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#2047392 - 03/13/13 12:47 AM But I play better at home!
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1023
Loc: Irvine, CA
...But I play better at home!
Have you ever receive this comment especially from teenager and adult students?

How do you deal with it? Do you really believe that your students play better at home?

I do not believe at first, until I ask one of my student make a video and she is really sound smoother than during lesson, so, I figure that the reasons could be:

1. Lesson is not at a good time, she is tired from work when she comes over for piano lesson
2. She might be afraid of me (even for constructive criticism)
3. She feels more comfortable at home
4. My piano is different than her piano at home.
5. She can make a lot of videos and pick only the best one to show me

What do you think?
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#2047397 - 03/13/13 01:04 AM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
Nikolas Offline
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Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5300
Loc: Europe
I think that all your five points apply...

But the main point is that she gets 1 hour of being with you and the rest of her life being at home with herself. So it's not uncommon and it's something that I also listen to a lot (even from younger students)...

My solution is to actually play hide and seek, with all but the adult students. I hide and they keep playing... Or I sit at the back of the room, and little by little I call the parents (if I'm at their home), or something to start making light noises... They get used to that eventually.
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#2047404 - 03/13/13 01:14 AM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
Opus_Maximus Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1494
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
. Do you really believe that your students play better at home?

I


Of course!!!! Haven't you ever been nervous before a performance or lesson, and had these nerves effect your performance? Every time I had a new piano teacher during my university days, it took me a good few months to be able to play my best in front of them - and this was the case for many of my classmates as well. I think lots of teens and adults are self-conscious to the point that coming to lessons has the same degree of stress as performing on stage would - you need to be 50% more prepared than you think you are.

I'm not saying that everybody who says this plays well at home - and for some it can be and excuse - but for the majority (and especially adult students who take it seriously), I think they just plain have the wind scared out of them at lessons.
I think it usually gets better over time, but it should simply be looked upon the same was performance anxiety is: You need to be 200% prepared, since 100% will automatically go away when you are under pressure.




Edited by Opus_Maximus (03/13/13 01:16 AM)

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#2047405 - 03/13/13 01:15 AM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5943
Loc: Down Under
We've had some discussions about this in the past. What I do is acknowledge how they're feeling ("I know you must be frustrated that you haven't played as well as you did at home") and then just move on ("but hey, this isn't a performance. Let's just get down to work at the bits that are a problem so that you'll be able to play it well no matter where you are.") All my adult students have said it at some time or other, and whether their perception is accurate or not is not really the point, IMO. I've joked that I'm going to hang up a big framed sign saying "I know you played it better at home" so that we can bypass this step. I think I can tell which ones haven't practised and which ones just freeze up because I'm so scary smile . I don't make a big deal about it and then neither do they.
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#2047411 - 03/13/13 01:38 AM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
Saranoya Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 631
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
As an adult student who has thid problem to a worse degree than most (according to my teacher), I'd say most people who tell you this probably do play better at home. I know I do. For one thing, my hands aren't usually shaking when I play at home, so there you go.

That said: when I get _really_ familiar with a piece, I can usually play it flawlessly (or nearly so) in a lesson or performance. But that takes 2 to 3 months of playing it daily, way past the point where I can already play it with my eyes closed and at double speed at home. I take that kind of time with recital pieces, but usually not with the rest. So my teacher and I now have sort of an unspoken rule that says we can put aside a piece when I tell her I stopped making mistakes in it while playing with no audience.
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#2047435 - 03/13/13 02:41 AM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
Teodor Offline
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Registered: 12/16/09
Posts: 945
Loc: Bulgaria
I think it might be a combination of all the factors you mentioned. I think that it all starts with teaching the student how to practice. After they've been guided to proper practice techniques that work specifically well for them and after they are using them each time they practice then they will play better in lessons.

At home we are more relaxed and because of this state our concentration is usually much higher. This allows to compensate to some degree for any flaws in the pieces that we are learning. But when you are placed in a situation where someone else is listening, it all falls apart because it wasn't learned correctly in the first place. If you have a solid foundation it won't matter where you play the piece.


Edited by Teodor (03/13/13 03:08 AM)
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#2047500 - 03/13/13 07:49 AM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3214
Loc: Virginia, USA
At home, the last 5 minutes of the hour sounds better than the first 5 minutes.

Your memory is for the final successful runthrough at home, and has faded for all the stumbles prior to that. Then at the lesson you start out comparing your first 5 minutes, with the additional stress of a new piano and an observant teacher, to the last 5 minutes at home.

Which might suggest always warming up with something easy and familiar at the lesson. Or, not.
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#2047505 - 03/13/13 08:00 AM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: TimR]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2609
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Different piano is a huge issue for me. Having the music desk a bit higher or lower means that after a quick glance to the keys I lose my place in the music. I'm also positioned differently and don't have the same peripheral view of my hands that I do at home.

Everything else you listed applies too, and another one is that I often start too fast when I play at my lesson.

It was helpful to me when my teacher made it clear that it is basically his job to listen to my mistakes and to figure out ways to fix those problems.
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#2047586 - 03/13/13 11:01 AM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
R0B Offline
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Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 1439
Loc: Australia
I love to hear that my students play better at home.

Lessons are not about the student performing a 'recital' for the teacher, but more about the teacher guiding the student to practice and play well in a relaxed atmosphere.
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#2047931 - 03/13/13 11:05 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
HorseMom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 51
Loc: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Of course they play better at home. So do I - at least part of the time. Playing for the teacher can make a student nervous. Don't dismiss their claim out of hand, it's likely to be true. But you still should see progress from week to week if they are actually practicing, and some things will be better than they were at the previous lesson if the student is actually practicing. You also have to take into account the fact that your piano is not the piano they have been playing on all week. Bench height, lighting (shadows) mechanical differences and even texture on the keys (are they smoother or rougher so the student's fingers slip off or don't slide the way they are used to) can make a huge difference when you throw a little nervousness in there. If the student plays the piece or part of the piece a few times during the lesson, it should be better by the 3rd time once they have adjusted to the different instrument and gotten over the presence of their teacher. I would suggest to them that about 2 days before the lesson, they bring in a friend (an enemy is even better) to "scare" them when they play through their piece. Once they get used to that sort of stress, playing for you should seem easy.
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#2048152 - 03/14/13 11:20 AM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: malkin]
Teodor Offline
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Registered: 12/16/09
Posts: 945
Loc: Bulgaria
Originally Posted By: malkin
Different piano is a huge issue for me. Having the music desk a bit higher or lower means that after a quick glance to the keys I lose my place in the music. I'm also positioned differently and don't have the same peripheral view of my hands that I do at home.

Everything else you listed applies too, and another one is that I often start too fast when I play at my lesson.

It was helpful to me when my teacher made it clear that it is basically his job to listen to my mistakes and to figure out ways to fix those problems.


I've been experiencing difficulties and confusion due to the height of the music desk as well. I can never seem to find the perfect balance like I have at home. Even with adjustable benches I can never seem to get the same view of the keyboard. Because clearly it's not the same at all for my little old Rionish upright and a Yamaha concert grand laugh
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#2048181 - 03/14/13 12:35 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11724
Loc: Canada
I just thought of another factor. Some years ago I corresponded with a fellow student in another country, and we gave each other support. Once or twice while she was practising the piece really gelled, and she was extremely excited about letting her teacher hear what had happened. And because she was so excited about it, the whole thing fell apart in the lesson. Then she would be upset and disappointed that it had fallen apart, and would be in pieces for the rest of the lesson as well.

Ok, the one solution is to realize that lessons are not a performance, but working through fixing and learning as a kind of team. When you distance yourself like that, then you "don't care" which lets you function well in a lesson. This helped a lot.

But there is still this thing that something wonderful has happened with your piece that you want to share with your teacher because it matters a great deal. I think that making a recording is a great idea for that. It's also that if you DO play better at home, and always sounding much worse in lessons, it's frustrating. So if the teacher can hear even once that you are not that sucky may relax a student out of that frustration.

Does anyone remember the Loony Toons episode with the singing frog on the park bench, and the guy who tries to audition the frog but it only croaks in the studios? That's how ibbh feels laugh
(The million dollar question being - did the student croak at home and just imagine the dancing frog?)


Edited by keystring (03/14/13 01:25 PM)

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#2048189 - 03/14/13 12:49 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
dcb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/15/10
Posts: 199
I certainly have this trouble too. I can be playing a piece really well at home and when I get to my lesson...there is usually a 20% degradation in performance. A couple times, I remember missing some notes or struggling with a phrase at my lesson that I never had issues with at home. Then, I get home and the problems went away.

The difference in pianos certainly has some affect. My teacher's sharps are definitely a different taper to them and they feel a bit higher to me. Of course, the real issue is when something changes...it throws you off.

I'm working on this with my teacher and two things have helped me a little:

1) knowing I'm going to make a mistake and being ok with that. I think the tension of being concerned that you are going to mess up doesn't help the situation.

2) I like to work on sections of the piece with my teacher before I play the whole thing. Then in my mind it seems much less of a performance and more of working through some practice suggestions.

You have to hand it to professional pianists...it is truly amazing to me that they can walk onto a stage, sit down, and play for an hour without making any mistakes and being totally in the zone. Pretty incredible mental power.

I was thinking about recording my playing for my teacher, but unfortunately I get into a similar mental state while recording and suffer from a similar performance hit. I bet if I could fix the recording tension, it would also fix the performing at a lesson tension.

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#2048249 - 03/14/13 02:56 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
I hear this all the time and I usually tell the student I can tell if they have practiced and I tell them they are doing this for them not for me.

It always takes me back to the thought that professionals practice so they don't make a mistake.

It's a good thing to have a teacher weekly as a judge. I believe it helps push the bar.

In the end it's all about practice and then some.....more practice that is.

rada

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#2048252 - 03/14/13 02:59 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7647
Loc: New York City
Teachers can tell if you know your pieces and can play them, whether at home or at the studio. The teacher doesn't need the student to tell them if they have practiced or if they played better at home or if they for some reason got a strange joint injury in their hands 5 minutes before the lesson (yes, I have heard this last one. wink )
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#2048258 - 03/14/13 03:08 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: rada]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3214
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: rada


In the end it's all about practice and then some.....more practice that is.

rada


For most of us sufficient practice takes care of the nerves.

But some people are more acutely affected by the pressure than others. For those people more practice doesn't help; they need specific strategies to deal with nerves.
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#2048259 - 03/14/13 03:10 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: Polyphonist]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11724
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Teachers can tell if you know your pieces and can play them, whether at home or at the studio. The teacher doesn't need the student to tell them if they have practiced or if they played better at home or if they for some reason got a strange joint injury in their hands 5 minutes before the lesson (yes, I have heard this last one. wink )


Yes, a teacher can tell if you have practised, because even if it falls apart in a lesson, there are residual signs left. But it definitely can and does happen, that the student will not be able to play as well as he did at home, and that it is not his imagination. Some teachers actually ask their students to record themselves at home, and often it was better. Why that would be so has already been discussed.

If you have heard this last one, then I assume you teach. If so, please do give your students a chance that it might be true. Not being able to produce what you did at home, and not being believed, can be a frustrating experience for some. The mere fact of being believed can be enough to relax a student, which then helps how well he can respond in lessons.

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#2048294 - 03/14/13 04:06 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2919
Loc: UK.
The problem for me is when this is used as an excuse for lack of practice and preparation. As polyphonist said, we can usually tell.

Of course most people will play better in the comfort and safety of their own practice room on their own piano without the pressure of someone watching. I do think that some students don't appreciate that us teachers have experienced this as well, we were not born able to play the piano. It's perfectly normal and hopefully there are not too many teachers out there who won't understand.

Being able to play well under pressure is all part of being a musician so quite often lessons are a good opportunity to practice this skill, especially with a piece that is performance ready. Otherwise mistakes are perfectly acceptable and usually expected. If everything was perfect it wouldn't leave much for the teacher to do.

But.....there are many occasions where I will hear students say they can play something perfectly at home when they are struggling to find almost every note in the lesson. Something here doesn't add up. Either they are not hearing what is happening when they practice in which case a recording is useful or they just haven't prepared.

It also depends on the relationship between teacher and student. Once you know your students really well it's not difficult to spot the difference between those who do genuinely suffer from nerves and those who are trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
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#2048324 - 03/14/13 05:17 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
Bluoh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/20/11
Posts: 421
Loc: Canada
This is very common; the environment is different at home and they play on a different piano. If they're adults, they probably have work and other commitments too.

I actually remember being frustrated as a student because I WAS better at home; I had an upright at home and my mentors had grands. It was completely different.

Also, the judgement of the teacher is a lot of pressure.

Try to understand this; it makes people feel surprised and disappointed when it doesn't come out the way they do at home. There's a point where pianists will play a piece amazingly anywhere, but most people aren't there.

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#2048366 - 03/14/13 06:37 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: Chris H.]
pianomouse Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/12
Posts: 93
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: Chris H.
But.....there are many occasions where I will hear students say they can play something perfectly at home when they are struggling to find almost every note in the lesson. Something here doesn't add up. Either they are not hearing what is happening when they practice in which case a recording is useful or they just haven't prepared.

In my experience, when students say this, it actually is what they feel as their truth. At home, they allow themselves to not listen properly to their playing and they are easily satisfied with their performance. At the studio however, under the pressure of playing for their teacher, they suddenly start to listen much more closely, they start to think about every note or finger. But they're not used to control their playing at that level, so it falls completely apart.
When this happens, I try to make them understand what's going on and show them how to practice in a way that their pieces become so stable that this won't happen again. Sometimes, it helps, sometimes it doesn't...
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#2048411 - 03/14/13 08:52 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: TimR]
Whizbang Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 787
Originally Posted By: TimR
But some people are more acutely affected by the pressure than others. For those people more practice doesn't help; they need specific strategies to deal with nerves.


<---

It's incredibly frustrating.
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#2048478 - 03/15/13 12:36 AM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: keystring]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5510
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: keystring
Not being able to produce what you did at home, and not being believed, can be a frustrating experience for some. The mere fact of being believed can be enough to relax a student, which then helps how well he can respond in lessons.

Very wise words. I have to remind myself of that constantly because my standards are quite high, and it's easy for me to accuse students of being lazy and not practicing.
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#2048555 - 03/15/13 05:02 AM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
As my thoughts have already been expressed through other adult students' posts, I'll simply add this link for you to read, ezpiano.

But I Can Play It Perfectly Well At Home!

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#2052185 - 03/21/13 11:28 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
gracegren Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/02/11
Posts: 8
Loc: California
As an adult student learning a new instrument (double bass), I went through this 'I played this better at home' for quite awhile. Fortunately, my teacher just kind of smiled and gave positives for what I did play at lessons. I think it was a combination of lack of self confidence and lack of being familiar with the instrument. Also, everything presented to me was difficult. Maybe it was a little too difficult.

Looking back, I appreciated teacher's acceptance and positives about my abilities, even if I did not believe it at the time. Through time and experience I "lost" this nervousness and lack of self confidence, and what I played at home began to match what I played at lessons.

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#2052328 - 03/22/13 08:15 AM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2609
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Another thing I notice is distraction. At home, I am usually able to tune out the normal background level of activity around me, but at my lesson the setting is different and I end up noticing all sorts of little things and this noticing interrupts my focus on playing, which leads to errors, which further take away my focus...
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#2052921 - 03/23/13 11:52 AM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
BDB Offline
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Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21658
Loc: Oakland
To touch on #4 a little, a piano used for teaching may be more worn than a piano used in the home. Conversely, if there is an old piano at home that is badly worn, the student may be compensating for that. Good maintenance is necessary at both ends.
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#2052927 - 03/23/13 12:05 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4812
Loc: South Florida
Solution for "I played better at home".

Have students RECORD the better playing.
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#2052997 - 03/23/13 03:25 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1023
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: Gary
Solution for "I played better at home".

Have students RECORD the better playing.


Exactly!

I am so tired of hearing that comment: "I play better at home" and I ask one of my students to record what she play at home. She prove to me that she is really better at home. She did make plenty video and pick only the best one to show me thru email. She also comment that since she start the "video" project, she is playing and practicing more. She also realize that her standard also raising higher since she is playing back her video and listen to herself and she knows she make mistakes and trying to go back to fix the mistakes.
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#2054288 - 03/25/13 10:21 PM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
mermilylumpkin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/08/13
Posts: 121
I am frequently very, very nervous during my piano lessons. Not because I didn't practice (I am an adult and not in the business of wasting my own time), not because I don't "hear" myself properly (I have a fair idea of how I sound and anyway I have various electronics with a record button), but because I really care about doing a nice job, and playing in front of someone is making yourself vulnerable and offering up the fruits of your hard work for criticism. Sometimes it heightens my performance and sometimes I'll stumble through things that I know really well and could play if I didn't feel giddy and weird about it. It's like reading your poem in front of the class in ninth grade. Do you not remember this experience?

It's likely that your students are nervous because they would like to please you. My own teacher's kindness and understanding goes a long way in making me feel comfortable putting myself on the line.

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#2054394 - 03/26/13 05:06 AM Re: But I play better at home! [Re: ezpiano.org]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Recording practice performances (playing through your piece without stopping, no matter what) and then carefully listening to the recording and listing out criticisms is an extremely useful tool in helping to shorten the list of things that could go wrong at your lessons, mermily. While being able to calm yourself while performing is certainly important, the importance of performance experience (or as we're trying to substitute with here, performance practice) seems to be highly underestimated by students.


As ezpiano also alluded, it's a terrific psychological trick to coax more practicing as there's rarely a recorded performance of yourself where you don't think you could have done something better.

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