How many non exam pieces do you DC learn?

(19 Posts)
Suki2 Sat 20-Apr-13 20:07:51

DS, aged 9, took grade 1 piano last year, and is taking grade 2 next week. We've moved houses (in fact countries) since last year, and I'm not as happy with his new teacher.

The basic problem is that she's just taught him the three graded pieces since October, when he started with her. (Scales and sight reading as well).

He's bored to tears of the pieces, knows them back to front. I suggested a few weeks ago that he start something new and she didn't like the suggestion.

What do you think? To be fair to the teacher, I think I only ever did graded pieces when I was a child, but then again I didn't do much practice, so wouldn't have had as much time to expand my repertoire.

I'd be grateful for your thoughts.

nextphase Sat 20-Apr-13 20:15:34

Find a new teacher!
I did lots of new pieces until I reached the standard teacher thought was suitable for the next grade, and then we started working on the exam pieces, but still mixed in with non exam pieces initially.

6 months of the same 3 pieces (especially at that grade - 6 months on 3 concertos is a different case) is enough to send anyone climbing the walls and refusing to practice.

I'd think that the piano lessons should be about developing a skill and knowledge of music, and if that leads to a certificate, great, not the certificate being the only reason for the lessons.

NotAnotherPackedLunch Sat 20-Apr-13 20:18:09

DD has a study book, a couple of other pieces and some duets that she has done as a break before starting her next grade pieces.

I had to put my foot down about it at the first post exam lesson as the teacher got a bit carried away and wanted to crack on and reduced DD to tears. I phoned during the week and explained to the teacher that DD needed to experience the fun side of playing too and that we weren't fussed about chasing grades.

Is your son's teacher approachable enough to have a chat with and would they be up for doing a lesson of duets after the exam to recapture some of the fun of playing music?

musicalfamily Sun 21-Apr-13 11:09:36

That's absolutely shocking practice and I would seriously consider changing teachers.

My DD1 and DS1 have different teachers for piano and violin and have never done that at all. In fact their violin teacher especially is very militant in that even when the exam is looming he will not do the pieces until the last few weeks - both my children will learn the whole graded book (ie all the pieces in it) alongside different books and then at the end he picks the ones they prefer.

I think it is obvious why this is a bad approach; boredom, inability to tackle different pieces/techniques, lack of sight-reading practice, lack of different styles, lack of enjoyment, lack of musicality. The list is endless! To be fair they are probably (wrongly) responding to pressure from parents to see "grades" and has become a grade factory.

musicalfamily Sun 21-Apr-13 12:31:16

PS I didn't answer your original questions but I would say around 20 or 30 pieces at least for grade 2.

Suki2 Sun 21-Apr-13 12:34:52

Thanks for the responses; it's very difficult to get a piano teacher here, but I'll have to try as this just isn't working. The teacher is very highly qualified and dissects every piece into bits; great if you're a concert pianist maybe but not for poor DS; he's beginning to hate it.

Musicalfamily, I'd love a teacher who does the whole graded book, with a choice at the end; that sounds fantastic. DS is weak at sight reading, and obviously part of the reason for this is that he hasn't been exposed to a variety of pieces.

One problem is that she teaches one of my other DC who is at a much higher grade, and I'd have to continue her as his teacher as I simply don't know anyone else who can teach at grade 5 and above.

So, I need to tactfully sack her for one and keep her for another; I'm not sure how to do this. She is VERY temperamental, and I fear would be easy to offend.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 21-Apr-13 23:03:45

My dd has an extensive repertoire and plays hundreds of pieces. She only plays particular exam pieces when she is coming up to an exam. We found this the best way as music making is always fun then.
It also reinforces a particular level as all pieces can be measured to an approximate exam level, even if they aren't on a syllabus.

BreakfastCricket Mon 22-Apr-13 09:06:21

Why don't you just turn up at the lesson with another book? Say someone's kindly given your son this book as a present out of the blue [ ie you!] so could she help him do some of the pieces and he can do these in tandem with her set work... No harm in asking and it might bring matters to a head.

Suki2 Mon 22-Apr-13 09:40:56

Breakfastcricker, good idea, although she did ask me to buy another book at Christmas, and then she's never used it. She's very busy and her mind is elsewhere. I suppose I'm feeling a little resentful that I have to have this kind of input; the lessons are expensive and I feel she's not doing her job properly.

That's why I was wondering if any other teachers had the same approach; it's certainly not one we're used to.

Suki2 Mon 22-Apr-13 09:43:13

musicalfamily thanks for your specific reply; 20-30 pieces! DS has done three. The gaulling thing is that he's a fast learner and got a distinction at grade 1, so it's not as though he's struggling to learn. His teacher's taken all the fun of learning away by drilling the exam pieces every lesson.

BreakfastCricket Mon 22-Apr-13 11:54:16

Maybe your son could have a go at playing that book bought at Christmas by himself.

We have an exceptional teacher so the first exam my child sat was Grade 4 (not piano) so our situation is not directly comparable. Looking back to the initial stage I suspect there were probably about six pieces on the go at any time but there was always a quick weekly study and loads of other material that my child could 'dip' into. Thinking about it there were lots and lots of very short pieces mixed in with longer ones so very little opportunity to get bored. There was a huge focus on fun and playing for fun and discovery. The clever part was that my child was always left wanting more...

At the very beginning because my child's lesson were shared, frequently DC ran out of 'homework'. Not being able to read music I remember going on to on eBay and buying some random beginner music for £1-£2 and leave it lying next to my child's bed who invariably gave it a go. Very quickly the teacher realised what we were doing and in the weekly practice diary would also suggest 'extra' exercises form the other books she knew we had - punctuating her list with lots of smiley faces and encouraging comments. [Also making it clear that this 'extra' was only if we wanted to do it and by no means essential.]

I think what I'm saying is that our teacher tailored her approach to each individual child even though the teacher was working in a group situation and only had half an hour. This individual approach is eessential as all kids learn differently. You have identified that your son's teacher is not particularly focussing on him and I suspect you know that changing teacher for him is inevitable although probably very difficult to manage because you have an older child.

Is your elder child at secondary school yet? Even if they are not could you go to the Head of Music at your local secondary and see if they know of good piano teachers in your area? You might even be able to get one of the school's own music teachers to come to a private arrangement or even find a retired teacher who still dabbles.

Suki2 Mon 22-Apr-13 18:46:14

Breakfastcricket, your teacher sounds the same as our old one; loads of pieces to dip into; DC often didn't finish the pieces in fact if it didn't grab their attention, the teacher would suggest moving on at some point; no chance to get bored there.

I can read music and am probably competent to teach grade 2 but have found that my suggestions don't have the authority of his teacher, so don't work that well.

We live in a very small community so the prospect of changing teachers is daunting, and I don't really have the option of eldest DS as I really think there's nobody else to teach him. Actually, the teachers approach is not as bad for him as his pieces are longer, but it's still not ideal.

I still can't believe a teacher could teach like this without being bored to tears too!

BreakfastCricket Mon 22-Apr-13 19:59:07

When we progressed from primary to secondary I had reason to talk to Head of Music and found out quite by accident that more than half the teachers in the department had Piano Diplomas although I suppose it makes sense! There are two in particular who are fantastic accompanists. Suddenly we had a support network that I never really knew existed. The teachers now take an interest and give words of encouragement sometimes even a lunctime run through. Maybe there is a network for you out there but you just haven't found it yet. Even in a small community. Maybe the teachers travel from outside the area and could come to your house after school on their way home.It could all be done quite discretely. If you were looking for a Maths or english tutor you might not feel it to be so daunting.Fingers crossed that a solution appears from nowhere. I am sure it will.

Tingalingle Tue 23-Apr-13 14:12:42

The honest answer is I'm not sure how many pieces they do!

DD (perfectionist worrier) would only do exam pieces is it was left to her, as she never quite thinks she's got them right. She wants to do the grade exams, btw, it's not me pushing her.

With her piano teacher, that does seem to be pretty much all she learns (as opposed to plays through and diddles with). With her wind teacher, I often don't know which pieces are going to be the exam ones till near the date; she plays in a band as well so has a dozen or so 'supporting parts' needing to be reasonably non-dire for concerts.

DS seems to play everything but the exam pieces and hope to wing it on the day.

chocoluvva Tue 23-Apr-13 14:23:49

I'd tell your DC's teacher that you don't want him to do anymore exams for a couple of years.

chocoluvva Tue 23-Apr-13 14:25:03

Sorry - posted too soon.

Learning a second instrument and doing theory will help with his sight-reading.

Theas18 Tue 23-Apr-13 15:58:21

We do mostly repertoire and exams when/if they suit the kids (or in DD2s case when she needs a bit of a push and a challenge! ).

Mine are much older , but stepping off the exam treadmill was a revelation in enjoyment. We seem to have a lots of exams just because there are plenty of instruments but it's so much less than they used to do and it hasn't affected progress I don't think.

Mind you if you have a child that needs an exam for focus I can see why they are there esp at junior school age!

Music lessons aren't just to pass exams are they? I know mums net kids are an astounding bunch but even here it'll be a hobby for most.

Suki2 Tue 23-Apr-13 19:01:25

Tingalingle; interesting that your DD would only do the exam pieces as she's a perfectionist as I think that's the issue with DS's teacher. I did pluck up courage to speak to her and she said she hasn't moved onto anything new because his pieces hadn't reached the right standard.

I should add that his pieces are great; I would guess he'll get a merit maybe a distinction; they're not going to improve; he needs more exposure to a greater number of pieces I would think to improve his playing.

Inncogneetow Tue 23-Apr-13 19:25:55

That sounds very poor.
If I was you I would forget/fail to buy the next exam book, and encourage her to work with him on fun repertoire and playing lots of pieces - not to polished perfection.

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