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#958822 - 07/06/08 02:16 PM Memorizing Czerny études?
Boira Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/09/07
Posts: 472
Loc: Barcelona
Hello to everybody in this forum,

I changed teachers last week, and I'm surprised by my new teacher method.
(little bit of backgroud information first: 35 yo, taking classes for 11 months now, never touched a piano in my life before but had previous knowledge of theory and note reading from two years of solfege. In addition to 1 hour/week piano classes, I'm taking also 1 hour/week music theory + solfege classes)

My former teacher was old school, technique first and no repertoire since I master the basics. Beyer, Czerny, Hanon, scales. We just started with Clementi Sonatinas last month. I have had no problem with that, in fact I like it that way. She also knew I like reading and she worked on that. Not that we forget about other aspects, but every lesson she destined the last 10-15 minutes for sight-reading exercises with extra material she brought.

My new teacher also teaches at the Royal Conservatory and she is even more old school.
Bye-bye to sight reading. In fact, bye-bye to reading at all! Everything must be played from memory as soon as possible. Études too. That's what puzzles me: études too?

I can understand the benefits of memorizing repertoire, and also have searched the forum and the web for the information on the subject sight-reading vs memorizing. I see and understand the benefits/drawbacks in both approaches, but what I don get is the need of memorizing the Czerny études.
If I have to memorize them, I'll do it, there's no problem with that and I'm not questioning her methods. It's just that I can't see the point (yet).

I don't know if this detail is important, but a Czerny étude I have to memorize for next week is the one I said I find the most boring and difficult. (I should have kept my mouth closed)

Is that normal? Was my former teacher wrong in letting me read the Czerny/Beyer/Hannon book while I play? Or is the current teacher a bit too much?

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#958823 - 07/06/08 05:02 PM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
This is not unusual. Czerny studies, being
much like regular pieces, are therefore
considered repertoire-like by many teachers
and therefore candidates for memorization.

This is interesting, because it seems to
give insight into how students on the
concert pianist track in Russia are taught:
they would apparently be required to memorize
everything all of the time from day one.
However, such students are apparently
the product of an intensive screening process
that identifies the best piano talent in
Russia that will fit the Russian teaching
system, and so such students would be
expected to thrive under such a system.

This is a system designed to train future
concert pianists, since memorization is
everything for a concert pianist. But
an amateur of average talent is not going
to become a concert pianist, and so using
such a system on an amateur is questionable.
In particular, an amateur needs good reading
ability in order to explore the vast piano
literature available to him. But under
such a system his reading is in danger of
deteriorating as he comes to rely more
and more on his memory in order to play.
The worst case scenario under such a system
is an amateur's limited memory capacity
becoming burned out at the same time
that his reading has deteriorated
to non-existent levels. At that
point he is in serious trouble:
he can't learn anything new, because his
memory is shot, and he has come to rely
on memory completely for all his playing;
he can't even learn anything new with
the score, because his reading has deteriorated
so much; he is now limited for life to
playing only the pieces that he has already
memorized.

Therefore, an amateur learning under
such a system, in my view, needs to be careful
that his reading does not deteriorate
under it. He would need to do at least
some substantial reading practice on his own at
home, preferably at the start of the
practice session, since this needs to be
done while you're still fresh in order
to get any benefit out of it.

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#958824 - 07/06/08 05:25 PM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7407
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
I cannot speak for all American conservatories, but students of Leon Fleischer report that memorization of their assignments were required, immediately, not for the reason gyro stated, but because you're not free to work on technique and musicality until you know the music and can play it without dependence on notation.
_________________________
"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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#958825 - 07/07/08 03:47 AM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5556
Loc: Orange County, CA
I hate Czerny. I haven't assigned one of his pieces in years.

I really, really don't see the pedagogical purpose of memorizing a piece before the teacher gets a chance of fixing the problems. What if the student memorized a wrong note or wrong fingering, or an articulation that the teacher disagrees with? It actually takes longer to un-learn a problem than to do it the correct way the first time.

I have transfer students who studied with these "memorize by week one" teachers. They are so hard to work with. So many bad habits to overcome. They can't start from any random measure if we need to work on a passage. They also spend all their time staring at their hands, and have not gotten a complete grasp of the keyboard geography. They "over-rely" on their eyes to find keys instead of finding the distance by feel. \:\(
_________________________
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#958826 - 07/07/08 03:59 AM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11805
Loc: Canada
THe students under the Russian system had to do a lot more than memorize a piece - it was a comprehensive and multifaceted system in which different things were demanded, not memorization in, of, and by itself. I heard one story, and don't know if it's true, of a student who didn't know his piece who was made to write out the piece from memory.

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#958827 - 07/07/08 04:27 AM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5962
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by AZNpiano:
I really, really don't see the pedagogical purpose of memorizing a piece before the teacher gets a chance of fixing the problems. What if the student memorized a wrong note or wrong fingering, or an articulation that the teacher disagrees with? It actually takes longer to un-learn a problem than to do it the correct way the first time.

I have transfer students who studied with these "memorize by week one" teachers. They are so hard to work with. So many bad habits to overcome. They can't start from any random measure if we need to work on a passage. They also spend all their time staring at their hands, and have not gotten a complete grasp of the keyboard geography. They "over-rely" on their eyes to find keys instead of finding the distance by feel. \:\( [/b]
I couldn't agree more, AZN.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#958828 - 07/07/08 05:15 AM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11805
Loc: Canada
Boira, I've been thinking about this. I remember you writing about your first teacher who seemed quite impressive. This one may be as well but in her own way with new perspectives for you. There's a thought brewing: a paradigm shift. I hope I can get it out.

You have a good foundation in sight reading and technical skills from your first teacher. You are not in the same situation as someone who begins by memorizing music. For that person the music remains a sea of dots and they depend on memorizing. When you look at a score it will tell you a lot of things. You will never lose that. You will also use it in preparing your music when you are asked to memorize. That's the first thing.

I can read music but I also memorize it. But I don't memorize it the way someone who depends on memorization would, never to look at the music again. I memorize the music in order the be free to pay attention to the technical aspects, to liberate my inner and outer ear a bit more. Your focus is an energy, and you only have so much of that energy - if it's spent reading, there's less of it available for other things.

Once I have memorized the music, it doesn't mean that I never look at it again. I keep coming back to it as I develop and refine the piece. Because I can sight read, I can do this at a glance, which is why both skills are important. But because I have memorized it, I can engage fully on the technical and musical aspects. I return to that. It's not an either-or thing.

I don't think it's by chance that your teacher has chosen for you to memorize the study that you find both difficult and boring. As you memorize you will be able to to work on the difficulties because your attention is not caught up in sight reading. Memorizing can also involve memorizing the technical aspects. Since it's a study you'll be working on those aspects. The two skills will blend, I think. It would also make a difference in how you handle it, and maybe what your teacher has in mind ultimately.

I'm a student, btw.

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#958829 - 07/07/08 05:16 AM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
Boira Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/09/07
Posts: 472
Loc: Barcelona
Spot on! She's Russian!

Thank you so much for your answers. I'm going to search for some bibliography on the subject 'The Russian System'.

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#958830 - 07/07/08 05:22 AM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
Boira Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/09/07
Posts: 472
Loc: Barcelona
Keystring, our posts crossed. I was writting mine when you posted yours.

I like reading and I don't want to loose that. One of the drills I used to do with my former teacher was sight-reading a different piece every lesson. Then she would say: "Now play it taking out all the E's and playing the equivalent silence instead" "OK, now do it taking out the G's on the left hand and the F's on the right hand, silences instead" It was pretty fun! (unmusical, but fun!)

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#958831 - 07/07/08 05:33 AM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11805
Loc: Canada
But there is nothing to stop you from continuing with practicing your sight reading while you practice, and giving yourself these drills, as well as inventing others. It does sound like fun. \:\)

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#958832 - 07/07/08 06:55 AM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
Innominato Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/08
Posts: 802
Loc: London
Boira, your OP gives much food for thoughts.

I have never bothered to memorise the rare Czerny that I have done. In fact I consider it a bit between sight reading exercise and finger practice and that's that.

But on deeper reflection: if one were to use Czerny with great determination to really do what it was meant for (for example: the school of velocity to become really fast rather than just for sight reading purposes); and if he was thus determined to play certain exercises, or many exercises, an infinite amount of times until they are really good, then memorisation would makes sense to me because it frees the player from the distraction of having to look at the music and lets him free to concentrate exclusively on the keyboard.

If we think of scales, of example, we memorise the scale and this helps us to focus on the evenness and speed of the movement.

Your teacher seems to be pretty hard, but I can see a lot of sense in what she does.
_________________________
"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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#958833 - 07/07/08 12:43 PM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
Boira Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/09/07
Posts: 472
Loc: Barcelona
 Quote:
Originally posted by AZNpiano:
They "over-rely" on their eyes to find keys instead of finding the distance by feel. \:\( [/b]
Absolutely! This is one of the things she mentioned! My former teacher wanted me to 'feel' the keyboard, as you said, and wanted me to play without looking at the keys (or just some sporadic flashes for jumps)... this one wants me to look at them.

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#958834 - 07/07/08 12:55 PM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
Piano Again Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 1162
Loc: Washington metro
Hmmm ... I switch between looking at and NOT looking at the keys when I'm playing from memory. It's interesting to find out which parts are dependent on visual cues and which are not. Also, I think when you don't look at the keys, you tend to listen more carefully.

Memorizing Czerny ... I always thought those "School of Velocity" etudes were kind of fun, but there are only so many hours in the day and only so much room in my brain ...
_________________________
Recovering cellist, amateur pianist.


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#958835 - 07/07/08 12:56 PM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
 Quote:
Originally posted by AZNpiano:
I have transfer students who studied with these "memorize by week one" teachers. They are so hard to work with. So many bad habits to overcome. They can't start from any random measure if we need to work on a passage. They also spend all their time staring at their hands, and have not gotten a complete grasp of the keyboard geography. They "over-rely" on their eyes to find keys instead of finding the distance by feel. \:\( [/b]
OK, this might sound OT but it kind of follows what you said... I have both problems: looking at my hands, not being able to start from any measure. No one asked me to memorize the pieces, I just have really good memory and memorizing a piece happens lightning fast without me even trying. So I actually force me to "read" the music and not to look at my hands. Do you think this is necessary?

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#958836 - 07/07/08 04:01 PM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Chopin always insisted his students play from the music, especially those who memorized readily. His rationale was they'd never find the mistakes otherwise.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#958837 - 07/08/08 05:01 AM Re: Memorizing Czerny études?
Boira Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/09/07
Posts: 472
Loc: Barcelona
Everything is starting to make sense now.

After my 2nd lesson with my new teacher, I can see a pattern emerging. Let me explain.

I've studied Russian Language for 5 years, and all my teachers were identical in their methods. The structure of the lessons. The kind of work expected at home by the students. There's a common axis in the teaching approach of my new piano teacher and all of those Russian languague teachers. What can be done at home, will be done at home. Lesson time is for things the student can't do on his/her own. Grammar exercises, compositions, reading... all the writting was homework. Lessons were for talking. Not random talking, but a very structured and topic-wise communication. It's the same with piano: reading and music grammar is for home, lesson time is for playing! ultra-structured memorized playing. No room for improvisation activities or funny things.

And they were mean! Austere and rigid. But with time they turned out to be very very good teachers, and the meanest of them was the one from whom I learned the most and who cared more about all her students' progress.

After the initial surprise, I liked very much my second lesson with my new piano teacher. I found her absolutely structured and organized, every second was put to use. Sure, the looking-at-the-keys thing is something we'll have to talk about, but everything went pretty well overall.

And she gave me a list of things to do during the week longer than a Pharao's wedding guests list.

Who knows, maybe this is going to be a good match! (if I survive!) \:\)


(Edited several times for typos and grammar errors. More will come...)

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