View Full Version : Tiny fingers and a short attention span...
Piper of Banbury
06-18-2005, 09:24 PM
I taught my 12 year old how to play. She's placing in grade 4 after having first picked up a chanter a mere 10 months ago.
My challenge: My 7 year old. Her fingers are tiny and her attention span is short. We've had 3 lessons in hand placement and just keeping the chanter closed. It seems to be way too much for her. She wants to learn the pipes, but the challenges at this age seem to be insurmountable. Should we wait a couple of years, or does anyone have a "magic bullet" for getting though the initial steps? Am I going about this wrong? Should I try top hand first with no bottom hand?
06-19-2005, 08:44 AM
They have kid sized chanters. No need to push it, though. Mike Cusack at St. Thomas' starts the kids out when they are 9. By then, the hands are big enough, and the attention span a little better. I started my son at 8, but his hands could handle a regular sized chanter at that time. Starting him early has turned him into a really great player (now he's l6).
06-19-2005, 05:04 PM
Read "The Suzuki Concept" by Shinichi Suzuki. Subtitled "An introduction to a successful method for early music education," Suzuki and others share his successful teaching methods for young children.
In a nutshell, he recommends giving the child "Five minutes with love" of the music. In other words, many young children can only concentrate for about five minutes. During that five minutes they are enjoying what they are learning. Make it fun, and the five minutes will increase.
He makes a game out of holding the violin correctly. You can do the same thing with the chanter. Be creative.
Hope this helps.
06-20-2005, 04:28 AM
Originally posted by dorothy:
During that five minutes they are enjoying what they are learning. Make it fun, and the five minutes will increase.
This is the most important part. Short periods of time, with lots of praise on what she does right. I have found keeping the lessons short and fun to be the key. Don't forget lots of hugs. :)
Some seven year olds aren't ready yet, other's will do fine with patience and love. For me, making it a regular time, keeping the lessons short, and giving lot's of praise (even if it is over the top a bit) helps with the frustration. Remember there is always something they are doing right. (even if it is just holding a top hand in position)
As suggested if you don't have one yet, purchase a child sized chanter.
Good Luck, remember it should be fun for you too!
06-20-2005, 05:32 AM
Scott Williams has a tutor specifically designed for younger children - it might help for your 7 year old
06-20-2005, 07:17 AM
I agree with dorothy and Smise. Adjust the lessons to the attention span...which is about that of a gnat with most.
We become inured to the notion that lessons are 30 minutes, or an hour, or whatever. But many times, they're simply going to be 10 minutes, or 20, or whatever the youngster can absorb. Basically, I don't overdo it, or it becomes a negative.
One other thing: The attention span is also tied a bit to the motive. In other words, is it the child who wants to learn the pipes (or drums)? Or is it the parent? As already discussed in other threads, the game is generally over if it's the latter. When it's purely the former (as in the parent saying, "I don't know where she got the desire to want to play bagpipes, for God's sake!"), the attention span seems to be better.
Cheers, :wave: Michael
06-20-2005, 03:18 PM
consider starting the kid out on an Irish Pennywhistle...
it will keep your kid immersed in celtic music... the size of the penny whistle and the instructional literature for youngsters are more available...
switch to practice chanter when the hand span has developed... (you might still need to find a practice chanter with a short top barrel)
Gee … look at all the little black dots. Gary Larson
Richard Mao, The Peking Piper ( PekingPiper@mao.org )
06-20-2005, 09:27 PM
I like 9 year olds and in the 4th grade. They can read and sit still for a half an hour. Dunbar makes a child size chanter that is pitch equivalent to a regular chanter. I've also used Gibson "D" practice chanters for this age group. The only problem that I forsee is mixing them with older players as the pitch will be different. Next time I'll go with the Dunbars.
06-21-2005, 04:52 PM
I teach quite a few young children. I used to start kids at age 9, mainly because I am an elementary school teacher (retiring after 32 years in less than one week) and I have taught nine year olds for many years. I started a three-year chanter program in my school where kids started at age nine.
Lately, however, I've had a number of kids who really wanted to start earlier. One little girl started at age 7. She has just had her ninth birthday and she is already playing about 15 tunes on her pipes with three drones going!
Regarding hand placement - I used to try to teach kids from the bottom up but now I teach from the top down. With five notes (HA, HG, F, E and D) the kids can learn a lot about reading, various time signatures, playing in rhythm, - even a complete, though adjusted, two-parted slow air composed by Donald MacLeod! Once the kids have the top hand working, it is easy to add the bottom, one finger at a time. Try that with your seven year old. It works with my beginning students aged 6 to over 70!
I usually keep several of John Walsh's child'sized practice chanters on hand. When younger kids come to me for lessons, if their hands are a bit on the small side, and they have to really stretch their fingers, I 'trade' chanters with them for a year or so. I keep their chanters in my filing cabinet, labelled with their names. Every so often, they like to try their own chanter and sometimes they take them home for a week to try them out. When we both agree that they're ready, we trade back permanently.
I also keep several of John Walsh's short chanter tops and sometimes I put them on their chanters if their fingers are long enough but their arms are short. This brings the chanter up closer to their faces and sometimes their fingers fit better that way. Like the chanters mentioned above, I keep their own chanter tops in my filing cabinet, labelled, and trade back when they get a little older and a little bigger.
As far as attention span, most younger kids find a half-hour lesson long, especially if it is a private lesson. They like to have someone to share the teacher with - they get little breaks while their classmates get to take their turns. I like groups of two or three and only rarely have a group of four. I try to keep my groups fluid - that is, it should be easy for kids to move from one group to another if theiy are progressing faster or slower than their group mates.
I also like to keep the lessons varied. Beside working on the chanter, I teach them to write music in their dictation books and how to use BMW Gold. They love to typeset their own little 'tunes' that they can play back and print out. One twelve year old boy's tune made it into my tutor book.
Thanks to Chris M. for mentioning my tutor book. I think its a great program but then, I wrote it!
Piper of Banbury
07-02-2005, 10:59 PM
Thanks all for the great suggestions. Were going to wait a year or so (as the little one has now decided that pop singing lessons are the way to go). If she gets her interest back, I will be looking for this thread. Thanks again.
07-05-2005, 08:37 AM
Scott.Williams posted: "Regarding hand placement - I used to try to teach kids from the bottom up but now I teach from the top down." That's a fascinating thought, Scott. Makes sense, and I think I'll try that one. Thanks :thumb: Michael