Piano Pedagogy Videos: How to Teach to the Gift

The Rancer Method: Transitioning Into Notation for Special-Needs Students (p. 111)

In chapter six of our book, Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism, “Our Fail-Proof Method” introduces students to notation after the development of eye tracking, motor planning, independent finger coordination, and visual convergence. All of these developmental milestones are inherent in the piano books built into the Rancer Method. Musical milestones achieved at this point include rhythm, 2-hand playing in the C and G position, harmony and beginner chords. In this video, a special-needs student is transitioned into notation per page 111 of our book. This student (10) is deaf with cochlear implants, non-verbal autistic with cerebral palsy.

How to teach advanced music theory to autistic students without reliable speech In this video, I ask the student to name the inversions (“Is it a root position chord? A first inversion?” etc.). Never assume the student doesn’t know the information if the answer isn’t forthcoming. Offer the opportunity to show responses on the instrument. This student has perfect pitch, so I asked her which note was “on the top” (for the soprano) and she answered by playing it back, proving that she knew which note was on top for each inversion, and in six different keys

Multisensory Theory and Rhythm Review with Perfect Pitch Students – Reviewing music theory inside the workbook can be a language-heavy process. Especially for autistic students with perfect pitch, a multisensory approach is required. Look for signs of language fatigue and replace the instruction with a novel stimulus. Offer the student the control in the lesson so he selects the pitch that you teach him in, to satisfy his ear in the moment. “Theory is a major reinforcer for reading music and is woven into the lessons through the Rancer Method’s technique in a way that’s painless and fun” (Video corresponds with p. 50 of Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism, Kupferstein & Rancer, 2016).

Reinforcing Technique for Perfect Pitch Special Needs Students Perfect Pitch students sing before they can produce it on the piano, causing a frustration with technique. After months of practice, motor planning reinforcement is needed. Enter the high-tech intervention: The Towel. There is an immediate increase in eye-tracking, accuracy and speed. Perfect pitch students “hear” mistakes, and then correct fingers intervallically by pitch “heard” from the notes printed.

How to teach dotted quarter notes to students with language and learning disabilities: Students with receptive/expressive language issues and learning disabilities should not be taught with abstract concepts such as numbers. Syncopated rhythm with subdivisions are often taught as “one and a half” or “a quarter plus an eighth” or “1-e-and-a-2-e”.  If the student has perfect pitch (most autistic students will have it), use a pitch-based system to teach with sound and visuals combined to produce a tactile integration of the concepts.

How to Teach Solfege with Movable Do to Perfect Pitch Students per the Rancer Method – First, the student should be proficient at note-reading in C position per the Rancer Method. Next, transition into G-position to teach how notes start from the G-line. Next, show the student how the Do moves together with the thumb into the new position. Have the student sing “from the G line” with you, in solfege. Allow for a penciled-in reference sheet. In this video, you see a student learn G position notes and move straight into solfege with movable do, effortlessly. Regardless of learning disabilities or special needs, the Rancer Method works every time.  Have you read our book yet? (Video corresponds with p. 117 of Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism, Kupferstein & Rancer, 2016)

Teaching V7 Chords Using Solfege for Perfect Pitch Students – First, captivate the ear-based learner who craves sound. Keep pushing the ear a bit more. Now, reinforce the sound with the note clusters on the page. You must validate the fact that V7 inversions are missing a note, because their ear will ‘go crazy’ and point out the value of chord inversions. Once you have integrated the eyes with the ears, tie it all up as ‘visual shapes’ and ‘sound shapes’. Finally, wrap up with theory work (chord labeling, etc.). Always give constant reminders of their gift, each week.

Nonverbal communication, piano student indicates “this song is boring!” How to know when your student has had enough from practicing the same song. This particular student needs to jump through major steps to keep the challenge stimulating. It isn’t breaking the rules of the system when adapting to the pace of the student’s learning. A gift is a gift!

Presuming Competence with Nonverbal Autistic Piano Students  – In his piano lesson, Charlie thought he could take a vacation while his mother would “support” his fingers. I presume competence by speaking to my nonverbal autistic students like mature intellectual beings, and hold them accountable to their work. Despite severe dyspraxia, Charlie no longer requires more than wrist support, and I won’t let him get away with it just because his schoolteachers reward him just for showing up. Set the bar unreasonably high, and watch your student’s jump right over it.

How to Support Autistic Students with Perfect Pitch in Piano Practice (1) “you just played a D” (2) “Up or down?” (3) “seconds or thirds?”

Ignore vocal stims and silliness
When perfect pitch students are bored during their first lesson at note-reading, and he’s so bored, it’s time to double up the complexity. Here, it’s with the added instrumentation of wildlife…Look out world, Jacob is going places!

Teaching sight-singing for perfect pitch students prompt the corrections by giving the pitch just sung, and helping “now go up to a?” or “now it goes back down to?” or “Now it skips to the?”. Perfect pitch students will lap this up and be delighted with their ability.

Autistic student changes the lyrics, non-verbal typing communication Here the student is typing on a keyboard to insert his own choice words for making the lyrics rhyme. He takes great pleasure in the control over the music that these options give him. He has been taking piano lessons for several months. Learn more about RPM on my resources page.

Week 1, supporting the arm of the student with motor planning issues This support will no longer be needed after six weeks.

Week 7, supporting the elbow of the student with dyspraxia After three months, only one elbow might need stabilization for the entire body to coordinate movement.

hand-over-hand support for student with low muscle tone, severe dyspraxia and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome After 1 year, all 10 fingers are now moving independently. As we moved into chords, support was needed only for six weeks per chord type.This video shows the first introduction to left hand with maximum support, and then a comparison of right hand which already had 5 months of experience.

97% autistics will have perfect pitch, and 83% other special needs. Always test to teach to the gift. To learn how to test without note-naming, see Kupferstein & Walsh, 2015

Non-Verbal Perfect Pitch and Autism – The Gift Explained to Elementary School Children After learning about the functions of different parts of the brain, we had a sensory overload simulation exercise to teach the students about sensory differences and invisible disabilities. In this video, I demonstrate how music allows all the functions to integrate despite neural differences. In explaining perfect pitch from the lens of the non-verbal paradigm (Kupferstein & Walsh, 2015), stereotypes and myths are dispelled, and the phenomenon becomes mainstream and celebrated.