Emails to Colleen and Her Answers
SUBJECT: Setting-Up My Studio
I've been researching keyboards on the internet, but before I talk to any dealer, I would like to narrow down the options of what I'd buy. I haven't gone to a store to try out a keyboard yet. As of last week, all I could think about was accoustic, so learning about your teaching method is a whole new shift in thinking for me, (and I'm really excited about that).
Here are some Yamaha keyboards that I thought sounded good (all with a pedal jack and touch response keys):
PSR: 225 GM, 260, and 450
PSRE: 303, 313, 403, 413
YPT: 310, 400, 410
If you have any recomendations, please let me know. If there are good models that I've missed, or some that I shouldn't consider, I'd appreciate the heads-up. Also, I believe that you mentioned that you order another brand of foot pedal - I'd love that information as well.
These are all new models, I believe. As I'll probably be ordering up to 10 keyboards, I thought that I'd try a dealer in my city to see what price they'd come up with. (I've never ordered from e-bay, so I don't even know if I could get an order of 10 from one place - if so, I could go that route to save money). If you have good ideas about that, please let me know: I like easy, and you're the one with all the experience.
Thanks again for all your help. I think I've pretty much read everything on your site, and I can't wait to get my Studio start-up kit.
I personally would stick with the 200 and 300 series. When you get up into the 400 series you are paying for a lot of bells and whistles that you won't need (ie: 500 insturment sounds). I don't know why Yamaha makes so many models, but any of the 200 or 300 series should suffice.
The pedals are Yamaha pedals and you can get them through AmericanMusical.com if your local store doesn't carry them. They are only about $10 each.
Please let me know if you have any other questions.
Thanks so much for the help - I feel overwhelmed when it comes to looking at keyboards, so this makes my task much easier.
For getting started, how many keyboards do you think that I should buy for my studio?
I saw pictures on your site with the keyboards sitting on a big table, and kids on either side - that looks like a good idea, because then I wouldn't need to buy stands, and wouldn't have to worry about the keyboards falling over. Is this how you recommend doing it?
>How many keyboards do you think that I should buy?
Depends on how many students you plan to teach at one time. At the very beginning, you can put 2 kids at each keyboard, but once they start reading staff notes they will each need their own. You could see how many sign up to get an idea of how many you will have in each class and then buy the keyboards; or you could start out with just a few and if you need more then add some later.
>keyboards sitting on a big table
The table is a good idea. I have 2 studios, one with the keyboards on tables and one with the keyboards on stands. The tables are much easier. But, you have to get a table with adjustable heighth legs. A regular folding table is too high.
Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.
All these great tips that you're giving me will make my initiation into group teaching much more pleasurable. I'll look into the table today.
I can see that I'll be introducing this method to other teachers that I know. I've talked to a few teachers already about this course.
Here (below) is an email comment from a parent on teaching fingering. Would you happen to have any suggestions? I find that many students just don't want to use their first fingers and getting them to follow the correct fingering is such a challenge. I joke that they might be "allergic" to playing with their first fingers and fifth fingers.
Thanks so much.
I'm happy with the progress B. is making now, so please don't take the following comments as an overcritical parent. I think he needs to learn and pay attention to correct finger position (whatever happened to thumbs on middle-C?). I try to point out to him the finger notations in his music, but he complains and goes right back to using whatever fingers suit him to play the notes. The result is that he rarely strikes any keys with his thumbs or pinky fingers. When do you start reinforcing proper finger position in your classes?
The parent that sent you the e-mail was really asking 2 different questions. First, why are you not teaching the student to put both thumbs on middle C? And second, why are you not teaching the student to play with the thumbs and little fingers? I'll address these questions separately.
To answer the first question... The Mayron Cole Piano Method goes to great lengths to NOT train students to always put their thumbs on middle C. If they are locked into that hand position, then they will find it very difficult to ever play more than those 9 keys. Also, when locked into that hand position, those students quickly realise that instead of reading the notes, all they have to do is read the fingering, thus not learning to read notes. The catch is that obviously there are more than 9 keys on a piano. Starting as early as the beginning of Level 2, students will be moving their hands to other parts of the piano. Those that are locked into both thumbs on middle C find it virtually impossible to move past Level 1. Take a look at any advanced piece of music (whether it is in our method or not) and you will realise that if a pianist is locked into only playing certain hand positions - both thumbs on middle C or any of the other short-cut hand positions that are out there - they will NOT be capable of reading advanced music. We as advanced pianist are reading the NOTES, not the fingering, and are prepared to play any key with any finger. We need to train our beginners to also be prepared to play with any finger on any key so they will have to ability to become advanced pianists. By the way, the classical composers never wrote fingering in their manuscripts. Fingering is a recent addition intended only as a helpful tip.
When I teach fingering, I tell the students that when they get more advanced they will be moving their hands to play keys all over the piano. So, the composer uses the fingering numbers as a helpful hint because she knows what is coming up in the music - she knows how many fingers you are going to need to play the upcoming keys. With the fingering numbers the composer is whispering to you, "Psst... in your right hand, you should put your thumb on this E, because three measures from now, you will need to have a finger available to play that B."
As far as requiring students to always play the keys with the finger numbers that are indicated, that comes down to the age and piano level of the student. As beginners, especially young beginners, teach them what the fingering numbers mean. Have them start the piece with the correct fingering, but if they move their hands in the middle of the piece, I suggest you let it slide. The youngters are doinig their best to figure out what the staff notes mean, then push down the correct key, and hold it down for the correct legth of time. That is A LOT of information for a beginner to process. If we start bogging them down with too many details, they will get frustrated and quit - thus never becoming advanced pianists. If beginners know what the fingering means and why it is there, then as they become more advanced and actually need the finger numbers to move their hands, then they'll use them.
The answer to the second question about playing with all 10 fingers completely depends on the age of the student. Young beginners are still learing fine motor skills - they can barely write - so requiring them to use fingers that they naturally don't use could cause the same frustrations as the fingering issue above. So, I would aprroach it the same way as the fingering issue above. At the beginning of a piece, tell the student to put all 10 fingers on the keys. As he/she plays the piece, the thumbs and little fingers might drop off the keys, but I suggest to let that slide. Continue to tell all the beginning students to put all 10 fingers on the keys and as they become more advanced, they will start remembering to play with all of their fingers.
One example of worse case scenario, 4 years ago I had a tiny kindergarten student that didn't play with thumbs or little fingers. For years at the beginning of EVERY piece we played, I told the class to put all 10 fingers on the keys. During every piece we played, her thumbs and little fingers dropped off the piano. But one day the music became so difficult, that without my saying a word, she started using all 10 fingers - try playing a sixth with only 3 fingers! She is now in 4B and plays with perfect hand position. Of course I would have prefered for her to play with perfect hand position from the start, but I knew that when the music hit a certain level of difficulty, she could no longer afford to short herself out of 4 fingers.
If the students are older beginners (I'd say 4th grade or older), yes, go ahead and stress using all 10 fingers form the beginning of their piano career. They are old enough to have control over their fine motor skills and should always play with all 10 fingers.
I know my response is a bit longer than you expected, but fingering is a much bigger issue than most people suspect. Improperly teaching the correct use and function of fingering is in my opinion one of the biggest problems in piano teaching today.
Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.
Subject: What to do with the VERY young student?
This is my fourth year teaching the Mayron Cole method. I love it! A few years ago I talked a colleague into trying it and she loves it too. This summer we opened our own studio, The Piano Place & Arts Conservatory. I have two questions.
1. How can we get a link on your web site? I was certified in your program a few years ago. We are located in Mansfield, TX and our web site address is http://www.pianoplacearts.com
2. Last year I started teaching EZ Keys. I tried teaching 4 and 5 years olds many years ago and they could not handle the intensity of a private lesson. Group is a completely different story. The students all did fantastic! This year I moved them to Menehune, but we have now run into a quandry. They are in Kindergarten and not yet readers, but great piano players! They have been very successful with the Menehune book and will complete it in January. (They could have completed it sooner, but we slowed it down for them.) They are ready for the staff, but we are concerned about them beginning Level 1A because they are not yet reading. We are not sure where to go from here. Do you have any suggestions as to what we can do for the remainder of this year? We offered another EZ Key class this year and again they are doing great! My guess is we will have the same issue next year.
Thank you for your time!
The Piano Place & Arts Conservatory, Inc.
Thanks for your nice email! It is truly appreciated!
(1.) It's easy to get on our teacher link. Email us all the info you'd like to include about your studio: address, contact information, etc. Read some of the other email links to get an idea of what to include. Send the info to us and--presto!--we'll put it up immediately.
(2.) We don't normally recommend Level 1 for Kindergarten students, but yours are exceptional and there is no sense in keeping them at the Menehune level when they are clearly ready to move on to learning staff notes. So yes! Graduate your great young Kindergarten kids to our Level 1-A in January since they have completed EK Keys and Menehune Music. But go slowly with them! You can read all the theory questions to them (since they cannot yet read!) and let them answer the questions orally. Play lots of theory games where the students identify staff notes in order to move on the game boards. (They usually love playing theory games!) Remember that you do not need to teach a "complete" lesson from the book each week. Sometimes, only 1/2 a lesson is all that these very young students need. Just always be sure that they understand the concepts before you move on.
Plus, we have a supplemental Level I Sing Along Favorites (Folk Songs) Book that your students can enjoy this coming summer. And in the fall your students will be in the first grade and will easily complete Level 1A and probably Level 1B.
Best wishes with your studio, The Piano Place & Arts Conservatory. We look forward to getting your Teacher Link information!
Subject: Practicing Records
HI Colleen & Mayron,
I’m really stumped and have been so for awhile. I have a print out of the months and the students put stars on the days they practice. During lessons I go through what it is they need to work on and practice and so when they come with their stickers on I expect that they’ve done their assignment, but I’m finding that they don’t follow through- probably because nothing is written down. How do you deal with that in group lessons? I don’t have the time to write each person something individually and yet I want to see some good results. Any ideas on what to do? Should I print out an assignment sheet and have them write it themselves? What about the young kids where that will take too long?
I just don’t know. I’ve really been struggling with this because I’m not progressing as fast and as thorough as I’d like through the music.
I don't have my students mark which days they practiced - quality practice time is more important that quantity of time. To me it doesn't matter when or for how long they practiced as long as they can play their homework when they show up at their lesson. But, if the student wants to go ahead and keep track of the days practiced, there is an area at the bottom of each piece of music where they can mark the days they played the piece.
I use colored markers to show them what to practice each week. Let's say the past 4 weeks colors were teal, pink, brown, then orange. Well, today I might use yellow. When I hand out their new pages and they are putting them in their binders, I walk around to each student and put a yellow "X" in the "Date Assigned" box in the table of contents for the pieces I just handed them. After we have gone through the piece together in class, I put a yellow X at the top of the page of music, too. If you want to assign theory fun sheets, put a yellow X on those as well. At the beginning of the school year I sent a note home saying that each piece marked with that week's color X must be played 2 times each day until the next lesson. The next week when the lesson starts, I pick the hardest piece from the homework and have each student play it for me solo. I then grade the homework with a color - my system is that green is great (as well as I expected it to be); blue is Ok (I can tell they practiced, but it could have been better); red means they didn't practice at all; and purple is exceptional, better than I thought they could ever play it (purples are very rare - if I gave them out often they wouldn't mean anything). I give the grade in the "Grade" column in the table of contents - just a quick squiggle of color through the boxes for all of the pieces assigned the previous week. Even if I didn't hear all of the pieces they practiced, I heard the most difficult one so most likely they can play the easier one's too. So, the only pieces with a colored X that have not been graded are the pieces for this week's homework. I find this system to be fast in class, and easy for the students and parents to follow.
Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.
Subject: Time in each book; age for EZ Keys, finger numbers & note names, adult beginners
I eagerly watched the teaching DVDs. I found them very helpful. I have a few more questions.
1. How long (in a group setting) does it take to finish a book-on average?
(ANSWERS:) That's a difficult question to answer because it depends on the students' ages, IQ, parental encouragement, and practice time. But my 8-9 year olds used to finish 1-A and most of 1-B in a school year. (They went to a close-by school for the mentally gifted, however.)
Do all the books take the same length of time to complete?
No, some move slower (such as Level 4 on up.) But you notice I identify the books as "levels" and not "years". And that's the reason.
2. We began The Music for Little Mozart's (MLM) program this year with 4, 5 & 6 year old students. We like it but it's cumbersome to keep all the books straight. We began this because of the high volume of call we received for young beginner lessons. Your EZ Keys program looks like it's for 5 & 6 yr. old students.
Yes, that's the age EZ Keys was developed for.
The MLM program 1st book is all pre-reading and designed to include the pre-schoolers. Do you think it would be a problem to do the MLM program for 4 yr. old students and then switch them to your method? They do learn finger numbers and note names in this method.
Truthfully, I have never looked at the Little Mozart program. (Love the name!) But there should be no problem switching to our program. Most four year olds erase mentally quite quickly and will be ready for a new approach to learning perhaps the same information.
3. Do you continue on with the same group of students each year?
You try to, of course. But students come and go and soon your "original" class is down to two members. You want to combine classes when this happens. But you need to look ahead and decide into which class you'll put the remaining two students. If your two students are ahead of the other class, give your two students some popular music while you speed up the other class to catch up with them. Vice versa if the other class is ahead of your remaining two students.
Can you change students for the same level between classes? If you can do this, how is it done if not all groups go through the book at the same rate?
(See the above answer.)
4. We have several adult students and are planning to add senior citizen group classes. Would the older beginner book work with these groups or would they be too childish for them?
Right now, the Older Beginner series is the place to put them. I am currently writing a series for adults--but it will be another year before it is finished. We've had no complaints that the OB series was too childish for adults.
Sorry if you already answered this somewhere on the DVD or your web site.
I did find in the Q & A area that teachers use this method for private lessons. Is that recommended?
About 40% of our customers teach private students and they report great results with our method in private lessons. We used it on private lessons when I ran a large music school in Houston. (Some students do NOT fit into classes!)I didn't get that feeling from the DVD.
WE ABSOULUTELY LOVED BOOK 1A. So clean and uncluttered looking and the kids can be creative within their own book coloring and such on the pictures.
Yea! Thank you for your kind words!
Did you do all the artwork?
Yes. I had to decide if I wanted to major in art or music when I went to college. My mom said she thought I could earn a better living with music--so music won! But I still love to do the art!
My daughter paints so she was really admiring the art work.
We converted half of our garage this summer into a beautiful new studio and the other studio is in the back living area. At this moment have about 65 students. My son is a Music Ed. Major at TCU and teaches private piano, trombone (his main instrument)
Trombone was my minor instrument! Yea for your son!
& electric bass lessons. My 18 yr. Old daughter teaches one of the MLM classes and a few younger private students and I have the rest. Katie I really want to use this method instead of the Alfreds Premier Series. She says the students get too confused with all the information on the pages and that it distracts many of them from the music.
I've literally tried every popular series out there over the last 30 years and haven't been totally happy with any of them. Katie and I are hoping that we can start implementing this program 2nd semester.
Thank you for your time,
Fort Worth, Texas
(Any other teachers in our area using your method?)
Yes. Give me your zip code and I'll run a check on our mail list. There's also a group piano teachers association in the Dallas area that you might want to contact.
P.S. One of the DVD's pauses and stops near the end.
We will replace it--but first please clean the "heads" of your DVD player. That's usually the problem. Then let me know if that does no good.--Mayron
Subject: Supplemental music for faster students
I have been teaching your method for just over a year now, and just wanted to tell you that I love it and am seeing some great results! We just completed our spring recitals, I am very proud of my students' accomplishments! I am also in the process of making arrangements to attend your convention. Looking forward to it, and can't wait to meet you! My question today concerns something I read early on from you. Somewhere, I thought you had a list of additional music that works
well with your method. Did I dream that, or does such a list exist? I spend a lot of time looking for additional music to give to faster students. Do you have suggestions? I have looked everywhere I can think of for this "list" but haven't been able to locate where I saw it. Thanks a lot, I know you are busy.
Keyboard Kids Piano Classes
Thank you for your kind words about our piano method. I truly appreciate them! And I hope that you can make it to the convention this summer!
You did not dream of the supplemental music listit used to be printed in the front of an old teacher manual. I no longer print it, and don’t know where a copy is. But, you might try these supplemental books that we publish for your Level 1 students: Summer Stunners I; Sing Along Folk Songs Level 1; Jack & Beanstalk book Level 1. For your Menehune students try Sing Along Folk Songs Menehune. My daughter also uses some of the Faber & Faber pops books for her students. I hope this helps.
Subject: I need to expand!
Hi. My name is P.. R......, and I have been teaching from your curriculum for 1 year. Prior to that, I taught from books of several other sources and by far, I love yours the most. Over the years, I have had kids leave the program for one reason or another and have always had kids drop after the summer break. This past year, not only did I not lose any kids, I had to start 3 additional classes in January and am anticipating a full summer! My delima is now this. I have always had plenty of room to teach the few kids I have from my home. I have a large media room that I have converted to my piano
studio. Now, I really need to add more students to each class in order to make room for new kids. Right now I teach 3-5 in each class and we are maxed out as far as space goes. I even have to do the game time in another room. I have asked my principal (I also teach elementary music) about teaching at my school. She has given herpermission and I am using this opportunity to revamp my program. Right now, I use Yamaha Digital pianos and they were about $500 each, and are very hard to move around. They sound great and they have the look/feel of real pianos, but they take up a lot of room. In order to teach at my school, I have to have pianos that can be moved around if need be and stored when not in use. I would love to continue to use the ones I have, but I can't afford to purchase 3 new ones and I don't want some kids to play on those and others to have regular keyboards. Therefore, I am considering selling those and using the money to purchase 8 of the same portable keyboards. My questions are:
1. Should I sell those and purchase some all the same?
2. If so, what type of piano keyboard do you recommend?
3. I noticed that you have yours on tables in the demonstration
video. Do you purchase those somewhere already at that height or do
you modify them after purchase?
Thanks so much!
It's good hearing from you. I am thrilled that you/your students are enjoying my piano method. What a great opportunity for you to teach at the school!
I understand the problem about needing lightweight keyboards to move around. My daughter, Colleen, purchased some inexpensive, lightweight keyboards from eBay that have really worked well. She takes them everywhere for her students to perform in ensembles at churches, schools, nursing homes, etc. The prices for the used keyboards ranged from $16 to $119 each. They do not match, but the keyboards can take abuse (from moving about); and you can purchase more in the future when those bargain keyboards wear out. Plus, you can put them on a table instead of purchasing keyboard stands. (A table is more secure!)
Also, a friend sent me a newspaper clipping about some great-sounding keyboards that Yamaha is producing. The Yamaha YPT-200 is $99 and has 61 piano-sized keys. (Not touch sensitive.) The YPT 300 sells for $149, and has touch-sensitive full-sized keys. It also has 482 voices. Go to www.yamaha.com for more information.
Should you sell your larger keyboards that are difficult to move around? Consider trying to keep them for your home-studio only. Get the cheaper keyboards for moving about. I hope these thoughts help.
Subject: Scheduling piano around softball
Would you have any good advice about this problem? (See below)
Thank you so much!
Hi S.(ed.:The Teacher),
Although I still haven't rec'd K.'s (ed.: The Student) softball
schedule, I have given some thought to our scheduling
K. will definitely have to take a break from
piano for the month of May. Even if we luck out and
most of the games are not scheduled for Thursdays, we
will have 2 games per week and that is just about all
we can handle right now. I would not still need to
pay for that month, would I?
I will reassess our decision for June, after I receive
the softball schedule.
Do you think she will be able to work ahead to keep up
with the class? Please advise...
Thanks, M.(ed.: The Mom)
That's a tricky one. Students usually just quit when they decide that they would rather do another activity. I've never had a student want to take a month off then come back.
I would not let them drop out for a month then re-join the class. That kind of policy could quickly get out of hand. The next student will want to take 3 weeks off without paying tuition; then the next student will want to take 2 weeks of without paying tuition. Next thing you know, parents will be arguing that they don't owe tuition for each individual lesson they miss. You have to stick to your policy even if it means losing a student or two here or there. Remember, you train people how to treat you.
Between us, when that student would come back after the month off, you would end up having to teach her everything she missed (free of charge) to get her caught back up to the class. Having to teach a mini-private lesson during the class is not fair to you or the other students in the class - seems like a lot for you to go through just because this student wants to rest between softball games.
I would tell the parent that she signed up for the entire school year; if she needs to withdraw then she may do so, but the student then will have to wait until next Fall to re-enroll. Of course, the student will be welcome back at your studio next Fall if you have a class at her level - she won't be able to rejoin her class because she will be too far behind.
If they don't come back, don't take it personally. They are not serious about piano if they will drop out over an activity that isn't even a conflict in schedule. Since piano clearly is at the bottom of their list of priorities, then they won't be your student for long anyway. Many people try piano, but few are willing to put in the effort to become advanced pianists. No hard feelings towards those that wanted to just try it, but I wouldn't break the rules to accommodate their other activities.
FYI, I lose 1-2 students each spring to softball/baseball. My other students still play softball/baseball, but they work it around their piano class - many students come to piano class in their uniforms. Piano is just not a priority for those students who quit. C'est la vie.
Hope this helps.