Question from a teacher

Posted by: Gisele

Question from a teacher - 02/27/13 10:12 AM

I have an adult student who started recently. He told me that he likes scales/chords/etc but now that he is playing baroque pieces which he absolutely loves, he seems to have no time for those scales!!

I was thinking of Dozen a Day but my experience with adult students is slightly limited . What sort of finger exercises do you prefer or would you recommend?

Thanks!
Posted by: Andy Platt

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/27/13 10:27 AM

There is a Teacher's forum too which you might get some helpful advice from.

Have you talked to him about breaking his practice into sections, having some dedicated technical (scales, arpeggios, etc?) It sounds like he is just more interested in the repertoire - well, yup, I like desert too but I know I can't just eat that to have a balanced meal wink

After I went through all major / minor scales with my teacher we've been doing arpeggios and scale variations. My teacher likes Peskanov's "Broken Chords" (from his Russian Technical Regimen series) so we've been working through those as well as doing Grand arpeggios and scales in thirds and sixths.

Prior to that we did some Hanon; we're trying to decide what to do next: I can't remember what we decided - Liszt's Technical Exercises I think. That will be in a few weeks so I suppose I'll remember then wink
Posted by: Derulux

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/27/13 10:35 AM

Does he need to practice scales?
Posted by: Ben Crosland

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/27/13 10:49 AM

A Dozen A Day is great for any age group in my experience
Posted by: Charles Cohen

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/27/13 11:44 AM

How about some alternative exercises -- not "scales", but giving similar kinds of mental exercise:

. . . Transposing Hanon (Book 1) to all major keys

I'm coming back to piano after many years, and find that scales are very nice:

. . . there is little strain on the mind or
. . . the memory;

. . . there is only one rule:

. . . . Thou shalt play absolutely evenly.

"Scale practice" has become a meditation exercise.

I don't know if you can sell that to your student. If he/she is playing lots of Baroque stuff, there may be enough scale-work _in the keys it's written in_ to keep him/her learning, and happy.

. charles
Posted by: Derulux

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/27/13 11:52 AM

Originally Posted By: Charles Cohen
If he/she is playing lots of Baroque stuff, there may be enough scale-work _in the keys it's written in_ to keep him/her learning, and happy.

My first thought, exactly.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/27/13 12:28 PM

Originally Posted By: Gisele
I have an adult student who started recently. He told me that he likes scales/chords/etc but now that he is playing baroque pieces which he absolutely loves, he seems to have no time for those scales!!

Part of learning with teacher involves learning how to practice and how to work. He is not a child, and you should not have to bend over backward to find ways he will find interesting, otherwise he won't do it. Work with him on how he might divide up his practice time, set goals, and what he needs to do in each practice session and within the week to get there.
Posted by: Gisele

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/27/13 12:34 PM

No, he doesn't need to practice scales. He just wants to learn them to figure out how major scales are related, etc., so it makes practical sense to him, if you know what I mean.

I want him to practice finger exercises just to warm up his fingers.

Gisele
Posted by: keystring

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/27/13 12:37 PM

I see. I misunderstood the question. Thank you.
Posted by: Derulux

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/27/13 01:16 PM

Originally Posted By: Gisele
No, he doesn't need to practice scales. He just wants to learn them to figure out how major scales are related, etc., so it makes practical sense to him, if you know what I mean.

I want him to practice finger exercises just to warm up his fingers.

Gisele

I think Charles' suggestion that he will get enough scale practice in Baroque music is dead-on.

For learning the relation between scales, a dose of theory and improvisation might do him better than repeating scales day after day.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/27/13 01:27 PM

I actually don't understand "warming up fingers", or "finger exercises" since playing is not just done with the fingers. Can you explain what you mean?

I agree with others who suggested that this question would be better put to the teachers in the teacher forum.
Posted by: Andy Platt

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/27/13 01:50 PM

Everyone has their own ideas about whether technical exercises are useful and whether that constitutes a warm up.

For me technical exercises have proved extremely useful. In no single piece have I found something that will get me up and down the keyboard in all keys in a manner I can remember. Plus I found separating out the technical from the musical (not saying technical exercises shouldn't be musical, but it's simple music) allowed me to focus better.

But I don't do that for warm up. Sight reading is my warm-up. I find it engages the whole of me in a better manner than technique.
Posted by: AimeeO

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/27/13 02:04 PM

My teacher has me do Hanon with a goal of a certain speed. I find that a specified goal motivates me, and it has helped correct the atrocious technique I developed while trying to teach myself before I got a teacher.
Posted by: JimF

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/27/13 04:58 PM

Gisele,

My teacher had me do the first three books of dozen a day. But that was in addition to scales work. We then did about half of book four before switching to Hannon for warm up exercises.
Posted by: Charles Cohen

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/28/13 01:18 AM

Originally Posted By: Gisele
No, he doesn't need to practice scales. He just wants to learn them to figure out how major scales are related, etc., so it makes practical sense to him, if you know what I mean.

I want him to practice finger exercises just to warm up his fingers.

Gisele


So there are two separate issues:

. . . _playing_ scales (that's a finger-skill problem)

. . . _understanding_ scales (that's a "music theory" problem).

It's certainly possible to learn scale _theory_, without developing the finger-skills to play scales quickly and evenly.

I don't teach, but as an adult student I'd suggest this:

. . . Teach him as much theory as he can take.

He'll eventually figure out that playing scales is an important skill to have, if he wants to play music (Baroque or otherwise).

We all learn differently, and want to learn different things. Things often even-out over time.

. Charles
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/28/13 08:57 AM

Originally Posted By: Gisele
I have an adult student who started recently. He told me that he likes scales/chords/etc but now that he is playing baroque pieces which he absolutely loves, he seems to have no time for those scales!!

I was thinking of Dozen a Day but my experience with adult students is slightly limited .

Gisele, what would you assign to your child students in this circumstance? Why would you assign things differently to your adult student?
Posted by: A Rebours

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/28/13 02:04 PM

[quote=Gisele]I have an adult student who started recently. He told me that he likes scales/chords/etc but now that he is playing baroque pieces which he absolutely loves, he seems to have no time for those scales!! / quote]

I'm an adult student and my teacher and I work through the Circle of Fifths, adding more octaves and rhythmic patterns and speed each time around. We do major and minor. We also do theory and apply it to the pieces I am working on.

In addition we work on the scales as they relate to the pieces I am working on.

When I practice when I change from one piece to another I will do the scale of the piece I will be working on next. This helps get my mind out of the old piece into the next.

You can also help your student identify scale patterns within the work(s) he is working on. This helps facilitate faster reading and makes playing these parts of a piece easier. It also helps in memorizing a piece.

Lots of reasons for scale practice, these are just a few.

A R
Posted by: HalfStep

Re: Question from a teacher - 02/28/13 10:25 PM

My teacher does not promote scales with me. I am learning the theory as it applies to the pieces I am playing. My daughter does them though. I am more of an applied learner anyway. Maybe it's different for adults. It reminds me of the academic argument of rote math facts or bigger mathematical concepts. With the latter, you get a better understanding of the rote or topical knowledge as it's applied. I wonder if I should be working on scales? My kid also does Hanon; I do not.
Posted by: Charles Cohen

Re: Question from a teacher - 03/01/13 12:55 PM

Originally Posted By: HalfStep
. . . I am more of an applied learner anyway. Maybe it's different for adults. It reminds me of the academic argument of rote math facts or bigger mathematical concepts. With the latter, you get a better understanding of the rote or topical knowledge as it's applied. I wonder if I should be working on scales? My kid also does Hanon; I do not.


I have been practicing Mozart's sonata K 545. Almost everything in the first movement reduces to:

. . . scales;

. . . arpeggios;

. . . trills.

For somebody who can play those -- because he's practiced them as a part of "technique development" -- putting them together into "Mozart" won't be too difficult. [I'm leaving out considerations of musicality and expression -- you must get the notes right, and the tempo even, before you worry about that stuff.]

For somebody who starts the piece "from scratch", without that technical foundation, life is going to be much harder!

It's up to you whether you learn scales _while_ playing K 545, or _before_ playing K 545. But you _will_ learn them!<g>

Adults _are_ different in their learning styles and goals, but the demands of the music don't change.

. Charles

PS -- I seem to be taking a "hard line", here -- I didn't realize I was such a pedagogical conservative!<g>
Posted by: A Rebours

Re: Question from a teacher - 03/01/13 01:41 PM

Originally Posted By: HalfStep
My teacher does not promote scales with me.... I wonder if I should be working on scales? My kid also does Hanon; I do not.


It is up to you whether you find value in them or not.

My teacher worked with me from the outset with scales, their chord progressions, arpeggios and most recently trill exercises that use each pair of fingers (1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5) and octave scales. I have found that my fluidity in playing scale passages and octave passages when they occur in the music is second nature now. They just happen with no effort. I also do Hanon. I have found that they help with my finger and hand rotation motor skills that is helping to speed things up. My left hand tends to be slower than my right and so I work on just the left hand of the exercise a few extra times before I do hands together. The left hand is becoming more conditioned and equal to my right.

I told my teacher that I wanted to be taught the technical foundation she would normally teach to her school age through high school students that took them to the advanced literature which prepared them to enter into a music program in college.

I really want to learn everything it takes to become a proficient credible pianist and not have deficiencies in technique hold me back.

These are my goals. Everyone has their own goals which are different from mine.

I know some teachers approach adults as if they are dabblers in a hobby and assume that all adults fit the same mold.

You might want to discuss with your teacher if he/she teaches the same technical skills to adults as she does her school age students but in a different way. Or whether he/she thinks adults want just enough of the basics to play at a particular level or a particular style of music. If you find you want more than what you are doing now, then you can tell your teacher what your goals are and ask what you can do to achieve your goals. I have found that the more I learn the more my goals evolve and we continue to add new skills.

A R
Posted by: A Rebours

Re: Question from a teacher - 03/01/13 01:56 PM

Originally Posted By: Charles Cohen


I have been practicing Mozart's sonata K 545. Almost everything in the first movement reduces to:

. . . scales;

. . . arpeggios;

. . . trills.

For somebody who can play those -- because he's practiced them as a part of "technique development" -- putting them together into "Mozart" won't be too difficult.....

For somebody who starts the piece "from scratch", without that technical foundation, life is going to be much harder!.....

Adults _are_ different in their learning styles and goals, but the demands of the music don't change.

Charles


+1

As Charles points out, music compositions are made out of scale patterns, chord progressions, ornamentation, rhythmic patterns, fragments of scales, repetitions, etc. The more you recognize these things in a piece and can play them with ease it gives you an efficient way to learn the piece. Your practice time will be spent on working out the most difficult sections of a piece rather than struggling with the entire piece. When you have facility in the fundamental technical skills and they become second nature, when you see them in a piece of music you will be accustomed to them as being the easy parts of the piece and you will spend less time on them and more time on the hard parts.


A R