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Topic: That was the most disappointing and defeating lesson ever... what to do?  (Read 2938 times)

Offline mosis

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I don't know what to do anymore. I am studying under an advanced teacher who's been teaching for 40 years. He's had his students win competitions, smoke exams, and move on to being concert pianists and teachers, but he follows the traditional methods. The absolute outrageous things he has told me in regards to the "best and only way to gain technique" include the following:

1. Practice Hanon everyday. Only then will you be able to play the Pathetique Sonata second movement quietly and evenly, as well as any other adagio movements or slow passages. He gave me no instructions other than this.

2. Practice all scales and arpeggios and other sh*t for technique acquisition. Bringing the thumb under is the only way to play the scales (even though when he showed me he was displacing the hand.) I pointed this out to him, and he said "Yeah, but you're not playing that fast yes, so practice this movement now." These scales need to be HT @ 144 BPM for my exam in June.

I also asked him about working on just the left hand, because it was lagging behind. He quoted some guy and told me "The only way to get the left hand as strong as the right is to play the scale with the left hand once, then with hands together, and then with the left hand once more. Do this every day for two years, and your left hand will be as proficient as your right."

3. The major issue is that I'm not progressing in my pieces at all. I've been playing for three months under him (paying $65/h, one hour every week) and I can't play a single piece in it's entirety. We play something different every week and I don't really get to practice more than any one thing more than 6 days at a time (and he expects pages and pages of this stuff). He says that he wants to do any piece over 10 weeks time. That means by Spring time, I will have 5 pieces done. This is the fastest and most realistic way to do it, according to him.

4. He preaches 7/20, but nothing about speed or memory. He just recommends that I practice anything for 20 minutes. He doesn't want anything memorized until much later, and speed means nothing to him as well. This once again, is the best and fastest way to do it.

Now, I want to know, for a guy who apparently has done so much research, and has been teaching all his life, how the *** can he think that this is the best way? He's spoon-feeding me this bullshit and he expects me to believe him. "Do it my way. Trust me. I know what I'm doing." I have no doubt in my mind that we will be done by the time he says, but that is CERTAINLY not the fastest way to go about doing it. I was trying to talk to him, but he would have none of it. His way or no way. I was about ready to cry.

What am I supposed to do? He won't listen to anything I say, I'm being frustrated to sh*t by the bullshit dinners he's making for me. The worst part about this all, is that I thoroughly went to many other teachers before coming to him, and when he told me about 7/20, I actually thought I'd hear more about these counter-intuitive methods. Instead, I get technical exercises and the "best, realistic" deadline of 10 months for 5 pieces. I can't find a new teacher because there is no other teacher. I can't ditch him because I need some kind of teacher, and he is the best there is. And I mean, certainly, his students are amazing, and I'll get the pieces done, but this is so terribly slow and boring (with the technical exercises and scales). Like sh*t, he could at least give me some Dohnanyi or something, but not *** HANON.

Who else has tried telling their teachers about the stuff Bernhard and Chang say and have received nothing but raised eyebrows and stubborn elitism? I hope I am not the only one in such a conundrum.

Offline BoliverAllmon

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my teacher agrees on several issues of Bernhard's and chang, but differs greatly on other areas. I myself don't totally agree with everything she says, but she doesn't really know it. She is open to knew ideas though. Like take for instance, I can memorize 50x faster than she can (ok maybe an exaggeration but you get the point) so one lesson she just sat there while I gave her my ideas and routines on memorization. I basically taught her for 30 min or so. Really cool. Over all I have another teacher to exponentiate the results of my practicing. two heads are better than one.

boliver

Offline mosis

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You have two teachers? Are you at a musical institution with a seperate private teacher on the side?

Offline bernhard

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Here is what you do:

1.   Realise that your teacher does not live with you. You see him for one hour per week. If so, how can he control your practice? Hence do whatever you think is the correct thing to do in order to achieve your goals.

2.   Teachers in general do not really care how you got to learn and play your pieces. (I know I don’t). As long as you bring them ready and in good shape, they do not really mind if you did the way they suggested or not.

3.   A lot of teachers (this may or may not be the case with your teacher) do not care to teach basics. They want most of all to discuss musicality. They expect that your practice time during the week will be devoted to learning “the right notes at the right time”, so that they can take it from there. He probably has mastered all of the stuff he assigned to you, so he may be bored to tears and he probably cannot understand why you are taking so long to learn the stuff. I know I get impatient with students who find extremely difficult something that for me has become easy. It is one of the reasons I tend to give students repertory I myself have not yet mastered and want to learn, so we learn it together.

4.   Your teacher is clearly a person with great knowledge and resources you can use. So stop arguing with him. Instead of trying to make him teach you the way you want to learn, try to learn from him as much as you can. Surely there must be some areas where you are prepared to follow his lead. The other areas where you may disagree, you can always give him the benefit of the doubt and try what he is suggesting, or you can do your own thing without any need to confront him about it.

5.   Although I do not like Hanon (actually it is not a question of like or dislike – it is more a question of not having the time to waste), the exercises are actually very easy. At your level of repertory you should be able to sight read through them in less then 40 minutes (scales and arpeggios excluded). If it is such a big deal with your teacher, learn them. Once you learn them, you will always know them, there is no need to work on them everyday.

6.   You say that after 3 months you cannot play a single piece in its entirety. Why not? What is stopping you? At the end of the day you may have to do the work he has assigned to you, plus the work that you think you should be doing. I suggest you take this opportunity to learn about how to organise a schedule so that you manage to do this. Just because he wants to see a different piece every week, this does not mean that you stop working on the others. Make a schedule and keep to it. Do not let externals influence your schedule. Do not fall into the trap of working under pressure. Keep working on all your pieces,  and at each week you show him whatever is it that he wants to be shown.

7.   Let us have a closer look at the scale subject. He wants you to do it with thumb under. That is fine. Do it. Scales thumb under are very important in slow, legato passages (e.g. Bach, Scarlatti, Couperin). Since he is keen on this particular technique, milk him for it: Learn from him how to do the best thumb under scales in the planet! And when you get home, work by yourself on the thumb over scales.

8.   Relax and enjoy your teacher! If you go to MacDonald’s, it is useless complaining that they don’t serve French Haute cuisine. And if you go to the French Laundry (have you heard of it?) you should not expect to be served burgers and coke. Likewise, if you go to a sashimi/sushi restaurant, you do not want to lecture the chef on the health dangers of eating raw fish. Just enjoy the meal that the place prepares best. You have the rest of the week to go home and cook whatever you want.

I hope this helps.

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 mosis

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See, Bernhard, the thing is, about the repertoire acquisition, I just simply can't practice EVERYTHING and still give him what he wants. It's just too much. No amount of organization can help that. It's not possible to practice everything at all times. I will master (actually, he doesn't even want that, which is why I'm getting no where) like, 4 bars a week, or something. It is incredibly slow.

Also, on thumb under scales, what I mean was, that he wants me to practice thumb under but he expects to get the scales firing at 144 BPM. Yet when he shows me the fast scales, he is using a "modified TU technique" that includes the displacement of the hand.

And as for Hanon, no, I cannot sightread them at tempo HT. There is much tension in my hands when I do this.

Offline Hmoll

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Sounds like you should have a talk with your teacher about your frustrations, his plans/expectations of you, and your expectations of lessons and what you ultimately want to accomplish.

Lots of times people go to new teachers, and go through an adjustment phase where aspects of technique, teaching style, pace of learning change a lot. I'm going through that right now. This could be what you are going through, but I'm not sure.

I agree with a lot of what Bernhard says, but not where he says do whatever you want on your own. If you are not in favor of playing Hanon - as a hypothetical example - and that's a big part of your teacher's regime, it makes no sense to stay with that teacher, and not follow his instructions. Studying with a new teacher requires a leap of faith to a certain extent, where you need to embrace their way of teaching and playing, provided you agree to that before hand.
"I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me!" -- Max Reger

Offline mosis

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The thing about the Hanon, is he has kind of forced me to play it. He said "Prove me wrong. Play Hanon and your scales for month. I guarantee you will improve."

This is the best teacher I'm going to find around here. Trust me, I've looked long and hard. I just didn't know Hanon was coming my way. I don't have a problem with scales.

Offline galonia

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And as for Hanon, no, I cannot sightread them at tempo HT. There is much tension in my hands when I do this.

That may be why your teacher wants you to play them - that way, you can remove the tension with a repetitive exercise rather than having to think too much about other aspects of playing.

One of my friends was accepted into the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and started learning with my teacher.  A month into this, I asked her how it was going, and she burst into tears, saying for the first month, she's only played C Major scale.  It turned out she had a lot of tension in her arms when she played, so our teacher was correcting the way she uses her fingers, wrists, arms, elbows, shoulders -

If you are unsure, you should ask your teacher, what specifically he is wanting you to improve, by playing the Hanon exercises.

Offline Daniel_piano

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Hanon can be rather fun if you practice it anytime with a different rhythm (as showed on the first pages of the book
With all that rhythm variations the piece doesn't sounds mechanical and boring anymore
Even more fun is practicing Hanon studies as canons or fugue
You can for example start the left hand onyl after three bars of the right hand, or play the left hand in contrry motion
Or even more fun, practice one rhythm on the right hand and another one on the left hand
In this way they're not Hanon anymore (the boring Hanon we know) but at the end of your practice you have learned them anyway

As for the scales and thumb under
You can alternated fast practice with slow slow motion practice
Play the scale one time slow with thumb under, play the scale fast with thumb over, play the scale still slow but faster than the first time with thumb under, play the scale faster than the second time thumb over

I don't think his method os learning a lot of thing without fully completing them is a bad one
There are teachers that don't want their students to start a new piece if the one they're currently practice is not "perfect"
I've seen kids passing three months on the same piece because the teacher didn't more along if it wasn't perfect
Though, probably the technique necessary to play it perfectly must be come from other pieces from new tries
So, you may learn 30 piece and neither is perfect, but when you have practiced 30 different pieces with differen difficulty levels and different style it may require you just a month to perfect all of them, instead of passing months of just one piece in order to perfect it

Could you also please tell us what pieces are you practicing right now (how many pages or bar) and for when you're supposed to have them ready?
Maybe there's a way to organize them... dunno

Let us know and don't get disheartened
Daniel

"Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask "Why me?" Then a voice answers "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.""

Offline Daniel_piano

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Hanon can be rather fun if you practice it anytime with a different rhythm (as showed on the first pages of the book
With all that rhythm variations the piece doesn't sounds mechanical and boring anymore

On second thought: does your book have the rhythmic variations page?

Daniel
"Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask "Why me?" Then a voice answers "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.""

Offline rachlisztchopin

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My last teacher was like yours....may i ask the name of your teacher?

Offline Daniel_piano

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Quote
2. Practice all scales and arpeggios and other *** for technique acquisition
but this is so terribly slow and boring (with the technical exercises and scales)

You don't seem to like scales too much  ;)
Anyway, I don't think they should be regarded as boring technical exercises
In fact, scales are very important and really do help with coordination and alterations on your pieces
I don't remember reading anywhere on Chang, Bernhard, Whiteside principles that scales where to be considered useless or to be avoided as Hanon

A good way to make scales fun is to adapt your scale to a piece
Let's say for example that you have a Mozart sonata with a 6 bars phrase and a D major scale in bars 4 and 5
So, after having sightread and memorized your scale (not perfectly) you practice it as part of the Mozart Sonata phrase always changing the tonality from D to E to Major to Minor
Alternate different tonalities and different pieces in different styles

Daniel
"Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask "Why me?" Then a voice answers "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.""

Offline mosis

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Offline mosis

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Quote
2. Practice all scales and arpeggios and other *** for technique acquisition
but this is so terribly slow and boring (with the technical exercises and scales)

You don't seem to like scales too much  ;)
Anyway, I don't think they should be regarded as boring technical exercises
In fact, scales are very important and really do help with coordination and alterations on your pieces
I don't remember reading anywhere on Chang, Bernhard, Whiteside principles that scales where to be considered useless or to be avoided as Hanon

A good way to make scales fun is to adapt your scale to a piece
Let's say for example that you have a Mozart sonata with a 6 bars phrase and a D major scale in bars 4 and 5
So, after having sightread and memorized your scale (not perfectly) you practice it as part of the Mozart Sonata phrase always changing the tonality from D to E to Major to Minor
Alternate different tonalities and different pieces in different styles

Daniel

I don't hate scales. I want to learn them as they should be learned. The thing is, he's telling me to play it TU HT and says I'm going to get them firing at 144 bpm.

My book does not have the rhythmic variations page. Currently, I'm seeking out all the exercises which train finger independence (no. 7 is an excellent one) and practising them HS. That's the reason he said I should do Hanon in the first place, so I'm not going to waste time practising stuff I can already do.

Offline mosis

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Could you also please tell us what pieces are you practicing right now (how many pages or bar) and for when you're supposed to have them ready?
Maybe there's a way to organize them... dunno

Let us know and don't get disheartened
Daniel


Chopin's 9/1 (mastered), Bach's Prelude and Fugue no. 2 WTC II, Rachmaninoff's 3/2 (C# minor prelude), Pathetique, Romanian Folk dances.

Technically, I have until the Spring to learn them, and I will learn them during this time if I do what he tells me to do. But that is 5 pieces in 7 months. That is very poor progress. Terrible, in fact.

Offline Daniel_piano

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My book does not have the rhythmic variations page..

Here's the rhythmic variations
Hanon Rhythm Variations
In the examples you can see them applied to the exercise n.1 for the first bars
They can be used with all studies and scales and arpeggio too
Instead of repeating an Hanon exercize 7 times, you can use 7 different rhythm one for each repetition

I've a good book on studies on finger independance that are very musical, I don't think you can find it where you live so maybe some scans would be interesting to you or your teacher
They're easy but ihmo more effective than Hanon for finger independance and they're music

Daniel

"Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask "Why me?" Then a voice answers "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.""

Offline Daniel_piano

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I don't hate scales. I want to learn them as they should be learned. The thing is, he's telling me to play it TU HT and says I'm going to get them firing at 144 bpm.


Thumb under or Thumb over are just a matter of perception
When he plays fast he is displacing his hands, when he plays slow he is passing his thumb under to have a legato sound
So, since you can't notice the difference (unless you don't analyse the movement) your teacher simply believe that the movement is the same and that thumn over is just a speedy-thumb-under
In other words, he believe that the displacement will be automatic when you play faster
Since you already know the difference of each movement I don't think there's any problem
Use thumb under if your scale is slow and you need a legato
When eventually you have to play your scales fast, practice and play with thumb over
Afterall you need both to play perfect scales in all speeds and styles

When you says 144 bmp what value are you referring to?
144 = crotchet
144= quadruple
or what else?

What scales book are you using?
Do you like it? Do you like the way scales are presented and the fingering?

Daniel


"Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask "Why me?" Then a voice answers "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.""

Offline mosis

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Thanks for the rhythm variations.

It's not so much the massive amount of material, but massive amount of technique. I have to develop a good portion of the technique required to play all these pieces. It is my first fugue, and my finger independence is terrible. I have never had experience with tremolos or quick jumps and trills, like in the Pathetique, and fast chords are pretty new to me too. Learning the notes themselves is easy; it is getting them up to speed that is difficult.

Offline Daniel_piano

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Could you also please tell us what pieces are you practicing right now (how many pages or bar) and for when you're supposed to have them ready?
Maybe there's a way to organize them... dunno

Let us know and don't get disheartened
Daniel


Chopin's 9/1 (mastered), Bach's Prelude and Fugue no. 2 WTC II, Rachmaninoff's 3/2 (C# minor prelude), Pathetique, Romanian Folk dances.

Technically, I have until the Spring to learn them, and I will learn them during this time if I do what he tells me to do. But that is 5 pieces in 7 months. That is very poor progress. Terrible, in fact.

It depends on the pieces though
Some sonatas are very long so that it would not be possible to learn them in just a month
I'm not sure you should focus on the amount of pieces you are learning but on their size and difficulty

Anyway, it would be helpful to you if you could have a more clear agenda about what really need to be learned fromyour pieces (how many bars in total)
You could for example begin by forgetting, eliminating with a pencil X, erasing all the repetition on your piece and all the repeated patters
Some Beethoven sonatas are half new material and hald repeated material in a different tonality
They shold not be included on your list of "really need to be learned"

Just by eliminating all the repeated material, patterns and modulations you will see that it's like having 2 pieces to learn instead of 4
Then I would suggest you to sightread the whole pieces and mark those bars that really need have problems to be solved while eliminating those easy bars that only need few repetitions and practice or that are perfect after just 7 repetitions

Problably you will end up with 6/7 bars per piece/movement (I don't know how long is Rach and  the Folk dances  these ones) 
Once you have an exact number of bars/phrase you have to work on you can better divide them by the number of days in which you'd like your pieces to be ready
So you will have a ephimeral period, 7 months to learn 5 pieces, and a more precise and mathematical period (marked bars : number of days= time to master the pieces)
If you show your teacher that you can learn your piece faster he will be the first one to accelerate your learning pace
I don't think you need your pieces to be perfect within the amount of time resulting from dividing the number of bars to be learned by the number of fats you want to utilize to learn the pieces, you just need them learned not perfect
When each piece is learned you will devote your time on perfecting them, and at that point it would require few time (a week probably)

Daniel
"Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask "Why me?" Then a voice answers "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.""

Offline mosis

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Yeah, my teacher doesn't want to go to the second half of the sonata because it's exactly the same as the first. He wants to sort out the technical problems in his way and if I object he tells me to trust him.

Once again, it's not that I don't trust him. i know he will do it for me. He has done it for everyone else. It's just extremely slow.

Offline Daniel_piano

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Thanks for the rhythm variations.

It's not so much the massive amount of material, but massive amount of technique. I have to develop a good portion of the technique required to play all these pieces. It is my first fugue, and my finger independence is terrible. I have never had experience with tremolos or quick jumps and trills, like in the Pathetique, and fast chords are pretty new to me too. Learning the notes themselves is easy; it is getting them up to speed that is difficult.

Speed is still a controversy to me
I don't believe that it's so important to have your pieces at speed at once
Speed will come
It will come as a results of post practice improvement and familiarity with your pieces
So I would first work on solving all rhytmic problems and technical problems on the marked bars/phrases  (at whatever speed you feel confortable)
Just remember to try sometimes, especially after switching hands, to play fast the chunk you're practcing as an exploratory tool to be sure you're using at your confortable speed the movements that will be required at fast speed
When you know the piece well and all technical problems are solved you can ihmo focus on speed, bringing little chunks up to speed and then connecting them all together
I would leave out all the pedaling and ornaments, to be added at the end when the piece is ready, secure and fast
To be sure to practice in order to aquire the techcnique needed to play the piece be sure to work only on the bars/phrases you have marked
Since they're the one that give you problems, the key to learn the technique to play these pieces is to solve the technical problems of each piece to be found on the bars you marked when your sightreaded sowly the piece

Daniel







"Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask "Why me?" Then a voice answers "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.""

Offline Daniel_piano

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Yeah, my teacher doesn't want to go to the second half of the sonata because it's exactly the same as the first. He wants to sort out the technical problems in his way and if I object he tells me to trust him.

He can only object on your way to solve technical problems at lesson, but when you're at home you can do whatever you want to do and no one can object
What is your way of solving technical problems? (how do you usually learn a new piece: how do you start and how do you proceed)
What is the difference between your method and your method teacher?
With particular difference or request from your teacher make it difficult for you to use your methods

There's something important to be remember about piano practicing (but every school material as well)
That is: the more varied you learn, the better you learn
So, it's not that you need a method and all the rest should be avoided
If you have a piece and you learn using 30 different methods, it will be mastered far better than if you had practiced it with just 1 or 2 methods
The methods are cumulative, the effect of one method is not destroyed by using another method, it is potentiated in fact
So, if someone suggests you a new method, instead of keep anchored to the one you already know, use it as well, the more the better
The more method you use the more your subconscious knows the piece and this is the crux of the matter
So, why don't you use both your methods and your teacher ones?
There's nothing to lose only to gain in trying different approaches

Daniel

"Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask "Why me?" Then a voice answers "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.""
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