quantum kid

The 40 something year old beginner piano student has a tough time coordinating both hands. I try to slow it all down and work on separate hands. Ask him to try the metronome but he doesn’t hear how to match the hands to the metronome sound. It’s just a riddle isn’t it? How to get those who can’t hear time to hear time. We slow it down further but he’s still confused. If one beat misses than the rest follow. He’s making blind stabs before or after the beat which means he doesn’t understand this thing that’s sort of obvious to me. Last thing I want to say is it’s obvious, that would be the opposite of throwing him a lifesaver. Just want to solve the riddle of revealing that this arbitrary repetition could be interpreted as a series of numbers repeating. Oops, that explanation lost him again, I suspect trying to explain this to his mind is part of the problem.
 
Worked with a 6 year old boy next day. Tried to get him to understand time last week and he was confounded, like the 40 yr old. I start again this week using the metronome but after trying to see if he can understand the 1 of 4 beats and clap just the 1 (he can’t), I instead ask him to command me to play the numbers. That turns out to be the bridge we needed. He tells me to play the 1 & 3 but when I do he complains that it isn’t 3 beats. So that’s what he thought I meant. I’m starting to figure out the unnecessary ideas or misinterpretations that happen talking about abstract ideas, maybe same for the the 40 yr old. Eventually the kid is commanding me to play the 3 or the 4 or a combination of them, quicker and quicker, now he likes the game and he gets it. I turn the tables and start again. Ask him to play the beats and kaboom, now he can. Exciting like a quantum leap, the moment a musical person can understand this language thing we use just so we can talk about organizing or manipulating rhythm.

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  1. Trying to understand meter while sitting down at a piano bench with a teacher beside you is a tough order. With my students, I usually play a recording of “stars and stripes forever” by Sousa. Next, have them walk around the room (with you), making sure they go “left-right, left-right” in time. Once they can ‘walk’ in time, I stop the exercise. Explain to them that a stop watch can count 60 seconds in a minute. Explain to them that a base 60 unit of measuring time is great for non-musical things, but not so good for dancing. Replace left and right foot with “1 and 2” and you have a good system that only needs 2 numbers. Rinse and repeat with a waltz, something in 4, etc. After a few weeks, they should develop the internal sense of time. If they are really adventurous and get it, you can start playing YES, or Macedonian folk, but that is for more advanced students…

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