What is Piano GHD Syndrome?

Do you remember the movie, Groundhog Day? In this wonderful movie, TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) relives the same day - Groundhog Day, over and over and over again. No matter what he does, he wakes up the next morning and it is once again Groundhog Day. This continues until he decides to learn and grow. Only after he begins focusing his efforts on helping others instead of concentrating on himself does he move forward and awaken to a new day.

Groundhog Day Syndrome (or GDS) is the term I use for students who want to continue to play the same song or the same few songs over and over instead of moving forward and learning new skills and songs.

While all students develop favorite songs that they love to play, others get stuck. For most students, this is a temporary thing, and just represents a beautiful song that they have learned from memory. When these students sit down at a piano in a friend's house or at their grandparents, they play their favorite piece to impress their friends and relatives. A lot of students, for example, learn to play Beethoven's Fur Elise, which is a wonderful song. They play it over and over, but they are also willing to move forward and play and enjoy new pieces of music. A student who truly has GDS, however, will want to only continue to play their most favorite piece in the whole world, which they have worked very hard to learn to play! They will want to only keep playing it no matter how much other music is presented to them.

There are three stages of GDS, which varies from mild to severe.

Mild: A parent brings a music book to their child's piano teacher that contains the parent's or the child's favorite kind of music. They ask the teacher to use this book, which the parent also wants to learn to play. The parent then supports the teacher in their child's lessons and encourages their child to let the teacher use their experience and expertise to guide them on their musical journey. Here the parent is just being human. They are excited about piano and want to share this with their child as well as their favorite style of music. Most of us have a mild case GDS. Therefore this stage is actually pretty close to normal.

Moderate: A parent brings a stack of music books to their child's piano teacher and insists that the teacher use these and only these materials. Sometimes this happens because the parent doesn't want to purchase new books. However, the books often aren't appropriate to the child's skills and abilities. This practice puts a huge limitation on what the teacher can accomplish. It is like insisting that a child only check out the same three books from the public library each week. Like using the full library, allowing piano teachers to choose the full range of materials appropriate to a student that are available avoids GDS and helps them progress much faster.

Severe: A parent brings an older child to a new studio for lessons because they are not happy with their previous teacher. The parent insists that the new teacher use a specific music book that often isn't appropriate for the child's skill level. At times, this happens because the parent really likes this music book and is learning to play these pieces themselves; other times it happens because the child has managed, with great difficulty, to learn one of the songs in the book. The song is impressive and the student played it in their last recital, and they want to play it again in this year's recital. However, the student hasn't mastered more basic techniques and resists learning newer material. This GDS can be a huge impediment to learning, as the child (and parent) can miss key skills and concepts needed to make true progress.

"I would never do anything that stupid!"

Now you're probably thinking, "Well, I wouldn't do anything like that!" Well the truth is, we all get stuck from time to time. We just can't see it ourselves because GDS comes with myopia. Like the little groundhog tunneling its way through the ground but running into a rock, we can focus so intently on a false goal that we really don't get anywhere, but instead only end up getting stuck and having the illusion of accomplishment. Sometimes we can imagine a finish line that really isn't there and end up wasting a lot of time we could have used wisely. This is where piano teachers can help, by focusing students on a daily, step-by-step learning process that achieves consistent long-term learning growth. In this way, children can make true music progress that will last them a lifetime and enable them to share their gifts with their children and grandchildren!

It is important for parents to remember that the real goal in piano (and life) is to learn something new every day! All you need to do is to help and support your child build a strong foundation upon which to grow and move ahead independently. The goal of the piano teacher is to help children grow into a confident, independent learner.

Copyright 2005, Cynthia Marie VanLandingham

Cynthia VanLandingham is the owner of TallyPiano & Keyboard Studio in Tallahassee, Florida where she has been teaching piano for 20 years. She is a member of the American College of Musicians, the National Guild of Piano Teachers, a graduate of the Florida State University College of Education, and President of TallyPiano Enterprises, LLC. You can visit her website and download her original compositions free at http://www.tallypiano.com

Cynthia is also an author of a series of exciting books for children, with the mission of Using Music, Art, Science and Literature to Help Children Achieve their Dreams. Her illustrated series for piano students is called, Little Bear's Piano Adventures!TM These stories take young piano students on a Musical Adventure to find out what piano lessons are all about in a fun way that children can easily understand.

For more information about these wonderful books E-mail Cynthia at [email protected], where you can also subscribe to her free internet newsletter, Piano Matters!

TallyPiano Studio: (850) 386-2425
Hotline: (850) 264-7232

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