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#2273411 - 05/09/14 07:29 PM QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others?
Stubbie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/10
Posts: 390
Loc: Midwest USA
At your lesson or when playing for someone else, do you "manage" expectations? Occasionally? Often? Very purposely or is it more or less automatic?

By 'manage expectations' I'm thinking of a situation where you "warn" your teacher or audience that something in what you are about to play is not up to where you think (or you think your teacher thinks) it should be, quality-wise. Examples would be, "This is still not up to tempo," or "The trill in measure 18 is still rough."

These statements are usually factual, but the thing is, your teacher or audience will know it once you start playing, whether or not you announce it ahead of time. smile



Do you manage expectations? How does it psychologically benefit (if it does at all) you or your teacher/audience? Teachers, your thoughts welcome as well.
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#2273415 - 05/09/14 07:34 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
malkin Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2554
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Often at a lesson I will start off with some comment about my skill with the piece and then I interrupt myself with--oh well--you'll hear it...and then I just take a breath and play.

When I want my husband's feedback I'll tell him what I am thinking about before playing. Then he can attend to that and also to whatever else he notices.

I rarely play for anyone else.
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#2273417 - 05/09/14 07:35 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
jotur Offline
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Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5532
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Yes, I do, but I hadn't thought of it that way. Sometimes, about my own expectations, I just sort of give up - que sera, sera, eh? But I often, jokingly, tell my audience "Let's see if I can do this" and start a piece I'm not so sure of. It's part of a kind of banter that I do sometimes. Other audiences aren't banterable and then I don't. I grew up with a lot of slagging and funny self-deprecations, so the bantering comes naturally to me. But, yes, I sometimes use it quell nervousness about a particular piece. How interesting.

Cathy
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#2273425 - 05/09/14 07:47 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
JeanieA Offline
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Registered: 11/03/04
Posts: 507
Loc: Reno, Nevada
Yes. But I've been told by my teacher to pretty much "shut up and play" (he uses nicer terms) as those pre-playing comments have a tendency to become self-fulfilling prophesies.
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#2273428 - 05/09/14 07:50 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
Whizbang Offline
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Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 764
Originally Posted By: Stubbie
At your lesson or when playing for someone else, do you "manage" expectations? Occasionally? Often? Very purposely or is it more or less automatic?


I do, but I think it's a very, very bad performance habit, since it focuses your audience on the bad and not the good. You're sabotaging your performance in advance and I'm trying to stop that.
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#2273430 - 05/09/14 07:51 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
hreichgott Offline
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Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 1014
Loc: western MA, USA
If I'm thinking about my own ability to play the piece -- doesn't matter whether it's positive or negative thoughts -- I have much more trouble with nerves than if I'm thinking about the piece itself or about the composer. So if I do have to talk beforehand, I talk about the piece or the composer.
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#2273432 - 05/09/14 07:54 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
8 Octaves Offline

Gold Supporter until July 22 2015


Registered: 04/20/14
Posts: 325
Loc: USA
I do at lessons especially if I have trouble in certain areas I would point them out ahead of time.

If the person listening do not play piano I do not say anything before hand other title and composer.
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La musica non č mai finita, solo abbandonata.
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#2273433 - 05/09/14 07:54 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
dynamobt Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/07/13
Posts: 675
Loc: NH
I have used qualifying statements in the past. I'm trying to get away from it. My teacher is very encouraging. She is the one catching me being too critical of myself. When she points it out, well, it clearly isn't helping me. It's so obvious. So, I'm trying. But, I would only do this in a lesson not when playing for anyone else. If I didn't feel ready to play something for an audience, I wouldn't play it. Not at home and certainly never in a recital!!!
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#2273471 - 05/09/14 09:42 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: dynamobt]
Sand Tiger Offline
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Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1051
Loc: Southern California
I have said things such as "let's see if I can remember it." I agree that this kind of talk is a bad habit and self-defeating. Best to announce the piece and play. If there is a bit of story, perhaps tell a bit of story, if others are doing that. If there is an emcee that announces the piece, or perhaps a program listing the pieces and performers, no need to announce again. In that case, the advice to "shut up and play," is good.

I do remember to take my time. To perhaps press a few keys if there was no time for a sound check, adjust the seat, to take a deep breath and center myself before starting.

/edit to add: there is a second half to this. My own expectations. I know that most of the time I won't play my best. Take the perspective of recording. There may be five or ten takes to get the one keeper. If that is the case, why would I expect that one keeper to consistently appear live. Live is more stress, often an unfamiliar instrument, distractions from the crowd, stress from the crowd and knowing that there is only one chance. I lower my standards for myself. I am an amateur. At piano, a low level beginner.

I sometimes write that nerves tend to take their toll. For those that don't perform often, it can be the equivalent of two letter grades. A piece at "B" level degrades to "D". A piece at "C" level, may mean a crash and burn. By performing more, a person can tame the nerve dragon and the toll becomes less. However, for most people, the dragon never goes away completely.


Edited by Sand Tiger (05/09/14 09:50 PM)
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#2273475 - 05/09/14 09:46 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
bennevis Online   content
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Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5132
"It's better to hit the wrong note confidently than hit the right one unconfidently. Never be afraid to be wrong, or to embarrass oneself; we are all students in this life, and there's always something more to learn." - Ludwig van Beethoven

I always remember that when I'm about to perform. Which is why I never apologize in advance - and more likely than not, the audience doesn't notice the wrong notes.

The only time when I might 'manage expectations' (sort of) is when I'm doing a lecture-recital, and someone asks me to demonstrate something, or I thought of playing something that I hadn't practised for, like when I want to show how the famous opening phrase of Beethoven's 5th Symphony is built upon just two chords, or how Mozart imbues the opening of his 40th Symphony with an agitated restlessness in the accompanying string figuration: I'll say '....it goes something like this...' before playing what I can manage of the orchestral part. That way, the audience knows I'm just playing something off-the-cuff grin, not something I've already prepared in advance.
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#2273489 - 05/09/14 10:22 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
earlofmar Offline
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Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1587
Loc: Australia
I keep meaning to tell my teacher to have a bull....t jar on top of the piano. She would make a fortune from me alone.
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#2273501 - 05/09/14 11:34 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
Derulux Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5318
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Stubbie
At your lesson or when playing for someone else, do you "manage" expectations? Occasionally? Often? Very purposely or is it more or less automatic?

By 'manage expectations' I'm thinking of a situation where you "warn" your teacher or audience that something in what you are about to play is not up to where you think (or you think your teacher thinks) it should be, quality-wise. Examples would be, "This is still not up to tempo," or "The trill in measure 18 is still rough."

These statements are usually factual, but the thing is, your teacher or audience will know it once you start playing, whether or not you announce it ahead of time. smile



Do you manage expectations? How does it psychologically benefit (if it does at all) you or your teacher/audience? Teachers, your thoughts welcome as well.

I've warned people about the quality of the instrument, or recording, or whatever, but I usually try to steer clear from talking about my playing. I'm not the best, and I'm not the worst. No matter what I could say, I'm sure I'd fall in that gap somewhere.

Lessons, for me, were a bit different. The point was to focus on the mistakes, to figure out why they were happening, and to stop them from happening. Sometimes, I had difficulty switching instruments, but over the years, I've realized a lot of that was technique related. Yes, there are nuances to every instrument you play, but once you start to wrap your fingers around the technique errors, you can quickly determine which is the cause.

One thing I learned from competing at the highest level in martial arts -- when it's time to go out and perform, no excuse will save you, so when you're preparing for that performance, don't let an excuse cover up anything. Be afraid of the mistakes you don't catch, not the mistakes you do. smile
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#2273503 - 05/09/14 11:36 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
I think business jargon speak of "manage expectations" has no place in making music. I do enough managing expectations in my work life, thank you very much, and I don't need more of it elsewhere.

If you're performing, I don't want to hear you say what's going to suck about what you're going to do. If it sucks that much, get off the stage. If it doesn't suck that much, then as long as you don't say anything to call attention to it, I won't notice the bad things and I will enjoy it.

If you're in a lesson, your teacher can hear everything in your playing, and more. So there's no use practicing apologizing about your playing. Better to practice taking a deep breath (or however you prepare yourself to play) and getting on with it.

Telling your teacher about a feature that you're particularly looking for help with is different, but that's not about "managing expectations" -- that's about making your lessons productive. (And I think it's always a good idea to be open to the idea that your teacher may think something else entirely is the most important next thing to be working on.)


Edited by PianoStudent88 (05/09/14 11:38 PM)
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#2273513 - 05/10/14 12:36 AM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: PianoStudent88]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I think business jargon speak of "manage expectations" has no place in making music.

I had never heard this expression before. Is it a business term then? I would have thought that it involves your own expectations, but since it's addressed to a teacher or student, in the business world would it mean the expectations of your customers or maybe your boss? (Trying to get at the mindset).

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#2273517 - 05/10/14 12:54 AM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
Yes, in my work world "manage expectations" goes along with "underpromise and overdeliver". They're good principles in their place. For example, I work in IT and support people by developing various projects or installing or upgrading software. I don't want to promise more than I can deliver, and I don't want to promise deadlines that I can't meet. So I want to "manage expectations" -- not lead the customer to expect something I won't be able to deliver -- and I want to "underpromise and overdeliver" -- be cautious in what I promise, and then amaze the customer by delivering more than I promised. Of course, I can't underpromise too much ("Never! I will never do this for you! And it will be thoroughly broken when I do deliver it!") but of course this is all done within reason. Except of course when the customer has totally unreasonable expectations, and I can't wiggle out of it, and I don't even realize how unreasonable the whole thing is, until I'm way too far in to back out. And then I end up working a lot of late nights. So I'm also always learning how manage expectations better so as to protect myself, as much as to avoid disappointing the client.
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#2273520 - 05/10/14 01:11 AM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: PianoStudent88]
8 Octaves Offline

Gold Supporter until July 22 2015


Registered: 04/20/14
Posts: 325
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I think business jargon speak of "manage expectations" has no place in making music. I do enough managing expectations in my work life, thank you very much, and I don't need more of it elsewhere.


That maybe true, but in a concert of the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata, Andreas Schiff tells his audience that Beethoven has written in his manuscript to hold down the sustain pedal for the whole of the first movement. He then goes into a discussion about modern versus period pianos, then explain to his audience how some other pianist would pedal the movement rather than holding the whole time. He then plays the first movement holding down the pedal. This is, of course, managing expectations.

Of course, I think you have to be a serious professional to even bother. For me, I am simply glad to be able to get to the end without breaking down, much less debate or manage expectation of the listener on finer points of interpretation.
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#2273524 - 05/10/14 01:27 AM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
I wouldn't call that "manage expectations". I would call that "educating the audience" or "treating them to some unexpected and welcome musical learning to expand their horizons." I find "manage expectations" to be a wholly horrible term in a musical context.
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#2273591 - 05/10/14 09:36 AM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
Thank you, PianoStudent88, for explaining the business term. In fact, in my own work when I quote to a client, I will always say it will take 4 days when I think it should take 3, and hope to deliver in 2, so the client only has "pleasant surprises". My competitors state that they are "faster and cheaper" while I go for "quality and reliability". (It won't be late or sloppy). So now I know I've been "managing expectations". smile

Ok - Re teachers and lessons:
It definitely does not apply to lessons. We don't have the goal of impressing the teacher as the purpose in lessons. Rather, the purpose of practising a piece is in order to incorporate whatever skills or strategies our teacher has tried to give us. He will be listening to whether what he taught has gelled, and checking that the approach he gave us has worked. He will also be listening to where we're having difficulties, and if there are any underlying weaknesses that he has to address. So on that account, there is no reason to "manage expectations". In fact, students saying they didn't practice enough, that they're nervous, may be seen as the typical insecure student and it's probably heard too often.

I think what a teacher does want to hear is if you've been struggling with a passage or technique, and you want help with it. We'll assume that he has given you a way to work on the piece, and if he's given you an approach to that difficulty, that you tried what he gave you. If what you say is essentially "I didn't try what you told me. I tried something different just because." that won't go over too well. If you genuinely could not practice all week, or you injured yourself, or whatever, you should probably tell your teacher because that guides him in how to work with you. I don't know if this falls under "managing expectations".

One aspect of teaching is probably that the teacher wants to form his own impressions while you play. So a preamble might be ignored. He knows what he is listening for, and in fact, will probably be able to figure out how you practised (or whether) by clues in your playing.

So all in all, for lessons, I'd say no to this idea.

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#2273592 - 05/10/14 09:44 AM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
Thinking about this again:
Originally Posted By: Stubbie
Examples would be, "This is still not up to tempo," or "The trill in measure 18 is still rough."

If the trill is rough, why is it rough? Were you having problems with that trill? What kinds of problems - what did you try - and what did(n't) work? Because if your teacher's role is to help you and push you forward, then you will be wanting to get his help. Of course your teacher will hear the rough trill and will know you need help with it. He may even have anticipated that you'll be struggling with it.

For an audience you are putting on a show and you definitely don't want to start with that kind of caveat. I once did so at a recital and got a talking to that it was as inappropriate for a student as it was for a professional musician. Of course ideally you should only be performing pieces that you know 120% inside out if it's a performance. If you're playing for friends casually as in "listen to what I'm working on" or "I've been playing around with this idea", maybe that is actually your "expectations" thing. smile

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#2273593 - 05/10/14 09:48 AM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: 8 Octaves]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
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Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: 8 Octaves

That maybe true, but in a concert of the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata, Andreas Schiff tells his audience that Beethoven has written in his manuscript to hold down the sustain pedal for the whole of the first movement. He then goes into a discussion about modern versus period pianos, then explain to his audience how some other pianist would pedal the movement rather than holding the whole time. He then plays the first movement holding down the pedal.

I agree that this comes under educating the audience, and I also think that this is excellent. I guess that we do have expectations at play here, because "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing", as the saying goes. Audiences can be semi-sophisticated, with preconceived ideas of "how it's supposed to be done" and that ruins their whole enjoyment of the performance because of their wrong expectations. So actually yes, I guess that this is expectation management, not due to any weakness on the part of the performer, but maybe a kind of weakness (lack of knowledge) of the audience. Good point.

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#2273652 - 05/10/14 01:11 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: PianoStudent88]
Stubbie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/10
Posts: 390
Loc: Midwest USA
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I think business jargon speak of "manage expectations" has no place in making music. I do enough managing expectations in my work life, thank you very much, and I don't need more of it elsewhere.

If you're performing, I don't want to hear you say what's going to suck about what you're going to do. If it sucks that much, get off the stage. If it doesn't suck that much, then as long as you don't say anything to call attention to it, I won't notice the bad things and I will enjoy it.

If you're in a lesson, your teacher can hear everything in your playing, and more. So there's no use practicing apologizing about your playing. Better to practice taking a deep breath (or however you prepare yourself to play) and getting on with it.

Telling your teacher about a feature that you're particularly looking for help with is different, but that's not about "managing expectations" -- that's about making your lessons productive. (And I think it's always a good idea to be open to the idea that your teacher may think something else entirely is the most important next thing to be working on.)


Well said. In a performance scenario before an audience, it would be better to not say anything. I can see it happening if you're playing something on the spur of the moment for your sister, who just dropped in (and doesn't realize it takes weeks/months to play that piece well). For a performance, giving the audience some information about the piece and/or performer would be perfectly acceptable.

In the context of lessons, I think the underlying motivator is along the lines of the underpromising PS88 talks about. It might make the student feel better (briefly), but I doubt it has any sway with the teacher. Does it? Or does planting the thought suffice, like Perry Mason saying something, the DA objecting, and Perry withdrawing the question, having accomplished his purpose just by making the statement.
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#2273676 - 05/10/14 02:06 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
briansaddleback Offline
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Registered: 01/27/14
Posts: 220
Loc: Irvine CA
I don't say anything before I play. I just sit down and start tinkering away. Usually the residents are eating dinner (few dozen feet away from the piano as it is in the lobby ) and some just walking about or just sitting.
As I play many draw closer but I don't say anything to compensate.

I believe dealing w their perceived expectations whether enjoyment or disappointment I can improve or get over it psychologically and get mentally tougher. Rather than putting myself into a safety nest each time.
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#2273680 - 05/10/14 02:15 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Sand Tiger]
briansaddleback Offline
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Registered: 01/27/14
Posts: 220
Loc: Irvine CA
Originally Posted By: Sand Tiger

I sometimes write that nerves tend to take their toll. For those that don't perform often, it can be the equivalent of two letter grades. A piece at "B" level degrades to "D". A piece at "C" level, may mean a crash and burn. By performing more, a person can tame the nerve dragon and the toll becomes less. However, for most people, the dragon never goes away completely.

For me it is like an A or B becomes a D usually and many times an F (crash and burn). But on rare occasion , my B would be a B throughout. This tells me it is all in our heads. We practice enough the piece at home we got to practice mental toughness.
Thus you're right , the dragon will never leave if we keep putting qualifiers beforehand as crutches


Edited by briansaddleback (05/10/14 02:17 PM)
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#2273704 - 05/10/14 03:19 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: keystring]
8 Octaves Offline

Gold Supporter until July 22 2015


Registered: 04/20/14
Posts: 325
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: keystring
I guess that this is expectation management, not due to any weakness on the part of the performer, but maybe a kind of weakness (lack of knowledge) of the audience.


Yes, that was my point exactly. Since the audience may be all sorts including critics (journalists), so by stating his intentions outright, he is telling his audience to expect something different, to try to warn them and to ask them for an open mind. Many critics, no doubt, would still think he's flipped, and it's complete non-sense. I think many more would think that had he not managed expectations, but you can never please everyone.
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#2273705 - 05/10/14 03:20 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
manyhands Offline
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Registered: 03/19/12
Posts: 123
Loc: Md
at a lesson I am sometimes happily surprised when a hard bit comes off perfectly. posting a warning ahead would ruin that. Errors are just food for growth.
the toughest expectation is my own quest for perfection...so my new mantra is...I'm striving for growth/ improvement
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#2273787 - 05/10/14 08:57 PM Re: QOTW: Do you "manage expectations" when you play for others? [Re: Stubbie]
Bobpickle Offline

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Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: Stubbie
At your lesson or when playing for someone else, do you "manage" expectations? Occasionally? Often? Very purposely or is it more or less automatic?


always, lest you be disappointed every time things don't turn out perfectly (which is often).


Originally Posted By: Stubbie
By 'manage expectations' I'm thinking of a situation where you "warn" your teacher or audience that something in what you are about to play is not up to where you think (or you think your teacher thinks) it should be, quality-wise. Examples would be, "This is still not up to tempo," or "The trill in measure 18 is still rough."


If you have to apologize in advance, you didn't prepare well enough or you had/have unrealistic expectations. Either way, nobody wants to hear it (the apology - not the playing; put yourself in their shoes). Just play as best you can and make note - or listen to your teacher's/audience's notes - after as to what to improve on and more importantly, how to improve on said items.[/quote]


Originally Posted By: Stubbie
Do you manage expectations? How does it psychologically benefit (if it does at all) you or your teacher/audience? Teachers, your thoughts welcome as well.


I neither warn nor apologize for my performances, however I do manage my own expectations because if I didn't, I'd likely feel awful after most performances and not want to continue doing it. Most performances are about sharing what you've been working on - not impressing or showing off (while there is a time and a place for that, it's more with pieces that are extremely polished).

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