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#2240499 - 03/03/14 01:51 AM Teaching Methods and Techniques Query
Aucha Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/02/14
Posts: 12
Hello grin ! Iím new to this forum and a beginner piano player, essentially. Sorry about the long-windedness, but I need to relate the whole story in order to get accurate feedback. And I'm asking in this forum as I'd like replies from teachers.

Iíve just started piano lessons formally. Iíve kind of mostly self-taught Ė on and off. I was shown middle C on music and keyboard as a 6 year old child and worked out how the notes worked from there, similar with chords Ė worked out the Ďpatternsí from knowing C, F and G (Iím sure thereís nothing unusual in this, but I self-taught initially). I taught myself to play the organ (I preferred piano, but my mother preferred organ), teaching myself ďNever Ending StoryĒ, ďFameĒ and other such songs from sheet music with no real difficulty as a kid off by ear (I could and did play them FAR faster than they were meant to be played, although I was painfully slow at reading the notes). And I could hear songs on the radio and easily play a simple version on the organ. I then had lessons about the age of 9 or 10, but was forced to go back to playing nursery rhymes by an impatient teacher. I was horribly de-motivated by that and became so frustrated that I quit and didnít touch it for several decades Ė although I could still remember how to play the songs I had taught myself into my twenties.

At 35 I decided to learn piano (the instrument I had wished to play as a child) and had my friend (who was a conservatorium trained piano teacher) teach me. He taught me how to play with minimal tension (I also sing, but unfortunately with a *great deal* of tension), ďDonít play with your fingers Ė play with your armsĒ, he constantly told me. He would look for bone movement on the back of my hand and teach me to play with such gentleness that the bones on the back of my hands hardly moved (the weight of my fingers and arms are what Ďstrikesí the notes, not an actual finger muscle strike, he would say), and to think of music as lots of hand positions, rather than individual notes, and to use my hands and arms in circular motions to move around the keys (which apparently also enhances musicality in the playing). There is probably a LOT more Iíve forgotten (8 or 9 years ago). This is all difficult to explain (and my new teacher found my explanations of this odd and strange and at one stage wanted me to play waggling my fingers only, which is worrisome because just a few seconds of experimentation and I could feel it in my wrist), but as a result I play easily and fast with almost no tension now. And he taught me how to deliberately practice in muscle memory to avoid errors (although, impatient, I probably donít do his wonderful teaching justice with this Ė working on it), and learning techniques such as Ďstart learning fast bits from the end, not the beginning, so that you learn always to aim towards the end of the fast bití, and Ďfast bits need to be practiced fast Ė get finger placement memory and then practice them at the correct speed, gradually adding bits end to beginningí, and how to use this strategy to fix mistakes. Within 6 Ė 10 months I was playing For Elise, a well known Mendelssohn piece (forget which one) and others. He didnít teach from any book set, but chose a mishmash of pieces from his extensive collections, so I played quite a variety Ė he said I should play as wide a range as possible. He constantly taught musicianship while he was teaching (much of which went over my head, but much also sunk in Ė although forgotten now), he broke the music down for me, chord progressions, temporary key changes, saying ďThese bars have a G#m7 dim feelĒ etc (example), demonstrating slowly through pieces he was giving me to play. And he constantly and lengthily monologued about his favourite composers and pianists grin . He also introduced me to a book called ďThe Inner Game of MusicĒ, which Iím re-reading. But entering the second half of a Uni degree at the time meant that I had little time to practice and very little money, and I stopped learning.

Much of this might appear odd, but the result was that, as a complete beginner, I could play stuff that was probably far beyond an absolute beginner (although I had an elderly friend he was teaching at the same time, who after 6 months was still playing fairly easy beginner pieces. He taught her the same techniques, but she was a rather challenging student whistle ). It was as though he overestimated what I was capable of and got me there anyway, relatively effortlessly.

Now Iím learning again, but had to find a new teacher (as sadly, he is no longer able to teach). And I have spent several months prior to this getting some of that technique back by myself, succeeding on the most part Ė I can play fast and without tension, again. My new teacher, also a conservatorium trained teacher with lots of letters after her name etc, has introduced me to scales (Iíd never learned those previously, as heíd said I could learn them anytime easily and there were scales and stuff in the pieces I played Ė my new teacher was shocked! Googling, Iíve discovered that scales appear to be universally seen as essential). Iíve just had my second lesson. In the first lesson she taught me correct fingering for scales and asked me to practice up Maj C, Maj F, Maj G, Maj A and Maj D, which I have. I can play them easily at 140 bpm (just started using a metronome Ė going to have to work on my lack of Ďa tempoí), easily and continuously without error (4/4 in quavers), and at about 160 I start to feel the speed quite challenging (mostly in the left hand) and start to have to work at it, occasionally stumbling (at home, anyway Ė I get nervous and stuff things up in front of my teacher, darn it!). Itís probably not that fast in the grand scheme of things, but probably not bad for two weeks. I kind of got bored and Iím also now experimenting with minor keys and chromatic scales too. Iíve also been trying to learn to sight-read Ė slowly but Iím improving Ė I can now sight-read simple pieces, eg the first Alfredís book. As my first teacher suggested, scales are apparently easy and fast to learn (although there seems to be a lot more of them then I thought there would be shocked ). I didnít get a new set of scales the second lesson as it took the whole lesson to go through the first Alfredís lesson book and theory book, the task set in the first lesson.

Iím just wondering though, because sheís taking me back to the very beginning: note recognition, hand positions, very simple pieces (I did play simple pieces with my first teacher too, but not for long and they were used to teach me the above relaxed hand movements Ė then it was on to more interesting pieces). Iím becoming frustrated. How long will I be playing this boring easy stuff (itís not the childishness of the pieces, but the lack of any type of skill required to play them that I find frustrating). I donít mind doing these easy pieces in order to learn to sight-read (in fact, Iím very happy to do that Ė I really want to be able to sight-read), however, I donít want to just be playing only this stuff for years on end until my sight-reading capability catches up with my technical ability, my technical ability deteriorates, or I die of old age. The problem is Iím not improving technically and my sight-reading isnít improving because Iím now just playing these boring pieces over and over to get them learned and finished, so that I can move on. Thereís no point in stagnation, and it removes my entire joy of playing, because learning how to play the challenging technical stuff, feeling and listening to a beautiful piece under my fingers with my eyes shut (I do that a lot!), and the sheer joy of being able to play something that I previously found difficult are the things I love about playing piano Ė and all three of these things are non-existent in the easy beginner stuff. Iíve just finished the first of three Alfredís books this second lesson (thank goodness!) and am now starting the second book.
My teacher has a is highly qualified and is probably a fabulous teacher, and she is a lovely person (she tells me she thinks Iím talented, but itís really only the previous excellent teaching). But Iím wondering how long Iím prepared to be frustrated. For a month of two perhaps, but not for the many years it might take before I get to play stuff that can challenge me musically and technically. Iím working on my own with pieces that are a little more challenging, but if thatís how itís going to be ongoing, then Iím only really learning sight-reading (which Iím not really doing much of now because Iím trying to get rid of these boring pieces and I was already slowly learning on my own) and nothing else from my new teacher Ė Iím still really teaching myself (and Iím not as fast a teacher as my previous piano teacher who constantly shocked me with the pieces he put in front of me whome ).

My new teacher appears to be possibly a highly conventional this-is the-best-and-only-method teacher, while my previous one was perhaps eccentric, but tailored his teaching to me. Is she taking me back there because there is a reason for me as a learner (and if so, what reasons Ė I havenít learned anything new theory-wise either Ė I know up to basic chord theory, Major, minor, 7th, dim/aug), or is she simply taking me back there because thatís the way sheís always taught and does not alter her teaching techniques to adjust to her studentsí abilities or personalities? Is it a fact that regardless of skill, all people learning formally for the first time with a teacher MUST start from the very beginning? Or am I just a little impatient? Obviously there are some very different schools and methods of teaching here with very different emphasis (my first teacher did have at least several students that he took through to AMEB grade 8, I donít know about my current teacher Ė she probably has too). Is it just that my first teacher, who I believe to have taught me wonderful technique, was simply wrong and eccentric and this is the ONLY normal way?

I have nothing other than the above to compare my experiences to, and as a beginner Iím not in a position to really see all the pros and cons. Could I possibly have some feedback on this? Thanks in advance grin .

PS: Iíd prefer not to have responses embroiled in teacher or method bashing, if possible. People generally do their best, whatever that is, and Iíd not like to see either method devalued, just clarified. Iím hoping for information, rather than point scoring.

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#2240608 - 03/03/14 09:20 AM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11675
Loc: Canada
I hope you don't mind that I've summarized the main parts of your post:

SUMMARY OF POST

As a child you had a few lessons, and then went on your own, where your ear developed strongly so that you could grasp music by ear. Then you had two teachers as an adult. The first concentrated mostly on your technique and he stressed that playing is done with your whole arm (and body), not just the fingers. The second teacher added fingers in a way that improved things as you say. This teacher also taught you things of musicianship as you worked on pieces, and these pieces became advanced - you could play them because of how you were taught.

After a break you now have a third teacher. This teacher is using Alfred, both music and theory, and you're getting scales for the first time. You've mentioned sight reading several times.
---------------------------------------------------------
THOUGHTS

Your account is missing your present teacher's assessment of where you are, and goals and plans for you. The only assessment I saw was of your past teachers - that you were not given scales (quite a few teachers do let pieces give the experience of scales). But nothing about you. Did you get such feedback, and were any goals discussed? Also, have you talked about how you feel and maybe your own goals with your teacher?

It is likely that your reading is quite weak, given your strong ear. None of the previous teachers seemed to address that. Is your teacher stressing it, or is that coming from you? You may want to get strategies beyond just going through simple music. You mentioned note names in the beginner Alfred book. How are you with written notation? If you see G on the staff, do you instantly recognize it as key x on the piano = G?

I was struck by how often you said that you could not remember things that the last teacher taught you in terms of musicianship. I'm thinking that your teacher mentioned points of musicianship and theory as you worked on the pieces, and you absorbed them while aiming at the music. It's a passive knowledge of sorts. Maybe now you need to learn these things in a more organized way consciously - the fact that it was in the context of music first is a plus imho. Does your present teacher know of this background? (But if a thing doesn't come back, it wasn't fully learned in the first place).

If you haven't gotten feedback from this teacher, you should probably discuss it with him/her. Since you are used to being given things to work toward (how to use your hands etc.) rather than just being assigned pieces, you might ask your teacher for specific things to aim for as you practice and study. S/he may not know you're willing to do that - and this would also give you a greater feeling of depth to your studies. (I hope it's not just a case of going through the routine of the Alfred book and scales).

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#2240609 - 03/03/14 09:20 AM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Just a suggestion.

There are very few people who will read a post that long - possibly the number is zero.

Proofread, edit, distill your question into a concise form and you have a chance.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2240727 - 03/03/14 02:41 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1006
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: OP
I donít want to just be playing only this stuff for years on end until my sight-reading capability catches up with my technical ability

You have to, or otherwise you will be not balance.
_________________________
http://ezpiano.org
Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
Watch the introduction video on YouTube
@ http://bit.ly/Ready123

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#2240739 - 03/03/14 03:08 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: ezpiano.org]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11675
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Originally Posted By: OP
I donít want to just be playing only this stuff for years on end until my sight-reading capability catches up with my technical ability

You have to, or otherwise you will be not balance.

There has to be more to it than just that, however. In what's being described, it can't go anywhere. And does it start with sight reading, or with learning to read, match notes to piano keys and to names, intervals etc?

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#2240786 - 03/03/14 04:20 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 841
You've only had two lessons with this new teacher. You could be just experiencing stress with starting with someone new. Give this teacher a chance to figure you out. I'd say four months. Then re-evaluate.

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#2240819 - 03/03/14 05:14 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: TimR]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: TimR
Just a suggestion.

There are very few people who will read a post that long - possibly the number is zero.

Proofread, edit, distill your question into a concise form and you have a chance.

Absolutely true, Tim! smile
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#2240840 - 03/03/14 05:40 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
BrainCramp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/09/12
Posts: 255
Loc: USA
Aucha,

I did read your whole post.

As other posters have mentioned, you've only had 2 lessons with your new teacher. So it's early to stress out about what she'll be asking you to work on in the future.

As Keystring mentioned, we don't know what your teacher's assessment is of your needs. It may be too early for her to know.

But you seem to be assuming that she has you doing basics because she's an inflexible teacher who doesn't know how to start at any place other than the beginning.

Aucha, I don't want to hurt your feelings. You may very well be an accomplished, talented pianist. But you have to realize that here on the PW forums we do see, from time to time, people who are legends in their own minds.

To be fair to your new teacher, and to yourself, I'd ask her what she thinks the weaknesses in your current skill set are. We all have them, and in a few more lessons she should be able to tell you what yours are.

If she mostly teaches children, she may not be used to explaining at every step why she's having you work on particular kinds of things.

I think adult students need to understand the thinking behind a teacher's method; she may just need you to ask her.

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#2240841 - 03/03/14 05:41 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
Aucha Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/02/14
Posts: 12
Thank you for your replies :-).

Originally Posted By: keystring
You mentioned note names in the beginner Alfred book. How are you with written notation? If you see G on the staff, do you instantly recognize it as key x on the piano = G?

I understand music, dots on page very well (I have a classical singing background to AMEB Grade 7). I instantly recognise the notes, but I'm just slow at sight-reading. I can and did sight-read the first Alfred's book. The second book I sight-read too, but not at speed (most of the first pieces are Allegro). But sight-reading is once. I'm having to practice these meaningless pieces, 15 of them to Allegro speed (perhaps a half hour each), when they aren't challenging to me at all, and the sight-reading value is gone after a couple play-throughs (I've memorised most of the piece by then).

Originally Posted By: keystring
I was struck by how often you said that you could not remember things that the last teacher taught you in terms of musicianship.

It was nine years ago, and a lot of water under the brigde since (a University Degree, life changes etc). And I'm remembering a lot, but I'm sure there's a lot I've forgotten.

Originally Posted By: keystring
Maybe now you need to learn these things in a more organized way consciously

I was wondering if this was the case, and it is more organised. The problem is that I haven't learned anything remotely new yet. I'm not really sight-reading much and there is no technical challenge in enless little pieces that I have completely down at allegro speed within half an hour (probably less). So the question is, is this a more proficient way of learning?

Originally Posted By: keystring
you might ask your teacher for specific things to aim for as you practice and study. S/he may not know you're willing to do that - and this would also give you a greater feeling of depth to your studies.

You're right. I should ask her for more challenging pieces. I'm happy to rumble though these unchallenging pieces to improve sight-reading, but I certainly don't want that to be ongoing as a sole sort of playing. How long before these 'sight-reading' pieces turn into the stuff I'm technically able to play? If learning to sight-read means that I don't play stuff I'm technically able to play for many years until it catches up, the price is far too high.

Originally Posted By: keystring
I hope it's not just a case of going through the routine of the Alfred book and scales

This is what I'm worried about.



Edited by Aucha (03/03/14 05:51 PM)

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#2240848 - 03/03/14 05:55 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: ezpiano.org]
Aucha Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/02/14
Posts: 12
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Originally Posted By: OP
I donít want to just be playing only this stuff for years on end until my sight-reading capability catches up with my technical ability

You have to, or otherwise you will be not balance.

What do you mean by not balance? Do you simply mean that my sight-reading is not balanced with my playing ability?

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#2240852 - 03/03/14 05:57 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1006
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: Aucha
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Originally Posted By: OP
I donít want to just be playing only this stuff for years on end until my sight-reading capability catches up with my technical ability

You have to, or otherwise you will be not balance.

What do you mean by not balance? Do you simply mean that my sight-reading is not balanced with my playing ability?


Yes. If you unwilling to play easy stuff until your sight-reading ability catch up with your technical ability, then you are unbalance.
_________________________
http://ezpiano.org
Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
Watch the introduction video on YouTube
@ http://bit.ly/Ready123

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#2240853 - 03/03/14 05:57 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11675
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Aucha
I understand music, dots on page very well (I have a classical singing background to AMEB Grade 7). I instantly recognise the notes, but I'm just slow at sight-reading.

Depending on whether you're male or female, your singing experience will involve either the treble clef or the bass clef. I've also found that reading is a different activity on every instrument. You want to create a connection from notation to piano keys, and this connection will be different than the one you have for singing. Find out (maybe together with your teacher) how best to approach sight reading. The way you're doing it now as you described it is ineffective and wastes your time and your teacher's.
Originally Posted By: Aucha
You're right. I should ask her for more challenging pieces. ....

I disagree. Consult with your teacher, who is the expert guiding you, by finding out what her goals are for you, her observations, what the best way of working toward those goals will be for you. Think about what your own goals are so that you can communicate them, listen to what she has to say about that including how to get there, and be prepared to possibly change your thinking.... that is - you'll have a better idea if there actually IS a plan as a starting point - rather than totally guessing.

And as others have said - give it a chance. 2 weeks is nothing.

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#2240863 - 03/03/14 06:25 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: BrainCramp]
Aucha Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/02/14
Posts: 12
Originally Posted By: BrainCramp
As Keystring mentioned, we don't know what your teacher's assessment is of your needs. It may be too early for her to know.

That's a good point. Perhaps she's giving me this stuff as a way of working that out? But there's very little skill in these pieces that could suggest much. Happy Birthday, for example?

Originally Posted By: BrainCramp
But you seem to be assuming that she has you doing basics because she's an inflexible teacher who doesn't know how to start at any place other than the beginning.

Definitely not assuming. But I was wondering.

Originally Posted By: BrainCramp
You may very well be an accomplished, talented pianist. But you have to realize that here on the PW forums we do see, from time to time, people who are legends in their own minds.

I'm not accomplished, nor particularly talented (I did mention that I thought I played well because of teaching, not talent). I also mentioned that I was a beginner, several times. I was trying to paint a picture of the discrepancy between my sight-reading (beginner level) and my skill which is probably more intermediate (I'm guessing).

Originally Posted By: BrainCramp
To be fair to your new teacher, and to yourself, I'd ask her what she thinks the weaknesses in your current skill set are. We all have them, and in a few more lessons she should be able to tell you what yours are.

If she mostly teaches children, she may not be used to explaining at every step why she's having you work on particular kinds of things.

I think adult students need to understand the thinking behind a teacher's method; she may just need you to ask her.

You're right. I need to have this conversation. Ask her where she expects to take me after this Alfred book. Perhaps explain that I do need challenge, not just sight-reading.


What I really want to know is how do/should teachers teach someone like me, who don't sight-read well, but can play fairly well? There must be many more students like myself. Is it just a case of tough luck? No more challenge until you can sight-read at the same level you can play? I was playing Lizt and Mendollsohn nine years ago. That's a very long time (many years) on highly unmotivating material just for sight-reading reasons. If that's the case, I'm better off not learning to sight-read. Perhaps it's too late to learn to sight-read when you can already play, because nobody wants to play Happy Birthday, when they can play much more interesting stuff. I just thought I should be challenged at the various levels I'm at. I'm a qualified school teacher and I would never teach expect a child to read Dick and Dora picture books when they can read Tolkein, just because their age suggests that.


Edited by Aucha (03/03/14 06:41 PM)

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#2240888 - 03/03/14 07:13 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11675
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Aucha
But there's very little skill in these pieces that could suggest much. Happy Birthday, for example?

When you are remediating any weak area, then your concentration must go into that area. So the actual music you work on must be simple, or your focus will be split. You cannot put the kind of concentration into the task, it's that simple. I've undergone remediation myself, and am still in the process. In fact, by coincidence I have "Happy Birthday" on my piano - I can play much more sophisticated music but this one does the trick.
Originally Posted By: Aucha
I'm a qualified school teacher and I would never teach expect a child to read Dick and Dora picture books when they can read Tolkien, just because their age suggests that.

What if your student was reciting memorized Tolkien? Have you ever worked one-on-one with students having problems. I had a grade 8 student diagnosed with LD, who tested at grade 1 in reading with me. We worked on timing - cutting long sentences into small phrases (the source of her problems) - within a few months she was reading at grade 8. But she had to work on specific, simplistic things. Mother was the problem, because mother wanted things to be difficult and hard, otherwise it "wasn't learning".

Any music teacher will tell you that transfer students with uneven backgrounds are the biggest challenge. How do you:
- find out what the student knows and doesn't know
- address the student's weaknesses
- get the student to cooperate
- not get the student to quit from being demoralized at being "demoted" (sound familiar?)

Quote:
... how do/should teachers teach someone like me, who don't sight-read well, but can play fairly well?

There is no "should". Even if someone here has a good methodology, your teacher is unique, and you should not expect your teacher to follow someone else's approach. Discuss this with your teacher.


Edited by keystring (03/03/14 07:37 PM)
Edit Reason: shortened

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#2240949 - 03/03/14 08:54 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
tickler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 375
Loc: Chicagoland
I'm not a teacher, merely an adult piano student.

But, my advise is twofold:

1. Definitely have a discussion with your teacher about all the things you're asking here. Like, how long will you be learning this too-easy-technically material, why is she starting you with Alfred's instead of the something else, assuming you practice hard, what comes after Alfred's? And many more.

2. Find other music you want to play and learn it on your own. Go browse a music store (web or B&M). Find things that look or sound interesting, get a copy and try to figure it out on your own. And when you find something that you don't understand, go ask about it in the ABF or bring the music to your lesson and ask your teacher about those trouble spots.


Good luck!
_________________________
Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman. -- Beethoven
1911 Steinway A-II (2007 Rebuild)

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#2240951 - 03/03/14 08:59 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: keystring]
Aucha Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/02/14
Posts: 12
As has been suggested by several people here, I'll give it a couple months - I've paid in advance for a term regardless.

Originally Posted By: keystring
Any music teacher will tell you that transfer students with uneven backgrounds are the biggest challenge. How do you:
- find out what the student knows and doesn't know
- address the student's weaknesses

I want this to happen, and I hope this is why I'm going through this. I just hope this is exactly what the stagnation period is about. This is kind of what I was hoping to be told here, I guess.

Originally Posted By: keystring
- get the student to cooperate


Definitely cooperating - she actually seemed rather surprised that I'd completed the homework task.

Originally Posted By: keystring
- not get the student to quit from being demoralized at being "demoted" (sound familiar?)

Apparently, I've come across as some type of egomaniac. I'm a beginner. It's not the "demoted" thing (I'm happy, more than happy, to play this stuff to learn to sight-read, which I can essentially learn without help because I can read the notation - it's just reading faster that I'm working on), it's the fact that I'm not learning anything from the actual lessons, but paying for lessons (and I'm not rich), and the fact that I'm spending time doing homework that isn't teaching me anything, instead of progressing. The only instruction I've learned at all is scales fingering - I haven't received any insights on playing yet (except one brief instruction regarding not sitting tall on the piano stool). I was actually progressing much faster, both technically and sight-reading wise, on my own.

I will have a conversation with her regarding where she intends to take me, my weaknesses, what she thinks I need to learn (other than sight-reading) in order to catch up with my playing. If I get to the end of the term and it looks like continuing like this, as a standard format for all students, I will look for another teacher - not from being demoted, but in the interests of moving forwards rather than backwards, i.e. not learning anything, but doing what in the school teaching profession is called "busy work" - which keeps the kids busy, but is not really learning, eg photocopied sheets to fill in. I was actually progressing faster in sight-reading on my own, because I was doing an hour a day (now I'm doing 2 mins - the time it takes to learn one of these pieces by heart).

The thing is that I've been through this before with singing teachers, who didn't teach me anything - just provided repertoire and listened to scales and songs for years and said "That's nice", but didn't really help me with actual instruction. I basically taught myself, but I didn't realise for years that this was ineffective teaching (I do now!). I'm hoping to avoid that.

I do appreciate your replies and help thumb. I'll talk to her about her plans and wait and see.

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#2240954 - 03/03/14 09:09 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: tickler]
Aucha Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/02/14
Posts: 12
Hi tickler smile

I definitely intend to do both of these things. I'll have a chat with her next lesson, and find out her plans for me and her thoughts about what I need to learn. I like her smile - she's a lovely person, and if I can continue to learn through her, I will.

I learn stuff on my own now, but if I have to continue to do this on my own, there's no point in paying a teacher, and you might find me in the self-learner section (the thread I found via Google, that introduced me to these forums) grin.

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#2241025 - 03/04/14 12:54 AM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
tickler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 375
Loc: Chicagoland
Glad to hear you have a plan.

Even if turns out that she's not the kind of teacher you want, don't give up on having a teacher. I'd stop lessons with her, continue self-learning and meanwhile continue the search for a teacher that does suit you. Having a GOOD teacher is marvelous and helps you learn much faster.

I've found that having an initial interview with the prospective teacher before any lessons helps a lot. You can tell him/her what you want to learn and what you don't want. And he/she can tell you about their teaching philosophy, how they handle adults students, etc.


Good luck.
_________________________
Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman. -- Beethoven
1911 Steinway A-II (2007 Rebuild)

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#2241085 - 03/04/14 05:08 AM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: ezpiano.org]
Aucha Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/02/14
Posts: 12
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Originally Posted By: Aucha
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Originally Posted By: OP
I donít want to just be playing only this stuff for years on end until my sight-reading capability catches up with my technical ability

You have to, or otherwise you will be not balance.

What do you mean by not balance? Do you simply mean that my sight-reading is not balanced with my playing ability?


Yes. If you unwilling to play easy stuff until your sight-reading ability catch up with your technical ability, then you are unbalance.


I am not unwilling to practice easy stuff in order to catch up my sight-reading - quite the opposite - it's the best way that I can see to do it, as I can't sight-read more difficult stuff.

Contrary: I'm unwilling to practice ONLY easy stuff, which ONLY works on sight-reading to the exclusion of all other skills that comprise piano skills, until my sight-reading catches up to my playing skills. That could literally be many years.

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#2241091 - 03/04/14 05:20 AM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
johan d Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/20/14
Posts: 79
Loc: Belgium
Originally Posted By: Aucha
Within 6 Ė 10 months I was playing For Elise, a well known Mendelssohn piece
It's Beethovens, no?

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#2241110 - 03/04/14 07:14 AM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: johan d]
Aucha Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/02/14
Posts: 12
Hi Johan,

Yes, For Elise is Beethoven. Is English your second language? That's great!! I only speak English blush. I think you've misinterpreted my sentence. It's probably the brackets () that make it a little confusing. The full sentence is:

"Within 6 Ė 10 months I was playing For Elise, a well known Mendelssohn piece (forget which one) and others."

It means I played For Elise and a well known Mendelssohn piece and others. I've coloured the , red which means it is part of a list: For Elise and Mendelssohn and others.

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#2241138 - 03/04/14 08:34 AM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2537
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
In your original post, you state, "I am not improving technically..."

What measure are you using to gauge your technical improvement?
How much technical improvement were you expecting after 2 weeks?

If you are interested there are thread on the Adult Beginners Forum specifically related to each of the Alfred adult books. Hardly any of us love the pieces; most of us benefit greatly from the series.
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2241163 - 03/04/14 09:32 AM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: malkin]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11675
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: malkin

If you are interested there are thread on the Adult Beginners Forum specifically related to each of the Alfred adult books. Hardly any of us love the pieces; most of us benefit greatly from the series.

I suggest the threads on effective practice, effective learning and similar.

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#2241519 - 03/04/14 09:28 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: malkin]
Aucha Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/02/14
Posts: 12
Originally Posted By: malkin
What measure are you using to gauge your technical improvement?


There is no challenge in them at all. I have them all under my fingers, memorised and faster than required speed within half an hour. There are no 'bits' to work on, no bits that need practice.

There can be no technical improvement from that. And as I said, very little sight-reading value because it's 2 mins sight-reading, where I was sight-reading for an hour or more previously and moderately improving. My sight-reading is going backwards, not forwards. I can SEE the difference.

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#2241529 - 03/04/14 09:55 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
Aucha Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/02/14
Posts: 12
Look, these books and methods are probably GREAT for the absolute beginner, who finds these pieces challanging and needs to practice and learn practice techniques to get their fingers sorted around them. I would have as a child. But for someone who can already play, requiring these pieces to be learned is a waste of time. I KNOW I'm getting nothing from them. I rarely even have stumbles on any parts of them, the odd stumble I play again slowly and it's all good (and the stumbles are always because I've either read it wrong or simply transcribed to the wrong key - never because my fingers got confused.

Teaching should never be a one-size-fits-all. Everyone is different and needs different teaching techniques, particularly if they are at various levels like I am. I need challenge at various levels: beginner level for sight-reading (hopefully to gradually catch that up), and probably intermediate challenge at the playing level. These pieces are close to my sight-reading level, but trying to combine the two levels when they are so polarised is ludicrous. I'm not going to become a concert pianist or do recitals or exams, and I'm probably not going to be a rabid sight-reader as I generally play by ear. There is no reason to halt all learning in order to 'balance' the skills as first priority, as someone suggested, just because 'that's the correct way of teaching'. Particularly as I'm keen to work at my lower level skills to catch them up anyway.

This is why I'm concerned. I need the teaching to challenge me at MY level. There are also assumptions here - assumptions that because I'm a beginner I need to start at exactly the same level as an ABSOLUTE beginner. I am a beginner, but not an ABSOLUTE beginner, who is learning AGBDF and FACE for the first time. That's who these books are designed for. I learned all the basics years ago and used it for years, but apparently I have to "learn" them all again??. I've been through the theory of all three Alfred's books - there was nothing new at all. This is a one-size-fits-all attitude. This is why people quit learning. Reading between the lines, thats why a lot of the self-learners on these forums are self-learning - they've probably gone to a teacher with their practiced Bach piece to be told "Oh, No! To begin learning formally, you'll have to start on the beginners Alfred book and 'learn' every piece, page-by-page, to my satisfaction, so we can ensure that you can sight-read and can play the easy pieces first, and that all your skills are in perfect balance, to my satisfaction." And I've read here that people who move teachers also have start all over again, the same deal, to satisfy the new teacher. Really??

Remember I'm paying for lessons. They're expensive and I expect to get value for money, EVERY lesson - not pay for many lessons that I don't need, waiting for the day when the repertoire catches up to me and I actually get some value. I'm paying for a product. Financially, it's like having to continuely buy T-Shirts you don't want or need, until you're allowed to buy the ones on the top shelf that you do want.

There many skills that go into learning piano and sight-reading is just one. I shouldn't have to spend years not improving a single other aspect of my playing just because my sight-reading is not advanced. We don't do that in our workplaces either. We don't decide that someone is totally unemployable, simply because there is one aspect of their work that isn't up to scratch. For example, we don't say to a potential manager, "We can't employ you because you need to type fluently to send emails" - that's a minor part of his role and he'll probably get faster at his two fingered typing, besides he's a people person and manages people brilliantly. He can still perform and mature in the managing aspect of his new role while learning to type. But that's what you're saying to me. I can't work on any type of technical skill until my sight-reading catches up. That's ludicrous.

Children learning to read are not held back because their spelling is not up to their reading level. The two skills are related, but actually differ in teaching technique. A child who can't spell well learns spelling at their particular level (hopefully at a greater speed to catch them up), and they learn to read at their reading level. The two levels might be different. This was me as a child - my reading age was far beyond my actual age, but my spelling was age appropriate, mediocre smile. I didn't stop reading until my spelling caught up to my reading age, but as you can see, it did.

And if I used this pedagogy to teach children in the classroom, I'd have half the class swinging from the windows in sheer bordom and the other half doodling with vacant stares, and their behaviour would be uncontrollable (and I'd be out of a job!).

If this is piano teaching pedagogy, as it has been for hundreds of years, it needs to catch up to recent research on how people learn.

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#2241530 - 03/04/14 09:57 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: Aucha]
hreichgott Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 994
Loc: western MA, USA
Hi Aucha,
You haven't come across as an egomaniac, but you are in a forum full of teachers and it does push teachers' buttons when students think they know better than teachers. However, often students do in fact know better than their teachers esp. if the teacher is not a good fit.
I think it's a very good plan to talk with your teacher frankly about both of your expectations.
I agree that it's silly to self-learn the material that's most important to you, but then, you could just bring in pieces you'd like to work on and ask your teacher about them. Maybe something more interesting that will make use of those new scales?
If you are bored by the minimal sight reading you could just go right back to the previous hour a day regimen and work ahead in the books your teacher is assigning. Then you'd get through them sooner, your sight reading would improve massively, you'd get to move on to other stuff, everybody wins.
BTW I teach Suzuki students, who always have a gap between reading and ear/playing ability. At the stage when I start pushing reading, it's not unusual for them to have Clementi sonatinas and something like CPE Bach/Solfeggietto as working pieces, while learning a piece by reading every week from Czerny Op. 139, which starts out super-simple. Maybe having a mix of easy pieces for reading and harder pieces for repertoire would be good for you too?
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Sounding the depths of small pieces: Beethoven Op. 33
Daily attempts at 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 4, Pischna
Totally loving Faurť/Barcarolles and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2241544 - 03/04/14 10:23 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: keystring]
Aucha Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/02/14
Posts: 12
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: malkin

If you are interested there are thread on the Adult Beginners Forum specifically related to each of the Alfred adult books. Hardly any of us love the pieces; most of us benefit greatly from the series.

I suggest the threads on effective practice, effective learning and similar.


I'm sure there are endless practice techniques and I've probably only scratched the surface, but the ones I attempted to describe in my original post are very similar to the Practiceopedia book I found on another thread, with this link:

Inside Music

My previous teacher taught me these all these techniques (am many more): the 'chunking', 'bridging', working on difficult bits first, 'blinkers' and not-'autopiloting'(or deliberate practice), 'chaining', 'closure', and I remember him talking about the 'practice traps' bad practicing etc. He didn't use those terms, but the techniques are exactly the same - read my first post. Although he never colour-coded, but he certainly scribbled all over my music. And he taught me all these as transferrable skills for future pieces.

So I already have some understanding of practice techniques, although I'm sure techniques are endless and ongoing. But I'm also sure the techniques I have now are more than adequate for the basic pieces I'm having to get through right now. As I said, I have encountered no finger problems whatsoever, which I should have if my practice techniques were problematic. I'm sure I'll find more techniques if I have some decent repertoire to use them on...

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#2241550 - 03/04/14 10:35 PM Re: Teaching Methods and Techniques Query [Re: hreichgott]
Aucha Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/02/14
Posts: 12
Originally Posted By: hreichgott
If you are bored by the minimal sight reading you could just go right back to the previous hour a day regimen and work ahead in the books your teacher is assigning. Then you'd get through them sooner, your sight reading would improve massively, you'd get to move on to other stuff, everybody wins.

This is a brilliant idea! Why didn't I think of that? Silly brain - I'll definitely do this!! grin

Originally Posted By: hreichgott
BTW I teach Suzuki students, who always have a gap between reading and ear/playing ability. At the stage when I start pushing reading, it's not unusual for them to have Clementi sonatinas and something like CPE Bach/Solfeggietto as working pieces, while learning a piece by reading every week from Czerny Op. 139, which starts out super-simple. Maybe having a mix of easy pieces for reading and harder pieces for repertoire would be good for you too?


This sounds very much how I'd love to be taught. It sounds like your students learn at their own level. Perhaps I should investigate Suzuki? I really want to learn to sight-read and enjoy the challenge, just not to the exclusion of everything else.

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