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Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?

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Peter T. 14 Sep 02 - 11:35 AM
Sorcha 14 Sep 02 - 11:42 AM
dick greenhaus 14 Sep 02 - 11:48 AM
Peter T. 14 Sep 02 - 12:33 PM
Night Owl 14 Sep 02 - 01:43 PM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Sep 02 - 01:54 PM
Peter T. 14 Sep 02 - 02:16 PM
wysiwyg 14 Sep 02 - 03:05 PM
Glen Reid 14 Sep 02 - 03:54 PM
Don Firth 14 Sep 02 - 04:44 PM
Peter T. 14 Sep 02 - 04:48 PM
katlaughing 14 Sep 02 - 08:08 PM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Sep 02 - 08:12 PM
Night Owl 17 Sep 02 - 01:13 AM
Peter T. 17 Sep 02 - 08:27 AM
sian, west wales 17 Sep 02 - 12:03 PM
wysiwyg 17 Sep 02 - 12:05 PM
Night Owl 17 Sep 02 - 09:47 PM
GUEST,Julienne 28 May 16 - 02:55 PM
Helen 28 May 16 - 05:33 PM
GUEST,leeneia 28 May 16 - 05:46 PM
Joe Offer 28 May 16 - 06:32 PM
Mooh 29 May 16 - 09:35 AM
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Subject: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: Peter T.
Date: 14 Sep 02 - 11:35 AM

I was wondering if anyone here had experience of teaching very elderly people to play instruments? (People in their 80s, say) I spend a lot of time in nursing homes these days, and there are obviously people who used to play, and don't, or struggle with the piano in the waiting room. There are singing sessions, and people who come in and play for the residents. But I am asking about getting people to play new instruments, or an instrument for the first time -- even recorders or whatever. Anyone tried? Learned any interesting lessons? yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: Sorcha
Date: 14 Sep 02 - 11:42 AM

I haven't but I would guess that Arthritis and Alzheimer's are going to be big enemies.


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 14 Sep 02 - 11:48 AM

Been there. Done that. Works fine. Seniors don't pick up as fast on the purely physical part as do kids, but they're a lot faster at learning the theoretical parts--reading music, transposition, setting chords etc.


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: Peter T.
Date: 14 Sep 02 - 12:33 PM

Thanks Dick. What are good instruments? Dulcimer? yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: Night Owl
Date: 14 Sep 02 - 01:43 PM

Hi Peter. I think both Autoharp and Dulcimer can be used successfully, depending on your goals and the seniors' physical/mental status....(AND the two instruments sound GOOD played together).
If you are trying to create instant music, I'd suggest the Autoharp. Bedside tables can be moved to the room you're playing in and usually can be lowered to the patient's elbow height...to make it easier for them to play and see the bars. Two people can play the autoharp at the same time as well.....one for the bars, one for the strumming. Takes some co-ordination between them, but gives lots of giggles while trying. You can also use indelible ink pens to write the names of the bars larger. SOMEwhere in these threads is LOADS of two chord songs. If the patients have specific songs they enjoy singing, but you can't find the right chord for a specific note,.........just DON'T strum while singing the note. bg


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Sep 02 - 01:54 PM

Seniors? Surely that means kids in the top year at school.

The Who never sang "I hope I die before I get senior."

If I ever get too old and arthritic to play the guitar I want a big bass drum. Or maybe a hurdy gurdy would be fun. But with a little motor to do the turning bit.Fun for me that is.


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: Peter T.
Date: 14 Sep 02 - 02:16 PM

Thanks NightOwl, I was hoping I might hear from a fullblooded expert! Any other instruments you have tried?

yours, Peter


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 14 Sep 02 - 03:05 PM

You may find that the seniors will be teaching, not learning. We met a great old guy in the music shop yesterday and all he wants to know is, "How come they all keep falling asleep when I play my fiddle at the home?" His monthly outing is to go to the shop. We decided to go over there a little earlier next time we go, and hook up with him and try to play loud enough to wake the... neighbors.

I do that two-on-a-harp thing with kids, too.

Waltzes. Do waltzes. And let them play the harp tabletop, upside down-- much easier strumming, pulling the hand toward you, across the strings.

Index of two chord songs in Rise Up Singing I. (The rest of that thread includes other 2-chord songs that may or may not be in RUS.) I recommend RUS because altho the type is awful small, there are a lot of other songs in there that older folks love and maybe they can use them for their own singalongs, when other musicians visit.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: Glen Reid
Date: 14 Sep 02 - 03:54 PM

A few years ago I had an 83 year old man (student) who was determined to play old time fiddle before he died. What was even more amazing was the 65 mile round trip he made to my place ,in a battered old Chevy pick-up. He come almost every week for the best part of a year until he had to leave the area and move in with his daughter. By the end of it he had about 8 or 10 tunes he was doing quite well, not only on the fiddle, but I had also interested him, in doubling on the mandolin.

The last I heard he's still going strong and playing his fiddle, even though he is close to 90. What I liked about him was that musically he lived every day, like it was his last, always did his homework and got the most out of every lesson. I hope I gave him his moneys worth, because he gave me a lot to think about,and certanly left a lasting impression on me...

All the best, Glen


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 Sep 02 - 04:44 PM

(Wow! I'm surprised at how ageist some of the above responses sound!)

Okay, kid! Who you callin' "senior!???" Arthritis? Alzheimer's? Drop the preconceptions! You may find some seniors that are sharper than you are.

One of the most enthusiastic guitar students I ever had was well into his seventies. He wasn't doing it for some kind of "occupational therapy," he really wanted to learn, so he had a lot of incentive. He'd been an engineer all his life, had never played a musical instrument, and had always wanted to, so he decided "now or never!"

We started out with Aaron Shearer's beginning classic guitar manual because he said he wanted to learn it right and not just play chords. After the first couple of lessons, I noticed that he'd written what looked like fractions by certain notes. I asked about them and he explained that he was trying to memorize which notes were where, and until he got it down solid, they were a memory aid. The top number was the left hand finger, the bottom number was the string. Thinkin' like an engineer! He picked up reading music right away because he immediately grasped the logic of the system. Same with chord structure and more complex music theory.

He learned to play pretty darn well. He was no Segovia, but he could play several pieces—from memory—and he learned a number songs (lots more than two chords, by the way). Nice singing voice, too; not at all old and creaky.

Plunge in with an open mind. This may an opportunity for you to learn a lot!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: Peter T.
Date: 14 Sep 02 - 04:48 PM

Continuing thanks for these insights. Anyone tried wind instruments? yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: katlaughing
Date: 14 Sep 02 - 08:08 PM

What about penny whistles, PeterT? My sister, bet, says they are easy to learn.


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Sep 02 - 08:12 PM

The best singers are old singers. And the best storytellers are old storytellers.


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: Night Owl
Date: 17 Sep 02 - 01:13 AM

I guess when I read Peter's 1st post, I ignored the word "senior" and focused on "Nursing Home"...and am thinking of patients I've worked with playing music....the youngest was 34 yrs. and had the same illness that Woody Guthrie had (which escapes me right now.) Nursing Homes, sad to say, also have young children living in them, because they require 24 hr care.
I'm certainly NO "expert", but have enjoyed troubleshooting and playing around with different ways to help patients actively make their own music.

The one thing the "terminal" residents have in common is a short time remaining in their lives, and they're totally dependent on the nursing staff. Hospice has a wonderful motto here......"Dying is NO reason to stop living."

Don, I agree with you wholeheartedly....and apologize if I said ANYTHING that added to "preconceptions". bg

I may have misread the population you're working with Peter, but one of the things I like about BOTH the Dulcimer and the Autoharp, is that they both can be played as simple or as complicated as you wish.....and both lend themselves to modifying the way they're played to suit the patients ability....physically or mentally.

I think the Dulcimer is more fragile and requires more finger dexterity than the Autoharp....BUT you can C-clamp four pieces of wood beside the top and bottom or "Bunji-chord" the Dulcimer to a bedside table, so that the player doesn't have to worry about holding/balancing it. (If you C-clamp, make sure you protect the wood of the Dulcimer.) I think anyone you're working with, who has a piano background, would EASILY pick out tunes on the Dulcimer.

I also would be a bit cautious about using wind instruments until you check with the medical staff in the Nursing Home. For some it would be helpful,.....for others it could be harmful.....just depends.

I'm wondering if anyone has tried a Ukelele??? Am I right that it has four strings and easy chording??


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: Peter T.
Date: 17 Sep 02 - 08:27 AM

Thanks again to all -- I hadn't thought about ukeleles. yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: sian, west wales
Date: 17 Sep 02 - 12:03 PM

I've just bought a banjo (yes ... I know the jokes) and I'm surprised how easy it is to get the basics right. Or at least to get an acceptable sound out of it. I wonder if a uke is a bit small to for older fingers, taking on board that you're talking about people requiring Care.

What about handbells or pop bottles? Certainly requires team work, and can be a real laff! (Re: handbells - I don't know much about them but my home church in s. Ontario has a set played by pensioners of the parish. Perhaps you could borrow some locally just for your elders to 'have a go'.)

sian


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 17 Sep 02 - 12:05 PM

Small plucked psaltery. Anyone can pluck randomly and get great sounds. Harmonica-- if yer still breathin', you can have fun with one.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: Night Owl
Date: 17 Sep 02 - 09:47 PM

sian...Love the idea of handbells! Envisioning Peter's Christmas concert. One (or two) residents playing an Autoharp to set rythym...and eight (??) residents playing melody with the handbells. Sure could be FUN!!


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: GUEST,Julienne
Date: 28 May 16 - 02:55 PM

I have had sucess teaching an elderly gentkeman to play the recorder. He had no previous musical background. I used the Suzuki method which begins with learning by ear. He is now able to play with my recorder consort, some of the easier music. It's very exciting. I would like to do more of this.


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: Helen
Date: 28 May 16 - 05:33 PM

Hi all,

Just an idea: what about the pentatonic scale?

There is a trick with a Celtic lever harp to tune it to the pentatonic scale so that whatever you play, including plucking two or more strings at random, it still sounds good.

A quick explanation: normally a harp with levers on all strings, and with no levers engaged is tuned to the key of EFlat, with three flats, B, E, A. When you engage those three levers you have all the natural notes, so you are in the key of C. This means that you can then play in 7 key signatures without having to re-tune the strings simply by engaging the right levers. The keys are EFlat, BFlat, F, C, G, D, A.

Instead of engaging the levers in the normal way, you can do the opposite. Engage the C, D, F, G levers and leave the others unengaged. You then have EFlat, GFlat, AFlat, AFlat, BFlat, DFlat, EFlat, i.e. two are repeated (EFlat, and AFlat). This scale is the same as the black notes on the piano.

If you set the harp sideways to a gentle breeze you get an aeolian harp effect with beautiful harmonics.

I'm not suggesting you have to find a harp or six to do the music classes, but the pentatonic scale is a lot of fun to play around with for absolute beginner musicians because there is an instant sense of being able to play music and none of the notes clash with any of the others so it's easy to have fund and not to feel discouraged.

The following wiki page shows a number of penatonic scales and how they would transpose to the key of C. The scale above would be the same as A, C, D, D, E, G, A

Pentatonic scale

My ukelele is tuned to C, G, E, A which are four of the notes of the pentatonic scale so I could muck about creating tunes just from the open strings, or plucking any two strings together and they should sound ok. Another tuneable instrument, e.g. a guitar or autoharp could also be tuned to a pentatonic tuning to allow a little bit of free playing around with the instrument.

Helen


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 28 May 16 - 05:46 PM

I have two friends in their 70's who wanted me to teach them recorder, but they didn't want to practice. In fact, they never picked up the instruments between one lesson and the next. I've grown discouraged, and I'm letting the whole thing drop.


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 May 16 - 06:32 PM

The most popular night at my dad's nursing home is Thursday, when "chimes" is scheduled. A fifty-ish guy plays "Name That Tune" on his keyboard for maybe 45 minutes, and the residents really enjoy that and his banter with them. He's not much of a singer, so it's mostly instrumental - but it's great fun.

And then comes the part everybody waits for - the chimes. The instruments sound and work very much like handbells, but they're tubular and a bit easier to handle than handbells. The same people show up every week, and they've become quite good at a large number of songs.

And everybody has a great time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handchime

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Teaching Seniors to Play Instruments?
From: Mooh
Date: 29 May 16 - 09:35 AM

Very mixed results.

One guy absolutely nailed lap style guitar basics very fast and went on to play anything that interested him happily, though he didn't live long after that.

Another guy made repeated excuses of how he was incapable of learning new guitar things, then proved himself wrong. What he seemed incapable of was practicing.

One woman understood the function of the mandolin, learned basic sight reading but refused to get an instrument that was playable. Instead, she insisted on struggling with an almost unplayable piece of crap. Nothing would persuade her otherwise. She quit on account of it.

Another woman, on ukulele, could figure things be ear okay but couldn't grasp any visual representation of music. She also couldn't remember chords at all.

One of my current retirees, learned sight reading on the mandolin, chords, and plays beautifully. He struggles a little with some keys as his fingers don't always react to new fingerings quickly, but he knows when he's made a mistake and he fixes them.

It's a tricky and challenging proposition to teach the elderly, but worth the effort. Everyone, regardless of age or infirmity, deserves a chance.

Peace, Mooh.


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