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#2052931 - 03/23/13 12:12 PM Students and dissonance
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4810
Loc: South Florida
Nikolas is currently talking about having one of his compositions graded.

That got me thinking about how hard it is to get my students to even accept anything that is not 19th century Romanticism or New Age as anything but "to ugly to play".
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#2052935 - 03/23/13 12:27 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: Gary D.]
Nikolas Offline
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Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5276
Loc: Europe
HAHA!

Exactly my problem as well...

I have a student aged 10, who is enjoying her lessons with me, and has two sisters (older) also having lessons with me... I composed a short work for her, which is relatively fine, with timid dissonances (A# and A together at some parts, but an octave apart, so "it doesn't count" in the flow).

Her problem lies in the last chord in the left hand which is EFA#BC along with C# in the right hand! laugh She cringes every time, but she likes the feeling overall...

I think that if you keep pushing Gary and keep introducing new things and new sounds to them you'll be able to penetrate their need for too much mildness in music...
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#2052938 - 03/23/13 12:34 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: Nikolas]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4810
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
HAHA!

Exactly my problem as well...

I have a student aged 10, who is enjoying her lessons with me, and has two sisters (older) also having lessons with me... I composed a short work for her, which is relatively fine, with timid dissonances (A# and A together at some parts, but an octave apart, so "it doesn't count" in the flow).

Her problem lies in the last chord in the left hand which is EFA#BC along with C# in the right hand! laugh She cringes every time, but she likes the feeling overall...

I think that if you keep pushing Gary and keep introducing new things and new sounds to them you'll be able to penetrate their need for too much mildness in music...

In my experience people tend to start with very "safe" sounds". You may know of people who exceptions, but I can't think of any.

It was that way for me too.

The first time I heard a major work by Krzysztof Penderecki I thought it was pure musical BS. Noise. But I had to learn the score. By the time it was performed I thought it was one of the most powerful things I had ever heard.

I grew.

I think we start in our "comfort zone", and eventually we get so much music in that zone that boredom/curiosity pushes us to move "out of the box".
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#2052939 - 03/23/13 12:42 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: Gary D.]
Nikolas Offline
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Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5276
Loc: Europe
I also think that, Gary.

I didn't start off enjoying Boulez! (I still don't! :D).

The thing is it occured to me that "I'm no good at the piano, so I might as well be good and creative, and in order for creativity to show I have to create new things and new sounds". That sums up the reasons I started composing at first... That and my teachers love for Czerny! shocked

Everything can grow on you. So we, as teachers, have to introduce them little by little with doses of their comfort zone, so as not to feel weird...
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#2052947 - 03/23/13 01:06 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: Nikolas]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4810
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
I also think that, Gary.

I didn't start off enjoying Boulez! (I still don't! :D).

The thing is it occured to me that "I'm no good at the piano, so I might as well be good and creative, and in order for creativity to show I have to create new things and new sounds". That sums up the reasons I started composing at first... That and my teachers love for Czerny! shocked

Everything can grow on you. So we, as teachers, have to introduce them little by little with doses of their comfort zone, so as not to feel weird...

I also don't like Boulez, but based on his conducting I have to assume that he is as good as some people say. smile

I remember first dealing with Hindemith in college. I had never heard anything by him. I started off learning the sonata for trumpet and piano. They say familiarity breeds contempt. Often it is the opposite. I was first chair euphonium in the wind ensemble, so of course the Hindemith Symphony in Bb (for band or wind ensemble) is something you can't escape when playing in such an organization.

It also sounded unbearably dissonant to me at first. Today along with Mathis Maler it remains one of my favorite compositions - by any composer.

But I DO think we need to be patient when working with students. It is easy to think we "popped out of the womb" comfortable with 12 tone and all sorts of sophisticated sounds, but we didn't. As children we were probably just as frightened by parallel tritons as adult beginners. smile


Edited by Gary D. (03/23/13 01:07 PM)
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#2052951 - 03/23/13 01:19 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: Gary D.]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7382
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Gary,

Your topic reminds me of an old bromide I often spout to teachers (hopefully you won't interpret this as spouting off to you).

Students are enthused by that which enthuses teachers.

It's my solution for both the Baroque and Contemporary. My students get a dose of 20th cent modern fairly early on, but accompanied with, "Oh, this is one of my favorites" and played like it was. I recently started a middle school student and a high school student on Shostakovitch's Fantastic Dances. Both came back the following week with the first fully learned and nearly up to tempo. They both loved the clashes and dissonances. When I asked how their parents like it, it was a "not very much" type of response, which also indicates a bit of the rebellion complex at work.
_________________________
"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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#2052960 - 03/23/13 01:53 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4810
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Gary,

Your topic reminds me of an old bromide I often spout to teachers (hopefully you won't interpret this as spouting off to you).

Students are enthused by that which enthuses teachers.

It's my solution for both the Baroque and Contemporary. My students get a dose of 20th cent modern fairly early on, but accompanied with, "Oh, this is one of my favorites" and played like it was. I recently started a middle school student and a high school student on Shostakovitch's Fantastic Dances. Both came back the following week with the first fully learned and nearly up to tempo. They both loved the clashes and dissonances. When I asked how their parents like it, it was a "not very much" type of response, which also indicates a bit of the rebellion complex at work.

John, absolutely not taken as your "spouting off to me". I totally agree, but is that really a surprise?

For instance, I am very fond of a couple "simple" Bartok tunes:

1) The Lonely Traveler
2) Winter Tale

Now, these are rather badly thought out as "pieces for children". Great Composers always want to be Great Teachers, but in almost all cases they write things that have nasty little technical problems.

In Lonely Traveler the slurs in the LH demand that notes be connected with fingers that are far too wide for the span of the children I teach, so I have to re-finger and show how a bit of deft pedaling can allow things to be connected by sound that cannot be connected with the fingers.

But this also gives me the opportunity to show how an adult can do it, and I find these little gems to be 100% challenging to me as a MUSICIAN, if you know what I mean.

To take one of these miniatures - "children's music" is such a misnomer - and really bring it alive so that the average person can hear that it is really something special is no mean feat.

Point: I agree with you 100%. smile

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#2052971 - 03/23/13 02:32 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: Gary D.]
spanishbuddha Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 2361
Loc: UK
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

But this also gives me the opportunity to show how an adult can do it, and I find these little gems to be 100% challenging to me as a MUSICIAN, if you know what I mean.

Sorry, this is OT and irrelevant. But I hate people who are always saying '... you know what I mean'. Usually, well no I don't, why don't you tell me. Now I see it written as part of someones speech. Oh dear, shakes head but moves on.

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#2052979 - 03/23/13 02:50 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: spanishbuddha]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7382
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: spanishbuddha
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

But this also gives me the opportunity to show how an adult can do it, and I find these little gems to be 100% challenging to me as a MUSICIAN, if you know what I mean.

Sorry, this is OT and irrelevant. But I hate people who are always saying '... you know what I mean'. Usually, well no I don't, why don't you tell me. Now I see it written as part of someones speech. Oh dear, shakes head but moves on.

SB - Mozart's notes are oh, so very easy to play and just darn hard to play well. So few can do it that few do it. As Gary points out, and many teachers know all too well, hundreds of little jewels look and sound easy but have little nuts in them which are hard to crack.
_________________________
"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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#2052983 - 03/23/13 02:58 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5276
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: spanishbuddha
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

But this also gives me the opportunity to show how an adult can do it, and I find these little gems to be 100% challenging to me as a MUSICIAN, if you know what I mean.

Sorry, this is OT and irrelevant. But I hate people who are always saying '... you know what I mean'. Usually, well no I don't, why don't you tell me. Now I see it written as part of someones speech. Oh dear, shakes head but moves on.

SB - Mozart's notes are oh, so very easy to play and just darn hard to play well. So few can do it that few do it. As Gary points out, and many teachers know all too well, hundreds of little jewels look and sound easy but have little nuts in them which are hard to crack.
which leads to my other topic: How the heck do we tell what is hard and what is easy? Especially in unknown works... ?
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#2052995 - 03/23/13 03:23 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: Gary D.]
Saranoya Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 622
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
which leads to my other topic: How the heck do we tell what is hard and what is easy? Especially in unknown works... ?


This, to me, seems like a perfect opportunity for some rigorous data analysis wink.

You're all piano teachers here. For the most part, you all fish in pretty much the same pond when it comes to the exercises and the repertoire you assign to your students -- at least up to a certain level of competence. If you would all aggregate whatever data you have on who plays what, and when, and with what kind of preparation, that would give you a veritable treasure trove of information regarding the real difficulty levels of different pieces of music.

Of course, it still wouldn't really tell you anything about *why* certain pieces are harder than others. But I'm sure that once you divide everything up into categories, and compare the types of scores that end up in any given category, then you can start to distil general rules for what makes a piece fit into a certain category. And then you can apply those rules to new pieces.

People here have responded with certain "hunches" that they have, regarding tempo, and dynamics, and staccato versus legato, and so on. Those hunches strike me as right on the money. But a hunch is just a hunch. A little bit of statistical analysis, to back up existing hunches and awaken new ones, wouldn't hurt in this case, I think!
_________________________
Beginner with some priors since 9/2012

Currently Playable
Bach 846, 926, 930
Beethoven 27/2 mvt. 1
Burgmller 100/3, 4, 7, 12, 15, 19, 25
Chopin 72/1
Clementi 36/1
Grieg 12/1, 7
Tchaikovsky 39/9

Future
Burgmller 109
Bartok Sz 56
Mozart K331

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#2052996 - 03/23/13 03:25 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: Nikolas]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4810
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Nikolas

which leads to my other topic: How the heck do we tell what is hard and what is easy? Especially in unknown works... ?

I think we have to go on our own personal experience.

First we have to play things ourselves and see if there are any "gotcha moments".

Then we watch as students try things. We can make educated guesses as to why things are hard or easy, but the experience of working through them and simply observing what happens always slightly alters our original idea of what is hard and easy.
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#2053016 - 03/23/13 03:45 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: spanishbuddha]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4810
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: spanishbuddha
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

But this also gives me the opportunity to show how an adult can do it, and I find these little gems to be 100% challenging to me as a MUSICIAN, if you know what I mean.

Sorry, this is OT and irrelevant. But I hate people who are always saying '... you know what I mean'. Usually, well no I don't, why don't you tell me. Now I see it written as part of someones speech. Oh dear, shakes head but moves on.

I hate people who are say “sorry” when they are not sorry at all.

I hate people who have nothing better to do than to trash someone's topic without adding anything positive at all.

Your "Someones" should be "someone". If you want to be clever, try learning to spell.
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#2053078 - 03/23/13 06:12 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: Gary D.]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5936
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
That got me thinking about how hard it is to get my students to even accept anything that is not 19th century Romanticism or New Age as anything but "to ugly to play".
I always found the younger ones accept it more easily. I did do a fair bit of "exploring" the piano in imaginative ways with them, so I guess it was easier to accept in a piece when you'd already improvised a High+Low piece and called it The Dragon and the Mouse. You didn't shrink at tone clusters and dissonance when it was your own.
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#2053086 - 03/23/13 06:21 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: spanishbuddha]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5936
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: spanishbuddha
Sorry, this is OT and irrelevant. But I hate people who ...
Your comments might have been better received if you'd said "I hate it when..." rather than "I hate people..."
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#2053104 - 03/23/13 07:07 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: Saranoya]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7382
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Saranoya
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
which leads to my other topic: How the heck do we tell what is hard and what is easy? Especially in unknown works... ?


This, to me, seems like a perfect opportunity for some rigorous data analysis wink.

You're all piano teachers here. For the most part, you all fish in pretty much the same pond when it comes to the exercises and the repertoire you assign to your students -- at least up to a certain level of competence. If you would all aggregate whatever data you have on who plays what, and when, and with what kind of preparation, that would give you a veritable treasure trove of information regarding the real difficulty levels of different pieces of music.

Of course, it still wouldn't really tell you anything about *why* certain pieces are harder than others. But I'm sure that once you divide everything up into categories, and compare the types of scores that end up in any given category, then you can start to distil general rules for what makes a piece fit into a certain category. And then you can apply those rules to new pieces.

People here have responded with certain "hunches" that they have, regarding tempo, and dynamics, and staccato versus legato, and so on. Those hunches strike me as right on the money. But a hunch is just a hunch. A little bit of statistical analysis, to back up existing hunches and awaken new ones, wouldn't hurt in this case, I think!

I'm certain this has been encountered by every teacher here - a piece which is relatively easy for Student A is a veritable nightmare for Student B. Assuming you've done a thorough job of preparation, and the students are at similar levels of advancement, I can speculate why this is so. Primarily, people are built differently. My physical equipment is different than yours; secondly, my mental equipment is not put together the same way as yours. These are two HUGE factors every student faces and must learn how to cope with what they have. People's reaction times are widely different as well. They seem almost inverse to intelligence, at least for a child.

Here's a real world example: I had one rather brilliant student who could not, for the life of him, get a good 3 against 2 in Debussy's Arabesque #1. Another student, with very similar preparation 3 years later knocked it out of the ball park in just a few lessons. For the first student, the Arabesque was a level 9 piece, but for the second, a level 7. Statistics, while useful in many ways, probably would have a difficult time making sense of this data.
_________________________
"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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#2053172 - 03/23/13 09:09 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: John v.d.Brook]
malkin Online   content
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Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2563
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
And then you might have students like me for whom EVERYTHING is hard!
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#2053241 - 03/24/13 12:36 AM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Saranoya Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 622
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Statistics, while useful in many ways, probably would have a difficult time making sense of this data.


All right. Point taken. But then, either:
  • What Nikolas is trying to do is pointless, unless he's trying to grade his pieces with one (or a few) specific student(s) in mind.
  • Or, statistics might help anyway in assigning levels to certain pieces, but we should consider those levels to be just a rough approximation of a piece's actual difficulty, because individual students will always have their specific strengths and weaknesses.
_________________________
Beginner with some priors since 9/2012

Currently Playable
Bach 846, 926, 930
Beethoven 27/2 mvt. 1
Burgmller 100/3, 4, 7, 12, 15, 19, 25
Chopin 72/1
Clementi 36/1
Grieg 12/1, 7
Tchaikovsky 39/9

Future
Burgmller 109
Bartok Sz 56
Mozart K331

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#2053255 - 03/24/13 01:23 AM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: Gary D.]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5276
Loc: Europe
Saranoya: John, or you do not know the project I'm talking about, and it is quite hard to explain it (plus I don't want to say too much just yet). So I can tell you that it's not pointless, but quite the opposite.

Here's me ditching on piano teachers: With new music (contemporary, dissonant music) it's quite hard to be trusting the experience of teachers and leave it at that. If I was to present something that was quite easy to understand (listening wise) then there wouldn't be an issue. But presenting something that LOOKS hard, but isn't, or LOOKS simple but takes weeks to master is another thing... Without the necessary experience with contemporary music, it's quite hard. Thus the need for a more elaborate grading system.

__________________________

But it's what Gary says: How to introduce new music, and new sounding music to students. You first have to know it yourself, as a teacher... The rest will come I think...
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#2053257 - 03/24/13 01:28 AM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: Saranoya]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7382
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
No, what Nikolas is trying to do isn't pointless at all. We have many guides which help us level a variety of pieces. They are not all in agreement, for the reasons I've stated above, but we can still have some agreement on a general relativity of difficulty (or advancement). His ideas presented in another thread take some of the subjectivity out of the equation, but perhaps a better way is simply comparing it to other works and attempting to find works which match similar pianistic problems which the student will encounter in the new work. FWIW, I suspect that publishing houses have in-house grading guides which could be helpful in the effort as well.
_________________________
"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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#2053291 - 03/24/13 06:03 AM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4810
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook

I'm certain this has been encountered by every teacher here - a piece which is relatively easy for Student A is a veritable nightmare for Student B. Assuming you've done a thorough job of preparation, and the students are at similar levels of advancement, I can speculate why this is so. Primarily, people are built differently. My physical equipment is different than yours; secondly, my mental equipment is not put together the same way as yours. These are two HUGE factors every student faces and must learn how to cope with what they have. People's reaction times are widely different as well. They seem almost inverse to intelligence, at least for a child.

Here's a real world example: I had one rather brilliant student who could not, for the life of him, get a good 3 against 2 in Debussy's Arabesque #1. Another student, with very similar preparation 3 years later knocked it out of the ball park in just a few lessons. For the first student, the Arabesque was a level 9 piece, but for the second, a level 7. Statistics, while useful in many ways, probably would have a difficult time making sense of this data.

thumb
More could be said on each of your points, but it would be difficult. You experience matches mine. smile
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#2053967 - 03/25/13 11:50 AM Students and dissonance [Re: Gary D.]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Checking in a little late, Gentlemen, but perhaps not too much so to add a thought:

Advanced HEARING must precede advanced playing.

Stay with me for a moment here - For a dissonant piece to sound “right” and convincing, it must be played with certainty and conviction. If a player (or ensemble) is tentative, or hesitant at all in approaching dissonance, that dissonance will, perforce, sound “wrong”. If the relative dissonance is short-lived, it will even sound like a glaring mistake!

Two different ensembles with which I worked come to mind. The first was made up of good amateur players, who knew their way around their instruments, but most played only occasionally. They were well acquainted with 17th, 18th, and 19th century works. When presented with 20th century repertoire, they tackled the rhythmic challenges respectably, but when the harsher dissonances appeared, things fell apart! After repeated rehearsals, the players still could not HEAR how their parts fit into the whole. Therefore, they played tentatively, and thus unconvincingly.

The second ensemble was comprised of professional, and a few amateur players, who generally played more frequently. There was no such thing as centuries-old repertoire for this ensemble, and as such the players were used to hearing (and playing) consonant and dissonant pieces regularly. Here’s what is interesting: they literally “tore into” the more dissonant sections of pieces, with each player so secure of his/her note(s), that nothing was “in the background” or lost in the mix of sound. The net result was that the more dissonant sections of pieces were often the most brilliantly played! I am convinced that these players simply HEARD their parts more securely, and understood the role of each part in the whole. No hesitation.

For students, I’ll bet one of the challenges will be to get them to LISTEN to more complex music, and get it into their hearing - If you know what I mean.

Ed
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#2054142 - 03/25/13 05:31 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: John v.d.Brook]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5500
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Students are enthused by that which enthuses teachers.

It sometimes works. Doesn't always, though.
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Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2054236 - 03/25/13 08:48 PM Re: Students and dissonance [Re: AZNpiano]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7382
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Students are enthused by that which enthuses teachers.

It sometimes works. Doesn't always, though.

Ha ha. I can only speak for me and my students. And teens don't count because their basic contra personality (hormonally based, I suspect).
_________________________
"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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