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#2263575 - 04/18/14 02:46 PM Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"?
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1220
Specifically, those who run workshops that purport to teach a particular technique?

I'm not much into labeling things because it so naturally lends itself to a "one size fits all" kind of approach that, even if true for most, can't be true for all and it's hard to know which one you are.

I've been happy with having a good teacher who coaxes small but consistent change out of me, but at the same time I don't have a cohesive sense of what I'm going for, either. There's no label to what I'm being taught, though I guess judging from where my teacher came from, you could probably call it "Russian". Broadly based, she's encouraging me to always keep space under my elbows (arms moving freely away from the body) and to use lateral movements to get support behind my play. Small, compact rounded hands, and deep, heavy, kneading play.

Now, that does seem specific but not nearly as specific as things that are taught in your named "techniques", like Lister-Sink, Taubman. There, I get the sense that there are highly specific principles, and they are systematically applied.

On the one hand, I am wary of things like this, and anything this specific has the danger of snarling someone like me. Give me minutiae, and it's about 50% likely I will thrive under the ability to have specific details to focus on, and 50% likely I will overthink things until I've ground myself to a complete standstill.

Given that I'm so new back to piano and everything is kind of moldable at this early stage, I may be the perfect "tabula rasa" for one of these techniques. Start right, and keep going. I've been keeping myself open to new ways of doing things, and have decided that I have to be willing to burn down the house every once in a while to get it right, and given the house isn't that big yet, it's not that huge of a deal.

On the other hand, I do have some ingrained bad habits from playing with WAY too much tension when I was younger and little to no success in getting to a place of real efficiency--it's what prevented me from making progress beyond anything that wasn't solidly mid to late intermediate. I'm not sure if I was a bad student or if my teacher didn't push me to break through that kind of mid-range play to get me really on my way, but it doesn't matter now. At worst, it was a combination of both. I know I was the kind of kid who could be told something a thousand times and still claim not to have heard it. My teacher was older and might not have had the energy to push me really hard, but it's not like she wasn't qualified or anything, far from it. She's long since passed away, so I guess I'll never know what her teaching was really like. Well, there is one person who I could reminisce with about her and her piano playing, but she's become far too well-known as a pianist and teacher for me not to feel silly reaching out just to gab about someone we have in common. She might remember me as a kid, but I doubt it. Anyway, for whatever reason, I got "pretty good" and then never got any better. And then one day I quit. Pretty normal story.

Or, maybe that's exactly the reason why I just keep working incrementally with my teacher--I may not have to do something like learn a particular technique to achieve technical improvement. If I stay open to corrections and she keeps making those corrections I will be nudged in the right direction until everything is working well over the next several years. I may not get a label to it but the point is, it'll work for me.

What say you all?

The Golandsky Institute does a seminar in Princeton, where my husband works, so that's convenient for me, though the dates are not really that good for me. But Taubman does a seminar in May that's so close to me that I bet I could walk. Well, that may be a slight exaggeration (and considering the neighborhood I'd ultimately have to walk through to get there, probably a moderately dangerous idea as well). But it's a 10 minute drive.

I have no idea where Barbara Lister-Sink is, but I assume nowhere near me.

Your thoughts?

_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2263713 - 04/18/14 06:28 PM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
jdw Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 970
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
I think you said in another thread that you've been having pain. I don't have experience with the other named techniques, but I can't possibly say enough good things about the Golandsky Institute. I would definitely not be playing piano without it, because I had RSI (a path you don't want to go down) and wasn't able to get it healed with medical approaches.

Philadelphia is a lucky place to live for anyone looking for a healthier and lovelier piano technique. My guess, based on your posts, is that you might find Taubman so fascinating that you'd become seriously obsessed smile. It tends to appeal to people who like to analyze things.

It may be hard to get a good sense of it without a teacher who can really show you what it's supposed to feel like. I know they do that kind of coaching at the Princeton seminar, though I've never attended it. (I've only studied privately with a Golandsky teacher.)

Feel free to PM me about it if you like.
_________________________
1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:
Grieg, Papillon
Mozart, K 330
Brahms, Op. 118 no. 2

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#2263714 - 04/18/14 06:29 PM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
hreichgott Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 994
Loc: western MA, USA
Some of the named-technique people get pretty dogmatic so if you do go just take everything with a grain of salt. Some aspects of them will work for you and some won't. I have always preferred to work directly with my teacher and use my teacher's technique as much as possible. In a seminar there's no opportunity for long-term ongoing clarification/correction, and I wouldn't want to get the wrong idea about how to do something and never have the opportunity for the teacher to correct me.
_________________________
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 Fauré/Barcarolles and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2263746 - 04/18/14 07:28 PM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
Shabbat Shalom Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/06/14
Posts: 13
Loc: USA
I don't really like these seminars for a number of reasons. I don't believe in a one-size-fits all approach to technique. Sure, we all have the same parts, but they aren't all the same proportions, and therefore technique has to be individualized. It also seems to take the focus off the music and toward motion analysis, and I think our bodies are so complex that motion analysis will never produce truly natural playing (again, every technique has to be unique). Lastly, if you've seen Taubman or Golandsky teach, you know that they are perceptive to motions but their musicianship...well, that it is lacking seems to put it kindly...

A truly great teacher will awaken the creativity of the student to find their own technique, one that surpasses "rules of physiology" and actually communicates musical meaning.

Now, I didn't say nothing good could come of it, but in my opinion these physiological "schools" are great at promising virtuosity to everyone and making good money off of hopeful but misguided students (and that's not to say everyone who listens to them is misguided...not trying to start one of those flame wars that always seem to happen on forums...).
_________________________
"Whoever is moved by music to the depths of the soul, and works on the instrument like possessed one, who loves music and his instrument with passion – will acquire virtuoso technique; he/she will be able to recreate the artistic image of the composition; he/she will be a performer." - Neuhaus

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#2263772 - 04/18/14 08:18 PM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1220
I have been having pain, yes, but that has gotten better, not worse, over time. I used to get burning pain between my shoulder blades within minutes of sitting down, and that was true as a kid as well as when I first restarted. The thumb pain on both hands I never had when young, but started when I restarted. Both things largely went away as I made major improvements. Now, and the shoulder thing only rears its head after a bad practice session, and the thumb thing comes in if I'm fighting to do something new and powerful, like recently I've had to work out how this whole "let's play furious octaves at full volume" works. I'm supposed to be building tension, and build it I do, both in the music and in me at the same time. It's a tense moment in the piece, and I get tense right along with it. I see the wrist freezing, and yet without my teacher literally stopping me, I just force it and then I really pay for it later.

I'm just kind of torn as to whether I want to change this slowly over time, or do a house burning on my whole technique.

Heather touched on something that I also kind of wondered about: what will be the point of trying to assimilate a pretty specific technique without a teacher trained to reinforce it after I go home? I know my teacher's method is not very specific. OR, more to the point, what she is doing is not overtly dogmatic, systematic, or cerebral. For example, I don't know that she has more than the broadest sense of goals for me. Certainly, there's no particular syllabus. We pick repertoire and then she teaches me the things that I need to get better at doing in order to play that particular repertoire well. What are those things? Well, whatever she sees as we go. If it's really needing improvement, we'll pull that particular thing out and pick a specific etude to tackle it, but mostly technical improvement is kind of just a part of learning any given piece. The goal, as I can make it out, is that over time, and with sufficiently varied repertoire, a well-rounded player will emerge. I know I've heard her say that to play music, you learn music.

Is this because she has mostly children who aren't going to want a whole lot of meta-discussion, or is it just a different approach--learn over time by playing repertoire and getting correction.

For example, I asked her on Wednesday if she had any goals for me in this next year, technically. She answered the question with a composer: "I'm thinking Bach because you took well to Romantic and I don't want to get stuck there."

"What Bach?"

"Suites?"

"Um, I think I heard you say 'Anna Magdalena's Notebook.'"

"Yeah, sure I did. Ok, fine, let's start with some Inventions, then Suites. It's a whole different kind of playing and we should work on it. After your summer workshop is over with the Shostakovich, we'll figure out what to do next."

And that's how it goes with us. I know she wants to get to a Beethoven Sonata, but I'm not sure which one.

I just don't know whether "supplementing" here will be a good thing, or a waste of my money.
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2263826 - 04/18/14 09:22 PM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
jdw Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 970
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
Well, I don't want to get into fiery exchanges either, but I really think that descriptions of Taubman technique as supposedly dogmatic or "one size fits all" are wide of the mark. In the Taubman teaching I've experienced, it's all about tailoring the teaching to the needs of each individual student. Some common physical principles, sure, since we're all humans with similar anatomy and playing the same instrument. There may be some dogmatic teachers out there (they're pretty common in music), but they would not fit in well at the Golandsky Institute.

I don't want to get into arguments about musicianship either, but I will say that people are sometimes misled by observing the teaching of basic movements (which need to be exaggerated to make them visible). When integrated into the playing of repertoire, you can't see them (but the player can feel them). For fully developed Taubman playing by a virtuoso (Ilya Itin, Golandsky faculty), you can go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcD12Zthp3s

All this doesn't address the other question of whether there's value in short seminars. It's true that you can't really learn the technique that way. I can't say from my own experience, since I've only attended events while also studying. It might satisfy some curiosity and help you judge what you want to do, though. You might also get some helpful ideas to take away.

_________________________
1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:
Grieg, Papillon
Mozart, K 330
Brahms, Op. 118 no. 2

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#2263834 - 04/18/14 09:37 PM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
jdw Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 970
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
BTW, TwoSnowflakes, glad to hear the pain is mostly getting better. Hearing about any pain from piano just makes me nervous. I'd be really careful if I were you.
_________________________
1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:
Grieg, Papillon
Mozart, K 330
Brahms, Op. 118 no. 2

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#2263853 - 04/18/14 10:02 PM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1220
Thanks for the concern. Trust me, it scares me, too. The last thing I want to do, now that I've re-found piano, is to have to put it aside for a while. Or, worse, really blow it and end up with a chronic problem that never really goes away and constantly prevents me from playing what I want to play.
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2263920 - 04/19/14 02:34 AM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18012
Loc: Victoria, BC
TS :

You write with clarity which suggests you are a person of discernment. I would suggest, then, that a seminar on technique should be approached open-mindedly but with caution. Don't suppose that what is going to be taught or suggested is either universal nor gospel; it may even be - depending on the presenter - inappropriately one-sided for a general audience.

Think of what is behind the suggestions and consider whether these suggestions can apply to you and to where you are in your musical growth. People who go to seminars thinking that the presenter is a master of whatever is being presented and that those are the ultimate ideas on the subject should perhaps avoid such seminars entirely.

Get what you think you can out of the seminar where you might learn to apply some new skills to your technique, but be prepared to be both open-minded about and critical of the material presented.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#2263964 - 04/19/14 07:47 AM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
jdw Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 970
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes
The last thing I want to do, now that I've re-found piano, is to have to put it aside for a while. Or, worse, really blow it and end up with a chronic problem that never really goes away and constantly prevents me from playing what I want to play.


I hope you won't run into any of those troubles. But for both you and readers of the thread, I think it's important to say that Taubman retraining has healed many players who thought they would always be limited by chronic physical issues. They recover and are able to play better than ever (like me--except that many of them are accomplished professional pianists, unlike me smile ).

For those interested, it's worth reading the "testimonials" section on the Golandsky Institute site. I know the internet is rife with bogus testimonials, but these are all real people who sign their names. Some of them are highly successful players (Thomas Bagwell, for instance).
_________________________
1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:
Grieg, Papillon
Mozart, K 330
Brahms, Op. 118 no. 2

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#2263966 - 04/19/14 08:02 AM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11897
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I think that something can be gained for you since you are a thinker in going to one of these seminars, but like BruceD said, go with caution.

For me it's been a blessing to be a singer, because we can't see what we're doing. We have to go a lot based on the feeling once we've been led to the correct sound by a teacher who know how to get you there. After that, however, we have to really feel what's going on inside and assess from that if it's a good sound or not. I then translate this over to piano, and I can feel when I'm hesitating slightly - which is the point right before tension sets in. So I have learned to pay attention to that pre-tension moment and work that out before proceeding.

Technique, too, is a means to an end. If your technique isn't in your way, you are free to be more musically expressive. That doesn't mean you will be more expressive, but you are able to be, I believe. So I don't put much stock in the fact that someone who teaches technique isn't musical. They aren't there to teach me that, I can seek that elsewhere.

So I say go, absorb, try it out. To really give a technique a fair try, however, prolonged study with a teacher of that technique is necessary I believe. That doesn't mean you can't learn some things and try applying them with a measure of success, however. If the things you try work, then perhaps it's worth pursuing working with another teacher who teaches that technique.

I learned a lot just from watching Freeing the Caged Bird video and applied that to my playing - but I would never claim to play or teach that technique. There simply was value in it that I was able to absorb into my own playing and how I teach my students.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2263980 - 04/19/14 09:04 AM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1220
Hmm. I'm getting the sense from both sides that yes, with the right frame of mind, I could probably get a useful take-home message to bring home and work on. But without a course of study with a trained teacher, I'm not going to be able to really deploy everything there is to it, irrespective of your position on the value of the approach at all.

Which means, given I can't really learn the technique from the seminar, it's probably not a lot of value for the seminar cost that I couldn't get out of buying a video that would give me some specific "work out the tension" exercises and guidance.

Well, ok. I guess one good thing is that I'm not yet "cooked" in terms of my technique so I might as well let my teacher do her slow magic over time with me. If, after advancing significantly, I still have persistent issues with tension, I guess I could consider a seminar and a new teacher trained to reinforce that particular method.

If the seminar were significantly less expensive, I'd consider just checking it out to see what I can take home with me, but not for the current price.

Anyway, thanks, all. Another year, perhaps!
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2264033 - 04/19/14 11:00 AM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
jdw Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 970
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
Another thing you could look into is borrowing some of the Taubman videos. They're expensive but are often held by institutions with major music programs, and you may be able to get them through interlibrary loan. Locally I see that Temple and University of the Arts have them. They're a bit old now but still valuable (and you can chuckle at the funny 80s eyeglasses).

Also, if at some point you're seriously reevaluating your technique, you could get a one-on-one consultation with a teacher, basically the cost of one lesson. As I say, Philadelphia is a great place to be for that.
_________________________
1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:
Grieg, Papillon
Mozart, K 330
Brahms, Op. 118 no. 2

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#2264342 - 04/19/14 10:24 PM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
Liszt_BG Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/06
Posts: 338
Loc: Bulgaria
I think they're much unneeded. Among pianists there are plenty of technicians and, sadly, too few musicians.

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#2266830 - 04/25/14 10:44 AM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
PianoWhisperer Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/13/13
Posts: 7
I think that attending a technique seminar can be very helpful. Obviously, the best answer to your concerns about your technique would be to study full time with a teacher skilled in teaching a good, healthy technique. However, technique seminars can give basic principles that can improve your playing. I have studied with Barbara Lister-Sink for the past two semesters, and I have heard very good things about her workshops.

I totally get where you're coming from in regards to whether you should scrap your whole technique and start over. Even though I was not injured,I decided to study with Ms. Lister-Sink because I wanted the virtuoso technique, the ease of playing, and the phenomenal musicality she promised. Although I was playing advanced repertoire before I began studying with Ms. Lister-Sink, I still had to drop my rep and retrain according to her program. After I retrained, I have seen HUGE improvements in my playing. Honestly, I can now effortlessly play pieces that I struggled with for years. My musicality has deepened tremendously as well. Ms. Lister-Sink teaches that a great technique opens the door to greater musicality, and that has certainly been true for me. Her technique has made everything easier: crescendos, decrescendos, fast passages, fortissimo sections, pianissimo sections are all so easy for me now. I could go on and on about all the wonderful things the Lister-Sink method has done for me.

I will also say that I have interacted with Ms. Lister-Sink's other students, and I think we would all agree that a "one size fits all technique" can work. All of Ms. Lister-Sink's students go through the same retraining program and we have all had wonderful results with that technique. I think the reason for this success is that her method is so solidly based on the fundamental principles of the human anatomy, physics, and biomechanics.

Anyways, don't assume that technique workshops can't help you at all. If you take good notes and work hard on what you learn once you come home, I think that a workshop could be a valuable experience for you.

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#2266846 - 04/25/14 11:24 AM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1220
That's good to hear that you had such a positive experience!

I definitely think these programs can work. Well, I know they can work. Plenty of people benefit enormously from them. Especially folks with playing styles that have been injurious to them in the past. As long as a method is grounded in general principles of low tension and overall fluidity and have a certain amount of give to adapt to the individual pianist, I suppose there are probably a number of different valid ways to skin the cat.

The problem, at least for me, is that I'm not sure whether it's $600 well spent if I'm only going to get a bird's eye view and then have no ongoing "training" to reinforce what I'm learning. The other element is that I'm still on the upswing in terms of technique acquisition, so it stands to reason that I might get there anyway simply because I am taking weekly lessons with a good teacher and practicing consistently. In other words, the fact that my playing is flawed and weak now might just be an indication that I'm still learning, not that I have to consider some kind of supplementary solution.

Now, there's an argument to be made that perhaps it would be better to sidestep problems altogether and enlist the help of a particular "method" technique before anything needs to be fixed in the first place, which is why I am even wondering. But the main thing I think I kind of concluded from this thread is that in the end, because I can't follow through and train/study in detail whatever it is I'll end up learning about, then a seminar will be an expensive way to end up with a lot of detail I can't fully take advantage of. In the end, I'll end up in largely the same place than if I bought a DVD. Or read a book. That is, I'll have a better understanding of the underlying principles, and plenty to go home and try, but no real one-on-one training to put any of it to real work for me for the cost of the seminar.

So that's what the responses to the thread kind of brought me around to.

If, in the future, I end up with a teacher who subscribes to one of the "techniques", then my guess is I'd get a whole lot more out of a particular seminar. But for right now, I'm really happy with my teacher and I haven't yet found a reason to doubt that she is improving me and teaching me the right things. In the grand scheme of things, it's only been a year back to piano, and in that time there's been significant improvement. Not objectively--nobody would ever listen to me play and be objectively impressed, but relative to where I was. I don't do grade levels (and neither does my teacher) but I can tell you that I've noticed that the pieces I have the same magnitude of struggle with seem to be labeled approximately two grades higher than they were last year. It's a blunt tool because my feeling is that level labels aren't always that useful in a granular sense, but probably indicative of improvement overall.

So something is working, I guess, even if the job isn't done yet. So since I don't really have a reason to switch teachers, and my teacher doesn't teach anything that seems to adhere to the specific principles of the particular techniques that run these seminars, and we all seem to agree that their best benefit derives from having someone ultimately individually guide you to apply the technique, my guess is I am not the right candidate, at least not right now, to spend $600 to learn some general things, even if those things are moderately useful, since I could probably learn them other ways.
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2267299 - 04/26/14 09:17 AM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
PianoWhisperer Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/13/13
Posts: 7
Glad that you've got a plan and that you're comfortable with that! Best wishes on your musical journey!

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#2267611 - 04/27/14 05:14 AM Re: Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1349
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
There's another option. Just take an occasional one-off lesson with another teacher. It might be stimulating. You can confine the lesson to discussion of technique, if that is your preference. Don't announce this to your weekly teacher: just do it quietly, and see what you learn.

Clearly part of you is looking for a more "packaged" type of piano tutelage than your present teacher represents.

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Wow, check out this baby!
by Paul678
09/15/14 09:31 PM
Baby Grand new Hammer Knuckles.
by OscarL
09/15/14 08:30 PM
WEIRDEST passage in Chopin?
by Mark_C
09/15/14 08:16 PM
Cleaning my piano.
by pianosNpreschooler
09/15/14 07:24 PM
1981 SCHIMMEL GRAND
by mellie62
09/15/14 07:14 PM
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