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#930917 - 05/19/08 02:00 PM Teacher problems
Elise_B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 81
Loc: nyc
I have been reading this forum for a couple of weeks and I find it to be very informative. Most interesting to me are the different teaching methods discussed and the styles of the teachers who post. I am a piano student in my fifth year. While I very much enjoy music and playing, I absolutely detest my lessons. My teacher is incredibly strict and very demanding. I have been with him for all my studies so I have never experienced other teaching styles.. but i do think he has gotten worse over time. He is very inflexible: everything from no chewing gum and cut-off shorts in his studio down to ridiculously long practice requirements even during my finals.. I admit that he has taught me a lot and in fact, sometimes (not often) I am myself kind of proud of what I can do.. but at a price.. This teacher's method is all about scolding and "punishments".. scale away if you miss practice (not that I would ever dare show up without practice.. but he can always tell if I practiced 55 minutes and not 60 a day..) Is the good teaching result worth the terrifying lessons? To complicate things, this teacher is a very good friend of my family (my older brother is a very accomplished pianist and thinks the world of this teacher) and I don't think I stand a chance of changing him.. I once did not show up for a student recital because I did not think I was prepared enough but my teacher had insisted that I play.. Perhaps I was secretly hoping that he will drop me, but it did not happen.. I got scolded and loaded with extra work for a whole month instead... My parents will not listen to my complaints and think that I am too rebellious and have problems with authority.. I feel silly complaining at this forum but may be someone is familiar with this style (my teacher is german as is my family) and has some insight.. I do not want to quit because I really dream of becoming an excellent pianist (like my teahcer I guess) but sometimes I wonder..

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#930918 - 05/19/08 02:32 PM Re: Teacher problems
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
I don't see the problem here. If he didn't
drop you for something as serious as not
showing up for a recital, then that means
that you can do just about anything short of
physically attacking him, and he won't
drop you. And if you were daring enough
to skip a recital, then that means you'd
dare do just about anything.

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#930919 - 05/19/08 02:39 PM Re: Teacher problems
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
He sounds a bit 'old country'. I wouldn't think his particular style is any more effective than a more friendly approach. It does sound like you don't have much of a chance of changing but do start sticking up for yourself more and more. It's not you, it's him!
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#930920 - 05/19/08 02:46 PM Re: Teacher problems
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7394
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
\:D Elise, you didn't say how old you were, but I have a feeling . . .

Anyway, the no gum chewing is for a reason, not because he detests gum chewing. It's really difficult for students to internalize one beat, let alone two separate beats. There is a secondary concern - many people stop breathing during periods of intense concentration, then gasp for air. We don't want you to choke!

About the shorts - you have no idea, and most women don't - the effect you have on men or should I say, our hormonal systems. By dressing modestly, you insure your teacher is totally focused on your lesson, and not on you!

However, I do take exception with his pedagogy.

From the very limited information you've provided, I'd suggest you find an adult confidant who can sit with you as you discuss this with your parents. If you cannot get your parents to accept that there are other, often more effective, styles of teaching, you have to decide whether to rebel and stop your studies (a decision you'll probably regret deeply) or if you're willing to tolerate his dictatorial manor.
_________________________
"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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#930921 - 05/19/08 02:54 PM Re: Teacher problems
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:

Anyway, the no gum chewing is for a reason, not because he detests gum chewing. It's really difficult for students to internalize one beat, let alone two separate beats. There is a secondary concern - many people stop breathing during periods of intense concentration, then gasp for air. We don't want you to choke! [/b]
Crap! It's a disgusting habit.
 Quote:

About the shorts - [/b]
Bring'em on!
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#930922 - 05/19/08 03:43 PM Re: Teacher problems
miaeih Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 267
Loc: SF Bay Area, CA
From your post I'd conclude that you have a problem with authority and are rebellious too. I don't see how anything you wrote is incredibly strict, demanding, or terrifying (maybe you have some real examples of these?). Ridiculously long practice times? A hour is ridiculously long? ... You even claim to want to become a excellent pianist; how do you expect to get there?

Skipping a recital? Wow. I'm surprised your parents are still paying for lessons. Your teacher thought you had it in you to practice harder and make it for the recital (or maybe he thought you'd totally bomb and the embarrassment would open your eyes).

It seems to me that your teacher is trying to make you the excellent pianist you supposedly want to be. Maybe you should stop dreaming, find a realistic goal and discuss it with your parents, then find a teacher to help you reach those goals.

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#930923 - 05/19/08 04:15 PM Re: Teacher problems
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7394
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
I took her 55 min vs 60 min to be an example of his fastidiousness, not the practice requirement. Obviously a student in their 5th year is practicing close to 2 1/2 - 3 hrs a day on average, if they're at all serious about piano.
_________________________
"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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#930924 - 05/19/08 04:27 PM Re: Teacher problems
Elise_B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 81
Loc: nyc
I am sorry I did not mean to sound crass.. The gum / shorts thing I mentioned as an example of multiple detailed rules governing everything, but I never thought it was a big deal to comply with this specific rule..
The pedagogy part is the problem. and yes I am 14. It is just that you can never get a rewarding feeling after lessons. I know it is his job to correct my mistakes but there must be a better way.. As for practice he requires 1 hour a day on school days and 2-3 a day on sat/sun/holidays, so about 10 hours a week and I comply most of the time. The amount of work I get though needs even more practice to be up to his standards . I know you cannot help directly but I am curious if some of you allow your students any input into their lesson plans / your style etc..something I can try to articulate that may get his attention.

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#930925 - 05/19/08 04:54 PM Re: Teacher problems
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2919
Loc: UK.
 Quote:
Originally posted by Elise_B:
Is the good teaching result worth the terrifying lessons? [/b]
Only you can answer that question Elise.

When I was at college I had a teacher like this. Most of his students would not last long. He would rant and rave, shout and swear and was generally horrible. The biggest complement he ever payed me was 'you are quite good'! I would not dare turn up to a lesson without having practiced enough. I did it once (early on). He told me that if I hadn't learned the ******* notes then I might as well **** off and come back next week. I rolled my eyes up to the ceiling. He said, 'I don't know why you are looking up there. There's no god who is going to help you'. Needless to say I didn't do it again.

By the end of my degree I scored 80% in my final recital and won a prize for the most outstanding progress in my year. After I had stopped lessons with this teacher I went to visit him. I told him how grateful I was for all that he had done for me (musically). I asked why he felt that other students did not stick with him. He said, 'What are good results compared to an easy ride?'.

You will not change your teacher's attitude and approach. You have to learn to live with it and accept that you will probably end up a better pianist or you have to go elsewhere. It doesn't sound like the latter is an option anyway. His methods might seem extreme (they might BE extreme) but I'm sure he has your best interests at heart.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#930926 - 05/19/08 05:06 PM Re: Teacher problems
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
I can't think of anything more fun than looking forward to a lesson. I also think that since each of us is different we can't possibly all learn the same way. Personally I look for each student's strength and modify my teaching accordingly. There's nothing quite as spectacular as playing the piano. An eager student will most likely be a good learner.

rada

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#930927 - 05/19/08 05:09 PM Re: Teacher problems
miaeih Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 267
Loc: SF Bay Area, CA
As a student, I've never practiced more than an hour even when I had reached 10+ years of studying unless it was for a competition. I've never understood why anyone would "need" to practice more unless it was for pure enjoyment as those ppl did not exceed my skills on the competition circuit. My feeling as I practice, along with how I teach, is that you practice as much as you need regardless of level, to set a time is useless. However, the points that this teacher sets seem that he wants the student to be professional, whether practicing or during the lesson, building character.

With my students I list what needs to be worked on for each piece. Depending on the age, I may list exactly how many times to play it. If it takes you 5 hrs to play that assignment, then do it. If it takes you 15 mins, fine. However, according to the post, the teacher can tell how much was actually practiced, therefore, I assume the assignment was not done, else, he wouldn't notice unless there was a spy cam.

"The amount of work I get though needs even more practice to be up to his standards ." How many pieces are we talking about? If a good amount, ask to cut back because you cannot handle it. If only a few, you need to learn how to practice. I'd suggest asking for a lesson to mimic a real practice session so you know how to practice and possibly show your teacher that you do not need strict hand-holding.

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#930928 - 05/19/08 05:16 PM Re: Teacher problems
Mechanical Doll Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/10/07
Posts: 199
Loc: Garden State, USA
Elise_B, if you've skipped a recital, can't you theoretically skip the extra practice and scales (punishment work) too? :p

While I think hard work and discipline are necessary if you wish to progress, is it worth it if you're perfectly miserable?

I'm sure your teacher is an excellent teacher, but the personality conflict is the issue here. Before you go down the new-teacher road, why don't you have a little heart to heart with this guy?

Ask him about the no gum policy (this I find funny since during a string recital I attended last Wednesday, one of the soloists was CHEWING GUM DURING HER PERFORMANCE! ) . Ask him why no shorts. Explain to him that passing your finals is PRETTY DAMN IMPORTANT. :p You may not like some of his answers, he may not understand the needs of a 14 yr. old girl, but if you talk to one another you may be able to come to an understanding.
_________________________
Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without. ~Confucius

Music is moonlight in the gloomy night of life. ~Jean Paul Richter

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#930929 - 05/19/08 06:12 PM Re: Teacher problems
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7394
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
I hope she has a large-sized liability insurance policy.
_________________________
"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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#930930 - 05/19/08 06:22 PM Re: Teacher problems
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Elise, why don't you just talk to you teacher to let him know how you are feeling about your lessons. I think its an important first step. Clearly, if he is not aware his teaching style is creating a problem, things will unlikely change (as if by magic). This is not to say it "will" help. Its possible your teacher is inflexibile in his thinking. Its possible he sees great potential in you and has a passionate and genuine interest in seeing you excel. Its possible, he's just a mean person. There are many possibilities, but a dialogue is the only way to explore them.

Teachers, I think the best way to help Elise is to answer the following question.

"If Elise were your student, what would you do address the issue?"

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#930931 - 05/19/08 06:27 PM Re: Teacher problems
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5947
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by Elise_B:
.. but i do think he has gotten worse over time. ... This teacher's method is all about scolding and "punishments"... [/b]
Hi Elise. You don't need to feel "silly" about complaining here. Venting is the first step towards (hopefully) finding a solution.

A couple of thoughts:
- He may not have "gotten worse over time", it may just be that you've arrived at the age where this is becoming hard to tolerate. And I for one am not surprised.

- In my opinion, if his method is indeed "all about scolding and punishment" then he has a bad method, full stop, and any good results he gets are in spite of this, rather than because of it. The occasional rant we can all accept, but no-one should need to be be scolded and punished into developing a skill they themselves dearly want to acquire.

- John's advice of trying another talk to your parents, this time with another adult for support, seems hopeful.

- I know your brother thinks this guy is a great teacher, but you might also try talking to him (your brother, I mean) about your feelings.

I'm sorry I can't be more helpful, but as others have said, it sounds like you need to decide whether it's worth it or not, if changing teachers is not an option at this time. I think I know what I'd do if you were my daughter, but you're not \:\) .

Good luck!
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#930932 - 05/19/08 06:35 PM Re: Teacher problems
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5947
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by Akira:

Teachers, I think the best way to help Elise is to answer the following question.

"If Elise were your student, what would you do address the issue?" [/b]
If Elise were my student, she wouldn't have this particular problem, because I don't operate by scolding and punishment. However, if it were some other problem, then I would hope she'd come and talk to me about it. I'd certainly listen, but I have a feeling I'm a bit more flexible than her teacher seems to be.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#930933 - 05/19/08 07:06 PM Re: Teacher problems
Elise_B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 81
Loc: nyc
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
I hope she has a large-sized liability insurance policy. [/b]
what do you mean?

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#930934 - 05/19/08 07:12 PM Re: Teacher problems
Innominato Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/08
Posts: 802
Loc: London
Elise, my impression on reading your message (of course I only have the elements you give yourself) is that you are blessed with a truly, truly good teacher. Demanding, character-building, professional , a bit hard but hey, life is..

In my eyes, you should realize that at 14 it is perfectly natural to feel the burden of such a strict piano regime. But at the same time, I think it is important to understand that the next teacher will have his or her shortcomings too, and the perfect teacher with which every lesson is a great laugh between friends might be the one with which you learn the least. This one give you more work to do if he sees that you skip homework, and is good enough (which also means: attentive, professional) to spot little differences in your practice: respect, I'd say.

Your brother is an accomplished pianist and esteems him very much by the way, so there must be something really right in what he does.

I'd take it as a piano lesson and drilling exercise: a strong spine will do you a lot of good in life.
_________________________
"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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#930935 - 05/19/08 07:38 PM Re: Teacher problems
Coolkid70 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/08
Posts: 378
Loc: Irvine, CA
Hi there. I wanted to discuss some of your practise requirements.

I'm not much older than you - I am eighteen, and I have quite a lot of experience in education, believe it or not. Through my years in the American public school, I would watch my friends try to get through everything (i.e. general school work, tests, finals, teachers, etc...). My experience is that young students (maybe I should not use this term, considering that I am one, myself) tend to overreact and/or panic when it comes to these things. I remember spending almost no time at all writing up homework for preparing for tests (and I never complained about teachers) - there really should not be anything to it.

So, my point is that you really should not be complaining about practising piano no matter what time it is. If you "can't find the time" to work on your piano, then maybe you don't really want it. It is something you should consider.


I started playing again a few months ago and I take it very seriously. On average, I spend two to three hours each night (on top of any homework or classes I need to attend to). Sometimes I even cut out homework or classes from the day so that I can get some reasonable practise in.

Please consider this.
_________________________
Kawai K-3 (2008)

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#930936 - 05/19/08 07:58 PM Re: Teacher problems
Late Beginner Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 588
Loc: West Australia
Hi Elise_B,

I can understand your frustration, but it would seem that you have limited options here. Your parents are paying the bills and sound unwilling to change their plans. The teacher is also unlikely to change much. So it probably boils down to what you can do yourself.

Strict old fashioned teachers are definitely on the endangered species list – rapidly dying out as their habitat is destroyed by the spread of other styles and methods. But sometimes when we’ve shot the last surviving creature and look back we can see certain things about them that might have been worth saving. So I’d probably rule out assassinating him, or quitting piano at this stage.

Maybe in twenty years you’ll be looking back and telling the next generation of students how soft they are.... and how you survived an apprenticeship that would make their hair curl.... but how it helped make you the tougher cookie you are today… and so on.

In the meantime you can console yourself with the unshakeable advantage that the young have over the old – in a few years time when he’s dribbling and mumbling in a nursing home you will be in your prime, and taking your music to places he’s never dreamed of. So I’d cut him a bit of slack. All you need is patience – you’ll win in the end. And, who knows, he might well be passing on things that you will appreciate later, when you look back on it all. My guess is that he probably is...

Good luck.

Chris
_________________________
Who needs feet of clay? I can get into enough trouble with feet made of regular foot stuff...

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#930937 - 05/19/08 09:15 PM Re: Teacher problems
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7394
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Hey guys, speaking as a long time teacher, you don't have to be a meanie to be strict. There are others, more subtle, genuinely motivational methods out there, without compromising your integrity in teaching.

Elise, what I meant about a "good liability insurance policy" is that a teacher who allows students to chew gum and play at the same time is basically being reckless in their supervision, and can/would be sued if a choking incident actually occurred.
_________________________
"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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#930938 - 05/19/08 10:49 PM Re: Teacher problems
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
I would agree that you don't have to be mean to be strict.

I would also contend that you don't have to be strict in order to be a good teacher.

A good teacher is one that can "bring out" the best in a person and "help" them to realize their full potential, rather than trying to "yank" it out of them.

Encouragement, inspiration, patience, kindness, motivation, empathy, sympathy, structure, flexibility, understanding, tactfullness, tolerance -- they all have their place in teaching, as well. \:\)

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#930939 - 05/20/08 11:19 AM Re: Teacher problems
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
Hi Elise,

Just another thought: since you're in NYC, there is a huge universe of piano teachers to draw from. There are lots of teachers who are very good, and - while demanding - are not mean or punishing.
Maybe you just haven't found the right fit. A agree with everyone else who says you should speak to your parents or an adult you feel comfortable with.

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#930940 - 05/20/08 09:27 PM Re: Teacher problems
thepianist2008 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/19/06
Posts: 191
Loc: NY
My first teacher did drop me. I can't hate her for it, because I still know her, and she's been an excellent accompanist for my vocal endeavors at school, but I can't say I don't resent the fact that she dropped me. I wonder what it would be like if she hadn't, because the teachers I had after her, except for the one I have now, were absolute crap. I can tell you that she dropped me because I refused to play what she wanted, because I guess it was boring. I don't know, it was five years ago, so I was a year younger than you. (Which is what angers me about her. You can't expect a 13 year old boy to be mature enough to understand what she's assigning, why, and how to communicate with her properly. It's stupid to think that such a young person could do that.) Don't leave him. If everything's working for you, you're playing without tension, you're progressing well, if nothing is wrong (with respect to your piano technique as he's instructed you), don't risk it. For as many good piano teachers as there are in NYC, I'm sure there are just as many that are complete crap. It's definitely not worth the risk. For some reason, there seems to be a common notion that all piano teachers know what they're doing. If this were the case, we'd have concert pianists all over the place, because there are certainly teachers all over the place, and each teacher has several students, ergo... Another thing which is a very touchy subject is this: parent's aren't always right. I don't know you're situation, but my parents wouldn't have known anything at all about music had my sister and I not come into their lives. My mom never would have heard the Brahms Requiem, or Handel's Messiah, nor would she have been to Crane Youth Music at Potsdam to see me perform, or gone to the NYSSMA or All-County concerts. Our interests were thrust upon her. Wonderful a woman as she is, she has zero ability to make any decisions about what's best for my musical future or for my sister's and neither does my father. All they can do is support, not direct. And they've done a lot of supporting, especially since they're going to do it to the tune of $15000 per year to send me to music school. I'm just putting my thoughts in: I regret having to switch teachers, and if I could have gone back to that moment with my eighteen-year-old mind, I wouldn't have done it.

Perhaps, and I know this will sound odd, but perhaps you could spend some time with him outside of lessons. I find that some teachers at school who are horrible, the ones where everyone dreads going to his/her class, when you stay after school and get a chance to really talk to them, suddenly become human, and even like-able. Right now you're in an environment designed for learning, not for developing friendships. But sometimes a friendship needs to be there in order for the instruction to be successful. He's not just some robot designed to teach you piano, he's a person, too, and I think you'll get the most out of your lessons if you can develop a friendship between the two of you to complement the teacher-student relationship.
_________________________
Piano Hero Encore Rocks the 1800s!

Current Assignments:
Bach Prelude and Fugue in Bb Maj, D min, and C Maj from Bk I
Mozart Sonata K.280
Brahms Rhapsody Op. 79 No. 2
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I'm going to Ithaca! Yay!!!

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#930941 - 05/21/08 02:23 AM Re: Teacher problems
faucon Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/13/07
Posts: 285
Loc: Missouri USA
Though I'm an older student rather than a teacher, I would personally find punishment and scolding to be very demotivating. I think it's telling that you seem to be a younger student. No adult would put up with the pianistic equivalent of having to write "I will practice for the full 60 minutes" 100 times on the blackboard.

Because this teacher is much older than you are, he may believe that the most effective way to teach is to be punitive. This may be the way he himself was taught. But there have been first-rate teachers who motivate by encouragement and example, not by scolding. Have you asked your brother about how strict this teacher was with him? I think it would be fine to discuss your unhappiness with your parents in a mature way, and see what they say. Teachers are in a position of power, and younger students, unlike adults, may feel unable to directly object to their methods. I hope things go well for you.

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#930942 - 05/21/08 02:16 PM Re: Teacher problems
pianoobsession Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/20/08
Posts: 109
Loc: Hot and Humid Houston Texas
Just two thoughts from someone that has been there and back again...

That kind of teacher can either:
a. Make someone want to quit and then regret it the rest of their life....or
b. Make them a terrific pianist and be grateful for it the rest of their life.

It's all in where the heart is and whether it can handle the process.....I have lived to regret not choosing b.
_________________________
Righty-O!

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#930943 - 05/21/08 04:34 PM Re: Teacher problems
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5947
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoobsession:
Just two thoughts from someone that has been there and back again...

That kind of teacher can either:
a. Make someone want to quit and then regret it the rest of their life....or
b. Make them a terrific pianist and be grateful for it the rest of their life.

It's all in where the heart is and whether it can handle the process.....I have lived to regret not choosing b. [/b]
But why, WHY does teaching effectively need to be achieved by threats, punishment, scolding - bullying, even?? Why do these teachers need this kind of method? I think you would be grateful for what you'd learnt in spite of the method, not because of it. It's just a case of excusing these people because the results (in terms of pianistic achievement) are impressive. What about all the damaged people (who didn't make it) that these teachers leave behind?
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#930944 - 05/22/08 12:57 AM Re: Teacher problems
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Currawong's right. These teachers are poor teachers despite any success they may have. They hark back to an age when teaching was 'received wisdom' and respect for the individual minimal. It promulgates a society which lacks self reliance and imagination.
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#930945 - 05/22/08 10:07 AM Re: Teacher problems
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17788
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Being from a basketball-obsessed state, I can't help but make the analogy to basketball coaching. Too many coaches today scream and curse at the kids, and they say they do that because they "have to" in order to get good performance from them. To them I would just say "What about John Wooden?" He never screamed at his players and he coached them to 10 national championships.

Those who are encouraging Elise to stick with this teacher should re-read her first post where she says that she "detests" lessons. That's not a way to build a life-long love for and expertise in music. I don't care how technically competent this guy is, if his style is making Elise hate lessons, he is, imo, by definition a bad teacher for her.

My bottom line:

(a) You don't have to mistreat people to inspire them or teach them.

(b) You can still have high standards for excellence while treating people kindly.
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#930946 - 05/22/08 11:06 AM Re: Teacher problems
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11768
Loc: Canada
I do not see anywhere that Elise's teacher screamed or scolded. He is strict, demanding, and he gives punitive exercises in the manner of 50 years ago when people had to write "I will not talk in class" 1000 times, and when you were not allowed to talk in class. That's punitive and it might make the exercises, which could be beneficial, into something hateful and ineffective, who knows.

It was one of the pianists and teachers who had a ranting and raving teacher and estimates he has learned essential things that less stringent teachers would not have given: whether or not the behaviour itself was a factor.

One of the components discussed here is strictness, high expectations or demands. Anyone can play the piano, but how many can play it well? If you don't blow into a flute the right way you won't get note out, and if you can't get the fingering on violin right, you give "atonal" a brand new meaning. Anybody at all can peck out a recognizable tune on piano with little effort. But to learn to play an instrument well at concert level (which this teacher is probably after) takes disciplined practice and hard work.

I'm separating the aspect of strictness, high demands etc. from ideas of punishment etc. Some people have written in about teachers who were strict and demanding: some appreciated these teachers, and others lost those teachers and went on to easier teachers who made music enjoyable but were not demanding in this way. Those who had the latter experience expressed a lot of regret. Had they known in time, they would have done the assignments and slogged away at whatever because they would now have different abilities - this is what one senses. Again, this is separate from the idea of punishment or temper tantrums.

For a student who wishes to reach a certain level of proficiency or mastery of the instrument and the art, being taught only those things that are enjoyable and fun and leaving out those things that are necessary but difficult can be quite painful. They know they are not getting the tools, they don't know how to get there themselves, and there is a touch of condescension or misjudgement of attitude. Before anyone jumps in, I am not saying that if lessons and practicing are fun, then shallow learning is going on, or that in order for it to be effective it must also be difficult or unpleasant. I'm talking about avoidance of things that are necessary because students should never do anything that isn't instantly possible and easy.

I don't care much for punishment, personally. It is hard to practice something when you are under an unpleasant yoke. It's harder to learn, and music is a finicky beast anyway - our spirits have an impact on how well we can play. Surely it is possible to demonstrate cause and effect, and perhaps have natural consequences.

However, if a teacher feels he must reward and punish, at least let it be fair and predictable with clear expectations. If you don't know when the next thunderbolt will fall, or why, then it is hard to stay focussed on the task while scanning the sky for thunderbolts. Elise's teacher seems to have clear expectations with clear consequences, so at least this is in place. However, the strategy is not working for her. I almost wonder, Elise, if this oppressive atmosphere were taken away, whether you might suddenly find yourself practicing 2 or 3 hours because you WANT to and it's enjoyable. Currently practicing is unpleasant.

There is a reality that things we do today which are not pleasant, such as working on things that are difficult, will ultimately be rewarding. Because we worked on them today, next year we are able to do things we never dreamed possible. If we stay with what is easy, we never will.

But other times they should not be unpleasant, the fact that they are unpleasant does not mean they are good for us in the long run - they're just plain unpleasant.

Surely a student should not have to choose between a strict punitive teacher and an undemanding one who doesn't give substance. That's like falling from the frying pan into the fire.

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