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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: 11448
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.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
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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: 11586
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: 3158
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: 1208
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 Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7314
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: 834
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: 2375
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: 11586
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 Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7314
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: 828
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: 1208
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: 1644
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: 11586
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: 3158
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: 3169
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: 11448
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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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]
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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
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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]
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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]
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.


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]
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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]
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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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#1478419 - 07/21/10 10:32 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: danshure]
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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]
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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.
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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]
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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.
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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]
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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]
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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!
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#1478584 - 07/21/10 03:49 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keyboardklutz]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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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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]
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It's not your mind it's your body that's giving the grief.
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#1479750 - 07/23/10 09:34 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: snowflakesbella]
keystring Online   content
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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....

You should definitely discuss this in a lesson. Even if most of the lesson time gets eaten up by this, it will not be wasted time.

One thing that I'd like to say, is that there are two aspects to lessons and playing. One aspect is the piece itself, how well you play it, how you interpret it. This is the most obvious part and it seems it is where your concern lies.

The other part involves something more abstract and less obvious. That is particular skills that involve things such as timing, understanding details physically as well as mentally - These are things that teachers want to form in a student and the pieces are used as a practising ground. If these are being formed in you in the background, then your lessons are a success. The teacher will see signs of this happening even if you are flubbing the piece - it will be there for them to see.

That is another reason you should talk to your teacher. Do sort out what is what. Worrying about it alone is doing no good, and that is what a teacher is there for.

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#1479767 - 07/23/10 10:02 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keyboardklutz]
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
It's not your mind it's your body that's giving the grief.

The body is responding to impetus from the mind. To treat the effects without treating the cause does no good.
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#1479772 - 07/23/10 10:10 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene]
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The body doesn't need a mind to respond - look at headless chickens, not to mention frogs who can scratch specific spots even though their spinal chord's been severed.
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#1479802 - 07/23/10 10:52 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keyboardklutz]
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
The body doesn't need a mind to respond - look at headless chickens, not to mention frogs who can scratch specific spots even though their spinal chord's been severed.


WE are more complex than these, and are you implying that everything related to "nervousness" is a reflex? Even if that's the case, there is an impetus to cause a reflex. What is that? It's the external influence from the teacher being present, otherwise it would happen when practicing at home as well.

Also, saying the "body doesn't need the a mind to respond" makes no sense. What is the body responding to if not from the input from the mind: not just the thoughts of the mind, but hearing sounds which are processed through the mind, sight which is processed through the mind, and touch which is processed through the mind.


Edited by Morodiene (07/23/10 10:54 AM)
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#1479827 - 07/23/10 11:40 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene]
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C'mon Morodiene. Haven't you ever heard how well headless chickens play the piano? wink
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#1479842 - 07/23/10 12:11 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: MaryBee]
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted By: MaryBee
C'mon Morodiene. Haven't you ever heard how well headless chickens play the piano? wink


Probably better than I do on some days! LOL! Or perhaps that's just how I feel smile
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#1480097 - 07/23/10 06:36 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
The body doesn't need a mind to respond - look at headless chickens, not to mention frogs who can scratch specific spots even though their spinal chord's been severed.


WE are more complex than these, and are you implying that everything related to "nervousness" is a reflex? Even if that's the case, there is an impetus to cause a reflex. What is that?
The impetus is fear. You can't control what you are afraid of, only learn how to cope with the fear. Eventually the fear fades.
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#1480220 - 07/23/10 10:48 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keyboardklutz]
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
The body doesn't need a mind to respond - look at headless chickens, not to mention frogs who can scratch specific spots even though their spinal chord's been severed.


WE are more complex than these, and are you implying that everything related to "nervousness" is a reflex? Even if that's the case, there is an impetus to cause a reflex. What is that?
The impetus is fear. You can't control what you are afraid of, only learn how to cope with the fear. Eventually the fear fades.

Fear comes from the brain.
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#1480366 - 07/24/10 05:13 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene]
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Most likely from the second brain http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/6377, but certainly not the mind. It's not something you have control over. You're obviously confusing mind with brain.

In fact here's a non-sequitur for you - I've always wondered how Christians can feel fear. What's there to be afraid of?
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#1480388 - 07/24/10 07:41 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keyboardklutz]
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I have read this thread off and on this past week. I hope I can contribute some thing.

I can SO relate to you snowdrops (and others). Lots of experience playing, teaching etc, but after a long hiatis, I have started lessons again with a concert pianist (I mentioned this because of a remark coming later).

Lessons now are sporatic as both time/expense and the need to practice fairly complicated pieces takes longer to accomplish between the lessons. They are sometimes EOW and sometimes every 3 wks.

But there is no way I can play for him as I do when I am by myself. Now mind you I played the organ in church for over 25 yrs, and play for students without a problem.

So we discussed the other day what it is that holds me back. For sure nerves has something to do with it, but so does perfectionism and trying to please 'the coach' with what I have accomplished in between the lessons!!!

I have a couple of ideas. Get used to playing for recording. It also puts pressure on when you see the darn 'red light' but after a few times playing your piece, you can kind of forget about it. This accomplishes two things. The getting used to playing while under some pressure AND having a backup to play for your teacher when there is a need to discuss things other than notes (interpretation, technique, tone etc). You can both just listen, stop the recording as desired and discuss.

The other idea. When you do something often enough, the fear goes away. Example: The first year of playing in church, there was this need to prove myself. Once that was done (in my head) and because of doing it so often, I was comfortable. Yup, really comfortable, as if I were just playing for myself and It got to really enjoy it!

So, what if you were to have a lesson EVERYDAY with your teacher? I be it would get more comfortable and you would do better, right?

He also suggested hugging your piano before you start. It is your friend, your companion, and you love playing it! (goes to attitude when playing) "I love my piano, I love playing my piano, I love sharing music with you!"

And, BTW, he said he had the same problem with perfectionism when playing for 'his' teacher too. Yup! and he is a concert pianist! Gotta be a lesson in there somewhere!

Good luck to both of us!!!
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#1480443 - 07/24/10 10:22 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keyboardklutz]
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Most likely from the second brain http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/6377, but certainly not the mind. It's not something you have control over. You're obviously confusing mind with brain.

I have said brain many times. Now you are are going to argue over semantics to try and get out of a corner you've painted yourself in. I'm not going there. Arguing over the internet is about as useless a thing one can do.

Quote:
In fact here's a non-sequitur for you - I've always wondered how Christians can feel fear. What's there to be afraid of?
Anyone who doesn't wish to hear my answer, knowing where this is leading, can stop reading here.

God tells us not to fear and not to worry, because He is in control and works all good things for those who love Him. For me, becoming a Christian was a huge help in overcoming my fears in life.
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#1480450 - 07/24/10 10:46 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene]
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lilylady ( and others) make a good point. I still struggle with this problem and have discussed it with my teacher. He has been teaching for 40 years or therabouts . He is rather underwhelmed with the problem and believes that each individual will have to resolve it on her own. It is a pragmatic approach: he can only comment on what he can hear. If prodded, he will say that if the music is "mastered" it is far less likely to crumble under teacher anxiety pressure. He believes that the phenomenon is real but an effective way to counter it is to master the music at "150%" so that if it crumbles under pressure, it is still close to the 100% of the individual's capacity (arbitrary numbers of ocurse).
I have to admit that this "rough" or unsophisticated approach works over time,but is very labour and time intensive..

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#1480470 - 07/24/10 11:28 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Andromaque]
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I'm kind of the same; I certainly empathize with the student, because I had/have the very same problems with a new teacher, but the better I know the music, the fewer the problems and the quicker the tension evaporates. Perhaps it's because when you know the music really well, you start focusing on it rather than the environment, and that, of course, solves the problem.
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#1480502 - 07/24/10 12:07 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene]
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Originally Posted By: Morodiene

I have said brain many times. Now you are are going to argue over semantics to try and get out of a corner you've painted yourself in. I'm not going there. Arguing over the internet is about as useless a thing one can do.
There's nothing to argue about, mind is not brain unless you're a Behaviourist.
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#1480512 - 07/24/10 12:22 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
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Quote:
Perhaps it's because when you know the music really well, you start focusing on it rather than the environment, and that, of course, solves the problem

It is heartening to see that even a seasoned musician and teacher can experience this.

What I tried to describe before in what we students found, the bottom line did involve focusing on the music. Working backward:

- some of us subconsciously felt impolite to tune out the teacher while playing so we never did focus totally on the music in the studio
- antenna on teacher, his reaction, possibly with anxiety
- some of us not really knowing yet what it meant to focus on the music or what part of it, at home or in practising. So we had not mastered it enough during practise, and also didn't know where to focus during lesssons
- If you watch whether you are focusing on the music, then you are focusing on yourself (observing yourself) rather than focusing on the music. If you try to see yourself through the eyes of your teacher, then you are focusing on yourself, and not on the music.

Everything actually involved focusing on the music and focusing on instructions. Getting there, and realizing what was happening, was the tricky part. wink

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#1480558 - 07/24/10 01:45 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keyboardklutz]
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Originally Posted By: Morodiene

I have said brain many times. Now you are are going to argue over semantics to try and get out of a corner you've painted yourself in. I'm not going there. Arguing over the internet is about as useless a thing one can do.
There's nothing to argue about, mind is not brain unless you're a Behaviourist.

Deleted what I wrote.

This is a bunny trail, and I'm not interested in going on it.


Edited by Morodiene (07/24/10 01:49 PM)
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#1480566 - 07/24/10 01:53 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring]
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring
Quote:
Perhaps it's because when you know the music really well, you start focusing on it rather than the environment, and that, of course, solves the problem

It is heartening to see that even a seasoned musician and teacher can experience this.

What I tried to describe before in what we students found, the bottom line did involve focusing on the music. Working backward:

- some of us subconsciously felt impolite to tune out the teacher while playing so we never did focus totally on the music in the studio
- antenna on teacher, his reaction, possibly with anxiety
- some of us not really knowing yet what it meant to focus on the music or what part of it, at home or in practising. So we had not mastered it enough during practise, and also didn't know where to focus during lesssons
- If you watch whether you are focusing on the music, then you are focusing on yourself (observing yourself) rather than focusing on the music. If you try to see yourself through the eyes of your teacher, then you are focusing on yourself, and not on the music.

Everything actually involved focusing on the music and focusing on instructions. Getting there, and realizing what was happening, was the tricky part. wink


This last part is very true. It's a process. There's often not one thing you can do to fix the issue, it takes time and repetition, while making observations after each attempt at playing in front of the teacher/audience and assessing what went well and what didn't. Then making changes for the next time.

Something that is important that I want to stress about my statement about focusing on the music: often anxiety comes from expecting note perfection and exactitude. So it is very important to focus on being as musical or expressive as you can rather than the notes. Although one shouldn't be ignoring the notes, often they themselves can be a source of anxiety, or add to it when others are listening.
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#1480622 - 07/24/10 03:10 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene]
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Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Something that is important that I want to stress about my statement about focusing on the music: often anxiety comes from expecting note perfection and exactitude. So it is very important to focus on being as musical or expressive as you can rather than the notes. Although one shouldn't be ignoring the notes, often they themselves can be a source of anxiety, or add to it when others are listening.

Excellent point - I wonder how many pianists have suffered untold performance angst because they focus on "getting all the notes correct."

This reminds me of a funny story which happened to me. I was playing some short ditty in c minor, and the very ending chord, stretched out over the keyboard, was, of course, a c minor chord. But my right pinky accidentally struck the B. Well, rather than change it immediately, I allowed the dissonant effect to linger for two beats then resolved it by playing the high C. No one was the wiser, except a friend who came up and said, "Nice recovery." I replied, "Oh, it was my personal tribute to Bach." We both chucked, but to this day, my friend doesn't know whether or not it was on purpose and an accident.
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#1480736 - 07/24/10 06:18 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
scherzetto Offline
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Snowdropsbella, I feel the deepest sympathy for your problem, and I feel qualified to give a few words of advice, because throughout the years that I played piano, I could have written your post myself, with all of its frustration, almost word for word, since my problem was so identical to yours, right down to the shy, quiet personality problem, which is causing you so much trouble in letting go in your music-making.

I think apart from other, much less important side issues, you have two main problems, most parts of which have been addressed in various ways by the others, but that I'll summarize this way:

First, I'll tell you what my own university piano professor told me: "You must stop being so critical of yourself; then you'll be able to let go and play well." She'd seen what I could do whenever I succeeded in not thinking of how judgmental she or any other listeners might be.

Second, you've got to make up your mind that you're going to be willing to share part of your musical soul with others, and also let them see how well you play. At home, you don't have to worry about that; you can just enjoy your music in private, and maybe you don't mind if a family member overhears you, because you're comfortable about sharing yourself with them. But teachers, the public...! Beware the false "humility" that will make you shy about displaying your skill.

I know through personal experience that the above points are very effective. Any time you're able to tell yourself that you don't care anymore what they think of you, that you're just going to enjoy yourself and make the music sound the way you think it should sound (don't misunderstand: not that you won't be willing to learn from their subsequent criticism, but that just for the moment, while you have to perform it for them, you won't be thinking about what they think of it), you will very likely achieve that freedom and ease you've been wishing for.

The other things mentioned were what I think of as side issues, like visualizing the feel of the piano, the room, the teacher, and making sure you're not ignoring problems at home, as John and the others have said, so that you know your music very well and focus on it. These are all important, of course. It's just that they probably won't help unless you've dealt with the deeper issues first.

One last thing: play with the intention of making yourself pleased with the sounds you produce (considering what stage of learning you're at, and how much it's reasonable to expect of yourself--I'm not referring to perfectionism here!), and I think you will go a long way in overcoming your fears.
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#1481003 - 07/25/10 06:44 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: scherzetto]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Good ideas scherzetto. I'll just make my point again - the elephant in the room. Artists need to accept (they soon learn one way or another) that they are not in charge of the adrenaline rush. If you ignore it eventually it will reduce - it's really like training a pet (watch the dog whisperer). Your body is not yours to do what you want with - there's a Christian sentiment if there ever was one!
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#1481313 - 07/25/10 05:50 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keyboardklutz]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11448
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I had an adult student who much like you, had anxiety when playing at her lessons. I reassured her often that I could tell she worked hard on pieces. She was doing very well and so I was surprised when she told me one day how worked up she was over the fact that she couldn't play perfectly for me. I was astounded because I was always impressed on how well she was doing!

I think we are often our own worse critics, and so our self-criticisms are probably not worth listening to.
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#1481366 - 07/25/10 06:59 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: lilylady]
snowflakesbella Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/19/10
Posts: 9
Originally Posted By: scherzetto

Second, you've got to make up your mind that you're going to be willing to share part of your musical soul with others, and also let them see how well you play. At home, you don't have to worry about that; you can just enjoy your music in private, and maybe you don't mind if a family member overhears you, because you're comfortable about sharing yourself with them. But teachers, the public...! Beware the false "humility" that will make you shy about displaying your skill.

Thank you for your insight... as I read your post I really feel like it relates to me, especially the part I quoted above... I've never thought of it that way before...


Originally Posted By: lilylady
I have read this thread off and on this past week. I hope I can contribute some thing.


I think everyone who has posted here has contributed and helped- thank you to everyone so much smile Your posts helped me understand my problem better than when I first posted... and I feel encouraged... my lesson is in 2 days... smile

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#1483491 - 07/28/10 09:59 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: snowflakesbella]
snowflakesbella Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/19/10
Posts: 9
I just had piano lessons yesterday, and I have to say that I felt much more relaxed and happy during lessons... my teacher noticed it as well and she said I improved on my pieces... smile I still had a couple of freeze ups, and I noticed a lot of times I held back almost subconsciously but as lilylady said...When you do something often enough, the fear goes away.... :)This will take time I guess....
Thank you all so much, all your advice did help me!

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#1483559 - 07/29/10 12:26 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: snowflakesbella]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7314
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Congratulations and best of luck with each coming lesson!
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#1483710 - 07/29/10 10:17 AM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11448
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
So glad to hear that it's working for you! It takes time, and you will probably always have to remind yourself before you play to do this, but it will get easier! smile
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1483894 - 07/29/10 02:11 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene]
scherzetto Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/09
Posts: 40
Loc: Canada
I'm so pleased for you, to know that things are getting better, and so quickly! I agree that the overall adjustment takes time, but every successful experience, like this one, will help you with the ones to come. It's a great relief, isn't it, to know that there's really nothing wrong with you as a pianist (with regards to the freezing up), just with some of your habits of thinking? I remember the feeling well. wink Congratulations, and keep it up!
_________________________
"Where words fail, music speaks." --Hans Christian Andersen

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#1484117 - 07/29/10 08:32 PM Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: scherzetto]
Canonie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 1941
Loc: Australia
Great news. I hope that the good playing-feeling will gradually expand across the whole lesson. Now that the feeling is planted I think it will grow just by noticing the positive effects in the pieces where you are feeling good. Post an update in a while as I would be keen to hear how you are going and have enjoyed reading this thread.

I hope I eventually reach this same happy relaxed state for exams! lessons are ok.
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Composers manufacture a product that is universally deemed superfluous—at least until their music enters public consciousness, at which point people begin to say that they could not live without it.
Alex Ross.

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