your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup

Posted by: MarcoM

your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/13/10 03:21 PM

I am wondering how others here cope with the difference between the piano you practice on and the piano you play on at the lesson say when the 'lesson piano' has much different action than the one you play at home (in my case much heavier)

I am also wondering about how you cope with having your lesson be x minutes long when it usually takes you at home x/2 minutes just to warm up, meaning that when you first sit down and the teacher goes 'ok, show me how things are' you play quite horribly and do so at least for half the lesson or even more depending on the 'action' issue.

Being an 'adult beginner' with not really any lesson experience in my youth I am kind of wondering about the above...
Posted by: fe2008

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/13/10 03:42 PM

"meaning that when you first sit down and the teacher goes 'ok, show me how things are' you play quite horribly and do so at least for half the lesson or even more depending on the 'action' issue."

haha you described a common problem.
Posted by: survivordan

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/13/10 03:58 PM

My teacher lets me warm up a bit i I tell her I need to, and we always start with technical exercises (scales, arpeggios, Hanon, etc.) anyhow. I'm sure if you ask to your teacher will understand!!
Posted by: John_B

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/13/10 04:28 PM

I found that changing my lessons from 30 mins to 60 mins has been a boon. It means that I can have a few minutes to settle in and there isn't the mad rush to cram everything into the allotted time.
Posted by: frida11

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/13/10 04:52 PM

Using a different piano from what you're used to is a very common concern for beginning players. You should gradually become accustomed to the change and adapt to it.

Maybe you should have more lesson time, but the problem you're experiencing is very common, and also something to be adapted to.

Most of us play our pieces much better at home than anywhere else, at least at the beginning stage. Teachers have some understanding of this.
Posted by: BeginnerVA

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/13/10 07:16 PM

Mine is the opposite problem. The teacher's piano keys have much lighter action than mine, resulting in heavy fingering for my first five minutes into a lesson. I have just told myself that it will be something I get used to over time.
Posted by: Chris G

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/13/10 07:24 PM

Originally Posted By: frida11
Using a different piano from what you're used to is a very common concern for beginning players. You should gradually become accustomed to the change and adapt to it.


It's not just beginning players that have this concern. I've been playing for almost 10 years and it still takes a while to get used to playing on another piano such as if I am at a party at a house which has a piano and invites me to play - I will accept their invitation because I like to play in front of other people.

That piano may have key action which is lighter or heavier, the music rest may be at a different height, the bench may be a different height, the sustain pedal may be more or less sensitive etc. I think that this is just part of the deal of being a pianist, your instrument is not portable so if you play outside your home you will be playing a different instrument.
Posted by: bolt

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/13/10 08:15 PM

I find I do much better in my lesson when I warm up at home right before going to the lesson.

1 hour lesson helps too.
Posted by: T'sMom

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/13/10 09:45 PM

This is one of my favorite topics! I complain about it all the time.
My piano is a little Baldwin spinet with light action. My teacher calls it "forgiving." His piano is a Steinway grand, totally different feel. There is also the issue of the music stand which is much higher on his piano, making it harder to look at the music and your hands simultaneously. And what drives me the most crazy is that I find his piano set-up does not have enough light.

The warm-up thing just makes me sad. I remember going to lessons as a little kid, just sitting down and playing whatever I was working on that week. Now I am guaranteed to flub up if I don't have a warm up first.

My teacher says that part of developing skill is being able to sit down at different pianos and play them regardless of the differences.

Over time, it has definitely gotten better. I always have to "relearn" how much pressure to use on his piano, but it takes less effort each time. I haven't quite solved the warm up issue yet, except to know that I should expect a few false starts at the beginning of the lesson. I've tried warming up at home first but it didn't really help me. Hang in there, it should get better,.
Posted by: T'sMom

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/13/10 09:49 PM

PS I have joked with my teacher on several occasions that I need to come and practice on his piano when he is not home. Honestly, I wish I could!
Posted by: Frozenicicles

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/13/10 09:56 PM

The best way to adjust to a new piano cold is to play with your ears, not your fingers. You know the kind of sound that you want to draw from it, so use that to guide you instead of the touch. Different cars might have gas pedals and steering wheels that are of varying size and stiffness, but you still have to follow the same paths on the road. For example - if you practice on a spinet but change to a concert grand, you will have to use much less pressure on the bass to balance the voices. Using your ears would let you intuitively do this, but relying on touch would not.

I love playing on my teacher's grand every week. It makes my playing sound so much better and it has a great action. However, what really throws me off is playing on a badly maintained and out of tune piano, especially when some of the notes make strange sounds. It drives me crazy when what comes out of my fingers doesn't match up with what's in my head.
Posted by: T'sMom

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/14/10 09:45 AM

Originally Posted By: Frozenicicles
. For example - if you practice on a spinet but change to a concert grand, you will have to use much less pressure on the bass to balance the voices. Using your ears would let you intuitively do this, but relying on touch would not.

I love playing on my teacher's grand every week.


I love playing on my teacher's piano too.

I find the opposite of above, though. I need to use more pressure in the bass range on his piano. It's hard to play quietly at first, I end up dropping some notes. My own piano is too loud overall and I tend to play lightly on it (I think part of that is the room it's in).
Posted by: Legal Beagle

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/14/10 10:00 AM

Well, I've only just had my first lesson, but that leaves me excited to be able to respond to questions about "my teacher."

My teacher's grand has a significantly lighter touch than mine, but I found it pretty easy to adjust to. I suppose I didn't feel the dynamic control that I do on my own, but the difference would be fairly negligible.

It seems like it would be harder going the other way (from practicing on light touch to playing on heavy). So, perhaps a practice piano with a heavier touch is not a bad idea (for my taste, anyway).
Posted by: Larry Larson

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/14/10 10:57 AM

Yup, this is a common challenge. My teacher has a wonderful Steinway B grand. I have a Baldwin L grand. In some ways I like her action better, in some ways not. Her action seems more linear and easier to control from soft to very soft and overall it's action is physically smoother.

She also has a 30 year old Yamaha C3 grand that has had very heavy usage and is in need of major regulation work. At my first lesson I played it and it was an awful experience. I actually asked to switch to the brand new Yamaha T 121 upright she had at the time, which was wonderful to play.

This issue is all the more frustrating because my biggest weakness is dynamics, shading and voicing. I can get it right at home, and then play badly at my lesson.

I'm sure every teacher get's tired of hearing us say "but I played it so much better at home...."

T'sMom's teacher is right, getting better at piano includes being able to adjust to all the different instruments we will encounter.
Posted by: joyoussong

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/14/10 11:13 AM

My teacher's piano is a cool old Heintzman, with ivory keys that have a completely different feel from the keys on my Yamaha. & her bench is weird, too - higher & narrower than mine. I didn't notice it for the first few months, but as the material's gotten more challenging, I've really started noticing what a mess I tend to make of things on her piano. She's understanding, but she's recommended I look for opportunities to play on other pianos, so I'm not so dependant on my own.
Posted by: Pedies

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/14/10 11:28 AM

I think trying to find time to warmup before the lesson is a great idea. I have my lesson after work on Wednesday. I try to get home before heading to my teachers to get a few minutes of playing the pieces we are workign on and this definitely helps.

As far as differing action is concerned, at home I actually usually practice on a Roland FP-7 keyboard which has weighted keys and a beautiful tone. Although I have a piano, I find that the action is much heavier and it fatigues my forearms with extended practice so I only practice once in a while on the real deal and otherwise use my keyboard. Having volume control on the keyboard is a great thing especially when others in the house may not want to hear everything I have to play.
Posted by: Larry Larson

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/14/10 12:23 PM

Yup, this is a common challenge. My teacher has a wonderful Steinway B grand. I have a Baldwin L grand. In some ways I like her action better, in some ways not. Her action seems more linear and easier to control from soft to very soft and overall it's action is physically smoother.

She also has a 30 year old Yamaha C3 grand that has had very heavy usage and is in need of major regulation work. At my first lesson I played it and it was an awful experience. I actually asked to switch to the brand new Yamaha T 121 upright she had at the time, which was wonderful to play.

This issue is all the more frustrating because my biggest weakness is dynamics, shading and voicing. I can get it right at home, and then play badly at my lesson.

I'm sure every teacher get's tired of hearing us say "but I played it so much better at home...."

T'sMom's teacher is right, getting better at piano includes being able to adjust to all the different instruments we will encounter.
Posted by: Frozenicicles

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/14/10 12:23 PM

Originally Posted By: T'sMom
Originally Posted By: Frozenicicles
. For example - if you practice on a spinet but change to a concert grand, you will have to use much less pressure on the bass to balance the voices. Using your ears would let you intuitively do this, but relying on touch would not.

I love playing on my teacher's grand every week.


I love playing on my teacher's piano too.

I find the opposite of above, though. I need to use more pressure in the bass range on his piano. It's hard to play quietly at first, I end up dropping some notes. My own piano is too loud overall and I tend to play lightly on it (I think part of that is the room it's in).


Your teacher probably has a studio grand and not a concert grand. 9' concert grands have booming basses which can be over emphasized if you're used to playing on a smaller piano. They sound great, especially in the right hall, but one needs to be careful that the bass doesn't overpower the treble.
Posted by: Hop

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/14/10 12:38 PM

Originally Posted By: BeginnerVA
Mine is the opposite problem. The teacher's piano keys have much lighter action than mine, resulting in heavy fingering for my first five minutes into a lesson. I have just told myself that it will be something I get used to over time.


I have the same issue. My grand piano touch is somewhat heavier than the grand piano my teacher has. It can cause me to stumble, especially in the beginning of the lesson (not having "warmed up").

My solution is to practice just before my lesson for 1-3 hours on my Roland FP-5 digital piano, which has a touch somewhat lighter than my teacher's piano. I find it easier to go from lighter to heavier; others may find the reverse. I do think that there is benefit in playing different instruments, as long as the differences are in the instruments, not the maintenance.

As for stumbling in the beginning, I haven't completely solved that problem yet. However, I do try to have an extended session on my FP-5 right before my lesson, so that I have played within the last hour or two. I'm getting better at jumping in right from the beginning, but try to steer the first selection to something with which I'm quite familiar, or more mechanical (e.g., Hanon or scale).

Hop
Posted by: MarcoM

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/14/10 04:15 PM

it would be nice if DP manufacturers included some sort of adjustable touch (from a mechanical perspective too) so people could be trying different touch weights to adapt to different pianos etc. from what I can see all digitals that have 'touch adjustment' have it only from a response curve perspective, not from a touch/action weight perspective at all.
Posted by: T'sMom

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/14/10 06:26 PM

Originally Posted By: Frozenicicles
Originally Posted By: T'sMom
Originally Posted By: Frozenicicles
. For example - if you practice on a spinet but change to a concert grand, you will have to use much less pressure on the bass to balance the voices. Using your ears would let you intuitively do this, but relying on touch would not.

I love playing on my teacher's grand every week.


I love playing on my teacher's piano too.

I find the opposite of above, though. I need to use more pressure in the bass range on his piano. It's hard to play quietly at first, I end up dropping some notes. My own piano is too loud overall and I tend to play lightly on it (I think part of that is the room it's in).


Your teacher probably has a studio grand and not a concert grand. 9' concert grands have booming basses which can be over emphasized if you're used to playing on a smaller piano. They sound great, especially in the right hall, but one needs to be careful that the bass doesn't overpower the treble.


Yes, you are right!
I've never played a concert grand. Now I have something (else) to aspire to.
Posted by: Volusiano

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/14/10 06:27 PM

Originally Posted By: MarcoM
it would be nice if DP manufacturers included some sort of adjustable touch (from a mechanical perspective too) so people could be trying different touch weights to adapt to different pianos etc. from what I can see all digitals that have 'touch adjustment' have it only from a response curve perspective, not from a touch/action weight perspective at all.

Yes, it would be nice, but not at all possible while being able to the same low price as before. Since the action part of a DP is just as mechanical as the action part of an AP, it's really not a digital action vs acoustic action debate there, but it's really a low-cost action vs high-cost action debate. If any improvement causes the DP action to cost as much as the AP action, the manufacturers might as well adopt the AP action in the instrument to be used with the DP sound. Even the AP action doesn't have such a 1-touch adjustment, and it's been around for hundreds of years already. This just goes to show how unfeasible something like that can be. There's been a recent solution on the acoustic action to modify the touch rail to change the action weight, a solution that's cheap and easy and reversible and doesn't require messing around with the actual action itself. But that's still a mechanical solution only applicable on an acoustic action anyway.
Posted by: Lunatic

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/15/10 01:48 AM

I'm not exactly an "adult" yet...

I only have a digital piano, 88 weighted keys and everything else, but it still feels different from pretty much all acoustic pianos I've played.
I enjoy playing on my teacher's piano more than in mine, it's more... "realistic", it's also easier to hear mistakes on it. It feels better to me, even though it needs to be regulated.

I've also had problems with different key weight actions, I believe the best way to solve it is to regularly play on differently weighted actions.
Posted by: ShalannaCollins

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/15/10 05:33 AM

I know that I'm coming across as being much more of a worthless idiot than I really am, because of this issue (the diff piano and no warmup time) and because I'm working on advanced repertoire that I can't just sight-read and it takes me longer to memorize it now than it did when I was 16. Furthermore, I have terrible stage fright when someone is staring at my hands and leaning over my shoulder like a buzzard. I know this is what they want to do, but heck, it makes me flub up constantly. She'll be humming (this part is kind of funny, I'll admit) and say, "B flat," which just messes me up because I know the note I missed already. Then she circles all the wrong notes as if I will always play them wrong (which isn't the case--I get nervous and it's just like with typing when you get your fingers on the wrong lwud, I mean keys). SO at home I really don't have a record of what I need to go over except from what I know myself. It's frustrating!! Maybe Internet lessons are the answer--I don't get as nervous on a video conference. If they could see the MIDI of what you are playing . . . and analyze that . . . hmm. What an iphone app that could be!
Posted by: thumper49

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/15/10 02:52 PM

LOL, Shalanna, that sounds like one of my lessons!
Posted by: Chris G

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/15/10 08:38 PM

Originally Posted By: Frozenicicles
The best way to adjust to a new piano cold is to play with your ears, not your fingers.


I think it depends on the piano. If it's your teacher's piano then it should be in tune and that advice makes sense. If on the other hand it's an old upright that a non piano playing friend has you have to rely on touch because on an out of tune piano a right note can sound wrong and some keys may not make any sound at all.
Posted by: John_B

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/16/10 05:58 AM

Shalanna,

I appreciate that it might feel awkward but do you think it would be possible to have a quiet talk with your teacher to discuss things with her? So much depends on communication.
Posted by: crogersrx

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/16/10 08:21 PM

My piano teacher solves the "warming up" problem by having two pianos. When you arrive, you can warm up in the front studio, while she is finishing up lessons with whoever she is with at the time. When she dismisses the current student, she comes to get you to go to the vack studio. The piano she has in the front is a large studio upright with very light touch -- too light for my preferences, but awesome sound. The piano in the back studio is a Chickering grand with a medium action, which is probably the nicest action I have ever played on. Since my pianos action is a bit heavier than the Chickering, when I play on the Chickering, things I really have to work on at home seem to flow more effortlessly. So, I have the opportunity to play at least 3 nice pianos every week.

I do think it's easier to go from a firmer action to a lighter action, but ultra-light is no good for me. I guess I'm like Goldie Locks... Not too hard, not too soft... but just right.

Interesting note... the Chickering was my piano previously. I gave it to my teacher when I bought my Knabe.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/16/10 10:01 PM

"Furthermore, I have terrible stage fright when someone is staring at my hands and leaning over my shoulder like a buzzard."

Well, this is a classic.

I never got to very much care for my former teacher's piano--- not the sound, not the touch. And yes, the lighting was more dim that I am used to (and also backlighted from the windows).

In turn, she complained loudly about my piano, and wanted me to have my tech call her to get her instructions on how to mutilate the action. (This did not happen; I bought it because I like the action THE WAY IT IS.)

And no, there was no warming up.

My new teacher comes to my house and teaches on my piano. Well, there goes that excuse.

He did mention that the room acoustic is "dry,' meaning not reverberant. Right again--- I went to a lot of trouble to get it just that way. If you raised a slice of pizza to a thickness of sixteen feet (first taking a bite from the end), that would approximate the shape of my music room... and the reverberant qualities were dreadful.

Since my best excuse is gone, guess I'd better get down there and practice some...
Posted by: Devane

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/19/10 11:19 AM

Originally Posted By: Frozenicicles
The best way to adjust to a new piano cold is to play with your ears, not your fingers.....


Absolutely.

The problem is though producing what you want to hear in seconds vs the hours/weeks that you had at home. Muscle memory is your enemy when dealing with balancing the voices in a piece.

On your teacher's or anybody's piano everything is different. Some even have no volume-slider grin

The last piece I had was an etude for switching the melody from the left to the right hand. The melody being mostly in the left hand (which can get lost very easily at first). Pieces like this where the point is to teach you to listen carefully help a lot.
Posted by: Bart Kinlein

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/19/10 05:21 PM

I usually spend somne time with my DP before lessons as it feels more like the Yamaha my teacher uses. Similar touch, mainly. Sounds more like it as well, so I don't get a big surprise when I play the first note!
Posted by: casinitaly

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/20/10 03:09 AM

It is so reassuring to hear everyone has the same problems!
I was totally stunned the first time I played on the school piano (my teacher works in a middle school and I go there for my lessons). The piano is an old clunker, and the keys are really heavy (my digital is a Yamaha NP30, which is actually pretty light).... I also had one lesson at her home on her baby grand, which was lighter than the piano at the school but still heavy - and the music stand was very high as someone else mentioned above.

At my first lesson she told me that getting used to new keyboards is a pianist's bane, and just something to get used to. You can't take your own instrument with you (well, I snickered to myself, *I* can, 'cause it is portable lol.... ), but generally speaking she is certainly right.
I've only been taking lessons since January but I am noticing that it is getting easier to bounce between the two keyboards (I hope I get to play the baby grand again, that was so cool!)

I too notice that I really flub pieces more in front of the teacher. In part it is the keyboard, in part nerves. Not so much because *she* is watching me but because I have an audience. I know I have to get over the stage fright issues.

That's the emotional side of things. Logically, I have no problem with her observing me intently while I play - I really get alot out of her analysis of my errors and the tips she gives me even after I play something very short.

My teacher divides my playing into 2 parts - sometimes I play as the student, and then I play as the performer. I find that because she created these distinctions I feel more comfortable - I can tell her at the beginning of a lesson - ok, I'm still a student on this piece - or ok, I'm playing as a performer for you now!

I'm curious as to how long others who have contributed to this thread have been playing. I'm really new - less than 4 months - I expect to make mistakes .....in six months I will expect to make alot fewer mistakes.
Posted by: John_B

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/20/10 06:16 AM

Just one after-thought.

I came back to the piano, after ~45 years away, last December and bought an oldish Technics digital piano on ebay as a cheap way of testing the water. When I found a teacher and started having lessons I was totally, absolutely thrown by the difference in touch - which made the lessons very difficult and totally frustrating. (I sometimes asked for 10-15 mins warm up, which helped a little.)

A couple of weeks ago I bought a Kawai CA63 and now I can very quickly acclimatise to my teacher's piano. The only thing that startles me is how loud it is compared to the way I set my DP. But that is something totally within my own control and now set the DP to a realist volume level for part of my practise time. (Of course, my ambition is to get a real piano in time.)

The nerves and anxiety to do my best is another matter though, but I joke with the teacher and that seems to ease the tension.
Posted by: MaryBee

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/20/10 11:18 AM

Originally Posted By: casinitaly
My teacher divides my playing into 2 parts - sometimes I play as the student, and then I play as the performer. I find that because she created these distinctions I feel more comfortable - I can tell her at the beginning of a lesson - ok, I'm still a student on this piece - or ok, I'm playing as a performer for you now!
That makes it easier. But then I get nervous when my teacher asks me to have a piece "performance-ready" for my next lesson.

Originally Posted By: casinitaly
I'm really new - less than 4 months - I expect to make mistakes .....in six months I will expect to make alot fewer mistakes.
Oh, no. You'll still be making a lot of mistakes, just on more difficult pieces! grin
Posted by: casinitaly

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/20/10 12:03 PM

Originally Posted By: MaryBee


Originally Posted By: casinitaly
I'm really new - less than 4 months - I expect to make mistakes .....in six months I will expect to make alot fewer mistakes.
Oh, no. You'll still be making a lot of mistakes, just on more difficult pieces! grin


Yes, of course! That's what I meant lol.

And actually my teacher doesn't stress me too much - I think she sees that I stress myself plenty - more than I should! She's trying to get me to lighten up and develop some realistic expectations. With the pieces she gives me I'd say about half of them I can usually "perform" for her at the end of a week, and the other half I need help with, and they take longer.
Posted by: Harpsichord

Re: your piano vs the teacher's piano, action and warmup - 04/21/10 06:36 AM

I thought i'm the only one having this problem. Yes unlike violinist or etc, they can carry their own instrument for lesson. For us, we have to adapt to it.

I will usually warm up before I go for my lesson like one of the user mention, scale, etc... and hannon.

I usually complain my teacher key is too soft while her other student complain it's too hard.

Haha I guess it's because my piano touch is heavier and crappier (I dunno how to explain but it's a second hand piano)