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#925196 - 07/16/08 09:32 AM Advanced Student Practice Time
Piano*Dad Offline
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Here are a set of related questions just to get a discussion going.

At a broad level, what is an appropriate amount (or range) of time you recommend for an advanced student's practice? This requires some common understanding of what 'advanced' means, of course.

Do you try to individualize your recommendation, or do you go the simpler route of requiring everybody to do at least X hours per day?

Do you insist, or just recommend?

If you insist, do you monitor in some fashion?

Do you think there are diminishing returns and ultimately negative returns from increasing practice time? Diminishing returns means that each additional time segment (say quarter hours) creates learning gains that are smaller and smaller than the previous time segment. Negative returns means that the additional time segment actually makes things worse.
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#925197 - 07/16/08 09:49 AM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
Morodiene Online   content
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I don't currently have any advanced students but a couple late intermediate ones. I give a time recommendation sometimes, if I feel that they aren't quite doing enough. However, I think it is better to concentrate on how to practice, rather than the time practiced. I think the time can be different for the individual, because not everyone can concentrate for hours on end (like me). I need to do a half hour here and there throughout the day to really make good progress.

I once asked my graduate piano teacher how much time I should be spending, and she said that they recommend for performance majors 4 hours per day, and education majors 2 hours per day, but since I was a teacher while studying with her, she said whatever I could get in!

I do think that simply requiring time is similar to when school teachers tell students that a paper must be X pages long. You will often get a lot of fluff with that requirement. Perhaps giving a range or suggestion just to give them an idea of the time involved, but concentrate more on the tangible results.

For instance, telling a student that they should get the first two pages learned well by next week or something like that, going into detail as to how to do this.
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#925198 - 07/16/08 09:57 AM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
keystring Online   content
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Piano*Dad, I will venture to give the view of a parent of an advanced student at the university level preparing for a career as a professional musician. What follows is what I learned from him. Quality of practice, and not time, was the first priority. Time-wise, at third year university, his practicing consisted of about 5 hours daily. The first 1 1/2 - 2 hours consisted of "warm-ups" before working on a piece even started. This was not for piano, so I don't know how much applies to that instrument. The warm-ups were exercises in technique and accuracy. Students beginning the program were brought back to the absolute basics which are the cornerstone of everything else, and attention went first of all to making certain that these were correct at all time.

His particular approach to actual pieces was to build the framework first: correct notes, timing, and what constituted a steady tone quality for that instrument. Then the piece was developed - never before studying it in depth. I once asked him his thoughts on interpreting a given piece and he said "I can't tell, I haven't studied the score." He also believes a piece cannot be played musically unless it is fully memorized and absorbed.

His opinion, from the earliest days when still a teen, is that "putting in time" is counterproductive. Practicing should be efficient and focussed - almost a "laziness" where effective playing makes you work less hard. It is an internal, focussed activity, and as such neither of us has liked being monitored, and there has been mutual respect in that area. You cannot be absorbed in the task, working things out in a dialogue between yourself and the music, if you also expect to be interrupted, and for that input to come from the outside. That is, the "wrong note - too fast" kind of input.

Our relationship is reversed, since I'm the junior person. The few times I have received feedback on my playing, it has been a general observation that led me somewhere. For example, a while back he observed that in my work with tempo and rhythm, I did not seem to have an internalized sense of meter - and left me to pursue what that might mean. At other times he remained silent about an observation, realizing that I was not "there" yet, or that my teacher had a reason for not addressing this thing and not wanting to interfere in that process.

Since this was addressed to teachers in the teacher's forum and I'm answering as a student, I am happy to see corrections to anything I have written.

Keystring

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#925199 - 07/16/08 10:04 AM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
Piano*Dad Offline
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I understand the tradeoff between time on the bench and the efficiency of that time. But that is not really the issue I'm asking about, except, I guess, as it figures into whether or not a teacher individualizes their expectations.

The tradeoff between time and efficiency is not linear. No matter how effectively you practice you cannot accomplish your goals in 20 minutes.

So, assuming a certain level of efficiency, what are the amounts of time you expect in order to meet your teaching goals? .... and all the other aspects of the question.
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#925200 - 07/16/08 10:13 AM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
Morodiene Online   content
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I guess one would have to look at how long it would take to play through a given piece under tempo and add up all the pieces a student is working on (since that is most likely what they will do to practice anyways). Then add time for concentrated work on difficult passages (assuming they do this at all), and that should give you an idea of the time needed.
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#925201 - 07/16/08 10:16 AM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
John v.d.Brook Offline
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PD, I provide my students who have reached upper Intermediate repertoire (easier Debussy, Mozart Sonatas, etc.) a little practice plan. It outlines how they should structure their daily practicing, not time involved. That aspect becomes obvious when putting the plan into effect.

For example, if your daily practice begins with slow scale practice, gradually speeding up to mm=168, and you work on half the circle of fifths, how much time is consumed? Not 5 or 10 minutes, but closer to an hour. If their practice includes two etudes, and they begin each slowly, at mm=40 and work up to mm=144, stopping to work on passages where fingering, phrasing, hand, arm, wrist positions need correcting, how much time is spent? Probably an hour.

Then they must turn to repertoire. First, repertoire they are learning and then repertoire they are polishing.

You just cannot accomplish this with 90 min of daily practice. I don't have to tell them this. They can hear the difference if they practice 90 min a day for a week, and 3 or 4 hours a week.

In the end, it boils down to what they want to learn, how quickly, how well. That's their decision. I believe it's incumbent upon the teacher to carefully explain this, but we cannot enforce it.
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#925202 - 07/16/08 10:25 AM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
keystring Online   content
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So John, are you telling them *what* to practice and *how", and if they incorporate the what and how it turns into length of time? In other words, you don't tell them how many hours they should practice, but if they follow your instructions, they would end up practicing (around 3 hours daily)?

KS

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#925203 - 07/16/08 10:52 AM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
pianoexcellence Offline
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Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
I spend a good part lesson time outlining goals, and discussing exactly what they need to do to reach those goals. Students go home with a list of 10-20 goals.

Each goal has a test that must be passed, before they can check it off the list. Designing the tests is the most challenging part, and makes for some great discussions with the student. It also really helps to build awareness

I find that the "video gamer" crowd really responds to this.

I have never said to an advanced student "You need to practice 2 hours a day". In the end I'm sure they pracitce more than that because the little tests are so addictive.
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#925204 - 07/16/08 10:58 AM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Precisely. And it's probably closer to 4 hrs if they really dig in. But I also suggest that they sit down with pencil and paper, and draw up a time-flow chart of their day. When do they arise in the morning? How long between then and when they eat breakfast? What are they doing between getting up and leaving for school? Is there time there to practice scales, arpeggios, chords, and perhaps one etude? Or to do a repertoire review?

When do they arrive home from school? Do they have options for when they depart school? Are they lingering for social reasons? Could they shoe horn in 1 1/2 hrs immediately after school, and another hour after dinner?

Perhaps during the week, they can only work two hrs a day at the piano, but on Sat & Sun, they can expand their practice to four or five hours each day. This is actually very effective and will take them a long way. Just practicing two or three scales, working hard on one piece, and some repertoire review during the week, then full bore on the weekend.
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#925205 - 07/16/08 01:49 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
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Loc: Orange County, CA
For advanced students, I "politely" ask them to practice 90 minutes per day. Of course, they don't.

I do find that 3 x 30 is better than 1 x 90 in terms of practice time. Three short sessions make better improvement than one marathon.
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#925206 - 07/16/08 02:13 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
Elise_B Offline
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Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 81
Loc: nyc
scales..scales
. why?
Don't etudes serve the same purpose? I think scales take up too much of practice time if one is supposed to do them daily. Plus how well you play them is so variable.. i play them better if my teacher is looking. but at home i more and more skip them..too boring.. many etudes have enough runs to allow technique development/ maintenance.. Does everyone really recommend practicing scales every day??

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#925207 - 07/16/08 02:24 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13789
Loc: Iowa City, IA
 Quote:
Originally posted by AZNpiano:
For advanced students, I "politely" ask them to practice 90 minutes per day. Of course, they don't.

I do find that 3 x 30 is better than 1 x 90 in terms of practice time. Three short sessions make better improvement than one marathon. [/b]
3 x 30 is better than 1 x 90, but 3 x 90 is better than both of those.

If they're not practicing, then why ask?

And in my mind, if they're not practicing 90 minutes a day, then they're not advanced pianists.

For my students, it depends on what their lives are like. For a tightly scheduled high schooler who does other activities, an hour a day 5 days a week is recommended. For those who have chosen to focus on piano, two hours a day is best. For those who are focused and have made arrangements (leaving school early to practice, or being homeschooled), 3-5 hours a day is good.
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#925208 - 07/16/08 02:51 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
Morodiene Online   content
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Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
 Quote:
Originally posted by Elise_B:
scales..scales
. why?
Don't etudes serve the same purpose? I think scales take up too much of practice time if one is supposed to do them daily. Plus how well you play them is so variable.. i play them better if my teacher is looking. but at home i more and more skip them..too boring.. many etudes have enough runs to allow technique development/ maintenance.. Does everyone really recommend practicing scales every day?? [/b]
Yes, I do. And really, scales the way I have them practice don't take up a lot of time. Even going through all major keys chromatically over 4 octaves each takes all but 5 minutes. I know others are more regimented, but I try to make them as painless as possible. Scales are very important to help with understanding key signatures and good fingering, as well as developing dexterity.
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#925209 - 07/16/08 03:19 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Elise, there are many reasons for practicing steps, oops, I mean scales.

For one, it helps with achieving velocity. Most of my students couldn't do what Morodiene does, and get through the circle of 5ths, major and minor, in 10 minutes. They are still working their way up to mm=212.

Secondly, it's something you don't have to think about, fingering or note wise, so you can focus all your attention on evenness and tone value.

John
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"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
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#925210 - 07/16/08 03:36 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
Piano*Dad Offline
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Yeah, scales! \:D

Actually, I'm pushing P*S through 'em all. Evenness and tone, exactly.

My son breaks his practice down into sessions. It's his learning style. We're also keeping a practice log so he can look back on how he is arranging his time, and how long he is actually practicing each day. For the record, during the summer he's trying to do three hours of piano each day and an hour or so of horn.


Kreisler,

Three hours is so difficult for a contemporary high school student, and five is right out unless they are mono-focused on the instrument. That's fine for the weekend, but during the school week it's very hard. The mono-focussed thus inherit the earth! ;\)

 Quote:
And in my mind, if they're not practicing 90 minutes a day, then they're not advanced pianists.
Thanks! That gave me a nice chuckle. \:\)
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#925211 - 07/16/08 04:34 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
pianoexcellence Offline
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Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
Students should not practice scales.

Students should practice technique. Since you have to play something, scales make a lot of sense.
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#925212 - 07/16/08 05:01 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
Elise_B Offline
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Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 81
Loc: nyc
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoexcellence:
Students should not practice scales.

Students should practice technique. Since you have to play something, scales make a lot of sense. [/b]
So practicing etudes does not achieve the same thing, and perhaps more?
I read "reflections from the Keyboard" last week; it is a collection of very interesting interviews with great pianists and many of them said that they did not emphasize scales in their practice or their teaching; in fact some were never encouraged to play them even when they were at much earlier stages of their studies.. So perhaps it is not so straightforward..

P*D, too bad P*S will start having homework like the rest of us next year!! :)I also start HS and i am very worried about maintaining enough practice again... Despite the stormy start of piano lessons this summer, i have to admit that things got a little better after i entered "teacher say Elise do " mode and started putting in 3 hours a day regularly..But once school starts again, this will be problematic, let alone if I have to include an hour a day of mindless scales.. i think from a time management point of view, it is hard to do.. My other requirements usually include an etude or two, new repertoire to memorize and keeping up the old repertoire, which my teacher delights in pop quizzing me on every now and then.. So something has to give when planning practice..

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#925213 - 07/16/08 05:16 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
pianoexcellence Offline
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Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
Etudes form an important part of technique.

Scales are a clearer benchmark, and and their ease of memory allow complete attention to tone. There is no need to adhere to any form of "performance practice", which makes scales very versatile almost any technique can be applied to them, and these can be easily compared side by side for appropriateness later on when deciding how to play pieces.

Students may become professional pianists through many means, some only through repertoire. Some argue that all specialized technique practice is unnecessary. You are not the only one with a "larger perspective".

I made it up to Gr. 10 without ANY solid scale practice. I also felt like I was driving a minivan on a racetrack. Etudes are fine, but when you break down each movement within the simplicity of a pattern (scales, chords, arpeggios), it is like going back to the garage and slowly building a formula one car from scratch. An etude is like a time trial course. S,C,A, is the time spent actually creating your car.

Build your playing mechanism...and learn to use it to create beautiful music...THAT is technique.

I have found that the most direct route to solid playing is technique. I ask students whether they want to take the scenic route or the interstate. A special few choose the interstate.

The direct route involves about 70% of practice time devoted to technique (in it's many forms). Technique is not just patterns, fingerings, and velocity. I say again: "Most of the things that people consider artistry are actually technique". Artistry comes in when the performer chooses his techniques carefully for expressive reasons.

Recreational pianists love to disparage scale playing...look how well I can play without them. To that I say, "Wow...you are very good...imagine your potential"
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#925214 - 07/16/08 05:49 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
pianoexcellence Offline
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Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
elise says: "let alone an hour of mindless scales every day"


I could not agree more...

A chainsaw is not very good at cutting until you fire it up.
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#925215 - 07/16/08 06:03 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
Piano*Dad Offline
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Jeremy,

That is one of the best simple defenses of the importance of technique, and of the importance of attenting to technical development, that I have read here.
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#925216 - 07/16/08 06:53 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
ProdigalPianist Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoexcellence:
Recreational pianists love to disparage scale playing...look how well I can play without them. To that I say, "Wow...you are very good...imagine your potential" [/b]
That is a broad generalization, and a bit too dismissive of "recreational pianists", in my opinion, considering the tiny percentage of those who take piano lessons, who are able to go on to make their living at the piano.

Many "recreational pianists" are quite serious about the piano. What is true of recreational pianists is generally a limited time available to practice. As, we saw in another thread, seems to also be true of piano teachers.

Scales could be of great benefit to those who do not currently practice them. The issue may, in fact, be that no one has taught them *how* to practice scales and what benefits can be realized from them.

The question, in terms of this thread, would then be, "how much % of your practice time should be devoted to scales?" Because, of course, you do need repertoire, too...
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#925217 - 07/16/08 07:22 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
pianoexcellence Offline
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Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
You are right about my generalization.

I take it back.

That has been MY experience with recreational pianists that come to me to go to the next level. It usually takes me quite a while to get them on board with a technical regimen.

I hate it when people generalize...so I am glad you caught me on this.

My answer to your percentage question is: It depends on the student and their goals. I have students who spend between 0 and 80% of their total time on technique (according to our mutual agreement). Both of these numbers are extremes, and apply only to very special cases.
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Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
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#925218 - 07/16/08 07:49 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
Elise_B Offline
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Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 81
Loc: nyc
well, I do not think in my really humble opinion that not getting too excited about scales specifically means ignoring technique.. I am not sure how one could move "to the next level" without technique. I know that a student's perspective on this is kind of suspect. But i also learnt, recently, that my suspicions are not completely ridiculous.
As I said, very prominent teachers (who have produced equally prominent non recreational pianists) have been quoted as recommending the incorporation of technique with music. "why practice octaves if you can practice playing the Liszt Octave etude", is a near quote from one of those teachers: Gyorgy Sandor (hope I am spelling it right). i also read some very insightful comments by the same person about life being very short and the pianist' repertoire extensive: Beethoven wrote 32 sonatas , why practice scales instead of real music? In fact he apparently has published a book about technique that i will be looking up.
I completley get it that each teacher has a method they trust and that there is more than one right way to achieve the same.. .. But i really don't get it if you say : No scales= no technique..

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#925219 - 07/16/08 07:55 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
ProdigalPianist Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
Pianoexcellence \:\)
I know that I was not taught why or how to practice scales. One of the many omissions that have had me playing 'catch up' ever since, unfortunately,

Elise_B
Why practice scales when you can practice real music? Well, I can only answer for myself, but when I am practicing real music I have about a dozen things that I'm trying to control and play well at the same time. With scales, that number is dramatically reduced...to only one or two things that I'm trying to do at the same time (ie-play softly and evenly, play loudly and evenly, or just, play evenly!).

I'm not good enough to only have to concentrate on one or two things when I'm playing real music.
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#925220 - 07/16/08 08:04 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
pianoexcellence Offline
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Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
Elise

I did not say no scales=no technique.

My "straw man" alert is beeping right now.
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#925221 - 07/16/08 08:09 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
pianoexcellence Offline
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Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
Also, Gyorgy Sandor's book is primarily about the rudimentary movements in piano.

Count how many times he references scales, chords and arpeggios in that main section of his book.

Karl Liemer, another master teacher is known to say that too many etudes ruins the nerves.

We can go back and forth dropping names of masters.
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#925222 - 07/16/08 08:09 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
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 Quote:
"why practice octaves if you can practice playing the Liszt Octave etude", is a near quote from one of those teachers: Gyorgy Sandor
I was curious about Mr. Sandor's pedagogical views, and found this clip: Interview about Sandor
In it, Sandor is quoted in remembrance of his teacher's teaching, (Bela Bartok), speaking of the the absolute beauty of Bartok's scales because of their pure technical execution. Sandor taught as he had been taught, and that teaching apparently included scales that had to be executed perfectly. I wonder whether the quote about octaves was taken in isolation, and Sandor was also making the point about technique being inherent in pieces?

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#925223 - 07/16/08 08:21 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
pianoexcellence Offline
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Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
Keystring,

I agree.

Context Context Context.

I took detailed notes from the books of Liemer, Sandor, Whiteside, and many others. Any of them can be spoken for out of general context with quotes.

If I tried hard enough, I could probably make Whiteside sound like she advocates a fingery typewriter style touch.
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#925224 - 07/16/08 08:39 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
Singing Sarah Offline
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Registered: 05/01/08
Posts: 8
Well, I am a full time choir teacher with 3 small children. I have very little time to practice. But, I still like to keep up the repetoire that I have and develop new stuff. What I have learned though, is that to develop and maintain my technique through the rehearsal of scales in fact allows me to play more and it allows me to play more effectively the music that I wish to play. Someone stated earlier that music is made up of scales, etc. why not just get to the rep? We don't take the short cut because in the long run it's going to take you longer and your experience won't be as good. Continuing my scales, etc. allows me to play more rep, as well as play more effectively in the very little time that I have.

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#925225 - 07/16/08 08:50 PM Re: Advanced Student Practice Time
Elise_B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 81
Loc: nyc
I am not sure what you mean by straw man, fired up saws etc..
i was simply quoting smething I gleaned from an interview and as I said it made me curious about reading the original book it refers to. So the caveat was there.. I am really not trying to challenge your methods , but just expressing an opinion. You are certainly not the first teacher to think highly of scales.. Mine does. or did. he is backing off a bit I get a feeling..or it may be the bad summer weather in the city..
i will also admit that reading about techniques and other pianists is completely new to me and I had not heard of the Sandor person until i read this book. So I could not drop any more master names if I wanted to..
KS, it is interesting you mentioned Bartok. In the same interview, Sandor says
(this one is a verbatim quote becasue I got the book right here):

"dubal: I know you studied with bartok. what was he like as a pianist, teacher and man?
Sandor: it was an overwhelming experience. (..)i will never forget my first lesson with him. he sat down and simply played a scale. To my amazement, he played it unevenly. His scale was alive. It came from somewhere, and went somewher. it wasn't stagnant, or bland. Such freedom was a revelation to me." pp284 (1984 edition).

it was a revelation to me too.

I will also add that these people navigate in different orbits than many of us..It may well be that you have to do perfect scales for the first 15 years and then uneven 'alive" ones for the next whatever years..

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