. She has been the kind of kid that EVERYTHING has comes easy for...walking at 8 months , soccer, basketball, etc. All have been fairly easy. I think she's having a hard time with the 'now I have to work a bit at something' more than a dislike of it in general. I really don't see myself as someone who would FORCE her if she hated it. She just hates to practice!

So I am going to take the ideas and here and see if it's better. If she's still struggling in a few months, we may have to take a break, find a new teacher, or quit.

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 218,176
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Posted: 12/3/2012 7:17:22 PM
I don't know about the skill level of her teacher but I've seen a lot of people start their children out with someone young or someone wno dabbles in teaching on the side, etc. I can say that I think my DDs' teacher is the reason they achieved what they have today. While I'd like to say we sought out a highly skilled teacher when my oldest started, I was really looking for someone in our neighbourhood and we hit the jackpot when a new teacher moved into our neighbourhood, 11 years ago. DD#1 took lessons from age 7 to end of high school as DD#2 is in grade 10 playing at grade 8 piano level.

Their teacher always had interesting ways to get them interested in learning to perform, to compose, and some music history along the way. They've learned to sick with things when it got hard and how accomplishment in one area of your life can carry over to other areas.

If she's been taking lessons for a year and doesn't know how to read music yet, a better teacher might be part of the solution.


PeaNut 16,292
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Posted: 12/3/2012 7:21:44 PM
I kid-sit a friend's son after school, have been doing so for five years now. Part of my job is helping with homework and making sure he practices the piano every afternoon. For four years it's been a pain in the neck to get him to cooperate - this year things have changed and suddenly he loves practicing, so much so some days I have to drag him away from the piano. What caused the turn around? His teacher is letting him have input on what songs he's learning. And now, he's having fun practicing and is really excelling at playing.


PeaNut 138,856
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Posted: 12/3/2012 7:42:23 PM
I took lessons for years and never learned the notes

I took too many shortcuts in my mind. I knew certain notes on the staff automatically: C, E, F, B, high C and a few more. But when I played, I'd look at middle D and in my brain I would translate it to "the note above C" or, "the one below F", which works OK when you are playing one note. But when you have to play so many at one time on the piano, it just doesn't work.

Maybe this is happening with your DD.

My DD is learning the flute and I think it is much, much easier for her. It's one of those instruments where you don't need to recognize six notes at once with 3 on each clef, you know?

I think it's much easier to learn that type of instrument. If she sticks with the piano, sitting down and memorizing the notes is essential. I actually decided to try again today and I'm getting better. I took a book and just sat down with it and made myself say the names of each note I looked at. Then, when I played, I said each note again. I didn't worry about the timing, just the notes and their names and place on the piano.

It is always easier to edit than it is to create

PeaNut 161,211
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Posted: 12/3/2012 7:45:01 PM
2.5 years of piano and I still can't read the notes. I memorized the songs to make my mom happy and to get her to quit yelling at me. can't read the notes though.

I won many other awards and excelled in other aspects of my education, but piano was beyond me.

She said I was doing it on purpose as well. I just have a hard time learning other languages and applying them.

PEAceful Pea

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Posted: 12/3/2012 7:52:14 PM
My dd is similar. She can memorize songs quickly and play by ear. Two years of violin and she finally confessed that she couldn't read the music. It's a problem for her in choir too and her director is working with her on it.



PeaNut 129,041
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Posted: 12/3/2012 8:31:24 PM
How old is she?

I teach piano. Obviously, all the kids progress at different rates. Some kids just seem to 'get it' and read music effortlessly. Others struggle with one thing or another. So if she likes her teacher, I would be hesitant to make a change there at this point.

The roughest time I ever had with a kid was one who primarily played by ear. And that sounds like what your daughter may be doing. He would play the songs and if they sounded good he was convinced they were 'right'. But if I'd point out the notes he was missing, he really struggled with identifying the note. To him, the notes weren't really important. And he had been taking for a couple of years before I taught him and then I had him for 2 years. He still couldn't reliably read the music. If it sounded good, that was good enough for him.

I do use flashcards with kids who are still having trouble when I think they should know it by now. I don't start with them though. Also, there are so many different methods you can use to teach. Maybe she'd excel with a different method. I think it's worth talking to the teacher about your concerns and get her opinion as well. Has she expressed any concerns with your dd?

Is she working in a theory book? Having to write things down and answer questions should help.


PeaNut 184,535
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Posted: 12/3/2012 9:19:16 PM

Is she working in a theory book? Having to write things down and answer questions should help.

No, no theory books. Maybe I'll talk to her teacher. Or buy one myself for her.


PeaNut 183,504
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Posted: 12/3/2012 9:36:49 PM
How much time does she spend practicing every day? If she isn't putting in an honest effort at it every single day, it's not going to happen. It is learning another language. (Lots of discussion about that around here lately! ) You have to immerse yourself in it to learn it. It's not going to happen if you only go at it halfway, a few times a week.

There are tons of free worksheets online that you can print out. There's a great flashcard site out there too. I'll see if I can get the link from my kids' teacher and post it here.

I can't find the other one right now but maybe some of these will help you:

Online music reading games


PeaNut 302,707
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Posted: 12/3/2012 9:41:36 PM
Now this has been a long time ago so take it for what it's worth. My brother was a very talented musician, wrote music for the guitar, sang, played tympani and other percussion instruments in high school, sang in Madrigals but he could never learn to actually read music. He could write it but he couldn't read it. He tried believe me but it was just something beyond him. I suppose today he would be diagnosed with a type of music dyslexia.
So explore with the teacher, try some theory books but once in a while a certain skill is just not within a person's grasp.
If my brother had been able to conquer this skill he would have gone much further. As it is he played music in a Christian folk band, sang in high school, was in the school musicals, he was the only one other than the instructor that was allowed to tune the tympani, he had perfect pitch. In an intercounty competition on the tympani he got the highest score possible.
So explore your options with the instructor but also know that for some people it just doesn't happen or happen easily

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Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 340,335
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Posted: 12/3/2012 9:57:10 PM
This is the series that DDs' teacher had them use. They had a book for theory, songs, and technique.

Bastien series for kids

Although, I have a friend who can play nearly anything by ear and can transpose easily into a few different keys, but doesn't do well with a song she hasn't heard before. Her sister took lessons from same teacher, can't play by ear, but can play almost any piece of music set in front of her.



PeaNut 197,496
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Posted: 12/3/2012 10:04:01 PM

I suppose today he would be diagnosed with a type of music dyslexia.

Sort-of a hijack - I had never considered that there could be any kind of connection between dyslexia and reading music. My DS (who took piano lessons for 4 or 5 years and is currently in band) took for.ever to learn how to read music. You'd ask him notes, and he'd guess a lot of the time. He is a very musical person - just had a super hard time reading music for a long time. I'm not even sure now if he reads the notes so much as just knows which fingers make which note on the clarinet. Made me crazy, because I am a working musician and I am good at sight reading, which he obviously isn't.


<--- Graduated from Texas Tech 12/18/2009!!


PeaNut 242,276
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Posted: 12/3/2012 10:17:53 PM
How old is she?

My son started on sax in 4th grade. Another single note instrument. Learned quickly. Then in 6th started piano. Has improved quickly. Loves the piano. His knowledge of the sax has helped him. Starting early is not always the best.

Does your school have a band? Would she be interested in learning flute, clarinet? Might be easier with the single notes. Or has she expressed a real interest in learning the piano? or any instrument?

What are the teachers thoughts? How is her approach with your daughter? My sons teacher knew he liked to improvise on the sax and chose a curriculum with that in mind. She didn't stay strictly classical. He loves the pieces he is playing. Also she is sensitive to him and that is one of the reasons I chose her.


PeaNut 302,707
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Posted: 12/3/2012 10:39:27 PM
Reply to the hijack.
Betsy, one of the most frustrating things in my DB's life, the inability to read music and translate it INTO music. He could do it backwards, write the music ( mostly for guitar) but could not process the notes and translate them into music. He had superior teachers who tried, really tried to help him and he LOVED music. He could and did play by ear but read the notes and play them? Couldn't.
Like I said today it would probably be some type of dyslexia, some short circuit in his brain that just wouldn't translate the notes into music.

And if he had that problem certainly others who truly applied themselves just dont' have the ability to master learning notes without much motivation on their parts and a teacher skilled at teaching, perhaps in ways that just weren't available 40 years ago

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Slow Poke Pea

PeaNut 857
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Posted: 12/3/2012 10:55:49 PM
If it's a matter of her not putting in the practice time (and she won't learn to read music without practice), this is what my dd's piano teacher suggested... she had to earn her lessons (which she loved) by practicing.

We divided the cost of the weekly lesson, by the number of days we wanted her to practice, and worked it out that way. So if her teacher wants her to practice for 30 minutes, 4times a week, and lessons cost $20/week, each 30 min was worth $5. If she didn't practice the full amount of time, she had to pay the difference from her allowance. So, if she only practiced 3 times in a week, she owed $5 towards that week's lesson.

Honestly, it only took my dd one week of having to chip in $$ from her allowance to get her to do the requisite practice. And no, you I didn't pay her extra for practicing more than was required.



PeaNut 567,278
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Posted: 12/4/2012 2:58:36 AM
I haven't read all the replies, but I learnt piano for 2 years and loved it. But I can't read music. Just can't learn it. No matter what I try.

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 475,028
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Posted: 12/4/2012 5:26:43 AM
When you say she can't "read the basic notes automatically" do you mean that she doesn't know if this note on the page is an "A" or a "C"? Or do you mean she can't find the key on the piano that corresponds to "the note on the third line of the staff"? There's a difference in my mind. It is possible to play an instrument and not know the actual names of the notes that you see on the page, but to still know how to play that note on your instrument. I've played the flute for a long time and still couldn't reliably tell you the names of the notes that are high above the staff. But I do know that if it's a note "sitting on the third line above the staff" then I play it this way.

Same with the piano and the bass clef. (I'm a relative beginner on the piano...learned as an adult) -- I look at the bass clef and see what looks like an "A" to my treble clef mind. But my fingers know that this is a "C" even if I do have to think about it for a second if someone asks me.

Now, is this the best way to play an instrument? No, lol. And in a group it wouldn't work well. For example, if my choir director says "altos, measure sixteen, you all missed that F# after the rest" it's probably helpful if I know what she's talking about. But I would think that someday if your dd wants to sing/play with a group then she'll learn to read music.

So for now, if she can translate the shape on the page to a key on the piano, then I wouldn't worry about it. She'll learn them eventually, if she wants to.


PeaNut 378,405
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Posted: 12/4/2012 7:22:10 AM
Does she like it? DD plays several instruments and she only practices the ones she likes.
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Posted: 12/4/2012 9:09:33 AM
I was like that as a kid. I would play songs by ear on the piano, but I HATED playing out of the lesson books I had to use. I hated practicing out of them as well and screwed up a lot at lessons when I had to play for my teacher.

The answer for me was being allowed to pick out music that I liked. When I could pick out the books and songs that I wanted to be able to play, I magically became much better at reading notes because I enjoyed practicing.

I was the same way with reading books. I HATED reading as a kid because I usually had to read what some teacher had picked out for me. When I got to pick my own books, I enjoyed it a lot more!
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