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#947157 - 04/07/08 01:38 PM Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Is there a concept in piano pedagogy that focuses on teaching your students how to listen?

I don't mean saying to your students to listen, but really teaching them how, in a formal way (using various techniques).

I did not wish to hijack this thread , but it got me wondering if students can hear this mistakes they're making (not the obvious clunkers, but the more subtle technical errors). Yes, of course, they can hear it, but do they recognize when something doesn't sound right because they're not really 'listening' to what does or does not sound correct. I could not help but think that one possible reason the student that is the subject of the thread above does not hear her hands being out of sync is because he/she does not hear it or does not have an understanding of what to listen for.

It reminded me of a similar HT problem I recently had on a Hanon exercise. It sounded fine to me at home, but when I got to my lesson, I discovered I had a problem. One of my fingers was not lifting properly and, rather than sounding distinct, two of the notes were being blurred together (because of the improper technique). Honestly, I did not hear it. My teacher did. I thought about it a bit. Was the error I made the result of me not listening closely enough, or my teacher's fault for not teaching me 'how' to listen and what to listen for?

Would love to hear what you do with your students and if you incorporate "how to listen for your mistakes" into your teaching program.

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#947158 - 04/07/08 01:56 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Great question, Akira,

Not all listen easily when they are so busy doing. Many totally stop when they hear their mistake. Many continue on playing anyway.

Teaching students about mistakes is part of what you are calling listening.

I believe it plays a big role in developing a pianist regardless of what his goals for himself are, he NEEDS to be a good listener of what he is producing.

To be a good listener, one must have clear intentions of what will happen. To be able to check that result while passing forward to a new note or group of notes is a big achievement.

Some have talent for this, some have no clues, some can acquire the skill.

I agree with you that not everyone puts this step into their playing, and not every teacher knows to teach it. They would be unable to teach it if they themselves are not "primed" with it.

I will do some more thinking about the "what" because it is quite individual based upon the individual situation. I'm not sure I can give examples today.

So how are you proceeding with this, Akira?

Betty

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#947159 - 04/07/08 02:13 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
Woody-Woodruff Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/08
Posts: 615
Loc: Coastal Mississippi
Maybe I shouldn't be posting over here with the pros and stay with the beginners but here's my 2 cents anyway.

The problem that I have is when I'm playing the piano I have found I can't listen to my playing at the same time. The focus is on this, that, or the other and not what sound is actually coming out of my piano - or even worse what bad habits I am continuing.

I think the most important thing a teacher can do for the improvement of a student is to be the student's eyes and ears until they are able to record themselves and have the ability to actually see the problem areas and be able to correct them.

Your thread here tells me that a least two teachers out there are aware of our beginner problems.
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#947160 - 04/07/08 05:13 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Akira, you hit on a topic which is a favorite of mine. I've mentioned it in many posts, but it often passes unnoticed or uncommented on.

Listening is what music making is all about. We must hear the music in our brain, then train our mechanism (fingers, hands, wrists, arms, body) to behave as we expect, so the resulting sound is what we hear. And correct it if it isn't the sound we want.

Teaching students to listen to the sound they produce is one of our major tasks as teachers. I do it using several different techniques. One is to play a problematic passage twice for the student. Once, the way I would expect them to play, and the second, the way they are playing it (or in reverse order) and challenge them to identify the differences. Many times, especially with young students, this requires multiple times at playing both examples.

Sometimes they fail to grasp the difference, in which case, I verbally point it out, then play the examples again. Students do learn to listen, but it does take time.

Woody, perhaps one reason you think you cannot listen to yourself as you play is that you haven't had an opportunity to develop the skill yet. Another reason may be that you're trying to bite off more than you should be. If technical demands are excessive, it's really difficult to focus on musicality.

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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#947161 - 04/07/08 05:52 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11846
Loc: Canada
John, if music is what we hear in our brains, for you does part of the process involve hearing what we are about to play before playing it, then during - rather than discovering it after the fact (or not at all)?

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#947162 - 04/07/08 06:01 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
I had this discussion with my teacher just last week. When we (beginners) first learn a piece we concentrate so much on the timing and playing the correct notes that we often fail to listen.

I was voicing my concern that I still feel as though I'm sometime just playing the notes. I know immediately when I DO hit a wrong note most of the time but a piece that has an accidental for one measure and not for the next can trip me up. Often my teacher will get me to play it again just to see if the mistake was a one-time thing or an actual error.

This week after my confession of not really listening... he asked me to identify major or minor chords by listening and then name them (including inversions). This was a very helpful lesson - and although I was right, I was a litle embarassed at how long it took me to figure it out. I expect we'll be doing more of this in the weeks to come.
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#947163 - 04/07/08 07:34 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
keystring, I think the exact mechanism differs from individual to individual. Consider that before you say something (words), your brain has a though process which figures out what you're going to say, how you're going to say it, and you ears (and eyes) provide feedback on what you've said. Contrast that with memorized recitation where you are not talking extemporaniously. Now, you're much more focused on individual words, phrases, etc., and my guess is that different parts of the brain are engaged. Your "performance" becomes more stilted, people are immediately aware that you are reciting, not speaking freely.

Returning to your question, for me, I know what sound I want to produce, and that sound is what my mechanism produces. It is an almost instantaneous process.

Think of it this way, when you're listening to a favorite recording, your brain knows exactly what it expects to hear, and if it somehow is different, it objects, and as there is no corrective mechanism, you suddenly become conscious of what ever is unexpected, and are no longer paying attention to the onflowing music. When students play this way, they have a "halting" performance. Many stop and correct an error rather than "let it go" and maintain the flow.

There are, of course, different levels of listening. The listening I am talking about is a composite of the overall sound, not just the elements, ie, notes, rhythm, dynamics, etc. I am constantly working with my students on voicing, inflection, articulation, but with a goal of an overall musical sound coming out of the piano.

I guess I would add that if you're "surprised" by what comes out of the piano, at least you're listening, but you're not thinking ahead. And that brings up a tangental discussion, and that is teachers should be working with students to read well ahead of what they are playing, just as when you read orally, your eyes are at least a sentance ahead of your voice.
_________________________
"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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#947164 - 04/07/08 07:49 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11846
Loc: Canada
Thank you, John. That is why I asked the question. It is also good for all of us reading this forum to see these things. I was taught not long ago that one should picture what one wants to produce before one produces it, and listen to that sound whether it is what we are producing it, while producing it. There was a rather intensive (for me) training going with that.

I think many of us have a piece in our minds and "generally" play with that in mind, but we are spending more time imagining what we have played, than playing it. Or we play, and we discover how we played after we played. Then we correct. If we do that often enough, the music does become better, nad we even fall into anticipating that mistake and being alert just before getting to that part.

But to be present to one's own playing in a constant state of anticipation is quite an eye opener. At the level I was to do it I lasted all of three seconds initially. That doesn't mean I drifted off and played badly, but it was no longer the same.

Other things we just can't hear in the beginning. We don't know what to listen for and can't recognize it if we do try. I like your exercise of trying to find the difference. Simply realizing that you didn't hear something and now you can, is an eye (ear?) opener, I think.

I remember when every orchestra and ensemble in the whole world had suddenly started to have excellent timing. That was my subjective impression. I had become aware of timing and was hearing it for the first time in my life.

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#947165 - 04/08/08 11:08 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
Woody-Woodruff Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/08
Posts: 615
Loc: Coastal Mississippi
 Quote:
Woody, perhaps one reason you think you cannot listen to yourself as you play is that you haven't had an opportunity to develop the skill yet. Another reason may be that you're trying to bite off more than you should be. If technical demands are excessive, it's really difficult to focus on musicality.
John, I can confirm that I still need to develope the skill of listening to myself while I'm playing it and not afterwards in a recording. My ego would like to think that my technical ability just a little behind the music I am playing but....
_________________________

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#947166 - 04/08/08 03:47 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
When I was in Brussels many years ago I repeatedly nearly got ran over by trams. Though I looked both ways I couldn't see them - because I didn't know what they looked like. Even though I was only 40 I realized I never will, so I'm quite wary when in an area that has them.

Some of the 'mistakes' students make they've never heard because they don't know what they sound like. When students initially play thirds the notes are never together. The students needs to be shown what the mistake sounds like through the teacher singing and playing exaggerated. Hearing the dynamic differences between the tune and accompaniment also has to be learnt - far more so than the physical ability to do so. Even scales the same. There is a legion of technique that needs to be addressed this way. The problem is too many teachers attack technique from the physical side - the real answer, the aural, gets sadly neglected. Until the student can hear both the right and the wrong way the mistake doesn't exist.
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#947167 - 04/08/08 04:13 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11846
Loc: Canada
I also found that being told what to listen for and aim for also helped. If you don't know that the melodic line should be stronger you may not come up with it on your own.

Keyboardklutz, did you ever get to find what a tram looks like? It almost reminds me of the conversation we had about Mr. Snuffelupegus the other day.

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#947168 - 04/08/08 04:28 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Playing both for a student and with a student is why it's incumbent upon all teachers to have a two piano studio. Yes, it's expensive, and it's why piano lessons should cost more than other instrumental lessons (the student brings his own instrument, not renting the teacher's instrument). This is a goal for all young teachers to work for.
_________________________
"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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#947169 - 04/08/08 04:42 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
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 keystring:
Keyboardklutz, did you ever get to find what a tram looks like? It almost reminds me of the conversation we had about Mr. Snuffelupegus the other day. [/b]
No. They have them in South London. I walk very slowly there.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#947170 - 04/15/08 03:25 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3250
Loc: Virginia, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Akira:
but it got me wondering if students can hear this mistakes they're making (not the obvious clunkers, but the more subtle technical errors). [/b]
Ah, a topic near and dear to my heart. I think this is the single least appreciated and discussed problem in learning any instrument, not just piano. Actually I think it is worse for most other instruments.

No, beginners don't hear subtle mistakes, OR obvious clunkers. I think the amount of progress they make is determined mostly by how quickly they gain skill in hearing themselves, and it may be that the sole talent that separates the virtuoso from the rest of us is that they either have innate skill at hearing or they develop it quickly.

I think that not hearing is some kind of hard wired protective brain mechanism. If we heard how bad we sound at first, we'd quit. Even when we've learned to hear ourselves on one instrument, we may still have problems on another. Pianists can pick up a recorder and play it badly without noticing and vice versa.

This problem is really obvious when playing brass instruments. Students have to learn how to produce good tone, but none of the mechanics for this are conscious or observable. The process involves gaining a clear focused concept of the desired tone in the mind, then listening to the produced tone and comparing the two, then somehow adjusting "something" to improve it. The internal concept is usually arrived at by hours of listening to top performers. But hearing the produced tone is the hardest part of this, and completely unaddressed. Without the feedback there is no improvement.

For many including myself, the internal tone concept can override hearing the produced tone. Doing both at the same time becomes difficult to impossible.
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gotta go practice

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#947171 - 04/15/08 03:52 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
Hi Akira,

Your topic definately caught my eye.

It's late and I should be asleep, so I regret not reading all of the posts, and sorry for rehashing, if I am.

Listening is what I teach, first and foremost. Listening for a beautiful tone and how to produce it with proper techinique, as well as getting the pitches correct, musical phrasing, etc...

Mistakes are one thing, but clarity and tone in playing, are another.

To me the ability to listen is something that needs development. A discerning ear is so important in being a true artist/musician.

It is very satisfying, as a teacher, to spend time with my students on listening. Two pianos help immensely in order to demonstrate and compare.
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Private Piano Teacher,
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#947172 - 04/15/08 06:43 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
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 TimR:
Even when we've learned to hear ourselves on one instrument, we may still have problems on another. Pianists can pick up a recorder and play it badly without noticing and vice versa.

For many including myself, the internal tone concept can override hearing the produced tone. Doing both at the same time becomes difficult to impossible. [/b]
I disagree with the first point. I've played classical guitar since a teenager. After having not played for some years I found my fingering automatically changed itself to get a beautiful cantabiule line - something as a teenager I had no awareness of.

On the second point, it holds you back to have an internal image of a tone, or to try and achieve someone else's. If you listen to what you find beautiful in your tone you will make it so.
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#947173 - 04/15/08 07:03 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11846
Loc: Canada
I would agree with Keyboardklutz that the skill of listening, and especially knowing what to listen for and play "toward" transfers from instrument to instrument. The conscious awareness of tone, tone quality, the textures and vibrations of an instrument, is an awareness that transfers. On violin there is a feeling of vibration on the string which if touched "just so" brings out a tone quality "just so". On my descant recorder (the most responsive), there is a certain breath that opens up tone in a combined sweetness and resonance. In fact, that is why I find playing a digital piano so disturbing. That responsiveness is not there. Listening has become an active thing, where you play, listen toward something, adjust - and there is a ghost-pianist programmed in whose touch prevails regardless of what I do.

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#947174 - 04/15/08 09:04 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
gmm1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/06
Posts: 1674
Loc: Spokane WA
I guess I would qualify what Klutz and keystring say to include "if you have an ear" to begin with.

I do not. I work on it every day, but what I hear on guitar does not transfer to the piano. I find I must learn how to listen anew. I just do not hear the same from instrument to instrument.

It's probably as hard for those who can do it to understand the point as it is for me to understand just how you guys do it.
_________________________
"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro

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#947175 - 04/15/08 09:15 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11846
Loc: Canada
Gmm1, is anyone guiding you in what to listen for, and giving you feedback? "Ear" is something one has, true, but it is also something that develops under guidance.

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#947176 - 04/15/08 11:10 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
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 gmm1:
I guess I would qualify what Klutz and keystring say to include "if you have an ear" to begin with.

I do not. I work on it every day, but what I hear on guitar does not transfer to the piano. I find I must learn how to listen anew. I just do not hear the same from instrument to instrument.

It's probably as hard for those who can do it to understand the point as it is for me to understand just how you guys do it. [/b]
Maybe you could teach me what trams look like and in exchange I'll teach you what a guitar/piano/voice sounds like?
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#947177 - 04/15/08 11:24 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
I have noticed often that when young students are starting their lessons, ages 6-9, they have a few lessons and can play some one page songs as a melody with both hands sharing the work, but they may not be listening at all to the sounds they are making. I ask them that, and they say "No, they didn't hear the music."

So we work to be aware of the sound, I usually will start to play along "so we can check out that we play the song alike. This is a way of pinpointing the mistakes they are making (They do hear this when they have something to compare it to.) So it's a joyful thing that we get to play a totally correct piece.

I ask them to sing the words or hum along while playing (it must be a song they are quite familiar with). This develops their "pitching - intonation" voice.

Listening can be developed with the teachers help. Because there are other things to listen for, you are not done with your "training" at this point.

Some people can do this easily and for others it quite uncomfortable to be put on the spot like this. (It can still be improved upon with the learner's help.)

Betty

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#947178 - 04/15/08 12:16 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
AdlerAugen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 200
Loc: Hawaii
This thread is quite interesting and brings up what I think is the most important thing in bringing performance to the next level. Tomatis, who did the original research leading to Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky to term the mozart effect, declared his first law as saying "a person can only reproduce vocally what he is capable of hearing." The same thing applies to piano. Hearing mistakes in the notes is one thing, but hearing everything else makes someone great, at least if they do something about it, because if they can hear the problem, they can fix it. If they can't, then it's probably a lost cause.
_________________________
-Piano Instructor since 2008-

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#947179 - 04/15/08 03:25 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
I don't think it's a lost cause, AdlerAugen, but perhaps it is if a person does not stay with the "ear training" long enough.

Look for the topic I posted about ear training: by interal, by scale, and by chords. It is the website of Ricci Adams - musictheory.net

My niece was in 6th grade and very much wanted to sing in the chorus at school but she inherited her grandfathers "Can't carry a tune in a bucket" talent. She could not pitch to a note to save her life! She joined chorus because the teacher said she was most welcome and not to worry about her because she would catch on very fast, and her ear and pitching would respond. In addition, she was invited to learn to play violin that year...again it helped her ears a lot, but it was difficult for her to hold the bow and play the notes because of her doubled jointed fingers.

In her adult life she has had an interest in flute and piano. I would expect she does definitely sing in church, too.

She was not a lost cause, and I'm thankful the chorus teacher encouraged her and did not dismiss her.

Betty

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#947180 - 04/15/08 08:20 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
AdlerAugen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 200
Loc: Hawaii
yea i was wondering about my wording a bit there...I meant more a lost cause until the person can hear the difference.

edit: which means the ear has to be worked on before you can get back to the mistakes.
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#947181 - 04/16/08 07:34 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
gmm1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/06
Posts: 1674
Loc: Spokane WA
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
Gmm1, is anyone guiding you in what to listen for, and giving you feedback? "Ear" is something one has, true, but it is also something that develops under guidance. [/b]
Hey Keystring - naw, I'm going it alone for now. I have taken voice lessons in the past, mainly for ear training, but "I hear ya".

 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
Maybe you could teach me what trams look like and in exchange I'll teach you what a guitar/piano/voice sounds like? [/b]
I wish I knew the answer, Klutz. You are not alone. I worked for a railroad for over 40 years, and not a week would go by without us hitting someone. People walking are the worst cases, although there's nothing pretty about cars/trucks either. The crews report that sometimes people act as if the train was not there. All the size, noise, whistles and speed are somehow ignored (and here in the states people want trains to stop blowing the horn at crossings - unbelievable to me). You tell kids not to play on the tracks because trains can sneak up on you, and they don't believe you. It's good you are aware of the flaw, many are not until it's too late.
_________________________
"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro

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#947182 - 04/16/08 07:52 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11846
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Gmm1, is anyone guiding you in what to listen for, and giving you feedback? "Ear" is something one has, true, but it is also something that develops under guidance.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hey Keystring - naw, I'm going it alone for now. I have taken voice lessons in the past, mainly for ear training, but "I hear ya".
That's part of it, then. I didn't have a bad ear, but my son, who has perfect pitch, would tell me that my singing was out of tune. Meanwhile in the amateur choir some people in my section would tell me that I helped keep them steady. I had good relative pitch and I could adjust myself to the piano or harmonize myself to the other voices (the altos tended to slip progressively).

I had some ear training last year which took the form of singing an ascending scale, with somebody listening to the recording. I got the feedback of where I wsa going off. I also learned to envision the pitch that I wanted to produce before I produced it. That is so logical, and it was so what I had never done. When I knew what to listen for, I began both to sing more accurtely, and to hear what I did not hear before.

The same seems to be true for tempo, rhythm and everything else. Right now I'm taking my theory book that I completed, and I'm playing a bit of it every day to hear these intervals and chords that I wrote down. Before I do I try to anticipate what they will sound like, and then compare mentally what it does sound like.

On the same theme, "Piano Proficiency" by Guhl has sections on rhythm with clapping left and right hand patterns together. She gives a sequence of activities to do: chant one-and-two-and or whatever to the smallest note value while clapping, do the dah-diddles, chant the meter with a staccato voice while clapping with contrasting sounds (hand on thigh, knuckles on table) etc. But the very last stage is to tap out the rhythms while listening closely - but that listening to yourself comes after all the preceding activities, so that you have something to listen for.

It seems that listening is an active thing, but we treat it as something we passively receive. When you listen actively you are listening for a particular thing, and it seems that thing has to be defined. Supposing you are looking for your child and wondering if he is in a playground. You pick his voice out among 50 other voices. But you have a picture of his voice in your mind, and you are running that voice through your mind and comparing it to all the other voices.

It seems that we need to be guided toward what to listen for, or our hearing will be random, or we won't interpret according to an important key point.

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#947183 - 04/16/08 08:19 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
gmm1 Offline
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Registered: 06/03/06
Posts: 1674
Loc: Spokane WA
That makes sense, darn it. I am resisting taking voice again. Perhaps the bad experiences of the past trying to protect me. I remember when I could not match a pitch, and feeling very small as my instructor gave me visual clues for up or down, with no effect on me other than huge jumps from one tone to another without a clue what was wrong. I also remember the first time I sang a tone right, and knew it. That magical matching of a tone.

That matching is what I do now. I can, with practice, find the note, but it is not from inside.

You are correct, I do not know what to listen for.
_________________________
"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro

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#947184 - 04/16/08 08:44 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
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I did this last year, with someone giving me feedback on recordings. My main vice was drifting down at the end of notes, which is something I was not aware of at all. But what I learned to do was every couple of notes, play that note on the piano after imagining it, seeing whether it was the way I imagined it and then mentally matching it when I sang it. After a while that sound stays with you. the magic came the day when I sang E and my violin "pinged" from across the room.

But I think that this listening also extends to steady tempo, hearing meter in your mind as you play music at a particular meter and other things. It seems that the thing is to know what to listen for, and know what that "it" is. I mean, you might know that you are aiming for something with tempo or meter or pitch, but is your picture of that correct? But I think some of it is straightforward.

For example: We learn on the piano site that the main melody is played more strongly than the accompanying melody or chords, so that can be a goal for listening and producing. Is one stronger than the other?

Or that one note flows into the other for a legato phrase: there is another specific thing to envision and try to produce. There has to be something specific, so that we can imagine it, so that we can aim for it. "Play musically" doesn't cut it. That's a feeling with nothing specific to hold on to. You can feel tons of emotion without any of it translating into sound. In fact, you can choke up with emotion locking yourself physically because you don't know how to transmit that into sound. Or the emotion can transport you into the right sound, just like a voice can get fervent (or ridiculously squeaky at just the wrong moment)....

There is still the need for a teacher however, to hear what we are not hearing, letting us know what it is, and when needed, how to produce it.

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#947185 - 04/16/08 09:33 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
gmm1 Offline
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Registered: 06/03/06
Posts: 1674
Loc: Spokane WA
Ah, the root issue....

At the risk of hijacking the thread, just what is it that you are trying to match? Just how does one imagine a tone? What do you do if there is no tone there?

If you play a note, I will hum until I get that note (or an octave depending...). I have trouble saying what it is or how I know, but the tones kinda meld together, telling me I have it.

Now, you might say, put that tone in your memory. Remember what it sounds like, what everything feels like, where in your body is it vibrating, so you can find it again. OK. Just don't play another note, or what I remember gets replaced.

I guess I am saying I don't understand what it means to hear the tone in your head. That just does not happen for me. It's hard to comprehend something that is not there. I think those who can do it are gifted (discounting all the work it takes to get to that point, I know).

That's the crux of it. Give me the steps needed to create that tone in my head. I'm not talking about perfect pitch. I want to be able to move to another tone after I find one to start with instead of "starting over" each and every time...

WHAT IS IT that you are hearing that I am not?
_________________________
"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro

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#947186 - 04/16/08 10:26 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
keystring Offline
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Oh heaven's, I had not thought about it that way. Ok, let's see. First of all, to keep this a piano issue, maybe we can also extrapolate this more generally since good pitch recognition would not seem to be something you use on piano. But the idea of knowing what you want to produce in terms of sound, so that you can aim toward it, is universal. It is not something that I knew to do consciously a year ago.

For your question - I always had decent relative pitch and I could generally match what I was hearing. When I auditioned for a choir two years ago my pitch lowered when I went piano when asked to sing in a dynamic range, and I did not necessarily know how to control that. It seems that my pitch control was partly through air flow, like when you blow harder into a recorder or bow with speed and force on an open string. When they have you sing glissando like a slide whistle, that seems to be the physical way of controlling pitch.

When I sing, I hear a sound and I hear when what I envision and what I am singing is the same sound. It's sort of like when you have those eye tests and they bring the two disks together until suddenly they line up on top of each other.

There's another thing though that the tuners probably know more about, "beats" or "beating". If you tune a violin or if you want to tune a note to an open string so that they are exactly the same, you listen for a kind of vibrating beat. It's like hearing friction - visually like seeing a bunch of bumps that go away - and when the friction is gone so the beats are not audible, then you're in tune. The same thing happens if you sing to a note on the piano. When you are out of tune there is this friction or bumpiness to the sound, as though it were vibrating. Those are the overtones, I think, that don't quite line up so they jut out here and there. (This sounds weird.) So you might not know immediately how to figure out whether you are below or above because your ear isn't develop yet - you "gliss" back and forth until it's smooth and not bumpy. You're not hearing pitch at that point as much as hearing friction and lack of friction.

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#947187 - 04/16/08 10:49 AM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
keystring Offline
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I lost my second post answering part of your question. Moving to the next note is relative pitch, and I have the scale, or at least the tonic, sitting somewhere in the back of my mind. I think most people have chords sitting in the back of their minds - sort of like a ladder or framework that everything sits in as you hop about. In relative pitch I think you learn to move in seconds, (whole step), then thirds, fifths, fourths, and relate the other intervals to those. I'm trying to get a better ear for that right now by playing some of my written theory exercises and anticipating what they will sound like first. It seems to have an effect.

(Oops, I just noticed that this is the teacher forum. Maybe we should move the rest of the discussion over to the AB forum)

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#947188 - 04/16/08 12:57 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
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Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
How to sing. For men: G on the bottom line of the bass clef to f below middle c should be easy. Higher and you'll need some advice.
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#947189 - 04/16/08 01:48 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
LifeLongLearner [LLL] Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/18/07
Posts: 9
Loc: Pacific Northwest
sorry, double posted!!
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#947190 - 04/16/08 01:49 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
LifeLongLearner [LLL] Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/18/07
Posts: 9
Loc: Pacific Northwest
After 26+ years singing in an “a capella” group and with the added experience of being a section leader and assistant director, I have found that most SINGERS don't listen to the other parts in the chorus. After working on a piece for several weeks or even months, individuals retain learned errors, even though they have been corrected many times. I believe that they are also not actively and critically listening when they perform, but relying on what we call "muscle memory" to sing their part.

I suspect that this also happens to pianists. The important thing to teach is how to actively and critically listen each and every time a piece is performed. Rehearsal/practice/lesson-time IS performance but for a smaller audience, usually the instructor and yourself.

A critical listener will have the ability to anticipate the next note or chord and without humming it [instrumentalists] will know the correct note has been played.

There are several old clichés that apply to musicians as well as other activities. Some should be permanently deleted or at the very least revised.

Among them is: “Practice makes perfect.” To be more correct it should be said that “Only perfect practice makes perfect.” Of course, we know it is difficult it is to achieve a perfect practice.

Another is “Practice until you get it right.” This is a negative approach, since it infers that you are doing it wrong; again it should be restated more positively to say “Practice until you can’t get it wrong!!”

I hope that this adds some useful perspective to this discussion


s/LLL
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Harmoniously,
s/LLL

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#947191 - 04/16/08 08:30 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11846
Loc: Canada
LLL, this is one I'm printing out. thx

Ks

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#947192 - 05/29/08 05:09 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
I'm having some difficulty this week that made me think of this thread. Hope you don't mind me trudging it up.

I do Hanon exercises daily. As you all know, a critical part of these exercises is to create an even tone and distinctness for every note. The note patterns are easily memorized, which allows me the luxury of not having to use any resources looking at music. When practicing, I close my eyes and listen carefully - very carefully, focusing purely on the sounds that I'm creating. Are all the notes equal in duration and tonality at the speed I am trying to achieve? I thought it was, but was surprised to find out at my lesson that I was wrong? There was an unevenness to it, which I honestly could not hear, despite my best attempts.

Obviously, I don't fully understand what's wrong. I simply can't hear it. Maybe my listening skills are not sufficiently developed. Maybe I'm not listening carefully enough, even though I "think" I am. If I can't hear the deficiencies, there doesn't seem to be any (current) hope of me correcting it.

My teacher played the same exercise. I listened carefully. It was even and I could detect no imperfections. So, I think I do have an intellectual understanding of what I was suppose to achieve. I asked him to exaggerate the unevenness he was hearing when I played it and I intellectually understood where the deficiency was occuring (darn pinkies and ring fingers playing too soft again). I played it again, focusing on the problem. He said, yes, that's it. I corrected the problem, but honestly could not hear the difference between the first and last time I played it, which leads me to believe similar problems will occur in the future (i.e. I have yet to sufficiently develop a good ear to detect certain deficiencies).

I could not help but think that the act of playing while listening is adversely affecting my ability to 'really' listen. Maybe I should record it and listen more closely with an objective and dispassionate ear. Haven't tried it yet, but its worth a shot.

Any advice or suggestions (or even a "What you're going through is normal.") for listenening exercises would be appreciated. \:\)

Thanks guys for reading.

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#947193 - 05/29/08 05:46 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
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Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
You did the right thing to ask your teacher to exaggerate. When students play scales where hands are not together, I imitate their playing with some exaggeration. It takes a while but they get it. The key is NOT to mechanically direct your fingers. Just learning what the fault sounds like will put it right.
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#947194 - 05/29/08 05:49 PM Re: Do you teach your students "how" to listen?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11846
Loc: Canada
Akira, I went through intensive ear training last year. It was for pitch with voice, but some of the principles transfer.

The mind boggling new concept is: we listen to what we play after we play it, don't we? We play a note, and then we listen to how it sounds and whether it is correct. Well, if you think about it, it's too late by then, you've played it.

What I learned to do is to perceive in my mind what I wanted to play. I would have to hear it in my mind. Then I sing (play) and while I am playing it, I listen that it is the same as I intended.

Next discovery: If you do manage to actually listening to what you are playing, anticipating and playing what you anticipate, you'll find that you tune out as in "There, job's done, I hit the note."

In my singing exercise that was shown by a slight drift in pitch. I had good pitch to begin with, so this was a matter of cents.

So now you've done the daunting task: you have imagined your note (its loudness and pitch, though you can only control the loudness), and you have played that one note, and you have listened to the note while you played it. 1 second of listening.

While you are still listening to that note, imagine your next note. It will be comparative. How loud do you want it to be in comparison to the first note: hear it in your mind. Play and listen to make sure that it has the loudness that you had in mind and keep listening. You will also be hearing whether it is the same loudness.

You will do the same with the third note, but you will probably find that by the third note you have stopped anticipating and listening. In the beginning, if I managed 15 seconds I was doing well. It is shocking to discover you haven't been listening when you thought you were.

Now the bad news: \:\( I just tried it on the piano on a C major scale. F is quieter than E and I never noticed before. And my mind drifted before I could get to G.

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