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5 Minutes on Franz Liszt’s Funérailles

Pianist Daniel Barenboim, now celebrating 75 years, has published a series of short videos titled “5 minutes on…” in which he discusses well-known piano pieces. In this episode he talks about Franz Liszt’s Funérailles from the piano cycle Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses. Read more >>

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Author Topic: What would you do with an adult student who cancels regularly  (Read 6710 times)
love_that_tune
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« on: July 14, 2014, 02:28:39 AM »

I have a family of four.  When dad has another engagement, which is frequently, he asks the other family members to take a longer lesson.  This is getting on my last nerve.  Am I crazy to give up the money.  The two little girls are fine.  The adults, not so much.  It's pretty much entertainment for them.  I get that this guy is a control freak, but it's disrespectful and annoying. 

So do I need to take it on the chin for income, or let it go in some way?   

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j_menz
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« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2014, 02:51:54 AM »

You get paid, your scheduling isn't interrupted or thrown out. All that changes is who's in the pupil's seat. What's the big deal?
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"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant
love_that_tune
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« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2014, 12:11:46 PM »

Well, that's the reason I posted this.  I'm not a nanny.  When he does have a lesson he often contradicts me.  I will say, "now do this." and he'll say I'm going to do such and such again.  One time I was teaching him to use the pedal with arpeggio exercises.  Or trying to.  He refused to use the pedal, saying it was too hard.  He's just an annoying guy and controlling.

I hear you on the money thing. 
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nyiregyhazi
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« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2014, 12:27:18 PM »

I have a family of four.  When dad has another engagement, which is frequently, he asks the other family members to take a longer lesson.  This is getting on my last nerve.  Am I crazy to give up the money.  The two little girls are fine.  The adults, not so much.  It's pretty much entertainment for them.  I get that this guy is a control freak, but it's disrespectful and annoying. 

So do I need to take it on the chin for income, or let it go in some way?   



Only one control freak comes across from this post. That you'd even think this is some kind of disrespect to you is simply baffling.
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love_that_tune
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« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2014, 01:28:44 PM »

whoa, well now.  I stand corrected.
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awesom_o
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« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2014, 01:49:57 PM »

Well, that's the reason I posted this.  I'm not a nanny.  When he does have a lesson he often contradicts me.  I will say, "now do this." and he'll say I'm going to do such and such again.  One time I was teaching him to use the pedal with arpeggio exercises.  Or trying to.  He refused to use the pedal, saying it was too hard. 

If you, as a piano teacher, are encouraging your pupils to practice arpeggios using the sustain pedal, then maybe you SHOULD be a nanny, instead of a piano teacher.  Smiley
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love_that_tune
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« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2014, 01:53:05 PM »

Well well now.  I should have read my horoscope before posting this question.  But thanks for all the help.

You must be the teachers whose students I get because they quit, not enjoying rigid pedagogy.  I really don't get the hostility...  Really?
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awesom_o
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« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2014, 02:09:15 PM »

There was no hostility in my post  Smiley
I even included a friendly smiley, to set the tone right from the very beginning!

Focus your energy more on the two little girls, and respect that the adults see this as a form of entertainment. Much of the world considers music to be entertainment, rather than the spiritual pursuit of pure excellence that artists consider it to be.

Be friendly with the two adults, and don't boss them around. Let them play the pieces they want to play, and don't make corrections too frequently. They are not headed for the conservatoire or the concert stage. Just don't let them practice arpeggios using the sustain pedal.  Wink
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pianoman53
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« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2014, 06:47:16 PM »

Don't worry about awesome_o. He can be very rude, without even noticing it. You see, he played all chopin etudes in half tempo once! Smiley

Awesome_o, l_t_t has every right in the world to teach however s/he feels fit. S/he didn't come here to ask about technical aspects of piano playing, but about what to do with a student.


Tune: You could try to tell him politely that you're the teacher, and you know what you're doing. Though, he might get annoyed and quit.
You could also ask him what he wants to do. Since he is an adult, he probably doesn't have a goal to become a professional. Maybe he doesn't even want to perform. Ask him about his goals before you give him too many technical things.

And oh, Awesome_o, a smiley doesn't really make a rude comment not rude, as you could see in my first statement.
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love_that_tune
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« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2014, 07:03:17 PM »

Thanks,  I shall move over to your side of the playground now.  I swear I felt like a kid.  Just for perspective I'm 68.  I've been teaching a while.. I'm guessing Mr. A doesn't teach jazz.  Just a guess.
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awesom_o
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« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2014, 07:06:27 PM »


Awesome_o, l_t_t has every right in the world to teach however s/he feels fit.



Absolutely! He or she ALSO has every right to drop the offending parents and suffer the financial consequences. He or she EVEN has the right to teach all of his or her pupils to practice all arpeggios and scales using the sustain pedal!

I wouldn't recommend either, personally.... but I'm all for freedom of choice!  Smiley
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love_that_tune
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« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2014, 07:12:51 PM »

Well, I'm all for freedom from snarky attitudes.   Smiley Gotta go I have three students who are learning the music from Frozen, Bohemian Rhapsody and lots of well-pedaled arpeggios. 

I once had a Julliard trained piano teacher who implied that I might never be very good because I had trouble with fingering exactly as Bach would have it.

ta ta for now.



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awesom_o
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« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2014, 07:26:32 PM »

I'm guessing Mr. A doesn't teach jazz.  Just a guess.

Guess again! I struggle to respect musicians who do not improvise.  Smiley
I wish I could teach improvisation for half of the time with my advanced students, but most of them are pressured by their parents to take traditional exams, which unfortunately do not emphasize improvisation.
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mnmleung
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« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2014, 08:27:22 PM »

Thank you all, I enjoy this thread. Grin
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Bob
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« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2014, 06:34:59 AM »

I'd make the father/student aware they won't make as fast of progress if they keep skipping lessons.  Then it's a matter of whether you want a student like that.  It's an potential example of your teaching.  If you don't like the results (and you can afford it), you could drop them so you've got more 'good sounding' students. 

On the money side... If you get paid the same, you break even.  I've gone through how to practice with students.  Easy enough on my end.  They get something out of it.  They could have/should have done that at home, but if that's what the lesson needs to be, fine.

What you could do -- Figure out how to charge more.  Something like x-rate for weekly lessons.  y-rate more for a lesson every other week.  Why?  Because you have to deal with more garbage in biweekly lessons and will have students who make less progress.
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nanabush
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« Reply #15 on: July 15, 2014, 11:39:34 PM »

I had a student like this: she'd miss every 3rd lesson (once a week) almost consistently... she'd get her daughter to take over with an extra 30 minutes so we didn't have to reschedule...my two issues were that her daughter was too young for an hour, and the mother was NOT making consistent progress (and it seemed like she was setting a bad example for her daughter...)

I told the secretary at the school I taught that I refused to take them for another year.  It got my final nerve when I recommended she use a metronome and she (the mother) called it "the stupid annoying ticky thing and that I'm not using it because it bugs me".

Some will take the side that if you are getting paid consistently then not to worry to much... but if you have other students who are more committed who also would DIE for the time slot the adult takes, then you may have another choice available.
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Bob
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« Reply #16 on: July 15, 2014, 11:47:57 PM »

More of a power issue of who controls lesson scheduling.

Also rude to the teacher if you've got the daughter's lesson planned out and then have to come up with more stuff after that.  Although there's never enough time in a lesson.  I'd run through practicing with them.  That can be good and burn up time quickly.

What you could do is take their money.  Fill up time with the daughter when that happens.  And then try to wean the parent off whatever the lesson schedule is that's too much of a time commitment.  If once a week is too much, maybe every other week, but that would be something they commit to.  Then pare the lessons down a bit for the adult, esp. if they're not that interested.  At that point, or even now, it's a question of, do you want a student who's not committing to it a lot and is just doing it for fun?

Which, besides the money... On the teaching side, you can use students as guinea pigs...  If a student's not really committed... why not try out a new method book with them?  Try a different teaching technique.  Things like that.  You get more out of them then just money and it's stuff you wouldn't normally do teaching-wise with a student.
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j_menz
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« Reply #17 on: July 15, 2014, 11:55:17 PM »

I recommended she use a metronome and she (the mother) called it "the stupid annoying ticky thing and that I'm not using it because it bugs me".

I like her already.  Grin

Isn't the progress of an adult student, in particular, a matter for them rather than you as teacher?  They're paying, they know that missing lessons/practice means slower progress. They also have more going on in their lives and are old enough to know the trade offs.

The purpose of piano lessons is not to make the teacher look good, after all. It's for the student to learn. And for adults, the pace at which they do so, and the time they are able/prepared to put in is a matter for them.
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Bob
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« Reply #18 on: July 16, 2014, 12:18:02 AM »

It's that way with any student though. 


I bet there's some similar BS going on at "higher levels of teaching."  Like a university professor who can pick and choose students.  The must be situations where the student learns something on their own without the professor's help and people are aware of it.  Things like that.
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outin
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« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2014, 03:51:25 AM »


I told the secretary at the school I taught that I refused to take them for another year.  It got my final nerve when I recommended she use a metronome and she (the mother) called it "the stupid annoying ticky thing and that I'm not using it because it bugs me".


If that bothered you so much, then I guess you did the right thing. Some teacher's are not good in handling opiniated students, so hopefully she found a teacher who can. You wouldn't last long with me either  Grin
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nanabush
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« Reply #20 on: July 16, 2014, 06:25:36 AM »

Haha, the scheduling issue was the worst part - but the mother honestly just had a negative attitude.  Her daughter was practicing more regularly, and mother constantly had excuses haha!  I was really nice about it, but I was scratching my head each week when she 'forgot' she had to practice her scales, but her daughter did with no issues lol!!
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outin
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« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2014, 07:13:12 AM »

Haha, the scheduling issue was the worst part - but the mother honestly just had a negative attitude.  Her daughter was practicing more regularly, and mother constantly had excuses haha!  I was really nice about it, but I was scratching my head each week when she 'forgot' she had to practice her scales, but her daughter did with no issues lol!!

I would not practice scales either, if not the right time for that. No use if one cannot concentrate on them properly. The difference between a child and an adult is (often) that an adult is aware of when the practice is inefficient and would rather not, while most children will just do what they are told whether useful or not.
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pianoman53
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« Reply #22 on: July 16, 2014, 11:58:25 AM »

The difference between a child and an adult is (often) that an adult is aware of when the practice is inefficient and would rather not

Well, the difference can also be that children trusts that the teacher knows better than the student. Adults thinks they know better.
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outin
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« Reply #23 on: July 16, 2014, 12:13:29 PM »

Well, the difference can also be that children trusts that the teacher knows better than the student. Adults thinks they know better.

Of course. Some children too BTW.

But some things they actually do know better. The teacher is not present when they are practicing, so cannot assess the circumstances or their state of mind. Nor does the teacher usually know their general learning history. Adults often have quite a lot of experience with learning/not learning from before and in the best cases this has developed some useful self-knowledge.
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zerozero
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« Reply #24 on: July 23, 2014, 10:39:11 AM »

Power games: The thing is, with power, the only power he has is what you give him, because you don't realise this he becomes powerful. Its like Mussolini when the people realised they could say no, or the wizard of Oz when the curtain is drawn back, the illusion is shattered and people are free. You actually have the power.
I taught sax not piano, I had many students with the best instruments that never practiced, they like the ritual, sometimes I would take there money for nothing - just so they could open the case in front of me. Sometimes I would just say - no. I am free, you are free.

its a wonderful thing this freedom, its the same freedom that you get when you forget about the notes...

Z
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Bob
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« Reply #25 on: July 23, 2014, 10:47:08 AM »

I'm curious how this situation turned out.  Let us know?
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nyiregyhazi
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« Reply #26 on: July 27, 2014, 12:59:59 AM »

I would not practice scales either, if not the right time for that. No use if one cannot concentrate on them properly.

Scales require no more focus than any other task, if understood. If you can't drum up the concentration for scales, you're not concentrating well enough to work at effectively at pieces either (which demand abundantly more focus and awareness, unless you're just running physical habits without truly observing yourself in the spirit of good practise).

The whole point of scales it to take real world difficulties and put them into their simplest form. If you make excuses now, what will happen when you get to an advanced Mozart sonata- in which you must visualise both standard scale patterns with standard fingerings and non standard patterns with different fingerings? And all that is while needing to respect musical shapes and having to contend with another hand at the same time. Is that any place to be having to drum up the focus to learn how to play a basic scale that you put aside because it was too hard to concentrate on the very same thing well enough to sort it out?

When things go wrong, the answer is not to blame generic concentration and kid yourself that there's nothing you could do anyway other than find a good excuse to give up there and then. If it's truly the case that the focus isn't up to it, you need to finish the practise session outright immediately- as the lack of concentration on standard scales is not going to fare better against the greater demands of executing and fingering musical repertoire (unless it's significantly beneath your level of attainment). Better still, stop and ask yourself what you can do differently to sort out the basic issues and overcome your weaknesses by going slower and with a stronger sense of purpose in how you visualise fingerings and notes, before playing a single key, and analyse the important moments which hold the scale together. They won't magically sort themselves out later when things get harder still, as a result of finding irrational ways to excuse yourself from tackling fundamental problems.

Personal self-awareness goes a long way in the right places, but don't expect to be rippling through the runs of Mozart's A major piano concerto at any point now or ever, if you favour making irrational excuses to yourself over realism about fundaments. If concentration wanders in basics, it's because you haven't yet learned where to put it. Drop the excuses and give yourself the chance to deal with problems where they lie- not by using an "I can't" excuse and hiding elsewhere.

I have infinitely more respect for a child who learns the scale they were asked to than for an adult who thinks the fact that they cannot play a scale for toffee due to absence of any focussed work on it is somehow supposed to be an admirable testament to their special "adult" knowledge about the difference between efficient and inefficient practise (ie. it didn't work when they tried it too fast so they got annoyed and just spent most of the week playing through a piece that was already mostly learned anyway). At least children don't take it upon themselves to think that failure to accomplish a basic task in their practise was somehow a positive credit to their maturity or understanding of how best to learn.  
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outin
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« Reply #27 on: July 27, 2014, 09:16:21 AM »

If you can't drum up the concentration for scales, you're not concentrating well enough to work at effectively at pieces either

Sorry, you are completely wrong. So didn't bother to read furher.
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kevin69
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« Reply #28 on: July 27, 2014, 10:39:03 AM »

Scales require no more focus than any other task, if understood.

Not sure about that: I find scales boring, and so find it much easier to focus on interesting music instead. What is there to understand about scales, once you've spotted the repeated pattern of tones and semi-tones, and come up with a fingering?
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outin
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« Reply #29 on: July 27, 2014, 11:21:55 AM »

Not sure about that: I find scales boring, and so find it much easier to focus on interesting music instead. What is there to understand about scales, once you've spotted the repeated pattern of tones and semi-tones, and come up with a fingering?


Exactly. Of course if one wants one can try to make them more intresting by variation. But why should I? I've never spent much time on practicing them, but I can still play any major or minor scale and get them to faster speed in a couple of practice session. Occasonal study is quite enough for that. Whenever I feel the need to work out my fingers I just pick up a couple...
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nyiregyhazi
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« Reply #30 on: July 28, 2014, 01:38:10 AM »

Not sure about that: I find scales boring, and so find it much easier to focus on interesting music instead. What is there to understand about scales, once you've spotted the repeated pattern of tones and semi-tones, and come up with a fingering?

 A perfectly reasonable chain of logic when they can be played with excellence at once at any speed and in contrary motion/3rd apart etc. But a bogus one when there's any problem in doing so. Doing them in music only provides extra distractions from the foundation. A pianist who can't already play a half decent scale is going to be wasting their time attempting a classical sonata that's loaded with it until they've sorted the scale itself.
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nyiregyhazi
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« Reply #31 on: July 28, 2014, 01:53:47 AM »


Exactly. Of course if one wants one can try to make them more intresting by variation. But why should I? I've never spent much time on practicing them, but I can still play any major or minor scale and get them to faster speed in a couple of practice session. Occasonal study is quite enough for that. Whenever I feel the need to work out my fingers I just pick up a couple...

The point of scales is not a workout. Five finger exercises are way more useful for that. Scales are primarily (for me) to check the ability to visualise and then execute something at once. Treat them that way and you'll learn transferable skills. However, if you merely drill them with mindless repetition then they are not useful. You have to get the right fingering and the right notes first time around EVERY time, by adequate visualisation and precision of movement. From there, you need to start to expect the same visualisation to produce speed at once- without having to spend two sessions building up. Otherwise you probably haven't actually visualised the whole scale as one entity but are still going slowly through separate events that are not unified into a big conception of the scale. Drilling is not the way with scales. It's about turning visualisation into instant execution. That's what great artists who sorted their scales and stopped practising them achieved early on. It's also what people who need two sessions to speed up a scale have yet to achieve and should continue to work at- through both scales and by constantly looking at new material with expectation of high standards from the very first read through.

The way to make a scale useful is to first visualise exactly what you want in full detail  (with attention to all black keys and locations of thumb passing before a note is played). And then to check whether you can do what you imagined that first time around. If not, you are neither equipped to learn to sightread more complex patterns with any proficiency nor able to improvise in a way where you can translate an idea into an instant realisation. Sorry, but two practise sessions is ample time to learn a brand new scale from scratch to speed (for anyone who has previously played even one single other scale at that same speed)- not evidence that you don't need to practise them to have them at the ready, or to be eliminating any gaps between visualisation and execution.

From your repertoire list, it's likely that you can get around things without needing to know your scales at once at any speed. But wait until you start trying advanced Haydn and Beethoven sonatas. To flourish in these, you both need to have every scale ready at the drop of a hat and have the ability to visualise even a brand new combination of notes clearly enough to have the expectation of executing it first time around. By practising scales with clear visualisation, we can work at this ability. If you can't do them usefully due to some passing whim of the moment, you are too dependent on the physical and not clear enough on your visualisation for each scale. Work at melodic minors primarily. They are almost impossible without a strong mental conception and thus an excellent place to test whether you are actually visualising suitably or running fingers in the "drilling" approach.

For me, scales are first and foremost a simple place to bridge the gap between visualisation and execution. To think that merely running the fingers without thought is useful is a common mistake. But to walk away, rather than work at what needs to conceived in order to reliably expect instant success at both slow and faster speeds is an equally big mistake. The times when you don't feel like you're in the right frame of mind to get things right are actually the times when you can learn the most about the power of visualisation- by expecting yourself to use stronger visualisation to repair what the physical habits have failed to keep on track.

If you say that at these times it would simply be wasted time to try to practise, what you are really saying is that visualisation is not truly in charge of your fingers and you are not in a position of power over what you do at the piano. These are the times to perservere and learn to use the mind over habit (even if it requires slowing to one note per second) and to put yourself back in charge. Otherwise you can never be more than a collection of drilled habits, rather than someone who is actually in charge of themself. If you can't visualise a scale well enough to either do it spectacularly at once (no matter what you mood is) or to practise it usefully, you should take that moment to put yourself back in charge of your hands- not to hide from the gap between intention and execution by running habits from a piece that you already drilled in, and especially not by trying to puzzle out new material that will require far more advanced thinking about notes and fingerings to be useful.
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nyiregyhazi
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« Reply #32 on: July 28, 2014, 02:18:07 AM »

Sorry, you are completely wrong. So didn't bother to read furher.

As you couldn't be bothered to read the completion of even the sentence (that you quoted half of, out of context), you missed the bit where I pointed out that pieces demand substantially more thought EXCEPT when you are running physical habits- which I would wager a substantial amount is exactly what you are doing. Are you ignoring the scales and then working at new pieces which have more complex fingerings than scales do? I really wouldn't recommend it, if you didn't feel able to concentrate well enough on the formulaic scale in order to achieve anything worthwhile. However, if you want to be able to access a wide range of repertoire quickly (rather than spend months grinding out each piece until it's in the fingers) you'll need substantially greater mental focus to approach pieces. If a simple scale formula cannot be visualised with clarity of concentration (to get both notes and fingering clear at once), don't bank on getting far with any piece that you haven't already drilled to death, during that session. Useful practise on new pieces takes way more concentration- unless you're in the very common but very flawed approach of practising by getting things wrong multiple times, rather than visualising thoughtfully and precisely enough to set high standards from the outset (via reliable accuracy of notes and fingerings).
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j_menz
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« Reply #33 on: July 28, 2014, 03:16:50 AM »

visualise ... adequate visualisation ... visualisation

I may well regret asking, but I don't get what you mean by this.
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nyiregyhazi
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« Reply #34 on: July 28, 2014, 03:48:46 AM »

I may well regret asking, but I don't get what you mean by this.

Picturing the notes of the scale and the fingering that will be used.

I know it's a little abstract at first, but there are various methods to test it in a tangible form. For example, can you "play" a whole scale on the lid with perfect fingering, while saying out loud every note in the scale and trying to space the fingers according to where they would be on the piano? And can you describe the process without doing anything physically, but simply describing both the fingers used and the notes they will be playing (ie you don't even mime on the lid, but do it all in the mind)? How about for two hands at once- even a third or tenth apart? One of the most basic is can you play a scale slowly with one finger and be 100% certain of playing EVERY note right first time without physical habits to guide? If you really know your scales, all of these things become easy. Those who can't do these exercises are too dependent on drilling and have no understanding or real command over what they are doing. If you can't imagine it well enough to describe any aspect while doing it only in your mind, you don't actually understand the goal but simply have drilled habits that are not connected to conscious understanding or awareness. This is when people blame abstract things like "concentration" for failures- rather than appreciate that they simply haven't learned how to visualise with true clarity in a way that the hand can be expected to reliably follow (or, possibly, the hand hasn't learned how to move slowly and clearly enough to become effectively linked to a visualisation). Those who play scales well but don't need to practise them have something else-  not just habits from repetition that need a special frame of mind. The only special frame of mind required is to truly understand what you are asking your hands to do before attempting it (initially step by step, but ultimately as a single thought that includes every aspect of an ultra-fast scale), without needing blind habits to keep you afloat.

To achieve excellence, you need both to be able to visualise what you are going to play (so you aren't ever just guessing or expecting a brainless hand to know what to do for you) and use physical motions that reliably turn imagination into execution- without feeling like any movement is jerky, abrupt or unprepared (which is when even good visualisation cannot prevent errors) Scales are the ultimate place to work on these things- for the simple reasont that they are so easy to conceive mentally compared to actual music. One of the most interesting exercises is to play completely different scales in each hand and go slowly enough to make sure both are played accurately. It might seems like an exercise in running raw habits blind, but you really have to notice the important features of each scale to get some of the weirdest ones right first time.
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« Reply #35 on: July 28, 2014, 04:14:16 AM »

From your repertoire list, it's likely that you can get around things without needing to know your scales at once at any speed. But wait until you start trying advanced Haydn and Beethoven sonatas.

I won't have to, because such a repertoire has never been my goal. I do not care for either of those composers and I do not listen to and have little interest to play classical era music in general. The kind of music I like rarely has major or minor scales in their basic form and indeed often I need to forget the learned scales fingerings for things to work out. And when I do encounter a scale in music I can work out that scale.

I can agree that scales are important (as basis of music) and they have value, but obviously we won't agree on HOW or WHEN I should study them. Or anything else it seems. In your world there's only one correct procedure to learn and you are unable to think outside that world. So why do you bother discussing things with anyone except those who are just like you? The rest of us will not accept your ideas when there's such a premise. Yet many of us still seem to learn things, even when going against your set of rules...
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« Reply #36 on: July 28, 2014, 04:32:12 AM »

As you couldn't be bothered to read the completion of even the sentence (that you quoted half of, out of context), you missed the bit where I pointed out that pieces demand substantially more thought EXCEPT when you are running physical habits-

Ok, maybe I did miss your actual meaning, but you might need to think a little bit on HOW you express things. I never midlessly drill my pieces either, because it is of little use. But when the music is interesting I can usually find the focus needed even when the study itself may be a bit dull. Scales on the other hand require a specific mindset in my case to be able to create a focused state.

What you write about visualization makes perfect sense and is something I do wish I could benefit from. Unfortunately due to the little congenital brain damage I have I am practically unable to visualize anything and have to use other means to get there... And I do agree that it will prevent for me to ever really reaching excellence in playing. Some might call that lack of talent. But who cares, there are enough excellent players around already Smiley
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« Reply #37 on: July 28, 2014, 04:40:41 AM »

I won't have to, because such a repertoire has never been my goal. I do not care for either of those composers and I do not listen to and have little interest to play classical era music in general. The kind of music I like rarely has major or minor scales in their basic form and indeed often I need to forget the learned scales fingerings for things to work out. And when I do encounter a scale in music I can work out that scale.

I can agree that scales are important (as basis of music) and they have value, but obviously we won't agree on HOW or WHEN I should study them. Or anything else it seems. In your world there's only one correct procedure to learn and you are unable to think outside that world. So why do you bother discussing things with anyone except those who are just like you? The rest of us will not accept your ideas when there's such a premise. Yet many of us still seem to learn things, even when going against your set of rules...

If you want to learn at a slow pace and wish to close doors to the very possibility of greater things, then by all means don't learning the tools involved in either faster learning or in advanced attainments. It's your right to work to as you please but it's also my right to tell you that if you want to take the attitude you describe, you're choosing to shut off the biggest avenues for improvement. What bothered me was the air of superiority you took in declaring that you hadn't practised a scale because you think you cleverly self analysed that it would be more valuable not to- compared to a kid who sits down with humility and actually tries their best to finish the job, rather than find excuses not to actually try. I didn't question your right to choose. I said that those who knuckle down and look for a solution will achieve more than those who make excuses about their mood and flee from things they aren't in the right mood to deal with. That's not wisdom. It's grasping at weak excuses not to actually try properly. You can choose to be that way, but I absolutely will not applaud self limiting attitudes, as a teacher, under any circumstances. Ask what you can do to improve. Not what excuse you make to try to look superior while actually ducking out of a challenge.
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« Reply #38 on: July 28, 2014, 04:49:40 AM »

Ok, maybe I did miss your actual meaning, but you might need to think a little bit on HOW you express things. I never midlessly drill my pieces either, because it is of little use. But when the music is interesting I can usually find the focus needed even when the study itself may be a bit dull. Scales on the other hand require a specific mindset in my case to be able to create a focused state.

What you write about visualization makes perfect sense and is something I do wish I could benefit from. Unfortunately due to the little congenital brain damage I have I am practically unable to visualize anything and have to use other means to get there... And I do agree that it will prevent for me to ever really reaching excellence in playing. Some might call that lack of talent. But who cares, there are enough excellent players around already Smiley

If you couldn't visualise at all you couldn't execute anything correctly enough to even create physical habits. The key is how well you keep practising it and how easily you slip into just running habits or whether you can keep returning to the thoughts that without which you never could have got it the first time. When you choose to remind yourself of how you got it the first time, you are visualising again. With the right mental techniques, you can develop it more and more.
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« Reply #39 on: July 28, 2014, 04:54:45 AM »

What bothered me was the air of superiority you took in declaring that you hadn't practised a scale because you think you cleverly self analysed that it would be more valuable not to-

I had to go back to see what I wrote

"I would not practice scales either, if not the right time for that."

Where did you get the rest?

That only means that IF my teacher ever expected me to study scales on a given time, she would be as disappointed as the OP. Because I would try and IF I realized that I am not up to it, I would use my own judgement and do something else.

I have never claimed that for someone else it wouldn't work to just sit down on any given moment and decide to practice scales and do it very effectively. I am sure it works for you. Count yourself lucky.
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« Reply #40 on: July 28, 2014, 05:06:22 AM »

If you couldn't visualise at all you couldn't execute anything correctly enough to even create physical habits. The key is how well you keep practising it and how easily you slip into just running habits or whether you can keep returning to the thoughts that without which you never could have got it the first time. When you choose to remind yourself of how you got it the first time, you are visualising again. With the right mental techniques, you can develop it more and more.
Again you assume you know about things you really do not.

I can see flashes and fragmented images, but they are never stable enough for me to actually study them. My mental images look like the vision of someone with severely impaired eye-sight, with only fragments, no whole picture. The images also disintegrate in a split second no matter how hard I try to keep them steady.

The inability to visualize the keyboard is especially frustrating when trying to practice away from the piano. I might be able to see a group of keys but never even a whole octave.

And no, it's not about "right mental techniques". If they even exist no-one has figured them out yet. And this comes from a professional who studies these things for a living.

There are plenty of people with this type of impairment and despite your beliefs they seem to able to create physical habits. There are other ways for the mind to compensate and those tend to become better than average. But I doubt one could really EXCEL in playing the piano with such a limitation. But that doesn't mean one has to stop to try IMO. People like you are probably one reason why so many do...A good teacher should be willing to learn as well, instead of just deciding how things are based on their own experiences and then sticking to it no matter what.

I’m afraid you have already lost credibility in my eyes. You seem to have no problem “diagnosing” people without seeing/hearing them play and with very little background information. The advice you so generously offer even when not asked, is often equivalent to telling a person with impaired hearing to just listen more carefully and do what you have done (or what you think you should have done) and they will hear just as well as you do.
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« Reply #41 on: July 28, 2014, 05:19:17 AM »

Picturing the notes of the scale and the fingering that will be used.....

Thanks, I think I get it now.
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« Reply #42 on: July 28, 2014, 11:37:40 AM »

I wonder what a student like that would do if the teacher randomly cancelled on them.  "Oh... Yeah. I forgot to tell you.  I've got something else going on now instead of your lesson.  ...So I need to cancel."
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« Reply #43 on: July 28, 2014, 12:52:16 PM »

I had to go back to see what I wrote

"I would not practice scales either, if not the right time for that."

Where did you get the rest?

That only means that IF my teacher ever expected me to study scales on a given time, she would be as disappointed as the OP. Because I would try and IF I realized that I am not up to it, I would use my own judgement and do something else.

I have never claimed that for someone else it wouldn't work to just sit down on any given moment and decide to practice scales and do it very effectively. I am sure it works for you. Count yourself lucky.


I got the rest from the very next sentence that you chose to omit from the quote:

"The difference between a child and an adult is (often) that an adult is aware of when the practice is inefficient and would rather not, while most children will just do what they are told whether useful or not."

ie you think you have all this special knowledge that makes your failure to do something that a teacher asked you (because he the has the experience to know it is useful) some profound act based on wisdom. It isn't. It's a case of giving up on something and not having the perserverence to push yourself into completing the task. A child who doesn't know so much but tries their honest best will reap far more than an adult who finds a dubious basis to not only duck out of a task, but to lie to themself that it was actually the best thing that they could have done for their progress.

Regarding the rest of your points, I didn't make any assumptions- other than based on what is universal. If you can drop your "I'm so unique" story for a moment you may realise that all playing is initially acquired via visualisation- unless a student learns a piece by someone else literally moving their fingers for them on every note until they have learned a habit. Tell me, is that how you learned? If not, everything you have achieved was first acquired via an act of visualisation- just the same as with everyone else.

Sit at the piano and play a c with r.h. thumb. Close your eys and now play a g with the fifth. Is that an impossible task? If not, you have every capability to visualise and to continue developing the skill into more advanced forms. Now do the same but move your whole arm and play the G with the thumb too. If that's reliably possible, you have a slightly more advanced ability to visualise. Even if not, open your eyes. Now look at the G. You are visualising it and then using that to guide your thumb to it. Even using the sight involves visualisation of the key, prior to approaching it.

Stop making these silly excuses and start concentrating on what you are perfectly capable of and expanding on it. Nobody who can play the piano to any level at is incapable of visualising. Anyone who can visualise at all can learn to do it better still, if they know where to put their mind in order to improve on the depth and clarity of it. I don't "see" a piano keyboard in my mind ever. I have a mental map of the keyboard that is equivalent to sight but based on a mix of senses and habits. If you can't do it purely in your mind then practise the scale with one finger and by simply looking at the notes of the scale while staring at a keyboard. There are ABUNDANT techniques that you simply need to discover in order put your thinking in the right places to flourish. If it wasn't possible, neither would you have been capable of learning a single piece of music, ever (nb. the repertoire you are playing demands considerably more clarity of visualisation to even get off the ground than any standard scale).

All your posts speak of is how you are WILLING to learn, not how you are ABLE to learn. Do you think the girl with two stumps on each hand who learned to play Fantasie Impromptu to a remarkably high standard got there by thinking about what she didn't expect she'd be able to do or making excuses about why she shouldn't expect anything that didn't work at first to improve with further attention? No. She got there by concentrating on what she wanted to achieve and by perservering. That doesn't start from blaming your mood and then walking away from a simple scale, if it doesn't work. It starts from demanding of yourself that you find a different way to think about it, until you have enough mental awareness of the goal to get it right. If you realised how much further development of visualisation would take your standard in playing difficult pieces, you'd definitely find a way to do it in the comparatively easy situation of scales. The problem is that you've started from a desire for scales not to be useful anyway and then based what you are willing to do around that false assumption. This is the point at which no matter how open-minded the teacher is, the closed mind of the student (who has yet to experience the full benefits of scales) will necessarily hinder them from moving further towards their true potential. If you were able to open your mind to quite how useful it is to expect a fantastic scale from yourself at the first execution, you would doubtless drum up the same mental engagement that you already told us you can drum up for pieces (in the sessions where you supposedly can't focus enough to practise an easier scale that requires less advanced visualisation to execute).
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« Reply #44 on: July 28, 2014, 06:53:30 PM »

Sit at the piano and play a c with r.h. thumb. Close your eys and now play a g with the fifth. Is that an impossible task? If not, you have every capability to visualise and to continue developing the skill into more advanced forms. Now do the same but move your whole arm and play the G with the thumb too. If that's reliably possible, you have a slightly more advanced ability to visualise. Even if not, open your eyes. Now look at the G. You are visualising it and then using that to guide your thumb to it. Even using the sight involves visualisation of the key, prior to approaching it.

We are talking about mental visualization here, so don't confuse things. People who cannot mentally visualize (and I am not in any way unique judging by statistics) cannot reproduce in their mind the images their eyes have seen, even when specificly focusing on it. I can play the G because I know my 5th would be on it if my thumb is on C. When I close my eyes and do things blind I go by feel, muscle memory and intuition (which comes from a combination of many different things), not mental images which even when they exist for a brief moment are too distorted, random and vague to be of much use.





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« Reply #45 on: July 28, 2014, 11:43:25 PM »

We are talking about mental visualization here, so don't confuse things. People who cannot mentally visualize (and I am not in any way unique judging by statistics) cannot reproduce in their mind the images their eyes have seen, even when specificly focusing on it. I can play the G because I know my 5th would be on it if my thumb is on C. When I close my eyes and do things blind I go by feel, muscle memory and intuition (which comes from a combination of many different things), not mental images which even when they exist for a brief moment are too distorted, random and vague to be of much use.

Defeatist nonsense, sorry. Simply to feel the G and verify by feel if it's what you wanted or not before sounding is to mentally visualise and to reference that visualisation to physical awareness. To play ANY note correctly is either a highly improbable 1 in 88 shot of luck or the result of mental visualisation- so stop claiming that you have zero ability in this area. Do you care more about winning an argument about how hopeless you want to deem yourself or about finding ways to move forwards and upwards in all areas where improvement is possible? As I said, if you can learn a piece without someone moving your fingers on your behalf, you are mentally visualising as stage one of EVERYTHING you learned to do before you can actually do it. It's just that most people stop doing so as soon as habits form- to the detriment of practise quality. But this "I can't" business is factually inaccurate and self-limiting nonsense. If you can play a piece, you already did- in more complex ways than any scale demands. That is absolute fact, unless someone moved your fingers for you.

As I defined in my post, muscle memory is part of visualisation (albeit an area which the strongest visualisation need sometimes be separated from) and so can sight be. There are countless different aspects that must be covered before pure internal mental visualisation can become effective. The more you bring in, the less you'll need to blame some nonsense about abstract concentration fails. Because you'll start realising what you are not actually clear on about your task, but which you are perfectly capable of becoming more clear on- if you find the right avenues to explore, rather than simply decide that your general concentration wasn't going to have any chance in the first place.
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« Reply #46 on: July 29, 2014, 04:07:28 AM »

Defeatist nonsense, sorry.

What makes you think so? This is a general thing that we should be able to discuss RATIONALLY. I couldn't care less who wins an argument, but I do feel you would greatly benefit from educating yourself a little before creating your elaborate theories about learning. Unless it's enough for you that they only apply to you and others just like you.

It seems like you created your own personal definition of mental visualization just to avoid letting any new information enter your mind and admitting to yourself that you've missed something. Let me be perfectly clear: With mental visualization *I* refer to the ability to form and stabilize VISUAL images (=pictures) in the mind only, either with eyes closed or eyes open. A simple test is to close your eyes and try to form an image of a circle. Most people can do it fine, but many people cannot. They can recognize a circle when they see one and even draw one, but cannot purely VISUALLY remember what a circle looks like when not seeing one, because they have never been able to recreate the image of the circle mentally. The flexibility of the mind enables these people to perform just fine without the ability to the extend that they often don't even realize they are missing something. And just to state the obvious, this is a VERY simplified explanation of the phenomena, you should do further reading to fully understand it.

But you don't have to feel threatened by this new information, you are victim of a VERY common fallacy: Many people have never even realized that while they can form mental images, other people cannot. Similarly those who cannot form mental images are often not even aware that others can.

From an evolutionary view this must be a trait that has been useful but not essential for survival, since such a difference exists. It's a fascinating field of research as well. Even many teachers figure this difference out only when they finally encounter a person who can actually explain their inability. Children mostly cannot so can just be very confused when told to do it and may even claim they can to imitate others when they really cannot.

There are only estimates, but those who can clearly outnumber those who cannot, which probably explains why so many are ignorant of the difference. From the literature I have found an estimate that only 3% of people are totally unable to form any mental images, while about 20% may have some ability, but not to the extend which would be considered "normal" or average ability.

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« Reply #47 on: July 29, 2014, 04:18:02 AM »

Let me be perfectly clear: With mental visualization *I* refer to the ability to form and stabilize VISUAL images in the mind only, either with eyes closed or eyes open.

As one of the three percent you refer to, I know what you mean. But to be fair, N's usage of the concept is not limited to that sort of visualisation (even if he thinks of it in those terms). If you don't imagine visually, you nonetheless imagine in other ways - aurally, spatially, verbally and some more abstract ways - it's what allows you to function in ways indistinguishable from others who do visualise things in pictures; unless you look under the hood. And that method or combination of methods will serve just as well.
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« Reply #48 on: July 29, 2014, 04:37:38 AM »

As one of the three percent you refer to, I know what you mean. But to be fair, N's usage of the concept is not limited to that sort of visualisation (even if he thinks of it in those terms). If you don't imagine visually, you nonetheless imagine in other ways - aurally, spatially, verbally and some more abstract ways - it's what allows you to function in ways indistinguishable from others who do visualise things in pictures; unless you look under the hood. And that method or combination of methods will serve just as well.

Yes, I do realize that he speaks in different terms. For some reason he just feels it means everyone else is just plain wrong, even when they use more common terminology.

I am not quite sure the combination of methods serve one JUST as well in everything, especially since it's quite individual how developed those other methods are. Obviously this is a common "talent" that can enhance once performance in various areas. Geometry for example is where this ability helps enourmously. This inability also can correlate with poor memory functions. I've seen a couple of explanations: A narrow working memory can be the cause for the inability to create and hold the images. Or memory function is just more effective when one is able to use images as memory tools.
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« Reply #49 on: July 29, 2014, 04:50:01 AM »

I am not quite sure the combination of methods serve one JUST as well in everything, especially since it's quite individual how developed those other methods are.

It might be even better, though. And "how well developed" applies equally to visual imagery as well.

Obviously this is a common "talent" that can enhance once performance in various areas. Geometry for example is where this ability helps enourmously.

Only to a point. People who use other methods are better equipped to deal with non-cartesian and 4+ dimensional geometries.

This inability also can correlate with poor memory functions. I've seen a couple of explanations: A narrow working memory can be the cause for the inability to create and hold the images. Or memory function is just more effective when one is able to use images as memory tools.

Why? An image is one of the least efficient means of encoding information.
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