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#1493943 - 08/12/10 01:25 AM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: rocket88]
Wizard of Oz Offline
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Reading music is important but using your ears to listen and learn is FAR more important.

I could never understand the classical bent on reading, it should be the other way around.

The funniest thing I ever saw was a clip on youtube about classical pianists who poured over a score and tried to hear it in their mind away from the piano. They would digest it all day and then finally play it once.
The most absurd approach to playing music in my mind.

They would have been better off listening to the song 10 or 20 times first.

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#1493991 - 08/12/10 03:42 AM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
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Originally Posted By: Wizard of Oz
The funniest thing I ever saw was a clip on youtube about classical pianists who poured over a score and tried to hear it in their mind away from the piano. They would digest it all day and then finally play it once.
The most absurd approach to playing music in my mind.

They would have been better off listening to the song 10 or 20 times first.


What clip are you talking about?? If it's the one I've seen, I think you missed the point of the exercise.
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#1494019 - 08/12/10 05:45 AM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: AZNpiano]
Wizard of Oz Offline
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Can't remember the link or name of the guy, I think he was a fairly well known current player. He had a group of students all read the score at a table, then got one of them to play it at the piano, then asked the student how he felt. The student couldn't even say anything of note, like "uh, it was ok".

Imagine teaching people a new language this way. You'd be laughed out of the class!

Exactly what is the point of the exercise? I see no benefit at all.

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#1494190 - 08/12/10 11:46 AM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
bitWrangler Offline
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Originally Posted By: Wizard of Oz
Can't remember the link or name of the guy, I think he was a fairly well known current player. He had a group of students all read the score at a table, then got one of them to play it at the piano, then asked the student how he felt. The student couldn't even say anything of note, like "uh, it was ok".

Imagine teaching people a new language this way. You'd be laughed out of the class!

Exactly what is the point of the exercise? I see no benefit at all.


Maybe I missed something, but I assumed that the word "reading" in the context of piano learning (and this thread) was shorthand for "sight reading", not cozying up to a score by candle light and your favorite glass of wine and "reading" it for the next four hours (though I guess if that works for you then more power to ya). I didn't get the impression that any of the teachers was advocating the use of learning to read a score like one reads prose as a teaching method, but rather "reading" combined with the playing of what was read. But perhaps I misunderstand what the meaning is?

[edit]
As a follow up, I am familiar with teachers having more advanced students "read" scores with the primary purpose of helping to memorize it, so that would be a bit of an exception to my statement above.
[/edit]


Edited by bitWrangler (08/12/10 11:56 AM)

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#1494261 - 08/12/10 01:06 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
Opus_Maximus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Wizard of Oz
Can't remember the link or name of the guy, I think he was a fairly well known current player. He had a group of students all read the score at a table, then got one of them to play it at the piano, then asked the student how he felt. The student couldn't even say anything of note, like "uh, it was ok".

Imagine teaching people a new language this way. You'd be laughed out of the class!

Exactly what is the point of the exercise? I see no benefit at all.



This was most likely pianist Fredric Chiu, in his "Deeper piano studies" workshop.

First of all, everybody who participates in that workshop is already an EXTREMELY advanced pianist with years of performing experience behind them, so note reading is not going to be an issue.

The point of that particular exercise was to challenge the traditional way of learning a piece of music, which is AT THE PIANO - the argument being that when you learn something AT the piano, you are too consumed with the physical aspect of playing rather than the more important mental absorbtion of the material. When you study a score away from the instrument, you are suddenly liberated from technical aspects and have a more relaxed opportunity to notice things about the music that you might not have noticed at the piano: Motivic connections, rhythmic patterns, markings, structure of the piece, etc etc.

When you start learning something AT the piano, you are so consumed with the physicality of piano playing that it can actually stifle your mental and aural conception of the work. If you study a piece BEFORE taking it to the piano, you can establish a clear, purely MUSICAL goal for the piece.

Here I quote Leon Fleisher on this...

"I think, ideally speaking, with a new piece one should sit down, probably in a chair away from the piano, and learn it, look at it, take it apart, try to understand it structurally, harmonically, and in all it's elements as much as possible. Sing it to yourself. Sing the various components, the various material. Get some kind of idea. It's not an idea that you have to be wedded to for life, but get some kind of idea of what you think it should sound like, of what you want it to sound like. Then, when you have gotten as far as you can in this manner, when you've become as specific as you can about the material in this manner, then take it to the keyboard, because then you have a goal. Then you have at least a temporary ideal, something to work towards. The basic reason for this is that I think if we learn the notes first, what we become involved with are "those difficult passages." How am I going to transcend this difficulty? And in approaching it from the purely physical point of view, we make certain adjustments in order to achieve the purely physical realization of this. Sometimes without realizing it, we'll think "Oh, this is a difficult place to get into. Maybe if I kind of spread the tempo, if I slow down a wee bit, I can prepare myself. I can gather my energies and strengths" This kind of thing begins to take over in place of musical values, begins to dictate how you're going to play it, and very often on a totally subconscious level as well as on a conscious level. What you wind up doing, eventually, after you've learned the notes, is having to achieve, having to define some musical intention, some musical value. One finds so often that one has to overcome a lot of work that one has done from the purely technical point of view. One has to change that. It's a waste of time as far as I'm concerned.

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#1494276 - 08/12/10 01:20 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Bart Kinlein Offline
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I recall a story about Glenn Gould preparing for a recording session. As the story goes, he looked at the score for the first time while on the train to New York. Upon arriving he did the recording (I'm sure with some retakes)!

I think a preliminary study of a piece away from the piano is a great benefit, th ough I'm merely echoing the words of the great teacher, Leon Fleisher (above).
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#1494291 - 08/12/10 01:32 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
eweiss Offline
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Originally Posted By: Wizard of Oz
The funniest thing I ever saw was a clip on youtube about classical pianists who poured over a score and tried to hear it in their mind away from the piano. They would digest it all day and then finally play it once.

They would have been better off listening to the song 10 or 20 times first.

Agreed. It seems so obvious to me that music is an 'aural' art first. Which is why I raised the question of this post in the first place.
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#1494292 - 08/12/10 01:32 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: eweiss]
Opus_Maximus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: eweiss
They do if they start with the note-reading approach. Most would agree that music is a language. Language is learned first by speaking it. Yet this simple logic eludes many well meaning music teachers as they head first into the study of note-reading.

But just imagine if children learned how to speak the language of music before learning how to read and write it. Imagine the connection, the innate sense of ‘wiring’ for lack of a better word that can occur if we introduce kids to simple diatonic harmony and improvisation first.

Speaking the native language is a natural and thrilling experience for children. They can’t wait to use words and communicate. So why is it that note reading is literally forced down the throats of our young people instead of giving them the opportunity to express firsthand through improvisation?

True enrichment comes from direct experience with the music. And this is best accomplished when children can actually create on their own without the aid of sheet music. Why this isn’t being done more is a complete mystery to me. And if it is being done, that's a mystery to me as well since you really never hear about it. smile


I generally agree with you that there should be more creativity encouraged in training at various stages of development, the only problem is.....how?

When a seven year old comes in for the first piano lesson in her life you can't really be like "ok let's just play random notes and clusters for the next few weeks!" They can do that at home, and maybe share it with you in the first or last 10 minutes of each lesson. There has to be at least SOME sort of preliminary discipline, some sort of reference point upon which to build creative training. More effective, IMO, would be something like introducing them to a few notes on the staff, them having them compose or improvise something using those notes. You talk about introducing kids to "Simple diatonic harmony"..but this can't really be done without some basic notational knowledge...

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#1494339 - 08/12/10 02:36 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Opus_Maximus]
eweiss Offline
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Originally Posted By: Opus_Maximus
When a seven year old comes in for the first piano lesson in her life you can't really be like "ok let's just play random notes and clusters for the next few weeks!"

Agreed. I don't teach children, and I know that requires a seperate skill set, but ... if I were going to do this, I'd try and find the right set of limitations to encourage creativity while actually teaching them something about harmony.

Maybe something like a few notes from the C Major scale and just 2 chords - C Maj. and F Maj. The point being to have them experience music firsthand as they create it.
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#1494402 - 08/12/10 03:56 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Wizard of Oz Offline
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Originally Posted By: Opus_Maximus



I generally agree with you that there should be more creativity encouraged in training at various stages of development, the only problem is.....how?

When a seven year old comes in for the first piano lesson in her life you can't really be like "ok let's just play random notes and clusters for the next few weeks!"




The way you teach kids is to get them to to sing or hum simple songs in an easy key like C or F.

Play songs like Row your boat, Twinkle little star, happy birthday, Mary had a little lamb, anything that they would know. Cartoon and movie themes would work too. Christmas songs too.

Just make sure the melody stays in one key.

Play it to them a few times first in the key you want them to learn. Then get them to play along with you at the same time, 1-2 bars at a time.

Make sure they sing the notes aloud as they play.

Basically this is learning to play by ear. I've done this with all my students and get kids to learn songs in their first lesson. For theory, it's just a major scale.

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#1494415 - 08/12/10 04:07 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
Wizard of Oz Offline
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Posts: 873
The tradition of teaching jazz has always been aural.

The black slaves used to sing and dance together, doing call and response, and dancing to the African rhythms.

Jazz musicians have always had a mentor/student role where new players learned by sitting in and listening to the older guys.

Every player today listens to tons of records and tries to imitate and emulate the sound.

How do you think all those rock guitarists learned music. Certainly not by pouring over a score 100 times!

They blast that album in their basement and jam along.

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#1494507 - 08/12/10 05:50 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
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I think we're comparing very different things. I still believe most "classical" piano students don't spend enough time analyzing the score. And note-reading is still the key to success if you want to play classical music.

I don't play jazz, rock, and other genres of music, so I can't comment on that.
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#1494538 - 08/12/10 06:31 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: AZNpiano]
Wizard of Oz Offline
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Why would you bother analyzing the score when you could listen to 10 interpretations by different people.

Music is meant to be listened, and you'd pick up far more. I bet even the composer never played it exactly the same way each time.

It figures that you don't play any jazz or rock or anything else.

Could you play Happy Birthday in Db or F# if you didn't have the score? If not perhaps it's something you need to work on.

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#1494575 - 08/12/10 07:03 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
bitWrangler Offline
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Loc: Central TX
Originally Posted By: Wizard of Oz
Why would you bother analyzing the score when you could listen to 10 interpretations by different people.


Huh, again you make it sound like the two activities are mutually exclusive. When our daughter starts in on a new piece both activities occur. The score is analyzed to help with memorization and to pick out potential problem spots as well as general familiarization, we also end up listening to various versions of the piece (always fascinating to compare "professional" versions to the youngsters). Both activities seem to have their place and in practice, being familiar with the score actually enhances the listening, _especially_ when you are actually comparing multiple recorded versions. You almost seem to be asking "why read the book when you could see the movie(s)". The answer is you can do both and get more than either activity alone can provide.

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#1494576 - 08/12/10 07:03 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
currawong Offline
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I'm not sure why we're rehashing all this either/or stuff again - note-reading OR listening OR improvising OR singing. Good teachers do all of these.
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#1494579 - 08/12/10 07:06 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
LimeFriday Offline
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I still can't understand why this argument has to be an either/or one. Surely music education is about both - aural training/playing by ear - and being able to read music and read from a score. Why limit yourself to one or the other? Why not analyze a score and listen to different interpretations?

Wizard - you began with note reading and classical training - do you think you could do what you do now without that foundation in music? You understand what you are listening to - you have a musical background which informs your 'playing by ear'.

If someone chooses to only play be ear - that's fine - but it doesn't make note reading redundant. Even jazz musicians can get something from being able to read music.

And yes - I play classical, jazz and rock. And yes - I could play happy birthday in any key without a score.

(Edit - I see that others feel exactly the same way smile )


Edited by LimeFriday (08/12/10 07:06 PM)

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#1494605 - 08/12/10 07:29 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: LimeFriday]
eweiss Offline
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Originally Posted By: LimeFriday
I still can't understand why this argument has to be an either/or one. Surely music education is about both - aural training/playing by ear - and being able to read music and read from a score.

It's not about either/or. It's about the approach piano teachers take when teaching students how to play piano. I say it's better to start with a chord-based approach because it's a natural (and easier) way to speak the language of music.

Which is why guitar is so popular. Students can learn a few chords and then can happily create music on the instrument.
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#1494608 - 08/12/10 07:34 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: bitWrangler]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
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Originally Posted By: bitWrangler
You almost seem to be asking "why read the book when you could see the movie(s)".


Great analogy. Those who discount note reading and score analysis won't go very far in their classical piano studies.
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#1494617 - 08/12/10 07:44 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: LimeFriday]
Wizard of Oz Offline
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ah the usual suspects are back! hahaha, same ol' same ol'.


When I learned jazz, I had to train my ears to hear melodies, harmonies, rhythms. Completely new skills.
Reading a score doesn't help you one bit to learn how to improvise.

If you play classical solely by reading, the tendency is to go on "auto-pilot" once you learn a song. You just follow the score and put your fingers where the notes are. In a way your mind is actually shut off, because you are relying on the sheet music to guide you, rather than your mind and inner ear.

Jazz musicians read music differently than classical. Most times it is a fakebook which only has the melody and a chord. It is up to the musician to interpret the chord and there is freedom to add or subtract notes. You could also change the melody and that would be fine.


My classical training gave me good finger technique, but not a solid foundation.

Maybe you guys should try and sit at the piano for an hour and improvise something completely new.

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#1494622 - 08/12/10 07:51 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: AZNpiano]
Wizard of Oz Offline
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Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: bitWrangler
You almost seem to be asking "why read the book when you could see the movie(s)".


Great analogy. Those who discount note reading and score analysis won't go very far in their classical piano studies.



Reading a book and reading a score are 2 completely different things. You get enjoyment out of a book, but I don't know any musician that sits back with a glass of wine and reads a score. No, you turn the stereo on, chill on the couch and LISTEN.


If all you play is classical then yes, you need to read, but if it's anything else you better have good ears.

Another thing is that in classical piano, 99% of the time you playing solo.

In jazz, rock and roll, pop, most of the time you are playing with other people. That forces you to interact with your fellow bandmates, use your ears to see who's in tune and time.

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#1494626 - 08/12/10 07:57 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
currawong Offline
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Originally Posted By: Wizard of Oz
Another thing is that in classical piano, 99% of the time you playing solo.

In jazz, rock and roll, pop, most of the time you are playing with other people. That forces you to interact with your fellow bandmates, use your ears to see who's in tune and time.
Must just pick up on this. 99%? Simply not true. So many classically trained pianists play chamber music, accompany choirs, accompany singers and instrumentalists, play duets etc. I'd say 99% of my (classical) piano playing is with other people.
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#1494631 - 08/12/10 08:02 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
LimeFriday Offline
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Originally Posted By: Wizard of Oz


Maybe you guys should try and sit at the piano for an hour and improvise something completely new.


You assume that we don't do this already?

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#1494632 - 08/12/10 08:04 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: currawong]
TimR Offline
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Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: Wizard of Oz
Another thing is that in classical piano, 99% of the time you playing solo.

In jazz, rock and roll, pop, most of the time you are playing with other people. That forces you to interact with your fellow bandmates, use your ears to see who's in tune and time.
I'd say 99% of my (classical) piano playing is with other people.


To be fair, I think you need to count practice time plus performance time, not just performance time.
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#1494633 - 08/12/10 08:04 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
bitWrangler Offline
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Originally Posted By: Wizard of Oz
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: bitWrangler
You almost seem to be asking "why read the book when you could see the movie(s)".


Great analogy. Those who discount note reading and score analysis won't go very far in their classical piano studies.



Reading a book and reading a score are 2 completely different things. You get enjoyment out of a book, but I don't know any musician that sits back with a glass of wine and reads a score. No, you turn the stereo on, chill on the couch and LISTEN.


If all you play is classical then yes, you need to read, but if it's anything else you better have good ears.

Another thing is that in classical piano, 99% of the time you playing solo.

In jazz, rock and roll, pop, most of the time you are playing with other people. That forces you to interact with your fellow bandmates, use your ears to see who's in tune and time.


Consider that we're not talking about simply consuming content, we're referring to learning to produce content. If you want to be an screenwriter, then "reading a book" goes beyond reading for enjoyment. You are interpreting the content with the goal to reproduce it in a particular way, so the analogy isn't as far off as it may sound at first.

Also, your statement about classical piano being a 99% solo endeavour is only true if you don't consider chamber music. I'd agree that the majority of kids taking piano are unfortunately not exposed to chamber music, but many are and for those kids the most of the skills you mention apply just as much to them. This is especially true for the pianist as it's usually their responsibility to hold things together for the group and respond/adjust when necessary (they have the complete score for the other instruments as well as the piano part). In this situation sight reading _and_ using your ears is paramount. You may even be forced to improvise a bit when things really go pear shaped.


Edited by bitWrangler (08/12/10 08:04 PM)

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#1494635 - 08/12/10 08:05 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: eweiss]
rocket88 Offline
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Originally Posted By: eweiss

Which is why guitar is so popular. Students can learn a few chords and then can happily create music on the instrument.


They can start playing music almost immediately with other instruments also, such as an ocarina, a harmonica, a recorder, etc, but those instruments are not very popular with young people. So ease of making music quickly is not a viable reason for the guitar's popularity. In fact, many quit because of the pain beginners have w/the guitar until they develop finger calluses.

The main reason the guitar is so popular among young people is it has a huge amount of peer pressure / image support for young people to emulate (rock stars, etc) of which the piano has very little, except now for Ms Gaga!

And if Ms. Gaga were not so roundly skewered by so many, even here on these forums, perhaps people could use her as an example for kids to learn the piano.

She is actually a pretty decent musician. Google "Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta" her real name, and check out her music prior to the Gaga incarnation.


Edited by rocket88 (08/12/10 08:18 PM)
Edit Reason: for clarity.
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#1494641 - 08/12/10 08:13 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: TimR]
currawong Offline
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Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: Wizard of Oz
Another thing is that in classical piano, 99% of the time you playing solo.
I'd say 99% of my (classical) piano playing is with other people.
To be fair, I think you need to count practice time plus performance time, not just performance time.
And jazz musicians as described by Wizard don't practise by themselves at home?
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#1494644 - 08/12/10 08:15 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: bitWrangler]
currawong Offline
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Originally Posted By: bitWrangler
You may even be forced to improvise a bit when things really go pear shaped.
Absolutely. And frequently. smile
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#1494645 - 08/12/10 08:16 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: rocket88]
bitWrangler Offline
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Posts: 1785
Loc: Central TX
Originally Posted By: rocket88
Originally Posted By: eweiss


Which is why guitar is so popular. Students can learn a few chords and then can happily create music on the instrument.


There are more reasons why guitar is so popular.

Compared to a piano, or even a cheap keyboard, you can buy a decent beginner guitar for very little money, and it is small, light, and easy to carry around, and playing it has a huge amount of peer pressure / image support for young people (rock stars, etc) of which the piano has very little, except now for Ms Gaga!


You forgot the most important, guitarists get all the chicks!!!

Wait, or was that drummers.

Nevermind.

Anyone want to comment on the gender distribution between guitarists and pianists in relation to the the two teaching styles being discussed and it's effect on that distribution smile

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#1494650 - 08/12/10 08:24 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: bitWrangler]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3013
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: bitWrangler

Anyone want to comment on the gender distribution between guitarists and pianists in relation to the the two teaching styles being discussed and it's effect on that distribution smile


I would point to what I see as a more basic difference (and perhaps even more basic than the ear vs eye split being discussed.)

Guitar is learned almost from the beginning "in real time."

Piano is approached, at least by beginners, disconnected from time, then with time added at slow tempo, then brought up to tempo.

Something different happens with the learning process when the playing is in real time from the beginning. Notes are missed but fluency is learned.

Guitar players don't have a metronome. They don't need one. They have the CD playing. Or their friends.

Pianists don't have a metronome either, because it might cause their playing to be mechanical. Hee, hee.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#1494657 - 08/12/10 08:27 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: TimR]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: TimR


Guitar players don't have a metronome. They don't need one. They have the CD playing. Or their friends.


Actually, all the guitar teachers where I work use a metronome or a drum machine with their students.

And what makes you think "their friends" have perfect rhythm and tempo?
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Music teacher and piano player.

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