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#2079441 - 05/08/13 05:33 PM Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training
DRSJ Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/15/13
Posts: 10
So I've been wondering and wanting to get some thoughts on when many of you exited classical for other forms of music, if you started with classical at all.

The reason I wonder this is because many of the great methods to build skill/technique that I've come across (or are mentioned on these boards) are written using classical pieces for teaching. After spending countless dollars on many of the fly-by-night jazz and modern 'methods' (play-by-ear, chord approach, etc.) all roads seem to lead me back to classical in terms of learning and developing technique and skill. And it seems as if many of the great jazz, soul and modern pianists - the genres I'd like to play - developed their mastery in the classical genre as well before 'jumping off' onto other pastures (Art Tatum, McCoy Tyner, Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson, Ray Charles, etc were all classically trained). Though, unfortunately, its often simply not 'cool' to admit that one played classical. A better story is that legends like these are 'self-taught' and that certain players are born with gifts - this makes the legends larger than life. At least I can speak for the black community in which I was raised (this is why, at least in my opinion, we have a tradition of not writing methods down to pass on to the younger generation - everything from sports to music has to look 'easy' - despite the countless hours behind close doors we put in - but I digress). I'm exaggerating to get my point across. So all that's left, written down, is classical, everyone else is supposedly 'self-taught'.

Needless to say, as a 9-year old African American piano student growing up listening to some of the jazz and soul legends, I promptly quit piano because i couldn't make the connection between the Mozart I was being forced to play, and the modern greats who, at least I thought were, 'self-taught'. I wanted to PLAY something. Surely the 'kool kats' weren't home learning classical! I wanted to play something that would draw in the ladies, lol - and Bach wasn't gettin' it. Thirty years later, I decided to revisit the piano and now understand why I was being taught classical way back then - its simply where all the teaching literature is.

I'm interested to hear some of the group's experiences in struggling with this. Did you develop your own methods, if so what worked? Did you stick it out with classical, if so, when did you jump off that train and into other genres? Church? If you skipped classical, are you afraid that your technique is not up to snuff when compared to classically trained pianists?

Love to hear your thoughts.

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#2079513 - 05/08/13 09:15 PM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
daviel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/07
Posts: 933
Loc: Waxahachie, Texas
Welcome to the forum. I took classical lessons from 4 to 12 and had lessons from a band leader on pop music - reading chords like lead sheets. I mainly played in rock bands thereafter, and in a high school stage band. I took classical lessons for 2 years in college (the last two years). Had some time off for school and work but came back to the piano and have been self taught since. Practicing and taking it easy work for me. Here's a great website for some gospel and some instruction, too. Jamal is a good guy. Jamal Hartwell's Gospel Musicians I love this style of playing and can't nearly even approach Jamal's skill and mastery. Good luck in your quest!


Edited by daviel (05/08/13 09:18 PM)
Edit Reason: Gospel Musicians
_________________________
"She loves to limbo, that much is clear. She's got the right dynamic for the New Frontier"
http://roadhouseallstars.com/

David Loving, Waxahachie, Texas

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#2079522 - 05/08/13 09:45 PM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: daviel]
DRSJ Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/15/13
Posts: 10
Thanks Daviel. So that sounds about right - classical training for a few years. I checked out the site you reference and it seemed in line with some of the other new methods I've seen so far - but nothing about technique, almost assuming that folks would learn how to actually play the piano somewhere else, and then utilize these methods to learn chord progression patterns and other short cuts. The actual skill of playing seems to be skipped and not addressed at all.

I'm trying to commit to getting to at least level 4 classical, based on RCM/Carnegie Mellon, before branching off to non-classical stuff, because it seems like much of the non-classical music I want to play is at least that level.

Do you feel like you could have gotten where you are without the classical training - just skipping to chord progression patterns, etc like these methods are teaching these days?

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#2079543 - 05/08/13 10:44 PM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
All I can say is that different people have different level of training when it comes to Classical training. Some people like Kenny Kirkland and Alan Broadbent actually made living as a concert pianist while doing jazz stuff too. On the other hand, I think Kenny Werner was flunking as classical piano student, and George Shearing didn't go very far with classical either. Benny Lackner, one of the young up and coming jazz pianists in NY didin't have much 'traditional' background either.

Classical training can definitely help, and IMO classical pianist are much better about teaching technique than jazz pianists in general. Having said that I've met a lot of college jazz students who had great classical chops but didn't develop a whole lot as a jazzer. They had all the skill in the world but really couldn't play anything meaningful on a ballad or simple jazz blues.

You probably already know this but it's also important to understand what kind of skill you can get out of each discipline too. Classical is great for raw technical stuff, but you probably won't be learning to be able to play anything like this, unless you are doing really modern stuff.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNOJ1HxsFZI


Edited by etcetra (05/08/13 10:45 PM)

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#2079574 - 05/08/13 11:52 PM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: etcetra]
Farmerjones Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 200
Loc: USA
My path is atypical so it is what it is. 30 years of string band & folk, a working knowledge of theory is gonna happen. Grabbing two hands full of piano chords, only take three fingers a hand. It ain't rocket science. BUT! I'd never confuse, or delude myself into thinking what I do is even close to playing what classical players do. But on the other hand, I don't care what they're doing. Just about the same as they don't care what I'm doing. What do you want to do? And end results, y'know? I wanna chord along to a vocalist. It's barely playing. I'm fine with it, because that's all I want.

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#2079603 - 05/09/13 01:53 AM Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Writing not just of technique, but of playing in general - it is easier to teach, and perhaps therefore to learn, classical playing, as opposed to jazz. In addition to the reasons you have already mentioned, two more come immediately to mind: Repetition and advanced listening.

To state the obvious, repetition is a well-accepted, common method of learning (really learning) anything. Conveniently, the classical repertoire fosters, and encourages repetition and consistency. For the classical pianist, there is great reward in playing the self-same piece almost exactly the same way, time after time after time. That is the way repertoire is built. By contrast, the jazz player IS EXPECTED to play the self-same piece differently each time. If one is attempting to teach, it will be far easier to have a student focus upon the self-same written notation each playing, and cumulatively polish THAT performance, than to deal with the nearly infinite permutations of the jazz student playing something completely different each playing.

Advanced listing (listening in depth, as I call it) is not something all musicians learn early on. In fact, it frequently surprises me how many advanced musicians lack this skill! I shall not delve into detail here, but advanced listening involves one understanding exactly what one is hearing. When learning “by rote”, by repetition, it is possible, and even likely, that a classical student can play quite advanced pieces without actually listening to her/himself. In contrast, the successful study of jazz requires the student to hear (and understand) chord progressions, key modulations, and the “musical construction” involved in improvising. Not everyone can do that.

Ed
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#2079755 - 05/09/13 09:38 AM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: LoPresti]
DRSJ Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/15/13
Posts: 10
Thanks everyone. This all has been extremely helpful. I guess my ultimate goal for playing the piano is self-expression. I have a musician living in my head that makes the most beautiful music, but I've only now decided to let him out, using the piano as a form of communication. So I guess you can say my goals are improv and composing - on-demand, across any genre my inner musician is feeling at the time. To be able to simply sit down and play how I feel at any given moment.

For this goal, the number of methods and paths, from beginner to advanced, classical to jazz, are truly overwhelming - some are overkill, and some are lacking.

I wish there was a "piano for composers" method, lol, that would teach piano skills and techniques for the sole purpose of enabling self-expression, improv (on a basic level), etc. I bet that would make a ton of money. Again, not sure this is possible without learning the basics, and then the basics are often taught using classical, which brings me right back to where I began.

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#2079767 - 05/09/13 10:02 AM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: DRSJ
Again, not sure this is possible without learning the basics, and then the basics are often taught using classical, which brings me right back to where I began.

Yup! EVERYTHING hinges on "the basics". Classical training -- reading, rudiments, fingering, scales, sight-reading, dynamics, expression, memorization, performance preperation, and learning to practice effectively -- are the gateway to musical expression for the player.

Composing - really COMPOSING - is a different animal altogether.
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#2079899 - 05/09/13 03:38 PM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
A lot of great players learned how to improvise by learning solos off records note-by-note, and taking some of the lines and working them in different keys. In fact, several of my teachers I had actually learned to play with Oscar Peterson record note-by-note. So there are ways to learn jazz using rote/repetition too.

In my experience, a lot of jazz teachers just don't have the ability to break down the process and assign you smaller, specific tasks like classical teachers do. So in my opinion, it's really not the material per se, but the teaching styles of jazz/classical teachers. Think of drummers and guitar players, a lot of them do well without having to go through any classical training.

Now that I think about it, it's kind of interesting that different instruments have different expectations about classical training as jazz players.


Edited by etcetra (05/09/13 03:42 PM)

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#2080018 - 05/09/13 08:28 PM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
Ken. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/07/08
Posts: 288
There is a jazz book by Jim Progris "A Modern Method for Keyboard" that was used at Berklee for many years to teach piano technique, so I would say you don't have to have classical training to learn piano technique.

But on the other hand, why ignore piano technique methods that have been developed over hundreds of years? I heard Alan Broadbent plays the Chopin etudes for his warmups. Bill Evans reckoned the Bach 2 and 3 part inventions were the perfect exercises for a pianist.
_________________________
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#2080329 - 05/10/13 01:03 PM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: Ken.]
tend to rush Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 52
These days, pretty much all jazz musicians have a significant classical background.

In addition to the training in theory that classical training provides, the classical approach to disciplined practice - beginning on the first lesson - is difficult, though not impossible, for a self-trained musician to adhere to. I remember years ago, a bass player in a rock band I was in trying to sing a harmony part while playing a different bass line - an admittedly difficult task. He tried it, slowly, about 10 times, then announced that he just couldn't do it. Can you imagine a classically-trained musician doing that?

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#2080334 - 05/10/13 01:11 PM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
daviel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/07
Posts: 933
Loc: Waxahachie, Texas
I would look at all Dave Frank's excellent lessons. Then I'd take all the local in person lessons from a teacher used to adults that I could afford.
_________________________
"She loves to limbo, that much is clear. She's got the right dynamic for the New Frontier"
http://roadhouseallstars.com/

David Loving, Waxahachie, Texas

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#2082626 - 05/14/13 07:00 PM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
JamesPlaysPiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 118
Originally Posted By: DRSJ
Thanks everyone. This all has been extremely helpful. I guess my ultimate goal for playing the piano is self-expression. I have a musician living in my head that makes the most beautiful music, but I've only now decided to let him out, using the piano as a form of communication. So I guess you can say my goals are improv and composing - on-demand, across any genre my inner musician is feeling at the time. To be able to simply sit down and play how I feel at any given moment.

For this goal, the number of methods and paths, from beginner to advanced, classical to jazz, are truly overwhelming - some are overkill, and some are lacking.

I wish there was a "piano for composers" method, lol, that would teach piano skills and techniques for the sole purpose of enabling self-expression, improv (on a basic level), etc. I bet that would make a ton of money. Again, not sure this is possible without learning the basics, and then the basics are often taught using classical, which brings me right back to where I began.




If I may, and only because it lines up so well with what you said, I thought I might mention a few things I've put together, which might be of interest:

First: I think it's unfortunate that so many teachers/methods seem to hold back on composition/improvisation until they have covered a relatively large amount of theory. While I certainly appreciate the importance of theory, I can't help wondering how many students give up before ever "getting to the good stuff." I wrote a (free) book called "Instant Noodles for Piano," which is aimed at helping someone discover their own creative "voice" on the piano, in multiple styles and regardless of skill-level. I guess you could say it's my way of demonstrating that it is possible to empower someone to express themselves without loads of theory first. If you'd like to check it out, you can find it here:

http://www.BetterPiano.com

Second: your comments really reminded me of the tagline for my podcast, which is "...the podcast all about helping you to become a better piano player, especially in the areas of improvisation, composition, and playing by ear." You can find it here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/betterpiano.com/id570184527

Finally, depending on how far you are with chords, you might get a kick out of an article I wrote, "What Do I Do With All These Roman Numerals?":

http://www.betterpiano.com/archives/what-do-i-do-with-all-these-roman-numerals

Best of luck to you!

James
_________________________
Facebook groups: Jazz Piano Chat Blues Piano Chat Pop Piano Chat
Learn to play on YouTube: The Pretty Pop Piano Thingy

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#2082824 - 05/15/13 12:08 AM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
daviel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/07
Posts: 933
Loc: Waxahachie, Texas
Lock up an infinite number of monkeys in a room with typewriters (now computer keyboards) for infinity and you'll eventually get "Hamlet."
_________________________
"She loves to limbo, that much is clear. She's got the right dynamic for the New Frontier"
http://roadhouseallstars.com/

David Loving, Waxahachie, Texas

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#2083259 - 05/15/13 06:26 PM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
Music Me Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/23/12
Posts: 221
Loc: New York
Hello. Your question is interesting.
I am classically trained, with a degree in music, piano as my instrument. In addition to loving classical, I also love Jazz. I listened to everything I could all my life. My introduction to playing Jazz was to play transcriptions. Back when I was a teenager, there weren't many note for note transcriptions, but I managed to find some of my favorites: Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock. I also composed. What helped me was being able to listen and transcribing music. This has proved to be priceless for me - for training my ear. Being classically trained has been good and bad - good, because it is the nucleus of all technique and learning. Bad, because you get stuck in wanting to "read" everything you want to play. I have recently started using Dave Frank's "Breakthrough to improvisation" DVD. It is also available on youtube. It is just what I needed to move forward with learning to improvise. My classical training has been invaluable. Aside from loving the Genre, it is the nucleus for all others (in my opinion). Be patient. Listen to as much music as you can. Play because you love it and it will love you.
_________________________
Barbara
...without music, no life...

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#2087231 - 05/23/13 08:45 AM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
john f Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/27/09
Posts: 122
Loc: thailand
I've never had a classical lesson in my life on piano. I did have on clarinet when I was 10 for about two years of grade school. I went on to play sax along with clarinet just for fun and jaming with friends in service. At age 62 I started taking piano lessons from a local teacher and entertainer located in Cebu, RP. He agreed to teach me to play as he did without classical stuff, only to teach me what I needed to know as we went. Each week he came with a score/fake sheet just like the one he used to play the same song at a hotel, restaurant, wedding, etc. I took lessons for two years and then had to stop because of moving to Thailand. While with him I learned to play all major/minor chords up thru 9ths and most scales, arpeggios, and some other things. Since then I have studied on my own. U tube, internet forums, google, friends. Classical training is good if you start young enought. A cooperative teacher who is classicaly trained and has your interested at heart and will teach what you want is the best of both worlds. Good luck and never give up.

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#2087349 - 05/23/13 11:47 AM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
krzyzowski Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/10
Posts: 108
Classical training? Ten fingers, 88 keys. Technique is what is sought after by everyone. It has been written here that it takes 10,000 hr of practice to attain a certain level of skill. If one practices 10,000 hr of the same thing..
Many professionals practice 12-16 hrs a day. Gottschalk claimed he never practiced.
"What is not practiced, is not learned"..

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#2089195 - 05/26/13 01:11 PM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
Clumsy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/12
Posts: 60
Loc: Bangkok, Thailand
May I chime in with my experience.

I don't wanna call myself a musician, but rather a "decent noise maker". I've had no formal music education, started writing songs when I learned a few chords on the guitar. After a few years of song writing, I made it as a finalist in the country's song writing competition - 25+ years ago - with ZERO knowledge of music theory back then. I had a lot of trouble communicating with those who were writing the score and doing arrangements for my song, and that's when I started to learn some theory.

Today, I regret that I disregarded the piano classes that my mom wanted me to take when I was a kid. I can play by ear, move around with chord progressions, but lacking the technique to make it sound flowing and beautiful.

I watched my elder brother, a professional pianist, every so often to "steal" some of his techniques, but to no avail. His fingers move so fast and flowing. His knowledge in music theory is just solid. He could play the same song twice with the same tempo and yet one version can sound so jolly and the other could make you want to cry, all in the way he improvises his chord arrangements. All these he gained from classical training.

I play tennis, too, and I was trained the classical style. Having been trained with classical tennis, I sometimes play shots that younger kids wondered how I did it. It's about the adaptation of techniques and understanding what you're doing when you have a solid foundation. I should think it's similar in music, too.

And I wish I have that solid foundation in music the way I have in tennis ...

My 2 cents.
_________________________
- Anirut J.
Out-of-tune mid 70's acoustic Bentley upright and Casio Celviano AP-450

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#2097185 - 06/06/13 05:24 PM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
Michael Martinez Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/22/12
Posts: 421
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: DRSJ
So I've been wondering and wanting to get some thoughts on when many of you exited classical for other forms of music, if you started with classical at all.


I started with classical, but I found early on I loved jazz. For me jazz has all the harmonic complexity (and even more) of classical, with freedom of expression and more compelling rhythm. Perhaps it's my Latin blood, but the rigid 4/4 time of pre-late-1800s classical doesn't do it for me. Not suprisingly my favorite classical music starts with the late 1800s which had more harmonic complexity.

Quote:

The reason I wonder this is because many of the great methods to build skill/technique that I've come across (or are mentioned on these boards) are written using classical pieces for teaching. After spending countless dollars on many of the fly-by-night jazz and modern 'methods' (play-by-ear, chord approach, etc.) all roads seem to lead me back to classical in terms of learning and developing technique and skill.


Typical classical instruction is good for technique and can be good for developing your ear, but does not encourage improvisation and won't teach harmony unless you take music theory courses. To be a "complete" musician, you need all pieces. You need to be able to play gigs with pop and rock musicians, you need to be able to fake songs you don't know, you need to be able to relate to a group and these type of things you don't get from a traditional classical study.

you aren't going to learn how to play in an R&B band by practicing classical music.

Quote:

And it seems as if many of the great jazz, soul and modern pianists - the genres I'd like to play - developed their mastery in the classical genre


This would be more true of the pianists from the 1940s onwards. Prior to the 1940s it was probably the opposite. Most popular musicians were not book-learned.

Quote:

as well before 'jumping off' onto other pastures (Art Tatum, McCoy Tyner, Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson, Ray Charles, etc were all classically trained).


Well, this isn't really a fair argument, because there's an equal number of jazz guys who weren't classically trained, like Hampton Hawes for example

Quote:

Needless to say, as a 9-year old African American piano student growing up listening to some of the jazz and soul legends, I promptly quit piano because i couldn't make the connection between the Mozart I was being forced to play, and the modern greats


Not suprising because there isn't much of a connection.

Quote:
I'm interested to hear some of the group's experiences in struggling with this. Did you develop your own methods, if so what worked?


If I'm understanding your post correctly, you want to understand how to progress in playing popular music? .... Well the two big ingredients are: play in bands, and make an individual effort to learn as much as you can about harmony. Since I'm not a well known author, let me paraphrase Bert Ligon who is: he basically said that in order to achieve his level of proficiency as a keyboardist, you need to study harmony.

Quote:

Did you stick it out with classical, if so, when did you jump off that train and into other genres?


I took five years of classical lessons from age 9 - 14, and then I left and started playing in pop bands.

Quote:

Church? If you skipped classical, are you afraid that your technique is not up to snuff when compared to classically trained pianists?


Most pop and jazz musicians I've known have sufficient technique for their genres, and if you look more on the jazz side of things the technique is better, on par with their classical counterparts.

bottom line: technique is *not* what gives you the ability to play popular music (soul, rock, jazz, etc). What gives you that ability is the internalization of *harmony*. you need to know (without referring to written music) which chord is the most likely "next chord" for a tune that you're playing. You need to be able to "hear it" which means you first need to go through the usual litany of ii-V-Is, IV-V-Is, etc the standard chord progressions that most songs are written in, and you need to be playing these songs over and over with your band, and noodling around with them at home, until the point at which you have internalized those progression and can pick out melodies by ear and harmonize them with the appropriate chord progressions.

The classical approach won't give you this because the classical tunes do follow the "simpler" chord progressions that popular music uses, and/or don't follow it in a rhythmically similar manner. In popular music, there are conventions such as making chord changes on beat 1 or beats 1 and 3 of the bar, etc ...


Edited by Michael Martinez (06/06/13 05:32 PM)
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http://www.michael--martinez.com/music/

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#2097215 - 06/06/13 06:14 PM Re: Myths and Truths about Non-Classical Training [Re: DRSJ]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
I guess I'll add another 2 cents from my expereince.

I recently met this pianist with phenomenal technique. He plays a lot of pop and Latin jazz and I was surprised to find out that he had very little classical training. It was funny because He has vrituossic technique and yet he can't even sight-read a easy pieces that are meant for beginners. It was really interesting talking to him because he really had his own approach to practicing, but most importantly he really stressed the importance of relaxation. I guess Whether you practice classical music or not, the fundamental aspect of technique and playing an instrument well is the same.

Of course classical teachers might be better at teaching that, but then again I've met plenty of people in school who had a lot of injury problems while studying with a classical teacher too. I guess In the end it's about what works for you and finding the right teacher

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