Do you study the score that your student is learning?

Posted by: albynism

Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/05/13 02:38 AM

I'm studying for a diploma exam and have to prepare 4 pieces that my teacher is not familiar with (she just asked me to pick 4 from the syllabus and when I picked the four obscure pieces she just said she listened to them and they were OK). Now next week I said Im going to prepare the first piece but now I'm changing my mind and I'm going to learn the second piece first. should I tell her before next lesson about the change? I have a feeling that she wouldn't care because, often when I present a new piece to her she would just analyze the score as I play. I think I'm going to tell her anyway as courtesy so she can prepare for the lesson if she needs to, but it made me wonder what other teachers do in this situation.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/05/13 08:44 AM

What difficulty level is the music? If it is advanced, I would as a teacher be working on all 4 and be prepared to teach them by the next lesson. However, if you told her you were only working on one, you may want to let her know which one you've actually worked on. For intermediate or higher pieces, I do run through them before assigning them to a student. If the student brings new music to work on, I will practice it to understand the pitfalls, possible fingering issues, etc. If it is an elementary piece, I will not need to practice it because I'll be able to see these issues right away.
Posted by: albynism

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/05/13 01:12 PM

I'd say the music is quite advanced. Around Grade 9 standard.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/05/13 03:31 PM

Can you explain how a teacher can teach what they do not know?

My students, from elementary to most advanced, only learn pieces I've studied and mastered.

This is not to say they have to parrot my personal interpretation, but I feel strongly that I should be knowledgeable enough of the potential pratfalls, studied possible fingerings/alternate note assignments between the hands, etc., etc.
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/05/13 08:25 PM

I have taught unfamiliar pieces (including many advanced ones) that I do not personally play because I teach by basic principles. Laws of motion, fingering habits, technical gestures, and musical rules of thumb.

I see this as an opportunity to use my intuition and creativity and to help the student develop theirs. One cannot possibly master all the repertoire in the world. I honestly don't believe my students have suffered because of this. Quite the opposite -- they are excited about delving into the learning process and they learn through my process simultaneously.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/05/13 08:44 PM

This is an interesting approach. But you can only do it once per piece. Anyway, it's an excellent way to teach a student how to learn a piece, by doing it jointly together. But I prefer allowing the student to explore and learn, but under guidance which has already mastered the piece in question.
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/05/13 10:54 PM

I disagree, John. Exploration and creativity take place throughout the learning process. There are so many opportunities for problem-solving and the interaction.

I've done this for a number of years with great success. I understand it's not your preference, but it sure works for me.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/06/13 12:34 AM

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
I have taught unfamiliar pieces (including many advanced ones) that I do not personally play because I teach by basic principles. Laws of motion, fingering habits, technical gestures, and musical rules of thumb.

I see this as an opportunity to use my intuition and creativity and to help the student develop theirs. One cannot possibly master all the repertoire in the world. I honestly don't believe my students have suffered because of this. Quite the opposite -- they are excited about delving into the learning process and they learn through my process simultaneously.


I agree with this approach. There are simply too many pieces in this world--even within the "standard" repertoire--for one teacher to know and master all of them. And if I were to teach only the stuff that I know well, then all of my students would be playing the same 40-50 pieces. My approach is to mix some familiar ones with some that are not so familiar.
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/06/13 12:37 AM

I also agree with Minniemay...

As a composer, and blah blah, I do have the ability to analyse pretty quickly almost anything thrown at me (with the obvious lack of humility this shows)...

But I, obviously again, cannot play everything. In fact my piano chops are slipping me little by little (no practice). I do, however ponder about things, new works, works I don't know, etc, while alone, or in the studio.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/06/13 08:21 AM

Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
I have taught unfamiliar pieces (including many advanced ones) that I do not personally play because I teach by basic principles. Laws of motion, fingering habits, technical gestures, and musical rules of thumb.

I see this as an opportunity to use my intuition and creativity and to help the student develop theirs. One cannot possibly master all the repertoire in the world. I honestly don't believe my students have suffered because of this. Quite the opposite -- they are excited about delving into the learning process and they learn through my process simultaneously.


I agree with this approach. There are simply too many pieces in this world--even within the "standard" repertoire--for one teacher to know and master all of them. And if I were to teach only the stuff that I know well, then all of my students would be playing the same 40-50 pieces. My approach is to mix some familiar ones with some that are not so familiar.


For me, I *can* offer help on a piece that I do not know. Sometimes students will come in and be enthusiastic about playing something for me that they learned. I can certainly help them without having to study it and master it, and this is just as helpful for the student - in the short term. But that only goes so far, and I think that is what John is saying. At some point, one has to get one's hands "dirty" and really delve into the piece for serious study, and to know those pitfalls and nuances.

Now this does not mean that I have to be able to play the piece in its entirety for the student. If I played it at one time, I remember enough to be able to help (plus my notes on the score are still there from when I studied it to help with fingering suggestions and other areas).
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/06/13 08:28 AM

A good reason to study music theory is to learn how to play pieces. A deeper understanding of the period and of music theory helps you to understand how to play a piece. So you're not limited to a set of pieces that you learned from a teacher and/or with help from a recording.

Having said that, so far I master everything I teach, but I only have a couple of intermediate students. And I'm still working on broadening and deepening my understanding of music theory.

I would have missed out on a lot if my teacher had told me that she does not play John Field Nocturne No. 5 and therefore will not comment on my performance of it. Instead, she taught me principles that apply and it has been tremendously useful.

My guess is that the OP's teacher will be easily capable of teaching a piece without being alerted to the change in plan. But if you feel better telling your teacher about the change, then go ahead. You're doing your best to be courteous which is a rather rare quality these days.


Posted by: Chris H.

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/06/13 09:07 AM

I agree that you should tell your teacher beforehand which piece you intend to work on for the next lesson. I would want to know.

At the moment I don't have any students so advanced that their repertoire would pose problems for me even if I didn't know it. I do frequently come across unfamiliar pieces especially if they are choosing from a syllabus for an exam or competition. However, if I don't really know the piece in question I will no doubt have played something by the same composer or at least very similar. I also make it a priority to study it myself by the time they come to the following lesson.
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/06/13 09:46 AM

Within the last few years, I have taught Jeux d'eau, Mephisto, Les Adieux, a number of Chopin etudes, all four Chopin Ballades and a number of other advanced pieces. Of that group, I only play a couple of the etudes and 2 of the ballades. Has my student suffered? No. In fact, he has won competitions with that repertoire.

Could I play that repertoire myself? Some of it. I don't think I could play the Liszt or a couple of the etudes. I know my limitations. However, my teaching skills outweigh my personal abilities in some areas. I have a keen eye for technique and a sharp ear and a well-developed sense of musicianship. I have 30 years of teaching experience. All of these things combine to make it possible to teach at this level.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say.
Posted by: albynism

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/06/13 10:11 AM

Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. It's interesting to see different perspectives on this subject. I sent a message to my teacher about the change and she "okay-ed" it.
I don't think my teacher shared the same taste in classical music actually. She often gave me pieces that are "lively or humorous" like an early Beethoven sonata and the Italian concerto and the bartok suite for my last exam. So when I showed her my selection she actually said "I think these suits you". laugh
Posted by: Bluoh

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/09/13 03:14 PM

Originally Posted By: albynism
So when I showed her my selection she actually said "I think these suits you". laugh

You've defined your styles! I love it when that happens. smile

For some people, it happens gradually; for others, it's like a 'click' and you realize that you're more suited for this, not that.

Of course, that can change with time. smile
Posted by: albynism

Re: Do you study the score that your student is learning? - 02/10/13 12:55 PM

Originally Posted By: Bluoh
Originally Posted By: albynism
So when I showed her my selection she actually said "I think these suits you". laugh

You've defined your styles! I love it when that happens. smile

For some people, it happens gradually; for others, it's like a 'click' and you realize that you're more suited for this, not that.

Of course, that can change with time. smile


Yeah! I was very surprised when she said that because I never express to her my disdain towards certain music. I usually just plow through the pieces she gave me without fuss.