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#63086 - 05/31/13 02:39 PM Counting out loud and duets, yes or no?
PrincessBear Offline
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Registered: 02/02/13
Posts: 144
I've been teaching an 8 year old girl on the autism spectrum since September. She's getting ready to start PA Level 1.

I've also recently picked up a mildly autistic nine-year-old girl. She's just at the end of Unit 2 of PA Primer.

Both seem to struggle with being able to count out loud as they play, though the 9 year old can keep a pretty steady (good!) tempo and correct quarter/half note rhythm without counting out loud.

I haven't had a chance to try a duet with the 9 year old yet, but based on my experience with the 8 year old, I'm hesitant.

The 8 year old cannot handle playing a duet whatsoever. She can't even handle clapping with the metronome, even at a slow pace.

I know many teachers say,"Thou shalt ALWAYS teach how to play duets". But, what if the student just can't handle it, and it's really not their "goal" to play duets or play with other instruments? I know it's a good skill to have. I'm not questioning that. I'm just wondering if it's really wise to try to push these special needs students to do something their peers can do, when they may not be capable of doing the same thing?

I'm also open to ideas from other teachers about how they have dealt with this with their special needs students.

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#63087 - 05/31/13 04:37 PM Re: Counting out loud and duets, yes or no? [Re: PrincessBear]
DonnaH Offline
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Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 121
Loc: Canada
I try to keep the individual student and what he/she wants from their lessons in mind when I teach (and not to impose what "I" want for them). For example, if a teenage student comes to me looking to learn to play "popular" songs, how long do you think they would stay interested if I forced them to learn the classics (especially if they hate that music)? If an adult student comes to me looking to learn to play for their own enjoyment, am I really going to force them to play in a recital? Of course not. So if a student's goal is NOT to play duets, what is the point in forcing them to do so? Yes, it is something they might enjoy so you could "try" it, but if it's really not for them, there is no need to order them to do it...in my opinion.

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#63088 - 05/31/13 04:40 PM Re: Counting out loud and duets, yes or no? [Re: DonnaH]
PrincessBear Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 02/02/13
Posts: 144
Thanks Donna. smile I think I needed to hear that from another teacher. I'm still new at this, so I second guess myself a lot when it comes to things like this.

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#63089 - 05/31/13 05:41 PM Re: Counting out loud and duets, yes or no? [Re: PrincessBear]
alidoremi Offline
Star Member

Registered: 03/11/02
Posts: 2120
Loc: California
Counting aloud while playing is a difficult enough for a child without special challenges. I wouldn't force it.

Counting 1-2-3-4 doesn't instill rhythm in a child. They need to FEEL the beat, by clapping, tapping, marching, moving to the beat. The numbers are too much of a distraction. I would use syllables like 'tahn-tahn-tahn' for quarter notes and 'great big whole note' and have them tap out simple rhythms away from the piano.

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#63090 - 05/31/13 09:38 PM Re: Counting out loud and duets, yes or no? [Re: alidoremi]
Arlene Steffen Offline
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Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
I do duets at every lesson from the very beginning. We start duets by improvising together, thus eliminating the need to read. If you start this way, they get quite used to it. I like improvising with just black keys -- everything always sounds good. Students can play clusters or individual notes. You can give them simple rhythms to employ, or just let them go on their own. So many possibilities for fun music-making together!

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#63092 - 05/31/13 09:54 PM Re: Counting out loud and duets, yes or no? [Re: Arlene Steffen]
PrincessBear Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 02/02/13
Posts: 144
Originally Posted By: Arlene Steffen
I do duets at every lesson from the very beginning.
How many students do you have on the autism spectrum?

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#63095 - 06/01/13 12:08 AM Re: Counting out loud and duets, yes or no? [Re: PrincessBear]
Arlene Steffen Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
None, currently, but I'm interested in knowing what you mean by "they can't handle it." What about the duet playing can't they handle? Is it always in conjunction with reading?

I don't insist on counting out loud -- some students can't do that many things at once.

There are so many variables in autistic behaviors. My cousin's son is autistic and takes violin and plays with other and with accompaniments without difficulty. Other kids couldn't do it.

Tell us more about your experiences.

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#63096 - 06/01/13 02:43 AM Re: Counting out loud and duets, yes or no? [Re: Arlene Steffen]
PrincessBear Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 02/02/13
Posts: 144
I think the 8yo struggles with duets because she can't "tune out" what I'm doing, or see how her melody fits with what I'm doing. Another way to describe it might be that she gets distracted by what I'm playing, and gives up about a measure in.

We can play the SAME thing (like a C-pentascale) at the same time just fine, but as soon as I start playing a different rhythm than her, she freezes up and says she can't do it.

I haven't attempted any sort of a duet with the 9yo yet because of my experiences with the 8yo.

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#63097 - 06/01/13 08:07 AM Re: Counting out loud and duets, yes or no? [Re: PrincessBear]
GailS Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 01/23/06
Posts: 618
When I have a student who has trouble with duets I sing the students melody as we play. If the duet has words I use them and if not I sing the students rhythm. After doing that for a bit the student can usually follow along on their own. It can take a few weeks and sometimes I have to go phrase by phrase.

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#63098 - 06/01/13 01:44 PM Re: Counting out loud and duets, yes or no? [Re: GailS]
PrincessBear Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 02/02/13
Posts: 144
Originally Posted By: GailS
If the duet has words I use them and if not I sing the students rhythm.
Sometimes she even freaks out if I do that, without playing the teacher duet part.

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