Teaching the ear-learner to read music
My current student has an almost uncanny ability to hear a piece of music and then play it. At the same time, put a page of sheet music in front of him and he stumbles. For a while I attributed this to simply being a poor sight-reader (I'm not a gifted sigh-reader myself but I can and do.)
I've discovered that he has begun to go to Youtube to find pieces that we're working on so he can ear-learn them as opposed to reading the music.
The problem is that the Youtube performances have more than a bit of rubato, missed notes, shortened or extended slurs, et cetera. When I point out that he isn't playing the piece correctly I get the "Deer in the Headlights" look with a background of some defiance.
So, how to get him to focus on and read the printed music?
One word: solfeggio!
I explain to students that being a complete musician requires both skills. My longtime mentor had a great question that he asked people who copied other people's performances instead of coming up with their own interpretations based on their reading of and personal insight/knowledge of the score:
It's not uncommon for piano teachers to spend some precious lesson time having the student actually sight-reading. When I had piano lessons, this happened very frequently. The teacher would simply take the book of Clementi Sonatinas (or whatever) and turn to one of the other ones and say, "Okay, go."
Sight reading is one of the main goals I want to learn so one of the ways I'm going to try to learn is to buy some of the books and tools from ABRSM and RCM that prepare people for the sight reading segment of their exams. I wish I was as gifted as the OP's student in aural skills, but I'm working on that as well!
I think transcription (even at simple levels) is fantastic both for the ear player who has trouble reading and the reader who has trouble playing by ear. For the ear player it's like reverse engineering reading and visa-versa. For the violinist I think a knowledge of intervals is essential. Intervals are essential for ear playing and reading. Not just the sounds of the interval but how that feels as a shape in the fingers. Reading and playing by ear have common grounds. If a musician can do both then they are in a more powerful position than the musician who can only do one.
Solfege is the do-re-mi system of naming notes.
Get a book of beginner duets and play together sight reading (his part will be different than yours). Do not let him take the book back and look up the pieces ahead of the next lesson. Play a different piece at each lesson. This way he won't know how it sounds until he plays a piece and will not be playing the same thing twice either. You don't have to play at tempo. It might be ugly at first, but will eventually improve if he puts some effort into it.
What about assigning him the second violin part to a Mozart or Haydn quartet? It's harder to figure out what those sound like online.
Sight reading is a learned skill, and playing violin, especially a new piece which is level-appropriate or challenging, is hard enough without adding the requirement of that new skill. It can be developed independently to the point where it becomes more fluid and more usable for new works, but for the beginner who is not inclined towards it, and is actively avoiding it, I'd suggest starting with a specific program geared towards learning reading (early ones even separate pitch from rhythm) and having the student do them during the lesson. Of course the point wouldn't be to work on those easy pieces, but to recognize the music and to be able to play it while reading it, informing and developing those skills.
Seems the most important part wasn't adressed here yet.
Gene, et al.,
"I think he picked up a bit of that "I don't need to read music snobbery""
I am unclear as to what level the student is.
Actually, solfeggio has less to do with the names do-re-mi etc, but more with being able to sing a line of music you are reading. It's fine to just la-la-la it or hum it or sing it with the names C-D-E etc.
Following up on Roger's suggestion, duets are a great idea and there are tons of books of them available. You just have to be willing to take some lesson time for it. Again, piano teachers do this routinely. It's all about one's priorities.
Update: He came over today and we discussed the need to read music. I used Gene's admonition and the look on his face was that of shock. In answer to Laura's question: yes he does play in a youth orchestra and has been leaning on stand partners for quite some time. He didn't like the idea that relying on his stand partner meant that he would never be better than them.
Same issue here....with ME as the student... different perspective!
I just think any teacher needs to be sensitive to the the fact that playing by ear is a good skill to have and that it should not be shamed in any way. I think the ideal situation for any musician is to be able to read well and play by ear well. I get the impression that within modern violin teaching playing by ear is quite overlooked. It may be seen by some as unessential but many doors are being closed as a result.
Yeah, assign material that can't easily be found online. That's what I do in that situation with students.
I agree, having strong listening skills and ability to play by ear is also important.
And there are those who may come from a folk music background where the mantra is "we play by ear, 'ere".
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