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Author Topic: Bernhard Syllabus  (Read 5431 times)
Daniel_piano
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« on: June 29, 2004, 12:51:44 AM »

I searched through the whole board and I didn't find any similar question ...
So I hope to contribute in a original way to the lack of new interesting posts that seems to have passed on to the piano board
(btw, there's no limit, no end life is a cycle; nothing can be new forever but anytime it reappears on the time line there's something new, something never seen or understood to be found ... innovation is not getting something new everyday or every year but finding a new application for something old ... rediscovering with the present eyes what has already been existing.. 'cause of course anything has always been existing and always be)

That being said I've a question for Bernhard
Once you said , quite underhandly, that your students learn much faster compared to ABRSM or whatever syllabus
In fact you said that a grade 7 (that's seven years of lessons) Beethoven Appassionata was learned by your students after just 2 years of lessons

So, I'm really interested in knowing your ideal syllabus
I mean if you were the one to compile a syllabus with graded piece to be teached with your method what it would look like ?

I can only imagine that at your syllabus grade 4 would be put pieces that are grade 9 or 10
So could you please compile your own syllabus according to your experience of how much fast can some pieces learned compared to the academic boring method ... I'm really curious

Daniel

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bernhard
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« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2004, 03:17:25 AM »

Er…

I am a private teacher, not an institution (at least not yet). Grin

As a consequence, my teaching is completely tailored to the student’s wishes. Therefore I do not have a general syllabus. Instead I try to give my students the resources they need to achieve their goals.

The main reason my students progress quickly has little to do with syllabuses or even with me. I believe it has to do with the fact that instead of having one 30 minutes lesson per week, they have lessons everyday for the first 3 – 6 months.

Have a look here for a more detailed description of the way I teach:

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=teac;action=display;num=1076294560


Also I do not teach concert pianists. I do much more basic work. If someone wants to be a concert pianist, besides playing flawlessly, they need a number of other skills that are really beyond my abilities to impart (and also I have no interest in them). Things like: how to deal with different hall acoustics; how to deal with different pianos, how to work with an orchestra. Above all, having connections that will further someone’s career. I basically concentrate and stop at the “playing flawlessly level”.

Also, as you may have noticed I have peculiar ideas. One of them is that I do not believe institutional teaching is the best. I prefer the apprenticeship system.

I also believe that no one is going to bother putting the necessary work towards something they do not passionately want.

So my first step is always to figure out which pieces a student would go to hell in order to learn. This is the most difficult step. Once this has been sorted out everything else becomes easy.

If I was asked about the ideal syllabus, I would say that a piano student should ideally master the following 104 works. The reason in simple. Anyone who has mastered these works will be able to play pretty much anything in the repertory.

J. S. Bach – 48 preludes an fugues of the WTC.
Beethoven – The 32 sonatas
Chopin – The 24 etudes op. 10 and op. 25.

I also believe that technique is fairly easy to acquire. It is acquisition of repertory that takes an inordinate amount of time. So I very rarely prescribe pure technical exercises, or pedagogical beginner’s pieces.  Instead we work on repertory from the very start. Technique is dealt with in a thorough manner but always related to repertory. Fortunately the piano repertory has enough superlative pieces at all levels to allow for this approach. There are many instruments for which this is simply not true. Players face then a problem unknown to pianists: in a couple of years they have mastered all the repertory for their instruments (One of the problems with the recorder, for instance). With the piano, several life times will not be enough.

I have described in some detail how I teach specific examples of the repertory,
(for instance, have a look here:

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=teac;action=display;num=1081198385

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=teac;action=display;num=1083060519)

but ultimately different students may require different approaches and may have different needs. So all I can do in a forum like this is to give some generalisations.

And as you know every generalisation is false, including this one. Wink

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

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cellodude
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« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2004, 08:17:06 AM »

Quote
I searched
...
In fact you said that a grade 7 (that's seven years of lessons) Beethoven Appassionata was learned by your students after just 2 years of lessons



What? The Appassionata a grade 7 piece? How in the world did you arrive at that? I know that the Op. 13 Pathetique (sp?) was a grade 8 exam piece one year, the second movement was a grade 6 and the third movement a grade 7 exam piece in other years (ABRSM). By that estimation, the Appassionata would be way beyond diploma level. What did I miss Bernhard? Or were you refering to other exam boards?

dennis lee
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Daniel_piano
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« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2004, 08:45:19 AM »

Quote


What? The Appassionata a grade 7 piece? How in the world did you arrive at that? I know that the Op. 13 Pathetique (sp?) was a grade 8 exam piece one year, the second movement was a grade 6 and the third movement a grade 7 exam piece in other years (ABRSM). By that estimation, the Appassionata would be way beyond diploma level. What did I miss Bernhard? Or were you refering to other exam boards?

dennis lee



Sorry, I was referring to Italy syllabus
Our grade 7 is higher than your grade 9
As a reference your grade 7 is our grade 4
What a mess !!

Daniel




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bernhard
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« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2004, 12:50:12 AM »

Quote


What? The Appassionata a grade 7 piece? How in the world did you arrive at that? I know that the Op. 13 Pathetique (sp?) was a grade 8 exam piece one year, the second movement was a grade 6 and the third movement a grade 7 exam piece in other years (ABRSM). By that estimation, the Appassionata would be way beyond diploma level. What did I miss Bernhard? Or were you refering to other exam boards?

dennis lee


You are right. The Appassionata is completely outside the ABRSM graded syllabus. Daniel (as he said above) is referring to the Italian system which seems to be pretty tough. They have Bach two voice inventions at grade 3, while at the ABRSM they are grade 6/7.

Also, I never said that I have taught the Appassionata to a student after 2 years of lessons (although this is mostly because no one asked) What I said is that usually my students take grade 8 (ABRSM) after 2/3 years of lessons. But then again , grade 8 ABRSM is around grade 4 on the Italian system.

Again, there is nothing pedagogically extraordinary in the way I teach. Most (good) teachers do exactly what I do. The crucial difference is the frequency of lessons. I believe this to be the only differentiating factor.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

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« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2004, 02:02:18 AM »

I don't think most teachers do what you do, Bernhard, at least not in this part of the world. I might have been spoiled, of course, through learning from one of the country's finest creative musicians, but any teachers I've come across here since have been fully capable, for a fat fee,  of stultifying the most inspired student.

Take what you said about playing through the keys and inventing things - that's still not at all common practice - not around here at any rate.

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« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2004, 05:35:52 AM »

Quote


Again, there is nothing pedagogically extraordinary in the way I teach. Most (good) teachers do exactly what I do. The crucial difference is the frequency of lessons. I believe this to be the only differentiating factor.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.



No, Bernhard. Not around here in my country too. I won't start analysis of the differences because there are so many issues that you make a lot of differences. Suffice to say that your way of teaching is one of a kind. And if you could realize what actually is the key advantage about your way (versus typical teaching), and you could summarize them into a publication (book probably), it would make a big impact to any open-minded reader.

Most learner want a quick-fix solution or prescribed recipe. However, eventhough it seems like your way of teaching is adaptive by nature, its principle is consistent. The frequency of practice (and class), the disciplines of practice, the repertoire planning and its relationship to technique, the concept of successfully implementing the plan, the playing technique with anatomical awareness, the individual study plan design, etc. I believe that each of the above topics are qualified as a big chapter. And you have a unique way of handling them.

Just if you find the right way to communicate it to general readers, ...

Regards,

Namui
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cellodude
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« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2004, 09:10:04 AM »

Quote


No, Bernhard. Not around here in my country too. I won't start analysis of the differences because there are so many issues that you make a lot of differences.

Unfortunately, good teachers are few and far between here (Malaysia) as well.
Quote
Suffice to say that your way of teaching is one of a kind. And if you could realize what actually is the key advantage about your way (versus typical teaching), and you could summarize them into a publication (book probably), it would make a big impact to any open-minded reader.

Well, here it is again Bernhard. You can't seem to run away from it can you?
Quote

Most learner want a quick-fix solution or prescribed recipe. However, eventhough it seems like your way of teaching is adaptive by nature, its principle is consistent. The frequency of practice (and class), the disciplines of practice, the repertoire planning and its relationship to technique, the concept of successfully implementing the plan, the playing technique with anatomical awareness, the individual study plan design, etc. I believe that each of the above topics are qualified as a big chapter. And you have a unique way of handling them.

Just if you find the right way to communicate it to general readers, ...

Regards,

Namui


That's a good list of topics to write about. I like that approach of a well planned attack on a goal. It is something commonly used in big corporations to handle projects.

  • 1. Define an objective.
    I want to be able to play Fantasy Impromptu in 2 years time (note the time limit, it is very important that every objective be framed by time).
  • 2. Draw up a plan to achieve it (strategy).
    Well, what is required to play it? A good sense of rhythm, 12 vs 15, 3 vs 4, able to do stretches, theory, etc. Find easier pieces that are stepping stones to achieve these mini goals.
  • 3. Design correct solutions and procedures in line with the strategy (tactics).
    Find out how to actually do those things listed in 2. Get a good teacher like Bernhard  Wink. Explore ideas in books by Sandor, Fink, Chang etc.
  • 4. Establish milestones and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) along the way.
    Exams. They are the ideal KPI. Know the requirement of the exams and see how they fit in with your strategy.
  • 5.  Monitor and adjust plan as appropriate until goal is achieved.
    Practice, practice, practice.


So go for it Bernhard. Get that book out and we'll all be behind you.
Regards,


dennis lee
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« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2004, 04:11:57 AM »

Hey Bernhard, a couple of questions related to this topic, if you please.

1) You say the only real difference with your approach is lessons everyday. How much practise would you expect from a student after each half-hour lesson? You obviously want them to come to the next lesson having improved in some way, how much inter-lesson improvement are you looking out for?

2) Anticipating that your answer is an hour's practise between each lesson, let's impose time and financial restraints. I can't practise on Wednesday and can only afford 3 lessons a week, say Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Do you think this would be a good compromise? Should I expect a linear interpolation of results, ie that at this rate and with a teacher as good as you (I don't believe, btw, that frequency of lessons is really the only thing setting you apart from other teachers  Smiley) it might take me 4 years to reach a level of grade 8?

3) What percentage, if any, of your daily lessons do you feel are wasted because students, for whatever reason, come having not had a chance to practise?

Thanks for reading this
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cellodude
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« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2004, 09:39:33 AM »

Quote
Hey Bernhard, a couple of questions related to this topic, if you please.


Allow me to anticipate Bernhard's answers, please . I promise to be suitably mortified and humbled if I am wrong Wink
Quote

1) You say the only real difference with your approach is lessons everyday. How much practise would you expect from a student after each half-hour lesson? You obviously want them to come to the next lesson having improved in some way, how much inter-lesson improvement are you looking out for?

I believe everyday lessons are only for young beginners. That being so, the lesson IS the practice for the young 'un. In any case that's how I teach my son. I teach him a new piece by playing it for him first. Then I ask if he likes it. If he says 'no'  I tell him it's good for him and start to teach him anyway  Cheesy. HS first. I play left while he plays right, over and over again, then we switch hands. Then he tries HT if he's ready. If his mind hasn't wandered off I show him another piece and do the same trick on him. Sometimes he learns up to 3 or 4 pieces at the same time. Repeat the same everyday. When he has learnt a piece replace it with another one or 2 or 3  Wink. As he matures he will need less attention.

Quote

2) Anticipating that your answer is an hour's practise between each lesson, let's impose time and financial restraints. I can't practise on Wednesday and can only afford 3 lessons a week, say Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Do you think this would be a good compromise? Should I expect a linear interpolation of results, ie that at this rate and with a teacher as good as you (I don't believe, btw, that frequency of lessons is really the only thing setting you apart from other teachers  Smiley) it might take me 4 years to reach a level of grade 8?

5-year olds do not have time or financial constrains  Cheesy. But if you're talking about adults, yeah money and time do figure in the equation. In another thread you mentioned that you have a copy of Chang's book. He has some time saving hints there like resting one hand while practicing the other during HS practice. Or practicing in chuncks of say 15 minutes each etc. Bernhard will definitely have more ideas.
Quote

3) What percentage, if any, of your daily lessons do you feel are wasted because students, for whatever reason, come having not had a chance to practise?

Thanks for reading this


I'll leave this to him to answer.

Regards,

dennis lee
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« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2004, 12:55:55 AM »

Hey Thanks for your answers Dennis! They were very useful. From what Bernhard was saying I got the impression that everyday practise was for anyone, young or old, who is beginning, and that's definitely me. I mean old (by the standards of this forum anyway) and beginning.

That's neat what you do with your son. I like the idea of having someone to play the other hand with you. Being an adult, and pretty self-motivated, maybe I could look for a mentor, in addition to a teacher. I have friends that play well, so perhaps I could hit them up for practise sessions a couple of times a week (and cook them dinner in return, of course, I don't believe in free lunches), and have a lesson once a week.
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bernhard
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« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2004, 02:33:46 AM »

Dennis Lee is mostly right, but let me add a few things.
Quote

1)      You say the only real difference with your approach is lessons everyday. How much practise would you expect from a student after each half-hour lesson? You obviously want them to come to the next lesson having improved in some way, how much inter-lesson improvement are you looking out for?


In the beginning I expect no practice at all: The student will be practising at the lesson. Lesson and practice will mingle seamlessly. Of course, if the student gets home and goes through the material he worked on the lesson wonderful. If not, it does not really make a difference, since we will be doing it again the next day. In fact in the first three months the student will be learning how to practise more than anything else. I actually prefer that they do not practise during these first three months, since typically they will be practising the wrong way. So typically there will be interlesson improvement as such, but there will be improvement along the week/month. Once the practice habit has been established and the correct way of practice has been ingrained then the student can become more independent and we move to three lessons a week (usually after 3 – 6 months). Then two lessons a week and finally one 1hr lesson a week. The most dramatic progress occurs in the first six months (with daily lessons). Then progress slows down with some of the students when they move on to once a week lessons. The reason is simple: they are not practising (or not practising correctly). So every summer holidays all students must endure an intensive 2 week daily one hour lessons to remember how nice it was when they practised everyday he he. (This why I attribute the progress to the frequency of lessons rather than teaching methods)
Quote

2)      Anticipating that your answer is an hour's practise between each lesson, let's impose time and financial restraints. I can't practise on Wednesday and can only afford 3 lessons a week, say Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Do you think this would be a good compromise? Should I expect a linear interpolation of results, ie that at this rate and with a teacher as good as you (I don't believe, btw, that frequency of lessons is really the only thing setting you apart from other teachers   ) it might take me 4 years to reach a level of grade 8?  


I do not charge per lesson. I charge per month. Therefore the frequency of lessons has no consequence to affordability. Either you can afford my monthly fee, or you cannot. If you can you will get daily lessons. Everyone (contrary to what Dennis Lee thought) goes through an initial period of daily lessons. For adults (I do not do that with children because their attention span does not allow it) I have a special intensive course of daily one hour lessons. This means that they do their practice at the lesson. So busy adults with no time for practice can take this option (is more expensive though, but cheaper if you consider the total number of hours).

As for frequency of practice. The minimum is three 20 minute sessions a week. However in these twenty minutes you must concentrate in one single “problem”. I have discussed the 20 minute principle elsewhere. So you will not be able to do scales, three pieces, sight-reading, etc. in one session. You must have one 20 minute session for each task. The more 20 minute sessions you can cram in a day the faster you will progress because the more things you will be tackling simultaneously.

The three sessions per week works like that. Every day you practise something you get 5 points. Everyday you don’t practise you loose 3 points. It is that simple. Practising something twice in a day will not give you 10 points. You still have 5 points because you need one night sleep in between learnings. So it is more effective to learn something else in the second session in the day. Now if you do your accounts, you will see that if you practise something seven days a week you get 35 points (7x5). If you practise 6 days a week you get 27 points [6x5-3x1 = 27]. 5 days a week and you get [5x5-3x2=19]. 4 times a week and you get [4x5-3x3=11]. 3 times a week and you get [3x5-4x3 = 3]. 2 times a week and you get [2x5-3x5 = 0 (you cannot go negative)].

Now listen carefully for on this hinges the destiny of every pianist.

In order to learn any piece and be able to perform it flawlessly you need to accumulate a certain number of points. No one can tell you what this number of points is. But it depends on the person and on the piece. The only way to know it is to master the piece. Then you will know it. However for the sake of argument let us say that it will be necessary for you to accumulate 150 points to master a Chopin etude. If you practise it twice a week it will never happen (0 points per week). If you practise it three times a week (3 points), it will take you 50 weeks  - almost one year – to master it. But if you practice it every day (35 points), in less than five weeks it will have been mastered. So there is a brutal difference between what you can accomplish practising everyday and practising 3 days per week. Practising everyday you will learn 12 times faster! What about that?

This of course assumes that you are practising correctly and with maximum efficiency.

Finally, what do you mean by grade 8? Taking the exam? Or playing pieces classified at that level? Taking the exam takes longer because there is much ancillary knowledge that must be digested. But if all you want is to play pieces of grade 8 (ABRSM), most of my adult students are doing that after 4 – 6 months. If you can find someone to break down the piece for you and instruct you in the best learning sequence, it is not difficult to learn any piece. It is a bit like building a house. Experienced builders follow a plan and a sequence of events. People who have never built a house make lots of expensive mistakes. In piano playing we make the most expensive mistake there is: we waste time. And time – as everyone discovers at the moment of death – is the only valuable commodity.

Quote
3) What percentage, if any, of your daily lessons do you feel are wasted because students, for whatever reason, come having not had a chance to practise?


My lessons are never wasted if a student does not practise because:

i.      I get paid for it.
ii.      I use the lesson time to learn about teaching.
iii.      I use the lesson time to learn about the pieces the student has not practised.
iv.      I use the lesson time to practise with the student (they know that if they don’t practise, we will spend the whole lesson practising, so they tend to come prepared, he he).

It is the student’s time that gets wasted (and their money). This of course is pointed out to them.


And as always, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

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« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2004, 04:09:31 AM »

Quote

Everyone (contrary to what Dennis Lee thought) goes through an initial period of daily lessons.


I am hereby suitably mortified  Sad and humbled  Cry. I had thought that the only reason for daily lessons is the short attention span of kids. Now I know there is more to it than that (establish a correct practice habit). Thanks Bernhard.

Hey Bernhard, I like the point system. It is really  Cool. If you don't mind I will print it out and modify it to suit my kids. I will allocate what they like (chocolates & candy, swimming, flying their kite, watching their 'Winnie the Pooh' DVD, Shrek DVD etc. It's amazing how many times they watch those and still ask for them) a certain amount of  points each. The ones they like more will require more points to get. They can choose to work towards a choc bar (less points) or accumulate points to watch Shrek (again). I'm sure my kids will love it.

But what I really like about the point system is that it gives us a quantitative approach to practice. It lets us know when we are not getting anything out of it. Like if you practice twice or less a week you're not going to get anywhere, if you do x times a week you will get through a Chopin's Etude in a year, etc. Really  Cool.

Regards,

dennis lee
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« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2004, 05:50:14 AM »

Bernhard, thanks so much for replying. It makes a lot of sense that you will have to teach people how to practise properly in their initial lessons. As for the points system, Dennis Lee said exactly what I wanted to say too. That it sounds like a really good way of quantifying ones practice. I would be on about 27 points at the moment. Minus about 30 points for inefficient practise probably!

What I wanted to ask next is the points thing your own idea Bernhard? If it is then you had better copyright it or something before someone steals it and publishes it before you do  :-/

Sorry about that last question, I forgot who I was talking to. Bernhard and wasted practises go together like "chocolate cake and an onion" Wink
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