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#1989761 - 11/22/12 12:15 PM What is a Typical Piano Lesson for You?
WannabePT Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 35
When I was young, my teacher had a notebook to scribble my assignments on. She picked out the pieces I was to play. They always included Hanon, Czerny, John Thompson, and later, Bach Inventions and Mozart Sonatas. I liked the structure.

I stopped playing for so many years, and I self-studied again for the past 3 years. I don't feel like I improved all that much, although I suppose I must have. When I got back in touch with my teacher, she now tells me to pick the piece I would like and we can just work on it. Is this because I'm already an adult now? Maybe I've gotten too used to being the "dutiful" student and trusting everything my teacher says.

What's a typical lesson like for you? Is it normal that when you're an adult, and/or you hit a certain level, teachers will let you determine how your own lesson should go?

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#1989784 - 11/22/12 01:07 PM Re: What is a Typical Piano Lesson for You? [Re: WannabePT]
gooddog Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4794
Loc: Seattle area, WA
As far as selecting new music, he will allow me to pick my own. About a year ago, he asked me to bring in some scores I was interested in so I arrived with a huge stack. He chuckled when I brought out Schumann's Symphonic Etudes. We settled on Beethoven's Opus 53. Lately, I've been working a lot on keeping my tempo even, expression, phrasing and breathing. I really wanted him to choose what would be best to work on based on those goals so he chose Chopin's Ballade #3. He suggested a nocturne and asked me to choose one. He is also thinking I might benefit from one of the later Debussy preludes and has suggested I read through some and select one.

As far as what we do during a lesson, if you have the patience to read this, my lessons typically look like this: after greetings, we often talk for a while, almost always on a topic I bring up. Just yesterday we talked about adapting to his Steinway D in terms of adjusting my left hand to the larger sound you get from the bass notes.

I'm working on a Chopin nocturne with him to work on expressing phrases and breathing in the music. That went pretty quickly because it isn't technically challenging. Then we talked about how literally one should take the dynamic and pedal markings in the music of different composers, (it's different depending on the composer. Chopin's are pretty confusing.)

Then I played the Chopin Ballade most of the way through. (I stopped myself just before the last page because I still don't know it all that well and my lessons aren't about note learning.) He always starts with a few positive comments and then starts going through it measure by measure. He never writes on my music but I scribble everywhere so I've started photocopying it. We also spent quite a bit of time talking about the line between over-expressing and under-expressing and about some of the liberties Horowitz took in that regard as well as the fact that he dropped inconvenient notes. We worked on some ideas to overcome the areas I find technically challenging because of my small hands., (relax, relax, relax). He pointed out areas that needed more legato, better tone or greater dynamic range. Once we had gone through the entire piece, our conversation slowed down and I could tell it was time to end it. (My lesson lasted 1.75 glorious hours which is a bit longer than usual!).

He's a remarkable teacher and I feel blessed to have found him.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1989793 - 11/22/12 01:27 PM Re: What is a Typical Piano Lesson for You? [Re: WannabePT]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5296
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: WannabePT
When I was young, my teacher had a notebook to scribble my assignments on. She picked out the pieces I was to play. They always included Hanon, Czerny, John Thompson, and later, Bach Inventions and Mozart Sonatas. I liked the structure.

I stopped playing for so many years, and I self-studied again for the past 3 years. I don't feel like I improved all that much, although I suppose I must have. When I got back in touch with my teacher, she now tells me to pick the piece I would like and we can just work on it. Is this because I'm already an adult now? Maybe I've gotten too used to being the "dutiful" student and trusting everything my teacher says.

What's a typical lesson like for you? Is it normal that when you're an adult, and/or you hit a certain level, teachers will let you determine how your own lesson should go?

Once I got out of the beginner's books, I always determined the direction my lessons took. Often, it was a collaboration, but at the very least, I had significant input. The better you can get at diagnosing what your own issues are, the more you will be able to take charge. "This passage doesn't feel good/I keep missing this note and can't figure out why. Can you help me with it?"

I don't feel a lesson should be where you go to determine what you will play. Then, you go home and learn it. Then, you come back and play it and one of two things happens:

1. "You played that well. Pick something else."
2. "You played that poorly. Keep practicing."

I feel a lesson should incorporate ways to diagnose and address what is actually occurring in the student's playing, and also to provide direction for the development of that student's ability. I feel it is absolutely critical that the student have at least a 50% stake in this process. If not, the student never acquires mastery. They only ever learn what they are told, and only ever do what they are told, and in a creative output like music, that is far too destructive to be beneficial 100% of the time.
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#1989794 - 11/22/12 01:27 PM Re: What is a Typical Piano Lesson for You? [Re: WannabePT]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17966
Loc: Victoria, BC
A typical lesson with my teacher goes like this :

When I arrive we exchange pleasantries, whether it be about the weather or about a performance I have been to or about the politics at the local Conservatory or about a new-to-me work I have come across.

Since I'm playing for my own pleasure, the works I play are works of my choosing, although my teacher often has suggestions of what she might like to hear me play.

Then, I play through the piece of my choice that I have worked on most thoroughly for the lesson in the two weeks since the last lesson. My teacher points out solutions to or ways around technical problems that I have and she usually asks me about my interpretation. Sometimes she agrees, sometimes she has alternative suggestions, and we work together about an interpretive point of view from there that I can be happy with.

A "detail person," she often points out little details that I need to correct, such as holding on too long to a note in a sixteenth-note passage (I seem to have a sluggish second finger!), or needing "more rubato!" in a phrase, or "more bass in that descending line, don't you think?"

Next, I play the next piece that I have prepared, possibly less well-prepared than the first piece - it may be the first time I will have played it for her - and that will be the piece that I bring to my next lesson, more fully prepared technically and more thought out artistically.

Occasionally I will bring out a work that I have not brought to a lesson for several weeks, but which I have intermittently been working on over time as it gels and solidifies or develops.

Since I find it interesting to compare different editions of pieces I'm working on and sometimes have two or three different editions of the same work, we will compare them with the editions she has and amuse ourselves with discussing the options, if options there are.

I never forget to thank her for the lesson, which sometimes runs overtime, and she invariably comments that she has enjoyed it, too which always ends the lesson on a positive note for me. We don't watch the clock, and if another student has a lesson following mine, the simple "rule" is that the next student walks into the studio at the appropriate time and we wrap up what we are doing.

It's a great way to spend an hour!

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1989900 - 11/22/12 08:07 PM Re: What is a Typical Piano Lesson for You? [Re: WannabePT]
WannabePT Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 35
Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed replies (and yes, Deborah, I do have the patience to read all of them!) I was feeling a bit sad about the change in my piano lessons, so just had to ask what others were like. I think my teacher is also fantastic, and I don't doubt that there's anything wrong with her method. Because I never have enough time for all my pieces because I only get to see her once every 1-2 years, and the last time, she gave me a lot to work on. So now, I never finish everything. To try to be efficient, I mark everything I have problems with so I can ask her how to deal with technical issues and work on them on my own and let her hear them again after.

BruceD: you mentioned you would sometimes bring something that you had been working on intermittently. For those pieces, how long does it take for you to actually get to finish it?

DeborahD: a lesson where you deal with breathing is very interesting. I have never come across that before, although once, my teacher caught me not breathing at certain chord progressions of chopin's polonaise militaire. (if you don't breathe, you won't have power!). Oh...I had to read it again. Did you mean it in a figurative sense? (I.e. breathing life into the music)?

derulux: thanks. I guess you're right. Because I am without a teacher most of the time, I had to learn how to identify my own issues. I'm happy to say that she's really not so perfunctory with me as the example you gave. we work on what we can, it's just that we never get to finish anything, it feels like! (but I suppose I can't do all of it in an hour...) I guess it's so much easier to have the teacher do all the thinking, and all we do...practice and do what they say!

It's interesting how many tips we get from 1 lesson. In fact, I wanted to start a thread before that puts in all the good tips we ever had from a lesson, but didn't know how to word it. Something to read when we don't really have questions but want to know how others are working on or resolving general issues. It's kinda neat I picked some up with this question! Hope to read more! smile

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#1989902 - 11/22/12 08:29 PM Re: What is a Typical Piano Lesson for You? [Re: WannabePT]
Pogorelich. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4528
Loc: in the past
I decide on two programs for the year, and start bringing him works. Sometimes bring old stuff for him if I have a concert coming up with such pieces. We can spend an hour on three lines of Haydn or an hour on a Rachmaninoff sonata. Depends what needs to be done. There have also been times where we'd mostly talk (once I only brought him 8 bars of something) or he'd try to calm me down from some crisis. He's really a mentor to me.


Edited by Pogorelich. (11/22/12 08:32 PM)
_________________________

'I want to invest my emotions only in music; it will never disappoint me or hurt me - it is a safe place to be.'

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#1989907 - 11/22/12 08:41 PM Re: What is a Typical Piano Lesson for You? [Re: WannabePT]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
Pogorelich took the words right out of my mouth.

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#1989915 - 11/22/12 09:10 PM Re: What is a Typical Piano Lesson for You? [Re: WannabePT]
gooddog Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4794
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: WannabePT
Deborah: a lesson where you deal with breathing is very interesting.
Oh, I'm not talking about physically breathing. I mean, letting my music breathe. I find it helps a great deal to imagine the music being sung by an opera singer. I pay attention to where the breaths would fall if the music was vocal. This helps me figure out the phrasing, rubatos and such.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1989918 - 11/22/12 09:46 PM Re: What is a Typical Piano Lesson for You? [Re: WannabePT]
P I A N O piano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/07
Posts: 425
Loc: Ann Arbor, Michigan
I am enjoying following this thread. My lessons go like this:

First- greetings, chat/conversation about anything going on during the week- including particular stresses I maybe under at work... regardless, conversation always goes to music- and I share what I am listening to- and that might launch us into a great conversation about the work- the composer, the period- whatever.

Next- I play a piece that we agreed I'd play for lesson- or I just decide. I usually work on three pieces: one baroque work, classical and either romantic or 20th century work- however at this time, I am working on a concerto and another smaller work (Ravel). My lessons are never about notes, rarely about rhythm - however there are passages here and there or other issues that might present fingering challenges and my teacher is great at helping me work those through. I am just getting into advanced works- so more and more, my lessons are about interpretation, form, artistry. Sometimes we spend the entire lesson on the first 4-8 measures of a piece. With the concerto, he might play the orchestra reduction as we near the time when we work with the ensemble. All of this work is geared toward a solo recital at some point! smile We might integrate history, politics and any other pertinent information of the time when studying a piece. We always discuss tonal progression/harmony/tension/ resolution and how this impacts coloring... Some pieces are analyzed more than others- sonata form, fugue, etc., We work on technique as needed. He promotes my listening the most and I am learning to listen. to hear.

Lessons typically go for 70-90 minutes depending on whether or not a student follows my time-
Two things: I always say "thank you" and I never want him to worry about whether or not I'll remember to pay him. I get that out of the way and I never forget. That is the courtesy and respect he deserves.

Of the works I study, one is usually a "stretch" piece...one that might give me lots of challenge- and even some frustration- but I know that through the years my repertoire list is growing without holes. I trust him with helping me make musical choices and together we keep it moving forward. Some pieces he assigns- others I choose- but with his approval as I trust his pedagogical direction...and it's paying off. He is promoting a certain "fluency" in my music study- where over time, I am learning works more and more quickly even though the music is actually more challenging.
_________________________
Chopin, Polonaise in C sharp minor, Etude in E major;
Bach, Toccata in e minor BWV 914;
Debussy, Snow is Dancing;
Schubert, Moments Musicaux,No.4 in C Sharp Minor;
Beethoven, Sonata no. 15 in D major, op. 28 (Pastoral)
teacher: Katherine Teves Mizruchi, Ann Arbor, MI
Steinway B

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#1989942 - 11/23/12 12:09 AM Re: What is a Typical Piano Lesson for You? [Re: WannabePT]
WannabePT Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 35
A whole hour on a few measures. That makes sense, since at a certain point, there will be no time to just sit through a whole..say, concerto, unless it's almost performance ready. So I guess I'm on the right track then...

PIANO: did you pick those "stretch" pieces?

Pogorelich: What do you mean by programs?

Deborah: and there I got another good tip smile Helpful ways to make your music breathe, which may actually be applied to everything we play.

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#1989943 - 11/23/12 12:20 AM Re: What is a Typical Piano Lesson for You? [Re: WannabePT]
P I A N O piano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/07
Posts: 425
Loc: Ann Arbor, Michigan
The "stretch" pieces are suggested to me to read through/look at- sometimes two or three are suggested and from those choices, I pick one. I've also chosen pieces that I love & yes, I seek his approval- making sure it's within my ability or just beyond. I don't want these composers rolling over in their graves (so-to-speak) ... my respect for the music exceeds my ego. haha~~
_________________________
Chopin, Polonaise in C sharp minor, Etude in E major;
Bach, Toccata in e minor BWV 914;
Debussy, Snow is Dancing;
Schubert, Moments Musicaux,No.4 in C Sharp Minor;
Beethoven, Sonata no. 15 in D major, op. 28 (Pastoral)
teacher: Katherine Teves Mizruchi, Ann Arbor, MI
Steinway B

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#1989948 - 11/23/12 12:59 AM Re: What is a Typical Piano Lesson for You? [Re: WannabePT]
Pogorelich. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4528
Loc: in the past
Originally Posted By: WannabePT

Pogorelich: What do you mean by programs?



recital programs. So, about 2.5 hours of music I guess?
_________________________

'I want to invest my emotions only in music; it will never disappoint me or hurt me - it is a safe place to be.'

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#1992954 - 11/30/12 06:29 PM Re: What is a Typical Piano Lesson for You? [Re: WannabePT]
pianist.ame Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/18/07
Posts: 1166
Loc: Singapore
In Singapore: exchange greetings/ quick catch up as well as a brief chat about the piece if it's new followed by me selecting 1-2 pieces which need work/ which I feel I need help with then (while he scribbles points to be worked on in a notebook) decide what I'm playing for the following lesson or assignments (if teacher will be mia for awhile: chosen together). Sessions last min. 1& a half hours

In Canada: quick warm up& get down to business right away; generally these sessions can last up to 2& a half- 3 hrs with little chat sessions about the pieces and a short 5 min break. To be fair my teacher there has been my mentor for years so we have much catch up time.
_________________________
Mastering:Chopin Etudes op.10 nos.8&12 and op.25 no.1, Chopin Scherzo no.4 in E major op.54, Mozart Sonata in B flat major K.333& Khachaturian Toccata

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