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#2138457 - 08/24/13 07:11 PM Changing teachers?(wider repertoire/focus on 1or2?)
Athdara Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/13
Posts: 22
Loc: Singapore
Hello all,

Sorry if a similar topic like this has been posted before (pls don't kill me crazy), but this issue has been boggling me so much that i thought some 'custom' advice would be good... blush

Am gonna be 28 this year and would consider myself an adult beginner of sorts--maybe I'm doubting myself too much, but I still don't believe I've a good foundation as I'm really bad at sight-reading, I lack the vocabulary to describe/discuss the characteristics of any piece, my repertoire is limited only to exam pieces, and I've limited knowledge of composers and other wonderful pieces.

I learnt some simple songs & scales when I was in primary school, then stopped, and only began lessons at 23. My 1st teacher was my colleague who had completed grade8 and was taking further lessons himself. He gave me lessons informally & charged me a fraction of what I'm paying for lessons now, but he brought me through grades 3&5, and introduced me to a wide range of composers & pieces. Then we switched jobs, had other commitments, & etc., and I stopped lessons for a year.

At 26 I decided to engage another teacher, this time, a full-time piano teacher with formal music education, in hopes that I could build any foundation I lacked, and to prepare me for grade 8. I had and still have many concerns about that new (and is my current) teacher, but am holding on because I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to find a suitable teacher who doesn't mind my schedule, and she did help me push through grade5 theory & grade8 in a year despite having lessons only intermittently.

Here're just some of the concerns:
1. She'd always be late for lessons; up to 30-40min late, despite hints and reminders.
2. I wouldn't understand what she was trying to explain to me during theory lessons, but somehow after many drills, exercises and what not, she did help me get a distinction for my grade5 theory..
3. I wouldn't understand what she was trying to teach me during oral practices, esp. description of pieces and time periods, etc. (in short, maybe we can't click?)
She's encouraged me to pursue a diploma (Trinity). Now that i'm done with grade8, I'm really hoping to explore more pieces, especially the pieces that my 1st teacher introduced me to. But:
1. I showed her some Chopin nocturnes that I was interested in learning, and had dabbled with in the past. She did try to entertain my questions, but eventually brushed the pieces aside and admitted that she has never played one in her entire career.
2. Once, I proudly brought a score I purchased a few years back and expressed that I wanted to learn that piece. She had never seen that piece before and requested to borrow my score so she could photocopy it. It took a few weeks before i got my score back, and it was crumpled and stained. She did apologise for that, but we never got down to learning that piece.
3. I'd express interest in learning some pieces I like for the exams. She wouldn't object to helping me through the pieces, but she'd very frequently and strongly recommend I switch to others of her choice, which are simpler and easier to master. Though I understand that she's trying to ensure that the pieces are suitable for my level, she did recommend a difficult one too (maybe because she's familiar with it?), the pieces I chose are approved atcl exam pieces, and I've explicitly expressed time and again that I don't care how long it takes for me to learn them, and that I'm in no rush to take a dip (especially since I feel that my foundation is weak and my knowledge is sufficient).

Practical and theory lessons aside, I've recently been looking for a new piano to purchase for a new home next year, and have asked her advice. She strongly recommended a certain brand, and when I asked her about other well-known brands in the market, she'd either not know them, or the comments and advice she gave were the exact opposite of what I've read in forums and online...then again, perhaps a teacher need not have good knowledge of piano brands..?

So the question is, should I hang on? I'm quite confident that I'd be able to play 1, 2 or 3 pieces very well under her guidance (as proven through the g8 exams), but I may not be able to explore pieces I like, and may have to struggle through further theory. Also, she has expressed enthusiasm in taking me through the diplomas, and has purchased some g6 theory books for me...help?? frown

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#2138465 - 08/24/13 07:42 PM Re: Changing teachers?(wider repertoire/focus on 1or2?) [Re: Athdara]
dynamobt Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/07/13
Posts: 719
Loc: NH
Something sounds not quite right in that your teacher has had formal music education but has never played a Chopin Nocturne?

Others are sure to reply. I really don't have a lot of experience to comment. But something seems not quite right.
_________________________
1918 Mason & Hamlin BB





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#2138468 - 08/24/13 07:53 PM Re: Changing teachers?(wider repertoire/focus on 1or2?) [Re: dynamobt]
Athdara Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/13
Posts: 22
Loc: Singapore
Apologies, I should specify that I was looking for one with formal music education. The agency I engaged when looking for a teacher sent me a very impressive resume that listed all her accomplishments and certs, but they do not verify or authenticate qualifications, so it's all based on trust.

Perhaps, to add, I do not mean to "bash" my teacher or stab her behind her back. She's plays the piano beautifully, has taught me many useful, practical tips, and has sparked in me a strong interest to continue learning, for which I'm very grateful.

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#2138472 - 08/24/13 08:09 PM Re: Changing teachers?(wider repertoire/focus on 1or2?) [Re: Athdara]
dynamobt Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/07/13
Posts: 719
Loc: NH
Makes more sense. I agree. You should look for a teacher who has had formal music education.
_________________________
1918 Mason & Hamlin BB





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#2138638 - 08/25/13 05:05 AM Re: Changing teachers?(wider repertoire/focus on 1or2?) [Re: Athdara]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3605
She does not seem completely honest. And she does not teach you pieces that you'd like to learn? I'd suggest you visit another teacher to see if that works better for you.
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#2138659 - 08/25/13 06:53 AM Re: Changing teachers?(wider repertoire/focus on 1or2?) [Re: Athdara]
Jessiebear Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/23/13
Posts: 174
Loc: New Zealand
It doesn't sound like you two are clicking well together, no harm in trying a new teacher and getting a fresh perspective on your playing?
_________________________
Inspired by Einaudi and Tiersen.

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#2138696 - 08/25/13 10:04 AM Re: Changing teachers?(wider repertoire/focus on 1or2?) [Re: Athdara]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11810
Loc: Canada
The fact that this teacher is consistently late, and that late (30 - 40 minutes?!!) shows an attitude that does not take teaching you seriously. When you got the distinction in theory "after many drills and exercises" while at the same time you didn't understand her instructions, it's possible that this came through your work and whatever material you used. Meanwhile, part of teaching is to not only master what you are teaching, but also how to teach it so that it comes across to the student. This second definitely has not been happening. Clearly transmission of knowledge has to happen in lessons, or what is the point? If it's not happening, it can be because of how it's being taught, or how the student is taking it in, or both. But given the lateness and everything else, it might be the first.

You describe a broader set of goals while she is talking about Trinity diploma. You also describe your friend bringing you through grades 3 & 5, and then through sporadic lessons this teacher got you to pass the grade 8 practical exam and grade 5 theory. This brings up a number of things:

Lessons can go toward learning to be a musician with knowledge needed to play a piece, and the skills needed to exercise that knowledge. Here the student is being developed, and he can use these tools for the rest of his life. Lessons can also go toward passing exams and achieving grades. It is possible to have lessons where you are being developed, and still have exams as a kind of side-thing that gives you additional information from another source as to how you're doing. But often passing the grades/exams is the focus. Teacher Martha Beth Lewis* calls this "product orientation" vs. "process orientation". The market is more interested in "product". People like to see certificates and grades; it's tangible, and teachers respond to what the demand is. Some only know this world, having grown up in it themselves.

Teaching toward grades and exams requires less thought for a teacher, and it also reaps benefit in terms of reputation. It's something tangible to show off her work (X number of students passed the grade y exam with good grades). If you are teaching toward an exam, then you have a list of pieces given to you, and you may teach this piece to every student doing that grade so you know it inside out. If you want your student to get a high grade, then teach only three pieces in an entire year and make sure it is played in such a way that the judges will hear and see what they are after. Give the workbooks and whatever for the theory exams, and explain how to get at the right answers - rather than how theory works and how it relates to the practice of music.

The exams/grades etc. path has a template of sorts that the teacher can follow, including standard pieces.

This is getting too long so I will break off here.

*http://www.marthabeth.com/pedagogy_QA.html

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#2138703 - 08/25/13 10:27 AM Re: Changing teachers?(wider repertoire/focus on 1or2?) [Re: Athdara]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1377
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Originally Posted By: Shrillvoice
She plays the piano beautifully, has taught me many useful, practical tips, and has sparked in me a strong interest to continue learning, for which I'm very grateful.



Start quietly shopping for another teacher who suits you better, as it may be time to move on. But it's nice you can appreciate the good things about your past 2 years with this woman.

You alluded to your challenging schedule, though. Does that relate to your teacher showing up late, since lessons are not always at the same time?

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#2138706 - 08/25/13 10:33 AM Re: Changing teachers?(wider repertoire/focus on 1or2?) [Re: Athdara]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11810
Loc: Canada
Continued.
I went along RCM in the first years of my lessons as an adult on my first instrument to go with lessons. It is similar. We did theory late, and by that time I was also questioning or searching. I was fortunate to have a teacher who was ready to listen and see what I was about as a student. My lessons broke off due to circumstance half a year after that happened. frown

I think I can express the idea best through music theory, which started during that "new" period. We were doing a practice exam, and I was reciting memorized rules of when to dot rests and when to use two rests, and similar. My teacher of that time cut me short, and began to chant and tap the musical question in front of us. The fact is that music theory is related to the practice of music, and comes from it. Theory attempts to encode the patterns that the musician uses. So in understanding theory, the patterns themselves are best sensed. At the same time, theory is practical, and gets applied to our working with music itself. Except - do these two things happen?

Later I began working with another teacher whom I am still with, and that theme expanded. Here we derive patterns through music (analysis) which creates understanding which helps play the piece. This forum does some of that too. We go deeply into what things are: what is a chord or an interval really? How can we perceive them as musicians. The most mind-blowing thing to me was the idea of a V7 chord being a living thing which exists in context, so that the musician hears it and also hears in his head what must come after. It is akin to a baseball pitcher raising his arm, and you anticipate the throwing of the ball.

There is huge depth to these things, and when we work toward an exam or toward "getting grade 3 & 5" we risk scratching the surface and just getting an outline. The actual substance can be taught in a superficial manner, just enough to pass the exam. Once I knew this I went after the substance. I also surmised that since I had advanced so fast through the grades (which you have also done), that I was missing things, and went after them. Often these have helped me with music. It's like having a foundation or framework or frame of reference.

I have probably gone into it too deeply and most of what I wrote may be unhelpful - if so just ignore those things. But I'm hoping that some of it might give you added perspective.

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#2138918 - 08/25/13 06:05 PM Re: Changing teachers?(wider repertoire/focus on 1or2?) [Re: Jessiebear]
Athdara Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/13
Posts: 22
Loc: Singapore
Hi Jessiebear,

Thanks for replying. I did think of that, but am worried that it'll be a sensitive issue, as i may have to re-learn a few things and *re-relearn* them when i go for my current lessons? Perhaps I might take a break from the current one, yet I don't want to lose touch.

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#2138923 - 08/25/13 06:15 PM Re: Changing teachers?(wider repertoire/focus on 1or2?) [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Athdara Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/13
Posts: 22
Loc: Singapore
I'd usually stick to the same day, and always the same time, unless I have other commitments at work, in which case I'll give her prior notice of at least a week or a few days, then lesson will just be cancelled for that week. This happens perhaps once in two months and can't really be avoided, but I'll let the teacher know at least two weeks in advance to let her know that it's gonna be a busy month at work, etc. She's fine with that, and not every teacher would agree to that, and this is one reason why I'm hanging on. Still, despite me giving her ample notice on my part, she would sometimes postpone the lesson the day itself, give an hour's notice that she'll be late, or no notice at all. I thought time could be better managed if I went to her place instead, but even when I do, I'd have to wait for at least 15minutes before she's done with her previous student.

Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
Originally Posted By: Shrillvoice
She plays the piano beautifully, has taught me many useful, practical tips, and has sparked in me a strong interest to continue learning, for which I'm very grateful.



Start quietly shopping for another teacher who suits you better, as it may be time to move on. But it's nice you can appreciate the good things about your past 2 years with this woman.

You alluded to your challenging schedule, though. Does that relate to your teacher showing up late, since lessons are not always at the same time?

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#2139102 - 08/26/13 08:10 AM Re: Changing teachers?(wider repertoire/focus on 1or2?) [Re: keystring]
Athdara Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/13
Posts: 22
Loc: Singapore
Hi keystring

Thanks so much for your comments; you've aptly articulated what I was looking for but unable to realise or put into words--the analysis, the frame of reference and foundation are everything I'm missing. I'm sensing that the current teacher tries to put certain things into context for me, but we're just not clicking; amorphous images would form in my head when she tries to explain something, but I can fully understand and appreciate your analogy between a v7 chord and a baseball pitcher raising his arm--that's certainly refreshing and enlightening, so thank you. I guess I'm afraid to try out a new teacher too as I may be laboring under the assumption that good music teachers are such a rare find in the (Singapore) market that it's next to impossible to find one whose lessons are affordable and whose schedule can match mine. But I think I'll take the risk now.

Originally Posted By: keystring

Later I began working with another teacher whom I am still with, and that theme expanded. Here we derive patterns through music (analysis) which creates understanding which helps play the piece. This forum does some of that too. We go deeply into what things are: what is a chord or an interval really? How can we perceive them as musicians. The most mind-blowing thing to me was the idea of a V7 chord being a living thing which exists in context, so that the musician hears it and also hears in his head what must come after. It is akin to a baseball pitcher raising his arm, and you anticipate the throwing of the ball.

There is huge depth to these things, and when we work toward an exam or toward "getting grade 3 & 5" we risk scratching the surface and just getting an outline. The actual substance can be taught in a superficial manner, just enough to pass the exam. Once I knew this I went after the substance. I also surmised that since I had advanced so fast through the grades (which you have also done), that I was missing things, and went after them. Often these have helped me with music. It's like having a foundation or framework or frame of reference.


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