2013 OhioMTA Conference (2) — Solving Common Issues in Advanced Transfer Students, by Siok Lian Tan

e_imagePractical Tips to Solve Common Issues in Teaching Advanced Transfer Students, by Siok Lian Tan

Dr. Siok Lian Tan serves as a professor of piano at Miami University in Oxford, OH.  During this session, Dr. Tan discussed how to help solve common issues in advanced transfer students.  The areas she discussed were reading, efficient practice, critical listening, memorization, and playing posture.  Below are some highlights from her session.

I. Reading Skills

Sometimes, we get students we could call “seasonal readers.”  They can play advanced music but cannot sight read simple pieces.

Strategies for sightreading: Just do it, and regularly.  Do it at home and at the beginning of the lesson.

Guide the student as they scan it over.  Give them reading steps they can do at home (e.g.: Set a pulse, count off, finger the piece silently, etc.).  Ask them for the meter and key signature. Look for patterns and sections, modulations, etc.  Make a game out of it: What can they notice about the piece in 10 seconds time?

Another strategy: Create situations where students must read a lot and learn quickly.

II.  Practice Techniques

Some students are fast readers and like to move on to new pieces often without polishing it completely.  They would benefit from learning more efficient practice techniques. Discuss practice techniques often and demonstrate them during lessons.

Groundwork: listen to a piece, sight read, know the form, determine practice sections, devise a practice plan, work out fingerings.

“Pay Back” Game – When students make a mistake, they must play the phrase properly three times.

Three questions for practice: do I sound good, do I feel good, do I look good?

III.  Critical Listening Skills

Many students hear but do not listen. Students cannot fix problems that they do not hear.

Group class activity: Listen to a piece played by two different performers. Guide them to talk about what they hear (differences in tempo, mood, etc).

IV.  Memory Skill

Memorization takes much time.  Encourage student to memorize during the early stages of a piece.

The best memorization uses all types of memory: motor, aural, visual, and analytical memory.  Many students come with knowledge of only one or two.

V.  Playing Posture

The teacher should adjust those things that prevent the student from playing efficiently or comfortably. If they can play like Glenn Gould, they can sit as low as they like!  Otherwise, adjustments should be made.

If students could benefit from a looser wrist, give them exercises to focus on that.  Exercises for arm and wrist gesture: three-note slur, give note slur, chord inversions.

Other students may have excessive wrist movement which negatively effects their tone.  Students should practice getting smooth, even tones.

For tense shoulders and core, practice deep breathing.

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When these varieties of issues arise in students, we should consider that some of these areas may need to be address separately while others may be best addressed in conjunction with other issues.

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3 thoughts on “2013 OhioMTA Conference (2) — Solving Common Issues in Advanced Transfer Students, by Siok Lian Tan”

  1. Awesome! Thanks for the highlights!

    Speaking of critical listening, I had a student this past Saturday play a four measure phrase, miss a note, went back to fix it before finishing the phrase. Afterwards I asked him where was the mistake he made and he couldn’t remember, in fact, he didn’t even remember he went back to fix a note!!! THAT was a first for me. Lol.

    Also, what are some ways you think we can go about encouraging the use of visual memory?

    1. I think the best visual memory is created by encouraging students to watch their fingers as they play by memory. Visual memory of the score is very difficult to form!

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