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#1477484 - 07/19/10 10:53 PM I can't play during lessons
snowflakesbella Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/19/10
Posts: 9
Hi, I am Therese and I am new to these forums. Hopefully this is the right place to be posting this .

I've been taking piano lessons for 6 years. I've had 3 wonderful teachers, but one problem that I can't seem to overcome during lessons. I practise all week and then I play terribly during lessons. A lot of people have told me it's normal to mess up a bit during lessons, but I don't think my problem is minor. How I play at home is completely different than the music I make during lessons.

All of my teachers have been surprised when they saw my exam marks or festival scores...

When I play at lessons, I don't just play with more mistakes. Everything is completely different... the rhythm is off, the tempo is extremely slow, and the music is just expressionless in general... sometimes I feel like the keyboard and the notes are completely foreign to me and my fingers have no idea what to do. I try to relax and just enjoy the music before I start a piece, but it never works, I always tense up once I hit the first note. Everything is very reserved, controlled, and "shy". It's only when my piano teacher tells me to play a certain way (different tempo, more dynamics etc) that I start to relax.

Edit: Now that I think about it, I think a part of me wants to continue to play this way, because I don't want to "surprise" my teacher, and worry about her reaction? This sounds really strange probably, but I think it's true.

I don't think it's because I'm trying to play perfectly. I know in my mind that playing so tensely makes me make so many more mistakes. I try hard to relax. And my teacher is always encouraging, so I'm not afraid of her. But I do get very nervous, more nervous than I am in exams or competitions. I really don't know the reason why, and I don't know what to do.

I'm sorry if this is really long, or if this isn't really a question, or if it doesn't belong here, but I really don't know what to do. I just feel like this has gone on forever and I don't want it to go on anymore. I guess I'm looking for thoughts and advice...
thank you.

Therese.


Edited by snowdropsbella (07/19/10 11:37 PM)

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#1477493 - 07/19/10 11:11 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: snowflakesbella]
Crayola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 299
Loc: Chicago, IL
Perhaps it's the immediate feedback and criticism you fear. Often judges don't say anything, they simply write, and you can read their comments at a later time. Perhaps this is more relaxing for you, as you don't have to deal with any immediate verbal comments.

If this might be the case, maybe you could suggest to your teacher that you'd like to talk and discuss your playing before she expresses her opinion. You sound like you are a conscientious piano player, and maybe if you can refocus your attention on your response to your playing, it will help you relax as you play for her.
_________________________
Independent Piano Teacher, NCTM
Member of MTNA and ISMTA

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#1477498 - 07/19/10 11:22 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Crayola]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11935
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Your tension is distracting you, which then causes more mistakes. It's an endless cycle, and the only way out is to not let yourself get distracted by any tensions, mistakes, acute awareness of movements the teacher makes, etc. The house could be burning down around your ears and you shouldn't let it sway you (OK, not literally, but focus to that extent!).

Whenever you notice that you are distracted, just say "OK, back to business!" and focus all of your attention on the matter at hand. No matter how many times during a piece this happens, just keep redirecting your attention back to the music. Redouble your efforts to play it as musically as you can, too. This will help keep your attention.

This is a common problem for people. Performance anxiety doesn't have to effect every kind of performance, sometimes it is only for certain people, or a certain number of people. Not only is it a mistake or two, but the moments following those mistakes that you dwell on how it sounded, what the person(s) who are listening thought if it or of you, anything *but* what's coming up next in the music! It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. The only way to stop that is to reign yourself in when you find your mind has gone astray. The first time, it will be a little bit better, then the next will be better, and this will continue until it's not that big of a deal at all.

Still, it's something that you'll always have to watch out for.
_________________________
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Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1477668 - 07/20/10 08:01 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
My son, who is a performer, says he is often not aware of many of his mistakes until he hears a recording afterward. It is because he is focusing on what comes next, not what just happened. I am guessing that you are trying to anticipate your teacher's response, so you are listening too critically to what you just played, and not on what you are going to play. Once your teacher tells you some aspect to focus on, you start playing "forward" rather than backward, focusing on what to do, rather than what you just did.

Perhaps the teacher might tell you in advance what he/she is going to be listening for, and you can focus on producing that. Or decide in advance on your own what you might want to express, and set about going after it.
_________________________
piano teacher

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#1477707 - 07/20/10 09:20 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: snowflakesbella]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
Snowdrops, a few years ago a couple of us students put our heads together about why playing in the studio affected us, and we came up with some answers that worked for us. It goes sort of like this:

When you play at home you concentrate on the music. When you perform, you ignore the audience and concentrate on the music. But when you play for the teacher your attention can be half on the teacher. In society it is impolite to not pay attention to the other person, especially a guide or superior, so that attention shifts. However, when playing for a teacher you basically have to ignore the teacher as if he was not there while you are playing. Then when he responds and guides before and after you play, you shift your attention again to the teacher, and what he/she is saying. There is also a subtle trick so that you are paying attention to what s/he is saying, and not on whether he likes what you did (which we found threw us too).

Deliberately shifting attention made all the difference in the world. It felt strange and rude at first to "ignore" the teacher and concentrate completely on the music, and almost selfish. But it worked, and of course when you play better, the interaction with the teacher also works better during the non-playing time. We both practised doing this at home, using a teddy bear as teacher-prop and ignoring the listening teddy bear . wink Another thing that helped was recording, because you know the microphone hears everything, so ignoring its presence takes some doing.

Another thing involved seeing what we were doing differently. Instead of seeing the piece as a performance where the teacher would be assessing us, the piece became an object being worked on between apprentice and master - like a carpentry student bringing in a chair he's working on and both of them seeing what part of the chair still needs fixing. That allowed us to be almost indifferent so that we could work with the teacher and concentrate on it, rather than being thrown.

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#1477799 - 07/20/10 11:40 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring]
samasap Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/10
Posts: 607
Loc: UK
Most people get a bit nervous when they have to play in front of their teacher or in front of people - if they are not use to it. The trouble with it is it becomes psychological, so every time your lesson approaches you will be getting nervous.

What I suggest is that you - maybe try and change the place you have your lesson, so if your teacher comes to your house, maybe suggest going to them.

Also try and get use to playing in front of different people, so maybe organise a night out with your friends, and the meeting point is your house and then play something to them before you go out.
Once you get use to playing more frquently in front of people you will find having your lesson a lot easier.

You could also record your piece your playing and take it along to your teacher to show them, and also listen to it back yourself - you will be surprised at how good you sound! And this will give you a confident boost also.

I record my students sometimes when they have finished a piece. I try and do it descretly, then when they hear it back they are reall chuffed with themselves!

Hope this helps you!
Good Luck, and don't lose confidence, I bet your really good!

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#1477815 - 07/20/10 12:04 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: samasap]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3160
If there is one thing I hear every day, it is this:

"I played it better at home...honest!"
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#1477848 - 07/20/10 12:57 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Lollipop]
MaryBee Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/09
Posts: 1212
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Originally Posted By: Lollipop
I am guessing that you are trying to anticipate your teacher's response, so you are listening too critically to what you just played, and not on what you are going to play. Once your teacher tells you some aspect to focus on, you start playing "forward" rather than backward, focusing on what to do, rather than what you just did.

[...] Or decide in advance on your own what you might want to express, and set about going after it.
How insightful! I'm going to try this at my lesson tomorrow. Thank you!
_________________________
Mary Bee
Current mantra: Play outside the box.
XVI-XXXIV

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#1477869 - 07/20/10 01:17 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: rocket88]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: rocket88
If there is one thing I hear every day, it is this:

"I played it better at home...honest!"

When a student foolishly makes this statement, I suggest that perhaps because they weren't listening critically, they didn't hear their problem areas and thus weren't focused on playing without them. If I get an incomprehensible look, I tell them that if I were to stop in at their home while they were practicing, they'd suddenly have the same problems they were having at their lesson.
_________________________
"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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#1477870 - 07/20/10 01:21 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: MaryBee]
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 842
When my students say, "I played it better at home," I always joke, "Well then I will have to visit you one day soon."

But seriously, I've always had the same problem. I agree with the above suggestions. One of my problems is a little tiny voice in me needing quelling that says,"Who do you think you are to play so amazingly?" In other words, there's a certain humility we carry into the studio, and it's difficult to express our true capabilities.

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#1477873 - 07/20/10 01:28 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Andy Platt Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2391
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: rocket88
If there is one thing I hear every day, it is this:

"I played it better at home...honest!"

When a student foolishly makes this statement, ...


What's so foolish about that statement? Although I prefer to tell my teacher the parts I've had problems with at home, rather than those I was OK with, it doesn't seem foolish to let them know that you haven't had problems with a particular piece at home when you hit issues during the lesson. In fact, not doing that is foolish because you are depriving your teacher of information that may help you learn better.
_________________________
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#1477890 - 07/20/10 01:48 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
Quote:
When a student foolishly makes this statement, I suggest that perhaps because they weren't listening critically, they didn't hear their problem areas and thus weren't focused on playing without them.

John, I have just listed some things that two students found affected their ability to play in the studio. Once we identifed them, we found solutions and the problem disappeared. They included:
- being attentive to the teacher while playing, because it is "rude" to "ignore" the teacher and pay attention only to the music (which in fact we need to do)
This one factor already will make a difference in how we play at home and in the studio.

You, as teacher, are not a piece of furniture. There is an interaction between you and the student. As students we must learn how to be attentive to the music and to you, and when to do which. You reaction to our playing may be so important that it will make us stumble. It is very possible that a student does play worse in lessons for that reason and is also frustrated about it. If you tell us what we perceive is not so, then it is both confusing and frustrating. But even worse, you cannot help us solve a problem if you don't acknowledge it may exist.

There IS a different thing - If a teacher mentions mistakes that we have probably been doing all week, then saying "I played it better at home" is an excuse - in that case what you say is true. But surely that is not always the case.

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#1477915 - 07/20/10 02:32 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
I have one student. She doesn't have a piano at home but practices on a keyboard and pianos in churches when she can find them. She often tells me she plays it better at home.

Once when she came, I had been running around all day, and felt really hot and sweaty. I asked if she minded waiting while I took a shower - that she could warm up while I got ready. She didn't half play well while I was in the shower! laugh Next lesson, she asked me to go wash dishes for 10 minutes at the start of the lesson.

Not in the teacher's manual, I know. But it works for us.
_________________________
I am a competent teacher.


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#1477930 - 07/20/10 03:06 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: ten left thumbs]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Andy & KS, the point I was trying to make is that in all likelihood, the student didn't play it better at home. They only thought they did because they weren't being as self-critical as they are at the lesson. Of course, as a teacher, you need to be tactful how you point this out, but we're talking teacher to teacher here.
_________________________
"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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#1477978 - 07/20/10 04:43 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: snowflakesbella]
WinsomeAllegretto Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/18/10
Posts: 832
Originally Posted By: snowdropsbella

Edit: Now that I think about it, I think a part of me wants to continue to play this way, because I don't want to "surprise" my teacher, and worry about her reaction? This sounds really strange probably, but I think it's true.


Therese.




This does make some sense to me. I used to have this feeling too. I think you just have to convince that part of yourself that if you play the best you possibly can for your teacher, she won't waste her time telling you stuff you already know, but will be able to bring you to a whole new level. And I promise you, this won't happen overnight.

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#1477997 - 07/20/10 05:12 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
MaryBee Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/09
Posts: 1212
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: rocket88
If there is one thing I hear every day, it is this:

"I played it better at home...honest!"
[...] If I get an incomprehensible look, I tell them that if I were to stop in at their home while they were practicing, they'd suddenly have the same problems they were having at their lesson.
Well of course they would! Because the problem isn't that they're not playing at home. It's that they're playing in front of you.
_________________________
Mary Bee
Current mantra: Play outside the box.
XVI-XXXIV

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#1478005 - 07/20/10 05:27 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Your tension is distracting you, which then causes more mistakes. It's an endless cycle, and the only way out is to not let yourself get distracted by any tensions, mistakes, acute awareness of movements the teacher makes, etc. The house could be burning down around your ears and you shouldn't let it sway you (OK, not literally, but focus to that extent!).

Whenever you notice that you are distracted, just say "OK, back to business!" and focus all of your attention on the matter at hand. No matter how many times during a piece this happens, just keep redirecting your attention back to the music. Redouble your efforts to play it as musically as you can, too. This will help keep your attention.

This is a common problem for people. Performance anxiety doesn't have to effect every kind of performance, sometimes it is only for certain people, or a certain number of people. Not only is it a mistake or two, but the moments following those mistakes that you dwell on how it sounded, what the person(s) who are listening thought if it or of you, anything *but* what's coming up next in the music! It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. The only way to stop that is to reign yourself in when you find your mind has gone astray. The first time, it will be a little bit better, then the next will be better, and this will continue until it's not that big of a deal at all.

Still, it's something that you'll always have to watch out for.


+1

My 2 cents worth:
What do you do right before your lessons? Are you practicing like crazy and getting yourself worked up? I used to do that and it made me very nervous during lessons. Try not playing or practicing the day of your lesson. Practice afterwards instead. Do some deep breathing exercises before your lesson.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1478008 - 07/20/10 05:32 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Andy & KS, the point I was trying to make is that in all likelihood, the student didn't play it better at home. They only thought they did because they weren't being as self-critical as they are at the lesson. Of course, as a teacher, you need to be tactful how you point this out, but we're talking teacher to teacher here.


I understand this, John. It can also be that as students we do not hear our mistakes and are chagrined to have them pointed out. And being human, excuses are made.

That said, there are also things that can have a bad effect on our ability to play in front of a teacher. I am also talking both teacher to teacher and student to teacher. The attitudes that I mentioned are not ones that will be visible to you yet catching them can make a world of a difference. Supposing that some students are really prevented from playing their best and that this problem could be corrected. Surely that is worth looking into.

Also, this thread was started by a student who describes a paralysis or clumsiness that overtakes her specifically when she plays in front of teachers. It seems to be a major problem that she cannot overcome and she has come to this forum for help. It does not seem to be a scenario where her teacher is pointing out mistakes, but rather that she simply cannot get her fingers to move when she is in lessons. To me this does not sound implausible. It can be easier to play for a large audience than for a teacher, and stage fright can be paralyzing in either situation.

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#1478022 - 07/20/10 05:47 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Candywoman]
snowflakesbella Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/19/10
Posts: 9
Thank you for all the replies! I'll try to take everything you all said in... and I'll see what happens during my next lesson.

I agree that my teacher catches mistakes and points that I don't notice at home... and I'm glad she does. I tell my parents this is *one* of the reasons why piano lessons are helpful when they suggested I didn't need so many lessons. When my teacher corrects me, she understands that I'm sensitive and it doesn't usually upset me or anything... in fact a lot of times she makes a joke and it makes me laugh.

but my main problem is that I'm actually holding myself back- a lot- during lessons. And that I get so tense I get distracted by other little things easily.
It relates to my personality, I think, I'm quite shy and quiet.

Even my parents notice it. It's been an issue ever since I started lessons. I have had lessons at school, at my teacher's home, and in my own house before.... and the problem was the same.
When I switched teachers, at first the problem seemed to go away and I was able to play more naturally during the first few lessons, but then it came back.

My sister and I are in the same grade for piano, and she may make more mistakes during lessons, but she plays quite naturally, and it sounds pretty much like what she does at home.

Originally Posted By: Candywoman


But seriously, I've always had the same problem. I agree with the above suggestions. One of my problems is a little tiny voice in me needing quelling that says,"Who do you think you are to play so amazingly?" In other words, there's a certain humility we carry into the studio, and it's difficult to express our true capabilities.


I'm not 100% sure if I understand you correctly, but I think this is what goes on in my head actually.

Quote:

My 2 cents worth:
What do you do right before your lessons? Are you practicing like crazy and getting yourself worked up? I used to do that and it made me very nervous during lessons. Try not playing or practicing the day of your lesson. Practice afterwards instead. Do some deep breathing exercises before your lesson.

I don't practise right before lessons, but on the day of lessons... since my lessons are late (8:30 pm)... I almost forgot about deep breathing, thank you.


Edited by snowdropsbella (07/20/10 06:03 PM)

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#1478078 - 07/20/10 07:30 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: snowflakesbella]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3160
Snowdropsbella...

One thing I do with students who have versions of your situation, be their problem small or acute, is to have them "warm up" at the onset of each lesson.

I step out of the studio room, and give them about 5 minutes or so. Then I carefully and quietly watch (the door has a window), and listen. They typically are playing it better w/me gone, and, if I slip in quietly, (after the first time, they know I will do this), I motion for them to keep playing as I try to make myself invisible.

Sometimes that helps, sometimes it does not.

Also, there are several other things going on here.

First, the student is playing in front of an audience, which many find difficult.

Second, the student is playing in front of a judge, which many find very difficult.

I know a lot about this, because I play in bands, and if I know that another pro musician is present, especially another piano player, or Hammond organ player, rather than the general public, that can rattle me.

Third, the student is playing in a unfamiliar environment, as compared to their regular practice room.

Fourth, the student is playing on a piano that is different in feel and tone to the instrument upon which they are accustomed.

(The Third and Fourth do not apply if the teacher travels to your home, which I do not do).

Fifth, the student just traveled to my studio, typically after a long day, often in the afternoon, often hungry, tired, etc, and has to jump in and start playing, whereas a regular practice session might have the benefit of occuring after a rest, a meal, a shower, a quiet time, etc.

So there is a lot going on in many areas, all of which can negatively impact one's playing.

The only solution I have, which is not a panacea, is to work at making the student feel comfortable and safe and welcomed at lessons, but even that does not work all the time.

Just a few thoughts.

_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#1478171 - 07/20/10 10:40 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Andy & KS, the point I was trying to make is that in all likelihood, the student didn't play it better at home. They only thought they did because they weren't being as self-critical as they are at the lesson.


I partly agree. But for me it isn't being less critical, nor not hearing mistakes. It's selective memory.

I really did play it better at home. I played it perfectly. One out of ten times. The other nine were a little embarassing. I heard every rhythmic imprecision! But I remember the good one, as if that's a measure of how well I can play. Now at the lesson, I have a 90% chance of playing it less well than my best.

And even more seductive: The first five minutes of practice may have been pretty bad. I didn't miss hearing those mistakes. But they didn't bother me, because it was early in the learning process. After an hour of working on it, the last five minutes were pretty good. I felt comfortable and fluent, I relaxed and felt the keys. I choose to remember the last five minutes rather than the first. Then comes the lesson, and it's the first five minutes all over again.

On average, I probably play as well at the lesson as at home. But if i compare the average at the lesson to the best at home, I'll always be disappointed.

I think it is also possible to rise to the occasion and play better under pressure than when not. But I haven't mastered that one yet.

It might help to play under a lot of different conditions and learn the skill of adapting quickly. My teacher's piano had a very different touch, the bench was a different height, the light a little dim (and I see poorly). That type of thing doesn't have to throw you off but you have to learn that.
_________________________
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#1478193 - 07/20/10 11:09 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: TimR]
danshure Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 347
Loc: Massachusetts
Definitely want to accentuate an above suggestion to record yourself at home - audio AND video. Even if you're the only one to ever hear it. It's great practice for what seems to happen in the mind when you're in front of a teacher.

Also, one thing that had helped me in the past would be to give myself quick little "tests" at home. Just go right up to the piano, if you haven't played all day or for a while and see if you can jump right in to the piece you'll be playing at the lesson. Don't practice, just quick little 1 minute tests to see if you can "turn on" at the snap of your fingers. You're practicing starting but that's it.
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#1478200 - 07/20/10 11:17 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Barb860]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11935
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Barb860

My 2 cents worth:
What do you do right before your lessons? Are you practicing like crazy and getting yourself worked up? I used to do that and it made me very nervous during lessons. Try not playing or practicing the day of your lesson. Practice afterwards instead. Do some deep breathing exercises before your lesson.


For me, this is actually not a good thing because then I'm not warmed up to play at my lesson. I've done this at times and it always makes me play worse. I guess the OP will have to try different things out to see what works best for them.
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#1478202 - 07/20/10 11:21 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
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Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: rocket88
If there is one thing I hear every day, it is this:

"I played it better at home...honest!"

When a student foolishly makes this statement, I suggest that perhaps because they weren't listening critically, they didn't hear their problem areas and thus weren't focused on playing without them. If I get an incomprehensible look, I tell them that if I were to stop in at their home while they were practicing, they'd suddenly have the same problems they were having at their lesson.


John is getting some heat for this, but it is often true. Also, I tell students that I can tell if a student is just having some minor difficulties due to the lighting being different, the piano feeling different, the music being at a different height than at home, etc., or if they're having trouble because they don't know the music well enough.

Sometimes, I do tell them that perhaps they are having trouble because they didn't know that part as well as they thought they did. Being "under pressure" of someone listening to you can certainly highlight or bring out areas that need extra work.

No teacher expects a perfect performance, and the little mistakes that happen due to lack of focus or nervousness do not bother us. We are simply listening for the areas where there really is an issue that we can help with. We're on your side! laugh
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#1478211 - 07/20/10 11:41 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene]
rocket88 Offline
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Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3160
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I tell students that I can tell if a student is just having some minor difficulties due to the lighting being different, the piano feeling different, the music being at a different height than at home, etc., or if they're having trouble because they don't know the music well enough.

Sometimes, I do tell them that perhaps they are having trouble because they didn't know that part as well as they thought they did. Being "under pressure" of someone listening to you can certainly highlight or bring out areas that need extra work.

No teacher expects a perfect performance, and the little mistakes that happen due to lack of focus or nervousness do not bother us. We are simply listening for the areas where there really is an issue that we can help with. We're on your side! laugh


Very well said. Thank you.
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#1478228 - 07/21/10 12:14 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: rocket88]
Quickster94 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/17/10
Posts: 98
I hope all teachers don't have the attitude many have expressed above. As a student, I can wholeheartedly and honestly say that I oftentimes play things better at home. Especially if the piece is the second one we're going over in the lesson and the first one didn't go well, or another similar circumstance.

Also, due to my piano teacher's recent purchase of a piano, I'm still adjusting to the action (which is very different from both his old piano and the one I have at home).

A lot of times for me weird technical problems pop up during lessons (which honestly weren't there before), or almost completely secure passages manage to fall apart at that instant.

And then of course there's just general nervousness. All these problems multiplied for me when I played in a masterclass.

As cliché as it sounds, I think you have to imagine the teacher isn't there for the duration of the first play-through. Or, perhaps take the suggestion above about recording. You could record yourself at home, then use that as a basis for any work to be done at the lesson.

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#1478229 - 07/21/10 12:18 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene]
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
Quote:
John is getting some heat for this, but it is often true.

The objection on my side is that the wording leaves room for only one possibility - that the student did not practice attentively. (I doubt that was your intent, John, but that is how it came acoss).

It IS possible for other things to interfere with our ability to play in front of a teacher. I wrote several things that we students found. When they were addressed, the problem disappeared. It was not due to inattention from practising, and it had been real. To have that post followed by one implying that inattention in practising was the only possibility is frustrating.

It is NOT trivial to be in a semi-paralysis when in front of a teacher, and it is also worth something if there are causes and solutions when that occurs, is it not? It is also extremely frustrating for student if they have an actual problem, to be told that this problem does not exist. Not only that, but we cannot get help with a problem that is not acknowledged.

I fully understand that inattention during practising will lead to mistakes during lessons because we will not have mastered much. I also understand that we an imagine that our playing is better than it is when we're alone, and that wishful thinking can take over. But this is not the only thing that can be happening.

Again, where it occurs, we found the following things caused us to become butter-fingered during lessons:
- trying to be politely attentive to the teacher while playing instead of putting our whole attention to the music
- having too great an importance in the teacher's reaction, especially the false belief that if it is not perfect he would be displeased and maybe get tired of us as students (whether or not a teacher would ever dream of this)

Solutions, where it actually occurred (and I will argue vehemently that it does occur):
- placing your attention completely on what you are playing as though the teacher was not there, while playing, and knowing that this is ok and even desired
- shifting from worrying to what the teacher thinks of you as a performer, to wondering what he will find that you both can work on. Your abilities and playing become an object to be worked on outside of yourself

*When* such attitudes have affected our ability to play in front of you, then being able to change them and change the situation is a very big deal. If you are paralyzed in front of a teacher, and if you can get past that and actually draw on more of yourself in a lesson, that is important imho. It also means that a lot more can be accomplished. To be locked in such paralysis is very unpleasant for a student. There is also such a thing as caring too much, and this will haunt adult students in particular.

I do not disagree with with John wrote. If you have practised attentively then more will be "there" for you during lessons. I also know that a teacher can see that you have practised even if in general you bomb, because signs will be there. I do disagree, however, if inattention were seen to be the whole of the story. It does exist as a problem, there are causes and solutions, and a sad thing if they were ignored.

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#1478242 - 07/21/10 12:30 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
.


Edited by keystring (07/21/10 04:26 AM)

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#1478316 - 07/21/10 06:06 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring]
Syboor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/01/09
Posts: 56
Loc: Amsterdam
Does it really matter whether the problem is nerves during lesson or whether the problem is overestimating once's abilities at home? It may be a combination of both. But luckily, many of the suggestions in this thread will help with both problems at the same time. So record yourself, perform for your stuffed animals, practice "starting" like danshure suggested, practice on different piano's when you get the chance.

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#1478355 - 07/21/10 08:16 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Syboor]
danshure Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 347
Loc: Massachusetts
It also just occured to me to suggest some breathing exercises. I knew one student who held his breath so much he was getting dizzy!

Try the breathing "square";
4 second exhale (breathing starts with an exhale)
4 second hold
4 second inhale (try to use a stomach/deep breath, not a shallow chest breath)
4 second hold

Repeat 10 times. Then make them 5, 6, 7 seconds as long as each side of the "square" is the same length.

Maybe you're unconsciously holding you're breath which causes a whole serious of physical/mental obstacles. Do the breathing before your lesson and one nice exhale right before you play.
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