Helping Students With D.E.A.F Syndrome

As music teachers, we occasionally encounter students who have a dynamic range that extends from forte all the way to fortissimo. How do we help these students who clearly suffer from D.E.A.F. (Does Everything Always Forte) Syndrome?

Commanding them to “play softly” in a loud voice rarely does the trick! What can we do?

Here’s an approach that has worked for me every time. Though here I discuss improvising a duet using a specific piece, the general approach would work with many other Pattern Play pieces or improvisation structures.

Softly—very softly—play the Pattern called “Gentle Rain” from Pattern Play 2. As you continue to play, begin speaking in a very quiet voice. Describe rain that is so gentle it looks like mist. Create an environment that is completely “soft”—your voice is soft, the music is soft, and the imagery is soft. Then say to the student, “Add misty sounds playing with just white keys.”

When you are playing tones that are muted, when your voice is a whisper, and when the imagery is gauzy, the student is rendered incapable of violating the mood! The secret is to create an environment in which the only option for the student is to play softly.

blogForrest Kinney