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#2189693 - 11/28/13 03:02 PM Do you sing in your piano teaching?
Peter K. Mose Offline
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Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1351
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
I have a new adult student who is more or less a beginner. She can read music, has sung in choirs, and played some folk guitar, but at the keyboard is a beginner. At our second lesson the other day, I was singing the melody line quietly along with her playing of a new piece when she asked me firmly to please stop, as it disturbed her concentration. So I stopped, in deference to the request.

But another part of me thought, "Why am I honoring this request? If I as the teacher want to sing during a lesson, I certainly will. I'm trying to draw out musicality, and singing is the best way to do it." I've had some teachers who often sang along with my playing, and some who did not. I do it nowadays fairly often: students need to hear more singing, imo.

Clearly there is no right answer here, but it's an interesting issue. There is also a power dynamic at play: who is in charge of the piano lesson? I would never have asked one of my teachers to adjust their teaching to my wishes: they were always in charge of the lesson. Times change, perhaps, and my teaching style is more flexible than what I received, but maybe flexibility is not always a good thing.

Your thoughts?

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#2189697 - 11/28/13 03:12 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
MaggieGirl Offline
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Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 484
My daughter's teacher sings, esp at sticky parts - Dah, dah, DEE, dah......while my daughter plays. I never thought twice about it
- I think at times she would like my daughter to try it at home, but she wouldn't. She hates even counting out loud.

I am thinking if she asked you to not sing, that you can ask her to sing the part instead.


Edited by MaggieGirl (11/28/13 03:12 PM)

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#2189700 - 11/28/13 03:20 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
hreichgott Online   content
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Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 1015
Loc: western MA, USA
How do you see your relationship with adult students? Do you expect obedience to your authority as with young children, or do you see yourself more as a knowledgeable coach/assistant? During your experiences with teachers, were you a child or were you an adult?

It does sound like the student pushed your power-struggle buttons a bit. There is surely a right answer, at least a right answer for you, and it has to do with what you decide the overall role of adult student and teacher should be in your teaching.

For what it's worth I sing all the time with students, sometimes while they are playing but more often in between, taking turns, so the singing is a demonstration meant to be imitated. Singing is very valuable especially with beginners and with adults who are fluent "typists," motivated to hit keys in the right order but not as focused on the various qualities of sound those keys can produce. Suzuki teachers are probably the most singy teachers out there, but even Kataoka-sensei (Haruko Kataoka, developer of the piano form of the Suzuki method) wrote that teachers should not sing too much during the student's playing, as it teaches the student not to listen fully to the tone of the piano.
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#2189722 - 11/28/13 04:20 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4805
Loc: South Florida
Peter, no, I never sing. smile

It seems to be one of those things that people are for or against.

But if your student NEEDS whatever you are trying to bring forth from singing, and it does not happen when you don't sing, it's probably time for a conversation!
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#2189725 - 11/28/13 04:23 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
ten left thumbs Offline
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Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
I do sing, but not always (naturally) and I think I would respect a direct request not to sing, from an adult or a child.

For a beginner reading through a piece for the first time, I'm guessing they will feel under pressure to play at a particular speed, while they need time to find keys and control their fingers.

However, I would make sure at some early point, to be playing duets, or to sing, or play in unison an octave up or down, precisely so that they *are* under pressure to play at a steady speed. Many of mine will resist keeping a steady beat, and will use any excuse (e.g. "I don't like your voice" - and who can blame them?) to get out of it.
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#2189728 - 11/28/13 04:27 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
stalefleas Offline
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Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
Eh... Well regarding the "power struggle" it is actually quite funny. Say you did let your student take control of the lesson. Then what would happen? Well probably the student wouldn't learn anything or as much. I only have own student who really likes to "dictate" how lessons go and it is a tremendous problem. He is progressing incredibly slowly because he is always changing his mind--because while he may think he knows better, he really does not.

If I were in your position, I would perhaps simply explain my reasoning for singing (I sing too in lessons quite often and have received no complaints--many students start to sing along!) or as mentioned above ask the student to sing instead... If anything this might help highlight the ridiculousness of the student's complaint.

It's really annoying because a lot of students parents and adult beginners have preconceived notions about what piano lessons are supposed to be like. I'm not sure where these ideas come from but they more often than not get in the way of productive teaching.

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#2189733 - 11/28/13 04:38 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Morodiene Offline
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Since this is a new adult student, it's very hard for them to become someone who basically doesn't know anything. Adults are used to being experts to some degree. Now, if it were idle humming along, then I can see what they meant, but it sounds as tough you were trying to elicit some musicality from the phrase.

The next lesson, I would bring up this incident again, explain the purpose for singing, and tell them either you sing, or they sing. Which would they prefer?

I do sing while my students play, sometimes along with the counting to help them hear the timing, other times to express a musical idea. If it's something you feel strongly enough to do at a lesson, then it should be done and you shouldn't conform to the student's request who frankly, doesn't know better.
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#2189756 - 11/28/13 06:23 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
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This is not about power or pseudo-expertise. She has given you feedback on what affects her. This kind of communication is invaluable, because it's complicated enough working with adults with mixed backgrounds - less groping in the dark and guesswork should be good.

I believe I have some insight into this. In a strong as a singer, and at this time I am learning to function as a pianist. A large aspect of playing the piano is a matter of physical coordination. You are training the nervous system and the body. The eyes look at the page, and instead of the sound coming out of the voice box, it translates into an action of the hand on keys. This takes enormous concentration. Instead of adding more or less breath, it is changed motion and changed velocity.

I think that if you sing at a singer who is a beginner pianist, you might confuse the whole physical process which she has to sort out. And if you are not as in tune as a trained singer - well, that's another kettle of fish. laugh

In my own journey I had to temporarily turn off the singer looking at the notes, in order to turn on the pianist using hand and body motions to create those notes. My body has to respond with velocity, pedal , anticipated motion, leaning the body --- none of this corresponds to any instinct a singer may have. After a while, however, you may associate that legato upsweep of the voice, with the motions on the piano that will do the same thing. It will fuse.

I think it's fantastic that she can give you this kind of feedback; You might have the start of a nice working relationship. If she is serious then she will want your leadership and your understanding.

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#2189841 - 11/28/13 09:32 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3201
Loc: Virginia, USA
I cannot multi task. It is a function or rather a sensorimotor dysfunction - I'm a mild high functioning Asperger's type. At times listening to two different things becomes physically painful. That may sound like an exaggeration but trust me, it is not. If for example somebody talks to me while the radio is playing in the car, I have to turn it off, which I do as unobtrusively as possible.

Now, music demands attending to more than one thing at a time, and I can do that within the context of a piece. But I too might have trouble with a teacher singing or talking while I'm trying to carry out their instructions, depending on what's going on. Much of the time it would work better to stop me, get my attention, tell me what you want, and then check that I do it right.
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#2189842 - 11/28/13 09:34 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
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Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
But it really helps with learning how to play collaboratively and listen to others. Yes, it's difficult at first and jarring, so I understand the student's response. However, the teacher wasn't doing it idly, there was a purpose, and they need to recognize that.
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#2189858 - 11/28/13 10:13 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Morodiene]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3201
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
But it really helps with learning how to play collaboratively and listen to others.


Yes, if they're ready for that.

When I sing in a choir, I can do better if I can hear the other voices.

But for most people there is a bit of learning curve where they need to block the other voices to sing their own. Some people never get past that.

A beginning piano student playing collaboratively? That would be a bit of a first, wouldn't it? Might be a good thing though.
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#2189867 - 11/28/13 10:23 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
stalefleas Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
Ok right so as some others have pointed out perhaps this is not so simple as suggested at first. Very interesting and informative thread. Perhaps you ought to explore this with your student in your next lesson. Maybe there is something more to her complaint.

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#2189876 - 11/28/13 10:40 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: stalefleas]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11691
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: stalefleas
Maybe there is something more to her complaint.

Feedback or communication rather than complaint? smile

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#2189879 - 11/28/13 10:47 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1351
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Wonderful, thoughtful replies so far. Many thanks. Most likely I'll just monitor this over a few lessons, and see if we can find some middle ground of mutual accommodation. There are many levels to the interactions going on between two adults at a piano, in the context of a piano lesson.

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#2189880 - 11/28/13 10:50 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Morodiene]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4805
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
But it really helps with learning how to play collaboratively and listen to others. Yes, it's difficult at first and jarring, so I understand the student's response. However, the teacher wasn't doing it idly, there was a purpose, and they need to recognize that.

Hearing someone "sing at you" can work either way.

Look, I have decades of experience accompanying singers, so obviously I am not bothered by the sound of the human voice in that way. That the insanity that comes out the mouths of teachers, sometimes out of tune, is frankly very annoying.

I don't like it when it's done to me, and I don't like to do it.

Just sayin'...
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Piano Teacher

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#2189930 - 11/29/13 02:37 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: keystring]
stalefleas Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: stalefleas
Maybe there is something more to her complaint.

Feedback or communication rather than complaint? smile
Regardless of my newfound optimism I still suspect the possibility of rudeness.

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#2189934 - 11/29/13 02:52 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4805
Loc: South Florida
Just a little cranky push-back on pianists singing:

Listen for maybe 5 minutes and TELL me you guys don't wish someone had gagged him.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4dhE51_ujc

I LIKE his playing, but honestly, this is SO annoying and SO avoidable. TO my mind this starts with pianists singing, when they practice. Which is why I hate it...
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#2190004 - 11/29/13 09:39 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Gary D.]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3201
Loc: Virginia, USA
I think this might happen, not sure.

Teacher sings to a child, child's brain says, "hmm. Teacher is singing again. Guess they all do that. Wonder why. Wonder what song that is, anyway. Maybe I should buy her some Miley Cyrus."

Teacher sings to me, my brain goes, "Teacher is singing. I must be doing something wrong. Wonder what it is. I wish she'd just tell me. Hey, that's the third of the chord, you really need to lower that pitch if you're going to hold it that ........where was I?"

I sing to my handbell choir when they're playing unevenly and I think knowing where the melody is will help get the pulse back, or if they're consistently doing a rhythm wrong. As a result of this discussion I'm going to be careful not to do it without some thought as to why and when, don't want it to be a mindless habit.
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#2190038 - 11/29/13 11:11 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
stalefleas Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
I sometimes sing as I count because I think it sets a good example for the students. It has been beneficial for me to sing as I play to get a better sense of phrasing and shape. Sometimes phrase marks in pieces make no sense whatsoever. Usually it is the editor's fault.

I often sing slightly ahead of my beginner students so that they have an opportunity to hear what they're playing versus what I'm singing. I don't always have to say: "what note is that?" when they can hear the discrepancy. I never sing during the performance phase, except in instances where I want to illustrate how I think the melody might evolve in terms of shape. But even then usually it is beneficial to simply play it for them.

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#2190039 - 11/29/13 11:12 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
stalefleas Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
Point being, while some singing might be mindless habit, often there is some purpose behind it.

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#2190059 - 11/29/13 11:44 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: TimR]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
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Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: TimR
As a result of this discussion I'm going to be careful not to do it without some thought as to why and when, don't want it to be a mindless habit.

TimR, as a principle that is a gem of wisdom that should be framed. Why, when, and probably testing if it works the way we think it does. smile

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#2190133 - 11/29/13 03:14 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4805
Loc: South Florida
No one has touched upon the problem I brought up. Teacher sings, student learns that singing is good, student picks up habit, a decade or more later you have Zimerman, Gould or someone else "emoting" with incredibly annoying humming...
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#2190154 - 11/29/13 04:22 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
stalefleas Offline
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Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
I like the humming.

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#2190160 - 11/29/13 04:33 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: stalefleas]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
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Originally Posted By: stalefleas


I often sing slightly ahead of my beginner students so that they have an opportunity to hear what they're playing versus what I'm singing.

I hope that this is before they play, rather than while they are playing.

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#2190197 - 11/29/13 05:59 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: stalefleas]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
Originally Posted By: stalefleas
Point being, while some singing might be mindless habit, often there is some purpose behind it.


Another purpose in singing is to encourage students to sing along when they play which is soooo helpful for aural, sight-singing and internalising the melody.
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#2190232 - 11/29/13 07:27 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: stalefleas]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4805
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: stalefleas
I like the humming.

Apparently everyone else here does too.
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Piano Teacher

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#2190271 - 11/29/13 08:49 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: keystring]
stalefleas Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: stalefleas


I often sing slightly ahead of my beginner students so that they have an opportunity to hear what they're playing versus what I'm singing.

I hope that this is before they play, rather than while they are playing.


Why? This is while they play.

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#2190496 - 11/30/13 10:58 AM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
KurtZ Offline
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Registered: 03/13/10
Posts: 900
Loc: The Heart of Screenland
My piano teacher sings at various times. Most often she'll sing the top line when I'm sight reading the bottom to help me hear relationships. As for pitch, she sings well enough to get paid to sing back up for local working bands. Both my recorder teacher and my cello teacher sang. I asked them both why they did that and they both answered that whenever I had a question about phrasing/interpretation (of a melody) line and lacking any other direction, I could never go wrong aping how it would sound when sung by a good vocalist. My recorder teacher who is also my recorder group conductor frequently sings at us to get us together and to get us away from the pedestrian phrasing that results from sight reading unfamiliar pieces.

Gary D, the humming didn't bother me but that's some great playing. We, the player and I, also share initials in our names. I rather enjoyed the almost baroque touch and the clarity of voices ala Gould. Oh that's right he hummed as well. They might be on to something. I'll think I'll start humming when I knock out the easy movement of Le Couppey in C later today. Seriously now, your adult student is precious in that there are damn few to go around and as you know, they quit as easily as flies land on cows. This one sounds like she's wound a little tight. Give the singing a rest. Let her get comfortable while you get a better handle on her personality and reintroduce it as needed after explaining to what purpose you're doing so.

regards

KZ
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#2190555 - 11/30/13 01:07 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: Gary D.]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
No one has touched upon the problem I brought up. Teacher sings, student learns that singing is good, student picks up habit, a decade or more later you have Zimerman, Gould or someone else "emoting" with incredibly annoying humming...


I'm not sure Zimmerman or Gould picked that habit up from the teachers.

All my accompanying teachers made me hum or sing the vocal/instrumental line, or "moo" the phrase to feel the breathing (that was Gwen Koldofsky- she made everybody do it). My first teacher made me sing all the voice parts in the fugues I studied with her.

However, none of that encouraged me to sing while I was performing. Of course, I think I might have gotten hit if I had, so I made sure I didn't. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have actually done it, but they sure acted like they would.

The one thing I can't do, though, is stop counting while my students play. It requires a terrible effort to just keep it to myself...


Edited by laguna_greg (11/30/13 01:32 PM)
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#2190556 - 11/30/13 01:08 PM Re: Do you sing in your piano teaching? [Re: KurtZ]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11691
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: KurtZ
This one sounds like she's wound a little tight.

The only thing that we know is that she is a beginner, sings in a choir, and told her teacher that his singing broke her concentration. There is no way that you can tell her emotional state from that single piece of information.

A few years ago I had a conversation with some teachers about feedback from students. I had though that a "good student" silently follows instructions. I learned the (many) teachers want feedback on what does and doesn't work, because otherwise they are working in the dark. This altered my model of "effective student behaviour". It is a delicate balance.

This student has told her teacher how the singing affects her. He may decide to advise her about it, explore it with her - do any number of things. It is also plausible that if she is a beginner, that trying to handle coordinating the piano keys, the notes, and also deal with singing, may be too much for her to handle. That is not a matter of being "wound tight", but of what she is capable of doing because of the level she is at.

Quote:
... as you know, they quit as easily as flies land on cows. Give the singing a rest.

That is debatable, and above all, it is not pertinent. Either something works, or it doesn't work. Either a difficulty stated by a student is valid, or not valid. What happens statistically has no effect on the choices a teacher might make in a given situation.

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