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Topic: Self-taught or With a teacher ?  (Read 8090 times)

Offline Steinway

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Self-taught or With a teacher ?
on: July 10, 2004, 09:34:45 AM
What are the advantages or self-taught and learning with a teacher ?

Offline donjuan

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #1 on: July 10, 2004, 09:13:15 PM
As imperfect humans, we are not able to focus on our weaknesses and improve on them..We are too proud- It is part of our nature.  A great teacher will help you help yourself by pointing out errors that fly over our heads, or yelling at us to frighten us into succeeding (this one takes a little getting used to).  I cant think of a single great pianist that was without a great teacher.  Liszt had many great teachers- Salieri, Czerny..

If you are self taught, chances are you will develop bad habits which limit your abilities at high levels.  I know- I have tried it and I am full of crap technique that only works for me and me alone.  I should have had a great teacher from the start, but I didnt realize how important it is.  dont make the same mistake I did.

Best Wishes,
donjuan

Offline thierry13

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #2 on: July 11, 2004, 12:50:34 AM
Godowsky was self-taught, and look at his transcriptions of chopin's etude. He is the greatest self-taught of the history... but he was a real prodigy.  ;D

Offline bernhard

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #3 on: July 11, 2004, 01:44:13 AM
Quote
Godowsky was self-taught, and look at his transcriptions of chopin's etude. He is the greatest self-taught of the history... but he was a real prodigy.  ;D


He, he. Nice try. Do some research though. ;) Godowsky’s teachers:

1.      His first teacher was his adoptive father Louis Passinock, an amateur violinist who ran a piano shop and his wife Minna, who played the piano. Louis taught him the violin, and Minna the rudiments of the piano.

2.      At 12 he studied under Woldemar Bargiel, Ernst Rudorff and Joseph Joachim, at the Berlin High School of Music (Hochschule).

3.      Although he had plans to study with Liszt, Liszt died, and instead Saint Saens accepted him as a pupil. Godowsky was 16 years old.

Let us make no mistakes here, Yes, Godovsky was a child prodigy. Yes, he was probably a handful for his teachers, and yes he quickly learned everything they had to teach and far surpassed them. But self-taught? Hardly. Being an ungrateful b****d and wanting to perpetuate the myth that he was self-taught (it impresses the ignoramus) he claimed that “I played a lot for Saint Saens,  but Saint Saens never taught me anything.”

Next! ;D

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 thierry13

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #4 on: July 11, 2004, 03:16:38 AM
Well i actually made some research and that's what i found! They said on the site exactly what i said: that he was the greatest self-tought. But finally, they were wrong, since Bernhard is never wrong ! ;D

Offline willcowskitz

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #5 on: July 11, 2004, 03:34:33 AM
Quote
Well i actually made some research and that's what i found! They said on the site exactly what i said: that he was the greatest self-tought. But finally, they were wrong, since Bernhard is never wrong ! ;D



Internet is not the most reliable source of information anyway, the garbage to real information ratio is probably 99,9 to 0,1. Richter is (according to my understanding) "commonly known as" having been self-taught too, which only shows that people are eager to give mystifying or exaggerated labels to great characters. Then again, my source also is Bernhard.  ;)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #6 on: July 11, 2004, 03:54:22 AM
Quote



Internet is not the most reliable source of information anyway, the garbage to real information ratio is probably 99,9 to 0,1. Richter is (according to my understanding) "commonly known as" having been self-taught too, which only shows that people are eager to give mystifying or exaggerated labels to great characters. Then again, my source also is Bernhard.  ;)


Richter’s father was a piano teacher and concert pianist. His mother played the piano (she was originally one of her father’s students). His parent’s house was a meeting point of musicians. He started learning the piano at age 8. His mother, then his father taught him. He had great respect for his father both as a teacher and as a musician. The idea that he never learned any piano from anyone until he met Newhaus in his 20s is preposterous. What was probably originally meant is that he never had any “formal” training in the sense that he never attended a conservatory or music school, until enrolling in the Conservatory under Newhaus. But then this was quite common. Even now it is not unheard off. One example is Charles Rosen who at age 11 dropped music school and only attended private lessons (he never attended a conservatory and this did not stop him from becoming a concert pianist and a music scholar).

My source for Richter is… Richter himself! He tells it all in the Bruno Monsangeon documentary “Richter the enigma”.

But people are never satisfied with the simple truth. They have to embellish. Many times the artist himself adds to the myth (Vladimir de Pachmann  for instance was always telling tall stories about himself).

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 mark1

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #7 on: July 11, 2004, 08:28:55 AM
Nothing will compare to having  a teacher... but if you are being self taught don't hesitate to ask the forum questions. I unfortunately cannot go to a teacher, at least for now, but I try to ask intelligent questions from time to time...and I allways have gotten  a response!!! It's a great resource to have at your fingertips! :D                              Mark                          
"...just when you think you're right, you're wrong."

Offline cellodude

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #8 on: July 12, 2004, 08:32:28 AM
Quote


He, he. Nice try. Do some research though. ;) Godowsky’s teachers:
...
that he was self-taught (it impresses the ignoramus) he claimed that “I played a lot for Saint Saens,  but Saint Saens never taught me anything.”

Next! ;D

Best wishes,
Bernhard.


OK! I'll take the bait. How about Chopin? The only 'teacher' he had was a violinist (thus doesn't count). Not only did he solve the technical problems presented by good ol' Beethoven and others of that time while Czerny and other performers were vying for top spot with their performances, Chopin came up with new problems for them to solve. He started composing his Op. 10 and 25 when he was 19! And many of the virtuosos of those days were stumped. One critic whose name escapes me sacarstically said that anyone attempting the etudes should have a surgeon on standby supposedly to cut up their hands for the large stretches. I do believe that it is generally accepted that he came up with the etudes all on his own. Many writers also write of him as 'largely self-taught'.

[Putting on my asbestos underwear...] OK! guys (and gals) flame away.

TTFN (Ta Ta For Now),

dennis lee
Cello, cello, mellow fellow!

Offline bernhard

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #9 on: July 12, 2004, 03:39:07 PM
Quote


OK! I'll take the bait. How about Chopin? The only 'teacher' he had was a violinist (thus doesn't count). Not only did he solve the technical problems presented by good ol' Beethoven and others of that time while Czerny and other performers were vying for top spot with their performances, Chopin came up with new problems for them to solve. He started composing his Op. 10 and 25 when he was 19! And many of the virtuosos of those days were stumped. One critic whose name escapes me sacarstically said that anyone attempting the etudes should have a surgeon on standby supposedly to cut up their hands for the large stretches. I do believe that it is generally accepted that he came up with the etudes all on his own. Many writers also write of him as 'largely self-taught'.

[Putting on my asbestos underwear...] OK! guys (and gals) flame away.

TTFN (Ta Ta For Now),

dennis lee


You are right, but not completely.

First let us clear some assumptions.

The most important teachers in any discipline a person will ever have are the ones no one gives much credit: the first teachers.

If you want to be a writer, you first must learn how to read and write. No illiterate can be a writer, (although he can be a great story teller and raconteur) no matter how amazing the stories he can spin are. But do we ever give credit to the primary teachers who taught Shakespeare to read and write? Why should lerning to read and write be so important to a writer? Could he not just tell his tales to someone to write them for him? Yes, he could, but here is the catch. The medium organises the message. You see, if you do not write, your thoughts will not be organised to make sense when in written form. So the first advice given to writers to be is: “Write!” anything, and anywhere, just write. In the beginning all you will write is rubbish, but this is not due to lack of inspiration, or of good ideas, is mostly due to not been able to “think” in “writing mode”. With guidance and practice, soon a subtle change takes place: One starts to think one’s ideas in such a way that they articulate themselves as by magic. And the result is that you can write as you think because your thoughts are organised in writing patterns. A raconteur on the other hand, organises his thinking in terms of oral presentation. This is one of the reasons why transcripts of such tales usually are flat and not as wonderful as when you heard them in their original medium. Likewise, just reading aloud James Joyce is not as rewarding as “reading” it.

So, it is the first teachers that are the really important ones. But as I said elsewhere, for teaching/learning to take place you must have three components: A willing student, a willing teacher and a conducive environment. If you miss only one of those nothing will ever happen. It follows that since Chopin “happened”, he must have been a very willing student, he must have had very capable teachers, and he must have had a very conducive environment. You can compensate to a certain extent the degree of contribution of each of these three factors by one of the others, but you cannot have a total lack or absence of any of them. Take Godowsky. His teachers were the weakest link, compensated by a superb willingness on his part as a student, and by a superb environment. But to say he was self-taught is simply not true. It is just a matter of doing the research.

Now let us see Chopin. Excellent, willing student? No doubt. Good environment? No doubt (his father was French and a school teacher, his mother was Polish, the household was musical). Good teachers? Actually superb teachers:

1.      His first teacher was his mother, Tekla Justina Kryzanovska. (This is a common thread going through the lives of many so called “self taught” individuals in all areas of life). Since she was his mother, we do not regard her as his teacher. Why not? She was an accomplished singer and played the piano well (most ladies did in Victorian times – it was an obligatory social skill, and without TV, radio, cinema or computer games, they had plenty of time to practise). She taught him to play his first pieces, taught him how read and write music and encouraged him to compose. Chopin started having lessons with her at age 4, and by age 6 he was already kicking ass, and doing improvisations on the piano. First known composition:  a polonaise, composed when he was eight years old.

2.      Almost as important as learning a subject, is learning how to learn a subject. Chopin’s father was also his teacher, both in the school where he taught, and at home supervising Chopin’s homework and learning activities. It was his profession. So Chopin had the benefit of close, informal and constant supervision form both his parents.

3.      His next teacher, now a formal one (in the sense that Chopin had “lessons”) was Wojciech Zwiny, the violinist you mentioned. However in those days there was nothing wrong with having someone – not a pianist himself – teaching the piano. The reason is simple: you did not have piano lessons, you had music lessons. If you do some research you will see that far from being uncommon this was actually very common (examples that come to mind: Mozart’s father and teacher was a violinist, Betthoven’s father and first teacher was a singer, Godowsky’s first teacher was an amateur violinist). Also bear in mind that just because Zwiny was a violinist does not necessarily mean that he had no intimacy with the piano. There is a misguided notion that learning the piano is learning the minutiae of physical movement, physical technique. It is not. The truth is that if you can “hear” in your mind the sound that you want to produce, your fingers will comply. So the real teaching (of any musical instrument) is the teaching of inner hearing. Of course, if the teacher can produce for you the sound in the piano, and suggest ways to do that physically, it will be a great help and avoid a lot of experimentation. But since Zwiny was actually teaching Chopin simple stuff, there is no reason to believe that he would be unable to do it himself at the piano. And by doing so, he was teaching Chopin the very important principle of inner hearing and changing what you are doing at the piano until you can achieve your ideal inner hearing. This demands, focus, concentration, persistence and the capacity to follow instructions first from your teacher, then form yourself. None of these attributes are inborn. They are all learned. And taught. So I think your dismissal of Zwiny as a teacher just because he was a violinist is undeserved. Piano playing on its purely physical level is not that complicated. Musicality is the real problem. Witness Harold Bauer, who switched from violin to the piano in his 20s, without a teacher (it is often falsely claimed) he went on to become one of the piano virtuosos of the century.

4.      Chopin’s next teacher – he was 14 by then and had entered the Warsaw conservatory -  was Jozef Elsner, again not a pianist, but a teacher of composition. So you are telling me that a teacher of composition could not play the piano? Not even a little bit? And even if he could not, would that matter? By that time, Chopin physical technique was pretty much settled. So Elsner naturally concentrated on his deficiencies (you do not wash clean dishes, do you?). Are you going to tell me that Chopin’s highly pianistic composition style owes nothing to Elsner? Many people would like to believe so, But Chopin himself adored both of his formal teachers and had a lifelong respect and loyalty towards both of them.

5.      Chopin was also taught the organ by Vilem Wurfel.

6.      Chopin’s teachers were traditional guys; they schooled him on Mozart, Bach and Hummel, all of which become influential in his compositions. Both Bach and Mozart were his favourite composers.

So was Chopin self-taught? Only in the sense that everyone is self-taught, in the sense that you have to do your own learning, that no one can learn for you. Was he a superb student who could take the tiniest information from his teachers and integrate it and develop it and carry it further than anyone could dream? Certainly. Would he have played the piano if he had been born amongst the Congo pigmies, by himself? Not really.

Here is the sort of misinformation you read in the net:

“But teaching Frederic was not easy. He had a vivacious and determined personality, and much preferred to do his own thing at the keyboard. So that even though the young musician continued to have a variety of music teachers throughout his youth, he was practically self taught. “

You see, by all accounts we have, Chopin was very easy to teach. He was actually the dream student: a student who is willing to learn and who loves the subject. He did not have a variety of music teachers (just the ones I mentioned), he adored Zwiny, who was a gifted teacher in that he made his lessons entertaining, and at the conservatory, Elsner always stuck up his neck for Chopin when the other teachers complained he was “not following the rules: “Leave him alone, he is a genius!”. If that is not a good teacher, what is?

It is really simple, follow this recipe, and you get a virtuoso out of the oven:
willing student + good teacher +conducive environment.

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 cellodude

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #10 on: July 15, 2004, 08:32:23 AM
Hi Bernhard,

Sorry I was away the last 2 days but I did managed to login the night after I last posted and took a quick peek at your reply. So I had a couple of days to mull over my response.

Well, I understand what you're saying about giving credit to the early teachers. By all means do so. I am not in anyway disregarding their input in Chopin's early years. Everyone would have to start somewhere. Heck, even 4-year old Mozart would have needed someone to show him where middle C was I'm sure  :D

But if we were to take into consideration training in the basics then there wouldn't be any self-taught pianist, violinist, writer, inventor (I'm thinking of Thomas Alva Edison here) or whatever and this whole discussion on what being self-taught is is moot.

If you read my earlier post again you would notice that the reason I gave for choosing Chopin is his Etudes. All I'm trying to say is none of his teachers (I was aware of him having a composition teacher but I forgot about his organ teacher at last post) probably had any direct influence on him when he wrote his etudes at age 19. Even good old LVB only exploited the then evolving grand piano by using a bigger range of dynamics and notes in the higher and lower end of the keyboard.

But Chopin's Etudes put the pressure on the performer to come up with NEW solutions to the problem of playing them. The old school then was concerned with the Hanon and Czerny type of finger-only, hands-fixed, elbows-at-the-side way of playing which wouldn't do. No funny things like cartwheeling, axial rotation of wrists, pivoting, elbow-swing-out  and so on.

So it is this living true to his form-breaker label that I believe sets him apart as 'largely self-taught'. We want to give credit where credit is due but we also don't want to take glory away from someone whose work is solely his own. But hey! you don't have to agree with me.

TTFN (Ta Ta For Now),

dennis lee
Cello, cello, mellow fellow!

Offline bernhard

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #11 on: July 26, 2004, 03:26:17 AM
Dennis Lee:

You are preaching to the converted. Have a look here (reply #10) ;):

https://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=perf;action=display;num=1078199063;start=20

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 Balakirev

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #12 on: July 26, 2004, 07:33:33 AM
You always have teachers even if you don't want too. You see other Musicians and you hear them.  I think everyone take something out of someone else.
Balakirev helped found the free school of Music in St. Petersburg.

Offline hodi

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #13 on: December 19, 2004, 07:31:23 PM
even mozart and mendelssohn and saint saens (greatest child prodigies)
had teachers.
you can't learn piano by yourself, period.

Offline quasimodo

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #14 on: December 20, 2004, 01:19:24 PM
even mozart and mendelssohn and saint saens (greatest child prodigies)
had teachers.
you can't learn piano by yourself, period.

you can't learn piano by yourself : very true, but also very true is : you'll never play the piano if you don't learn it by yourself  ;D
" On ne joue pas du piano avec deux mains : on joue avec dix doigts. Chaque doigt doit être une voix qui chante"

Samson François

Offline Chrysalis

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #15 on: April 29, 2005, 02:02:16 PM
a teacher is great to correct your mistakes.
Debussy Rox! Debussy Rox! Debussy Rox!

Offline etudes

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #16 on: April 29, 2005, 03:09:19 PM
get the teacher and everything will go better
sometimes u play and u cant notice is something wrong happen
that is why we need teacher
Piano = my life
My life = piano

Offline sznitzeln

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #17 on: April 29, 2005, 08:11:14 PM
Disadvantage: Unless you didnt have any lessons at all your chances to succeed are not so great, unless you are a genius. You should REALLY have a teacher, as long as you will need it... But if you have never had one I suggest you read this:
Hofman, Neuhaus, (Berman ... havent read), Lhevinne, everything about musical notation, start slowly learning theory, practice ear training (intervals, chords, scales, then move on with transcription of easy pieces), practice sight-reading every day :)
Listen to the best artists... this is important... compare different pianists versions of the same work.
Make sure you are as concentrated as possible when you practice, and focus on problems... when a problem feels to big, try solve a part of it...
You will notice how your concentration time over the years will increase from 0 minutes to 1-2 hours or so :)
There are many other things to say, but I guess this will do... I know this is a bit off topic, but I hope someone finds some use of it.
Another disadvantage... unless anyone gives you homework, theres a risk you will work less.

Advantages: Many teachers will mislead you unfortunately... you can learn a great deal on your own... and when you have had a good teacher for a while I think its better to study alone than to take a worse teacher that will only stop you.
Learning on your own makes you think a lot... or it should atleast :)
In the first years of study we need a teacher, but later we must stand on our own legs, and then we need a different kind of teacher.

Offline Derek

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #18 on: April 29, 2005, 11:16:07 PM
For me, having been initially self taught was essential. I now do a great deal of classical improvisation---without which activity I doubt I would play the piano at all. However I now have a teacher who is helping me to improve my technique, reading, and repertoire-interpretation skills. 

I think both approaches to learning are essential to becoming the best musician you can possibly become.

Offline sznitzeln

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #19 on: May 02, 2005, 10:03:54 PM
An addition:

Although there are some advantages and disadvantages, it is absolutely indispendable to have a GOOD teacher.

Offline musik_man

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #20 on: May 03, 2005, 05:35:54 AM
Bernhard, I think you set the bar for what constitutes a teacher way too low.  You're technically right when you say that no one is self-taught as one has to learn the basics from someone; however, that's not what people mean when they say they're self-taught.  The usage in this context is that they never had a permanent teacher in the sense that a normal student does.

Take myself for example.  I'd consider myself self-taught, and if I were to explain the history of my playing, I think virtually everyone would agree.  I started to play piano 4 years ago.  When I started, I had no teacher.  I used my previous knowledge of music, which was attained randomly through my life.  That basically consisted of knowing where the middle C was, what sharps and flats were, and what value quarter notes, half notes etc had.  When I ran across something that I didn't know, I'd ask my brother(who plays Trombone) or use the Internet.  Now, these questions tended to be very brief, for example asking my brother where the C on the bass clef was located, so I could decode what the notes there meant, or learning what the vertical curly mark meant by a chord(rolled chords.)  My brother had no more experience with the piano than I did.  He actually started playing when I did.  Except that he quit after a month.

I kept this up for a long time, playing more advanced pieces(not particularly well, but for the most part the notes were there.)  I only began to read books and stuff like Chang's book or your posts, a couple years ago.  By that time I could play Alla Turca, Maple Leaf Rag, and some various easier pieces.  Hardly virtuoso, but not a terrible growth for a 2 year player.

If I'm not self-taught, who were my teachers?  I learned some basics about music notation from a variety of sources, but I don't consider that piano teaching, more like basic music theory.  Virtually all of the knowledge and development, specifically related to the piano, was discovered through experimentation and practice at the keyboard.  If you don't think that consitutes teaching one's self, you're just playing a game of semantics.  I'll make a brief analogy here.  Say someone learned basic math(addition, subtraction, multiplication) in school and then dropped.  Later on, by reading books and working hard, they picked up Algebra, Geometry, Trig, and Calculus.  Would you think this person was lying to soothe his ego,  if he said that he taught himself math?  Of course, the person in this example had some formal training, many pianists(not necessarily famous or virtuoso ones) haven't.  I consider them self-taught.

I don't think that you're definition is very useful.  You derive it by taking the exact meanings of self and taught and proceeding from their, but that's not how language works.  Words are simply a medium to communicate ideas.  When someone tells you that they are self-taught, they(being most people, some people may mean something slightly different) are trying to let you know that they never had a formal piano teacher.  They aren't inviting you to analyze the exact dictionary meanings of the word.  I doubt that many common phrases and terms could stand up to that sort of scrutiny.  When you apply it to self-taught, they phrase becomes for all purposes useless.

Now in the cases mentioned here of Chopin, Richter, and Godowsky.  You(this is addressed to everyone not just Bernhard) may think that they had enough instruction to not be self-taught, but don't accuse them of puffing themselves up.  They may have just had a different level for what they consider self-taught.  Just read Bernhard's definition of self-taught.  Under that no one is self-taught.  If Bernhard can have such a restrictive defintion, isn't it possible that they had a very loose definition (and remember that it was a long time ago when they said these things, so the term could have had different connotations.)  They may have just meant that they had no one to teach them piano, or that they picked up most of their technique through experimentation at the piano and weren't just following some teacher's directions.  Keep in mind that these pianists know a lot more about their development than you do.  You may know that Godowsky's father was a violinist, but Godowsky knew precisely what input his father had in his musical career.  Whether or not you think that their level constitutes self-teaching or not, you don't have to accuse them of being petty egomaniacs to demean their accomplishments.

Now, onto the main question, how being self-taught effects you.  I think that being self-taught isn't always a negative thing.  It depends on many factors.  The quality of your teacher, your willingness to explore and evaluate the effectiveness of your technique, how well you deal with taking advice, what motivates you to play and many other things.  That being said, I think that on average, a student would grow faster with a teacher than without.

Geez, all that and my post is still only half as long as the average one by Bernhard.  How do you do it? :o
/)_/)
(^.^)
((__))o

Offline CJ Quinn

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #21 on: May 03, 2005, 10:27:34 AM
My recent testimonial about my experience with a great teacher after years of being self-taught:


https://www.pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,8174.0.html
Christopher James Quinn
Brooklyn, Earth

Piano: August Förster 190

mp3s: www.media.cjquinn.com

My Miraculous Brooklyn Piano Teacher:  https://www.racheljimenez.com

Offline rafant

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Re: Self-taught or With a teacher ?
Reply #22 on: May 04, 2005, 05:25:28 PM
It seems to me that self-taught great pianists are exceptions, if any. So it appears that for the majority of us one of the conditions towards great pianism is a good teacher. In my humble experience my teachers have found so much things to correct that I don't know how I could continue without them.
A better example of course would be Joseph Hoffman, a child prodigy: Before leaving his teens he didn't need teachers anymore, but only after getting a solid foundation with teachers as Anton Rubinstein.

 
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