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#929834 - 04/26/08 07:26 AM "Playing at home better" illusion
balalaika Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Recently I found myself struggling with quite a few students that have “playing better at home” illusion.
They come to the lesson unprepared, play with stops and mistakes, but claim they can play perfect at their home. So in their view the problem is that they just cannot do it well for me. :rolleyes:

I believe it might be true sometimes but in most cases it is just an illusion. Usually, I ask these kind of the students to make a recording of their practice at home to prove their notion. Of course they never did but they stick to their guns.

I am wondering whether other teachers also have some “playing better at home” students and how they deal with the issue.

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#929835 - 04/26/08 07:42 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Debbie57 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/27/07
Posts: 258
Loc: Kansas
I'm just an adult student, but maybe you'll enjoy this. When I started lessons I swear I really could play it better at home because it had been 30 years since I had been in a learning setting and I was nervous! I'm way over that now and amused my teacher no end recently when I was bombing a piece at lessons. I told her "no I couldn't play it better at home, but I could play the mistakes much more smoothly \:D
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A Hero is one who hangs on one minute longer. Author: Unknown

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#929836 - 04/26/08 09:32 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Mistaya Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/29/06
Posts: 182
Loc: Alberta
This is not an illusion for many of us. I'm incredibly nervous playing in front of my teacher (1.5 yrs) even though she is very kind and encouraging - the issue is that I know she is listening critically - and my playing is being evaluated. Lately, she has taken to "just finishing something up" somewhere within earshot and asks me just to start playing something when she is not hovering. This helps somewhat. I do record myself to get feedback based on how I'm actually playing at home. She listens- and once I know she has heard my actual progress on the piece- we can get some good work done. I find the recording and listening process incredibly valuable for both of us. The upshot of this is that once I can play the piece well in front of her, I usually know it well enough to play it almost anywhere.

Adults have egos and we can be quite critical of ourselves. This causes much nervousness and in particular tension. Tension is of course devastating to playing well. Adults also have many more sources of tension in their lives than children do.

Understanding will be very important. For me playing for an instructor feels like a performance situation. My teacher does believe me, which is very kind of her - but she adds, that it only counts when I can play it in front others.
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#929837 - 04/26/08 11:13 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
glyptodont2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/26/07
Posts: 45
One consideration here may be that people tend to play things faster than normal when they are tense or nervous. This is not planned -- it just comes with the nervousness.

When the student steps up the pace -- perhaps unintentionally -- at the teacher's studio, mistakes start occurring that would not occur at a slower tempo.

As a teacher, have you ever asked your student to "just slow down a little" ?
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[Same person as former Glyptodont -- Some sort of system problem with forum.]

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#929838 - 04/26/08 01:17 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Wombat66 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/31/05
Posts: 262
Loc: Cornwall UK
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mistaya:
This is not an illusion for many of us. I'm incredibly nervous playing in front of my teacher (1.5 yrs) even though she is very kind and encouraging - the issue is that I know she is listening critically - and my playing is being evaluated. Lately, she has taken to "just finishing something up" somewhere within earshot and asks me just to start playing something when she is not hovering.... The upshot of this is that once I can play the piece well in front of her, I usually know it well enough to play it almost anywhere.

Adults have egos and we can be quite critical of ourselves. This causes much nervousness and in particular tension. Tension is of course devastating to playing well. Adults also have many more sources of tension in their lives than children do.

For me playing for an instructor feels like a performance situation. My teacher does believe me, which is very kind of her - but she adds, that it only counts when I can play it in front others. [/b]
This is so true. I have terrible problems playing in front of my teacher. I too have gone down the recording route but have never shared any of my recordings with my teacher. I have had pieces to a stage that I can play them several times in a row whilst recording, producing results that I am quite happy with or even pround of and yet still completely bomb out in a lesson. The problem is of course massively exacerbated by lack of preparation and ineffective practice techniques but it certainly isn't completely due to lack of preparation - in fact I spend so much of my spare time banging away at the keyboard that if there were any justice in the world it would be him coming to me for a lesson!
My children however, who go to the same teacher, never do any practice despite incessant nagging from me. Not long ago I suffered the ignominy of my wife being taken aside at the end of my kids lesson and told how pleased he was with their progress, he then said "but I'm a little worried about how little progress your husband seems to be making".
When this was relayed to me I felt like going round with an axe, removing one of the legs of his Steinway and inserting it somewhere where it doesn't easily fit, but of course the problem is entirely mine and not his!
I'm told that it is much more common in adults, and every adult I speak to suffers from the same problem to a greater or lesser degree. I'm told that we use different parts of the brain when learning pieces (mainly the cortex) compared to when we know a piece well (mainly the cerebellum) and that when under stress the cerebellar pathway is inhibited so that we revert to the cortex and it's back as if were sight reading, if anyone knows more about this aspect of it I'd love to know.
I'm hoping that with time the problem will regress and that as my sight reading skills improve, even when I do bomb and go back into "sight reading mode" during a lesson it won't sound so bad. In the meantime I'll just keep playing it better at home and as well as I can in the lesson. Quitting to take up stamp collecting instead isn't an option.

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#929839 - 04/26/08 01:29 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
If your setup would allow it, why not give students 10 minutes warm up while you "step out". Encourage them to play their pieces slowly to get "their fingers warmed up." Say you need to step out in the meanwhile and will come back in 10 minutes.

Postion yourself to hear and see how they play when you are listening but not there to see if there is anything to their claims.

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#929840 - 04/26/08 01:36 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Knabe26 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/27/06
Posts: 221
Loc: Northern California
I think also any difference in touch between their practice instrument and the instructor's can have an affect. It can take a couple of minutes of warming-up on the teacher's piano for that to subside, then it's all about the nerves! ;\)
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#929841 - 04/26/08 03:57 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
My perspective is that even when you're nervous at your lesson or in performance, this is how you play your piece, this is how well it is truly prepared; you should still be able to play well, or the best you can, under those conditions, if not, more practice is needed.

The reality is, is that this is really how you play. So students that say I play it better at home, imo, are making excuses.

Recording ones self, to me, if done with only one take, can be just as nerve wreaking as performing for your teacher. So to me this can be a great way to practice performing and to see where your piece needs to be worked on so that you can play under those conditions.

The other side of it is too, is that I feel we are not as critical when we are at home and really it is an illusion that you can really play it better when you are at home. So yes students, make your recording... remember only one take!

With that being said, when you are at your lesson, you are not performing anyways, with that in mind you may become more relaxed. If the teacher, like I do, feel the piece is ready to be performed I then ask my student to perform it for me. This is different. I then sit back away from the student and be an audience. This is the time (if at all) to be nervous, otherwise it is silly to be nervous at your lesson because, you are learning, mistakes are to be made.

So yes, to me, "playing it better at home" is an illusion as well as an excuse to poor preparation and/or not seeing things in the correct perspective.

EDIT: Yes, you are playing on a different instrument than the one you play on at home. But this is just the way it is for us pianists!
Warm up first with scales to acclimate yourself with the piano and then do just that, acclimate. It is part of learning to play the piano well on any piano tht you come across.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#929842 - 04/26/08 08:02 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Mistaya Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/29/06
Posts: 182
Loc: Alberta
Wow, I feel very offended by this attitude - I know my level of preparation (average 2 hrs practice/day) and progress is reflected in recordings. I know how to practice effectively. However, this progress is not always apparent when having a 'nervous' lesson day. Something else is going on with adult students, perhaps along the lines of what Wombat mentioned. Teachers who want to be effective with adult students may need to adapt to what is happening, show understanding and perhaps help their students find ways to deal with the stresses. I know I did not have this issue when I was younger - I just played what I had practiced. I realize that it is 'silly to be nervous at a lesson', but wishing it away doesn't make it so.
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#929843 - 04/26/08 08:34 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
But putting it in the correct perspective might.

I did not mean to make you feel offended, Mistaya.

By saying what I just posted to my students, they are not offended, but instead take it to heart and learn to be more relaxed at their lessons.
They learn to not be distracted by a different environment, a different piano, and/or thinking they are at the lesson to perform. It is a process with students that are like this. I don't expect it to happen by next week. But I feel that this is, what it is. And by being honest with yourself and your surroundings and dealing with it, is the only way.

By saying "I played it better at home" will not help.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#929844 - 04/26/08 09:18 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Mistaya Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/29/06
Posts: 182
Loc: Alberta
A 'correct perspective' is a relative thing - my perspective is that of an adult trying to learn a new skill. I am willing to put in many hours of work and accept that this will take a very long time. I'm enjoying every minute of it. I am quite critical of my abilities and recognize that performing in front of others and in new surroundings is also a skill that needs to be developed. I have lesson days that go very well, and others where something short circuits and my hours of preparation and learning go unnoticed. I do feel that I am honest with myself - and even if saying "I played it better at home" doesn't help - it can certainly be the truth.
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#929845 - 04/26/08 10:07 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Thementor5 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/26/08
Posts: 9
well, that had never occurred to me, considering that my teacher's piano was far better than mine, so i enjoyed playing and actually played better at my teacher's place.

but, this illusion all depends on the student. he or she might just be shy. it's a very natural thing.

especially when he or she knows that you are so much better than him or her, and that you'll find the slightest mistake in his or her playing.

this might add some stress to the student to some extent, and therefore, he or she might be nervous.

To solve this, I suggest maybe getting closer with the student, like become more of a friend to destroy this dichotomy. Maybe it'll work.
good luck with your students.
_________________________
SP 169 Schimmel Diamond Edition-Flame Mahogany

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#929846 - 04/26/08 10:20 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mistaya:
A 'correct perspective' is a relative thing - my perspective is that of an adult trying to learn a new skill. I am willing to put in many hours of work and accept that this will take a very long time. I'm enjoying every minute of it. I am quite critical of my abilities and recognize that performing in front of others and in new surroundings is also a skill that needs to be developed. I have lesson days that go very well, and others where something short circuits and my hours of preparation and learning go unnoticed. I do feel that I am honest with myself - and even if saying "I played it better at home" doesn't help - it can certainly be the truth. [/b]
But why say it?

How will this help the teacher teach you? Except to let the teacher know that you have to get beyond this "I play it better at home" syndrome.

The teacher takes how you play at the time of the lesson for what that piece is worth. I feel it would help greatly if you just had the attitude of "I will play this piece the best I can for what it is worth at this particular time." After all, that is all you realistically can do. Right? After all, you are not there to prove anything. Are you? You are there to get help with your piece and learn how to play it well, and to develop into a pianist, which is a process.

What help is it by saying, "I can play it better at home?"

Also, I wonder truly, if you can play it better at home. Again, on the first recording? Can you really?

We all have bad days, even concert pianists. Teachers forgive you for this. Teachers also have bad days and short circuit. We are human. I think you have too high of an expectation of yourself which may get in the way when playing at your lesson.

Please, no offense, I'm only trying to be of help.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#929847 - 04/26/08 10:39 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Mistaya Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/29/06
Posts: 182
Loc: Alberta
I agree it doesn't help in the least - and the teacher can only work with what I show her. But the initial post, and yours labeled such statements as 'illusion', which is the idea I wanted to counter. I guess I would make such a comment to assure her that I had worked very hard so that she didn't just assume lack of preparation (as Balalaika stated.) Lessons with a good teacher are very expensive. I need her to work with me where I'm at, hence she agrees to listen to a recording and then doesn't need to spend time fixing things that I do only when nervous. We can work on the more interesting interpretive details and what I obviously 'don't get' in a piece. I will also slowly improve by playing in front of her, and in other situations which I make sure to expose myself to. In a lesson however, I want critical feedback more than just an opportunity to desensitize.
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#929848 - 04/26/08 10:45 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
I'm curious, since Balalaika is calling it an "illusion" and I guess I am too, and you are saying it isn't, then can you please tell me, honestly, how many times do you record the same piece until you're happy with it and that is the one that you bring to your teacher?
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#929849 - 04/26/08 11:04 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Mistaya Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/29/06
Posts: 182
Loc: Alberta
At first, I recorded many times! (and of course would improve each time)- but as I got used to facing the red dot - it got much easier. As you yourself said, recording can also be nerve wracking, so I don't know how fair a comparison that is. Now, I'm not so interested in a perfect take - just something we can work with - and I only do so when I really need feedback, such as before a recital. I forced myself to play 'live' three times over Christmas - so I'm working on it. We may just have to agree to disagree.

Another thing to perhaps consider is the significant number of performers who use beta-blockers. They are not doing so due to a lack of preparation - they do so to be able to perform to close to their capabilities under stressful conditions. Would you just assume they too are less prepared, or perhaps just physiologically more sensitive to adrenalin? Maybe I've found something to try \:\)
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#929850 - 04/26/08 11:41 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5934
Loc: Down Under
OK, I teach mainly adult students at the moment, and I hear this line a fair bit. I don't see it as an illusion, not with my adult students, at any rate. I hear what they're like after playing for me for an hour and I can well believe that their first run through in the lesson is not as good as they played it at home. I just usually smile and say "I know" and we get on with it. To me it sounds like frustration - they know they can play better, it's just not happening right now. And I reassure them that this happens to all of us, doesn't it? Perhaps not so regularly, but it certainly happens to me, and I play for a living! So whereas I agree with pianobuff that how you play at any given moment is really how you play, I think increasing the anxiety by implying the preparation is lacking and simply telling them to stop being anxious does no good at all.

My approach with my adult students is to focus on specific things, things we can work on right now, rather than a general "how well are you playing it" feeling. When they get into the music they stop focussing on themselves and how their performance is perceived. Generally I've found adult students are too self-critical. Actually, the more common catch-cry for one of mine is not "I played it better at home" (though no doubt he did \:\) ), but "this is ridiculous! I SHOULD be able to do this!" So we look at why in this particular case he can't.

Having said all this, I've certainly heard this line from younger students when it's been obvious it's a cop-out. And I suspect this is what the OP was referring to.
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#929851 - 04/27/08 12:19 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
sleepingcats Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/30/04
Posts: 982
Loc: Oregon
I'm an adult student, and I cannot use this "played it better at home" statement, because my lessons are conducted in my home. I can't even say "I played it better when you (teacher) weren't here" because I don't get nervous playing on my own piano in my own home.

With my previous teacher, I always got nervous because it was at her home on a piano that I played only once a week for an hour. Also, someone was actually paying attention to my playing - that changes everything. I loved her piano, her living room was very comfortable and home-like, a friendly cat usually greeted me before and during the lesson, and the teacher was the most wonderful, patient and non-judgemental person.

Being able to warm up and have several false starts before the actual lesson while the teacher had to get something or go to the restroom, etc. was very helpful in finally pulling off a decent performance for the teacher. However, to become a successful performer, it's probably better that the student get used to being "uncomfortable" with a piano or atmosphere and learn to adapt. Just my opinions.
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"Cats make purrfect friends"

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#929852 - 04/27/08 12:20 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Hisalone Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/08
Posts: 100
Loc: Omaha, NE
As a student, I find that I do play it better at home, but guess what, my teacher comes to my house for my lesson. \:D

In all seriousness, I actually find it a blessing when I do not play it as well in front of my teacher. I am never worried about things like missing notes. He knows I know when I hit the wrong note so we never really dwell on stuff like that unless there is a specific reason I hit the wrong not, but that is usually not the case other. Rather it is my own clumsy nature I need to get a handle on which eventually comes together without any excessive anxiety over it.

Issues of technique are another matter altogether. Usually the parts I really flub up in practice are those technical skills I may have been handling better in my teacher's absence, but nevertheless need more focusing in on anyway. He gives me an exercise on how to practice it and voila, it helps me conquer said technique. Same thing goes for tempo. Almost always, I try to play something too fast sometimes even if it is supposed to be that fast. Though I can't necessarily hear how my playing is not as definitive as it should be, I do carry the "illusion" that I can play it better at home. He instructs me to practice it slow for a bit longer and pay attention to fine details such as rhythm, technique, and definition, and then start adding tempo and nuances.

Student's, instead of being frustrated and dwelling on the idea that you do play it better at home, look at fixing the reasons you play worse for your teacher, pique his/her brain about it, and I'm sure you can all come to a resolution with just a little patience, and some quality practicing techniques. This is what still works for me.

Be blessed and enjoy it. Relax a little bit. We're all in this together. Us students and the teachers. We all work to the betterment of our playing so as to increase our enjoyment.

Joel
_________________________
Psa 33:1-3 ¶ Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.

Ya think God would permit 88 strings?

Hisalone

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#929853 - 04/27/08 07:01 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
lilylady Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/05
Posts: 4977
Loc: boston north
It's nice when you can get to the point of wanting your teacher to sit beside you, because they do know what you can do, and are always 'on your side'! Their presence is a comfort.

Me? heck, I guess I'll always have that 'but really, I do play it better at home when no one is around'!!!

Nerves and perfectionism, the desire to please must be the cause.
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"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."

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#929854 - 04/27/08 07:58 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Debbie57 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/27/07
Posts: 258
Loc: Kansas
Dear Teachers,

Some of us are 30 years away from any formal learning environment. We come to you for a variety of reasons. We want to fulfill a desire to learn to play the instrument, or engage in learning something new to us to keep our minds expanding and flexible or to (insert host of other reasons here ___). We are in awe of you because you can do what seems like the impossible for us, especially if we are new to our journey. We don't mean to keep repeating the tired phrase "I played it better at home" - in fact I've quit saying it all together because I've learned from these forums how tiresome it is for you to hear. Perhaps what we are really trying to express is that we were so much more comfortable playing it at home, which is a safe place for many of us.

We are trying to do many things at once. Learn what you are teaching us, let go of old ideas like "wanting an A on our paper" so to speak, and to get passed a certain nervousness that is akin to public speaking when we come to present for you.
 Quote:
With that being said, when you are at your lesson, you are not performing anyways
Ahh, but for some of us, we really do feel like we are performing, even if it's just to you - a person we have assigned a high value to.

It will take a certain amount of time for us to move beyond that strong desire to please you with our efforts. Most likely it will involve us developing more security and confidence in ourselves.

For myself, I personally really like my teacher. She's upbeat, she's fun and energetic, I'm comfortable with her and she gives me wonderful feedback on how to improve a piece. Yet my heart will still thud when I first sit down at the keyboard at my lesson.

Debbie
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A Hero is one who hangs on one minute longer. Author: Unknown

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#929855 - 04/27/08 08:39 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
I never say "it went better at home" anymore it feels true but sounds so lame to me.....and I know it isn't helpful for my teacher to hear.

I've been with the same teacher for 6 years now and he knows me pretty well. He's wonderful, very kind and patient but still I am a little tense (or maybe self-conscious is a better word?) when I first sit for a lesson. I'm trying to use my lessons also as "performance" practice - expecting that I'll be a little nervous so I'm trying to train myself to focus on the music instead of his watchful presence - playing slower than I would at home.

Teachers of nervous adults, I find that if we first start with a little music "chat" and then follow with a newly assigned exercies or piece that I have no expectations of myself with then the "jitters" are worked out more quickly and my "polishing" piece goes a little better.

Also, unless I'm really messing up, my teacher will let me play through my piece without interruptions. There are often repeated passages that will go better as I move through - this is also helpful. We'll go back and start over with him stopping me where he sees a problem that needs particular focus.
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#929856 - 04/27/08 10:41 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
glyptodont2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/26/07
Posts: 45
Forgive me for posting one more time here --

But no one has described the opposite-- playing WORSE at home -- or to put it differently, actually playing something BETTER at one's lesson.

This happens to me very seldom, but it HAS happened. One jazz piece that gave me great problems at home came off superbly at my lesson. In fact, I doubt that I ever played it that well before. Why I cannot tell you.

I remember going home from this particular lesson, all excited, and telling my wife, "you will not BELIEVE how well that went."

Unfortunately, it is usually the other way around, due to nerves, unfamiliar piano, the feeling of being watched like a cat watches a mouse . . . and on and on.

A great thread. I've learned from this one.
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#929857 - 04/27/08 11:02 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
ShootCraps Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/05
Posts: 132
Loc: Virginia Beach, VA
Awesome post, Debbie!! I think you said it perfectly.

It's very scary to play it right in practice and then bomb it in the lesson. It's pretty frickin' unfair too!
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"Show people are doomed. Doomed to a lifestyle of booze and pills and heavy meals late at night." Ruthless! - The Musical.

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#929858 - 04/27/08 12:28 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
Cause. Effect. Which person has the power to work with and change a phenomenon: student, teacher, or both. There is no single formula because each situation is different and must be dealt with individually.

I have already posted on a particular phenomenon of adults students that directly affects their ability to play well in front of a teacher, and I have posted the solution that every single person I know who tried it found to be a solution, because it goes straight to the effect. In this case both cause and effect are in the student's hands, and no amount of reassurance on a teacher's part will make much of a difference.

We adult students have a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of lessons, and our role within those lessons and with our teachers. We often believe that we must "perform" in front of our teacher, that a well played piece is the object, and often that our merit as a student is tied up with that merit - and extending the latter more, one either can or one cannot: "talent" and "ability" is something that is or is not there. This attitude creates a greater paralysis and anxiety then would happen playing on stage in front of an audience.

The solution lies in perceiving the activity and the role differently. A teacher cannot do that perceiving for us. I, the student, am working on developing my abilities to play, in the same way that I might be engaged in learning to make a chair, and you, the teacher, are helping me make that chair. From week to week we will examine this chair, which is not me, and see how it can be made into a better chair.

Secondly, ability is not a thing you "have" and if you "don't have it" you're doomed. By definition, when you begin something new, you are "not able" and you go from "able" to "able" via the process of lessons and practicing. It is acceptable to play badly and make mistakes, teachers accept mistakes, expect them, and have the opportunity to use these mistakes as points of guidance.

If these two sets of realizations are adopted and carried out during lesson time, the drop in anxiety and paralysis can be dramatic. At the same time, there is an immmediate new role and relationship between teacher and student, which the teacher may not realize, since he wasn't in on the old attitude. The student MIGHT actually start playing better, and will definitely stop saying "I played it better at home." because mistakes no longer matter.

This is one example of cause and effect of a phenomenon. In this case the onus lies entirely on the student. The only way a teacher can play a role is if the teacher knows that this, specifically, is going on, and finds a way of addressing it. I have never seen such a thing mentioned anywhere and I don't know to what degree teachers are aware of it.

Two other things arise:

Teachers do not just ask their students to practice a particular piece. They want to develop certain skills. They may have, as a single important goal, that a student practices playing evenly. Or he wants the student to (I'm making this up) play staccato/legato in turn in order to create some finger control. Believe it or not, even though you are saying it, students won't ** get ** that this is important. They won't get that this "d'uh simple" thing is your main point. We will do all kinds of things to impress you and make you pleased with our playing, except for that "piddly little thing".

So we practice our fingers off, wrongly. The piddly little thing may be the solution to most of our problems, but we don't do it, because we don't know it's important - so week after week you see us making the same mistake, struggling with the same problem, as though we had not practiced at all.

If your student doesn't know he is supposed to practice what you tell him to, and that the "what" includes especially the piddly stuff, then you, as a teacher, must make him understand. Repeating the same instruction over and over hoping some day he'll do it or get it isn't going to do it. You have to get at the problem. He doesn't get it! Tear your hair out if you want - he ought to get it - he doesn't! So make sure he gets it. Our responsibility as student then, after you've laid it on the line, is to do it, once we get what we're supposed to do.

While I was a student going through just that, I had a student in another field, doing just that. He worked incredibly hard and proudly presented the fruits of his labour. He would not budge on a piddly thing that I had asked, which eventually took the effort of 10 minutes for two days, and the lesson was stymied for a month. While I was being lectured on not doing fancy things, doing the piddly things, I gave the same lecture with the same degree of frustration that the teacher lecturing me was suppressing. It was comical, actually.

Third: Who is responsible for acquiring playing skills. This is not as obvious as it seems. If we, as students, do things our way, relying on our own judgement, we won't get the skills you are trying to give us. If we think that following you totally passively, but without an active involvement in what we are doing, it will come in tiny drabs almost by accident. Then, when we do get involved, we're back to changing your instructions, re-interpreting, and again it doesn't work. "Mindful practicing", purposeful practicing, without altering the guidance of a good teacher, is not as obvious as it seems.

If the issue is practicing, does this need to be taugth and discussed. Not just: do this every day at 60 bpm for 10 min. eventually increasing to 120 bpm, and make your tempo even. Actually what happens in the course of practicing.

My teacher, these days, will say "Tell me how you practised this." or "Tell me how you intend to practise this." I had a private student last year, a young teen, who wanted to work more independently. We spent 80% of some lessons discussing study strategies, problem solving strategies, organization strategies, and 20% of the time going over the material itself.

"Illusion" is a common word in the music world, and it is an important one. If we don't hear our mistakes, we cannot correct them, and we are condemned to stay at the same level. The most devastating stage of development is when we hear our mistakes for the first time, and we think we have suddenly deteriorated because we play so horridly. We always did play horridly but we heard what we imagined we were doing: when we here "horrid" and the nature of "horrid" we start improving.

But it can be a "play it better at home illusion" illusion, where a teacher has the illusion that it is an illusion, when it isn't. In other words, if there is an actual problem, and you decide to assume that your student has not been practicing when he has, then the problem will not be resolved. If the student actually has not been practicing, then it is not an illusion, and the solution is for the student to start practicing - the onus is on the student.

What is the problem? Is it the real problem? What is the cause of the problem? What is a possible solution to the problem? Who will have to do the work to create this solution?

The student side is reacting rather heftily because a large enough number have been caught in the cycle of practicing, not being able to play well, and fearing the accusation of non-practice. It is a discouraging experience to practice and not be able to produce. To then be accused of not having done the work is painful. Far better to find a solution, maybe.

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#929859 - 04/27/08 01:42 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Chris H. Offline
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I think this is something that matters far more to the student than the teacher. To all you students out there let me just say that we teachers have been there ourselves many times. Of course it is not (always) an illusion. When you feel under pressure it is difficult to perform as well as when you are relaxed. As pianobuff says, this is the realitly of performing. When you get up on that stage or go into that exam room you better be prepared for the fact that your performance might not go as well as it does at home. This is why you have to prepare as well as possible. I hear that phrase a lot. Believe me, I can tell if it is genuine or just an excuse. I am pretty sure that most experienced teachers can too.
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#929860 - 04/27/08 02:18 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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 Quote:
I think this is something that matters far more to the student than the teacher.
It is important for us to know that, because it is the "mattering" itself which creates the paralysis in front of a teacher. This paralysis IS of concern if it is ongoing.

I am an adult student, I don't have this problem in lessons. I seem to be a natural performer, so performance brings out the best in my playing.

In view of what I discovered in the "adult world" as written in my previous post, I would move away from comparing performance situations with lesson situations. It might aggravate. The problem the paralysis consists of viewing playing in front of a teacher as a performance which must be perfect. The solution to this cause consists of seeing lessons as a mutual effort to work on improved playing, and focussing on the task instead of the self. If you try to mentally prepare yourself as though for a performance, this falls apart in my internal world as a student.

What I experienced is that when I began seeing my role as working with my teacher at a task, then that work resulted in an improved piece almost as a side effect. My attention and focus had shifted, and remained shifted form practice room to lesson. This built up a different kind of solidity in my practicing and my playing, and a different kind of focus.

When a performance came near, I then drew on that acquired solidity - my lessons changed in nature as the piece to be performed was worked on: more like a rehearsal. Practising then was also toward the performance. Playing in performance, playing rehearsal-mode in lessons and in practicing, were of a different nature than playing in lessons and practicing when we were "chair building". Initially before I had found my role as a student, every lesson was like the rehearsal mode, and practicing was like a practicing for rehearsal for performance.

Does this distinction seem plausible and at all useful?

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#929861 - 04/27/08 03:52 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Chris H. Offline
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When I say you need to prepare I was not really thinking about the kind of mental preparation you might do for a performance. Rather that you need to practice to the point where you can play well almost all of the time. This might seem obvious but I often see the result of poor preparation in lessons and in recitals. The odd slip here and there is acceptable and often inevitable. But when parts of the piece break down completely and the student is unable to pick it up or even appears to be sight reading then it is clear that they have not practiced enough. I get the impression that some students will practice to the point where they can get it right. The important thing is not to leave it there. You have to practice well beyond this. I have heard many teachers say 'practice until you can't get it wrong'. I am not saying that it is as simple as this in all cases. But more often than not thorough preparation will be obvious to the teacher despite nerves and anxiety.
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#929862 - 04/27/08 03:55 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Chris H. Offline
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I forgot to say that as a teacher I do not expect a perfect performance every time. It depends on what stage a piece is at. If it was perfect then there would be nothing left to work on right?
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#929863 - 04/27/08 04:08 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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Also, when a student slips up, and it being a continuous slip up (not just human error), I could care less if he/she can play it better at home, and again (I wonder if that is true.) But regardless if it is true or not, instead the slip up shows me a place where more practice is needed, because in the real world, you are not always playing at home. I am basically reitterating what Chris just said.

Also, slip ups/mistakes are suppose to happen! This is why you are taking lessons. So for what it is worth, relax, you are not performing for your teacher. Like Keystring said, "you're building a chair together!" You are looking for guidance to playing the piano well. Having this focus should help with yourself as a person in the real sense.

I too have been on the other end of the stick and, for me, it is an illusion. I really do not play it better at home. I may think I do, but really, I make the same mistakes at home too.
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#929864 - 04/27/08 04:16 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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Hi Chris,
Yes, I understood what you were saying. What I was after is the phenomenon that I discovered. I think in essence it is a profound and major misperception of our role and reason as students, because we come into it so late and as a foreign world, and if that perception is corrected, then we can do as you say, and to the right end. It's a psychological thing at our end, but an important one.

Now when you talk about a student not practicing enough: how about knowing how to practice? Many of us will come to music thinking of it as a "whole". So we might play the piece over and over, doing the same thing. But with experience, hopefully we learn to address "aspects" and work with these, rather than the whole in the manner that a listening audience hears the whole.

One can practise 40 hours over a 2 week period, and hardly make a dent, and even entrench error. Or one can focus on an aspect, achieve more in 1/3 of the time, and affect the quality of one's playing as a whole everywhere. But you have to know how, and change mindsets.

Because I understand more, I am even less flumoxed by a bad performance in a lesson. I will know that my teacher will here, for example, evidence of practice with tempo even while everything is in apparent shambles. In fact, I can hear it in my own playing.

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#929865 - 04/27/08 04:23 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:


Now when you talk about a student not practicing enough: how about knowing how to practice? Many of us will come to music thinking of it as a "whole". So we might play the piece over and over, doing the same thing. But with experience, hopefully we learn to address "aspects" and work with these, rather than the whole in the manner that a listening audience hears the whole.
[/b]
Keystring,

This is the teachers job.

We are somewhat derailing this thread by bringing up a "How to Practice" topic.

A good teacher should be very specific on what and how to practice at your lesson, especially if you are not advanced enough to know how.
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#929866 - 04/27/08 04:38 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Glaswegian Offline
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I think the whole "I play it better at home" thing isn't as straightforward as it might first appear.

First of all, I disagree with Pianobuff who reckons it's an illusion or a poor excuse. Certainly in my case, I would never use that as an excuse. I often play pieces better "at home" than I do in a lesson, although in my case it's more like with no teacher present as my lessons are at home.

What you need to do is to examine what the difference is between playing at home and playing in a lesson.

During the week, you have endless attempts to get it right, and in my experience I still make mistakes on most attempts, but every now and again I absolutely nail it.

That is what I think confuses people. Yes, they played it better at home but in your lesson it's the first attempt that counts, not your 7th attempt on your 3rd day of practice.

I believe in most cases when people state that they have played it better at home that they are being honest. They have played it better, in some cases maybe just once or twice and in other cases perhaps most of the time.

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#929867 - 04/27/08 05:31 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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 Quote:
This is the teachers job.

We are somewhat derailing this thread by bringing up a "How to Practice" topic.

A good teacher should be very specific on what and how to practice at your lesson, especially if you are not advanced enough to know how.
Yes, I am aware of that and I have brought the matter up not in an attempt to derail the topic, but to enrich and complete it. This topic deserves to be looked at thoroughly.

On the surface you have a student playing badly but saying he played better at home, and a teacher believing he didn't practice, or that the student harbours an illusion. You also have students not realizing that it doesn't matter if you played it better at home. These are relatively unimportant matters.

On the next level you have adult students who become paralyzed week after week because of a fundamental misperception regarding the role of students and teachers and the role of lessons. I've written about this in detail. I have communicated with fellow students on and off for about four years. Some go through emotional anguish after every lesson that can last for days. For these, "I played better at home." is a cry for help. The solution seems to lie, not in being able to play better in lessons, nor in aiming to be less tense in front of a teacher, but in changing the perception of roles. That change in perception works backward toward everything else. Additionally, playing better at home doesn't matter anymore. And Chris has just stressed that playing better at home doesn't matter. However, a student must also know what does matter, and when the focus shifts toward that, the problem disappears and there is more harmonious work between teacher and student.

This thread is not only about a student thinking his at-home playing was better, but also the assumption that a student is lying about having practising, which is a perfectly plausible possibility.

The second scenario is where a student appears not to have practised because he is still making the same mistakes. But even when his teacher has told him specifically to focus on a particular element, and even when he thinks he has, he doesn't. I have been helped by an advanced student and by a professional musician friend to learn how to approach practicing, and how to translate instructions into something effective. I run into people who don't know how to do that. What they are told to do seems obvious to me, and I would know how to practice it, but they don't get it. So they come to lessons week after week, struggling in practicing, with no sign that they have done anything. When I pass on what I know and work through some things with these friends, they break through in practicing, and then they break through with their teachers and are able to turn the instructions into action. I have seen this repeatedly now. There is this tiny chasm between teacher and student, like a language barrier, which can be crossed with a sneeze and it has to do with "how to practice" in more detail, stating more obvious things, than you might imagine necessary.

This thread is about students performing in lessons, what a student has done at home, how a teacher perceives both of these things. It is about a student being prepared for a lesson by having done what is assigned, how it was assigned. The thread situates us smack dab in the middle of studio and home, practicing and lesson - and thus it is spread evenly between student and teacher.

One can assume that a student knows what to do, isn't doing it, makes up excuses and teachers need to have a chance to vent once in a while. But there is also the possibility that a student does not know how to prepare, either because a teacher has not fulfilled that responsibility, or because the nature of that lack of knowledge is not apparent. Surely if there is a problem involving students not preparing for lessons, or not being able to show signs of such preparation, one should be looking for causes and solutions. Such causes and solutions would logically be found both with the student and with the teacher in terms of roles and input. And as such, what I wrote is not off topic but an integral part of the topic.

If I have offended anyone, such was not my intent.

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#929868 - 04/27/08 05:38 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Glaswegian:
I think the whole "I play it better at home" thing isn't as straightforward as it might first appear.

First of all, I disagree with Pianobuff who reckons it's an illusion or a poor excuse. Certainly in my case, I would never use that as an excuse. I often play pieces better "at home" than I do in a lesson, although in my case it's more like with no teacher present as my lessons are at home.

What you need to do is to examine what the difference is between playing at home and playing in a lesson.

During the week, you have endless attempts to get it right, and in my experience I still make mistakes on most attempts, but every now and again I absolutely nail it.

That is what I think confuses people. Yes, they played it better at home but in your lesson it's the first attempt that counts, not your 7th attempt on your 3rd day of practice.

I believe in most cases when people state that they have played it better at home that they are being honest. They have played it better, in some cases maybe just once or twice and in other cases perhaps most of the time. [/b]
By what you just said confirms the fact that it is an illusion.

You're right you do have all week to play the piece in the comfort of your home and maybe on the seventh time you may nail it. So students really are not being honest when they say "they can play it better at home." Because they are having to play seven times to "nail it"! Which by the way is not what learning to play the piano is all about.

When a student of mine makes mistakes when playing a piece that is at perfomance level (or close to it), I usually ask them to play it again. If the same mistakes occur, I ask if this happens at home. Most often it is, yes. A lot of times they even tell me that they are having a problem with such and such section, before playing. These students are being honest with themselves and with me. I have had some students say "no" to that question. I then say well we all have good and bad days. I just tell them to do their best and if that mistake does happen at home then practice it like this...

I also didn't mean it that the student is purposely using this "I can play it better at home" as an excuse. But, it ends up being that way, if he/she keeps saying it. Also, I think that the student is thinking they are being honest when in reality they're not.

Glasweigian confirmed this with his post.
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#929869 - 04/27/08 05:44 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Glaswegian Offline
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What I just said does not confirm it's an illusion. What I've said confimrs that people can often play pieces better than they can than on a 1st take in a lesson.

They are being honest. They have played it better on previous ocassions than they just have in a lesson. What makes this an illusion or a lie?

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#929870 - 04/27/08 05:52 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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keystring,

We must have posted at the same time.

As a teacher when a student says "I played it better at home" I do not even think about how the student practiced or if he or she did practice! Does not even enter my mind.

By saying "IPBAH" doesn't mean anything to me. This is the student's problem that they need to work through. I try to help them by addressing the issue with what I posted earlier. And most often that remedies it and they never say it again.

As far as praciting, what I do as a teacher, is I look at my notes from last weeks lesson and I see if they have improved. If not, I ask them if they practiced like how I said in my notes and how we went over it the week before. Most often it is, "No, I was really busy this week, etc..."
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#929871 - 04/27/08 05:56 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Glaswegian:
What I just said does not confirm it's an illusion. What I've said confimrs that people can often play pieces better than they can than on a 1st take in a lesson.

They are being honest. They have played it better on previous ocassions than they just have in a lesson. What makes this an illusion or a lie? [/b]
Glaswegian it is an illusion because you are playing it several times at home.

Level the playing field with yourself and play it one time at home. Bet you will play it the same way at the lesson.
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#929872 - 04/27/08 06:07 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Glaswegian Offline
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First of all, I was talking about a hypothetical student, not myself.

A couple of other points.

If you have played a piece better than your current attempt, that is quite simply a fact, not an illusion, not a lie, a fact. Whether that attempt is in a lesson, is your first attempt that day or your 10th, it's still a fact.

It is of course not a measure of whether you're getting better or not. A measure of that would be what your "average" attempt would be. Do you normally play it through at tempo free of mistakes? Or an you only do that 1 in every 10. Or can you only play with few/no mistakes if you play at a slower tempo?

And as a teacher, I find it somewhat disturbing that you appear completely disinterested in finding out a bit more about why the student feels that they have done it better in the past but are not doing it now.

As for myself, as a performing musician who made his debut aged 10, I know all about getting it "right" first time. But getting it right still doesn't mean I play my best each and every time.

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#929873 - 04/27/08 06:33 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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I know why a student feels this way and as discussed in my earlier posts, I do discuss this syndrome with my students. And by the way, we all have had this sense of disillusion, including me. So I very well understand.

By reading your last post, I'll be honest with you, it does not make much sense, except that it still verifies, to me, the fact by saying IPBAH is a very vague statement and really does not help the student (or teacher) by saying it thinking that it is true when I feel it isn't.
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#929874 - 04/27/08 06:39 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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It would be nice if the orginal poster would chime in!

To the OP,

This is what I believe regarding this topic and this is how I handle the situation when I have students like these, and it works very well for them to get over this "I can play it better at home" statement, which if facilitated or placated to, imo, only inhibits their learning process and feeling of calmness at the lesson.
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#929875 - 04/27/08 06:43 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Glaswegian Offline
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I'm quite happy that I'm neither deluded nor lying to myslef or anyone else.

To me, playing my best is nothing short of perfection. I very rarely achieve it, and over the years I have managed to make my peace with that, which is hard as I'm a perfectionist at heart.

And when I do play something perfectly, those are the moments I live for. Whether it's at home, in a lesson or during a public performace makes no difference to me. In that moment, lost in the music I only ever play for me.

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#929876 - 04/27/08 06:53 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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I agree 100% Glaswegian.

I go through the same thing.

We play our pieces the best we can for what they are worth at the time we play them and at the venue we are at.

That is all we can ask for and all we can do.
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#929877 - 04/27/08 07:21 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Betty Patnude Offline
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The piano teacher is dealing with things that happen at the lesson - reality in the present moment.

The student is saying "I played it better at home."

In reading the similar topics about this, I'm hearing the other things that the adult student doesn't express to us.

That would be how the playing differs - is it basic comfort level?

Is it the piece?

Is it the teacher?

The teacher's piano?

The lighting?

Since they bring the information to attention saying I played it better at home. There must be lost of of things they could share with us as to why they are saying that.

If I try to pinpoint it from the students viewpoint and prod for more information, and ask "Why do you say that?" I am going to be seen as:
1) Assertive
2) Demanding
3) Arrogant
4) Thoughtless

How would adult beginners respond to a teacher asking, "Why do you say that?"

I can only teach to what I see and hear, and the experiences I've had with the student to date. If there is more I need to know about the student, I need to hear it from their willingness to tell me.

Perhaps the illusion is that we shouldn't talk about this subject at all, because we are really talking about criticizing the student.

Does anyone say, "I would like to play it here at my lesson as well as I think I play it at home."

Let's prevent the frustration, anger, misunderstandings. How do we do that?

Betty

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#929878 - 04/27/08 07:49 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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 Quote:
....Do you normally play it through at tempo free of mistakes? Or an you only do that 1 in every 10. Or can you only play with few/no mistakes if you play at a slower tempo?
Ok, I freely admit to derailing this thread for a moment. ;\)
Elementary question: In practising during the week, should your practising consist of playing it through? What does practising entail?

I have a reason for asking this. It does tie in with the "ippebaw syndrom", but I don't know how far I want to go with this.

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#929879 - 04/27/08 08:31 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
saerra Offline
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Hi - I'm an adult student (and generally super-stressed perfectionist) who very often says "I played this better at home!" -- often followed by, "really, I swear!" :p

For me - I think it's about frustration. It feels like - how I play in my lesson is completely unpredictable. It feels like even if I practice for 40 hours in a week, I just don't know what's going to happen when I sit down in front of my teacher. I can have it memorized, and feel really good (not perfect - but at a point where I feel good about it and can hear it coming together) and it can still totally fall apart within the first couple measures.

This feeling of unpredictability causes me great stress, because honestly, it feels like no matter what I do in practice - no matter how much time I spend or how together the piece feels, I have no idea what's going to happen. So it feels like, even if things seem to be going well, I am on edge because disaster is just a breath away! It's VERY unnerving!

And this stress is felt most strongly at the beginning of my lesson when I sit to play my first piece for my teacher, and I'm sure the stress makes me even more prone to screw up!

I logically understand that if I could be more relaxed, I'd probably make less mistakes - but I can't figure out how to make myself relax. By definition, it's not something you can force yourself to do, and this seems to be part of my personality beyond just piano...

I *do* think what others have mentioned - about realizing that you're not "performing" for your teacher - is true. But - for me - I know it "logically", but not "emotionally". If I've memorized a piece and practiced it for a week or two, and sit down and expect that I can get through it relatively error-free (because I was able to do so comfortably at home, and 10 minutes ago warming up!) - then regardless it feels like a performance.

The times I've felt like we're working together on something have been MUCH LESS STRESSFUL. So - for example - when we actually *work* on a piece, when I get suggestions for things to try, or he demonstrates something and has me imitate it, or we talk about how it's constructed or fingerings or whatever. When I'm trying out the suggestions, I feel more relaxed I think, because it's clear that it's in the "working" stage, and it's not expected to be perfect ;\)

Another thing I've noticed that may relate. When I took singing lessons (short period of time with 2 teachers, awhile ago) - my teachers were both *very* positive, they went out of their way to find things I was doing well, and to tell me. It was encouraging. Maybe some adults wouldn't like this, but it made me feel good - and helped establish their studios as a safe place to "try" - singing in front of people (especially when you know you're not good!!!) is HARD and can make you feel very self-conscious, and they both did a wonderful job of getting me QUICKLY past that.

My piano teacher is not like that at all. He's a great guy, but doesn't have the same personality. He does notice good things, but tends to point them out in a side-ways manner. (The upside is, he has the same way usually of pointing out mistakes, and tends to be pretty gentle with the criticism.) But it's hard. I think some of the nervousness (and I still feel pretty nauseous before my lessons, and I really do otherwise think the world of my teacher and love piano!) - could come from this. I *think* that if you feel like your teacher is also noticing good things, and is telling you - "you did a really good job with this" or "you must have worked hard on this, even though you were nervous, you did improved this part alot" - or whatever - I don't know, it changes the dynamic a bit. I think that it can possibly help alleviate some of the feeling of "performing" and "being judged" that adds to the stress, which adds to more mistakes.

I don't know. Just my two cents.

And, my current teacher has been very supportive of my crazy nervousness and self-consciousness. He's told me that most great pianists feel that they're best performances are in the practice room alone, and that even he gets nervous, especially if he's playing in front of just one person and that person knows the music. We've also talked a bit about focus, and me trying to keep my mental focus on the music and not to let myself get distracted.

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#929880 - 04/27/08 08:46 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Oxfords Gal Offline
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I'm not sure if you're referring to all students or just kids or adults.

I'm an adult student and I practice everday about 2 hours a day. Adults have so many inhibitions and yes we do get nervous and yes we do tend to play better at home.

I took lessons when I was a child not much just enough to go through one of JT little kiddy books, we didn't even have a piano but I remember going to lessons every week and getting through the book. I remember playing with other little girls waiting on a bench right behind me but what I remember best was "There was not an ounce of nervousness in me"

As an adult however it's different. My teacher is awesome and we have fun and we're very comfortable with each other but our initial first half hour is always a bit jittery for me, I get even more jittery when I do really well at home. Why? "Anticipation", I want to show her how well I'm doing, I set myself up for failure by thinking 'I hope I don't mess up I really want to show off" and guess what I usually bomb but somewhere along the line I do redeem myself.

I would give folks the benefit of the doubt. It's not an illusion.

You might want to access yourself as a teacher as well. It might be something you're doing (posture, attitude etc) that might be making your students so nervous that they collapse in your class. You say you have quite a few students you do that which is why I'm questioning you.

My teacher has 5 students, I'm the only adult and I'm up there with the ones who are prepared and she can always tell how much I practice and is really happy with me but I'm the only one who gets nervous as well.
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#929881 - 04/27/08 09:54 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
DragonPianoPlayer Offline
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Registered: 12/12/06
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Loc: Denver, CO
As an adult learner who keeps mulling over the faint possibility of picking up teaching sometime in the distant future, I have been thinking about the questions presented in this thread.

It's not that "illusion" is the wrong word to be using in this context, it is that it has a negative connotation that is not assisting with identifying and resolving the causes behind "I played it better at home."

I would like to suggest that a better and more constuctive viewpoint is to approach this as a "perception" instead of an "illusion."

- It is the adult learner's "perception" that they need to "perform" (as in perform well) for their teacher that (psychologically at least) turns the lesson into a "performance" for many.

- It is the "perception" of the teacher (with all his or her senses) that leads to the conclusion that a particular student is not "playing it better at home."

- It is the lack of "perception" by the student (that is listening to the music they are making) that is making them think they "played it better at home."

- Finally add on lack of practice or poor practice habits along with the lack of listening and you have the typical "I played it better at home" student.

Quite frankly, I think that these are the most important things any teacher can teach their students once they have progressed past basic mechanics of learning to play. This is the core of:
- How to practice.
- How to listen to yourself playing.
- How to be critical of your playing and practicing.
- How to apply those concepts in the "Inner Game of Music" to relax and improve your playing. (especially for the adults learners)
- How to analyze and fix the problems revealed in those juicy mistakes that come up during practice and lessons.

Rich
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#929882 - 04/27/08 10:59 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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Loc: Pacific Northwest
I have a student that always says I played it better here than at home!

Do I say, "well that's good?"

I still think it a vacuous statement.

After all, it would be very easy for all of us to say, I played it better at home. With the exception of a few like the student mentioned above.


To Saerra,

I feel you are absolutely correct in saying that a good teacher always brings out the positive things first. You should have a teacher that makes you feel comfortable and are in a non-threatening environment, which is what I've always strived for.

Now it is up to you and others with this same issue, to let it go, it is not a performance, try not to feel you have to prove that you can play it just as well as you did ten-minutes ago. Try not to play this game with yourself. You won't win this way. The piece is what it is at the time that you play it. If you are well prepared (practiced correctly) and are not trying to prove something to your teacher (or yourself) and do not have unreal expectations of yourself this is when you will do your best at your lesson.

It takes work and time to be able to change your inner dialogue so that you can do this. But by all means saying, "I played it better at home" won't make it happen!
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#929883 - 04/27/08 11:04 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Mistaya Offline
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Loc: Alberta
Listening skills, practice skills - let's assume these are are adequate to the level the student is at. I would like someone to address why many professionals use beta blockers for what I'm assuming is a similar reason. They can play to their capabilities and find it necessary to their careers. These professionals are presumably not harbouring illusions about their capabilities.
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#929884 - 04/27/08 11:19 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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Fist of all, I don't think every performer takes beta-blockers in order to perform.

And the few that do, it is for a performance, not for a lesson.

And furthermore, I doubt they say, "I played it better at home" before going on stage ;\)
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#929885 - 04/27/08 11:39 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Mistaya Offline
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We've already discussed that the IPIBAH is a way of letting the teacher know that practice/preparation has occurred - not so much an excuse as an expression of frustration. I did not say every performer used beta blockers - I said many and I don't know the exact percentage but it is a significant number. My point is that they would like to play to their capabilities which is what many learners would also like to do so that they can progress and get the most out of a lesson.
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#929886 - 04/27/08 11:42 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Late Beginner Offline
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Loc: West Australia
Hi all,

 Quote:
They come to the lesson unprepared, play with stops and mistakes, but claim they can play perfect at their home. So in their view the problem is that they just cannot do it well for me.

I believe it might be true sometimes but in most cases it is just an illusion..[/b]
Maybe the original poster teaches a lot of school-kids who really didn’t want to be there, and is just feeling frustrated about it? I don’t believe that any teacher could really be so dumb, or so inexperienced that they don’t understand that students are frequently quite correct in saying that they “played it better at home”. Errors due to nervous tension are so common, and so widely known about that it’s inconceivable that anybody could have traveled the road to becoming a teacher without observing it, and in all likelihood having experienced a version of it first hand in their own playing.

Surely, we all know it, and its close cousins “Dammit, I played that better yesterday!” and “Heck, I just nailed it two minutes ago – why did I stuff it up NOW!” They happen all the time, whether there’s a teacher or an audience there or not. “I played it better at home” does not mean “I’m now an expert”, it simply means “I CAN do better than this”. Most students are not under the “illusion” that they’re better than they are. They’re just trying to preserve a bit of dignity, and make the point that they have been doing some work and have made some progress. Only an insensitive teacher would fail to acknowledge that and make some tactful allowances. In my experience, most teachers do.


Regardless of the fact that we might tell ourselves that we’re not there to ‘perform’ for the teacher, there’s a perfectly normal wish to show them that we are improving. It’s also natural to feel frustrated that you just blew something that you felt you can usually do on demand. We’d all prefer to spend our lessons money on learning something new, not just going over the same old ground.

But that’s life… \:D I know that one or two good renditions are not enough to prove to myself that I now have something fully nailed down. All I ask is that a teacher is diplomatic, sympathetic and not overly judgmental when they hand out the advice to keep working on a certain aspect. It really depends on how good a relationship you build with your teacher. I’ve been both teacher and student, many times, and the minimum standard that I hope for – on both sides – is being politely considerate of each other’s position. If that builds up to mutual respect (as it should) then there’s rarely a problem.

Cheers,

Chris
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#929887 - 04/28/08 12:20 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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#929888 - 04/28/08 12:46 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pevawi Offline
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I agree if someone says: IPIBAH that doesn't mean: I played it _perfect_ at home. Most the times I'm perfectly aware if I can play a piece up to its standards or not. But no matter what state it is in and I perform below the level I _can_ play it for whatever reason I will inform my teacher I can play it better (at home). That doesn’t mean I want the piece of the practice list I just like her to know. Most of the times she already knows because you can tell from the way I start/play a piece (a bit slow and cautious or on tempo and with steady rhythm/dynamics).

And to the remark (that somebody did post) that teachers / pianist do have the same problems (bad days) isn't complete fair: when I started lessons and I had a bad day well the only right notes I did hit where by accident. Now on bad days I do much better (even though the pieces are more complicated!!). It's like learning to walk, when you are starting you fall a lot.. An adult on a bad day can trip as well, but due to experience you can recover and don't fall. You don't feel like an idiot because you trip (as you well know everybody does sometimes) but you feel good because you avoided a near ground collision by experience. An adult that relearns to walk (after an car-accident i.e.) has to overcome a lot of dignity. That is the difference between a bad day from a pianist and a bad day from a beginner adult learning student.

I don't concern myself anymore with this issue (it was quite frustrating in the beginning). I know I'm getting better because the songs I learn are getting better \:D lets compare today with what I can do after 5 years from now!
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#929889 - 04/28/08 01:26 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
currawong Offline
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Posts: 5934
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by pevawi:

And to the remark (that somebody did post) that teachers / pianist do have the same problems (bad days) isn't completely fair: when I started lessons and I had a bad day well the only right notes I did hit were by accident. Now on bad days I do much better (even though the pieces are more complicated!!). It's like learning to walk, when you are starting you fall a lot.. An adult on a bad day can trip as well, but due to experience you can recover and don't fall. You don't feel like an idiot because you trip (as you well know everybody does sometimes) but you feel good because you avoided a near ground collision by experience. An adult that relearns to walk (after an car-accident i.e.) has to overcome a lot of dignity. That is the difference between a bad day from a pianist and a bad day from a beginner adult learning student. [/b]
It was probably me. I didn't mean to downplay your pain \:\) . I still think it is[/b] much the same thing, but there's a difference of degree, obviously. That is, what happens is much the same (you play something less well than you did when practising alone, and it's a bit disappointing), but maybe we've learned to not worry about it so much - as in fact you have, too. Admittedly, I haven't come totally unstuck recently in a performance, but I have had a few hairy moments \:\) . And recovering from mistakes is something that not only advanced pianists can do - I have a student who has only been learning for a short time and can play through mistakes when performing quite brilliantly! She just makes it up until she finds where she should be \:\) .

And the best performances are always the ones where I don't think of what *could* happen, but just try and play the *music*. I'd far rather hear an exciting performance with a few fluffs than a correct, but tame and cautious one. Any day.
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#929890 - 04/28/08 03:49 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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Loc: Pacific Northwest
Sorry, I still think it is an illusion.

For those of you that say it is not, record yourself playing a day before your lesson or the day of, before your lesson. Only one take mind you, just like at your lesson, and I will bet it will be the same level of performance.
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#929891 - 04/28/08 04:05 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mistaya:
We've already discussed that the IPIBAH is a way of letting the teacher know that practice/preparation has occurred - not so much an excuse as an expression of frustration. I did not say every performer used beta blockers - I said many and I don't know the exact percentage but it is a significant number. My point is that they would like to play to their capabilities which is what many learners would also like to do so that they can progress and get the most out of a lesson. [/b]
Mistaya,

I know it isn't an excuse, I've already said this. I do know it is used as an expression of frustration. But why should you be frustrated?
When I don't think you played it any better at home. This is what I'm driving at. I would hope you would want to be in a position of being able to take a lesson and play a piece for what it is worth in front of your teacher and to take his/her comments and suggestions and learn by them.

Otherwise, why not just use a video or take piano lessons on-line.

Please, I do not mean to sound insensitive. I am well known among my students and parents for being gentle and nurturing. I'm just trying to convince you that you can change your way of thinking that will help you with your lessons and your playing.
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#929892 - 04/28/08 04:30 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Chris H. Offline
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Loc: UK.
Almost all the adult students who have chipped in tell us:

1) It's not an illusion. They often underperform in the lesson due to nervous tension.

2) Their teacher does not understand or doesn't believe them.

3) This is something abnormal and doesn't seem to happen to anyone else.

I know it is frustrating but I can assure you that nearly everyone feels nervous when playing in front of people. It is completely normal. When I say it doesn't matter to me as a teacher I don't mean that I don't care. I mean that I do understand but in all honesty it does not have any effect on what we will do in that lesson. I know which students feel more nervous, which are prone to mistakes as a result. I know who practices properly and who doesn't. I can tell if a poor performance is down to nerves or lack of effective practice. In either case the point of the lesson is to find ways to rectify the situation.

I must also say that I teach very few adults. I enjoy teaching adults but my schedule is full of children between the ages of 6-18. The ones who say IPIBAH are often teenagers who are making excuses. Teaching adults is very different.
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#929893 - 04/28/08 07:04 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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sorry - changed my mind)

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#929894 - 04/28/08 07:43 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
balalaika Offline
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Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
My original post was not about the students who suffer from extreme nervousness and cannot play well at the lesson because of that. \:\(

No doubt there are students who actually play at home better. Please, read the post carefully!
 Quote:
I believe it might be true sometimes
My post was about the students lucking critical listening skills or having bad practice habits who are overly optimistic about their playing at home and who have only illusion or perception that it is actually happening.

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#929895 - 04/28/08 08:31 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Chris H. Offline
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Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2911
Loc: UK.
Being aware and listening well as you practice are essential skills. I do have an adult student who has difficulty recognising problems in their playing. This of course makes it hard for them to improve between lessons. If you can't hear what's wrong then how can you fix it? I can tell they get frustrated because to them everything is fine when they play at home. In the lesson I am always finding fault so it appears that they play better at home. For this student it is an illusion. They are not lying to me as they honestly believe what they say.

I think part of the problem is that there are so many reasons why a student might play better at home or at least believe that to be the case. The way forward is to get to the bottom of what causes it. For those students who suffer from this problem I would urge you to talk to your teachers about it.
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#929896 - 04/28/08 08:34 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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 Quote:
My post was about the students lucking critical listening skills or having bad practice habits who are overly optimistic about their playing at home and who have only illusion or perception that it is actually happening.
Thank you for explaining. So it sounds as though these students need to develop two things. They need to learn effective practicing, from what you are writing, and possibly find out at what point their practicing is ineffective, and what to do instead. Are they ignoring your instructions in that matter?

I imagine that you are developing their listening skills. When you work with them in lessons on their listening skills, do they seem to understand what you are teaching them? Is it a matter of them ignoring your instructions once they get home?

As a student I have found that learning how to practice, how to set goals and reach those goals in practicing was an important thing, and an automatic confidence-builder. It is amazing how many assumptions we can make in that area yet be convinced we are doing the right thing.

For those of us students who reacted, there is probably some insights for us as well.

Best wishes for your success with these students.

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#929897 - 04/28/08 09:39 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Monica K. Offline

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Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17777
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by balalaika:
My original post was not about the students who suffer from extreme nervousness and cannot play well at the lesson because of that. \:\(
[/b]
Thanks, balalaika. I'd just like to point out that performance anxiety and evaluation apprehension occurs in most adults, not just those who "suffer from extreme nervousness." The point most of us Adult Beginners posting on this thread were trying to make is that it affects us whenever we're playing for others, perhaps even more so when we're playing for a teacher whose approval matters a lot to us.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Chris H.:
Almost all the adult students who have chipped in tell us:

1) It's not an illusion. They often underperform in the lesson due to nervous tension.

2) Their teacher does not understand or doesn't believe them.

3) This is something abnormal and doesn't seem to happen to anyone else.
[/b]
I agree with your first two points, but I'm not sure where you were getting the third... if anything, the posts of the Adult Beginners here and the thread on AB forum suggest a near-universality of the experience.
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#929898 - 04/28/08 01:24 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
balalaika Offline
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Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I am sorry. :rolleyes: I was very busy with the adult students’ recital I had on Saturday so I was unable to update my posts. The recital went really very well. Some of the students got very excited and kept coming to the piano and playing whatever they could recall much past the end of the official performance part. \:D

I still have to read all the posts but first I would like to provide with some additional explanations.

There are in my view at least three different aspects of the problem.

Firstly, here is the illustration to my point. Please listen to my recent recording of the Etude by Chopin.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqvKsVwsFVI

I touched only one or two wrong notes here. So it is pretty flawless.
But it was my attempt number five of that evening. When I tried to record it first time, I was not even able to get through (I am not in a really good shape these days). :rolleyes:
If I perceive my attempt number five as a way how I play the piece at home, it would be a great disappointment when I try to play the piece for somebody else because I will not be able to deliver equal quality performance on the first try. On another hand, I believe I would play much better in this situation compare to my first attempt to record it at home. Playing for somebody else actually has a mobilizing effect, inspiring to play with more passion and flair.

Secondly, when the student plays the same wrong note I pointed out two-three lessons ago or makes the same error in the transition between the sections of the piece over and over again and tells me that it was perfect at home I tend to do not believe it. I think, most likely the student does not pay enough attention or tend to ignore the problems or perceives them as not that important – oh, it is just a slip or it is just a miss.

Thirdly, some students when encounter a problem while practicing at home tend to immediately start over and do not address the cause of the problem. No surprise, the mistake keeps re-surfacing at the lessons again and again. When I ask the students what actually happened, what was the mistake, they are often not able to recall what exactly happened and are just eager to immediately and mindlessly re-play the place. The question is how one can fix the problem if (s)he does not know what it is?

So the intend of my post is to ask fellow teachers to share their experiences in encouraging their students to stay more objective in the evaluation of their practicing at home.

My IPIBAH students are in their RCM grade 9th and 10th. They are not late beginners or something like that. Still as far as I know they have their bad practicing habits they are not ready to part with. They love music, play piano at home for many hours everyday but the advancement is really very-very limited. :rolleyes:

I like the suggestion from the “Practice Revolution” to keep the log when practicing a piece entering to the left column the number for each successful attempt and to the right column a number for the attempt with at least one mistake. This kind of statistics should easily evaluate the quality of the practice.

I will try to respond to the teacher’s posts later today. \:\) I have a regular computer related job during the day and I teach piano only part time. So for me there is always a time shortage.

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#929899 - 04/28/08 01:56 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
piano_deb Offline
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Registered: 04/26/05
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Loc: Memphis, TN
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianobuff:
Sorry, I still think it is an illusion.

For those of you that say it is not, record yourself playing a day before your lesson or the day of, before your lesson. Only one take mind you, just like at your lesson, and I will bet it will be the same level of performance. [/b]
Pianobuff, you seem to be saying that a one-take recording will prove that the student plays as badly at home as in lessons. But the student's behavior will probably change due to the pressure of wanting to perform well for the recording. I think your experiment would really only prove that the student plays badly when experiencing pressure/performance anxiety of any kind (whether from the presence of the teacher or from "Red Dot syndrome").
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#929900 - 04/28/08 02:13 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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Balalaika, you have stated that your students do not practice properly, and that they do not possess listening skills. Because of these two lacks, they come in week after week making the same mistakes. It seems in that case that they must either apply effective practicing if they have learned what that entails and haven't bothered, or they must learn effective practicing. Whether or not IPIBAH is immaterial.

If they do not know how to practice effectively, then learning how to do so would seem to be paramount. There are specific things that one learns to do. Keeping track of how often a piece is played through without a mistake might give a general idea of proficiency, but would not be any kind of practicing strategy. Playing the music over from beginning to end five times as you wrote you did might given an indication of whether one is able to play the music through without a mistake and whether or not they have actually mastered it, since mistakes most of the time with only one flawless play-through would not indicate mastery. It tells you something, but it is not a practicing strategy.

To make clear what I'm talking about by example, specific effective practising tools that I know of might include the following:
- You make a practice plan. You isolate those areas that give you difficulty, and you work on those particular areas separatly, rather than playing the whole piece through from beginning to end. Your students have already been told where and what those errors are.
- You play the difficult section through slowly enough that it will be played correctly each time. You do not want to repeat errors. Then you gradualy increase speed while still remaining error free, and you do this over days. You may wish to log your minimimum and maximum tempo each day so that you can keep track. Eventually you blend this back into the piece as a whole.
- You isolate cause of error, if applicable. This can also happen in the lesson with a teacher. If notes are blurry, or incorrect, or uneven, is there an underlying cause? Awkward or inconsistent fingering? Something about posture, or the way the hand and arm is used, a tendency to tense up whenever playing a certain type of grouping? Physical action when shifting to differnet positions with thumb under?
- If there is an underlying cause, then you find the solution and practice the correct way of executing that technical aspect. You might turn that into an exercise, you pay special attention to it.
- You create a practice plan of how you are going to develop and practice the offending technical difficulty, and how you will develop it over the course of days and bring it into the piece. If one technical difficulty occurs in 5 separate areas of the piece, you might work on those 5 areas one after another as a group, always working on that technical difficulty.

These are examples of what I'm talking about. Playing the piece through end to end is not effective practicing. A strategic approach, including planning what goals will be aimed for before practicing on any particular day, how (strategy) these goals will be reached, and then executing that plan, rather than just starting at the beginning until you reach the end, is one way to achieve effective practicing.

Do these students currently know how to do this? Do they have specific ways? Are you guiding them in this and are they following that guidance?

With critical listening I know that there are specific approaches both in anticipating what you want to play and how it should sound, and then hearing your playing and whether it sounds they way you have visualized it should sound. One must know what to listen for.

Recording yourself, and then following the recording with score in hand, marking off areas that seem "off" would probably help in the critical listening area, and that could be followed by planning the next strategy for practising. What is it that my listening tells me must be fixed, and in what order will I begin working on these things? How should I approach them?

At this point, if I were a student, I would probably come to my next lesson with a host of questions and observations: I have had difficulty with the umptidit in bar 37, and the diddlediddle in bar 45 that you keep telling me to fix my thumb keeps cramping up - could you help me find ways of fixing it? What's going wrong here?

These are the thoughts that occur when you write that your students do not practice effectively and do not know how to listen criticially. I hope these random thoughts are not unwelcome.

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#929901 - 04/28/08 02:27 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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 Quote:
For those of you that say it is not, record yourself playing a day before your lesson or the day of, before your lesson. Only one take mind you, just like at your lesson, and I will bet it will be the same level of performance.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pianobuff, you seem to be saying that a one-take recording will prove that the student plays as badly at home as in lessons. But the student's behavior will probably change due to the pressure of wanting to perform well for the recording. I think your experiment would really only prove that the student plays badly when experiencing pressure/performance anxiety of any kind (whether from the presence of the teacher or from "Red Dot syndrome).
Actually, what is the point of this at all? Why ask the question of whether or not you play a piece well as a whole on any particular occasion? What purpose does this serve and what does it achieve? I'm sorry, it seems pointless. Could someone enlighten me.

Before I go to my next lesson, I don't care squat about how nicely I played at home, or now nicely I will play in my lesson. I want each lesson to be a vehicle of improvement that I will then take home into my practicing. I definitely do not want to waste my time on such an exercise unless someone can tell me what value it has.

The process of lesson to practice to lesson is an endless cyle that feeds one into the other. I my lesson I am taught a certain thing, and above all I must ensure that I have understood it correctly so that I will practice it correctly. That may be my teacher's job, but if I am a mature student at the gr. 8 or 9 level, it is also my responsibility. I then go home and I practice what I have been taught, and I correct what I have been told to correct. In the next lesson I then demonstrate the results of applying the instructions from the previous lesson, and we go from there.

As I get ready for my lesson the day before, or during warm-up the day of the lesson, I may run through everything. Typically there will be things that I want to ask about. I don't know if that is standard and whether teachers have room for such questions. I am anticipating the next lesson, running through my mind what I was supposed to have achieved that week, making sure that I have worked on what I was supposed to, gathering up anything that wasn't clear. This is where my focus is as I get ready for a lesson. Where does comparing how well I played as a whole during the week have any place whatsoever? I'm sorry, I'm lost.

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#929902 - 04/28/08 02:47 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by piano_deb:
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianobuff:
Sorry, I still think it is an illusion.

For those of you that say it is not, record yourself playing a day before your lesson or the day of, before your lesson. Only one take mind you, just like at your lesson, and I will bet it will be the same level of performance. [/b]
Pianobuff, you seem to be saying that a one-take recording will prove that the student plays as badly at home as in lessons. But the student's behavior will probably change due to the pressure of wanting to perform well for the recording. I think your experiment would really only prove that the student plays badly when experiencing pressure/performance anxiety of any kind (whether from the presence of the teacher or from "Red Dot syndrome). [/b]
Okay, then don't record yourself and just be your own critic, and ask yourself, how did I really play this piece?

This is what I did. And it dawned on me that I've been fooling myself into believing that I played it better at home.

This was years ago when I was in college struggling with this "syndrome".
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#929903 - 04/28/08 02:50 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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keystring,

You hit the nail on the head!

Thank you.
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#929904 - 04/28/08 02:56 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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Oh, good. :-)

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#929905 - 04/28/08 03:14 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
balalaika Offline
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Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
 Quote:
glyptodont2
But no one has described the opposite-- playing WORSE at home -- or to put it differently, actually playing something BETTER at one's lesson.[/b]
It happens to me quite often. When I play for the inspiring audience, or when I play on a really good piano (better than I have at home), the pieces come up with fresh feeling, unexpected colors and flair. That’s why I like performing. You never know what you can discover!!! \:D

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#929906 - 04/28/08 03:28 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
ProdigalPianist Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
 Quote:
Originally posted by saerra:

For me - I think it's about frustration. It feels like - how I play in my lesson is completely unpredictable. It feels like even if I practice for 40 hours in a week, I just don't know what's going to happen when I sit down in front of my teacher. I can have it memorized, and feel really good (not perfect - but at a point where I feel good about it and can hear it coming together) and it can still totally fall apart within the first couple measures.

This feeling of unpredictability causes me great stress, because honestly, it feels like no matter what I do in practice - no matter how much time I spend or how together the piece feels, I have no idea what's going to happen. So it feels like, even if things seem to be going well, I am on edge because disaster is just a breath away! It's VERY unnerving![/QB]
Bingo.
BingoBingoBingoBingo

I am a returning adult so I also deal with the frustration of it taking much longer to learn and correct things because I am sooooo rusty.

Also, although it was mentioned in the first page, I really can't stress enough the importance of asking about what kind of instrument the student practices on. When I was a kid the piano my parents bought was seriously detrimental to my progress, but they didn't know enough to realize it and my teacher...none of them...never asked.

I'm not blaming them it probably never occurred to them and I am sure teachers often run across situations where, even when parents are informed they are unwilling or unable to do anything about it.

In my case, there was no resistance on the keys whatsoever, so when I would get to my lesson and try to play "soft" like I practiced it, many of the notes would not sound at all. And the keyboard was so high relative to the bench that practicing proper technique, arm and hand position was just not possible.
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#929907 - 04/28/08 03:41 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
balalaika Offline
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Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
 Quote:

Monica K.
I'd just like to point out that performance anxiety and evaluation apprehension occurs in most adults, not just those who "suffer from extreme nervousness." The point most of us Adult Beginners posting on this thread were trying to make is that it affects us whenever we're playing for others, perhaps even more so when we're playing for a teacher whose approval matters a lot to us.

Chris H.
Almost all the adult students who have chipped in tell us:
1) It's not an illusion. They often underperform in the lesson due to nervous tension.
2) Their teacher does not understand or doesn't believe them.
3) This is something abnormal and doesn't seem to happen to anyone else. [/b]
I can imagine there are many adult beginners who have described psychological problems. It is not the case with my adult students. Most of them are well established professionals in other fields who take piano lessons for pleasure and know exactly what they want. For example, one of my students teaches computer science at the University.
The flow of the lessons with them could be described as following:
  • They come to the lesson.
  • They tell me what they accomplished last week.
  • They play their pieces.
  • They tell me what they want to do next week.
  • Then they I ask me whether it is OK with me while I am trying to squeeze some suggestions in between. \:D

Sometimes I am asking myself a question – who is the teacher here???

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#929908 - 04/28/08 03:55 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
balalaika Offline
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Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Pianobuff, Glaswegian, DragonPianoPlayer and Keystring!

Thank you very much for your insightful posts. They are very interesting, thoughtful and educating to read. \:\)

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#929909 - 04/28/08 03:58 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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 Quote:
happens to me quite often. When I play for the inspiring audience, or when I play on a really good piano (better than I have at home), the pieces come up with fresh feeling, unexpected colors and flair. That’s why I like performing. You never know what you can discover!!!
If I may say so, Balalaika, I watched your video, and the immediate impression is of someone who really loves to perform. I can't even put my finger on what it is - body language, flow - there seems to be this zest of enjoyment. \:\)

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#929910 - 04/28/08 04:30 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Glaswegian Offline
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Registered: 08/05/07
Posts: 278
Loc: Glasgow, Scotland
I am that sort of student. I am an IT professional, in a high pressure high stress job, and I am loving rediscovering my music from when I was a small boy playing keyboards and organs in public every week.

But I always harboured a desire to play piano, and to learn to play it "properly". I'm enjoying my journey, no matter how difficult or frustrating it can be at times. And I can't tell you how much I love owning a piano. It's probably the best posession I have ever owned in my life. I get goose bumps just noodling, playing basic chord progressions. I love it.

I know exactly what I want from my lessons, and now we have put to bed the "but you're not reading the music when you play" debate - my teacher is very old fashioned but I always had a good ear and a talent for near instant memorisation, I'm having lots of fun.

My first piano recital as an adult beginner pianist is at the end of next month, but I haven't decided what I'm playing yet. Plenty time yet for that.

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#929911 - 04/28/08 05:25 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Chris H. Offline
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Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2911
Loc: UK.
 Quote:
Originally posted by Monica K.:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Chris H.:
Almost all the adult students who have chipped in tell us:

1) It's not an illusion. They often underperform in the lesson due to nervous tension.

2) Their teacher does not understand or doesn't believe them.

3) This is something abnormal and doesn't seem to happen to anyone else.
[/b]
I agree with your first two points, but I'm not sure where you were getting the third... if anything, the posts of the Adult Beginners here and the thread on AB forum suggest a near-universality of the experience. [/b]
Monica, what I meant by the third statement is that many adult students seem to think it only happens to them which is clearly not the case. Some say that out of all the adult students with their teacher they are the only one who gets nervous. Others believe that this problem only occurs with adults and not with children. That is also incorrect. As you say, almost everyone experiences the same anxiety so why is it that we all feel so bad about it?
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#929912 - 04/28/08 05:34 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
piano_deb Offline
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Posts: 787
Loc: Memphis, TN
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianobuff:
 Quote:
Originally posted by piano_deb:
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianobuff:
Sorry, I still think it is an illusion.

For those of you that say it is not, record yourself playing a day before your lesson or the day of, before your lesson. Only one take mind you, just like at your lesson, and I will bet it will be the same level of performance. [/b]
Pianobuff, you seem to be saying that a one-take recording will prove that the student plays as badly at home as in lessons. But the student's behavior will probably change due to the pressure of wanting to perform well for the recording. I think your experiment would really only prove that the student plays badly when experiencing pressure/performance anxiety of any kind (whether from the presence of the teacher or from "Red Dot syndrome). [/b]
Okay, then don't record yourself and just be your own critic, and ask yourself, how did I really play this piece?

This is what I did. And it dawned on me that I've been fooling myself into believing that I played it better at home.

This was years ago when I was in college struggling with this "syndrome". [/b]
Pianobuff, it sounds like you had a real “aha! moment” in your earlier piano studies. I certainly welcome those sorts of mental/emotional leaps in my life, and believe that great growth and advances can come from them. So congratulations on having come to a personal realization that helped you become a better pianist. I’m glad to hear of it.

But, I have to ask you: How would you feel if I insisted, instead, that that significant moment in your life, that feeling/belief/experience wasn't real? What if I told you it was really all in your mind? What if I kept telling you to do what I do in my piano studies because my way is valid and yours is not? I doubt very much that you would like to have your unique personal experiences devalued in such a way. And it would be wrong of me to do that.

Yet that is what you, and one or two others here, are doing by repeatedly calling the IPIBAH syndrome (for lack of a better term) an “illusion.” I’m offended by it, as are other posters in this forum and in the ABF.

FYI, I’ve recorded myself several times recently while practicing a piece I was going to be playing publicly. I did so to figure out how to get a decent recording, to hear my performance with an unbiased an ear as possible, and to help deal with performance anxiety. Certainly, I think that a session with the red dot can help in a lot of ways. I just don't think it's the solution/panacea/proof you keep declaring it to be.
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#929913 - 04/28/08 05:54 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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Have you read all of this thread? All of my posts?

If you are happy where you are right now with your feeling of calmness at your lessons and knowing where you're at in your mind when it comes to your music and are happy with your progress and are not annoying your teacher (or yourself) by saying, "I played it better at home" then by all means ignore every post I wrote.

The fact that you are taking it offensively says a lot.

My posts are to help and should not be taken offensively.
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#929914 - 04/28/08 06:50 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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Pianobuff, I believe there is misunderstanding because of terminology. I ran into this language last year and it confused me for months regardless of how much I tried to understand. "illusion, comfort zone, honesty" etc. I'm also seeing it with a translator who took psychology. In music, it's practically a code for important factors. The problem is that those not accustomed to that vocabulary, or familiar with the concepts, will see in your words something different than you intend.

The fact that Deborah is taking it offensively says mainly that Deborah doesn't understand what you are talking about, and is understanding your words conventionally. People harbouring illusions are conventionally seen as maladjusted human beings who cannot live a normal life. Game playing is something that abusive individuals and small children do. Etc. Your words mean none of these things but appear to to anyone not in the loop.

A communication is only effective if understood, and there must be understanding on both sides, with both sides understood by each other. I believe that is what is happening here. Thank you both Chris ans Pianobuff for sharing your thoughts.

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#929915 - 04/28/08 07:23 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
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Loc: Pacific Northwest
I hope you are correct keystring and thank you for your post. By the way I think you meant piano_deb, not Chris. But I understand.

I am starting to think that a lot of the student posters here really enjoy being able to say, IPBAH. They also feel teachers should completely understand and do what they can to believe them and support them.

But is this a good thing for a teacher to do? Is this really the best thing for the student?

That is, by reinforcing their feelings that they can "play it better at home", which I still don't believe is true. Won't this just facilitate their "illusion." Sorry I had to say the word, but it does fit. I don't mean that they are not honest on purpose, by any means, nor do I think they are mal-adjusted people. They just need a little bit of eye-opening which can really help.

Unless they don't want to be helped and enjoy being able to say IPBAH. Which is their choice.

Also, we need to remember, this is a Teachers Forum. The OP was asking teachers if they experienced this and what do they do to help remedy the problem, which is what I addressed and probably should have kept it at that instead of trying to help students that have these tendencies of saying IPBAH.
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#929916 - 04/28/08 07:26 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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You are right, Pianobuff, on the last point, and I, too, was guilty of deviating somewhere in the middle. This is not an adult learner problem as far as the OP is concerned. In fact, his adult students seem to be taking off with him running to keep pace from what he's saying - something must be going right. ;-)

I've corrected "Chris" to say "Deborah"

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#929917 - 04/28/08 09:05 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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Sorry to delete.

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#929918 - 04/28/08 10:23 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Late Beginner Offline
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Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 588
Loc: West Australia
Hi Balalaika,

Sorry that this is so long, but it’s meant to helpfully answer your original question. It’s also been interesting to work through my own thoughts and motivations for studying.

Good to hear your further explanations of your situation. I did notice your initial comment of "I believe it might be true sometimes", and included it in my first reply above. As I said, I didn't believe that any teacher could not know that performance nerves is a genuine issue.

Clearly, some of your comments did touch a raw nerve with many students here though. They also provoked a long thread in the Adult Beginner section, some of it bagging your perceived attitude. Perhaps you just forgot that many students also read the threads in this section and might feel differently about what were meant to be wry comments from teacher to teacher.

I am currently an adult student on piano. However, I've taught other subjects formally, and guitar informally. So I've been on both sides of the fence.

I hope that I can add some useful comments without fanning any more flames.


 Quote:
Originally posted by balalaika:
Recently I found myself struggling with quite a few students that have “playing better at home” illusion.

They come to the lesson unprepared, play with stops and mistakes, but claim they can play perfect at their home. So in their view the problem is that they just cannot do it well for me. :rolleyes:

I believe it might be true sometimes but in most cases it is just an illusion. Usually, I ask these kind of the students to make a recording of their practice at home to prove their notion. Of course they never did but they stick to their guns.
[/b]
I'm guessing that you're probably a much better teacher than that first post suggested. To a student the way you put that made you sound dismissive and impatient with your students. The flaming symbol suggests anger and frustration with them, and the eye rolling icon is seen to be dismissing the student's point of view.

You stated that they come to lessons unprepared, have delusions about their ability, and you apparently then challenge them to prove otherwise by making recordings. Understandably, this raised a few hackles. Apparently, to some students, this gave the impression that you are exactly the sort of teacher that they would avoid. \:\(



Assuming, that in fact you are a good teacher and do want genuine feedback, here's my take on it:


  • 1. IPIBAH:

    Unless a student is clearly lying about having done any work at all then "I played it better at home" is a genuine expression of how a student feels, and should be respected as such. I'm sure that all teachers, and almost all students know that this doesn't mean they're perfect. It simply means that they've done better performances than they are currently able to display. Most likely, if you were able to "run the tapes" you'd both find that there was not a single great version, but a number that got close in different ways, and which the student thinks all add up to a win. ;\)

    The point is though, that it's not necessary to challenge them on this. You know it, and in all probability they do too. In the eyes of most students, a good teacher would acknowledge that they have made genuine progress at home, and find friendly and supportive ways of suggesting further study. Most students want heavy on the positive support, and light on the criticism.

    It's common to point out that a hobby player can be satisfied with an occasional good rendition (and indeed many never get further than that) but that good players always take it further. The saying ":Amateurs practice a piece until they can get it right once, Pros practice until they can't ever get it wrong." comes to mind. Perhaps, tell them they have the makings of a good player, and it will be worth their while to toughen up their skills until they’re a little more bullet-proof. Then give them some strategies to do that. However, most won’t ever be pros, and will be satisfied with less than perfection. Unless they can attract only elite students who deliberately want a tough work-out at a high standard then the teaching life could entail a lot of frustration for teachers who have trouble accepting students with different goals than their own.


    2. Illusions:

    On many different levels, music itself is about illusions. Magician and Musician are only two letters apart. Music can paint pictures, tell stories and evoke emotions using only sound. A group of musicians can create the illusion that they are speaking with one mighty voice, which is greater than the sum of its parts. And the humblest of players will nurse dreams of playing above their level. To a student, these dreams are precious and to be treasured. They’re a part of what drives you onwards. A teacher should take care not treat them as delusions to be shattered, but dreams (illusions if you like) to be carefully shaped and developed.

    Sadly, the majority of people who begin studying an instrument end up dropping out. The major reason is that their motivation dries up. I believe that most of us harbour the notion that we can, could, and sometimes do, play a good deal better than we are usually capable of. It’s that gap between the daily stumbles and the flashes where dreams and reality briefly collide that we want the teacher to not only believe in, but help us reach on a more regular basis. Try to burnish the bubble, rather than bursting it.

    I’ve also taught mathematics and computer related subjects. These are fundamentally different in character to music. If your computer code isn’t 100% accurate it often won’t run properly. For most practical purposes, a maths calculation that is ‘not that far off being right’ might as well be completely wrong. But most music students (especially adults) are not really aiming to be musical Mathematicians. They dream of being musical Magicians. So a different approach is required. Try and take off your IT hat and put on the wizard’s robe for the lessons. A performance that simply wouldn’t run if it was a computer program can still feel like magic to a beginner kid (or adult) and light us up with enjoyment.


    3. Teacher/Student Roles:

    Teachers are paid to support their students not discourage them by being over critical. The students main role is to meet their own learning goals, rather than to flatter or please the teacher (although it's nice when they do. \:D ) It's a two way street when it comes to understanding each other's position, but as the paid professional the teacher needs to shoulder the greater responsibility of understanding of the many different styles and capabilities of their students. There’s a fine line between accepting mediocrity and expecting unrealistically high standards for each individual. Try to coax us across it with enthusiasm rather that poking us along with the stick of disapproval. I believe that any teacher's Number 1 priority is to be a Motivator. I can find most information for free in the library or on the internet. It's that blend of knowledge and enthusiastic motivation that I most hope to get from a teacher. \:\)


Good luck with it all,

Chris
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#929919 - 04/29/08 08:51 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Tony.S Offline
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Registered: 09/15/06
Posts: 211
Loc: Alberta
I stongly believe in the illusion that some teachers think it is an issusion that thier students think they play better at home. ;\)
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#929920 - 04/29/08 09:53 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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I believe that the question of whether one played better at home is irrelevant. The question of whether a student is right that he played better at home is also irrelevant. The question should be what his strengths and weaknesses are right now, during the lesson, and what needs to be worked on. The only relevance and importance would be if IPIBAH was indicative of a problem which needs to be addressed.

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#929921 - 04/29/08 09:54 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Oxfords Gal Offline
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#929922 - 04/29/08 09:58 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
dannylux Offline
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Registered: 02/15/06
Posts: 1819
Loc: Connecticut
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
I believe that the question of whether one played better at home is irrelevant. The question of whether a student is right that he played better at home is also irrelevant.[/b]
What complete and utter nonsense.

The Truth is never irrelevant.


Mel
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#929923 - 04/29/08 10:05 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
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Dannylux, do you understand what I am trying to say, and in what context, before reacting? You have lifted one quote without the entire message.

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#929924 - 04/29/08 10:11 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Mistaya Offline
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Registered: 09/29/06
Posts: 182
Loc: Alberta
Oh, Oxford's Gal,
thank you so much for that - I'd been feeling utterly depressed about this - wondering if my teacher is secretly sighing to herself and bemoaning my glacial progess and delusions of getting anywhere - this had me laughing right out and put the whole shebang into perspective.
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#929925 - 04/29/08 10:24 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
To explain more completely.

A given scenario which can exist and has existed: A student believes that lessons consist of performing a complete piece as a complete piece, as in a performance, in front of the teacher. The teacher is to judge that performance. There is also an unspoken belief that either one "can" or "cannot", a magical sense of having talent or not having talent, and if that talent, evidenced by "can", is not present, one is doomed to failure. All of this is tied up in the need to play well, and for the teacher to be assured that sometimes one can indeed play well - otherwise the present "not so good" means lack of ability and lack of talent. There is a belief that the playing has to be good, and the teacher expects it to be good.

In the above scenario, all of that is tied up in IPIBAH, and those attitudes engender anxiety and make it difficult to play well in front of the teacher. Whether or not the student played better at home is less important than why the student thinks it is important to say so. The attitudes and perceptions are a block and as such they are what should be addressed and resolved. The question of IPEBAH is relatively unimportant.

From another aspect, lessons and practicing are about improving one's skills and playing ability. There are things that one needs to be working on, individual elements rather than the goodness of the piece as a whole, which is a result of such work. It is better to be working on what needs to be working on, then spending time considering how well one plays as a whole at any one particular time. It is the wrong question. It doesn't lead anywhere or accomplish anything. This is not where effort and energy should be going.

This is what I meant be irrelevance. By all means, find out if you play better at home, especially it will bring something better in its wake. But generally speaking, is this where you want to be directing your efforts?

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#929926 - 04/29/08 10:37 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
(a post that landed in the wrong thread)

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#929927 - 04/29/08 11:25 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Innominato Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/08
Posts: 802
Loc: London
I agree with pianobuff as a whole, and would like to express my views on the point.

Please mind this is not meant to be offensive or belittling to anyone, just indicative of what I personally think is the best approach to the problem.

1) If I were a teacher and one would say to me IPIBAH, I would answer BYPIWH (but you played it worse here ;\) ). Every time he gives the statement, I would give the answer.
That's the fact and that's what must be addressed; the duty of the teacher is not to provide a balm , or an explanation, or a "justification" of sort for the shortcomings of the pupil, but to help him to look at the problem straight in the eye, and overcome it.

For this reason, to leave the room so that the pupil can play more relaxed in my eyes does not address the problem and on the contrary, it reinforces it.

2) If a student has the impression that the teacher thinks he does not practice enough, the communication with the teacher must be improved. An honest confession, made once with the attitude of he who will be believed, that one does not equal the level of performance reached at home should be the starting point for finding a way of improving. If there is no trust the communication will not work anyway.

3) In my personal experience, I often have the impression that I am at a certain level of preparation, say "6 out of 10".
I really believe this based on the sum of all the times I play the piece, which creates a "general impression", a certain "confidence level".

But when I really make a simulation and really really imagine that *I only have that one go* (that I am recording, or playing for a teacher, or for an audience) then things generally change, and not for the better.

That's the fact in my experience, and I think that's what pianobuff called "illusion", without any negative connotation. It's just that you can only know how you perform the real thing when you are in the real situation, what happens before is not how you play it, merely how you rehearse it.

4) Always in my personal experience, things that I could barely do two months ago and required all of my attention I can now play whilst intensely thinking what I want to eat for dinner. That's a fact completely detached from any level of emotional involvement I might have.

5) So the IPIBAH is just half of the story: there will, there MUST be a level at which you can play that piece good even (forcing a bit but you get the drift) crippled by fear, about to sneer, with an insect in your eye, contemplating a deep problem or in front of an execution squad and playing for dear life.... ;\) and that's the task.. ;\)

6) IMHO To understand this, and to practice in conformity to this, *overcomes the problem to a great extent*, because it gives one the very comfortable feeling that *it is possible to reach a level at which not even the teacher will scare one*, that *emotions play a role only up to a certain level of proficiency* .

Work another three months on the piece and you will discover that you will play a lot better in front of the teacher in 3 months time than at home three months before, although it's likely that you will always play better at home today than in front of the teacher tomorrow. Then work to play even better...

7) I am getting a bit new-agey here, but I would never tell the teacher "IPIBAH", because this creates a psychological barrier.
If you are afraid to underperform in front of the teacher, you will; if you affirm whatever kind of failure, failure is what you will reap; if you affirm a problem, you interiorise it, you make it yours. Every time you pronounce that phrase, you *reinforce the feeling within you that it is so*, and as a consequence *it will be so*.

8) I suggest everyone to buy books like "the inner game of music" and "mind over matter", and ask myself for suggestions about other books you have found useful and that I might read. Again, it is not about explaining that something happens. It's about not letting it happen anymore.

9) "Fear before a performance is the price I must pay for the wonderful life I lead". So, or about so, Arthur Rubinstein. So, whatever problem you have, you are in very good company and you can still become as good as Rubinstein... \:\)
_________________________
"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

Kemble Conservatoire 335025 Walnut Satin

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#929928 - 04/29/08 12:52 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
LisztAddict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/05
Posts: 2896
Loc: Florida
When I was a kid, I played in recitals, competitions, master classes regularly. It was no difference to me if I played alone for my ears, in front of 700 people, or 3 competition judges sitting less than 10 ft away. I often played better outside because the piano I had was crappy.

After many years of not playing, and since the return, I've had very little public performance. Now when I sense someone else is listening or even play just for the Zoom recorder, I get quite nervous and it's very difficult for the brain to control the fingers; I make tons of errors that I don't normally make. It's now taking me 10-20 times longer to learn and prepare something ready for performance because I have to rely much on fingers memory.

In my opinion, "playing better at home" is very real.

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#929929 - 04/29/08 01:07 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
ProdigalPianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
OK, here is one question that has not been answered on this thread yet.

From the perspective of the student, errors in lessons that are very frustrating are usually things we either fixed (or thought we fixed) at home, or mistakes we never made before because, for whatever reason, we're 'thrown' by playing it for the teacher.

From the perspective of the teacher...I'm guessing maybe those errors aren't what you're talking about...that there are other things in the playing (or a general gradual improvement that the student is not focusing on or even aware of) that tell you whether or not a student has been practicing.

So, can you tell when a student has practiced even when there are mistakes that frustrate the crap out of the student??

Since I'm a returning student I'm aware that those glitches don't mean that a teacher considers the piece "ruined" for the purpose of the lesson...if there are other good things going on.

I suspect not all (adult) students realize that.
_________________________
Adult Amateur Pianist

My only domestic quality is that I live in a house.

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#929930 - 04/29/08 01:34 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mistaya:
Oh, Oxford's Gal,
thank you so much for that - I'd been feeling utterly depressed about this - wondering if my teacher is secretly sighing to herself and bemoaning my glacial progess and delusions of getting anywhere - this had me laughing right out and put the whole shebang into perspective. [/b]
This is not how I feel when someone says IPIBAH ("secretly sighing to myself and bemoaning my glacial progress.")

I think most of the students here are missing the point completely.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#929931 - 04/29/08 01:39 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
 Quote:
Originally posted by ProdigalPianist:
OK, here is one question that has not been answered on this thread yet.

From the perspective of the student, errors in lessons that are very frustrating are usually things we either fixed (or thought we fixed) at home, or mistakes we never made before because, for whatever reason, we're 'thrown' by playing it for the teacher.

From the perspective of the teacher...I'm guessing maybe those errors aren't what you're talking about...that there are other things in the playing (or a general gradual improvement that the student is not focusing on or even aware of) that tell you whether or not a student has been practicing.

So, can you tell when a student has practiced even when there are mistakes that frustrate the crap out of the student??

Since I'm a returning student I'm aware that those glitches don't mean that a teacher considers the piece "ruined" for the purpose of the lesson...if there are other good things going on.

I suspect not all (adult) students realize that. [/b]
Absolutely! When I hear IPIBAH, the thought of it being an excuse for not practicing does not even enter my mind.

I cannot speak for the original poster. But this is definately how I think.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#929932 - 04/29/08 01:47 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Absolutely! When I hear IPIBAH, the thought of it being an excuse for not practicing does not even enter my mind.

I cannot speak for the original poster. But this is definately how I think.
That is very good to read , Pianobuff. \:\)

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#929933 - 04/29/08 02:28 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
 Quote:
Originally posted by Innominato:
I agree with pianobuff as a whole, and would like to express my views on the point.

Please mind this is not meant to be offensive or belittling to anyone, just indicative of what I personally think is the best approach to the problem.

1) If I were a teacher and one would say to me IPIBAH, I would answer BYPIWH (but you played it worse here ;\) ). Every time he gives the statement, I would give the answer.
That's the fact and that's what must be addressed; the duty of the teacher is not to provide a balm , or an explanation, or a "justification" of sort for the shortcomings of the pupil, but to help him to look at the problem straight in the eye, and overcome it.

For this reason, to leave the room so that the pupil can play more relaxed in my eyes does not address the problem and on the contrary, it reinforces it.

2) If a student has the impression that the teacher thinks he does not practice enough, the communication with the teacher must be improved. An honest confession, made once with the attitude of he who will be believed, that one does not equal the level of performance reached at home should be the starting point for finding a way of improving. If there is no trust the communication will not work anyway.

3) In my personal experience, I often have the impression that I am at a certain level of preparation, say "6 out of 10".
I really believe this based on the sum of all the times I play the piece, which creates a "general impression", a certain "confidence level".

But when I really make a simulation and really really imagine that *I only have that one go* (that I am recording, or playing for a teacher, or for an audience) then things generally change, and not for the better.

That's the fact in my experience, and I think that's what pianobuff called "illusion", without any negative connotation. It's just that you can only know how you perform the real thing when you are in the real situation, what happens before is not how you play it, merely how you rehearse it.

4) Always in my personal experience, things that I could barely do two months ago and required all of my attention I can now play whilst intensely thinking what I want to eat for dinner. That's a fact completely detached from any level of emotional involvement I might have.

5) So the IPIBAH is just half of the story: there will, there MUST be a level at which you can play that piece good even (forcing a bit but you get the drift) crippled by fear, about to sneer, with an insect in your eye, contemplating a deep problem or in front of an execution squad and playing for dear life.... ;\) and that's the task.. ;\)

6) IMHO To understand this, and to practice in conformity to this, *overcomes the problem to a great extent*, because it gives one the very comfortable feeling that *it is possible to reach a level at which not even the teacher will scare one*, that *emotions play a role only up to a certain level of proficiency* .

Work another three months on the piece and you will discover that you will play a lot better in front of the teacher in 3 months time than at home three months before, although it's likely that you will always play better at home today than in front of the teacher tomorrow. Then work to play even better...

7) I am getting a bit new-agey here, but I would never tell the teacher "IPIBAH", because this creates a psychological barrier.
If you are afraid to underperform in front of the teacher, you will; if you affirm whatever kind of failure, failure is what you will reap; if you affirm a problem, you interiorise it, you make it yours. Every time you pronounce that phrase, you *reinforce the feeling within you that it is so*, and as a consequence *it will be so*.

8) I suggest everyone to buy books like "the inner game of music" and "mind over matter", and ask myself for suggestions about other books you have found useful and that I might read. Again, it is not about explaining that something happens. It's about not letting it happen anymore.

9) "Fear before a performance is the price I must pay for the wonderful life I lead". So, or about so, Arthur Rubinstein. So, whatever problem you have, you are in very good company and you can still become as good as Rubinstein... \:\) [/b]
Just read your post Innominato.

Thank you for your time writing such a great post. It clearly states my feelings on the subject.

Thank you again!
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#929934 - 04/29/08 02:46 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Coolkid70 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/08
Posts: 378
Loc: Irvine, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by ProdigalPianist:
OK, here is one question that has not been answered on this thread yet.

From the perspective of the student, errors in lessons that are very frustrating are usually things we either fixed (or thought we fixed) at home, or mistakes we never made before because, for whatever reason, we're 'thrown' by playing it for the teacher.

From the perspective of the teacher...I'm guessing maybe those errors aren't what you're talking about...that there are other things in the playing (or a general gradual improvement that the student is not focusing on or even aware of) that tell you whether or not a student has been practicing.

So, can you tell when a student has practiced even when there are mistakes that frustrate the crap out of the student??

Since I'm a returning student I'm aware that those glitches don't mean that a teacher considers the piece "ruined" for the purpose of the lesson...if there are other good things going on.

I suspect not all (adult) students realize that. [/b]
Those who have read some of my other posts probably realise that I make a lot of relations back to mathematics. I wanted to do that here, with respect to your post, ProdigalPianist.

I do a lot of tutoring work in math for lower-division undergraduate classes. I rarely really spend much time looking at arithmetic, which is a minor detail. I prefer going after bigger ideas, because they are much more important. So, if I look at a student's work, and he perhaps got a few problems wrong, I check it to see what was going on. It is then that I can tell whether that student really understood what he was talking about.

I think it should be the same for piano. If you maybe make some little mistakes, your teacher should have the experience to look past those and see if you understood the main concepts of the piece you were working on.

EDIT:

I just wanted to add a brief disclaimer that I am not a piano teacher. So my comments are open for debate.
_________________________
Kawai K-3 (2008)

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#929935 - 04/29/08 03:10 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
Going a little bit toward both of the last two posts - addressing the cause is paramount. That is why I mentioned the perception of required talent and perfection, because if that is the cause of difficulty, that is what has to be addressed.

Here is a scenario that can happen: Student is struggling to get a piece right, and a particular passage in that piece. Teacher tells student to have round fingers, or to count, or whatever. Student sort of hears that, but those are trivial matters and he has more difficult things to deal with - like this whole blasted piece, and the hard passage.

So student keeps working on the piece, the hard passage, still struggles week after week. Teacher, annoyingly, doesn't seem to pay much attention to the actual problems. Is still waffling on about the round hand or counting to three. Yes, right, I'll get to counting to three or having a round hand - that's simple enough - but why am I not getting help with this difficult passage?

All this time, however, the difficult passage has a hidden cause. There is a solution to this hiddne cause: the round fingers, or the counting to three. There seems to be no direct link between the difficulty - the student is concentrating on something different that is wrong; yet that's the solution. It may be the solution because counting is directly related to teh problem. It may also be a solution because working on one isolated aspect such as counting may bring in a different kind of concentration and awareness which will help the ability to play. It may be that the passage has many aspects, the student is trying to battle them all at once, and by focussing on the piddly thing, his experience will change.

So student is frustrated that the teacher isn't working more with the problem at hand: the difficult passage, and frustrated that the teacher keeps insisting on counting and round fingers. But in fact the solution to the difficult passage resides in focusing on something different, namely counting and round fingers.

This is a dynamic of the interaction that can occur between teacher and student. In our hypothetical scenario, the student may eventually concentrate on the piddly task of counting, and his dificult passage may improve - he might never get the connection. Or if he does, he will have discovered that working on something that does not seem to be directly related to the problem may in fact be the solution to the problem.

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#929936 - 04/30/08 11:51 AM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
Ashdyre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 83
Loc: Windsor, Ontario, Canada
i deal with that all the time! lol. like you said, sometimes i don't htink it's an illusion, i know as a child and even now as an adult i CAN play better at home simply because there is no pressure, plus i'm used to my own piano.

your recording idea is head on. that's what i try and get my students to do. of course many of them don't... but one did, and her claims were true! she really was better at home, lol.

Most of my students are younger so i have to delicately approach the subject, but i just say that i totally understand and believe them, and tell them what i just said about less stress and getting used to their own piano, but i say imagine if you practiced even more, then you wouldn't make mistakes anywhere, you could play this in your sleep on a trombone it you wanted! (that always gets a giggle)

good luck!
_________________________
Love is a friendship set to music.

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#929937 - 04/30/08 01:11 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
balalaika - You asked: "I am wondering whether other teachers also have some “playing better at home” students and how they deal with the issue."

My wife & I took an extended get-away weekend, one in which I never turned the computer on. I was stunned to see over 100 reponses to your question! Great topic!

Yes, I hear this too, from time to time. But of course, we know that when a student thinks they are playing it better at home, it's more often a case of not being super self critical which they are when they are playing in front of the teacher. This really isn't about where they played the piece better, but how to improve their playing overall.

When I suspect a student may be about to offer the IPIBAH defense, I often disarm them by saying, "You probalby played that better at home, but don't worry about it. Let's get to work and see what we can do to make it sound better here." Of course, we can generally tell when practice has been minimal, or when it's be sufficient.

I want my students to break down the piece into small segments and discover the probems, then work out the difficulties. Most students, I would guess, use the "play it through, then play it through again, but try to make it better" approach, which as we all know, is positively the slowest approach to learning the music.

I have the student play the piece through a second time, but ask them to note areas needing improvement. Typically, they can recall only 3 or 4 deficiencies, rather than the dozens of tweaks needed to make it truly their own. So we start of with perhaps the closing of the piece, and play it through. Well, there were problems here, here and here. Let's work them out, hands alone if necessary. Good, now lets back up a phrase and do the same again.

Thirty minutes later, the piece is beginning to really sound like something, 1000% better than when they first played it for me, and then I suggest that if they can force themselves to practice this way at home, they will be simply amazed at their weekly progress.

Of course, there are things we as teachers can do to help the student at the lesson. I always start with technique, first scales, then etudes. So we don't even get to the first piece until 20 - 25 minutes into the lesson. By then, the student is well warmed up, has made adjustments to playing the studio instruments, nerves have calmed down, etc. It's one of my many rationales why older students, including adults, should be taking hour or longer lessons.

John
_________________________
"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
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#929938 - 04/30/08 06:27 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
John, is your name really John? You sound so much like my teacher. I've heard some of the exact same words... How many times have I heard. "OK. that was good. Now start again and I'll stop you along the way...."
_________________________
It's the journey not the destination..

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#929939 - 04/30/08 06:54 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Yes, my name is really John! Middle name Edward. Named after my grandfathers. Quaint custom of yore!
_________________________
"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
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#929940 - 04/30/08 08:56 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
saerra Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/28/07
Posts: 842
Loc: Atlanta, GA
 Quote:
When I suspect a student may be about to offer the IPIBAH defense, I often disarm them by saying, "You probalby played that better at home, but don't worry about it. Let's get to work and see what we can do to make it sound better here." Of course, we can generally tell when practice has been minimal, or when it's be sufficient.
[/QB]
You know - as an adult student, if you said that to me - it would be *wonderful*! I think it would really help me "reframe" from my stressed out, "why can't I play this perfectly I must really suck!" mindset to being in "work mode" and feeling like there's definitely not an expectation of "perfection". I think it's a great thing to say!

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#929941 - 04/30/08 10:52 PM Re: "Playing at home better" illusion
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Thanks. BTW, even if we're not all great communicators, my guess is that 99% of all teachers really have their students' progress at heart!
_________________________
"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
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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