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#2100579 - 06/10/13 07:39 PM Questioning my TeacherPM
Bamburg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/13
Posts: 82
So, first of all thanks to all of you piano teachers for taking the time to read, and hopefully reply, to my post! It's appreciated.

Secondly, I'm new to these forums, so I apologize if this isn't in the proper place.

Thirdly, I apologize for the length of my post, I tend to get a little wordy sometimes.

With that out of the way, here is a little about me and the experiences I've had with my current teacher that make me wonder if I've made the right decision or if perhaps this isn't the right piano teacher for me.

I'm 26 years old, a complete beginner, and I've been taking lessons for 6 weeks now. I didn't really know how to go about finding a teacher since I live in a rather small town, so I just signed up for lessons through the local music store. I have 1 30 minute lesson each week, which doesn't seem like enough time to learn much to me.

At first it seemed great, and I was learning a lot of things, and felt like I was actually on the road to becoming a pianist. In my first lesson I learned all of the notes on the piano, a couple of easy songs with my right hand in middle C position, as well as all of the major chords except for B.... why not B? I still have no idea at this point as my teacher seems to jump around a lot.

At my second lesson we purchased a book to help me learn between lessons, I think, he told me to go as fast or as slow as I wished to in the book and let him know if I had any questions. Seemed great, the book is Alfred's Basic Adult Piano Course, and overall I like it pretty well, but it doesn't seem to go along with my actual lessons which bothers me a bit. He also asked me for a song I think sounds good on piano, so I told him I liked River Flows in You by Yiruma. We ordered an "easy" version of the sheet music at the end of the lesson.

At my third lesson the sheet music hadn't arrived yet so he taught me C and D chord inversions and a few exercises for practicing them, which I enjoyed. I asked him some questions about the metronome, and he more or less told me that it wasn't important yet so I've ignored it up until this week.

At my fourth and fifth lessons he taught me the left, and right hand fingering for the song, and had me practice hands together. I am proud to say at this point I can play the song, even though it's far more difficult than anything my lessons or the book have prepared me for, but my teacher seems to be getting rather annoyed that I can't play it with proper timing. He told me that my practice time for this week should be spent trying to get the timing down with my metronome set to 60 BPM, and so far it's an extremely frustrating experience and I'm having no luck getting it together. I have a fine sense of rhythm, I can keep time with music I'm listening to, but playing takes all of my concentration and most of the pieces I've dealt with so far were just whole/half/quarter notes. The piece he has me learning is all eighth and sixteenth notes, which seem quite a bit more difficult to me. I can barely read sheet music at this point, and playing this piece which is far too difficult for me with both hands takes all of my focus, so I'm not able to actually play it and focus on the ticking of the metronome.

Overall, my teacher seems a little disorganized. There's been scheduling conflicts where he's forgotten what time my lesson was, or moved it to a different time without telling me. I feel like maybe he's forgetting where I am in my playing and skipping around too much. I don't feel like he's building a good foundation for my piano playing skills, rather just teaching me to learn songs I like through hours of practice rather than understanding what I'm playing or building technique.

Have I made a bad decision in choosing this piano teacher? Should I try to raise my concerns with him or cut my losses and find a new teacher?

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#2100589 - 06/10/13 07:56 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2919
Loc: UK.
It sounds to like your teacher is trying to give you what you think you want.

Adult students often expect very fast results and I know that teachers can be keen to explain too much too soon or prescribe pieces which are in fact beyond the reach of their students. I don't know of an easy version of River Flows in You but the rhythms involved in this piece are way too complex for a student of 6 weeks. The alfreds book can work well but the lessons should really be following the same program with maybe a little deviation if you want further explanation or additional exercises.

When you say you have done the major chords except for B what you have actually played are the triads (three note chords in root position) based on all the white keys except for B. these are:

C major
D minor
E minor
F major
G major
A minor

All these chords are within the key of C major and contain no sharps or flats, just white keys on the piano. The chord based on B is neither major or minor and is not used very often. In any case this is something you will study in more detail later on so it looks like it has been introduced a little early, perhaps because you asked a question about it? If you wanted to do a little research there is a lot of info available on the Internet about chords and harmony or even music theory in general but actually most of it will be meaningless without some practical experience.

I don't think your teacher is necessarily wrong for you. You just need to chat more with them about what it is you want and be realistic about your goals. It sound to me like you accept that you need to learn to walk before you can run so just communicate that with them and you might find they are relieved.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#2100590 - 06/10/13 07:56 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11766
Loc: Canada
Trying to summarize:

New student, 6 thirty minute lessons so far.

Lesson 1: learns all the notes on the piano (white keys?), and all the major chords except for B.
Lesson 2: asks for a book, is told to get Alfred adult and study it on his own. Lessons don't match what's learned in book, lessons seem confused
- student is asked to choose the piece he wants to learn
Lesson 3: student's chosen piece hasn't arrive, so chord inversions are taught
Lessons 4 & 5: "easy" version of student's piece arrived: fingering for LH and RH learned
Lesson 6: teacher annoyed that student can't play it fast enough. Student is struggling; the music is too hard with too much going on.

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#2100592 - 06/10/13 07:58 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: keystring]
Bamburg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/13
Posts: 82
Good summary! Thanks Keystring

And when you put it that it seems as if maybe I'm not giving the guy enough of a chance and being impatient? Which is why I'm trying to get different points of view on this forum rather than doing anything hastily.

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#2100593 - 06/10/13 08:01 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2919
Loc: UK.
Actually I just re-read the comment about scheduling and forgetting your lesson times. This is not good and I can't really think of any excuse for that.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#2100598 - 06/10/13 08:08 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Chris H.]
Bamburg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/13
Posts: 82
Yeah, he's been good about being there on time the last few lessons, although his next student is scheduled immediately after me and my lesson doesn't start on time exactly, so it seems to get cut a few minutes short.

And the chords he taught me were all major triads, D, E, and A have 1 black key each while C, F, and G are all on the white keys. Sorry for the confusion.

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#2100614 - 06/10/13 08:39 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1023
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: Chris
River Flows in You are way too complex for a student of 6 weeks.


I would not teach a new student of 6 weeks this song if they are beginner. I will wait at least they finish two method books then teach this song.
_________________________
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#2100615 - 06/10/13 08:40 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11766
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Bamburg

And the chords he taught me were all major triads, D, E, and A have 1 black key each while C, F, and G are all on the white keys. Sorry for the confusion.

Now I'm sure about the omitted B chord. It has a pattern of its own: white-black-black (B D# F#).

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#2100628 - 06/10/13 09:11 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
So do you go to the local music store for lessons? Or is this just someone whose name they had on hand? I'm only curious b/c I'm concerned with the disorganized part of this teacher - if he is forgetting lessons and he is someone who is working for/through the music store, then they should be aware of that, and dealing with the missed lessons, etc. (Now that I type that I'm thinking the latter scenario of which they just gave you his name is more likely, in which case disregard the above.)

I also agree that perhaps you need to communicate a bit more with him - teachers are used to adults expecting instant results, since if they aren't "entertained" with what they are learning, most of them don't see much reason to stay.
I think it would help if you just told him explicitly:
"I really think this piece is too hard for me... I'm honestly more interested in learning the basics and getting a solid foundation so I can eventually learn more music, as I do plan to stick with it."
And if he is even a remotely decent teacher, he will probably be quite pleased to hear that!

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#2100741 - 06/11/13 02:14 AM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
Indeed, let your teacher know you have the patience to learn things in an organised order, and no rush to learn real songs. See what the response is.

My concern is your teacher may have little idea how students learn if they expect you to deal with complex rhythms correctly and to time, when you haven't even covered the basics of reading. If this is a basic flaw of your teacher then you will probably find it keeps cropping up and you are constantly frustrated. Not all teachers are good teachers.
_________________________
I am a competent teacher.


www.justfingers.co.uk
www.babysinging.co.uk

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#2100795 - 06/11/13 04:52 AM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5523
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Bamburg
Should I try to raise my concerns with him or cut my losses and find a new teacher?

This sounds like a sensible solution. Good luck!
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2100845 - 06/11/13 09:31 AM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12075
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Definitely try voicing these things to your teacher, then give him a few weeks to correct the problem. Please mention everything, because we teachers aren't mind-readers. The disorganization is a concern, a big one, and that most likely will not change, but you should give him the chance to do so. If it's not corrected in say 4 weeks, then give him notice according to his policy if he has one. If not give notice that you feel is respectful (generally 2 weeks isn't enough time for a teacher).
_________________________
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MTNA member
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Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2100997 - 06/11/13 03:41 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: red-rose]
Bamburg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/13
Posts: 82
Originally Posted By: red-rose
So do you go to the local music store for lessons? Or is this just someone whose name they had on hand?


I do take the lesson at the music store, however they made it clear that the teachers aren't their employees.

Thanks for the advice everyone! You were all very helpful. I'll definitely have a conversation with him and hopefully get things back on track.

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#2101095 - 06/11/13 06:25 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11766
Loc: Canada
Anyone can set up shop and declare himself to be a teacher. Being able to play the piano and knowing something about music is not enough. If you talk to this person, and if he knows how to teach, then he will make good changes. If he doesn't know how to teach, then talking won't help. We only have what you have told us and it's easy to get the wrong impression. Communicating is always an important step.

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#2106900 - 06/23/13 07:06 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: keystring]
Bamburg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/13
Posts: 82
A bit of an update since my last post, itt's been a couple of weeks and I've only gotten one lesson in due to the teacher cancelling the other. I tried having a conversation with him about the direction of my lessons, and it really didn't go well. He said that he taught a chord based method and that I'd learn everything else I needed to know just by playing new and different pieces with him helping me work through them. He also said that he thought that scale playing and all the other technical exercises generally forced on students didn't provide enough reward for the time investment.

During the actual lessons, since I've learned the piece we've been working on he helped me get the timing down in some places, and I discovered that some of the dynamic markings weren't even possible on the keyboard we have lessons on. There's only one volume no matter how you press the key apparently, so when it says "cres. poco a poco" or "mp" "pp" "mf" he said that we couldn't work on that stuff and dismissed it as unimportant at this stage of my musical development.

So, I've decided to take lessons elsewhere. I found a studio that's about a 45 minute drive that says their typical lesson will teach theory and technique as well as increase a students repertoire. However, they start classes on a quarterly schedule so I'm not able to begin until September.

Is there anything I can do in the mean time, other than continue my lessons with my current teacher. Maybe there's some books with technical exercises in them I could get, or should I just keep working through my method book?

I also read in another thread a post about someone's method for teaching adults, and he said that the first piece he taught was Bach's Prelude in C Major, maybe it would be a good idea for me to work on something like this?

Anyway, thanks for all the help I've received. Hopefully I'm not being overeager, I just want to learn to play more than I've ever wanted anything before!

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#2106947 - 06/23/13 08:33 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11766
Loc: Canada
The teacher who discussed the Bach Prelude actually starts off by having his adult students study theory things away from the piano, before they play piano. In your case, this may actually be a solution. The Bach Prelude bases itself on some chords and theory that are learned first, so that the two things work together. The problem with doing piano playing on your own involves the physical habits you may get into, which then have to be fixed which is hard.

When I was left high and dry, I worked a lot on theory and music history. If you decide to work on theory, it is a good idea to also explore whatever you are learning concretely. If it's rhythm or note value, tap it out. If about chords or intervals, explore it on the piano, using your ears and your senses. If your method book talks about Beethoven or a Gavotte, learn about these. The Internet will enrich your studies. You can get documentaries, period dancing, just about anything.

Also, might the place where you'll be studying be able to suggest some things that they'd love you to do before starting lessons with them?

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#2106959 - 06/23/13 09:09 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
R0B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 1439
Loc: Australia
If your teacher is working at a music store, and the only teaching instrument available, is an undersized, non-hammer action, non-touch sensitive keyboard, then you,and anyone else who takes 'piano lessons' there, are being seriously short changed.

I would try enquiring at local schools in your area, if they know of anyone who teaches piano locally.
There may be someone who just doesn't advertise, but may be willing to take you on.
I hope you find someone closer than 45 mins. away
_________________________
Rob

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#2106990 - 06/23/13 10:42 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: keystring]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: keystring
Also, might the place where you'll be studying be able to suggest some things that they'd love you to do before starting lessons with them?


This. If you can get no input, forgo the technical exercises for the time being and focus on your method book(s) and/or other easy repertoire (your teacher's ideology that technical exercises aren't worth the investment in time required isn't necessarily without merit, but for this approach to be valid, you'd need to follow a strict and abundant repertory-based learning regimen as it sounds like he wanted you to do). Technical exercises have their place, but generally aren't recommended without the guidance of a hands-on teacher to help demonstrate the purpose and the necessary motions because otherwise, they could do more harm than good to one's "technique."

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#2107026 - 06/24/13 02:09 AM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
You were taking lessons from someone with a keyboard with no dynamics? You are well shot of them.

I would suggest not tackling Bach alone. Theory and ear training perhaps?
_________________________
I am a competent teacher.


www.justfingers.co.uk
www.babysinging.co.uk

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#2107039 - 06/24/13 02:49 AM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
Opus_Maximus Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1496
Originally Posted By: Bamburg
I discovered that some of the dynamic markings weren't even possible on the keyboard we have lessons on. There's only one volume no matter how you press the key apparently, so when it says "cres. poco a poco" or "mp" "pp" "mf" he said that we couldn't work on that stuff and dismissed it as unimportant at this stage of my musical development.



Everything else you mentioned about him is open for interpretation...but this is just plain ridiculous. Nobody should be paying money to learn on one of those..and anybody who teaches on them and thinks of them self as a professional is a fraud. Glad you found a new place...but too bad you need to wait til Sept? You say your area is small and rural, have you tried looking for teachers on such sites as pianoteachers.com, musika.com, or Mtna.org??

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#2107154 - 06/24/13 11:32 AM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Bamburg,

How is your note- and rhythm- reading? If your skills there are strong, then playing from method or repertoire books is a good choice.

That Bach prelude I was talking about in another thread is very easy physically to play but hard to read. If you look at it and can't make head nor tail out of it, then you should stick to something less difficult. But if you can figure out the chords in the first two or three measures, and the rhythm doesn't pose a problem, have at it! If you can make sense of some but not all of it, ask us questions about the parts you don't understand and we'll try to help you.

You only live once. Taking a few risks at the piano won't kill you, or even ruin anything permanently.


Edited by laguna_greg (06/24/13 11:33 AM)
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2107221 - 06/24/13 01:57 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: laguna_greg]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg


That Bach prelude I was talking about in another thread is very easy physically to play but hard to read.


Eh? It isn't difficult for a complete beginner who has taken lessons for 6 weeks!?!? I think not. The OP had best steer clear of Bach until he or she has developed finger independence, control and legato.
_________________________
I am a competent teacher.


www.justfingers.co.uk
www.babysinging.co.uk

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#2107421 - 06/24/13 07:36 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: laguna_greg]
Bamburg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/13
Posts: 82
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
Hi Bamburg,

How is your note- and rhythm- reading?


I can read the notes fine, not fast enough to play along as I read but I can recognize them all given a second or 2 to think about it, and I'm starting to get the hang of recognizing notes in pairs based on the interval if that makes any sense... like if it's D and A together in the bass clef I recognize the D right off, see that it's an interval of 5 notes, and know to play D and A.

As for rhythm reading I know how it should sound, but when I'm focused on playing the notes tend to not come out as evenly as I'd like.

I should probably leave the Bach alone for the moment lol

The advice of calling the place I'll be taking lessons was great, I should have thought of that! They advised I just keep working my way through my method book, so that's what I'll be doing. Thanks again everybody.

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#2108028 - 06/25/13 06:32 PM Re: Questioning my TeacherPM [Re: Bamburg]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: Bamburg
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
Hi Bamburg,

How is your note- and rhythm- reading?


I can read the notes fine, not fast enough to play along as I read but I can recognize them all given a second or 2 to think about it, and I'm starting to get the hang of recognizing notes in pairs based on the interval if that makes any sense... like if it's D and A together in the bass clef I recognize the D right off, see that it's an interval of 5 notes, and know to play D and A.

As for rhythm reading I know how it should sound, but when I'm focused on playing the notes tend to not come out as evenly as I'd like.

I should probably leave the Bach alone for the moment lol

The advice of calling the place I'll be taking lessons was great, I should have thought of that! They advised I just keep working my way through my method book, so that's what I'll be doing. Thanks again everybody.


Sounds great! In the meantime, here are some nice free resources that might help you:


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