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#1279554 - 10/02/09 06:04 PM Quality or Quantity?
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1120
Loc: NJ
In reading over the recent thread, "Traps new teachers fall into", I was glad to read one advice tip--focus on quality rather than quantity. As a returning teacher I have often read how important it is to hold beginner students' interest by assigning several pieces of music a week. My transfer student had taken lessons for 8 months prior to coming to me. He arrived at his first lesson with 3 performance books, Hanon, Schmidt, 1 theory and 1 lesson book! He is in second grade. Yet, with every piece he's played for me, there is an obvious lack of keyboard familiarity, hesitation, etc. I would prefer one piece learned thoroughly over many that are stuymbled through. I am really interested to know what our new generation (and prior generations) of teachers feel about quality vs. quantity. When I was in college, we would work a piece forever if need be, until it was played well.

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#1279595 - 10/02/09 07:51 PM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: chasingrainbows]
abcdefg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/18/09
Posts: 67
Loc: midwest
FYI I am of a prior generation and prefer quality over quanity.

I use accompaniment CD's with my lesson books. The student learns to listen and follow along. I have had several transfer students with rhythm and fluency problems that are quickly corrected once they practice with the accompaniments. The CD's also have a practice/slow tempo and performance tempo. So from the very beginning the student learns that they will practice at different tempos. It is also an easy transition to the metronome.

When they graduate out of the lesson books they have learned their rhythms so well that that there are few rhythm problems. They have a good sense of different tempos and a steady tempo. Most of all they know what my expectations are.

As far as quanity, throughout the year my students are preparing a 10 piece program for guild in the spring. So as they learn a new piece of music I ask them if it is a favorite and if they might want to keep reviewing it for their spring program. I don't ask them to play it every week but they continue to practice it on their own. When spring rolls around we pull out the favorites and put the final touches on them.

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#1279605 - 10/02/09 08:09 PM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: chasingrainbows]
dave solazzo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/09
Posts: 160
Loc: syracuse ny
Originally Posted By: Irenev
I would prefer one piece learned thoroughly over many that are stuymbled through.


i couldn't agree more with that!
_________________________
http://davesolazzo.com

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#1279613 - 10/02/09 08:33 PM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: abcdefg]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1120
Loc: NJ
Originally Posted By: abcdefg
FYI I am of a prior generation and prefer quality over quanity.

I use accompaniment CD's with my lesson books. The student learns to listen and follow along. I have had several transfer students with rhythm and fluency problems that are quickly corrected once they practice with the accompaniments. The CD's also have a practice/slow tempo and performance tempo. So from the very beginning the student learns that they will practice at different tempos. It is also an easy transition to the metronome.

When they graduate out of the lesson books they have learned their rhythms so well that that there are few rhythm problems. They have a good sense of different tempos and a steady tempo. Most of all they know what my expectations are.



Just a couple of questions, and thanks so much for the reply! What method books provide cds throughout all levels? I've only found cd's with Alfred's YOung Beginner book.

Also, if they are listening, playing with, learning with cds, is there a concern that they are imitating what they hear, rather than having rhythm drummed into them the "traditional" way first (pardon my pun)?

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#1279627 - 10/02/09 08:56 PM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: chasingrainbows]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
The best combination would be quality and quantity!

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#1279692 - 10/02/09 11:15 PM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: chasingrainbows]
mstrongpianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 38
In response to the main issue: quality or quantity?

Quality.

I feel it's not that the new generation of teachers feel contrary, I believe it is the new generation of overscheduled students unable to handle the quantity of work. Many teachers find it difficult to motivate students to practice more (ie. the amount of time it truly takes to master a piece) when a student's time is divided between copious amounts of homework and multiple extra-curricular activities.

To facilitate quality learning in my studio, the student and I write out our short term and long term goals during the fall semester. We separate each 18 week semester into quarters (Fall I and II, Spring I and II) and list our practice and performance goals. By seeing what we have ahead of us for the year, together the student and I are able to better prepare for performances (we begin the work a minimum of one quarter,9 weeks, preceding the event). Also, the student has a goal in mind for what should be accomplished for each week's lesson. I find that my students enjoy being a part of this planning process and take pride in their accomplishing the items on their lists.

Below is an example of one of my advancing students' lists:

Fall I: be able to play 4 octaves, all 24 scales. (target date of completion, end of Spring I)

Fall II: American composers recital- Gershwin Prelude No.3

Spring I: Scholarship event- Beethoven op. 49, no. 2 and Chopin Prelude no. 6

Spring II: All school recital- Grieg "March of the Dwarves"


~mstrongpianist

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#1279708 - 10/02/09 11:55 PM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: Betty Patnude]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
The best combination would be quality and quantity!
Yes!

This seems to me to be a false choice. Just because a student is playing several pieces shouldn't be an excuse for sloppy teaching or learning or playing. If you give a student one piece and hone it to perfection, you'll lose that student and you'll most likely engender a hatred, or at least, a significant distaste for music study. By the same token, quantity for quantity's sake makes no sense either. Students need enough pieces so that they can fill a reasonable practice time, but not so difficult that they cannot achieve reasonable success at it, nor so easy that they feel unaccomplished.

If you teach a 30 min lesson, you'll not be able to cover as much as in an hour lesson, and the student will not have as much to work on. Progress will be slower. Getting the student to the point where they feel like they're playing "real" music and can sink their teeth into making it their own should be our objective.

Okay, stepping down from the soap box now!
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1279718 - 10/03/09 12:14 AM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
John said: "Just because a student is playing several pieces shouldn't be an excuse for sloppy teaching or learning or playing."

Actually, John, wouldn't you think that both quality teaching and quantity teaching would be the work of a good teacher teaching the student and setting practice instructions for the pieces under construction.?

I think it's when we leave a student without enough overview of his pieces being worked on this week that some student don't have enough solid understanding of the piece and attempts through it leave them in discouragement and why bother.

Not all kids get it and take it home and make something of it. I think it's wise for the teacher to oversee the development of the assignments at lessons before sending it home for practice.

There is a point at which the student can do this independently but this subject comes up over and over while they are in their formative basic skills - basic notation and thinking skills.

Kids don't do "logic" before 4th grade when the brain is ready for it, I've heard and read.

So many some teachers are assuming kids can do the work when they can't really function on their own yet.

Betty

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#1279725 - 10/03/09 12:37 AM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: Betty Patnude]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5512
Loc: Orange County, CA
Well, my recent decent transfer came from a "quality over quantity" teacher, so the student would spend months on one piece and nothing else. The playing quality is excellent, but sight reading is awful, as the student is used to spending lots of time on one piece, honing it until vomit.

I immediately assigned the student four pieces. Not entire pieces, but bits and pieces of each.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1279732 - 10/03/09 01:13 AM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: AZNpiano]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Far too often students are sent home to practice without any real instruction on how to go about it. Just because you covered important material doesn't mean the student knows what to do with that material.

I strive in my teaching to not only teach the "what" of music and music-making, but the "how." I also believe that it is important to have the student summarize both the ideas and the process that are to be explored at home during the coming week.

If we don't do all of these things, we aren't truly teaching, just dispensing information.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1279743 - 10/03/09 02:13 AM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: Minniemay]
abcdefg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/18/09
Posts: 67
Loc: midwest
In response to Irenev's question regarding accompaniment CD's.

I mainly use Celebrate Piano and Faber's Piano Adventures.

Celebrate Piano has accompaniment CDs for all levels 1-4 and Solo books. Piano Adventures is the same for lesson books, even adult level. I have two beginning adults. One who practices with the CD and one who doesn't. The one who practices with has moved at a much faster pace and plays better.

Music Tree also has CDs but I don't use that method as much anymore. I am sure there are others. I think all of the In Recital books have CDs.

Masterclass Repertoire and Conversations has listening CDs where they play through the piece and discuss how to practice, talk about the composer and interpretation of the music. Succeeding with the Masters also has listening, practice and interpretation ideas. More and more books come with CDs now.

I have everything loaded onto my Ipod. I have a docking station with cordless speakers.

Listening and playing what you hear can be a wonderful way of learning rhythms. I can introduce a new rhythm at the lesson and then with the CD as a tool that they practice with at home the correct rhythm is being reinforced rather than learning something incorrectly and coming back and trying to fix a mistake. I have never had a problem with a student not being able to read rhythms independently because they have become dependant on listening. In fact my experience is the opposite.

Again, I had 4 transfer students who all had rhythm problems. They are now practicing with CDs and have really improved. One of the students I really didn't think had any natural sense of rhythm and I have been amazed with his progress. Mom is thrilled. She knew there was a problem, but didn't know the solution.

It will definitely help with fluency, the CD does not wait for the student to catch up.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

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#1279753 - 10/03/09 03:08 AM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: abcdefg]
Sal_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/08
Posts: 355
Loc: Lacey, WA
I try to give varying levels of pieces--some I'm fine passing once the main idea is learned, others we'll really refine, and for those I make intentions clear from the start. (Or if there's a simpler one they just really like, we'll refine it, too.) Thus is my attempt at both quality and quantity.

For my own lessons, I am aiming for quality over quantity--but I get bored fast! Must practice more....

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#1279823 - 10/03/09 08:11 AM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: Sal_]
kevinb Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 1565
Unless you're working on a public performance, or an examination, I do have to question what is gained by spending months and months getting a piece absolutely perfect. So it's perfect, then what?

I definitely have to count myself in the `older generation', and I do have a deep conviction that something isn't done until it's really done. But I do think this attitude can be counter-productive if taken to extremes.

If you're an amateur pianist, and expecially if you've got a job and a family, you've really only got time to work really hard on a few pieces. Adult students working on ABRSM grade 8 often spend a year or more working furiously on the same three pieces for the exam. I have to wonder what other aspects of musicianship are being neglected while this is going on. I know people who have been through this process and then find they can't play `three blind mice' from sight, for example.

Of course, in an ideal world it would be good to have quantity _and_ quality, and if you're a professional musician you probably can. But for everybody else there is a compromise to make. And increasingly I think that striving for perfection in a particular piece is only of benefit if doing so is of wider benefit than simply being able to tick it off as finished.

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#1279873 - 10/03/09 10:00 AM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: kevinb]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Kevin, how far we take each student on a piece varies greatly by teacher, but I think the OP was talking flagrant misreadings of the score. Wrong notes, wrong rhythms, wrong dynamics, wrong touch, etc. For my young beginners, I want to bring them to a level that the piece is accurately played from the score, plus a bit of musical or artistic self added to the mix. This isn't difficult to do with 6 - 8 or more pieces in the hopper.

Perhaps the frustration many of us feel with transfer students is lack of careful or indifferent teaching on the part of the former teacher, or sloppy learning, abetted by an uncaring teacher. Which is probably why the parent moved the student in the first place.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1279875 - 10/03/09 10:03 AM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
kevinb Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 1565
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Kevin, how far we take each student on a piece varies greatly by teacher, but I think the OP was talking flagrant misreadings of the score. Wrong notes, wrong rhythms, wrong dynamics, wrong touch, etc. For my young beginners, I want to bring them to a level that the piece is accurately played from the score, plus a bit of musical or artistic self added to the mix. This isn't difficult to do with 6 - 8 or more pieces in the hopper.


Sure -- of course there have to be some standards smile I'm not suggesting that a teacher should be satisfied with a really poor attempt. But somewhere between that, and every-piece-to-concert-standard, there ought to be a reasonable working compromise.

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#1279882 - 10/03/09 10:35 AM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: kevinb]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: kevinb
But somewhere between that, and every-piece-to-concert-standard, there ought to be a reasonable working compromise.


Exactly! That's why I felt the premise to be false. Students need some quantity which includes variety to keep them interested and practicing, but teachers need to have standards. As an adult, you and I can focus on a piece for months on end, looking to polish the smallest detail. Most students will move on to other activities and the piano languishing in the corner, collecting dust, if we attempt to impose that standard on them.

And on that topic, it's my general experience that boys, and some girls, who have early gross muscle development, but not fine motor skill development, will need to move at a different pace, covering different style music, to remain enthused and interested.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1279892 - 10/03/09 10:56 AM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
In beginning lessons, I note exactly what a particular lesson piece is trying to teach, and then I prioritize that item to a higher standard that other things. For example, when teaching slurs or staccato, I might have them replay a piece at lesson to try to get them to fix a sloppy fingering or an accidental wrong note - but I won't repeat the piece for another week just for that. But if they have perfect notes, fingerings, and dynamics, but mushy staccato, then they will repeat it. I want their practice to create a habit.

One of the values I see in recitals, etc, is providing the motivation to get a piece or two to the highest possible level of perfection. Without the performance goal, it is hard to motivate kids to that level.

There are different levels for different kids, too. I have a few kids who could transfer to another teacher right now and earn me a terrible reputation as a teacher. But before the new teacher slams me too hard, I'd like them to teach the kid for a month or two first. My students are beginners, in progress. Not a finished product.
_________________________
piano teacher

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#1280144 - 10/03/09 06:36 PM Re: Quality or Quantity? [Re: Minniemay]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1120
Loc: NJ
I agree that there should be a combination of both quantity and quality. I don't think my transfer boy had an incompetent teacher, and I hope to learn why the mom changed teachers. Thanks for reminding me that for performances, recitals, juries, etc., working the piece to its best possible performance should be required. But for weekly 30 minute lessons, I agree that should not be the case, or I will risk losing my students. As posted by Lollipop, we can shelve a piece if there is just a wrong fingering or wrong note played, as long as everything else for the most part is played well. Thanks for the advice to focus more on the issue being taught at the time, for instance, staccato as Lollipop mentioned. I appreciate and really enjoyed these responses. I am really relieved to hear that we are all in agreement however, that quality should take precedence over quantity. I will make sure to hold their interest with supplemental pieces and technical exercises. I know how frustrated I was in college to have every single measure dissected to ad nauseum. To this day, I can't bear to play those pieces.

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