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Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning (Read 2890 times)

Offline dagny_taggart

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I have students who are interested in playing Fur Elise, The Entertainer and other popular classical pieces within the first year of learning and they will attempt it on their own (which I do not discourage), and they end up learning it to a certain extent, but then they have no interest in going through the lesson books and learning the steps that get you to that point.

I don't believe in skipping levels unless a student is doing a difficult project piece WHILE doing the lesson pieces at the same time. For instance, I tell my student, we can work on The Entertainer (a less advanced version) but you have to complete your lesson pieces first. Then the latter half of the lesson we will work on the "project piece", most of which I must teach them by rote because they can't read the music.

Another example is if a student is on Level 1 Lesson Book, I will give them a piece from level 2 or 3 that they want to play, as long as they still work on Level 1. Usually they still avoid the Level 1 book and insist on me teaching them the higher level pieces by rote! Frustrating!!!

Offline dcstudio

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #1 on: September 17, 2016, 09:42:34 PM »
That's just the way it is.  You sound like a new teacher and I am guessing that you are working in a studio?  You will figure out how to interject the things they have missed later on.  The name of the game is keeping them coming back each week for the first couple of years. If they make it past that you have a shot. Don't sweat it now.

Offline quantum

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #2 on: September 17, 2016, 10:25:04 PM »
Use the higher level piece to teach topics appropriate to the student's development.  Say your student picked a level 3 piece, just because they are playing a level 3 piece does not mean you teach them the same way as a typical level 3 student.  You can use a level 3 piece to teach level 1 material, just realize that as a teacher you will be doing more of the structured guidance and not relying on the lesson plans in the books. 

The student's stage of development should be the driving factor in constructing lesson material, not the level of the pieces they are studying.  When a student progresses to levels beyond graded books this factor becomes more apparent.

Some students are better at progressing in large leaps rather than step-by-step, this is how they excel at learning.  As a teacher you need to recognize these students.  As long as the learning is disciplined and the student is progressing forward there is no problem moving at a pace faster than the average student. 

The balanced approach you have described: lesson materials first, then fun/challenge piece, is a good one.  Use the challenge piece to reinforce foundation concepts.  Rote learning is valuable especially for developing the ear, however it should not be used as an easy way out.  If a student wants to lean a challenge piece, they should also know it comes with certain responsibilities such as being able to read music of that level.  Use that as incentive to build the students skills.  It may not be in the linear manner outlined in the lesson books, but they are still skills that will carry a student forward.  The students enthusiasm for learning more advanced material can be used as leverage to build knowledge and skills.
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Offline vaniii

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #3 on: September 19, 2016, 08:05:25 AM »
... deleted, too cynical.

Offline dagny_taggart

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #4 on: September 20, 2016, 03:48:53 PM »
That's just the way it is.  You sound like a new teacher and I am guessing that you are working in a studio?  You will figure out how to interject the things they have missed later on.  The name of the game is keeping them coming back each week for the first couple of years. If they make it past that you have a shot. Don't sweat it now.

Wrong on all accounts: I am not a new teacher and do not teach from a studio...I have been teaching piano for 6 years and am very successful (over 40 students). I travel to peoples' homes and teach at least 2 to 4 people at each home (including the parents), ages 4 to 70. That doesn't mean I am not still learning how to do my job better, though.....

Offline dagny_taggart

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #5 on: September 20, 2016, 03:52:05 PM »
... deleted, too cynical.

Ha...I wonder what was said. I can handle cynical/negative criticisms. What is offensive though is when someone says "you must be a new teacher" when I have been teaching for years. Just because I ask questions, doesn't mean I am a new teacher. It is an annoying assumption -- I am 32 and have been teaching since I was 26.

Offline visitor

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #6 on: September 20, 2016, 03:57:03 PM »
glad you care enough  to ask, some passing thoughts....few  things come to mind when reading the above scenario
1. it's a wonderful teaching moment to help the student understand the word "no"
2. if they 'refuse' to learn the assigned pedagogical lesson assignment, you can 'refuse' to teach to the
harder work. let them know they are not in a position to bargain, you are the instructor and if they want to get good enough to play the harder pieces, they have to demonstrate they are ready through completion and progress through the assignments.
3. don't assign the 'harder' works, just stick to pieces at the same level of the material.


Offline dagny_taggart

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #7 on: September 20, 2016, 03:59:16 PM »
Use the higher level piece to teach topics appropriate to the student's development.  Say your student picked a level 3 piece, just because they are playing a level 3 piece does not mean you teach them the same way as a typical level 3 student.  You can use a level 3 piece to teach level 1 material, just realize that as a teacher you will be doing more of the structured guidance and not relying on the lesson plans in the books. 

The student's stage of development should be the driving factor in constructing lesson material, not the level of the pieces they are studying.  When a student progresses to levels beyond graded books this factor becomes more apparent.

Some students are better at progressing in large leaps rather than step-by-step, this is how they excel at learning.  As a teacher you need to recognize these students.  As long as the learning is disciplined and the student is progressing forward there is no problem moving at a pace faster than the average student. 

The balanced approach you have described: lesson materials first, then fun/challenge piece, is a good one.  Use the challenge piece to reinforce foundation concepts.  Rote learning is valuable especially for developing the ear, however it should not be used as an easy way out.  If a student wants to lean a challenge piece, they should also know it comes with certain responsibilities such as being able to read music of that level.  Use that as incentive to build the students skills.  It may not be in the linear manner outlined in the lesson books, but they are still skills that will carry a student forward.  The students enthusiasm for learning more advanced material can be used as leverage to build knowledge and skills.


That is the approach I try to take. It's just that I find when I allow them to jump ahead, they sometimes get confused and discouraged -- they can't read the music -- they don't understand all the symbols or nuances of how to play the piece. It ends up being a frustration by rote process. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I remember I skipped ahead and play Beethovens first movement of the Moonlight Sonata within my first year and I bombed my performance of it at a recital because I wasn't ready to play advanced pieces for an audience. I also had horrible sight reading skills because I had to memorize pieces jumping ahead like that to Chopin Nocturns and Preludes right away...It got me into music school though within 4 years of learning piano but I am actually filling in the gaps of what I missed during those years by being a teacher!

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #8 on: September 20, 2016, 04:06:24 PM »
I don't believe in skipping levels unless a student is doing a difficult project piece WHILE doing the lesson pieces at the same time.
In a perfect world this is wonderful but unfortunately it is not like this all the time. I find if I do "advanced" pieces with my students (usually after submitting to them begging for it to be added to lessons) they almost always put like a huge % of effort into that and very little on what they are supposed to be studying.

You can always teach them easier versions or arrange it yourself so it suits their needs. You can create exercises that might help deal with co-ordinations/fingerings in the more advanced piece they are trying to learn. In the end I have never had a student who simply wants to play all the pieces they want stay with me for a long time, they usually fizzle out sooner or later, lose motivation and quit. Teach your students wisely, it is a difficult balance, don't forbid them to play music they love but certainly have more to say about it all than simply bending to their desires 100%. How do you ensure they respect the work you give them as much as the pieces they want to learn? Important question as a teacher.

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Offline dagny_taggart

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #9 on: September 20, 2016, 04:13:45 PM »
In the end I have never had a student who simply wants to play all the pieces they want stay with me for a long time, they usually fizzle out sooner or later, lose motivation and quit.


That's interesting! Why do you think that is? Because they are usually the students who want instant gratification and when they don't get it, they just revert to playing video games or sports or something else immediately entertaining or rewarding?


Offline dagny_taggart

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #10 on: September 20, 2016, 04:35:52 PM »
glad you care enough  to ask, some passing thoughts....few  things come to mind when reading the above scenario
1. it's a wonderful teaching moment to help the student understand the word "no"
2. if they 'refuse' to learn the assigned pedagogical lesson assignment, you can 'refuse' to teach to the
harder work. let them know they are not in a position to bargain, you are the instructor and if they want to get good enough to play the harder pieces, they have to demonstrate they are ready through completion and progress through the assignments.
3. don't assign the 'harder' works, just stick to pieces at the same level of the material.



I totally agree with number 1 and 2! I use number 3 when the student is happy with the lesson book songs and actually like's playing them. Then we can progress at a nice steady pace and their ambition determines how fast we get through those books and pass on to suplemental materials that complement the lesson books.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #11 on: September 20, 2016, 04:42:51 PM »
I think it is many reasons (though I didn't mention it before I am disregarding advanced students who often select their own pieces to study). Many students realize how important it is to carefully choose repertoire to improve their playing skills and they regard the teachers choice as to what to learn a big part of their learning experience. Those who do not respect this and instead use the teacher to guide them through pieces they like sometimes get overwhelmed at the amount of work that needs to be done to produce a pleasing sound with controlled technique. This is unavoidable since they are jumping into the "deep end" with their difficult selection. I have actually seen some do amazing work and actually work at a fairly good rate but the huge majority simply sink a huge amount of time into making micro improvements with their work and eventually give up because of how tedious it becomes.
   These students also tend to underestimate the value of playing much easier works and building your skills, they can often feel like they are playing "childrens" music or terribly boring easy sounding music, nothing like the sounds they hear from their favorite pieces. Unfortunately it will become a reality that you will have to build your basic skills some time or another and they realize they are not willing to submit to that kind of work thus go ahead and spend their life struggling through awesome difficult stuff or giving up altogether.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #12 on: September 20, 2016, 04:55:03 PM »
What is offensive though is when someone says "you must be a new teacher" when I have been teaching for years. Just because I ask questions, doesn't mean I am a new teacher. It is an annoying assumption -- I am 32 and have been teaching since I was 26.
Don't feel offense. 6 years is not too long, still a long way to go I hope for you! I have been teaching some 21 years now and its still not long compared to some other teachers I know who have taught 60 and one even 70 years! I think we always learn something new since we are working with people and everyone is such an individual. I've taught hundreds of students over the years and they all have taught me something about teaching music, in fact as a teacher I am disappointed if I have a student who can't teach me at least one new idea (and I'm not sure I have come across any students I have taught for at least some period of time who hasn't). We know so little it seems or at least we should be striving to always learn something new, as my 90 year old colleague still says she learns something new about teaching every year.

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Offline vaniii

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #13 on: September 20, 2016, 07:20:21 PM »
Ha...I wonder what was said. I can handle cynical/negative criticisms. What is offensive though is when someone says "you must be a new teacher" when I have been teaching for years. Just because I ask questions, doesn't mean I am a new teacher. It is an annoying assumption -- I am 32 and have been teaching since I was 26.

It was not anything to do with your teaching or method, just over the years, I have now become quite jaded with utterly deluded beginners.

"I know ... I am going to learn piano, but because I am a special little snowflake, I will skip all the foundation knowledge and learn 'fellowship' diploma pieces ... I mean ... I have 'my' way of doing it after all"

Egocentric in every sense; what about the music?

"Hey, listen to this piece, isn't that chord fantastic ... don't get me started on that modulation to the minor."

The focus is the music, and servitude to the listener.

My advise was to just simply not take on students like this, I do not and I must admit, my life got a lot easier and more importantly happier.  So many simply pieces that can sound amazing if you work on the basics.  However, they are overlooked becuase the student has an inflated ego and sense of artistic value/worth.

"Let me get to the good stuff."

I still get pleasure from playing a C major scale, how can you be bored after a few lessons, and yet not play it correctly ... BAH!

Excuse my cynicism.

Disclaimer: this is not directed at anyone in particular but in fact the subset of students that I am sure we have all come across.

I digress, ignore me.

Offline visitor

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #14 on: September 20, 2016, 07:40:29 PM »
It was not anything to do with your teaching or method, just over the years, I have now become quite jaded with utterly deluded beginners.

"I know ... I am going to learn piano, but because I am a special little snowflake, I will skip all the foundation knowledge and learn 'fellowship' diploma pieces ... I mean ... I have 'my' way of doing it after all"

Egocentric in every sense; what about the music?

"Hey, listen to this piece, isn't that chord fantastic ... don't get me started on that modulation to the minor."

The focus is the music, and servitude to the listener.

My advise was to just simply not take on students like this, I do not and I must admit, my life got a lot easier and more importantly happier.  So many simply pieces that can sound amazing if you work on the basics.  However, they are overlooked becuase the student has an inflated ego and sense of artistic value/worth.

"Let me get to the good stuff."

I still get pleasure from playing a C major scale, how can you be bored after a few lessons, and yet not play it correctly ... BAH!

Excuse my cynicism.

Disclaimer: this is not directed at anyone in particular but in fact the subset of students that I am sure we have all come across.

I digress, ignore me.
still much of what you said is valid and can help prevent frustration.

as for finding joy in C major scale. I agree, and variatns, and arpegios, and combining them, etc.

I'm struggling with this assignment as my teacher is having me tred through selections (not all for now but a good number of 'prescribed' ones) the Brahms 51,
and this is a soothing exercises that can relax and bring joy (so long as you don't play it incorrectly and get frustrated with how incredibly difficult it is, but slowing it way way way down it still has merit and is quite enjoyable).

It's how i start every practice session at the moment (before moving on to others in the 51)

if you know the exercise or listen to the whole note held by finger 4 of each in in each measure you can hear the scale. makes a good impressive thing to show students too when they complain about C major scale, since it eventually leads to things like this :)

Offline mjames

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #15 on: September 20, 2016, 10:12:31 PM »
Bernard would ask his new students about what made them decide to learn the piano, and the answer was usually "i like X piece." Lo and behold, these pieces are usually difficult. Course you can't start piano by learning Chopin's 4th ballade, but what he did was use these "goal" pieces as a way to motivate his students. He wouldn't assign boring lessons from lesson books, he would construct a plan around the goal pieces. Each piece would be a step by step introduction/solidification of techniques used in the goal piece, and as such his students would be able to achieve their goal within a few years. This not only prepares the student musically and technically for the work they wish to play, but also keeps them motivate because it actively shows them that they're making progress towards their goal.

The attitude towards these type of students in this thread is pissing me off. For of all you started playing piano voluntarily (so those who were forced by parents when they were kids don't count), what motivated you to want to learn it in the first place? Were you drawn by particular piece of music? What was it?


----
I would say that a lot of people who voluntarily take up the instrument are drawn to it by a piece or few, and although that might their initial motivation to start (and it might seem superficial to some of you people) a general interest on the instrument and a greater desire to learn more about technique and theory usually comes afterwards. So like Bernard used to do, and like Quantum suggests, use their initial motivations to nurture a greater and long-lasting love for the instrument -- use it to your advantage. Instead of you know, making fun of them or expecting them to fail.

Of course if the person completely refuses to work on reasonable works (working their way up) and instead insists on starting their first lesson with Beethoven's moonlight sonata or the fantasie impromptu then idk lol, drop them. You're not going to far with a student who refuses to listen to you in the beginning stages.

Offline visitor

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #16 on: September 20, 2016, 11:42:22 PM »
Bernard would ask his new students about what made them decide to learn the piano, and the answer was usually "i like X piece." Lo and behold, these pieces are usually difficult. Course you can't start piano by learning Chopin's 4th ballade, but what he did was use these "goal" pieces as a way to motivate his students. He wouldn't assign boring lessons from lesson books, he would construct a plan around the goal pieces. Each piece would be a step by step introduction/solidification of techniques used in the goal piece, and as such his students would be able to achieve their goal within a few years. This not only prepares the student musically and technically for the work they wish to play, but also keeps them motivate because it actively shows them that they're making progress towards their goal.

The attitude towards these type of students in this thread is pissing me off. For of all you started playing piano voluntarily (so those who were forced by parents when they were kids don't count), what motivated you to want to learn it in the first place? Were you drawn by particular piece of music? What was it?


----
I would say that a lot of people who voluntarily take up the instrument are drawn to it by a piece or few, and although that might their initial motivation to start (and it might seem superficial to some of you people) a general interest on the instrument and a greater desire to learn more about technique and theory usually comes afterwards. So like Bernard used to do, and like Quantum suggests, use their initial motivations to nurture a greater and long-lasting love for the instrument -- use it to your advantage. Instead of you know, making fun of them or expecting them to fail.

Of course if the person completely refuses to work on reasonable works (working their way up) and instead insists on starting their first lesson with Beethoven's moonlight sonata or the fantasie impromptu then idk lol, drop them. You're not going to far with a student who refuses to listen to you in the beginning stages.
I agree for most part w you.
My reply was situation specific for said teacher w student refusing to work on assigned pieces but then expecting to be spoon fed the bigger work

Like i usually answer when people post asking about what level such and such piece is or if they  are ready for said work
I usually tell them
Work on the piece for at least 3 to 5 or so weeks and asses progress if one struggles then put it away for later if getting along keep going
Nothing is really stopping the student from trying on their own, its an important exercise in discovery but to do that work at the expense of assigned  stuff is folly

No one i know including me was ever a worse pianist because of a stretch piece or wrestling w a big monster of a piece even if i end up defeated, i learned something about music myself or both

And when a student gets to early advanced ish level can help even more. I had one previous professor tell me no to a piece i wanted to learn. I learned it anyways behind his back but still progressed on assigned lit, then one day i just busted it out pretty decently worked out, and he just went w it and we worked on it.

I also had a piece to stretch me assigned but a deadline was set for working out the piece and if by first lesson if progress wasnt deemed what it should have been the my teacher would absoutely not teach me w it. That worked well too

But its context and student response specific.

So i get where you are coming from. Its how we learn what we like and what we are capable of

Offline outin

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #17 on: September 21, 2016, 03:58:23 AM »
The attitude towards these type of students in this thread is pissing me off. For of all you started playing piano voluntarily (so those who were forced by parents when they were kids don't count), what motivated you to want to learn it in the first place? Were you drawn by particular piece of music? What was it?


It's all very understandable though: Practically all piano teachers have started their own learning as young children. They really cannot understand how different the premises are when someone start as a mature adult. They tend to apply the same learning principles to their adult students that worked for them and work for majority of children (usually because the parents force them to practice). If it fails they explain it with the lack of discipline, arrogance and ego problems of the student. And the occasional cases where their method does work with adults just reinforce their perception.

It has also became clear to me that many teachers have plenty of good practical teaching skills but very little knowledge of modern pedagogical research. So they don't have so many tools to assess their methods analytically when the students don't respond to them the way expected. Since learning to play is very demanding and time consuming and not very well suited with an average adult lifestyle, adult students would require a more tailored reflective approach and more support than most kids. Few teachers seem to be well equipped for this.

It also seems to be impossible for many teachers to understand how to set goals with an adult student. I think this is reflected in comments such as this:
The focus is the music, and servitude to the listener.
How many adults (or children either) can relate to such goals? Most do not for a long time in their journey to learn to play. And they don't need to, it's perfectly fine to play just because one wants to and learn to play pieces for one's own enjoyment. The idea that it's not possible to advance with one's playing skills with such a mindset is BS. Some will and others don't. And the ways of the teacher will make a big difference. Most adults end up with moments of frustration and lack of motivation no matter what kind of music they are learning. It is little help if the teacher's attitude is "I told you so, now lets play level 1 music for a year". There are better ways to get through those periods.

It is a bit of a paradox that one does usually need a teacher to really get how to play the piano well (and I too am guilty of telling people to get one when they want to play advanced music), but one will also possibly end up with one that does not have the right kind of pedagogical understanding to really be helpful.

Maybe you will become a teacher one day and be different :)

Offline vaniii

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #18 on: September 21, 2016, 02:55:56 PM »
@mjames, @Outin and @visitor:
The attitude towards these type of students in this thread is pissing me off. For of all you started playing piano voluntarily (so those who were forced by parents when they were kids don't count), what motivated you to want to learn it in the first place? Were you drawn by particular piece of music? What was it?

I apologise that you feel this way; however, I have not reached this point of view by lack of reasoning.  To the contrary, this standpoint comes after being: 1) a student beginner, learning how to play; 2) a student studying at ‘advance’ levels; 3) as teacher, teaching students at both those levels.

Perspective is vital; the more points of view we take note from, the more we begin to see an overall picture of the state of affairs. 

The true difference between an advanced level learner and a beginner is the advanced level learner has taken time (however long) to make connections in the source material; the beginner is yet to do so.  This time could consist of one year, or it could take thirty; the result is still the same, connections.

One can skip the basics and jump right into the ‘challenging’ repertoire; but we owe it to our audience to do a good job of it, whoever that maybe (ourselves or paying ).  Playing for one’s own enjoyment is no excuse; however, it does give a suitable alibi for doing it all wrong.

It's all very understandable though: Practically all piano teachers have started their own learning as young children. They really cannot understand how different the premises are when someone start as a mature adult. They tend to apply the same learning principles to their adult students that worked for them and work for majority of children (usually because the parents force them to practice).
Learning, is learning; age is irrelevant.  The overall majority of adults are incapable of mutable concepts; that is allowing new information to replace old.  The result is: learners who come for lessons with preconceptions being the single and most difficult group to teach; progress is hampered from the outset because of this.

If it fails they explain it with the lack of discipline, arrogance and ego problems of the student. And the occasional cases where their method does work with adults just reinforce their perception.
Echo chambers are never a good thing; also, we have to acknowledge there are teachers who utilise flaw methodologies.  However, this cannot change the fact that most adults have a fully formed ego and perception of self, and self-worth which leads them to the conclusion: “I do not need to do [X], [Y] or [Z]” which in itself is the definition of being arrogant: “having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities.” (Cambridge University Press, 2016).  Expecting to play any piece of Baroque, Classical or Romantic repertoire without being able play a scale in the piece’s home-key is arrogant.  To expect to do so at the level of a seasoned pianist in less time would also qualify.

It has also became clear to me that many teachers have plenty of good practical teaching skills but very little knowledge of modern pedagogical research.
Please elaborate.

So they don't have so many tools to assess their methods analytically when the students don't respond to them the way expected.
I cannot speak for other teachers, but I can certainly say I can discern the problem of a student’s lack of success after one week’s solo study.  Though we like to believe we are all unique, unfortunately we are not; there are many ‘tell-tale’ symptoms that even after 10 seconds with a student, I can discern what the problem is.  However, you have not accounted for the responsibility of the student to carry out the tasks as instructed:

“A doctor prescribes a course of medication. The patient takes the a few doses and starts to feel better then stops.  After a few weeks the affliction returns, they take the medication, but this time to no effect.  The patient returns to the doctor exclaiming that the medication did not work.  The doctor then prescribes a different medication and the cycle continues.”

Though, greatly simplified, the concept is the same; students will do as they please, we can only hope it includes what we asked, exactly as we asked them to do it.


Since learning to play is very demanding and time consuming and not very well suited with an average adult lifestyle, adult students would require a more tailored reflective approach and more support than most kids. Few teachers seem to be well equipped for this.

It also seems to be impossible for many teachers to understand how to set goals with an adult student.

Again, we can set goals, however the adult will do what they please; we can only hope.  Unless the task we set is directly linked (that is, the task they desire itself), most adults I have encountered respond with: “I don’t see the point”, to which I explain, and they ignore my advise and go about their business anyway.  Very few listen and respond with: “Oh … I see”.  From what I have encountered, they go along with what I set with half-effort almost waiting for something to happen, not realising it will not until they do it.
Longest I have witnessed is, four years asking a person to practice while counting the measures out loud.  Every week they would not do it , until one week (four years later) they did and everything clicked into place; they exclaimed “Wow … it’s so much easier when you count”; I just smiled back politely.


How many adults (or children either) can relate to such goals? Most do not for a long time in their journey to learn to play.
I outline this from the beginning.  We are playing an instrument to make pleasant sounds, why would anyone not listen to what they are playing.  I am quite amazed at how many learning pianists worry about how they look, rather than how they sound.

“Look at me play this piece”; the wording is always telling and quite an insight to what the performers focus is.  As teacher, in a lesson, I am your audience, do not offend my ears.

And they don't need to, it's perfectly fine to play just because one wants to and learn to play pieces for one's own enjoyment. The idea that it's not possible to advance with one's playing skills with such a mindset is BS.

If you play for your own pleasure, more often than not, actually achieving a level of playing that is advance is not possible.  Many think it is; but they are sorely mistaken.

When an advanced level classical performer is playing music, they are not concerned with anything other than doing what the composer is asking them to do; there might be some interpretive freedom in terms of phrasing, voicing and rubato.  However, the point of their performance is creating a performance of music that is bigger than them or the audience listening to it.

An amateur playing for their own pleasure is trying to recreate the energy of a performance of the music they heard.  The inflections are shallow; they may be able to mimic the actions and sounds of a professional performer they heard, but that’s just it, it is shallow mimicry.  To truly create an advance level of playing, you have to do your research and look at the score without any ego or sense of self.

This research means listening and playing a collection of pieces by the composer and their contemporaries, reading letters and historical accounts, listening to other pianists and how they interpreted the music, study harmony and counterpoint and any other relevant compositional skills.  All this with the aim of understanding the music you are trying to play.  If at any point this sounded like too much, then you will never reach a truly advanced level; there is a reason why it is expected of graduate and post-graduate students.


Some will and others don't. And the ways of the teacher will make a big difference. Most adults end up with moments of frustration and lack of motivation no matter what kind of music they are learning. It is little help if the teacher's attitude is "I told you so, now lets play level 1 music for a year". There are better ways to get through those periods.
When I ask my students to put up a ‘simple’ study, it is not an assault on the ego, but an attempt to learn new skills without the plethora of errors, hurdles and self-inflicted mountain setup by the student.  How can teach you to play cantabile (a foundation skill), if you are still struggling to read the notes, and decipher the score.  It makes sense to work on your voicing in a piece that requires less from you so you can focus your efforts on making a nice sound.

It is a bit of a paradox that one does usually need a teacher to really get how to play the piano well (and I too am guilty of telling people to get one when they want to play advanced music), but one will also possibly end up with one that does not have the right kind of pedagogical understanding to really be helpful.

Maybe you will become a teacher one day and be different :)

Now who is cynical; I am sorry that this has happened to you to lose faith in us.  Another ‘pet-peeve’, teachers who have no place to do so.  I have spent my life playing, learning and teaching; how arrogant to expect to do it as a bit of extra pocket money, and do it well.  Furthermore, how dare you not reflect on your teaching approach and revise your methods accordingly; again I am sorry that you have experienced this.

Offline outin

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #19 on: September 21, 2016, 06:41:38 PM »
Vanii,
While I quoted your post briefly my post was not directed to you.
But I must say that since my background is in research I look at things differently than you do. I cannot agree with you on some counts when it comes to learning, since I've seen research that suggests otherwise. But to try to convince you would be a pointless exercise since we would be talking past each other. I'll just say that my teacher thinks differently than you do.  So I'm happy to continue my studies with her and have been able to achieve many of my goals despite doing things very differently than you think they should be done.

Offline mjames

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #20 on: September 21, 2016, 06:53:18 PM »
Same here Outin...thank god my teacher's different.  Though I didn't start with her, she's doing a great job of solidifying my technique.

I like mentioned the rondo once during one of our lessons and like two weeks back she went like "so you want to learn the rondo?" I was like "man isn't that way too hard" "nah it's ok you'll be fine. besides after this you might be ready to tackle on a scherzo." She uses my love for chopin to motivate me into stretching my limits :D and alongside that I also work on easier stuff that I'm not very fond (Schoenberg, Mozart..) but are also necessary for my development. I can just imagine the depression I would get if my teacher went like "self-taught huh...well looks like we're going to work on alfredo grade 1 pieces for 4years." LOL.

 

Offline vaniii

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #21 on: September 21, 2016, 09:15:07 PM »
@Outin

I am not looking to sway your opinion either. As I stated, perspective is vital; I can only give mine in the hope it sheds some light on the situation.

I can only draw from experiences over the years as teacher and any training I have undertaken.

More often than not, as teachers we wait for the student to reach a point where they are ready to learn.  My mentor once explained this process as indulging students until they realise the folly of their approach and become open to learning something.

I am glad you an @mjames have found teachers that suit your needs, however, please do not completely write off the possibility that there is some truth in prevailing school of thought.


A person is driving for the first time on a highway.  Their friend calls and says: “Becareful, there is a story on the news of someone driving the wrong way on the highway”, the driver replies “Someone?! … These idiots are in the hundreds”


Happy music making, I will not post further unless directly spoken to.

Offline outin

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #22 on: September 22, 2016, 03:57:43 AM »

I am glad you an @mjames have found teachers that suit your needs, however, please do not completely write off the possibility that there is some truth in prevailing school of thought.


What exactly is that? I come from a different culture and I have a feeling that the prevailing thought may not be quite the same here. My teacher has a degree in teaching and in many ways she does teach in a very traditional way and has very traditional demands in regards to the quality of making music. But she is also open minded about individual ways to approach the material and has no problem with changing course when it seems necessary.

I have a scientific world view. That means I am also looking for evidence to prove me wrong instead of only looking for evidence to prove me right. So far you far presented a lot of opinions but little evidence. At the same time I know evidence exists that some of what you wrote above simply isn't so. And in a culture like mine your attitude towards students seems old fashioned, since our children are expected to learn to think independently and creative from an early age and the educational principles are constantly being developed with the aid of modern research. It's not always for the better, but many "old" ways have been thrown away because they simply were not effective.

Offline ted

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #23 on: September 22, 2016, 05:55:20 AM »
As far as playing difficult pieces was concerned, in my youth I had the opposite problem. I believed myself to be far less capable than I actually was and my teacher was always twisting my arm in that respect. I was also in awe of my teacher's astonishing natural ability which, while not exactly wrong, tended to incubate an inferiority complex of sorts which took me years to get rid of.

Serial learning in any field is very difficult for me, and just doesn't fit my brain I'm afraid. I rather wish it did, life would have been much easier. What seems to happen is that I understand lots of isolated things willy-nilly, in fits of enlightenment, and then connect them over time in discrete jumps until I see the whole picture, like a huge web of nodes of understanding.

Just as well I am not a teacher !
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline vaniii

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #24 on: September 22, 2016, 12:55:52 PM »
What exactly is that? I come from a different culture and I have a feeling that the prevailing thought may not be quite the same here.

That one should start with the basics before trying to understand more advance concepts.  Would it be prudent to undertake advance mathematics without understanding what numbers are, or for that matter basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division?  Even high-school level algebra needs an understanding of the fundamentals (those, in music, being able to count and play evenly).
My teacher has a degree in teaching and in many ways she does teach in a very traditional way and has very traditional demands in regards to the quality of making music.
Those demands are what I would call the prevailing school of thought; if the music asks you to play legato, staccato, leggiero, cantabile, or any other expression mark, and you as performer fail to do so then you have not performed the piece correctly.  I would not say this expectation is anything other than ordinary of even the most incompetent of teacher.
But she is also open minded about individual ways to approach the material and has no problem with changing course when it seems necessary.
Niether do I.  Sometimes, we have to ‘let things slip’ in order to accommodate the student’s ability.  A beginner who has played only a few weeks would not produce the sound of someone who has been playing attentively for a few years.  This is called differentiation.  We are misunderstanding one another; I am referring to students who cannot achieve a desired result, because they see the task as pointless and so do not make an effort to complete it: “I don’t see the point in counting”, “Scales are pointless”, “This piece is boring”,and most frustrating “I don’t know this one” (this last one resulting in the student refusing to play anything new).
I have a scientific world view. That means I am also looking for evidence to prove me wrong instead of only looking for evidence to prove me right.
The scientific view can be just as dogmatic; refusing to see the evidence because it does not meet the evidenced needed (for or against).  Sometimes the evidence is so obscure that the relationship seems almost tenuous.  Sometimes in teaching, just as in medicine, we treat the symptom and not the problem.

For example, a student who can play a piece, but does not play in time, does not count; we as teacher can choose to help them with their timing in the piece, but that is only treating the symptom.  The true problem is the way they look at the music; more often than not excluding rhythm because the task was always a means to an ends, and not the ends itself.

What you are asking your teacher to do is treat your symptoms; some of us will indulge you, others of us will ask you to tackle the problem.
So far you far presented a lot of opinions but little evidence.
I have given examples through analogy and logical comparison.  I could always quote books and other research, but I am sure you are already aware of these, and have drawn your own conclusions.
At the same time I know evidence exists that some of what you wrote above simply isn't so. And in a culture like mine your attitude towards students seems old fashioned, since our children are expected to learn to think independently and creative from an early age and the educational principles are constantly being developed with the aid of modern research. It's not always for the better, but many "old" ways have been thrown away because they simply were not effective.
You have made assumptions about my students based on what I have chosen to post; this does not account for the many variables that you are not aware.  Independent thought is not the issue here; referring back to the original post:
Another example is if a student is on Level 1 Lesson Book, I will give them a piece from level 2 or 3 that they want to play, as long as they still work on Level 1. Usually they still avoid the Level 1 book and insist on me teaching them the higher level pieces by rote! Frustrating!!!
Students who will not compromise their agenda, despite the tasks set helping them achieve their goal.

As stated, I wait for these students to fail in their flawed method, and them help them with a method that is proven to work.  There are no shortcuts however optimistic the student.

Offline outin

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #25 on: September 22, 2016, 01:09:56 PM »
Vanii,
I have made no assumptions about your students at all. I only respond to what you wrote and I still disagree with you on certain things. What you write may not actually be consistent with how you respond to your students in practice. But clearly based on your experience you see things impossible that I do not think are so based on mine.

It's impossible for me to write a more detailed post with quotations with this stupid phone, so I am not brief because of disrespect to your lengthy contribution but because of practical reasons...

Offline vaniii

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #26 on: September 22, 2016, 01:55:11 PM »
Vanii,
I have made no assumptions about your students at all. I only respond to what you wrote and I still disagree with you on certain things. What you write may not actually be consistent with how you respond to your students in practice. But clearly based on your experience you see things impossible that I do not think are so based on mine.

It's impossible for me to write a more detailed post with quotations with this stupid phone, so I am not brief because of disrespect to your lengthy contribution but because of practical reasons...

Understood, I will wait.

PS: Please do not take this discussion personally, I am actually intrigue by your perspective.

Offline outin

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #27 on: September 22, 2016, 03:09:41 PM »
Understood, I will wait.

PS: Please do not take this discussion personally, I am actually intrigue by your perspective.
I never take anything personally :) At least not in the internet...

Offline visitor

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #28 on: September 22, 2016, 03:38:14 PM »
I never take anything personally :) At least not in the internet...
how i imagine outin responds to 'offense' online.

 :D

Offline outin

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #29 on: September 23, 2016, 06:21:42 AM »
For example, a student who can play a piece, but does not play in time, does not count; we as teacher can choose to help them with their timing in the piece, but that is only treating the symptom.  The true problem is the way they look at the music; more often than not excluding rhythm because the task was always a means to an ends, and not the ends itself.

It is not so much about WHAT skills and concepts to study, we probably agree in that, it's about HOW and WHEN to study them. Let me try to explain:

Ted already explained above how he learns. What he calls serial learning is usually called sequental learning. I do not learn that way either. Most people would fall somewhere in between but like Ted I am fully the opposite, what is called a holistic learner. For people like us it works very well to jump around and pick up things seemingly in a random way and then we just fill in the gaps. The other way does not work and to try to force it slows us down and also kills our motivation to study.

Another "problem" I have is that my mind is unusually active and innovative and sometimes too fast for an average person to imagine. It is constantly creating ideas and I have no way to stop them flowing. It's a good thing when the ideas contribute to the goal I am working towards. But if the work makes me bored and does not interest me these ideas start becoming a distraction. Since I am not able to stop them the work easily becomes non productive. So I must be careful to limit such boring work to very small doses or try to change it in a way that it is not boring anymore. You seem to think boredom is something that one can choose to feel or not. For me it is not. I would not mind at all to spend an hour every day with finger exercises or Czerny etudes. It's my brain chemistry that prevents me to do so. The sort of "anomalies" in my thinking and learning that I have consistently encountered ever since I was a child are not unknown in research. That's how I know it's not just an attitude problem but these are real differences among people and should not be treated as something to be "cured" by discipline. They can also be an asset as I have found. But only if understood properly. I was lucky to grow up in an environment where I was not forced too hard into a model that did not fit me. While adults around me did not always "get" me and must have found me difficult at times, they could see that I had some special abilities that children don't usually have and I was allowed to develope those further. I see a similar pattern with my piano teacher now, she does not necessarily understand, but she does see results, so she accepts.

You may or may not have encountered a student with this type of mind. If you did and they ended up quitting, it's possible you never realized why. It may seem to an outsider that the person is willingly lazy and has an attitude problem and that is why they have no discipline.

I cannot speak for other teachers, but I can certainly say I can discern the problem of a student’s lack of success after one week’s solo study.  Though we like to believe we are all unique, unfortunately we are not; there are many ‘tell-tale’ symptoms that even after 10 seconds with a student, I can discern what the problem is.

This to me sounds arrogant considering how long it took my teacher and me to create mutual understanding because we are wired so differently.

Learning, is learning; age is irrelevant.

Age is not irrelevant for learning. The older one is the better one should be aware of one's own learning style and if one has special strengths and weaknesses (or even learning challenges). Assuming here that one is generally studied, of course there are also adults who don't understand these things at all. But adults that do are often best experts in their own learning and that should guide the teaching, not just what the teacher is used to doing. Since almost all teachers started as small chidren have never personally experienced this and it tends to show in their attitude towards adult students.

I've already tried your way and failed once (as a child). I ended up never touching the piano for decades and I even disliked piano music for quite a while. Now I am doing things differently and while it's not always easy, I am practicing every day and find the work mostly worthwhile and enjoyable. It's all possible because unlike when 6 years old and at the mercy of my teacher I do now understand WHY certain things are so difficult for me and how to find ways to get around them. I am motivated by the music, nothing else. I have no need to show off to anyone, neither do I need to perform.

I would never label another music lover as arrogant just because they are differently wired. Usually with adult beginners there's a lot of ignorance and lack of understanding, which is something that cannot be cured in a day. Someone like you had 10-15 years to become more aware, how can you expect someone to just take it from you in an instant without given the opportunity to work it out in their own head and in their own way? Doing that is not time wasted, failures are a part of balanced development. I don't see it a very efficient way to learn to just follow given instructions year after year without being in charge oneself and experiment and learn from both successes and failures. But I do understand that some people don't want that sort of responsbility but rather prefer someone else to be in charge.

I'm not going to details here, but due to things not in my control I am not always feeling up to my lessons. Once after a really bad one I asked my teacher if she ever feels tired of teaching me. Her answer was that she wants to teach anyone who really wants to play the piano (I am sure she too does encounter kids who don't really). So what sense would it make for her either to try to kill my will to play by imposing things that we have already seen to do just that? I was never prejudiced against anything when I started. I tried all kinds of things and gradually found my present path.

My first teacher was the opposite of my present one, he had low demands on quality of playing and just told me I was doing fine, but tried to insist I play things I was not interested in. I was quick to look for another one, it just wasn't productive at all and I knew I was NOT doing fine technically because I could hear myself :)

My present teacher lets me try almost anything that I select from my large list of pieces I want to play (but I do have some sense of my own) and sometimes it works out, sometimes not. What she does is show me all the things I need to be able to do to make justice to the piece. I then try and if doesn't happen on reasonable time we set the piece aside and often return to it a year or two later. But from every such project I do learn something that will be useful later, find a part if the puzzle just like Ted explained above.

I don't know if my explanations are adequate, there's much more to it, not so easy to open up these ideas to someone who has developed a very different perspective. Yours is not a bad one, but it seems narrow to me and it may not work when you encounter someone unable to settle to your expectations and see things your way. I just ask you to consider the possibility that you may have prejudices that warp your assesment in such a case. With this lengthy post I feel I can only scratch the surface of a very complex issue. It appears to me that you have simplified it so that it fits the course of action you have found working in x% of cases. To me THIS would be arrogant, with no offense intended.

And finally, I am the first to admit that I have very little patience with people and find it tedious to explain things in detail that are crystal clear to me. In my day job I am forced to make the effort, so in my free time I prefer not to. So if something I write does not make sense, consider it may be because I've explained it insufficiently :)

Offline ted

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #30 on: September 23, 2016, 07:52:48 AM »
....Another "problem" I have is that my mind is unusually active and innovative and sometimes too fast for an average person to imagine. It is constantly creating ideas and I have no way to stop them flowing ....

Slightly off topic, but I shan't digress after this. Yes, I cannot stop mine either, and don't really want to. Have you ever thought about free improvisation outin ? You might just have the brain for it. In my youth I had the astonishing luck to find a teacher who understood how I thought. He was a very prominent composer, conductor and pianist and didn't need pupils, especially ones like me. Right from the very first lesson he insisted we work on improvisation. He often told me I was very lucky, because while I would never be a concert pianist I seemed built to create music spontaneously, and if I worked hard on it the personal rewards in later life would be immense. That he was able to perceive this and actually put it into practice during our lessons, and later on over the years we were friends, still amazes me to this day.

...I have no need to show off to anyone, neither do I need to perform...


Yes, that is exactly how I feel too. However, I do have this compulsion to create in the medium of recorded improvisation. Thanks to advances in recording technology this is now very easy. At sixty-nine, I can say my teacher was right, the internal rewards are indeed huge.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline vaniii

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #31 on: September 23, 2016, 08:47:35 AM »
@Outin,

I understand your post entirely;  we are not as different as you think, and our views are much more alike than you think.  I would like to elaborate, but I cannot write fully at the moment either due to work commitments, but I will do so more fully when I can.

Offline outin

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Re: Students who want to play advanced pieces and avoid step-by-step learning
«Reply #32 on: September 23, 2016, 09:27:17 AM »
Slightly off topic, but I shan't digress after this. Yes, I cannot stop mine either, and don't really want to. Have you ever thought about free improvisation outin ? You might just have the brain for it.

I have indeed...and from my singing experiences I think I might. But I lack the foundation needed to do anything worthwhile on the keyboard and so far I haven't really been that interested. I am still fascinated by the music of the old dead guys ;)

If I had more time I would probably do all kinds of things in addition to learning pieces, but I do not have much at present.