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Self-teaching (Read 6128 times)

Offline comme_le_vent

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Self-teaching
« on: April 10, 2004, 04:49:53 PM »
I aquire my knowledge through reading , talking and experimenting - and my own inexorable(  ;D ) logic.

but i understand - being one's own teacher has its disadvantages.

what are the main ones to consider, and how to remedy them?

(besides getting a teacher...)
http://www.chopinmusic.net/sdc/

Great artists aim for perfection, while knowing that perfection itself is impossible, it is the driving force for them to be the best they can be - MC Hammer

Offline bernhard

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Re: Self-teaching
«Reply #1 on: April 10, 2004, 09:55:48 PM »
There are many disadvantages to being self-taught. None of them are unsurmountable.

However, far worse than being self taught is having a bad teacher. By this I do not mean some evil person out to hinder your path, but someone who is filled to the brim with the best intentions but unfortunately has the wrong information and yet is determined to teach you according to it.

The difference betwen a good and a bad teacher can be ascertained fairly quickly: How fast are you progressing? (assuming you are following your teacher's instructions to the letter). A good teacher should not only be able to give you correct intructions as to estimate how long it should take for you to master the subject s/he is intructing you about. If you are not achieving aims according to schedule a good teacher would take this seriously enough to:

1. Observe closely your way of working and checking that you are indeed following his/her instructions.

2. Make sure you have not misunderstood the intructions.

3. Consider the possibility that the instructions are not effective and change them accordingly.

Consider that you are a novice cook. You want to fry an egg. A teacher may give you the following instructions:

1. Get a frying pan.
2. Put one tablespoon of oil in the frying pan.
3. Break an egg in the frying pan.
4. Season with salt to taste.

A better teacher will also add the following:

5. In about 2 or 3 minutes you should see that egg whites going really white.
6. You have the option of a running yolk or a more firm one. Keep the egg there until you got to either stage.
7. Spoon some oil on top of the egg to accelerate the process.
8. Serve.
9. The whole process form beginning to end should take some 5 - 7 minutes.

You see the second set of intructions is very important because it shows that you are in the right track and provides you with a way to know that.

Imagine that the second set of instructions is not given to you (5 - 9). You follow intructions 1-4 and wait and wait and wait  and 3 hours later your egg is not cooked. Something is wrong, but you will not know unless you have been given the second set of instructions, or if you have seen a ccoked egg before.

A teacher can observe what you are doing and realise that the reason the egg is not cooked after three hours is because you have not put it on a cooker.

You see, there was nothing in the instructions about putting the frying pan on the fire!

And this is a big problem with learning things from books: there are certain things that are completely taken from granted, things that you will not be given instructions about.

Anyway, I am digressing.

In my opinion, the two areas that a self-teaching student will have the most disadvantage are:

1. Time. A (good) teacher will save time. (On the other hand a bad teacher will waste more time than if you were on your own). There is nothing to be done about this. It is a fact of life that must be accepted.

2. Feedback. a (good) teacher will provide unvaluable feedback. If you can have instant feedback, your learning will be tremendoulsy accelerated. On this area however, the self-taught student can do something about it. In order to be able to provice yourself with feedback you must have:

i. a very definite aim.
ii. A way to check if that aim has been achieved or not.
iii. If you are not achieving your aim, you must be able to decide if you need to keep doing what you are doing for longer, or if you should change what you are doing and do something different.

items i. and ii. can be easily managed without a teacher.
item iii. is more complex. Again a teacher will save time by either assuring you that you are doing the right thing and encourage you to keep doing it, or by detecting that you are doing the wrong thing and supplying you with the correct way (so you will save a lot of trial and error time).

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline comme_le_vent

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Re: Self-teaching
«Reply #2 on: April 11, 2004, 04:35:55 AM »
i have checked my aim by listening to recordings of my playing, and it was what i was aiming for.

are there any particularly common pitfalls that may affect a self-taught pianist?

i am having no problems so far, but what may trouble me later on?

and thanks for your advice bernhard, ur always a great help  :)
http://www.chopinmusic.net/sdc/

Great artists aim for perfection, while knowing that perfection itself is impossible, it is the driving force for them to be the best they can be - MC Hammer

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Self-teaching
«Reply #3 on: April 12, 2004, 11:39:47 AM »
"Feedback. a (good) teacher will provide unvaluable feedback."   ;D  

anyway,
pitfalls for me when I was self-teaching was: using inappropriate fingerings.  Instead of using the fingering/fingering positions that would be most effective, I used the one easiest to play.  For example, if there was a bass note followed by a chord (ragtime music), I would use the fingers that would reach the chords faster.  For example, playing a bass note with 5, then jumping to play the chord with 124 instead of 135.  124 caused my hand to stretch too much while 135 was perfect.  124 caused my hand to fatigue very early while 135 allowed me to play without strain.

Another problem is with technique.  If your aim is just to play a small list of certain peices, then all the required technique are in those peices.  However, the techniques in those peices may cross over and the way you played in one piece with a certain technique may not cross over directly to the other piece.  This means that you must relearn the same technique but on a different piece.  If, however, you learned the technique universally, then there would not be the need to relearn the same technique a different way.

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Self-teaching
«Reply #4 on: April 12, 2004, 11:48:35 AM »
I should mention that I learned by myself for the first year and a half before going to a teacher.  But I would never have gone to a teacher if my older sister - whom has played since a child - constantly criticized my playing: wrong notes, wrong duration, blah blah blah...  "SHUT UP!" I said.  Took me a long time to realize that a sharp, flat, or natural within the same bar means that all notes were modified...  But after a while of playing it that way, it starts to sound completely fine.  So it didn't occur to me that it was the wrong note.  

"Why are there sharp and flat markings at the beginning of the measure?  Why don't they just write that in right before the note in the measure?  Seems overly complicated to write it that way."

"What are those numbers on top of the notes?"

"What do those numbers at the beginning of the piece mean?"

"What do the...."

Offline comme_le_vent

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Re: Self-teaching
«Reply #5 on: April 12, 2004, 06:23:18 PM »
i have discovered the things you say you had problems with myself.

people keep telling me to get a teacher, but i have figured out everything pretty good so far.

the main things that concern me are 'voicing' which ive only just started to try. and the fingering thing - i can finger a passage, but i still dont know if its the most musically effective(or technically efficient) fingering there is, and ive heard that getting a teacher would save alot of time in this case, isnt there another way?
http://www.chopinmusic.net/sdc/

Great artists aim for perfection, while knowing that perfection itself is impossible, it is the driving force for them to be the best they can be - MC Hammer

Offline bernhard

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Re: Self-teaching
«Reply #6 on: April 13, 2004, 02:17:56 AM »
Quote
and the fingering thing - i can finger a passage, but i still dont know if its the most musically effective(or technically efficient) fingering there is, and ive heard that getting a teacher would save alot of time in this case, isnt there another way?


Try this:

Principles of fingering:

1.      Beware of certain old editions fingerings. For instance, in the 30s and 40s for some reasons it was a dogma that you had to change fingers on repeated notes. In certain cases it helps in others it is simply not necessary. Other dogmas that can easily be ignored are not to use the thumb on black notes. In general have no hesitation in changing the fingering supplied with the music. Fingering is (and should be) highly personal.

2.      Once you decide on a fingering stick with it. Nothing confuses the motor centres more than playing a passage each time with a different fingering.

3.      Fingering should be decided according to two priorities:

i.      the sound you are aiming to produce.
ii.      Comfort.

Sometimes it may be necessary to sacrifice comfort for sound, but you should not do it the other way around. For instance, if to maintain a legato in a passage you must use an awkward fingering, so be it. Otherwise comfort and facility should be paramount.

4.      Any passage that can be played without the position of the hand being altered should be fingered this way (e.g the motif in Bach’s 2 voice invention no. 1 in C: CDEFDEC fingered [rh] 1234231). In order to find the best fingering for a set of notes that fall under the hand, play the notes as a chord. The fingering that produces the best chord will be the best fingering.

5.      When you need to change the position of the hand, think of displacing the hand to the next position. The best fingering for the next position will determine the best fingering for the displacement.

6.      Always use the nearest finger for the next key, unless there is reason to do otherwise.

7.      Running passages that consist of scales, chromatic scales or arpeggios should follow the fingering principles pertaining to them (I have discussed this in several posts already).

8.      Broken chords should be fingered using the chord principle on [4].

9.      Always start from the movement, not from the fingers. Figure out the overall movement that the arms/forearms/hands will have to do to play a passage and practise this movement with no regard for correct notes. As you do that notice which fingers fall on which notes. The correct movement will imply the correct fingering. Incidentally, sometimes certain fingerings (like Chopin’s original fingerings) can show you the correct movement, because these fingerings will only work with the correct movement . If that is the case, you must disregard what I said in item [1] and persist with the edition fingering until you figure out the movement. How can you know? You cannot. This is the advantage of a teacher (assuming the teacher knows about this stuff).

10.      Certain pieces of music demand specific fingerings: in Bach fugues is often necessary for the 3rd finger to step over the 4th finger. In Chopin using the thumb and fifth finger on black keys is often necessary. This may seem uncomfortable at first. But get used to it, sometimes there is no other way to play these pieces.

11.      When playing double notes (e.g., thirds and sixths) legato, a good trick to remember is that a good legato will be preserved as long as the top notes are played legato. In order to do this you will need to make one finger step over another.

12.      Changing fingers on the same key may be necessary to preserve legato, especially in slow passages. In fast passages you may slide the same finger from a black to a white key and still have legato. And in really fast passages (scale runs) the speed of the hammers will surpass the speed of the dampers so you will get legato anyway.

This is all I can think of for the moment.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Self-teaching
«Reply #7 on: April 13, 2004, 02:20:32 AM »
I forgot this one:

Always investigate fingering with separate hands. This way the fingerings you discard will not be ingrained in yuor hand memory: Only work on hands together once the fingering is decided.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline allchopin

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Re: Self-teaching
«Reply #8 on: April 14, 2004, 01:47:55 AM »
I am starting to realize that I do a lot of this stuff innately.  I guess I have figured out my own personal pitfalls and possible dead ends and have tergeversated them with certain things that I do.
But one thing that I haven't figured out yet is whether or not to follow the written fingering first.  I usually develop my own fingering before I consider what the white page has to say... I'm not sure if this is optimal, because the publisher most likely knew their stuff, but their hand shape and strength, etc. may have been different than mine.  And like you said, whichever you fingering you choose right off the bat may be the one that sticks with you, like it or not (kind of like a psychological primacy-recency effect thing).
A modern house without a flush toilet... uncanny.

Offline comme_le_vent

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Re: Self-teaching
«Reply #9 on: April 14, 2004, 04:30:16 AM »
thanks for all the advice, especially bernhard, some find you patronising(noah does) but i find you very kind and informative.

what about concerns beyond technique?

such as interpretation, style etc?

how does one teach one's self these things?
http://www.chopinmusic.net/sdc/

Great artists aim for perfection, while knowing that perfection itself is impossible, it is the driving force for them to be the best they can be - MC Hammer

Offline Antnee

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Re: Self-teaching
«Reply #10 on: April 14, 2004, 04:46:38 AM »
Yeah, as far as fingering goes I've noticed something along the way as well. I usually use a pretty efficient fingering on my own but I soon find out that my playing is missing something during that fast passage. Then I find myself refering to the music for the fingering. It feels awkward at first, but then after a day or two, that fingereing allows me to play much clearer than I could before and that extra something that i was missing is now there. Now I start by fingering the way the music says FIRST because the person who wrote the fingerings knows what they are doing...Usually.

-Tony-
"The trouble with music appreciation in general is that people are taught to have too much respect for music they should be taught to love it instead." -  Stravinsky

Offline aileigc

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Re: Self-teaching
«Reply #11 on: April 30, 2004, 08:11:39 PM »
I have examples either way.
In studying "In a Persian Market", right at the beginning (I'd say Bar 10, perhaps) there is a sequence like E6 - A5 - E6 - A5 - D6 - Bb5 - C6 - A5 - E5- C5 - B4. I had my own fingering first: 515142 42131 with a thumb under in the end. Then, I looked at the score and found a fingering that gives me more trouble to move the hand but in the end is much more accurate and comfortable: 515142 53131 . It made quite some difference.
Now, in Für Elise, in the Arpeggion of the second interruption, I began by following the print's fingering but found later another fingering which made more sense for me and made me go much faster, so that's what I use now. Print's (iirc):
4321321313214321 ...
Mine:
43213214321321...
there's some problem with my memory, I see, but I don't have score nor piano here, so that's the best I can do :-)

Alex

Offline aileigc

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Re: Self-teaching
«Reply #12 on: April 30, 2004, 08:13:20 PM »
Quote
I should mention that I learned by myself for the first year and a half before going to a teacher.  But I would never have gone to a teacher if my older sister - whom has played since a child - constantly criticized my playing: wrong notes, wrong duration, blah blah blah...  "SHUT UP!" I said.  Took me a long time to realize that a sharp, flat, or natural within the same bar means that all notes were modified...  But after a while of playing it that way, it starts to sound completely fine.  So it didn't occur to me that it was the wrong note.  

"Why are there sharp and flat markings at the beginning of the measure?  Why don't they just write that in right before the note in the measure?  Seems overly complicated to write it that way."

"What are those numbers on top of the notes?"

"What do those numbers at the beginning of the piece mean?"

"What do the...."


I think you should get a book on music theory, or at least study it online. I nearly filled a CD with online music resources, much of which were theory, though I never read them much. I learnt theory when I was a child and I never forgot most of it, but you could profit a lot from that. No more woudl you have to lose time figuring that accidental rule.

Alex