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Note Deafness

What can you do when students don’t even notice wrong notes? Students with note deafness are either half asleep when practising, or they haven’t developed the aural skills needed to hear wrong notes.

Note Deafness: Play-Along

Playing your student’s pieces alongside her might seem like it would lead to an over-reliance of ear playing to the detriment of reading skills – but for these students, we want them to use their ears.

Steps

  • Play the piece at the same time as your student in a different octave.
  • If she doesn’t notice the clashes when she plays a wrong note, try one hand at a time.
  • If she still doesn’t notice the wrong notes, slow down until she does.
  • Only point out the incorrect notes as a last resort and if you do, draw her attention back to listening to the difference.
  • When she does notice a clash take an inquisitive tone. Don’t say: “That’s because you’re playing an F instead of a G”, instead try: “Oh, I’m playing an G and you’re playing an F, let’s double check that note together”.
  • Your student can Play Along at home using a backing track or a recording. If there is no recording available try recording the piece yourself at an appropriate tempo.

Note Deafness: Sing-Along

Singing is one of the best cures I know for aural skill development. I think all musicians should sing and especially those that are struggling with Note Deafness.

Steps

  • Ask your student to sing her piece for you. She can use words, solfa, du du du, or la la la; whatever works.
  • If she is shy at first you can sing along with her but give her a chance to get going before resorting to singing yourself.
  • For practice, assign Sing Alongs with a recording of her piece, followed by solo Sing Alongs while pointing to the score. If there isn’t a recording readily available, record it during the lesson using a smartphone or tablet.
  • Only after doing her singing practice should she go to the piano to play her piece. Follow this procedure in the lesson also and over time she will become more aurally aware of the music she is playing.