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#1478419 - 07/21/10 10:32 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: danshure]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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It would be interesting to hear from teachers who go to student's homes for lessons. Obviously, students cannot say, "I played it better at home," because they are home!

As an adult student, I wouldn't say, "I played it better at home." Rather I might say, "The touch and feel of this instrument is quite different than my home practice instrument, and I'm going to need a few minutes more to become fully adjusted to playing here. Please bear with me."

In rereading the OPs opening comment, I suspect her problem isn't technique or lack of familiarity with the music, or practice, but simple nerves, as many have pointed out.

The vast majority of my students over the past 30 years have been elementary through high school students. Nerves were never their problem. Plain and simple lack of practice, lesson preparation, attention to detail, was the number one cause of lesson problems.
_________________________
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#1478457 - 07/21/10 11:42 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
danshure Offline
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In the past I taught a good handful of students in their homes, kids and adults. Now I have a few here and there at homes.

But in general I think when they're saying "at home" they mean "with out YOU sitting here!".
smile
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#1478458 - 07/21/10 11:43 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
keystring Online   content
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John, the issue is not that of playing at home, but playing in the teacher's presence. What I described may affect older students who begin at an age of self-awareness. A teen who began as a child is used to the idea.

This is too important to let go. I have named both cause and solution that we found. It is not a case of nerves as much as it is of perception. If a student caught in this tells you "I played it better at home." they are not making an excuse - they are asking for help. The obvious next step to me is to see a) whether it is true, and b) if so, what is behind it so that it can be solved.

- paying attention to the music we are playing, rather than having attention politely going toward the teacher will make an enormous difference in how well we can play if this is going on. Does this sound unreasonable?

- seeing it as both of you working on your playing and the music, rather than yourself being assessed and maybe abandoned as not worth it (a common hidden fear) will also get rid of paralysis. At the same time, this switches attention from the teacher to the task.

These are the two main things that we found made us musically tongue-tied in front of a teacher. IF those things exist they will affect our ability to play in front of a teacher (specifically). How we, the students, perceive you, the teacher, and how we relate to you and the task of playing in front of you, can affect our ability to play in front of you. That is a mindset that has to be looked in the face to be overcome. If it's not going on then the whole thing is moot.

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#1478473 - 07/21/10 12:07 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: danshure]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Originally Posted By: danshure
In the past I taught a good handful of students in their homes, kids and adults. Now I have a few here and there at homes.

But in general I think when they're saying "at home" they mean "with out YOU sitting here!".
smile


I suspect that's the truth, Dan. And if you were a fly on the wall, you'd probably discover what you already suspect, which is they don't.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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#1478484 - 07/21/10 12:27 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Morodiene Offline
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I have at times with nervous students will let them "run through" the piece once without me listening, then have them play it "for real" again. This gives them a chance to get accustomed to my piano. I don't really know if it improves their playing at all, however, since the first time they play they don't feel as self-conscious about it, and the 2nd time, they're more used to the instrument.
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#1478490 - 07/21/10 12:34 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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I suspect that, as often happens, we're talking two different issues here. I was reacting to the comment by Rocket88, "I played it better at home." I don't believe they do, rather, they are less self-critical at home than at the lesson. They being students primarily aged 6 to 18.

I don't disagree with your analysis at all, it's just that it's not what I'm referring to.

You understand, I'm sure, that most of us have 3 elementary aged students for every middle school aged student and probably the same ratio, 3 MS students for every high school student. That may not be universal, but I'm guessing that the number of 15 - 18 yr old students compared to 6 - 12 is roughly 1:10.

Of course, it's a given that when you have a more mature student with nerve problems, you give it your undivided attention, but being more mature, they're most unlikely to come to lessons saying, "I played it better at home," unless their tongue is firmly in cheek.
_________________________
"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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#1478530 - 07/21/10 01:54 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
keystring Online   content
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Yes, we were addressing different age groups. Since the OP is an adult that was my focus and reason for posting.

Quote:
... but being more mature, they're most unlikely to come to lessons saying, "I played it better at home," unless their tongue is firmly in cheek.

Something possibly worth noting - When I began I had never had music lessons. It is a different world and you do not necessarily know how to present things when they come up. You don't have the language and don't know what fact or angle is pertinent. We may mention things that are irrelevant while trying to get at something that feels wrong. Something inane such as "I played it better at home." may indeed come out. Later on we can identify that the touch of an unfamiliar instrument or some other specific thing is the problem, but not in the beginning. This new world can be as murky for us as it is for a five year old, but since our language is sophisticated that is unexpected.

I was helped immensely through encounters with people ahead of me who could bridge the gap. Not only could I approach my studies differently, but I could also start communicating in a way that was more comprehensible to music teachers.

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#1478563 - 07/21/10 03:01 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring]
danshure Offline
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I also realized I have another suggestion - visualization. Try picturing yourself in every detail in the situation. What the teacher's piano feels like, the room, the teacher sitting there, how you feel in the moment. Imagine yourself as clearly as you can playing how you know you can play (try breathing at the same time!). You're creating a mental/emotional rehearsal of the actual moment you'll face.

The mind knows no difference between you imagining the situation and really being in the situation, if you can do the visualization well enough, I'd be surprised if over time this didn't help.
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#1478564 - 07/21/10 03:08 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
I suspect that, as often happens, we're talking two different issues here. I was reacting to the comment by Rocket88, "I played it better at home." I don't believe they do, rather, they are less self-critical at home than at the lesson. They being students primarily aged 6 to 18.

I don't disagree with your analysis at all, it's just that it's not what I'm referring to.

You understand, I'm sure, that most of us have 3 elementary aged students for every middle school aged student and probably the same ratio, 3 MS students for every high school student. That may not be universal, but I'm guessing that the number of 15 - 18 yr old students compared to 6 - 12 is roughly 1:10.

Of course, it's a given that when you have a more mature student with nerve problems, you give it your undivided attention, but being more mature, they're most unlikely to come to lessons saying, "I played it better at home," unless their tongue is firmly in cheek.


Oh, I usually do believe them, child or adult. But the point is, it doesn't matter. Either there is a technical issue that seemed worked out at home but when under pressure was revealed to need more work, and/or there's an issue with nervousness in playing in front of the teacher and quite possibly others that needs to be worked on. And most teachers can tell when a student has practiced and having trouble playing and when a student has not.
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#1478567 - 07/21/10 03:14 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring]
TimR Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring
John, the issue is not that of playing at home, but playing in the teacher's presence.


chang suggests another factor that contributes to this.

IIRC, it goes like this.

At home, we play notes. For the teacher, we suddenly realize we need to make music. It needs expression, it has to mean something.

Well, we've practiced the notes. But we might not have practiced making music. So when we try to, we're going to stumble.

It makes some sense, I think, for some students. It's an example of doing something different for the teacher that was not well practiced at home. And his recommendation was, " don't do that." (never practice without making music.)

For me the issue is not nerves or lack of practice. It's playing cold after a hard day at the office thinking about work. I guess I need to practice faster warmups.

I played for a generic Protestant service for a while. I used to dread the final hymn, immediately after the sermon. I'd be in my seat for 45 mind numbing minutes while this guy rambled on and on in pure stream of consciousness (because to plan or edit a sermon might inhibit the Holy Spirit!). Then jump up and play that hymn cold. Even worse than cold, having spent 45 minutes dreading it, letting the anxiety build.

Shoot, I feel bad just reliving it. think I need a beer.


Edited by TimR (07/21/10 03:15 PM)
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#1478575 - 07/21/10 03:24 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: rocket88]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Dare I be cruel and say why does it matter? A good teacher knows what you're capable of, you don't need to show them.
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#1478582 - 07/21/10 03:41 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: TimR]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Originally Posted By: TimR
. Shoot, I feel bad just reliving it. think I need a beer.

I can relate to that!
_________________________
"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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#1478584 - 07/21/10 03:49 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keyboardklutz]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Dare I be cruel and say why does it matter? A good teacher knows what you're capable of, you don't need to show them.

The students I wrote about would freeze up and it prevented them from being able to work much with the teacher. When they found the cause and could address it, more was accomplished in lessons because they were not also battling that paralysis. Showing what they were capable of was not on anyone's mind. Being able to work with the teacher effectively was.

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#1478590 - 07/21/10 04:01 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring]
keyboardklutz Offline
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That's just anecdotal. Though the students may perceive a problem, there rarely is. You don't learn to play in lessons - that happens at home.
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#1478608 - 07/21/10 04:29 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keyboardklutz]
keystring Online   content
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I wrote in detail in preceding posts. These were things that were worked through between teachers and students - there is substance to what I presented. I am well aware that learning happens at home. If you can't get at the stuff in lessons, you cannot work on it at home. For these particular students, working through the causes affected their ability to work with their teachers, and their teachers' ability to work with them.

The main point was in response to yours. There was no interest in showing a teacher what they were capable of. There was a desire for things like stopping the mind from going blank from anxiety, becoming clumsy and unable to execute what the teacher demonstrated. If such things are overcome, more can be accomplished in lessons, which means in turn that more can be taken home to practise.

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#1478618 - 07/21/10 04:39 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keyboardklutz]
TimR Offline
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Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
You don't learn to play in lessons - that happens at home.


Ah.

But I'm not sure you CAN learn to perform under pressure at home.

Not everybody cares. I have little interest in how accomplished I can become at home. It is only the application to performing that matters. If my performance level is 90% of my relaxed home level, because I handle pressure okay but not well, then my home level needs to be much higher. (90% may be optimistic. But the measures suggested by keystring may help the percentage.)
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#1478621 - 07/21/10 04:42 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring]
keyboardklutz Offline
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I really think you're exaggerating the effect of a student's anxiety, whether unfounded or not, on their learning. The teacher-learner relationship is far too complicated for such gross conclusions. Learning outcomes are not so easily surmised - if they were teachers would have such an easy time!
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#1478657 - 07/21/10 06:11 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keyboardklutz]
keystring Online   content
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Kbk, this is not conjecture. I have enumerated specific things and there are specific experiences. These are not all the factors, but they are factors for certain situations which are common. If they are not known and never addressed, then solutions won't be seen because people will be looking in the wrong place, if they look at all. They are not gross conclusions, nor are they meant to apply to all situations. Since I have written out the specifics several times in this thread, it would be best to refer to them. If anyone finds them helpful, good.

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#1478659 - 07/21/10 06:18 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: TimR]
snowflakesbella Offline
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I don't think I was clear in my original post... so I wanted to add this:

The problem I have that is driving me nuts is that I'm holding back... on expression, dynamics, etc.
Nerves aren't just making me mess up all the time, they're causing me to restrain myself when playing the piano. It's like I'm scared to enjoy the music and lose myself in it or something.

And then I become upset at myself for doing such a stupid thing, and then the distractions begin and the little mistakes make it sound even worse, and this causes me to freeze up even more.

It sounds pretty silly, even when I think about it, but that is what happens during my lessons. Every week. And I'm frustrated with myself over it. Because it seems like a simple thing to overcome but I can't do it. It makes my nervous playing even worse. There are times when my teacher pushes me to show more expression, to relax, play with more dynamics and a faster tempo, and the piece actually goes a lot smoother and has less mistakes.

I know my teacher can tell that I'm nervous. She's the one who brought up the shaking hands and told me to not be so shy when I play. But this doesn't help me solve my problem, which I've been feeling so desperate to overcome for years. Lessons are not as efficient as they could be-- a lot of time is wasted just because my hands are so shaky I can't press the keys down properly-- and I'm sure if I played the way I do during lessons on my exam, I would fail.




Originally Posted By: TimR
[quote=keystring]

At home, we play notes. For the teacher, we suddenly realize we need to make music. It needs expression, it has to mean something.


The thing is, I think for me, it's the opposite. During lessons, somehow part of my tries to restrict everything inside of me that wants to make the notes into music and enjoy playing the piano.

Thank you all for your insightful replies again... I've just finished reading all of them.... came back on the computer after piano practise and feel a bit better/ optimistic already smile

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#1478715 - 07/21/10 07:50 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: snowflakesbella]
keystring Online   content
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Snowdropsbella, can you address this with your teacher and try different strategies to overcome this? Even if you lose a couple of lessons to the effort, if it will allow you to make better use of your lessons afterward it would be worth it. What about practising ignoring your teacher while you play, making her unimportant, and then switching your attention back on to her during feedback? Maybe warming up with her out of the room to help you get the feeling for this, like some teachers suggested.

Although it sounds counter-intuitive, if you switch to playing very deliberately and mechanically, it can give you the control back so that your playing gradually becomes musical. It gets your emotions out of the way because you are focusing on a specific thing: that note with that dynamics for that duration with that touch - then the next one. There is no room for being aware of your teacher because the mind can only think of one thing at a time.

Another thought: When you aim to not be distracted, or aim to be musical, guess where your focus is? You are then observing yourself, how you appear to be, etc. If you aim to play this measure with a sweeping crescendo, and know how, physically, it is done, then your focus has shifted.

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#1478757 - 07/21/10 09:41 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring]
danshure Offline
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I think there is an important distinction that the suggestions basically fall into two categories...

1. Change the way you think (basically "think positive"). This is like telling someone who's glasses are the wrong prescription "just try HARDER, think positive!"

2. Deliberately practice new physical and or mental habits, or change something in the environment or situation to help form new habits.

I think this distinction is important because the first is basically useless, in my opinion. It may work for a short time or in isolated moments, but does not change anything at the core or in a sustainable way.

However, things like breathing exercises, visualization, recording yourself - all take intentional steps towards developing new mental/physical/emotional habits in this situation.

This is no criticism towards any above suggestions by others, but rather just two different types of suggestions categorically.

I just don't really think little pep talks or trying to talk yourself out of something really does anything.

But taking intentional action to create NEW mental/physical habits for yourself can have a great impact.
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#1478795 - 07/21/10 10:50 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring]
snowflakesbella Offline
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Registered: 07/19/10
Posts: 9
I will try talking to my teacher.... Thanks for your thoughts. It's true I think that I get distracted by my surroundings easily, and I get distracted. Whenever my piano teacher does something I tend to either stop playing, or slow down... etc. So that is definitely a problem I need to fix.
I'm not sure I understand you 100%, but I don't think I'm trying to be musical... I'm trying not to be for some reason... and I counteract my fear that by playing as mechanically as possible as slowly .

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#1478851 - 07/22/10 12:53 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: danshure]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Originally Posted By: danshure
I just don't really think little pep talks or trying to talk yourself out of something really does anything.

But taking intentional action to create NEW mental/physical habits for yourself can have a great impact.
+1 We're talking about the non-conscious side of you. If you're an advocate of cognitive therapy, 'pep talks' are for you, but I don't think the non-conscious is so easy to reach. If it's going to start pumping adrenaline every lesson then you may need to accept some 'inefficiency' though there's every chance you're learning much more than you realize.

I think we take much of our unknown self for granted, maybe that's your problem? The more we deny it, the more it fights back. Accepting your limitations can often go a long way.
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#1478855 - 07/22/10 01:03 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring
Kbk, this is not conjecture. I have enumerated specific things and there are specific experiences.
IYHO
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#1478991 - 07/22/10 08:32 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring]
TimR Offline
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Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: keystring

Although it sounds counter-intuitive, if you switch to playing very deliberately and mechanically, it can give you the control back so that your playing gradually becomes musical.


Interesting thought.

Runners are either dissociaters or hyperassociaters.

The dissociater sticks in an iPod, goes for a run lost in his own world, is surprised when the run ends and hasn't felt the pain.

The hyperassociater attends to the motion of every step, consciously running smooth and strong.

Generally speaking, the amateurs are all dissociaters and the pros all hyperassociaters in training. In competition some of the pros convert, thinking about strategy rather than mechanics.
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#1479163 - 07/22/10 12:20 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: snowflakesbella]
keystring Online   content
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Snowdrops, your situation will be unique to you. What is clear is that this has bothered you for a long time, and existed through several teachers so it is time it got addressed. Since it happens in the presence of teachers you need to work with your teacher on it without your teacher feeling you are blaming her for the problem (if she knows it has happened with all teachers this would tell her that).

I am wondering right now whether one of the things you need to test is whether your problem actually is a problem as far as lessons go, and this is something to check with your teacher. What I mean is this - you are bothered about not being able to play smoothly or musically in front of her. So: is it necessary ot play musicaly in front of her? What isthe purpose of the lesson, what do you want to get out of it, and is smooth playing part of the picture? Kbk intimated this a bit by saying that learning happens at home. How you play in lessons may not matter, unless it prevents you from absorbing whatever you need for practising at home.

If you and your teacher determine that letting go and playing musically is a goal, you would have to work together to find a strategy. A first thought is what if you agreed that for the purpose of this goal you can be sloppy, miss notes, anything to let go of this stiffness. It might not be a goal. You might even decide that if you no longer intend to play musically, that the anxiety lits allowing you to play musically by accident. Whatever works.

Looking back as a student, we can get locked into a routine week after week where the goal in lesons is what we are actually working on - the piece, some technique, some theory. We do not address other things: how to practice, a shifting of goals, perpetual anxiety and its cause. These other things are not "part of what we are learning" so it gets ignored month after month. Sometimes they disappear but sometimes they don't. They perpetually interfere with what we could be achieving in lessons with our teachers. Even if, as was said, it does not actually stop us from learning, it is still unpleasant.

I am also addressing this last bit to teachers, wondering what their thoughts might be.

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#1479545 - 07/22/10 11:38 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring]
snowflakesbella Offline
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Registered: 07/19/10
Posts: 9
Well I'm not sure if playing musically during lessons is my concern, but that I'm not playing a piece how I would normally play it. It's so different they don't sound like they are played by the same person...
So that would prevent lessons from benefiting me as much as it could... and it also bothers me that I hold back from my piano teacher, when she is the one who is teaching me how to play better. If I play so differently at home, my teacher can't comment on the way I play at home, so it does limit my progress-- at least I feel like it does....

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#1479615 - 07/23/10 02:45 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: snowflakesbella]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Excellent point Tim. That also reflects what happens in the performing arts world.
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#1479737 - 07/23/10 09:18 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: snowflakesbella]
Morodiene Offline
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Posts: 11891
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: snowdropsbella
Well I'm not sure if playing musically during lessons is my concern, but that I'm not playing a piece how I would normally play it. It's so different they don't sound like they are played by the same person...
So that would prevent lessons from benefiting me as much as it could... and it also bothers me that I hold back from my piano teacher, when she is the one who is teaching me how to play better. If I play so differently at home, my teacher can't comment on the way I play at home, so it does limit my progress-- at least I feel like it does....


If you are focusing on being musical while you play, you will not be as nervous, if at all. Nervousness is when the mind is not thinking about the music and is easily distracted. It is not to imply that you're not musical (in fact, I suspect the opposite is true), but that as you said, you don't play the way you do at home. Therefore, you have to force your mind to focus on the task at hand: what is coming up next? and then play it as musically as you possibly can.

I personally have had to learn how to do this because of my own nervousness, so I know that it works.
_________________________
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#1479739 - 07/23/10 09:22 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
It's not your mind it's your body that's giving the grief.
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