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#1495661 - 08/14/10 03:47 AM Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano?
SteveO42 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/10
Posts: 89
I'm a natural. I woke up one morning at the age of about 4 and could play the piano, really. I developed my gift over the years to the point where I can hear a tune and play it back note for note, mostly classical as an exception. I don't know how I do this, I have perfect pitch as well, but I see a canvas in my head and I just "know" what sounds good and what sounds "bad". I call them sweet chords and sour chords. I taught myself to read basic charts because music teachers were useless because once they played the tune, I could play the tune, in every single key..... So I developed my own style over the years (I am 50yo). I have been lucky in that I have done a ton of session work, Broadway and so forth although I have had my run ins with "play it as written, no exceptions" I hate those people smile
Marvin Hamlish for one.

Anyway, my cousin the Berkley graduate is a classical pianist, fully trained and like most of these people to my ears he sounds awful.

Check Youtube for tons of examples.

Sure he can play anything you put down in front of him and I can't but it still sounds like crap.
He can teach, I can't because all I can tell a student is "look for the source Luke".

So my question is, can a person with no talent and don't take this the wrong way but after 10 years of my 3 kids trying to play various instruments (they can't) and 30 years as a rehearsal/audition pianist, I know a talent when I hear it, learn to play?

BTW for those of you doing audition work here are my come back lines:

1. I've never heard You Light Up My Life chanted quite like that.
2. Madam, your daughter has the gift of being able to sing in several keys at once.
3. What your daughter does to music brings tears to my eyes.

So other than a fast buck and a ton of frustration, why waste time with little Jenny who will never play?

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#1495685 - 08/14/10 06:18 AM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: SteveO42]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Maybe little Jenny didn't get born the way you did, but she thinks it would be fun to be able to do stuff at the piano?

Maybe little Jenny's parents see piano lessons as a way to extend her spatial and symbolic reasoning?

Maybe little Jenny is shy, and the experience of playing in recitals will transform her sense of who she is?

Maybe little Jenny has ambitions beyond her talents, but her parents don't want to tell her 'you're crap so you can't have lessons' because that isn't part of their approach to parenting?

Maybe little Jenny has all her friends learning the piano, and she doesn't care about being a great performer, she just likes participating in lessons with her friends?

There is no end to the list of responses one could give to your closing question.
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1495688 - 08/14/10 06:27 AM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: Elissa Milne]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
It's a matter of being cultured above all else.
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1495821 - 08/14/10 12:22 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: SteveO42]
R0B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 1439
Loc: Australia
You can teach anyone to play the piano.
But you can't teach anyone to become a piano player.
_________________________
Rob

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#1495829 - 08/14/10 12:36 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: SteveO42]
danshure Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 347
Loc: Massachusetts
Originally Posted By: SteveO42
So other than a fast buck and a ton of frustration, why waste time with little Jenny who will never play?

There's an infinite amount of means to reach an end.
_________________________
Go here ---> Piano Teaching Blog

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#1495877 - 08/14/10 01:54 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: danshure]
Roxy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/19/08
Posts: 478
Loc: Whittier, Calif
What do you mean little Jenny will never play? You mean like you. You mean with a sound you want to hear and a way you want to hear it? That is what music is, a different interpretation of every song. None of us plays the same. Will all of us make a living at playing? No. Does that mean you can't play and enjoy or bring enjoyment to other people even if you are not at the same level? No. I'm not sure I understand your question. And while playing by ear is great, understanding what a sour and sweet chord are and knowing what you are doing and being able to read what is put in front of you is nice also.

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#1495891 - 08/14/10 02:29 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: SteveO42]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11675
Loc: Canada
If you are a natural, and you set out to teach others to play, then you have a handicap to overcome. You have to work backward to find out what it is that you are using that you don't know you know, what from that the student can't connect to, and then find a way to get this to the student.

If someone's playing is crap, then why specifically is it crap? Isn't that part of teaching? Not everyone can become a fantastic musician, but most people can learn to play or sing with some degree of skill if they are guided and take that guidance.

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#1495896 - 08/14/10 02:41 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: keystring]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
This reminds me of an old song by Mac Davis:

"Oh Lord it's hard to be humble
when you're perfect in every way" smile
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Piano Teacher

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#1495917 - 08/14/10 03:37 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: keystring]
SteveO42 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/10
Posts: 89
Originally Posted By: keystring
If you are a natural, and you set out to teach others to play, then you have a handicap to overcome. You have to work backward to find out what it is that you are using that you don't know you know, what from that the student can't connect to, and then find a way to get this to the student.

If someone's playing is crap, then why specifically is it crap? Isn't that part of teaching? Not everyone can become a fantastic musician, but most people can learn to play or sing with some degree of skill if they are guided and take that guidance.


Well the handicap is I can't explain how I am able to do what I can do.
It's difficult to explain, but I see a canvas in front of me, know the sound I'm looking for and can just play it.
Don't know why or how so I can't obviously teach theory etc. What I *can* and have taught is performance. IOW do this instead of that.

When trained pianists watch me play, they shake their head and laugh because my fingerings completely and totally oppose theory.
I finger a lot like Art Tatum or Errol Garner, with 3 finger runs etc.
I'm a very dynamic player and my hands are all over the keyboard.

What I enjoy watching is a truly gifted classical player whose hands seem to float over the keys.
To me, that is poetry in motion.

My style is the complete opposite.

What I hear missing from many pianists is natural emotion. They hit every note perfectly but there is no feeling and when they try to add feeling it is over the top and fake sounding.
I don't believe this aspect can be taught to someone who isn't born with it.
A comparison would be those PBS shows with the artists showing you how to paint, stroke by stroke.
I can copy every brush stroke yet my painting looks like crap and the artists doesn't. I'm a horrible artist BTW.

Thank you all for some very interesting responses.
Didn't mean to come across snooty, as I'm as average Steve as they come but I had just attended a friends daughter's piano/flute recital and as typical there wasn't one decent musician in the house, including the teacher. But like others pointed out, building character, discipline and culture is a very real benefit to taking lessons and of course seeing the glow on the parent's faces and the sense of relief from the students when they were done, was priceless!

I really do applaud all the teachers who work tirelessly teaching music and didn't mean to minimize your contributions to the future musicians of the world.
Peace!

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#1495930 - 08/14/10 03:56 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: SteveO42]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3160
Can you post a video of your playing?
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#1495949 - 08/14/10 04:31 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: rocket88]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Can you try using the words I and me less?
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1496238 - 08/15/10 01:15 AM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: keyboardklutz]
SteveO42 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/10
Posts: 89
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Can you try using the words I and me less?


No.

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#1496460 - 08/15/10 12:01 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: SteveO42]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11675
Loc: Canada
I guess that the answer to the question in the subject line is:

- yes, if you know how
- and if the student works with you
- and if you work with the student

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#1496729 - 08/15/10 08:05 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: keystring]
SteveO42 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/10
Posts: 89
Originally Posted By: keystring
I guess that the answer to the question in the subject line is:

- yes, if you know how
- and if the student works with you
- and if you work with the student


I respectfully disagree.
Someone who has no level of natural ability will never be able to "play" the piano in a pleasing to most people manner.

Music is something people are born with much like painting or sports etc.

Lessons CAN and DO bring out the best in people like that but IMHO aside from the fringe effects of discipline, family enjoyment, personal accomplishment and so forth, will not a professional musician make.

At least not a good one.

As an example, I was a pretty decent collegiate tennis player. At 6'2" my serve was clocked at about 117 mph at the time and deadly accurate.

I had the pleasure of sparring with Tracy Austin a very well known female professional at the time.
To say she kicked my butt is an understatement.
That's male against female for those that may not know Tracy is a woman.
My serve meant nothing because all she had to do was return it and I was dog meat.
We all had a great laugh but I learned what a natural talent meant. Yea, I had all the lessons, team play, experience and so forth.
Tracy had the God given talent that could be developed and groomed to the point where she was one of the best in the world.
I could NEVER in a million years do that.
A VERY revealing experience.

So yea, anyone can probably be taught to play the piano and in fact get a lot of accomplishment out of it.
But the real professionals have an inside talent that man can't really explain and that's what makes a real professional vs an amateur.

In conclusion there is a very famous Partridge Family episode where a beautiful girl captures David Cassidy's fancy.
He is mostly taken by her looks because she sings about a 1/2 tone flat and is awful, something everyone else who hears her realizes.
Except David.

Shirley Jones goes to visit the father of this vocal wonder to kindly tell him she sucks, but he jumps in front of the piano, claims he taught her all she knows and then proceeds to sing "San Francisco" in as flat of a voice as she does......

Food for thought...

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#1496735 - 08/15/10 08:14 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: SteveO42]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: SteveO42
Music is something people are born with much like painting or sports etc.

All nature and no nurture? You need both. Certain people have a natural gift. Most would agree on this. The question then becomes, where on the scale does this gift fall? Low - moderate - genius level, or somewhere between these three.

You're suggesting that 'talent' can't be taught. I would say that's not a true statement. Intuition and talent can be nurtured and with the right kind of teaching, allowed to flower and bloom.

The proof is in the pudding.
_________________________
Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

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#1496737 - 08/15/10 08:15 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: SteveO42]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
So what? Your initial question wasn't whether someone could be taught to play well enough that they could have a fabulous performance career. Very few will actually attain that.

And who cares whether or not their playing pleases you, personally? Anyone can learn to play well enough to give themselves pleasure and even to give others pleasure as well. They might not meet your exacting (and somewhat arrogant) standards, but most people don't care. They just enjoy the experience.
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B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1496744 - 08/15/10 08:26 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: SteveO42]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: SteveO42
Shirley Jones goes to visit the father of this vocal wonder to kindly tell him she sucks, but he jumps in front of the piano, claims he taught her all she knows and then proceeds to sing "San Francisco" in as flat of a voice as she does......

Food for thought...

Talent or lack of it explained through the "Partridge Family".

A first for this forum, I think. <shaking head>


Edited by Gary D. (08/15/10 08:26 PM)
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1496748 - 08/15/10 08:31 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: Minniemay]
SteveO42 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/10
Posts: 89
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
So what? Your initial question wasn't whether someone could be taught to play well enough that they could have a fabulous performance career. Very few will actually attain that.

And who cares whether or not their playing pleases you, personally? Anyone can learn to play well enough to give themselves pleasure and even to give others pleasure as well. They might not meet your exacting (and somewhat arrogant) standards, but most people don't care. They just enjoy the experience.


Interesting is your signature....
After 45 years of playing professionally (I started when I was 5 years old) I have developed my own theory.

1. The more letters after the name.
2. The more "I played with xxxyyzz"
4. the more "I studied with aabbcc"
3. The better the head shot.

........the worse the performer....

It's my "Talent Inverse Proportion Theory"

Just my experience.

I've done a lot of cattle calls, auditions and so forth and that's just my personal experience.

The real talents are the ones who shine in the performance, show up not dressed properly, don't have a resume and so forth.

They hop on stage and do what comes naturally.

I've seen it a zillion times.

And just for the record, the absolute worst ones are those (singers mostly) who allow their college professors to assist them with their demos.

I have a book case FULL to the brim with people like that and it's positively awful.
Painful to the ears in some instances.

Why on earth someone who couldn't hold a tune if it had a handle on it (pun intended) spent 100k on an Oberlin education is a mystery to me.


Don't believe it?
Take a look at American Idol.....

Better yet take a look at your typical June recital.


Just to confirm, formal studies can most definitely help a natural talent.
Mostly what they do for the typical person seeking stardom though is drain their wallets.

It's really a dirty little secret in the industry.

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#1496750 - 08/15/10 08:36 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: SteveO42]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5932
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: SteveO42
So other than a fast buck and a ton of frustration, why waste time with little Jenny who will never play?
Apart from all the other reasons which have been given, there's the question of how do you know Jenny will never "play"? You're making judgements on someone's future based on your estimation of them before they've even started? You believe anyone who's going to make it has to wake up one morning at the age of 4 being able to play the piano, just like you? Really? Or is this just a self-congratulation thread?

I've been accompanying instrumentalists in a competition recently. One flute player I've accompanied for the last few years seemed to be very ordinary indeed (she was an adult beginner, by the way). Pretty pedestrian playing. Yesterday I played for her again, and something has happened over the last year! I don't know what it is - and she didn't either - but her playing has blossomed. It's real music-making now!

So in summary - the real teachers will give Jenny every chance of developing whatever skills she may be able to develop. Those who just want to feed their ego with their students would be better not teaching.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1496753 - 08/15/10 08:40 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: SteveO42]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: SteveO42

1. The more letters after the name.
2. The more "I played with xxxyyzz"
4. the more "I studied with aabbcc"
3. The better the head shot.

For me:

No letters after my name.
No mention of having played with "xxxyyzz".
No mention of having "aabbcc".
No head shot.

Wait, I must be a better perfomer. <still shaking head>
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1496765 - 08/15/10 08:51 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: Gary D.]
findingnemo2010 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/17/09
Posts: 1491
wow i call you gods gift..i wish i could wake up one day and magically know how to play...i got to put in work and go through all the bullshit just to be able to play...god dont like me
_________________________
music to me is kind of like putting together pieces of a puzzle
i call it the paino because its where i put all my pain

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#1496768 - 08/15/10 08:55 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: findingnemo2010]
SteveO42 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/10
Posts: 89
Originally Posted By: joe84
wow i call you gods gift..i wish i could wake up one day and magically know how to play...i got to put in work and go through all the bullshit just to be able to play...god dont like me


Maybe God has heard you play?

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#1496770 - 08/15/10 08:56 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: Gary D.]
SteveO42 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/10
Posts: 89
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: SteveO42

1. The more letters after the name.
2. The more "I played with xxxyyzz"
4. the more "I studied with aabbcc"
3. The better the head shot.

For me:

No letters after my name.
No mention of having played with "xxxyyzz".
No mention of having "aabbcc".
No head shot.

Are you auditioning for professional level gigs?
Or, are you entertaining uncle sol at xmas time?

Hint: In general.....



Wait, I must be a better perfomer. <still shaking head>

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#1496776 - 08/15/10 09:17 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: SteveO42]
SteveO42 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/10
Posts: 89
Obviously I have provoked the snobs into actually thinking instead of babbling so of course my comments are attacked.

I'll leave ya'll alone to fester in your educational superiority but I will depart with one last statement.

When was the last time you sat in the audience of a recital, high school or college talent show, one of your own "impress the parents" recitals, saw something on Youtube etc....and......said to yourself "wow! that person or persons" have talent....
When did that magical moment last happen to you?

Now listen to your own playing, compare it to the likes of real professionals who are working, recording etc and ask yourself "can I do that" and why am I not?

Here are a few really quick examples..
Your job is to spot the talent.
And sink the tone deaf.

Are you up to it?

1.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dD-5xiEnEik

2.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O04t4aJ2MJQ

3.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Amh4dfIrrd4

4.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_-CmjhV5fg

5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlViRd0fz9Y&feature=related

6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWsi0IqoXB4&feature=related
Get your ear plugs...

So which one is best?




Edited by SteveO42 (08/15/10 09:28 PM)

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#1496780 - 08/15/10 09:34 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: SteveO42]
jazzyprof Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/04
Posts: 2629
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
Steve you are indeed blessed with natural talent. Do you have any idea where it may have come from? Are your parents musical? Did you grow up with a piano in the house and with older siblings who played? Just curious.
_________________________
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP

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#1496783 - 08/15/10 09:43 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: jazzyprof]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: jazzyprof
Steve you are indeed blessed with natural talent. Do you have any idea where it may have come from? Are your parents musical? Did you grow up with a piano in the house and with older siblings who played? Just curious.

Yes, blessed with natural talent. But who is Steve042? And where can we see and listen to this music? Don't be modest Steve. Please share. smile
_________________________
Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

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#1496784 - 08/15/10 09:45 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: jazzyprof]
SteveO42 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/10
Posts: 89
Originally Posted By: jazzyprof
Steve you are indeed blessed with natural talent. Do you have any idea where it may have come from? Are your parents musical? Did you grow up with a piano in the house and with older siblings who played? Just curious.


My mother is tone deaf, she thinks country and western music are two different things smile

Her favorite songs are "Don't Fence Me in and Wolvertine Mountain"

My dad can play piano very well. He is self taught plays ragtime, Knuckles O'Toole and so forth.
He is very good even at 85 yo.

My great grandma played piano in Carnegie Hall accompanying vocalists so that is probably where I get it from.

My sister can't play.

One of my 3 children plays a decent flute but has decided to become a nurse.
Oh well.

It's just weird.

I literally woke up one morning around the age of 3 or 4 and was playing the piano.
My first song was "Popeye The Sailor Man"
My parents were in bed and looked at each other with amazement as to who was playing the piano??

Sadly, they encouraged me to become an EE but I put myself through engineering school doing gigs on the side.
Mostly TV commercials and shows.

Back in the 70's it was still the old "you're a musician you will starve" routine.

They seemed to forget about engineers selling apples back in the 60's <smile>....

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#1496786 - 08/15/10 09:47 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: eweiss]
SteveO42 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/10
Posts: 89
I'm working on it....
Trying to put up a lame vid by the end of the week.

Hell, I have to give you classical guys something to laugh at and believe me, you WILL laugh at my fingering and mechanical skills.

I break every rule in the book....

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#1496789 - 08/15/10 09:51 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: SteveO42]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
We still haven't seen a video of your proclaimed natural talent.

As to the letters behind some of our names, we didn't claim to be professional performers. They are merely recognitions of our paths.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1496790 - 08/15/10 09:54 PM Re: Can you actually "teach" someone to play the piano? [Re: jazzyprof]
Wizard of Oz Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/09
Posts: 873

Talent works both ways. You could be born a natural talent but if you don't put in the effort and work you still won't go anywhere. Conversely you may not be supremely blessed with talent but you can work hard to become good.

Look at sports, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. You better believe he worked his tail off to become the best.

I can think of tons of "talented" athletes who are lazy or don't give it their all, they float by on what they have but burn out or just do it for the money.

Speaking of tennis, I'm sure you know all those academies that take youngsters at 6-7 and train them year round.

They put in 5-6 hours of training a day, if that isn't work I don't know what it. Read Andre Agassi's story, his dad made him hit 1000's of balls by the time he was out of a crib.

So many tennis prodigies quit before they are 25, these are people who are the best and have played for and won Grand Slams.

Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova, Jen Capriati, Kim Clisters, Justin Henin, Andrea Jaeger, all out.

Marat Safin, a total headcase. Ricky Williams from football.


Talent means nothing if you don't hone it and put in time. Oscar Peterson got to where he was because he decided he wanted to become to best jazz pianist in the world.


Michael Jordan, after his first comeback from winning 3 championships in a row, lost in the playoffs. He trained like a maniac after that summer and ended up winning another 3. But it wouldn't have happened if he didn't work for it. Even the greatest of all time did it.

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