A lesson with a "guesser" can be a frustrating experience for both teacher and student--but it doesn't have to be! In today's post, we will get to the root of why some students are "guessers," and I will share 4 strategies that will make your lessons with these students more productive and more fun!
Keep reading to take the guesswork out of teaching "guessers"....
1. Students who prefer to play by ear.
If your student has a fabulous ear, they may be relying on their listening skills to play pieces by ear instead of reading the notes. This sometimes leads to "guessing" as students try to use their ears (instead of their eyes) to figure out the next note to play.
2. Students who struggle with note reading.
Guessing at the notes can be a sign that your student is having trouble processing the information on the page. Students who are struggling with note reading may feel like it is easier to guess at the next note than it is to try to "decode" the music.
3. Students who love to create their own sounds.
Sometimes students seem to be "guessing" at the notes when they are really experimenting with sounds as they play. These students are often more interested in playing a piece "their way" than being faithful to the score.
Understanding why your student is guessing at the notes is the first step in helping them to address this issue. Once you know why your student is a "guesser," you can choose the right strategies to help make your lessons together more productive.
Here are four strategies to help turn your guessers into confident (and accurate) note readers:
1. Limit the amount of information on the page.
If your student is guessing at the notes because they are on "information overload," try limiting the amount of information on the page. Cover part of the music with sticky notes, so they only have to focus on a few measures at a time. I also like to use the trick of moving an index card across the music as students play to help them focus on the upcoming measure.
2. Work on pattern recognition.
Once your "guessers" learn how to read in chunks instead of decoding individual notes, they will be much more confident readers! Help students learn to identify patterns such as steps, skips, and harmonic intervals in their music. Color code repeated patterns in the melody or repeated chords to make them easier to spot.
3. Gamify sight-reading to help make reading more fun.
A few of my favorite fun ways to work on note reading:
- Work on a piece video game style, where a student gets 3 "lives" (represented by 3 game tokens) to make it through a line of music with every note played correctly. If the student makes it through the line correctly without losing all of their "lives," they get to "level up" to the next line of the piece.
- Try a fun app, such as Piano Maestro, that scores students on the accuracy of their playing.
- Sight-read an easy duet or play an easy piece with a backing track. Ensemble playing makes it harder for students to guess at the notes because the music doesn't stop!
4. Don't forget to give students opportunities to be creative and play by ear, too.
While we want our students to be accurate note readers, being able to play by ear and to think creatively are both important skills too! Give students opportunities at every lesson to play a familiar tune by ear, improvise over a chord progression, or create their own special version of a piece they are working on. Students who love to create may also enjoy composing and notating their own pieces--which will in turn help them to see the importance of following the composer's instructions when reading a piece of music. These activities will help students to feel successful even on those days when note reading is a struggle.
What do you think? What are your best strategies to help the "guessers" in your studio? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!