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Instrumental music and group work

Photo: Deaf-friendly advice on teaching music and facilitating group work

Generally, the teaching and learning process during instrumental tuition does not need to differ for a deaf child or young person.

Some deaf children and young people may find it easier to hear lower or higher frequencies depending on their level of hearing. Encourage them to explore and experiment with different instruments to see what suits them best, though ultimately be guided by the student when it comes to choosing an instrument.

Here are some top tips for teaching individual students and groups.

Instrumental (individual)

  • Think about the acoustics in the room that you are teaching in. Try to use rooms with soft furnishings and the least background noise so that sounds are clear.
  • When you are teaching, face the student so they can lipread you and see hand positions on the instrument you are using.
  • Think about how a deaf child or young person can see music through finger positions, posture and mouth shapes.
  • Be patient and allow time for the student to process what you are saying before you demonstrate or ask them to play.
  • Establish the beat and rhythm of any piece before you play prior to starting, and maybe ask the child if they would like you to conduct throughout. Depending on the child’s level of hearing, some may find it different to get the melody before they understand the rhythm.
  • Always check the volume level with the child in case it’s too loud and overwhelming for hearing aid users. Be aware that some digital hearing aids suppress loud noises.
  • Do not give instructions while the child is playing, as there is a chance they will not hear what you are saying. Avoid humming the rhythm at the same time as an accompaniment is playing or while the student is playing, as it can make it harder for them to hear what they are doing.
  • If a mistake is made while the student is playing, they may not have heard it. Be clear on where the mistake was. Point to the score and make time for demonstration. Remember that a deaf child or young person may take longer to learn new things in comparison to their hearing peers.
  • It is good practice to keep a log so that progress can be tracked. It is also useful when communicating with parents to let them know what their child needs to practice and check understanding.

Instrumental tuition (group work)

  • Establish the rhythm and melody with the child prior to them joining the group, so they have the confidence to play along with their peers from the start.
  • Agree communication rules prior to starting, for example, playing or tuning up while conversation is happening. Check out our top tips for communication.
  • In group sessions, sit the students in a semi-circle so that they can see everyone and communicate clearly. Check with the child where they would prefer to sit within the group.
  • Consider pointing at the score to support the student to keep rhythm if they are finding it hard playing along with another person or group.
  • Be careful not to single out a deaf child if they make a mistake, they may not be aware that it has happened.