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#1496321 - 08/15/10 06:20 AM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
I don't agree with your assertion that rhythm is non-quantitative.... and I'm not sure what you mean by saying these aspects of music are 'in a different category', unless you mean this self-evidently: pitch is a different category to timbre, for instance.

My point was that the idea of improvising out of one category (pitch) [and doing so in a diatonic fashion] is a somewhat one-dimensional idea of improvising. See Canonie's comments which expand on other ways of improvising in a lesson context.
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#1496372 - 08/15/10 09:33 AM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Elissa Milne]
danshure Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 347
Loc: Massachusetts
here's a student of mine improvising. he's 7 i think.

the funny thing is, i never asked him to improvise. he always just started playing around on the piano right when he sat down. one day i decided to let him continue. sometimes he goes on for 20 minutes! i've never "taught" him or said a word about what to do, he just does it - but i see my role more as "allowing" than "teaching" in this particular circumstance.

http://www.evolvingmusicedu.com/Blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/02-18-10.mp3
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#1496537 - 08/15/10 02:28 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: Wizard of Oz
Having limitations is actually better than telling them to play whatever they want. Usually they will be completely lost.

I agree with this. For most, not having some kind of guideline for improvisation would be too daunting. Especially with a sea of 88 shiny keys staring back at them.

Much better, (and more musical) to show what can be done with a small amount of material. Eventually, students learn how to develop their own set of limitations.
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#1496545 - 08/15/10 02:47 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: eweiss]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11847
Loc: Canada
May I suggest that it depends on the student and/or depends on the teacher, and that there is no single right way.

I suspect that like with language, we absorb the structures of music and can end up using them in a way that makes sense. We don't know what we know, but we use it anyway. The clip of Danshure's student reminds me a bit of how I experimented - you can hear little patterns emerging and coming together. It does not seem to be driven by chords, but maybe they'll come in.

One of the things that I invented around age 8 got frozen in time because I was deprived of an instrument after that. I remember it. You could analyze it and think it was written after studying theory and form. But actually four notes inspired four more notes on the melody side, but I must have also had a feeling of how music is structured. If somebody had restricted me to two chords and forced me to work along a "guided" way as you two propose, I would have shut down. I am not linear. I can't think that way.

I have no trouble believing that this works with many students. The part that bothers me is if I understand that this is supposed to be the only way. To me it is not liberating - it is restricting, and doesn't go with my nature. Ed, etc., are you open to the idea that there may be more than one way becuase there is more than one kind of student and teacher?

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#1496553 - 08/15/10 03:01 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: keystring]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: keystring
Ed, etc., are you open to the idea that there may be more than one way becuase there is more than one kind of student and teacher?

Absolutely! Whatever works for you works. What I'm saying is most beginning students have a problem if you simply sit them at the piano and say 'improvise.' There are way too many choices. Many fight the idea of limitations but it's a very helpful way to focus in.

Think about writing prompts. For example, if someone says, "write about the hottest summer you've ever experienced using no more than 300 words," it allows the writer to write extemporaenously about that one particular thing. This kind of exercise can be very freeing because of the limitations themselves.

Actually, this topic is a very good one and sort of deserves it's own thread. smile
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#1496619 - 08/15/10 05:07 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: eweiss]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11847
Loc: Canada
Thanks for the response, Ed, and it makes for interesting open-ended exploration.
Quote:
What I'm saying is most beginning students have a problem if you simply sit them at the piano and say 'improvise.'

I'll have to take your word for it since I don't teach. I don't know what I would have done since this wasn't asked of me.
Quote:
For example, if someone says, "write about the hottest summer you've ever experienced using no more than 300 words,"


I cannot begin to express how much I hated those!!! You are boxed in left, right and center.

Give me a peanut, a feather, the sound of water. Allow it to develop. I am extremely creative person in the arts, especialy language and music. The process is the same in either of them. All these "guided creativity" things kill everything for me.


Edited by keystring (08/15/10 05:12 PM)
Edit Reason: 1st par. changed

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#1496805 - 08/15/10 10:32 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: eweiss]
LimeFriday Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/02/09
Posts: 303
Loc: Australia
Quote:
What I'm saying is most beginning students have a problem if you simply sit them at the piano and say 'improvise.'


I certainly wouldn't ask any student to sit at the piano and just say 'improvise'. For a start - most young beginning students wouldn't have a clue was improvisation was!

But getting beginners to sit down and explore the piano - putting their stories into music - playing with loud/soft - high/low - different rhythms - that's not frightening. The young kids love making noise. And no - it's not improvising in the way that experienced musicians improvise.

It seems that there are a few of us that like to begin with the exploring what the piano can do - rather than beginning solely with reading.

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#1496993 - 08/16/10 10:10 AM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: LimeFriday]
Canonie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 1941
Loc: Australia
danshure, thank you for posting that recording. Only a young kid sounds like this, and I love it laugh oh my goodness, he just used the sustain pedal. Now it's over. Ah! he uses the very sophisticated composition tool of "saving something until climax/end". The rhythm is interesting in that it is very rhythmic, but not metronomically so. The rhythm ebbs and flows more like breathing, or like spoken sentences.

Ed, your idea of "For most, not having some kind of guideline for improvisation would be too daunting. Especially with a sea of 88 shiny keys staring back at them." is spot on, except for this younger age group. There is something extraordinary that can be drawn out with little to no effort or input. Their improvisations change with time as the pieces they learn are incorporated into their creative repertoire. As a Classical-lots-of-reading teacher, I have to try to keep the improv and creativity going as they begin to learn more interesting pieces.

When *I* do a bit of composing I set limitations. Nothing fires up my creativity than limitations. The whole first part of the process is devoted to finding a really good set of limitations. But I'm not 6 years old I guess. Interesting how that changes with age.

Another thing. I'm fascinated that danshure's student plays entirely in C major (although it sounds more Machaut than Mozart) especially after what I said about methods and c major a few posts back. If you are around danshure, would you tell us whether the child has mainly been playing c major pieces at the moment? and whether his improv's ever move to other tonalities?
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#1497008 - 08/16/10 10:33 AM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Canonie]
danshure Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 347
Loc: Massachusetts
Originally Posted By: Canonie
Another thing. I'm fascinated that danshure's student plays entirely in C major (although it sounds more Machaut than Mozart) especially after what I said about methods and c major a few posts back. If you are around danshure, would you tell us whether the child has mainly been playing c major pieces at the moment? and whether his improv's ever move to other tonalities?

He mostly does play C major pieces, and at the time of that recording he had only gotten to the end of PA Primer level. His improvisation ability is far beyond his reading. I have some other more recent recordings I can dig up, which get more involved than this one, and if I get a chance I will.

BUT one thing he did once - he was improvising in C, but then took both arms, held down the pedal and starting doing these gliassandos on all the black notes by running his arms repetitively top to bottom over the black keys. My jaw dropped.... I have NO idea where he came up with that! It was a beautiful Gb Major Glissando, that's for sure.

I have showed him how to play in G by changing all the F's to F sharps, which he will do occasionally, but mainly he sticks to C smile


Edited by danshure (08/16/10 10:33 AM)
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#1497427 - 08/16/10 07:58 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: danshure]
Canonie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 1941
Loc: Australia
Thanks heaps for answering my questions. Yes, his improv is way beyond the slow simplicity of Piano Adv Primer. But this example confirms my ideas that pieces studied are the source material for improvisation, except for those glisses which he has found with his own exploring - Nice! It shows how kids are ready to embrace the full sounds and possibilities of the piano, unless we get too much in the way with teaching correct music played correctly. It's great that his rhythm is adventurous smile

Very inspiring and interesting thread, although I've forgotten what it is that i have backwards... I think we have drifted from the original topic smile Thanks again to danshure for a recording. One day I will set up recording in my "studio" and then be able to post kids improvising, oh and playing my own "incorrect" compositions and songs - which they learn by ear, exploration and pattern - see; I am back on topic!


Edited by Canonie (08/16/10 07:59 PM)
Edit Reason: happy birthday dansure!!

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#1497672 - 08/17/10 06:56 AM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Canonie]
danshure Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 347
Loc: Massachusetts
No problem... I do agree, most of my students who improvise draw from what they've learned in books or otherwise.

I FOUND another recording - same student, two months later. This one has those glissandos at the end... more beautiful than I remember. It's 12:00 minutes but worth a listen. smile

http://www.evolvingmusicedu.com/Recordings/Students/04-02-10.mp3
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#1498576 - 08/18/10 12:24 PM Re: Do Most Piano Teachers Have it Backwards? [Re: Canonie]
qtpi Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/05
Posts: 253
Loc: Hockessin, Delaware
I confess to only reading the first page and the last 2 pages- so I do not know is this point has been made but human beings already have a musical language in place when they start piano- when I taught, I taught note reading right from the beginning.Kids love it- it's like learning to read a book. we already know the words and stories. Children sing, skip, run, jump, hum, and listen to music from their earliest days.
I also would teach them how to use the keyboard to write a humorous story.
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