Chances to study without any teacher ?

Posted by: Kristina1

Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 04:54 AM


I am wondering if there is a realistic chance
for an adult-beginner to "get somewhere"
if they study alone...
(with the only help of books, Internet etc.),
if, because of their circumstances,
there is - unfortunately - no chance for them
to study with the guidance of a teacher ?

Even if they have to start to read & learn
everything from scratch ?

I am wondering, because it is so often pointed out
that "one needs a teacher to get somewhere" ?

But if there is no chance to have a teacher,
has it been known to be fruitful all the same in the long run?

Thanks from Kristina.
Posted by: JohnSprung

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 05:11 AM

I seem to be doing OK. I started with the Scott Houston book and lead sheets from Wikifonia. It's been a little over two years, and I have a few standards that I can play.

I do get pointers from other players once in a while.
Posted by: justpin

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 05:52 AM

Ever heard of Vangelis? He's self taught and still can't read music.

Macca plays piano and is self taught

*Hack spit * Justin Biebier is self taught.

The thing is the teacher is a guide to steer you away from your mistakes so you use your time more effectively. Therefore I consider them to be catalysts, somebody who increases the rate of your learning.

Like spotting your mistakes and bad techniques and seeing and pointing out where you are going wrong which you often cannot see yourself!

Myself I played for a number of months in an unstructured manner. I learnt some songs, could read most of the top stave (but only the top stave and only inside the ledger lines). In the year since lessons I've grown a lot faster than I could have alone.

I think thats the only difference.
Posted by: LarryShone

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 06:05 AM

I would hope so because I can't afford a teacher
Posted by: sinophilia

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 06:48 AM

I think it really depends on where is this "somewhere". If you want to perform in public and become a good interpreter of classical music you will need a teacher sooner or later, while if you just enjoy playing easy to intermediate stuff by yourself or for a few friends I think you can do well on your own. At least I hope so.
Posted by: scorpio

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 07:59 AM

Honestly, I think it depends on how you approach your studies. Without a teacher, the beginner piano student needs to have discipline, focus, patience, and time commitment. Additionally anyone learning needs to be able to get good sleep and understand they will be better at the piano the next day. This is a discipline where you can get discouraged quickly and easily.

I am without a teacher and think I am doing okay. But I have had to refocus several times to make sure I am not straying off the path. Small goals each week help with that.

Some students will feel lost without a teacher; they simply need someone to direct them. So it really depends on how you learn. Everyone is different.

Realistically you can do this without a teacher, but you also need to be realistic about how you go about it.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 09:21 AM

A teacher knows the repertoire and can suggest suitable material for them to teach and can spot flaws in your playing position and mechanical actions that might otherwise lead to injuries, sometimes sooner, sometimes later. Not everybody makes ergonomic mistakes. I taught myself for years and had no bad habits to unlearn when I started lessons. Couldn't read for toffees but no bad habits.

At least not related to piano! smile

Without a teacher you will learn more slowly. But it need not be less thoroughly. There are plenty of sites offering good sources of infomation and you're already a member of this forum, which is undoubtedly the next best thing to a teacher.

You might check out these places:

A compendium of practise methods

Some good tips

There are others.
Posted by: scorpio

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 10:32 AM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
You might check out these places:

A compendium of practise methods

Some good tips


Great links, thank you!
Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 11:08 AM

Kristina, you can certainly do this on your own. But if "circumstances" means you can't afford lessons with a teacher, consider creative options. Maybe you can arrange a barter arrangement with a teacher. I had an impoverished 20ish student propose that, and it worked just fine for a year: she did odd jobs and errands for me for about 3 hours a week in return for her weekly lesson.

Or you could just ask a teacher to give you a free 30 minute lesson once a month to guide you. I wouldn't refuse such a request if I liked the student and believed that he or she had no money. I think many piano teachers might be similarly receptive.
Posted by: MrPozor

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 11:45 AM

For me, the two main advantages of having a teacher is:

- Feedback on my playing. Sure I could play a piece back when I did not have a teacher but I was never sure whether it was correct and more importantly, how I could improve the playing (put more accent here, less staccato there etc.).

- Closure. When the teacher tells me that we can move on to the next piece I know that the previous piece is done. Without a teacher I would often learn several pieces at a time without real focus and without ever finishing anything.

That being said, I do think that it is possible to learn the piano without a teacher, it's just harder. There are so many great resources out there from Youtube to piano sites and this forum of course.
Posted by: CarlosCC

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 11:52 AM

I recognize that there are advantages of having a teacher but many of us can not do it (like me ...).

Learning alone is an adventure because you are... alone. You have to work "away" of the piano, collecting information on the Internet, studying every detail of the piece, listening tons of pieces, or asking for help in PW. At the same time you have to be able to recover (without expert help) of those moments of frustration we all go through.

One the other hand, you are free to choose what you want to play. For me, this is the major advantage of learning without a teacher.

In short, and looking at my experience, I think it is very worthwhile.
Posted by: scorpio

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 12:03 PM

Originally Posted By: CarlosCC
In short, and looking at my experience, I think it is very worthwhile.


I completely agree. I am more invested in my studies because I am doing this on my own. I read more, listen more, research more than I would have if I was following a teacher. Now, that is not to say a teacher would not be beneficial, for sure they would. After all I still plan to get a teacher. But I have thoroughly enjoyed the process so far as I explore this new world on my own.
Posted by: Starr Keys

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 01:06 PM

Originally Posted By: scorpio
Originally Posted By: CarlosCC
In short, and looking at my experience, I think it is very worthwhile.


I completely agree. I am more invested in my studies because I am doing this on my own. I read more, listen more, research more than I would have if I was following a teacher. Now, that is not to say a teacher would not be beneficial, for sure they would. After all I still plan to get a teacher. But I have thoroughly enjoyed the process so far as I explore this new world on my own.


+1. Thanks for saying everything I've felt to be true in the three years I've been posting here but somehow never quite managed to say. Though they may have their advantages, teachers can also breed dependence and kill initiative and block the possibility of creative and stylistic breakthroughs.

I am taking piano college courses for the first time, one because it focuses on helping people teach themselves using the Abersold improvisation materials, the other because it allows for regular live performance opportunities. There are some women in the performance class who study with the same teacher. They have the same strengths, but they also have the same weakness as players.

They are not open to deep harmonic analysis, are afraid to change anything on the sheet, even when playing popular music, and after many years with this teacher one told me was "strict", seem entrenched in their own set of bad habits, like depending too much on muscle memory and losing patterns when have to play pieces publically they've been playing for years. And they haven't been slowed down in being able to to improvise and or play music they create themselves on the fly, they have been programmed into never being able to do it, something that, on my own, I know I am well on my way to learning to be able to do.

Posted by: KBS1607

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 01:11 PM

Those links are great! I started a notebook for my lessons/practice. And all the different ways of practicing were eye-opening.
Posted by: Marco M

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 05:01 PM

Sombody here on the forum once said: The drawback for the self-taught student is, that he has the worst teacher.

Well, keep this in mind and stay very self critical with what you are doing. But you can do it! You can do it! You can do it! Just do it!
Try to record yourself as often as possible and carefully listen to what you have played, maybe send the recording to some friends (or the forum) and ask for feedback.
Posted by: Edtek

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 05:41 PM

I have read many comments here that a teacher is necessary to learn properly, advance, and prevent injuries.

After self teaching for a while (through Alfred 1 which I started in a senior group class) I tried lessons with a recommended teacher (many years of experience, MTNA, degree in music performance and pedogogy).

After a few weeks I had considerable pain in my left hand due to making quick jumps to 8th and 9th stretches in the pieces she gave me learn. If I slowed down in my home practice I could make the jumps without pain.

However my teacher complained that I did not play fast enough. She would do one hand and I would have to do the other hand in order to force me to play faster. The only other thing she seemed to do was point out mistakes (of which I was well aware and due to playing faster than I am capable of playing.)

I gave up the lessons and returned to self teaching. My hand pain went away in a few weeks and I am enjoying myself again.

PS: I think the tips in "Piano Practice Methods" are excellent. Many thanks for the link.
Posted by: LarryShone

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/22/13 06:18 PM

Originally Posted By: Marco M

Try to record yourself as often as possible and carefully listen to what you have played, maybe send the recording to some friends (or the forum) and ask for feedback.

Thats what I decided to do when learning guitar! Its useful and a great confidence boost! And boy does mine need boosting!
Posted by: 4evrBeginR

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/23/13 12:30 AM

Originally Posted By: Marco M
Sombody here on the forum once said: The drawback for the self-taught student is, that he has the worst teacher.


I did say somewhere here that if you are self-taught, then in fact, you are your own teacher. Actually, my teacher told me this, and she did not mean it in a negative way, realizing that for whatever reason many people simply cannot have a teacher, and that is fine.

Could you get "somewhere"? I think yes. There are a wide range of people though, some could go real far self-taught, then there are those who will go nowhere, with probably a wider group somewhere in between. I think learning piano is like climbing a mountain. If you climb just to see the view at the top, it will be a heck of a journey. If you climb the mountain because you enjoy the climb without regrets if you never reach the top, then you will get somewhere, certainly farther than if you didn't do it at all. If you had a guide, you get there faster with less effort, but a teacher is no guarantee of reaching "your goal".
Posted by: justpin

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/23/13 04:11 AM

Except its like hypnosis, it is you who allows yourself to be hyponotised. The other person with the shiny watch or whatever is just a guide, even if you have a teacher, the majority of the teaching and learning is done by yourself.

Lest you can have a Chopin like life with a live in teacher.

Looking at my log of hours. I've for 67 logged hours with my teacher.

I've logged around 750 hours alone.


I also learn pieces alone and only take the bar, just the bar I have trouble with to the teacher. At the moment its large 7 finger chords which need to be rolled.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/23/13 04:36 AM

I've come to learn that what's most important (more important than the best teacher in the entire world!) is...

















strong self-motivation. Without exception, this is what is, and has been, shared between all great pianists (and just great figures in general). Now obviously you need to approach things within reason, learning pieces of which you're capable (ideally capable of mastering), else there will never be success. If the motivation is there, then all that remains is to select and choose roads to go down, them preferably being in some way relevant to your particular end-goal. [begin analogy]The thing about walking such roads alone, though, is that you essentially start out without a flashlight (efficient practice tools) in what is a huge dark forest. Eventually you're likely to stumble across one on your own (through trial and error), but many quit before they do. Many teachers can select roads for you, and most teachers can hold your hand and walk you to the end of each road, but few ironically seem to think of simply providing you with a flashlight instead, allowing you to illuminate your own path down each road.[/end analogy] The instruction of a good teacher is but a single direction - but it is a reliable one. There are many examples of past musicians that successfully traversed their own big dark forests without the initial aid of a flashlight or the even the guidance of a wise teacher, but the fact remains that they were incomparably self-motivated. This quote explains it best: "The road to success is going from one failure to the next with undiminished enthusiasm."

If you can't find or get a teacher, then at least try and get a good book or two to sit down with and garner advice from; it will also help if you know what you wish to be able to do one day with this instrument. Though certainly not nearly the same experience as taking a physical lesson from the [experienced] author/teacher, there's still much that can be learned.
Posted by: rnaple

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/23/13 04:38 AM

I was going to learn myself. In doing so. I read a book titled: The Art of Practicing by Madeline Bruser. She had so much to say. I was impressed. I had to find a good teacher.

What I have is a very talented, accomplished performer. I am probably his only beginner. He understands much. He is invaluable to me. Even though we are rather running it like I'm going for whatever I can learn. We go over problems and my misunderstandings in the teaching. He is more like letting me teach myself. But making sure I don't goof up. At this low level, he doesn't need to control me much. We do lessons over Skype.

I do think you can do it. You at least need to read good books like I mentioned above. To give you understanding. Won't be as fast as a teacher. I think you can do it. Keep looking for really good books. Ones that give you understanding. You don't have to buy them. I'm sure the libraries in the UK are like here now. They can get you any book you want. From anywhere.
Posted by: Kristina1

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/23/13 05:45 AM

Thank you all very much for your extremely interesting and invaluable replies and the very important links, it is very much appreciated.

For a while now I have been alone, teaching myself and I feel I have reached a barrier beyond which I am unable to go without returning to the basics so that I can check whether or not I have missed something out which eventually was leading me to hit this barrier.

I have to be honest and strict and not kid myself.

I shall keep playing the pieces I have already studied, and I shall see whether I can improve.

But I have also bought myself the “Adult-All-In-One-Course”, "Alfred’s Basic Adult Beginner Piano Course", and I shall start today at page one to re-trace slowly and carefully
where I have gone wrong to hit this barrier which seems to “have cramped me up”.

I thank you all very much for your kind encouragement, your help and your very constructive suggestions,

kind regards from Kristina.

Posted by: Rickster

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/23/13 06:20 AM

I believe this is the most discussed topic on the ABF... teacher/no teacher.

We all seek advice, encouragement, direction, ideas, etc...

We all learn from others, without a doubt.

With that being said, I do not take lessons directly, one on one, and pay money for it, but I do have many teachers here and there, some here on PW.

I will say that not having direct, one on one lessons from a teacher, I probably have it all wrong. However, I do have my own unique style of playing, likely different from anyone elses. Don't know if others who hear me play like it, but I like it. :-)

Also, learning to play the piano is a never ending process... always learning and polishing what we already know.

All the best!

Rick
Posted by: dmd

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/23/13 09:48 AM

Originally Posted By: Kristina1
Thank you all very much for your extremely interesting and invaluable replies and the very important links, it is very much appreciated.

For a while now I have been alone, teaching myself and I feel I have reached a barrier beyond which I am unable to go without returning to the basics so that I can check whether or not I have missed something out which eventually was leading me to hit this barrier.

I have to be honest and strict and not kid myself.

I shall keep playing the pieces I have already studied, and I shall see whether I can improve.

But I have also bought myself the “Adult-All-In-One-Course”, "Alfred’s Basic Adult Beginner Piano Course", and I shall start today at page one to re-trace slowly and carefully
where I have gone wrong to hit this barrier which seems to “have cramped me up”.

I thank you all very much for your kind encouragement, your help and your very constructive suggestions,

kind regards from Kristina.




I got in here a little late but I want to add one more thing to this discussion.

I have found that the single most important factor in making real progress is staying with something until you can do it very well. I tend to get discouraged and move on to something else and that I find easier. Well, when you do that it takes you longer to break through to that next level.

That is what a teacher can do for you. A teacher can assure you that you can do it and help get you through it.

You can do that on your own also. It just seems harder to keep at it with no-one to push you through it.
Posted by: Starr Keys

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/23/13 10:13 AM

Originally Posted By: dmd

I got in here a little late but I want to add one more thing to this discussion.

I have found that the single most important factor in making real progress is staying with something until you can do it very well. I tend to get discouraged and move on to something else and that I find easier. Well, when you do that it takes you longer to break through to that next level.

That is what a teacher can do for you. A teacher can assure you that you can do it and help get you through it.

You can do that on your own also. It just seems harder to keep at it with no-one to push you through it.


I'm sure the right person can do that but I also know from personal experience that, as Edtek has suggested, the wrong teacher can do just the opposite; or as I have also experienced and those students I mentioned in my performance class show, a teacher can provide encouragement and help while creating bad habits or not providing the the skill set you need to achieve your goals. As Rick has said, you can get plenty of encouragement and help from many teachers offering help and advice online for free. Why rigidly accept a single type and risk that it be the wrong kind, while paying for the privilege?

BTW, Don, did you ever get that new keyboard? What did you finally decide on, the Roland 700nx or FP7F?
Posted by: LarryShone

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/23/13 10:43 AM

Hmm just out of curiosity, I wonder what the going rate for piano tuition is in England...?
Posted by: justpin

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/23/13 11:09 AM

The going rate is about £4-7 for 15 minutes. (South Manchester and Liverpool)

Which gets cheaper as you block book longer.

With varying experience levels and quality.

As with all industries you will get pish takers.

Sometimes super newly qualified teachers who just got their grade 8s or graduate degrees.

Some kite fliers who play piano as a hobby and decide to make a few extra quid. I know a couple of these people. Helen only teaches piano as a side job, she is only a grade 5. Another Helen who lives nearby is a grade 1, and tries to charge £25 an hour. These kite fliers often own seriously battered or out of tune pianos.

While Andy S, who's been teaching for 15 years and owns a Steinway and a couple of Chang pianos charges £21 for an hour IF you block book 15 lessons and pay in advance.


For a while I was taught by an old geezer, he was charging me about £10 for an hour, he was retired and had 10 students and had been teaching all his life. He retired though as he was starting to get past his prime (see my thread teachers bad day).

Before that I had an old woman who had a LOT of cats, I would give her £15 and get about 2 hours. There were cats EVERYWHERE which meant those 2 hours were more like a 80-85 minutes.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/23/13 03:46 PM

boy do I wish I had access to those rates here in California. Certainly not the place to live if you're broke!
Posted by: LarryShone

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/23/13 04:58 PM

I couldnt even afford those low rates! Not as high as I was expecting mind!
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/23/13 09:47 PM

I used to have an awesome professional sax teacher for several years for 45.00 for 45 minutes in about the 1989.

Leaving aside the fingering because it was a sax not the piano.

I learned to count the notes inside a measure because they have to add up.

I learned to count measures because I played in a band and I had to know when to play and not to play.

I learn to read the music and play slowly and without mistakes else you have to slow down to play it correctly - no exception.

I learned to listen to what I play because if you listen to yourself - as opposed to your ego - you will sadly hear your mistakes.

I learned to record myself because hearing what you play lets you hear how you really sound.

I am on a disability pension so I don't have the money for a teacher now, but playing the piano I have had over the life time had a few piano lessons so I know how important it is to have your hand and fingers operating properly. You can see a million videos for free on the internet of the best players doing their thing.

Critical - and I mean critical is to follow to the letter of the law a method book for good reason.

When you are learning something new, you know nothing and will fall in the dark. I am bias, as I have looked at every music method book in a large music store and without a doubt I find that the method piano book for me for the piano is John Thompson Modern course for the piano is safe, has nice pieces and a challenge with every piece.

All I have to do is open my piano book and crawl though a piece measure by measure over about three days and then I can usually in those 3 days get through the piece with few or no mistakes, else I slow down to no mistakes and then play it everyday several times a day for 20 minute periods and play my other pieces I know which I review day after day. It takes me many months of playing the pieces many times everyday playing it to the best of my ability without mistakes. It is a long slow process that is why you have to love the journey.

That is all there is to it. It is critical that you review your pieces because each piece teaches you something so it is critical that you play all your pieces all the time. That is why I can read the music because that I all I do is read music at the piano and play it. You don't look at your hands because there is no reason to. You know where your fingers are on the piano and you say the notes as you play them.


As I have said before, I my dyslexic, I memory problems and have had a stroke, so anyone can learn to play the piano if they follow the method book and play and practice without mistakes slowly.

I found this in a book called Smallwood's piano tutor:

Slow and even counting is essential.
Endeavour to maintain strict time in all exercises.
Correct fingering as shown must be used to ensure smooth playing.
Begin these exercises slowly and gradually increase speed. --------> DON'T memorise the sound, but
READ every note and play it as written with its correct time value.

So you can learn to play the piano without a teacher
if you don't try to cut corners because it will not work.

Remember, once you can play the 5 volumes of any method piano books taking several years, you can play anything else you want, but until then you must do everything well in the book as instructed and practice and review everyday without exception.

That is what a teacher would tell you, if you could afford one.
Posted by: dmd

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/23/13 10:50 PM

Michael_99:

BRAVO !!!!

I don't think I have ever heard a more convincing description of how to learn to play the piano. I do believe it is absolutely the truth.

Sadly, almost no-one does that. LOL ...

Everyone, including myself, tries to move too fast. They think they are going to speed up the learning process but soon find that it can't be done. Even, then, they continue to try ... until, in the end, some just give up. Hopefully, your words of wisdom will save a few.
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/24/13 02:48 AM

Thanks, Don, for your comments.
Posted by: Kristina1

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/24/13 07:12 AM


Thank you very much again for all your further replies.

I must say I can identify with Michael’s comments
and it echoes very much the way I approach my own playing now.

I tried to cut corners in the past because beginning as an adult from scratch
I had the feeling that I had lost so much time already
and therefore I was speeding along too fast - and then I came unstuck.

Now I can appreciate what Michael means and whether I like it or not
I have got to take my time and not cut corners.

This is especially important when one is learning without any teacher.

Thanks again to you all for your kind support and valuable comments

from Kristina.
Posted by: Starr Keys

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/24/13 12:20 PM

Originally Posted By: Kristina1

Thank you very much again for all your further replies.

I must say I can identify with Michael’s comments
and it echoes very much the way I approach my own playing now.

I tried to cut corners in the past because beginning as an adult from scratch
I had the feeling that I had lost so much time already
and therefore I was speeding along too fast - and then I came unstuck.


I cut corners all time. I owe developing my own eclectic style to it (as does I believe do Count Basie and others). That is, I rarely play a scale or practice a chord sequence or arpeggio in all keys (until two and half months ago that is when I started my jazz theory class, and even there I don't practice much outside of class).

The only book I've followed systematically was the very thin one that came with "Mastering Piano" which I completed in my first few months of self-learning almost four years ago. Since then, I've spent most of my self tutelage listening deeply to songs I want to play or sing and then cobbling together my own arrangements for them. If I can't play some sounds or changes the way I want, I experiment with coming up with other ways I can play them - this process has taught me and helped me to improve in ways that are satisfying to me.

If I never play like Horowitz or Tatum, I play like me, which is more gratifying for me than passing a "grade 5" where all I can do is transcribe someone else's style of playing. It also got me to the point where I could pass an audition for a college advanced piano class where half the students have been taking private lessons since they were four and everyone in the class has been playing much longer than I have. And I don't believe I would have gotten this far if I followed the precepts of the last two posts before yours.

Originally Posted By: Kristina
Now I can appreciate what Michael means and whether I like it or notI have got to take my time and not cut corners.
This is especially important when one is learning without any teacher.


Well, maybe your right. People have different learning styles (something some people repeatedly forget or refuse to acknowledge), but I have found for myself that sometimes the circuitous route is best and things you thought were a waste of time because you weren't ready for them proved to be invaluable to your process later or forced you to be creative in coming up with a facsimile or caricature of what you could later do in more detail.

Just my two cents. I wish you the best in find a way of working that works best for you. smile

Posted by: Kristina1

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/25/13 08:08 AM


Hello, Starr Keys,

Thanks for your input, it is very much appreciated and I shall think about it.

My aim is to play some Renaissance and Baroque keyboard music
because the music from these eras speaks very much to me
and I appreciate these compositions much more now
than I have in former years.

I love the ability of Renaissance and Baroque composers
to “get the mind away” and “give the mind a holiday”
from the rudiments of all-day-life.

Renaissance/Baroque music is unfortunately not much recorded
and I therefore aspire to read the scores as I do when I read a book -
and that takes a little longer as an adult beginner.

I feel that I cannot cut corners and I cannot yet allow my own free style
to intervene at this point when I am only just beginning
to learn this music.

Thanks again from Kristina.
Posted by: fizikisto

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/25/13 05:03 PM

Kristina,
The enemy to peak performance (for any athletic endeavor, including playing the piano) is tension. This is the most important thing a teacher can help you with, imo. Tension can rear its ugly head in a myriad of ways both subtle and not so subtle. A good teacher can watch you and see signs of this unwanted enemy. My advice is to frequently play through a piece not only slowly but without even worrying about tempo or dynamics or anything but relaxation. Play the notes, and during/after each motion examine your body. How's my posture? Is my pinky finger rising when I strike a key with my other fingers? Is my thumb wandering off the keys? Are my elbows lifting up and flaying out to the sides? Is there tension in my neck? In my shoulder? Is my jaw tightened? Am I breathing? Am I relaxed?

The ultimate goal should be to use only the muscles required for a particular movement and no other muscles. If you can film yourself (even with your cell phone) that can be useful for spotting some of these clues.

People say that practice makes perfect. Unfortunately (or fortunately) that's not really true. It's better to say, "practice makes permanent." If you practice with habits of tension in your body, you possibly set a ceiling of how far you can reach on your piano journey. Train your body to tense only the needed muscles, and only for the instant that the tension is needed to play the notes (then relax). Otherwise your body should be relaxed through and through (relaxed, not collapsed). If you can play in a relaxed fashion, you can play (and practice) for longer periods of time. If you can't, tension will stop you from reaching your goals, or at least make them much harder to reach. In severe cases, this kind of unnecessary tension can even lead to serious injury (lots of pianists need surgery to correct carpal tunnel syndrome, for example).

Really try to pay attention to your body and cultivate an awareness of tension. Only then can you begin to release it (and even that isn't always easy).

Hopefully some good food for thought there. smile

Warm Regards
Posted by: Starr Keys

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/25/13 06:46 PM

Quote:
My aim is to play some Renaissance and Baroque keyboard music
because the music from these eras speaks very much to me
and I appreciate these compositions much more now
than I have in former years.

I love the ability of Renaissance and Baroque composers
to “get the mind away” and “give the mind a holiday”
from the rudiments of all-day-life.

Hi Kristina,

Thank you for your kind and courteous reply. Your initial post said nothing about your interest in a particular style. I understand your feeling about it though. I feel the same way about the cocktail piano style. I find it relaxing and transportive to a slower more romantic world. And I definitely believe the key to success with playing any style is relaxation.

I think, given your goals, Michael's advice is very good for you. I had piano lessons as child and hated John Thompson and some of the techniques for learning those pieces that Michael described, so it wouldn't be good for me.

Just keep in mind that people did improvise a lot during the Baroque period and based on my recent experience with a Jazz improvisation class, it's a great way to learn your music thoroughly so that you never lose your harmonic frame of reference while your playing. Even the classical pianist who teaches my performance class has students change time signatures or improvise on melodies to accomplish this goal with their classical pieces, which is why I think its a good idea to experiment with it and not to be afraid to create your own exercises to challenge yourself outside whatever method book you are using.
Posted by: Kristina1

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/26/13 07:00 AM


Thank you very much, fizikisto, for your input about tension.

After reading your explanation about tension
I played on my piano and realized that my little finger
on my right hand stood “out in the air”
and that might have had a very bad effect
to first stiffen my shoulders
and then getting me eventually unstuck.

I am now in the process to “unlearn” this bad habit
and I thank you very much again for pointing out
these very important matters.

Thanks again for your thoughts, Starr Keys.
It is true that keyboard performers improvised a lot
in Baroque and Renaissance times when the composer left it
“according to the taste “ of the performer as how to
embellish the compositions whilst performing them.

I have to learn a lot before I get to that stage,
and I shall keep it in mind
to make sure that I am not getting “too stiff”
and be afraid of any little improvisation.

Could you please give me some details about the author
and publisher of the book and pamphlet of “Master in Piano” ?

Thanks again for your assistance and kind regards from Kristina.
Posted by: wouter79

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/26/13 10:20 AM

I have a good (I think smile ) teacher and I think it helps me both in the quality of the end result (think like 3 times better in the details), it helps me keeping on it and hearing the places to work on and the right order (you can't work on all at once IMHO), and it helps me getting there faster (200% ? 300% ?). And it saves a lot of frustration by learning as many things as possible correctly right away.

So I think you can gain a lot by taking a good teacher.

And I believe I'm a pretty fast learner.

Or stated differently, I think for most people, chances without teacher are very slim, unless they set the target really low.
Posted by: Starr Keys

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/26/13 05:14 PM

Originally Posted By: Kristina
Could you please give me some details about the author
and publisher of the book and pamphlet of “Master in Piano” ?


Correction, the name of the self-learning course is Learn and Master Piano and the slim booklet I referred to is the one that comes with it. Though it includes some classical pieces, it is more geared to learning more modern styles and accompaniment patterns.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-LEGACY-LEARN...=item1c1d360193

Originally Posted By: wouter79
I think you can gain a lot by taking a good teacher.

And I believe I'm a pretty fast learner.

Or stated differently, I think for most people, chances without teacher are very slim, unless they set the target really low.


Please do not let yourself be discouraged or disheartened by what wouter says about the inefficacy of self-teaching. His expectations are so high that what he calls "really low" expectations would probably be above average ones for most people. Also, I find his attitude in this post and previous ones to vie dangerously close to the mindset critiqued in this article in the Oxford Press, which most people seem to reject, since almost no one bought the next book by the author on the subject discussed, nor even bothered to review it.

http://www.oxonianreview.org/issues/2-3/2-3-6.htm




Posted by: wouter79

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/26/13 05:21 PM

Starr Keys,

Yes it's true, I have pretty high expectations so what I call "really low" may be perfectly adequate for many.

>Also, I find his attitude in this post and previous ones to vie dangerously close to the mindset critiqued in this article in the Oxford Press

I don't quite follow you here. Which previous posts? And what's the mindset of that article?
Posted by: Starr Keys

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/26/13 05:33 PM

Wouter, I hardly believe that even you could have had adequate time to read and reflect on the content of the article since I posted it. When show me evidence you have, I'll take the time to go back over your posts based on the general sense that the emotion I had reading your new one evoked of memories of similar reactions I had to reading your posts in the past.
Posted by: wower

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/26/13 06:05 PM

Originally Posted By: wouter79
I think for most people, chances without teacher are very slim, unless they set the target really low.


I've been watching this thread with great interest as I've long been a fan of autodidacticism and am always in favour of encouraging other students whom are perhaps not in a position to have a teacher. I see both sides of the argument and feel in my own life there are some very strong - abet specific - reasons I'd love to have a teacher. I'm mature enough to know I bring more self-motivation and work ethic than average, but that said, as a general rule of thumb, sans the "low target" quip, I agree with wouter79 and would be confident making predictions on others' chances of success on similar grounds.

Quote:
He implies that his aesthetic judgements are objectively valid since his description of classical music's formal properties are objectively valid.


As for Starr Key's persistence in reading the article, I did read it and unfortunately could find little connection to the subject at hand. The whole economic angel completely lost me. Reflecting on the article at hand - with such memorable quotes as above - gave me the impression this distinguished Oxford lecturer was desirous of letting the world know how awesome he was for liking classical music. And while I do agree with one of the articles' premises, that classical music is objectively more complex (and I do like classical music), the threshold of me caring what on earth people whom I've never met before think of me liking classical is so so much lower.

That said, hopefully the OP has found the thread useful. I will try to bullet point my personal pros and cons of teachers later. Good luck.
Posted by: Starr Keys

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/26/13 08:19 PM

Originally Posted By: wower
As for Starr Key's persistence in reading the article, I did read it and unfortunately could find little connection to the subject at hand. The whole economic angel completely lost me.


I am only persistent in having Wouter read the article, as he has a habit of firing questions at you that demand time and persistence to answer, and I wanted him to know how it felt. I will explain the connection.

Leaving the economic and political angles aside, the latter which, in addition to religion, I'm told we should avoid speaking about around here, the connection is between the "perfectionist" agenda of the author in insisting that the value of certain kinds of music and its academy pedagogy has a higher value to all of us than other kinds of music and the people who think this is elitist crap. Not entirely unlike Wouter's, is that his expectations for acquiring the skill to play that music very well should represent an absolute value for the highest achievement in the relationship between music and the individual.

While the precision skills that Wouter must acquire for playing Hyden and Mozart to his expectations may not be worthless to someone to whose soul Indie Rock speaks or who wants to learn to shape a melodic line in their accompaniment so that their vocal can be different from the original or other covers of a song, or even someone who wants to lose themselves in the time and place evoked by a Renaissance ronde, they may be superfluous or even useless if they don't discover how to translate something one can't get from a teacher in the process, which I would call "the expectation of joy". Combine this with the sense of achievement for having done it all on one's own and finding people who can appreciate what one has done, I call that valuable.
Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/27/13 12:17 AM

There is another mode of learning the piano as an adult: primarily self-directed playing companioned with the occasional weeklong residential course to guide and spur one along.

There has been plenty of favorable PW discussion about the effectiveness of such retreats. Here are 3 I am aware of: each program is located in a lovely rural New England setting, each program is small, and each welcomes the adult beginner or early-intermediate player wholeheartedly and without audition. Their durations are 5-10 days, and their costs are similar.

www.summerkeys.com in Maine
www.sonatina.com in Vermont
www.pianoretreat.wordpress.com in Massachusetts

I have good vibes about the first two programs, and they each offer several retreats per year. By contrast, the last-listed workshop is confined to one week only. As many of you know, I am a teacher and codirector of this one, the Midsummer Adult Piano Retreat on the campus of Williams College in Willimastown, MA. My fellow teachers/directors are Alison Barr and Debi Fishbein Adams, each a well-regarded independent teacher in the Boston area.

This July will be our 8th annual workshop, and PW has had a hand in our success.
Posted by: Kristina1

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/27/13 05:40 AM

Hello, Wouter,
You are very lucky indeed to have a good teacher;
unfortunately I have not had such luck
and I have to do the best I can do by learning on my own.
Of course I am aware that that it might take me much longer
but I do hope I have a chance and succeed.
I wish you all the best from Kristina.

Thank you again, Starr Keys for your kind encouragement
and for the details of the course “Learn and Master Piano”
and the slim booklet, it is very much appreciated.
Best wishes from Kristina.

Thank you, Peter K. Mose for the information
on the programs you mention, unfortunately I am not aware
of such Programs here in the UK
and it is not possible for me to travel.

Thanks for letting me know, kind regards from Kristina.
Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/27/13 11:04 AM

Originally Posted By: Kristina1
Hello, Wouter,
You are very lucky indeed to have a good teacher;
unfortunately I have not had such luck
and I have to do the best I can do by learning on my own.
Of course I am aware that that it might take me much longer
but I do hope I have a chance and succeed.


Thank you, Peter K. Mose for the information
on the programs you mention, unfortunately I am not aware
of such Programs here in the UK
and it is not possible for me to travel.




Kristina, forgive me for not knowing about similar programs in Britain, but they do exist. You could have a blast attending one, and they might even offer scholarships.

You are correct that it is difficult to find a teacher who works well with adult learners. They tend to be less well known than successful piano teachers of kids. Don't give up looking, but also don't settle for someone who is not right for you.

Kind regards,
Peter
Posted by: wower

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/27/13 02:52 PM

Originally Posted By: Starr Keys
I am only persistent in having Wouter read the article.


Ah. And therein lies your first mistake. The topics of other threads don't always interest me and thus I rarely enter as it's only fair to let those who do wish to participate their freedom to enjoy the topic. This topic piqued my interest, therefore my exposure to Wouter is restricted to this narrow slice, which, in this case, I happen to agree with, putting you, I'm afraid, on the other side of this argument.

Originally Posted By: Starr Keys
Leaving the economic and political angles aside.

Uh? Hello? That was like +75% of a long article. Why did you post it then? If you have a point to make, please make it clearly and concisely. I'm busy practicing piano.

Originally Posted By: Starr Keys
They may be superfluous or even useless if they don't discover how to translate something one can't get from a teacher in the process, which I would call "the expectation of joy".


Ah, the argument to the transcendental: There is something about music that is so special, so inexpressible, that it defies to be taught. Perhaps it's my hard-nosed pragmatism but here I think your point unravels. The obligation is on yourself to prove this quality exists, not myself to prove its non-existence. However, my main question, is that if this quality is so special it can't be taught, doesn't this make it a poor candidate to be learnt in the first place? In fact, extending the argument further, doesn't its mere intangibility limit the idea's very communication?

I find myself surprised at taking this position as normally I'm rather sacrilegious when it comes to the need of one having a teacher because the fact remains the piano is a physical object. And things about the piano can be communicated, and thus learnt, and thus even taught. I'm unsure what brought Starry Keys to such a low opinion of teachers but I think the statement "the things that can't be taught about music" is false. I think the history of music - and even this forum - are filled with amazing teachers ready to guide willing students to musical nirvana. It can be taught.

[A note on why it's important to accept everything about music can be taught (except perhaps a love of practicing): Beyond the physical nature of the instrument, I find it difficult to believe one could ever ask the correct questions to improve one's playing while reasoning there is something supernatural and intangible involved.]

Originally Posted By: Starr Keys
Combine this with the sense of achievement for having done it all on one's own and finding people who can appreciate what one has done, I call that valuable.


The above quote is as good a point as any to introduce a fundamental idea I use in learning the piano: One doesn't do it alone. Not in the slightest. Best to accept that all ideas come from somewhere. I am at peace with myself when I accept that while I do not have a weekly teacher - I actually have many teachers! smile I think of all the musical history books I've read, posts of teachers on PW, masterclasses watched, piano camps attended, have all contributed to a respectable piano education in my opinion. The real trick is seeing the value in utilizing many teachers, not just one. One should never love their theories and if I didn't feel this path was working - was no longer bringing results - I would be the first to toss it. On a final note, I do agree in a sense of achievement, but it's not from doing it alone. I am my own worse enemy. I'm happy to have simply beat the odds by drawing upon my own well of hard work and effort.
Posted by: Starr Keys

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/27/13 08:25 PM

Originally Posted By: Starr Keys
Leaving the economic and political angles aside.

Originally Posted By: wower
Uh? Hello? That was like +75% of a long article. Why did you post it then? If you have a point to make, please make it clearly and concisely. I'm busy practicing piano.


I think you and I have interpreted the article differently, but I don't think the reason is that 75% of it is about economics and politics. These were not the main thrust of the the editorial thesis but part of a set of examples of how imposing values based on Utopian idealism associated with an art form can lead to the imposition of those values on others in every institution, artistic, academic, religious, economic and political. This is not a new argument (nor haven't examples been drawn from culture and classical music before, Nazi Germany and its use of Wagner is one good example.), so I don't think it's necessary to understand the analysis applied in detail to every example in the article to get its point.

Originally Posted By: wower

Ah, the argument to the transcendental: There is something about music that is so special, so inexpressible, that it defies to be taught. Perhaps it's my hard-nosed pragmatism but here I think your point unravels. The obligation is on yourself to prove this quality exists, not myself to prove its non-existence. However, my main question, is that if this quality is so special it can't be taught, doesn't this make it a poor candidate to be learnt in the first place? In fact, extending the argument further, doesn't its mere intangibility limit the idea's very communication?….I find myself surprised at taking this position as normally I'm rather sacrilegious when it comes to the need of one having a teacher because the fact remains the piano is a physical object. And things about the piano can be communicated, and thus learnt, and thus even taught. I'm unsure what brought Starry Keys to such a low opinion of teachers but I think the statement "the things that can't be taught about music" is false. I think the history of music - and even this forum - are filled with amazing teachers ready to guide willing students to musical nirvana. It can be taught.
[A note on why it's important to accept everything about music can be taught (except perhaps a love of practicing)



I was not talking about anything transcendental or mystical when I referred to the thing that can't be learned. I was talking about an enthusiasm, an deep instinctual response to certain types of music that can obsess or possess one enough to develop the thing that both you and I agree can't be guaranteed one will develop with a teacher, the love of practice. I know because I haven't gotten it from any private teacher, and there have been several attempts, both imposed on me by others and self-imposed at doing so. So, I'm not arguing that music can't be taught, but stating that it doesn't matter if the way it's taught and the content of what is taught doesn't develop this love of practice.

I did get it from my attempt to translate ideas I gathered and applied and compared and extrapolated from online discussions "on my own" in attempt to play the kind of music I wanted to play the way I wanted to play it. Sure, of course no one does it all on their own, we'd be wild animals without exposure to language and culture, but that doesn't mean that there aren't differences in our relationship to language and culture that can't render us free agents (freedom of course being a relative term allowing us autonomy to choose between more than one course of action that suits us better as individuals) or slaves.

One can respond more profoundly to one art form than another, for other reasons than it being god-inspired--nurture, nature, you name it. It was the author of the book who made this argument for his art form's superiority and devotion to it being based in its spiritual and transcendental potential, not mine. And sure one can be educated to respond more appreciatively to an art form than one necessarily would by temperament or background, but that doesn't negate the value of a deep response to something over something else nor take away from the beauty or power that one experiences or the impulse to possess it in the form of what is responded to. Nor do all the music appreciation lessons and good intentioned teachers guarantee that that person will value it enough to do what is involved in mastering it. There are plenty of students of piano teachers who after years of lessons can't play as well as self taught students, or worse, don't play well at all.

In my experience, the early enthusiasm of my response carried me much further and provided a lot more focus and attention than lessons did, the kind of focus and attention that enabled me to develop a process which if I didn't do anything but read these boards I know is very different from the way many people go about pursuing their musical goals, but one that's kept me practicing and motivated and brought not only me joy, but some of those around me. Like you, I feel I've beat the odds by drawing on my own hard work and effort.
Posted by: Sand Tiger

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/27/13 10:01 PM

StarrKeys hit it right. Can't teach enthusiasm, passion, or joy. A teacher can show a student certain things, hoping to ignite passion, or bring joy, or motivate a student more, but it may or may not happen.

As for the original topic, the 2012 survey has about half currently taking lessons, and about half never ever having lessons.
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1926827/1.html

I'd say that dooming half the forum is quite the broad stroke. Some of the half without teachers play very well, at a high amateur level. While that half may not reach the goals set by some, many will achieve and surpass their own lofty goals.
Posted by: wower

Re: Chances to study without any teacher ? - 03/28/13 12:32 AM

Originally Posted By: Starr Keys
I was not talking about anything transcendental or mystical when I referred to the thing that can't be learned. I was talking about an enthusiasm, an deep instinctual response to certain types of music that can obsess or possess one enough to develop the thing that both you and I agree can't be guaranteed one will develop with a teacher, the love of practice. I know because I haven't gotten it from any private teacher, and there have been several attempts, both imposed on me by others and self-imposed at doing so. So, I'm not arguing that music can't be taught, but stating that it doesn't matter if the way it's taught and the content of what is taught doesn't develop this love of practice.

I did get it from my attempt to translate ideas I gathered and applied and compared and extrapolated from online discussions "on my own" in attempt to play the kind of music I wanted to play the way I wanted to play it. Sure, of course no one does it all on their own, we'd be wild animals without exposure to language and culture, but that doesn't mean that there aren't differences in our relationship to language and culture that can't render us free agents (freedom of course being a relative term allowing us autonomy to choose between more than one course of action that suits us better as individuals) or slaves.

One can respond more profoundly to one art form than another, for other reasons than it being god-inspired--nurture, nature, you name it. It was the author of the book who made this argument for his art form's superiority and devotion to it being based in its spiritual and transcendental potential, not mine. And sure one can be educated to respond more appreciatively to an art form than one necessarily would by temperament or background, but that doesn't negate the value of a deep response to something over something else nor take away from the beauty or power that one experiences or the impulse to possess it in the form of what is responded to. Nor do all the music appreciation lessons and good intentioned teachers guarantee that that person will value it enough to do what is involved in mastering it. There are plenty of students of piano teachers who after years of lessons can't play as well as self taught students, or worse, don't play well at all.

In my experience, the early enthusiasm of my response carried me much further and provided a lot more focus and attention than lessons did, the kind of focus and attention that enabled me to develop a process which if I didn't do anything but read these boards I know is very different from the way many people go about pursuing their musical goals, but one that's kept me practicing and motivated and brought not only me joy, but some of those around me. Like you, I feel I've beat the odds by drawing on my own hard work and effort.


Ok. Looks promising. I like complicated things but can't read this all this tonight. As a way of a rebuttal please see my orignal post which I think some simple ideas were missed. And I, on the other hand, promise to read an equivalent amount of text in this great book I'm reading. smile