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#1550795 - 11/04/10 01:06 PM teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do?
alexb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/19/10
Posts: 265
Loc: USA
I have a fantastic teacher that I've been very happy with (see my prior posts for more details if curious). She's excellent in every aspect that you can imagine. But there is one thing that bothers me, and I'm not sure how to bring it up - she doesn't seem to take good care of the Steinway M that she teaches on. And this is her own personal piano in her own home!

On PW, we can get a bit too anal about perfect humidity, action regulation, etc. Too much can be too much, I know that. But her piano is bad in the summer and now bad in the winter. It's in tune, but the action needs some work. It seems she doesn't think it's that big a deal, but for me it's hard to adapt from my Boston upright that has real nice action because I keep it in check, and then play on her piano. And it's not just a difference in action - her action is just out of sync. Some keys are not working as well as others, etc. Being a professional who teaches at conservatory and also performs, I think she plays on so many pianos, she doesn't seem to pay much attention to it or is just used to it. Her main thing is the sound you get out of it and how musical you can play - which is the most important, I agree. But for me, when I practice and have a piece down at home, it's depressing to go and play there and screw up because the action is not in good shape. Then she points out that it's not pp enough in the left hand, or this that and the other. And I KNOW I have it down, but it's hard to just say I can't get used to your piano, not because it's different, but because you are not taking care of it!

I just feel like I should approach it somehow, but not sure how because I don't want to be insensitive either. I've said many times that it's hard to adjust, but she says that it comes with playing time. The more pianos you play, the easier you adjust. And while that's true, a piano that's out of sync, doesn't seem to fall into that category in my eyes. It seems she plays it a ton and also has students, and she does tune it, but the action just is not regulated. Weird...

Thoughts?

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#1550838 - 11/04/10 02:11 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
IramChZ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/09/10
Posts: 47
Loc: Michigan, USA
Saying "it's hard to adjust" is different than saying "I feel like this key is sluggish" or whatever the issue is. Have you ever hit a specific key that wasn't working properly and pointed it out to her specifically? If so, what did she say about it?

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#1550982 - 11/04/10 05:49 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
alexb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/19/10
Posts: 265
Loc: USA
The whole action is out of sync. A great player can play through it - as she does. For me, just learning, it's not helping out. I did mention that, and she said it just gets played so much it's going to happen. And that the more I play the more I'll get used to it. I suppose. Just sort of strange to be honest.

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#1551031 - 11/04/10 07:01 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11448
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Do you have trouble playing on other pianos?

I'm going to speak plainly, but by no means am I tryign to be harsh, just straightforward. A good pianist can make even a poorly maintained instrument sound good. You adjust as you go, getting the feel for the quirks of the instrument. This is what your teacher is trying to teach you. I'm not 100% convinced that the issue has to do with her piano not being well maintained as much as it has to do with your current inability to make this adjustment.

Keep in mind that *no one* plays as well on an unfamiliar instrument as they do on the one they practice, even if they get to play on a Bosendorfer concert grand that is well-regulated and tuned. If you played it every day it would me much easier, and the same goes for your teacher's piano. Trust what she is telling you and in time it will get better.
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#1551038 - 11/04/10 07:11 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7314
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
By out of sync, I believe you mean out of regulation. That's when there's non-uniformity among the keys. Although it's true that you can adjust, you can never play your best, because your mind is engaged in compensating, which at the very least, is an unnecessary distraction.

I know that my technician does touch up adjustments from time to time, but I have no idea how many hours between regulation is necessary. And for certain, a well-made instrument should hold it's regulation far longer than an average piano.

All that said, I'm guessing that if she hasn't had it regulated in the last 25 years, it's long overdue. You might ask her when it was last regulated, and if it seems unduly long, you might respond with raised eyebrows and an "Oh, really?"

How do the other students feel about the instrument? Do you chat with them at recitals, get togethers, etc.? Perhaps, instead of a Christmas gift, all of her students could each chip in some cash towards a "regulation." Yeah, that's probably a bit tacky and over the top, but I'm just brain storming 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
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#1551050 - 11/04/10 07:24 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
frida11 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/28/08
Posts: 227
Loc: Pacific Northwest
Personally, I wouldn't venture to comment on a teacher's piano. If she gives regular lessons on it, it gets a lot of use. My teacher is a professional classical musician as well as a teacher. Her piano is Mason Hamlin, but it's usually well out of tune, and not easy to play. I know she has it maintained to the best of her financial ability by the best tech in our town.

My previous teacher was also a working classical musician, and she had a rented "Star" baby grand that actually had some keys that were really out of regulation and "plunky." She couldn't afford better. That's just how it is. While playing on a nice piano is wonderful, I think we all should learn to make due with what's available. Of course, you always have the choice of changing teachers.

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#1551067 - 11/04/10 07:40 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Interestingly--to me--a couple of teachers I knew had poorly maintained pianos and one player told me she didn't care if it was in tune or not--just so the keys played. Another bragged on not having her piano tuned since she had bought it--about 35 years ago. When I mentioned to one that her piano--a Steinway--needed tuning and some work, she said it was just fine for her.

I think that the instrument should be regulated at regular intervals to keep it in shape and hammers and felts replaced when worn. To develop the technical precision I believe a well functioning instrument is almost necessary. I have mine tuned at least three times a year and sometimes four. I have had hammers replaced and the keys re-bushed and the action regulated.

They seem to be a joy to play when in good shape and frustrating when not in shape. However, for those for whom tuning is unnecessary and regulation to be ignored, I can't see how the music created can be as satisfying as when those things are in proper order.

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#1551121 - 11/04/10 09:09 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: Varcon]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11448
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Varcon
Interestingly--to me--a couple of teachers I knew had poorly maintained pianos and one player told me she didn't care if it was in tune or not--just so the keys played. Another bragged on not having her piano tuned since she had bought it--about 35 years ago. When I mentioned to one that her piano--a Steinway--needed tuning and some work, she said it was just fine for her.

I think that the instrument should be regulated at regular intervals to keep it in shape and hammers and felts replaced when worn. To develop the technical precision I believe a well functioning instrument is almost necessary. I have mine tuned at least three times a year and sometimes four. I have had hammers replaced and the keys re-bushed and the action regulated.

They seem to be a joy to play when in good shape and frustrating when not in shape. However, for those for whom tuning is unnecessary and regulation to be ignored, I can't see how the music created can be as satisfying as when those things are in proper order.



I do the same....I have both my pianos tuned 3-4 times per year, and when the Yamaha gets too bright (as it tends to do) she fluffs up the hammers a bit. I always attend to issues as soon as I am able to, because it annoys me to hear an out of tune piano or hear a bad note. I feel awful if it distracts the student as well. Perhaps some people don't really listen? confused
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#1551123 - 11/04/10 09:10 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: frida11]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7314
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Quote:
Her piano is Mason Hamlin, but it's usually well out of tune, and not easy to play. I know she has it maintained to the best of her financial ability by the best tech in our town.

The cost of maintaining your teaching piano is part of your business expense as a piano teacher. If you cannot afford the maintenance, then perhaps it's time to raise your fees so that maintenance can be done!

Furthermore, it's really hard to pontificate to your students the importance of maintaining their instrument if you don't maintain your own.

Keystring, could you please tell us what would happen if you went to a violin lesson, and you tried to play on an out of tune violin or your teacher's instrument was out of tune, missing a string, etc.?
_________________________
"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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#1551196 - 11/04/10 11:01 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
frida11 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/28/08
Posts: 227
Loc: Pacific Northwest
Easier said than done when it comes to raising rates in a rural area. Just for the record, I have my own piano tuned and maintained 3-4 times a year, and yes it bugs me to have lessons on a less worthy piano, but choices for good teachers are limited. I actually drove almost an hour each way to get to my teacher with the old rented Star. She was simply the only real option at that time. And I hope she can one day afford a piano worthy of her!

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#1551201 - 11/04/10 11:10 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: frida11]
Dror Perl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/20/10
Posts: 272
Loc: NY
perhaps an anonymous note ?? smile

I guess its a lot better to have a great teacher with an awful piano than to have an awful teacher with a great piano...so consider yourself lucky !!

now seriously, If it is such a problem that you can't enjoy the lessons or you feel that its holding you back I would consider saying something to your teacher, its a reasonable concern to share with your teacher.
_________________________
Dror Perl. Pianist, Composer, Teacher.

http://www.sheerpiano.com/

Sheer Piano: The First Full Color Piano Music Books





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#1551205 - 11/04/10 11:15 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
CarolR Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/29/05
Posts: 350
Loc: wisconsin
It seems piano teachers often cannot afford a decent instrument. So be it. But I think they have a responsibility to keep it tuned and regulated! It's hard enough to be a student in a lesson and playing under pressure - on an instrument that is simply hard to play. Yes, as pianists we have to get used to all sorts of pianos, but I don't think that excuses an out of tune, difficult to control piano. I went to a lesson with a friend once whose teacher's house was absolutely filthy. Yes yes yes, she was poor and struggling, but couldn't she run a vacuum cleaner once in a while? Maybe pick up some laundry? Her piano was bad too.
_________________________
Working on:
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#1551208 - 11/04/10 11:20 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7314
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
The more I think about it, the more I want to .

What is it about pianists that we are willing to accept substandard, out of tune, out of regulation instruments? No other musicians would. Why should we? Why do we? What's the matter with us?
_________________________
"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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#1551210 - 11/04/10 11:23 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
The more I think about it, the more I want to .

What is it about pianists that we are willing to accept substandard, out of tune, out of regulation instruments? No other musicians would. Why should we? Why do we? What's the matter with us?
I think one of the main reasons is we don't have to tune our own instrument every day before we can even practice.
_________________________
(I'm a piano teacher.)

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#1551249 - 11/05/10 01:05 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
Originally Posted By: burma
Being a professional who teaches at conservatory and also performs, I think she plays on so many pianos...


There you have it. Stop making excuses. If she says it needs to be quieter in the left hand, then it needs to be quieter in the left hand. The only thing at stake when it is more difficult for you to execute it on her piano than on yours is your pride. It is good for your playing to experience different pianos.

In the real world we get all sorts of pianos. You can't carry it with you.

John mentioned raising rates (as he often does). Would you pay more for lessons on a piano that was regulated to your satisfaction?

edit:
My greatest teacher, who was nurturing and motivated by love, taught me on a crappy Samick. His response to my complaint about the action wasn't as sympathetic as this post.


Edited by wavelength (11/05/10 01:23 AM)

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#1551280 - 11/05/10 02:58 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: wavelength]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5423
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: wavelength
taught me on a crappy Samick







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Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1551316 - 11/05/10 06:38 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
I think there are some standards that need to be maintained as closely as possible in the instrument for practice and for teaching. Tuned is pretty much a necessity and the ear is being trained to perceive pitch discrimination and quality of tone. While my mother didn't play she had the piano tuned for me on a regular basis and once had the tuner file the hammers/voice/regulate the action on my studio piano. My teacher had the studio pianos tuned and working properly. When preparing for recitals/competitions we sometimes went to her house where she had her grand with an extremely heavy action to realize that not all pianos played the same and to strengthen our equipment or to the college to play on the piano there and adjust to the openness of the auditorium and adjust our playing accordingly.

She arranged for us to have some time on the pianos for the state competition so we would not be playing on a totally strange instrument but would have some acquaintance with what to expect.

That a tuned piano (and that usually depends on someone else--the tuner/tech) properly regulated should be expected at lessons is a given. That some don't maintain that standard simply shows poor musicianship for the most part. Granted that some teachers have financial problems, then, when possible it should be done as circumstances permit. So many people don't realize what is needed to maintain a piano in good condition.

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#1551322 - 11/05/10 07:03 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
i would not blame anything on her piano and i think it may be innappropriate as a beginner to suggest that your playing was bad because of the action.

(i would really get a kick out of that if someone said that too me).

M's are pretty good pianos, even when they are old and worn. I think most good teachers would worry more about how the student could improve. I play on all sorts of pianos and they are all different. With practice you learn to adjust.

I think most teachers can envision the 'good' in a student's playing, and overlook nonperfection.
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#1551332 - 11/05/10 07:29 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
The school I attended for a while in Chicago kept track of practising by having the student go by each hour and sign up for a practice room. It would not be the same one each hour but a different one even if the same one was requested. So, with the differences in instruments the student adapted to the various qualities as he practised. Playing on a lot of different instruments is good, especially if performing for various things where the instrument might be an unknown. However, I would disagree with Apple on overlooking nonperfection!. I would overlook it if the instrument caused it but not if it is something that can be controlled by the student.

I think the teacher has the responsibility to maintain high standards so the student excells rather than settling for mediocre playing.

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#1551336 - 11/05/10 07:49 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
UrLicht Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/29/10
Posts: 51
Loc: Farmington, UT
I agree with others here - I think you'd probably be a little out of line raising this complaint and you run the risk of putting your teacher on the defensive.

However, with that said... Come ON, teacher! Take care of your piano! Sure, it costs more than maintaining other instruments, but that maintenance is so much more infrequent I think it pretty much evens out. Your uneven action is like the check engine light in your car. When that light comes on, you're at the mechanic the next day, right?
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#1551368 - 11/05/10 09:26 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: wavelength]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7314
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
As Wavelength correctly notes, I often mention raising rates. This is not so you can line your pocket with gold coins and head off for the Riviera, but so you can run your business professionally, while still paying yourself a respectable salary and not make life miserable for your fellow teachers in the community.

All businesses have overhead, and overhead must be paid before the owner can take profits, otherwise, the business slowly fails, equipment deteriorates, etc. A piano teacher has three major elements of fixed overhead, two of which most never even take into account: rent, utilities, and maintenance. I don't want to get off topic too far here, so just let me suggest that a true professional would set aside each month a certain percentage of revenue for piano maintenance, upkeep and replacement. They might well have another set-aside for acquisition of new capital equipment.

While every instrument has a different touch and feel, and we have to get used to that, this is in no way the same, in any manner, as playing on out of tune, unregulated instruments.

Stepping down now from soap box.
_________________________
"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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#1551390 - 11/05/10 10:03 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11448
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I am not quite convinced that it is an issue of regulation (the OP didn't mention it being out of tune, I don't think), but just the feel of a different instrument.

I get so many comments about how my piano feels different from theirs, mostly from my adult students strangely enough (the kids don't seem to mind that my piano feels different from theirs, they accept that as fact). They use this as an excuse to why something doesn't sound just like it did at home, and well, it's not going to...ever.

I can tell when someone is struggling to get used to playing on an unfamiliar instrument and when someone is playing something that needs more work. Often when we are playing under pressure -- whether at a lesson or a performance -- we make mistakes that we don't in the comfort of our homes with our own instruments when no one is listening. These issues that come up, then, show us that perhaps you really didn't know that passage as well as you thought. Sure, some mistakes are just silly mistakes and should be ignored, but most have something to teach us.

Please don't get offended by your teacher trying to help you correct these mistakes that don't seem to happen at home, or blame it on her instrument. You are missing out on a huge opportunity to become a better musician.
_________________________
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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#1551399 - 11/05/10 10:13 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
alexb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/19/10
Posts: 265
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
By out of sync, I believe you mean out of regulation. That's when there's non-uniformity among the keys. Although it's true that you can adjust, you can never play your best, because your mind is engaged in compensating, which at the very least, is an unnecessary distraction.


This hit it right on the head. I have to say I'm surprised at some of the posts with people getting on the defensive. I am paying top $$$ for these private lessons. She has them one day a week only. All I'm saying is that I'm surprised and a bit annoyed that the piano cannot be kept in shape. The action is clearly "funky" for lack of a better word. As I said, it's not simply different, as I've also played on different pianos. It's just not taken care of. The piano sits in the worst place, windows open, heater near it, etc. How can this be ignored? Boggles the mind..

Anyhow, the teacher is great and we get on real well. I'm not ignoring anything, but just pointed this out because it seems strange to be quite honest. I can see now that it's something that I better not bring up (as I originally thought)...

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#1551402 - 11/05/10 10:18 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: Dror Perl]
alexb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/19/10
Posts: 265
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Dror Perl

I guess its a lot better to have a great teacher with an awful piano than to have an awful teacher with a great piano...so consider yourself lucky !!


I agree, and I'm happy as she's very good and stresses the right things. She teaches piano performance and piano pedagogy at the conservatory so she's super-excellent.

This is not a huge deal, but just something I found odd, didn't think it appropriate to bring up as I'm a newbie, but felt somehow bad for the piano itself and the condition of it. Furthermore, it DOES affect the playing.

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#1551405 - 11/05/10 10:23 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: wavelength]
alexb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/19/10
Posts: 265
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: wavelength
Originally Posted By: burma
Being a professional who teaches at conservatory and also performs, I think she plays on so many pianos...


There you have it. Stop making excuses. If she says it needs to be quieter in the left hand, then it needs to be quieter in the left hand. The only thing at stake when it is more difficult for you to execute it on her piano than on yours is your pride. It is good for your playing to experience different pianos.

In the real world we get all sorts of pianos. You can't carry it with you.

John mentioned raising rates (as he often does). Would you pay more for lessons on a piano that was regulated to your satisfaction?

edit:
My greatest teacher, who was nurturing and motivated by love, taught me on a crappy Samick. His response to my complaint about the action wasn't as sympathetic as this post.


This is a joke of a post - sorry to say. I'm not making excuses for anything if you bother to read. Getting defensive for some reason? No pride here, but lots of ego over there it seems. Yes I know, Lang Lang also practiced on a piano with 10 strings broken....

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#1551406 - 11/05/10 10:26 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: Morodiene]
alexb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/19/10
Posts: 265
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I am not quite convinced that it is an issue of regulation (the OP didn't mention it being out of tune, I don't think), but just the feel of a different instrument.

I get so many comments about how my piano feels different from theirs, mostly from my adult students strangely enough (the kids don't seem to mind that my piano feels different from theirs, they accept that as fact). They use this as an excuse to why something doesn't sound just like it did at home, and well, it's not going to...ever.

I can tell when someone is struggling to get used to playing on an unfamiliar instrument and when someone is playing something that needs more work. Often when we are playing under pressure -- whether at a lesson or a performance -- we make mistakes that we don't in the comfort of our homes with our own instruments when no one is listening. These issues that come up, then, show us that perhaps you really didn't know that passage as well as you thought. Sure, some mistakes are just silly mistakes and should be ignored, but most have something to teach us.

Please don't get offended by your teacher trying to help you correct these mistakes that don't seem to happen at home, or blame it on her instrument. You are missing out on a huge opportunity to become a better musician.


No, the action needs work. If I'm playing a fifth lets say, and the keys are not even, something is not right. And it's not helping me. Yeah, I understand nothing can be perfect, it's good to play pianos, and I can even understand her situation perhaps. I'm just surprised a bit at the carelessness. The most important part is focusing on the music and what comes out of the piano. Still, it COULD be a bit less frustrating.

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#1551408 - 11/05/10 10:30 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
Jeff Clef Offline
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Loc: San Jose, CA
I gave my piano teacher a gift cert from my piano tech for his birthday (I did get a favorable rate, but still).

It was easier since there was no complaint about his piano.

It seems to me you should be saying these things to your teacher. It's a good sign that you're thinking about how you're going to put it, rather than just launching in. I assume you've already figured out that blaming the piano or accusing the teacher of being a wretched slob is not the path of persuasion. But talking about your difficulty in adjusting from one instrument to the other could be productive.
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#1551412 - 11/05/10 10:34 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
alexb Offline
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Posts: 265
Loc: USA
I guess at the end of the day, some here are making it sound like I'm some annoying student. The truth is I'm nothing of the sort, and we get on real well. There is a REASON I have not brought this up. I posted here to see reactions from teachers. And based on that, I feel like I should not bring it up. My instincts were correct.

But thinking about it, it's an interesting thing. A teacher should take care of the instrument they teach on. Like others have pointed out, you are in a business (and I hate to use that word, but that's what it is), you are charging a lot of money, why is it so hard to keep your instrument in good condition? I don't get it. Where is the professional pride? What other business runs like this? I think it's deemed acceptable because they can "get away" with it. A student shouldn't dare question things. Keep your head down and just play. That's the impression I get from many of the replies here. And that's not a good thing.

In the end, like I said, it's not a huge deal. Of course I will adapt, but it's not ideal IMHO. Again, the important thing is that she's a real great teacher. And that we are on the same page. Just venting a bit...Of course I'm sensitive to how she'd react.

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#1551416 - 11/05/10 10:39 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: Jeff Clef]
alexb Offline
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Registered: 01/19/10
Posts: 265
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef

It seems to me you should be saying these things to your teacher. It's a good sign that you're thinking about how you're going to put it, rather than just launching in. I assume you've already figured out that blaming the piano or accusing the teacher of being a wretched slob is not the path of persuasion. But talking about your difficulty in adjusting from one instrument to the other could be productive.


Yes, it's just a fine line. I'm a sensitive person, and don't want to offend or whatever. I say this and that once in a while as I said, but it's difficult for me to say - look these keys are not working, something is wrong. Because she'll just play around it. Maybe even with all the money she charges, she really is not well off and doing it for the love of it. I don't know. All I know is that it does affect me. Not a huge lot, but a bit. It will improve. I also know that her method of teaching is superb, and that's the important thing. I don't want to risk offending someone. It's a fine line as I said. BECAUSE we get on so well, it makes it harder..

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#1551458 - 11/05/10 11:57 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted By: burma
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
By out of sync, I believe you mean out of regulation. That's when there's non-uniformity among the keys. Although it's true that you can adjust, you can never play your best, because your mind is engaged in compensating, which at the very least, is an unnecessary distraction.


This hit it right on the head. I have to say I'm surprised at some of the posts with people getting on the defensive. I am paying top $$$ for these private lessons. She has them one day a week only. All I'm saying is that I'm surprised and a bit annoyed that the piano cannot be kept in shape. The action is clearly "funky" for lack of a better word. As I said, it's not simply different, as I've also played on different pianos. It's just not taken care of. The piano sits in the worst place, windows open, heater near it, etc. How can this be ignored? Boggles the mind..

Anyhow, the teacher is great and we get on real well. I'm not ignoring anything, but just pointed this out because it seems strange to be quite honest. I can see now that it's something that I better not bring up (as I originally thought)...


Who is getting defensive? There are details in this post that were not previously given (i.e., the location, that you've played on different pianos and not had this trouble). We can only comment on the information as it is given. This is a *common* problem for adult students as I previously pointed out, and so you have to understand the skepticism.

Also, myself and many teachers here have commented on the absolute need for teachers to do the best they can to keep their pianos in good condition.


Edited by Morodiene (11/05/10 11:58 AM)
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#1551564 - 11/05/10 02:39 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
Originally Posted By: burma

This is a joke of a post - sorry to say. I'm not making excuses for anything if you bother to read. Getting defensive for some reason? No pride here, but lots of ego over there it seems. Yes I know, Lang Lang also practiced on a piano with 10 strings broken....


I'm open to the idea that I might be offensive. Defensive, not so much. If you think my post is motivated by a defensive ego, then you are misinterpreting it and rejecting information for the wrong reason.

My apologies for the use of the word "excuses". When you said that you "screw up because the action is in bad shape," it sounded very much like an excuse.

The fact remains that teachers hear that kind of complaint all the time. I hear it about my well-regulated modern Boston. I have made the same complaint to my teachers, some of whom were kind and patient about it, others less so. The message I got from those teachers was "practice more, and it will work out,"... and they were right.

When you say she charges "top dollar", I think $90 or $125. If that's her rate it would be strange for her to have a poorly maintained piano indeed.

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#1551592 - 11/05/10 03:45 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
alexb Offline
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Registered: 01/19/10
Posts: 265
Loc: USA
Fair enough, and I do understand. I understand also the skepticism from teachers, but I haven't said much to her as I've already described. I just found it strange and wasn't sure how/if I should approach it.

I do wish people these days (in most things) would give people the benefit of the doubt, but unfortunately the burden too often is for one to prove this and that. I think this has to do with the general pessimism going around these days, but I digress.

Yes, that is the rate, and I'm fine with it because as I said, she's very good. I'm sure she can easily play on a beat up spinet, so perhaps she's so used to it, nobody complains (for similar reasons to mine perhaps), so it just is what it is! Not a big point of focus for her. And of course in time everyone gets used to it, and it's not a bad idea. But curious still as you point out why some neglect their instruments. Artists!

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#1551604 - 11/05/10 04:32 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11586
Loc: Canada
Quote:
Keystring, could you please tell us what would happen if you went to a violin lesson, and you tried to play on an out of tune violin or your teacher's instrument was out of tune, missing a string, etc.?

John, I only saw this question today (on p. 1). Our instruments were always tuned by our teacher at the start of every lesson, because with temperature changes they go out of tune en route. Proper care was stressed: loosening the bow, wiping rosin off the body and strings. He would admonish us if it was not done. His own instrument showed signs of that care so he was a role model. Of course this does not cost money. However, the piano was probably tuned twice a year. Sometimes a few notes slipped a tad, and it was only an upright, but the action felt even - nothing weird. (I had a few piano lessons and so had a chance to play it.)

As a student, I think a very perfect piano (exclusively) can almost be a handicap, because we do encounter all kinds of instruments.We are not there to give a perfect performance but to learn handle the instrument. However, if you have worked all week and the studio piano is truly poor (missing notes that you must circumvent? yegads!) that has to be disappointing and ummotivating. Can you really work with a teacher if you are playing two notes with one hand, and one of the keys sticks while the other doesn't?

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#1553733 - 11/08/10 03:55 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3464
Interesting topic. I sometimes have similar issues.

I can't think of advantages of an irregular action for a pianist, neither a pro nor an amateur.

The amateur is just stuggling with it; and the pro will just learn bad habits from it (as he will learn how to compensate for a bad piano and those compensations will disturb his playing on the next piano).

Regulation just is part of obligatory maintenance, just like you need to replace strings on a violin or get new reeds for your clarinet.

So I think it is plain clear: if a piano is not ok your playing will suffer. Playing softer then will cause some notes to drop out. If your teacher's piano is that bad, I guess your teacher will accept that too if she asks you to play softer.
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#1553854 - 11/08/10 06:47 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
Jeff Clef Offline
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Registered: 10/05/08
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Loc: San Jose, CA
Thinking it over... I've had a number of teachers over the years. Several of them have been very good; none has been perfect. I know one thing for sure: you can fix a piano a lot easier than you can fix a teacher.

The one who made the greatest fetish out of her perfect piano was the least satisfactory of the lot.

Count your blessings. Make the most of your time together and try to overlook the shortcomings; they all have something.

It's true of students as well, I would imagine.
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Clef


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#1554064 - 11/09/10 01:10 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: wouter79]
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
Originally Posted By: wouter79


The amateur is just stuggling with it; and the pro will just learn bad habits from it (as he will learn how to compensate for a bad piano and those compensations will disturb his playing on the next piano).

Regulation just is part of obligatory maintenance, just like you need to replace strings on a violin or get new reeds for your clarinet.

So I think it is plain clear: if a piano is not ok your playing will suffer. Playing softer then will cause some notes to drop out. If your teacher's piano is that bad, I guess your teacher will accept that too if she asks you to play softer.


In a perfect world where there is a perfect piano in every house, this would be the final word. But it's not like that unless you are rich, or have some kind of Steinway endorsement. And I'd bet that even Steinway artists find something to complain about in the action of pianos that they are provided.

It has been said several times in this thread that playing an imperfect piano is bad for your playing. I say that the opposite is true, that playing a bad piano sometimes prepares you to play on all the imperfect instruments that you will encounter, including your own. I say that if you can only play on a perfect piano, then your skills are deficient. Because you can't expect to encounter perfect pianos-- that is reality. To complain about the poor pianos instead of increasing our level of playing is like complaining about the weather instead of wearing a sweater.

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#1554102 - 11/09/10 02:35 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: wavelength]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5423
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: wavelength
It has been said several times in this thread that playing an imperfect piano is bad for your playing. I say that the opposite is true, that playing a bad piano sometimes prepares you to play on all the imperfect instruments that you will encounter, including your own.


I don't follow your logic. If you are any decent at piano, then why would you even want to touch a bad piano?
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#1554183 - 11/09/10 08:11 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Subtle but important differences. We're not discussing the imperfect, but the poorly maintained. All pianos are imperfect, some less so than others. The perfect piano has yet to be manufactured. Not only that, a "perfectly" in tune piano is purposely tuned out-of-tune. My technician tells me that a piano is a bundle of compromises.

The real issue for teachers is whether they recognize what constitutes a well-maintained instrument in the first place, and secondly, are they operating their teaching business in such a way as to fund necessary and periodic maintenance on their pianos so they are playing to the standard built-in by the manufacturer.

IMHO, to ask/demand students play on poorly maintained instruments is unconscionable. The teacher sets the standard for the student, and the standard such a teacher is setting is mediocrity.
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#1554410 - 11/09/10 04:45 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: AZNpiano]
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: wavelength
It has been said several times in this thread that playing an imperfect piano is bad for your playing. I say that the opposite is true, that playing a bad piano sometimes prepares you to play on all the imperfect instruments that you will encounter, including your own.


I don't follow your logic. If you are any decent at piano, then why would you even want to touch a bad piano?


It's not that you would seek out bad pianos. It's that most of the pianos you will encounter, outside of your home, are not well-maintained. You can either say "I can't play that piano because the action is uneven," thereby limiting your musical experience to your living room or to an occasional recital-- or you can adapt and enjoy the pianos that you encounter in the wild, which are few enough as it is.

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#1554416 - 11/09/10 04:48 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: AZNpiano]
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
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Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: wavelength
It has been said several times in this thread that playing an imperfect piano is bad for your playing. I say that the opposite is true, that playing a bad piano sometimes prepares you to play on all the imperfect instruments that you will encounter, including your own.
I don't follow your logic. If you are any decent at piano, then why would you even want to touch a bad piano?
Plenty of reasons.
[1] I play to earn my living and for many of the everyday things I do I have no say in the choice of piano. Refuse to accompany a singer for an exam because the piano is bad? Not me. But I'll probably put in a written complaint afterwards, and suggest they have their piano attended to.

[2] If it's the only choice you have. If my circumstances were such that the only piano I had access to was bad, would I stop playing the piano? No way!!

(But I agree with John's points about our responsibility to students)



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Du holde Kunst...

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#1554673 - 11/10/10 01:15 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: currawong]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
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Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: wavelength
It has been said several times in this thread that playing an imperfect piano is bad for your playing. I say that the opposite is true, that playing a bad piano sometimes prepares you to play on all the imperfect instruments that you will encounter, including your own.
I don't follow your logic. If you are any decent at piano, then why would you even want to touch a bad piano?
Plenty of reasons.
[1] I play to earn my living and for many of the everyday things I do I have no say in the choice of piano. Refuse to accompany a singer for an exam because the piano is bad? Not me. But I'll probably put in a written complaint afterwards, and suggest they have their piano attended to.

[2] If it's the only choice you have. If my circumstances were such that the only piano I had access to was bad, would I stop playing the piano? No way!!


Right. But your examples don't follow the discourse being quoted and discussed. Context.
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#1554721 - 11/10/10 03:49 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: AZNpiano]
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5903
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Right. But your examples don't follow the discourse being quoted and discussed. Context.
Then what did Wavelength mean by "... playing a bad piano sometimes prepares you to play on all the imperfect instruments that you will encounter, including your own"? He was talking about substandard instruments you encounter, and sometimes you have no choice about encountering them. If you want to play the piano, that is. I know it's not quite the situation of the OP, but neither (apparently) is the piano belonging to the OP's teacher a "bad" one, just (probably) poorly maintained.

Your question was why would you want to even touch a bad piano? - my answer was that there are many situations where it's the lesser of two evils, the greater being not playing. It seems the OP's situation is just this, as he actually likes his teacher and values her instruction.

On the necessity of we teachers maintaining our pianos well, there's no disagreement from me.

I just feel that if your attitude as a pianist is that you will only play the best and scorn anything else, you will miss a lot of musical opportunities. I kind of pride myself on being able to make the best of a substandard piano. I'm not saying I seek them out. smile
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Du holde Kunst...

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#1554736 - 11/10/10 04:49 AM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: currawong]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
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Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: currawong
I kind of pride myself on being able to make the best of a substandard piano.


I think that's a better way of putting it.
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#1555059 - 11/10/10 04:47 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
itsfreakingmeout Offline
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Registered: 03/09/10
Posts: 706
Loc: Manassas, Virginia
Get on her ass and tell her to fix it. That's totally unacceptable...If my teacher was holding lessons on a piano that was out of whack I would cut her faster than an umbillical cord. Who does that?
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#1555061 - 11/10/10 04:48 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: Dror Perl]
itsfreakingmeout Offline
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Registered: 03/09/10
Posts: 706
Loc: Manassas, Virginia
Originally Posted By: Dror Perl
perhaps an anonymous note ?? smile

I guess its a lot better to have a great teacher with an awful piano than to have an awful teacher with a great piano...so consider yourself lucky !!

now seriously, If it is such a problem that you can't enjoy the lessons or you feel that its holding you back I would consider saying something to your teacher, its a reasonable concern to share with your teacher.





that didnt work on jersey shore!
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Yeah I've got a Cristofori and love it. What.

if you're thinking about going into that house, don't.

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#1555067 - 11/10/10 04:54 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: itsfreakingmeout]
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5903
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: itsfreakingmeout
Get on her ass and tell her to fix it. That's totally unacceptable...If my teacher was holding lessons on a piano that was out of whack I would cut her faster than an umbillical cord. Who does that?
Colourful language. But the original post was about how to approach the issue with the teacher. It might be your style to march up to the teacher and demand it be fixed otherwise you'll "cut her" etc etc, but I don't think it's the OP's style.
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#1555075 - 11/10/10 05:06 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: currawong]
itsfreakingmeout Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/09/10
Posts: 706
Loc: Manassas, Virginia
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: itsfreakingmeout
Get on her ass and tell her to fix it. That's totally unacceptable...If my teacher was holding lessons on a piano that was out of whack I would cut her faster than an umbillical cord. Who does that?
Colourful language. But the original post was about how to approach the issue with the teacher. It might be your style to march up to the teacher and demand it be fixed otherwise you'll "cut her" etc etc, but I don't think it's the OP's style.


I have enough self control not to 'march up to the teacher and demand it be fixed' as you so claim, but i would certainly have a word with her about her neglected piano. Lets teach everyone to drive on a car with a bad alignment, a cracked axle and bad brakes....see how good they do.
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Yeah I've got a Cristofori and love it. What.

if you're thinking about going into that house, don't.

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#1555628 - 11/11/10 01:09 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: itsfreakingmeout]
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
Originally Posted By: itsfreakingmeout
Lets teach everyone to drive on a car with a bad alignment, a cracked axle and bad brakes....see how good they do.


Just fine, thanks. Now that I have a good car it's like a dream.

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#1555792 - 11/11/10 05:51 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
Jonathan Baker Offline
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Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 281
Loc: New York City!
This reminds me of Beethoven's Broadwood piano: according to Reis, clumsy Beethoven had the habit of repeatedly knocking an inkwell into it. Johann Stumpff, visiting Beethoven, said of his piano, "The upper registers were mute, and the broken strings in a tangle, like a thorn bush whipped buy a storm."

Of course, Beethoven was deaf by that time, nevertheless, he was an active teacher, particularly of Czerny, who in turn was a teacher of Liszt and Leschetitzky.

But the teacher in question, above, is not Beethoven, so the logical conclusion is that: 1) the teacher is indifferent to the condition of the piano, or, 2) the teacher is living on the razor's edge of financial survival, is also mortified by the condition of her piano, but has only enough cash for immediate bills.

I would spring the question to the teacher, without animus, "I really enjoy studying with you, but this action is far too uneven - what has your piano technician said about regulating the action?" It is a fair question, and deserves a frank response in turn. If the piano is that bad, but the teacher that good, I would also ask her about conducting lessons on your own piano, and be willing to pay extra for the travel & time incurred by your teacher.
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#1555826 - 11/11/10 06:59 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7314
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Jonathan, I like your approach. If no one says anything about the problem, it will not get resolved. But you don't have to be antagonistic to broach the subject of a badly maintained teaching instrument.
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#1555843 - 11/11/10 07:45 PM Re: teacher who doesn't take care of her piano - what to do? [Re: alexb]
Jeff Clef Offline
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Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
Beethoven was indifferent to more than that wind-whipped thorn bush. One memorable letter, written by a visiting aristocratic friend to another, mentioned, not only the extreme disorder of Beethoven's quarters, but also the stench of an unemptied chamberpot shoved under the piano.

Would you still take lessons?
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