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Topic Options
#1068245 - 10/12/04 01:17 PM How is teaching technique different for adults?
darb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/25/04
Posts: 123
Posted this in the wrong area, sorry. I'll try again here...

Many people on this forum have said that the technique for teaching adults is different than for children.

Can someone elaborate on that please? I think hearing opinions on that subject will help me select the right teacher for me.

Background: Took lessons from age 7 to 19, play almost everyday, but no lessons (or improvement) for 20 years, want to start again.

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#1068246 - 10/13/04 09:41 AM Re: How is teaching technique different for adults?
pianojuggler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/16/04
Posts: 1515

Welcome to the AB Forum.

I never took piano lessons as a kid, so I'm not sure I have all of the background necessary to answer your question. But I'll start the discussion and hope that others chime in...

These are very broad generalizations, and in some part introspective speculation...

Adults are motivated by different things: a desire for relaxing or stimulating recreation, a creative outlet, intellectual curiosity, a desire to play familiar music, short-term or long-term skill mastery, expanding one's horizons, or a (healthy) regressive desire -- that is to recapture happy experiences from childhood.

Children are motivated by achievable challenges, continuing success and progress, external reward (praise, treats, gifts), or even threats of punishment in case they fail.

My piano teacher has a box of stickers -- colorful kid-theme stickers. Each student has a book with the names of pieces they are playing. When they do well, they get to pick a sticker to put in their book, or on the piece of music they played. Sometimes, I joke with my teacher that *I* never get stickers. We both know that I'm motivated by different things.

They amount of theory and the approach to theory should be different between adults and kids. Most kids learn better by repetition, memorization and gradual abstraction. Many adults learn well by these methods, too, but can usually dive into abstraction much more quickly, and will often learn much faster by a "rule and application" approach.

Kids usually come into music as a blank slate. Adults usually come in with some knowledge and a grab-bag of skills, and the teacher should be able to quickly assess what the student knows, and just fill in the gaps. The teacher needs to be adept at doing this continually as the student progresses through material. A common mistake is that the teacher will make assumptions that are not valid. My teacher may think, "pj knows about slurs, I assume he also knows about ties" (I had forgotten about ties).

Finally, what seems to emerge from discussions here, is that adults are frequently shoehorning piano lessons -- and practicing -- into already busy lives. When an eight-year-old shows up for his lesson and hasn't practiced all week the teacher usually knows that he's spent the week playing video games, watching TV, or hanging out with friends. When I come in and I haven't practiced all week (BTW, I never have to tell her--it's obvious), it's usually because I've been working overtime, the sewer backed up into the basement, or some other horrible adult obligation took priority. My practicing will always be in fits and starts. She understands that -- her life is about the same.

Ask for recommendations for teachers that have experience teaching adults. Or prepare yourself to be a teacher's first adult and make sure the teacher is open to getting feedback on his or her teaching style.

Ask lots of questions.

Good luck!

#1068247 - 10/13/04 11:59 AM Re: How is teaching technique different for adults?
darb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/25/04
Posts: 123
Thanks! I did contact a teacher through the music staff website. She said she teaches at home (nice quiet environment, more $) and at the local community college (not so quiet, less $). I think I will start in her home, and if I need to I can change later. Otherwise I might get discouraged by a not-so-compatable environment.

Any other thoughts?

#1068248 - 10/13/04 02:43 PM Re: How is teaching technique different for adults?
mikewu99 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/08/03
Posts: 314
Loc: Audubon, PA
My teacher mostly has children for students (90%). Some of the differences in her teaching method when teaching adults (some of these comments may be more relevant once you get past the very basic first year stuff):

(1) As an adult I have a lot more input into what I play. It is not uncommon for us to spend an entire lesson looking through piles of music to determine what to work on next. She is more dictatorial with children ("You WILL play Bach.."). With me she tries to talk me into things I don't like ("You REALLY SHOULD play Bach, it will help greatly with xxx and yyy...").

(2) An adult may run into a week with little or no practice time. My teacher appreciates this sort of problem and is willing to work around it.

(3) I think she genuinely enjoys teaching adults. I am there because I want to be there, not because my parents are making me. She also believes certain types of music can be played by children, but it takes an adult's perspective/experience to really put emotion into it (some Chopin Nocturnes, for example). Sort of like a 12 year old can't really sing the blues....

#1068249 - 10/13/04 04:29 PM Re: How is teaching technique different for adults?
BeeLady Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/02
Posts: 2339
Loc: Massachusetts
I notice a difference from my childhood lessons. My old teacher went by the book, teaching each piece in succession.

My adult teacher is better educated herself and finds layers of content in each piece we work on. She has me dissect each to find the theory, brings out other music with similar patterns, we discuss interpretation and what the historical influences might have been.

We work less in a linear way and are more motivated by desires. It helps that she and I so often think alike. More than once I have found something I like, bring it to her and she will say "oh, I found something you might like!"

!!!It is the very same piece!!!....

In the begining of our time together she told me the ultimate goal was to make it so I didn't need her anymore...

Life is like a roll of toilet paper...the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes!

#1068250 - 10/14/04 07:00 AM Re: How is teaching technique different for adults?
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
I just responded to this in the area you originally posted it in. Sorry, I had missed this thread \:\)
"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

#1068251 - 10/14/04 12:53 PM Re: How is teaching technique different for adults?
pianojuggler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/16/04
Posts: 1515
There is also scientific evidence that certain pathways in the brain that are closely associated with learning music are growing and forming in kids, but somewhere around puberty, they sort of harden-off, and instead of soaking up information like a sponge, it's more like drilling through solid rock.

The same phenomenon exists in the language centers of the brain. Kids can start speaking a foreign language within a couple of weeks of being exposed to it, and frequently gain fluency within a year of being immersed. Adults take much, much longer, if it ever takes hold at all.

I think some of this may be inhibition, and fear of embarrassment from making mistakes. But a lot of it is biological.

#1068252 - 10/16/04 02:44 PM Re: How is teaching technique different for adults?
darb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/25/04
Posts: 123
Oh dear, my brain is like solid rock!?!?


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