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#1589200 - 01/02/11 08:03 PM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: keystring]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3665
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: keystring
Ando, you have written some important things. It can be summarized as caveat studens. The bottom line is why a teacher does something. Your examples tend to be at a more advanced level: interpretation of music, ornamentation, lofty ideas. Supposing that a student is at the beginning stages, and is dependent on imitating. If a teacher plays so he can hear "what it sounds like" and/or encourages recordings, this is as crippling as not playing when a demonstration would be in order. What a teacher chooses to do should be based on a teaching reason, and not because of inability or some blind ideal.


I focussed more on the advanced level cases because that is where this non-playing tendency is at its worst. Obviously teachers get more scared to perform the harder the music is! At lower levels, I think it's even more imperative that a teacher demonstrate. And yes, every lesson is a new case, and some lessons I don't really play much either. My remarks are about teachers who can't find a reason to play for a student over the course of a month or a semester. In that case, something that is a very useful part of a teacher's arsenal is being ignored. This is a music lesson afterall, I would imagine that some playing from a teacher is perfectly in order at times - playing should certainly not be claimed as disruptive or unnecessary for the student within a pedagogical approach.

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#1589212 - 01/02/11 08:16 PM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: AZNpiano]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3665
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: ando
Here's an example: Ornaments. Ornaments can be performed many ways and have been through changes according to the era of music. With a teacher who doesn't play, an accurate description of ornaments is virtually impossible.

Why don't you just write out a realization of the ornament? Many editions of Bach do that, and people can read ornaments just fine.


Haha, anything to avoid playing them, hey? wink

These editions attempt to do that. Not all ornaments can be distilled down to simply readable metric rhythms. Some ornaments will accelerate towards their resolution - in a way that notation can't accurately depict. Even if you did write out a realization, that is where a teacher would need to demonstrate.

Anyway, what is wrong with a teacher that won't even demonstrate an ornament? By asking, "why don't you just write out a realization of the ornament?", are you defending the practice of withholding one's playing? Why would you be in favour of this from a teacher?

All of this talk seems primarily an issue with the teacher. Some teachers may lack confidence, preparation, ability. This is the main reason teachers might tend not to play. Some will choose not to play is certain situations, which can be wise and justifiable. Teachers who never play and never demonstrate anything are a worry. It can't be a coincidence that the non-playing teacher phenomenon gets worse when the students get more advanced. Such teachers have issues, unless they have explained their conduct or approach in an upfront way. It is always a worry when the teacher's issues interrupt the normal dispensing of a lesson. Also, if there is a valid reason for not playing hiding in there somewhere, the student should understand what it is. It is not valid to withhold playing without explaining why.

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#1589235 - 01/02/11 09:13 PM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: MrHazelton]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I think there was a real trend away from playing for students because students weren't learning to read. Playing by ear became a bad thing. The proverbial baby got thrown out with the bathwater.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1589247 - 01/02/11 09:31 PM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: ando]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7407
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: ando
Teachers who never play and never demonstrate anything are a worry.

Ando, in general, I concur with your sentiments, but as always, there are exceptions. The last time this subject came up for discursion, Leon Fleischer's name came up as an example of a hugely in demand teacher who for decades couldn't play, due to focal dystonia. Even so, there was a long waiting list to be a student of his. For what I hope are reasons not needing explanations.
_________________________
"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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#1589248 - 01/02/11 09:36 PM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: John v.d.Brook]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3665
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: ando
Teachers who never play and never demonstrate anything are a worry.

Ando, in general, I concur with your sentiments, but as always, there are exceptions. The last time this subject came up for discursion, Leon Fleischer's name came up as an example of a hugely in demand teacher who for decades couldn't play, due to focal dystonia. Even so, there was a long waiting list to be a student of his. For what I hope are reasons not needing explanations.


I did allow for this sort of situation in all my posts on the subject. Leon Fleisher has a demonstrated pedigree with the piano so his words carry serious weight, and he has an upfront reason for not being able to play for students: he can't. This isn't so much an exception as an example of what i was saying - there needs to be a solid reason for not playing. In this case there is.

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#1589317 - 01/02/11 11:52 PM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: MrHazelton]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10405
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Part of the issue here is that "playing for a student" means many things. Ando used the word demonstrate earlier in the discussion, and I think that is a better term. Physical demonstration seemingly is a good weapon in the arsenal of a good teacher. Refusing to show a student how to execute something, and doing so as a matter of principle, seems more than odd to me.

Yes, there can be exceptions, and the Fleischer example is a good one. But individual examples like this do not make for a strong general argument.
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Grotrian 192 #156455

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#1589425 - 01/03/11 05:20 AM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: ando]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5550
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: ando
Anyway, what is wrong with a teacher that won't even demonstrate an ornament? By asking, "why don't you just write out a realization of the ornament?", are you defending the practice of withholding one's playing? Why would you be in favour of this from a teacher?


I am saying that ornamentation is a poor example of what you are trying to argue for. If an ornament can be perfectly described via notation, then there's no real need for a live demonstration of that ornament. That's why there are tables of ornaments found in many Baroque anthologies. If you can teach students to read these tables, then your problems are solved.

In fact, having taught ornaments by demonstration vs. notation, I've found that teaching ornamentation by notation is vastly superior. And I'm not talking about just trills and mordents.
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#1589427 - 01/03/11 05:25 AM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: Minniemay]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5550
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
I think there was a real trend away from playing for students because students weren't learning to read. Playing by ear became a bad thing. The proverbial baby got thrown out with the bathwater.

That sums up my thoughts exactly. I was one of those teachers who demonstrated everything, and then I found out that kids are just copying me, and they are not able to transfer their skills to new pieces (or even similar passages within the same piece!). Imitation does not equal comprehension.

But the problem is that SO MANY piano teachers out there rely solely on the "copy me" method, that kids end up being poor readers.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1589439 - 01/03/11 06:50 AM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: AZNpiano]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3665
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: ando
Anyway, what is wrong with a teacher that won't even demonstrate an ornament? By asking, "why don't you just write out a realization of the ornament?", are you defending the practice of withholding one's playing? Why would you be in favour of this from a teacher?


I am saying that ornamentation is a poor example of what you are trying to argue for. If an ornament can be perfectly described via notation, then there's no real need for a live demonstration of that ornament. That's why there are tables of ornaments found in many Baroque anthologies. If you can teach students to read these tables, then your problems are solved.

In fact, having taught ornaments by demonstration vs. notation, I've found that teaching ornamentation by notation is vastly superior. And I'm not talking about just trills and mordents.


You either don't read carefully enough or your use of ornaments is very restrictive. I said that some ornaments can be played in a way that isn't necessarily metric - that means that notating them will only be a metric approximation. Yes, you can use notation to give a basic understanding of what the ornament contains, or could contain, but you can't indicate an ornament which starts slower then accelerates toward the end, for example. It's an interpretation that a student most likely wouldn't grasp without hearing it. This type of ornament playing needs to be demonstrated. If you don't agree with this, I can only assume that you play your ornaments very metrically and that you instruct your students to do the same. Personally, I teach inexperienced students this way, but more advanced students can cope with more interpretation and more elasticity in their ornaments. Try notating that...

In any case, there are numerous examples of situations where notation and verbal description doesn't cover the finer nuances. I'll leave you to see if you can imagine what these situations might be.

Do you play for your students? Do you try to minimise the amount of demonstrating you do? If you don't and you do believe in demonstrating things, I'm not sure why you are so interested in arguing this pedantic point. My statements are not about ornaments per se, they are about the value of being able to demonstrate fine musical details that get lost or obscured by other forms of communication. Ornaments were just an example and I don't really care if you think it's a poor one. The message is the same: Teachers should demonstrate where possible IMO when things are unclear - not to excess, because the student should do most of the playing and the teacher isn't there to give a concert, but enough to exemplify and precisely show what you are looking for from your student.

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#1589452 - 01/03/11 07:43 AM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: ando]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5550
Loc: Orange County, CA
We'll just have to agree to disagree on ornaments.

Originally Posted By: ando
Do you play for your students? Do you try to minimise the amount of demonstrating you do?


I've learned to play less for my students. I want them to read their own notes and think for themselves. Two of my former teachers were the demonstrative types, and they were ineffective teachers mostly because they have a tunnel vision about how a piece MUST sound and if I don't play it their way I'm wrong.

My professor almost never demonstrated for any of her students. She taught us how to think. She also has incredible verbal abilities and is able to convey her thoughts precisely.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1589487 - 01/03/11 09:07 AM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: MrHazelton]
ll Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/08
Posts: 1101
Wouldn't the level of the piece matter as well? I've only been teaching for a short time, and really I've only been a 'pianist' for shorter than most around, so most (er, all, actually) of my students are beginning and lower intermediate players.

While I'll sometimes play something for them to help them understand musical terms or ideas (for example, when discussing natural accent, in syncopation or other phrasing), I don't play for them because at their level and reading capabilities, they're able to practically sight-read the very gradual material. And once they hit something they can't read perfectly their first time, it turns into a big "can you play it for me so I know how it sounds?" discussion, but that can defeat the purpose of the student approaching the music themselves.

Sure, it's only Row, Row, Row Your Boat, but the same idea applies all the way up. Not only that, but I wouldn't expect a teacher to be practicing all their student's pieces and be comfortable with playing them - particularly in the advanced levels. There was a post about this sometime back, too.

It's not to say that demonstrations are bad in all cases, just that they aren't always necessary.

Other than the explanation of concepts (most often when doing theory), I'll only play the pieces out of the book so they can choose the ones they like, or if we're working on their 'hard piece,' or if we're fine tuning certain things. It's only been a while over a year, but it's worked fine so far.

PS: AZN, you're sure up early!
_________________________
II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.

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#1589493 - 01/03/11 09:28 AM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: MrHazelton]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10405
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
I think I see what the hidden issue is that is floating around.

1. Do you play passages for a student so that the student can understand the notes in that particular passage?

This would seem to be what many teachers are trying to avoid, or to get away from, so that students learn to do a better job of reading.

OK, fine. I don't think this is particularly controversial except to people who are actually trying to force ear training. In addition, if I'm reading him correctly, this isn't what Ando is arguing about.

2. If you are trying to demonstrate differences between certain aural patterns, perhaps the resolution of dissonance in a classical sonata, would you never simply sit at the piano and demonstrate acceptable vs. wrong?

I would find an extremist approach here a bit weird. What's wrong with a demonstration if the student isn't getting it with verbal instruction? Hearing IS actually a sense that we use in learning, and sometimes it's a useful adjunct in teaching.

3. If you are trying to describe a particular method of attack, or a hand position .... something physical about the act of playing, would you rely solely on verbal instruction? If you are trying to develop a particular technique, or a certain way to relax properly, would you sit there like a stone and use complex language as your only tool of instruction?

I would find this absurd. This seems precisely like what you want an experienced performer/pianist to be able to communicate to a student. Physical demonstration seems like an ideal way to express a complex point time efficiently.

Playing the piano is a physical act, not just an intellectual one.
.
.
.

To some extent, the ships seem like they are sailing past one another in this conversation.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#1589580 - 01/03/11 11:43 AM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: MrHazelton]
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
To the OP: you know best what your learning style is. So you can choose to find a teacher who matches your style. (Or a teacher who doesn't if you value his/her other qualities .)

I think PianoDad's last post summed it up very well. It is very effective teaching to physically demonstrate techniques and sound qualities. Teachers certainly have their preferences on how much they want to demonstrate. But if a teacher abandons this approach altogether without some really good reasons, it doesn't sound right.

My children's teacher demonstrates frequently from beginner level to advanced. I told my kids to watch and listen with all the focus they have when the teacher demonstrates. I think such demonstrations really elevate the quality of the lessons.

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#1589589 - 01/03/11 12:05 PM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: MrHazelton]
ll Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/08
Posts: 1101
I didn't see anyone mention that they totally disregard demonstrations. Just that they won't necessarily play the music for the kid just to absorb the information by ear, instead of figuring it out themselves.

When a student of mine has a counting issue, I don't play their part. I make them slow down and count out loud. It solves the issue, every single time. It WOULD be harmful for me to play it for them, have them catch the rhythm that way, and then reproduce it.

They can do the work and figure out the music, most of the time, and the times they can't (more musical approaches, different attacks, etc), demonstrations are most definitely appropriate. You can't forget that there are literally an infinite number of situations, songs, and problems that can and do arise, and they all needed to be treated with consideration.

Let's not turn this into an extreme "if you don't do it all the time, you never do it at all" type of situation (I've been reading old threads in this section and see it happen often!).

II
_________________________
II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.

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#1589603 - 01/03/11 12:27 PM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: Piano*Dad]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3665
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Yes, PianoDad, you have captured my thoughts quite accurately in your post. Of course I don't advocate using demonstration in a way that would be counterproductive. It is always context driven and in the case of a student who "mimics" what they hear very closely, rather than play a passage repeatedly so they can copy it, I would break it down into smaller pieces to demonstrate a concept (like tension/resolution, ornament technique etc). For such a student I would also present a range of options and play them all. That way, it is not a case of presenting anything definitive that such a student would copy. The student would still be forced to use his/her mind and choose an option. Demonstration is not about indicating how things must be done, it's about showing how things can be done. There is nothing prescriptive about it. It can simply show the difference between one approach and another.

On the other hand, if you want to drill a serious problem out of a student, sometimes demonstrating, then getting a student to mimic it exactly would be just the ticket. It's all context driven and I fail to see how broad policies of playing less for students make any sense.

I'm not talking about every non-playing teacher here (I discussed exceptions at length in earlier posts), but could it be that a lot of teachers who adopt broad non-playing policies yet present them as pedagogical decisions are being a tad duplicitous? Could it be that some are hiding a laziness or lack of practice/preparation under the mask of "playing is beside the point, it's all in the communication and sageness of my words"? I try not to ever use that excuse with myself. If I am teaching advanced pieces to advanced students, I will actually practise for those lessons. Yes, it is time I spend that I am not paid for, but I see it as an opportunity to keep myself honest and make sure that I maintain my skill as a performer and effectiveness as a teacher. I don't want to become one of those "do as I say, not as I do" teachers. When the time comes that the student surpasses me in technical skill/speed, I would be quite upfront about that and discuss whether the student still can learn from me in a primarily verbal way. Even then, you can still demonstrate technical elements without doing them at maximum speed and Kissin-like precision.

I find it almost amusing that some posters are trying to paint me into a corner and suggest that I would ignore the individual needs of a student and "play" in a non-productive way for a student - as though I would promote lack of self-awareness/creativity in my teaching. As though I don't communicate verbally. As though I would play more than necessary. As though my focus wouldn't be to only demonstrate what is necessary. That's all simply not true. I don't deny the power of the spoken word - it is the primary means of communication, but the playing can enhance and exemplify what you say so much and can ensure that semantics don't become problematic. Hearing is believing.

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#1589606 - 01/03/11 12:30 PM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: MrHazelton]
ll Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/08
Posts: 1101
Ando, if I made it seem like I was doing that, I apologize. (not sure)

I didn't read all the posts, was just giving my input.

Once more: it's all circumstantial, and most teachers know when it's necessary and when it's not - at least, the good ones do.

And if they're not good ones... well, there would be other issues with that, wouldn't there smile
_________________________
II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.

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#1589611 - 01/03/11 12:38 PM Re: Teacher who doesn't play [Re: ll]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3665
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: ll


Let's not turn this into an extreme "if you don't do it all the time, you never do it at all" type of situation (I've been reading old threads in this section and see it happen often!).

II


Absolutely, and in general it makes sense to economise your amount of playing. If you teach a lot, you need to conserve your energy and look after your body so you don't exhaust yourself. I think just demonstrating where it is necessary or desirable is the only policy I'm advocating here.

I'm also not suggesting anybody has posted that a teacher would have an ideal of never playing. It's just that some teachers simply can't play very well and they sometimes try to hide this fact. I'd like to see all teachers maintaining their playing at a decent level. Unless they are very old or disabled in some way. Or at least be honest with the student about the fact that they don't really play anymore and that they won't be playing in lessons. In that case, their level of musical knowledge from when they could play must be put to work verbally.

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