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Topic: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers  (Read 2979 times)

Glissando

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frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
on: January 17, 2005, 11:37:03 PM
I and my brother had our piano lessons today.
I went first. It all went fine, except that my teacher didn't like the way I was interpreting my Chopin pieces. She wanted me to do them exactly her way. Now, there's nothing wrong with her way, except that it's *her* way and I like mine better. I'd like to be able to have my own voice when I play, not be copying someone else's. I put a lot of thought into my interpretations and it's annoying to have them tossed aside and to be told "do it this way, I like it better."
Then lil' bro goes. All goes swimmingly until he gets to his Bach minuet. Then to my complete amazement, she has him pedal the piece as if it was a Chopin Waltz.
Pedal and Bach.
Aside from the fact that it sounded truly awful, I felt that it was an extreme liberty to take with The Master's work. I was astonished that my teacher would have my brother do that. I didn't say anything because I didn't want to get in a conflict, but I felt that it was really wrong.
Then lessons end, and later on I try to talk to "X" about it. He wouldn't listen to my point of view, just jumped to assumptions like always and said that I think I know everything about music, etc. etc. He then said that none of the composers put dynamics into their pieces, the editors did all that so adding the pedal wouldn't change things much anyway. Now, I'm pretty sure that that's false, but whatever. I tried to tell him and he shut me up. Of course. :( Anybody know for sure?
Anyway I feel miserable right now, and I really need some advice/encouragement/answers.
Please help. :'(

Offline SteinwayTony

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #1 on: January 18, 2005, 12:01:41 AM
First of all, the fact that you and your brother take lessons simultaneously raises my eyebrow.  In my view this is rather unprofessional.  I have no problems with teachers suggesting their interpretations, but it totally sealed the deal for me when he disregarded your thoughts on your Chopin.  I would never be productive with such a teacher. 

Now, I'm really not sure what your financial status is.  I thought "maybe they take lessons together because it saves money," but I really can't tell.  Regardless of whether it was your idea for you and brother to take lessons at the same time, if I were your potential teacher (I have several students at levels ranging from beginner to early intermediate), I would object to that idea strongly, and if a tight budget was the obstacle, I would offer you a break.   Lessons, with the sole exception of master classes, are intended to be individual experiences.  They should construct an intimate relationship between teacher and student, one that would be hindered by such a "double lesson."  Of course, this is only my opinion, so please take it with a grain of salt.

Many students breeze through their lessons playing for their teachers, having their teachers correct them, without the slightest thought of "maybe I like it this way instead."  Thus, I congratulate you for disagreeing with your teacher.  Teachers are often seen as figures of authority, especially in school.  My ideal vision of a piano teacher is a hybrid of a coach and an expert, not a police officer or a dictator.  It is commendable that you did not like your teacher's interpretation, and it is wrong that he would not discuss your differences openly with you. 

That said, my advice to you is to start looking for other teachers in your area.  If possible, ask to go to their house or school and chat for a short while.  Do not have this discussion at a lesson, as you will be taking up valuable time, and time is money.  Ask detailed questions to ensure that you will not go through a similar ordeal.  One example might be, "Suppose you and I have different interpretations of a work.  How would you handle that situation?" 

If a new teacher is not an option, let me know and I'll think about that. 

Best of luck!

Offline xvimbi

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #2 on: January 18, 2005, 12:42:52 AM
Since SteinwayTony covered one aspect of your post very well, I'd like to cover the pedal. Pedal in Bach is by no means prohibited. In fact, many top-level Bach experts use it, even in simple Minuets. It has to be used with taste, that's for sure, but there should not be a categorical statement that includes the words "never" or "always". If you study the development of the piano over the centuries, you will find that it is impossible to play a lot of Beethoven the way he intended it with modern pianos. The same with Bach. Much of his music has been composed for the organ and then transcribed for the piano. In order to imitate the organ on a piano, one has to use the pedal every now and then.

Bach did indeed not include any dynamics markings (or tempo markings for that matter) in much of his work, because, frankly, the harpsichord does not allow any dynamics (for all practical purposes). Later, editors came up with their own dynamics markings, but they are not cast in stone and can be changed to one's heart content (taste is the important word here again). Even ornamentation can be changed. Baroque music is probably one of the most liberal types of music. Much more so than Chopin etc.

Glissando

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #3 on: January 18, 2005, 01:39:31 AM
Thank you both very much. :)
Tony, our lessons are not simultaneous- we just go together and sit in on eachother's lessons. I go first and have my 30 min. lesson, and then bro has his. Usually we do homework or something while waiting for the other to finish. There is no intercourse with the non-playing student and the teacher during the lessons.
I totally agree about the 'coach' vs. 'dictator' thing.
I've talked to my mom about it. She understands, and said we can look into a new teacher for me. We've been tossing the idea of a new teacher around since we had the christmas recital last year, and we realized that almost all our teacher's other students were playing out of primers. So now, well,  maybe it is time to move on. 
Anyway your post was very encouraging, makes me feel like maybe I'm doing at least a few things right, which I haven't really felt lately.
xvimbi- thanks for the Bach & pedal info. I've been reseaching it this evening and found out the bit about the organ transcriptions, which made a lot of sense to me. I also listened to some recordings I have and spotted the pedal in a few of the WTC preludes. I didn't know Bach didn't include dynamics a lot of times, thanks for telling me! :)
So I'm willing to say that I overreacted about the Bach.  :-[ Sorry! Now I have to admit it to overbearing "X"- this is not going to be easy....
But I'm not going to be upset about today's lesson anymore. I'm filing it under 'experience' and going to eat chocolate. ;)
Thanks again! You guys are SO helpful! :D

Offline janice

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #4 on: January 18, 2005, 02:35:00 AM
There is no intercourse with the non-playing student and the teacher during the lessons.

<gasp>
Co-president of the Bernhard fan club!

Glissando

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #5 on: January 18, 2005, 02:38:14 AM


<gasp>

What?
The person who isn't having their lesson right then isn't allowed to talk. Fair enough.
Or do you mean... argh.... please....
"intercourse.
noun.
Communications between persons or groups."
dictionary definition....   ::) :P

Offline mound

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #6 on: January 18, 2005, 03:05:24 PM
I felt that it was an extreme liberty to take with The Master's work.

As was said above, "Bach and Pedal" can coexist at times. Your teacher is likely aware of this, which is why he is your teacher.  But how "extreme and astonishing" must it seem to your teacher that you are so willing to take such liberties with the Chopin pieces? You might have a point, the teacher might be "dictating" for the sake of "dictating" and if the teacher is opprosive and not helping you or your brother suceed and unwilling to listen, then perhaps you do need to find a new teacher.

But do yourself a favor and consider for a moment that the teacher is the teacher, and perhaps, just maybe, he does have your best interest at heart.

I had the same feelings when I brought my first Chopin piece to my teacher,  thinking I was being so expressive and individual with it. He of course put an end to much of "my own interpretations" and had me do it "his way".  I went along with him,  admittedly having many of the same feelings as you, but I got over it.  Now, some time later, that piece in particular being in the past, I can remember how I was playing it, I can remember how his informed opinion shaped it, and I can see how the combination of that, and time, has led to a perfectly acceptable "interpretation" of my own which will continue to evolve as I evolve and grow as a player.

It is good that you want to have your own voice when you play, never lose sight of that. But don't be so bent on having your own voice that it creates a combative environment between you and your teacher and fail to ever become informed of the voices before you, because that is what will really allow you to shape your own.  Use the lesson (and your practice time) as a time to explore such interpretations. Take what you like and discard what you don't. Perhaps in the long run you'll end up playing it your own way, but if you don't give yourself the opportunity to try for yourself any of the alternatives, you will likely end up lacking something in the long run.

just my $.02

-Paul



Glissando

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #7 on: January 18, 2005, 06:45:30 PM
Thanks for the reply, mound!

As was said above, "Bach and Pedal" can coexist at times. Your teacher is likely aware of this, which is why he is your teacher.  But how "extreme and astonishing" must it seem to your teacher that you are so willing to take such liberties with the Chopin pieces? You might have a point, the teacher might be "dictating" for the sake of "dictating" and if the teacher is opprosive and not helping you or your brother suceed and unwilling to listen, then perhaps you do need to find a new teacher.
Okay, well first with Bach- I had never ever ever heard of a Bach harpsicord piece being played with the pedal throughout. I had heard many times that you should never do it. Apart from that, the minuet was one of my old favorites and it really sounds bad with the pedal (even lil' bro says he hates it, and he loves using the pedal). I was very surprised. Now I admit I overreacted, but still- I really don't get the pedal with that particular piece. At all. ::)
As for the Chopin- she wants me to play it seriously emotionally. I'm working on this lovely nocturne, op. 9 no. 2 that I really love. To me I think it should be played with a sweet, quiet emotion- not with a passionite despairing emotion. She wants it very passionite & despairing. I've listened to lots of different recordings of it and I've heard a lot of different versions, and my interpretation isn't out of line. But even if dynamically I play it perfectly, if I don't play it in a passionite despairing way, she says no no no. It's very frustrating.
Quote
It is good that you want to have your own voice when you play, never lose sight of that. But don't be so bent on having your own voice that it creates a combative environment between you and your teacher and fail to ever become informed of the voices before you, because that is what will really allow you to shape your own.  Use the lesson (and your practice time) as a time to explore such interpretations. Take what you like and discard what you don't. Perhaps in the long run you'll end up playing it your own way, but if you don't give yourself the opportunity to try for yourself any of the alternatives, you will likely end up lacking something in the long run.

just my $.02

-Paul
Very good advice, thank you.

Offline mound

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #8 on: January 18, 2005, 07:09:39 PM
Okay, well first with Bach- I had never ever ever heard of a Bach harpsicord piece being played with the pedal throughout. I had heard many times that you should never do it.

I do agree for the most part, again, it's one of those "never say never" things.. For example, when I started Sinfonia #9, my teacher was playing for me, and at times, he briefly used the pedal.. I called him on it, "I thought you were never supposed to use the pedal with Bach!?" he's like "weeeeelllll, you knowwww.. never say never.. how does it sound??"

As I've progressed through the piece, I have yet to use the pedal. At one point though my teacher said to me "keep working on this articulation, but perhaps use the pedal to help bring out those voicings so you can hear it, then go back to the technique"

Perhaps your teacher was having him use the pedal as a pedagogical aid to help him bring out the voices that his technique is not yet capable of producing, as a stepping stone..  A means to an end? Perhaps. "always use pedal on this piece?" perhaps - but did you ask your teacher the reasons for it or just jump to the conclusion? My teacher has had me do things as "stepping stones" that of course don't persist once you've learned what it is you're learning..


As for the Chopin- she wants me to play it seriously emotionally. I'm working on this lovely nocturne, op. 9 no. 2 that I really love. To me I think it should be played with a sweet, quiet emotion- not with a passionite despairing emotion. She wants it very passionite & despairing.
Hmm... (runs his finger across the scrollwheel on his new iPod to this piece)

:)

Yes, a great piece.  I dunno, the piece to me starts as a sweet quiet sort of emotional statement as you describe.. But that to me is only the opening statement.  Think of the tension that is created as the theme develops.  It's ever so subtle, there aren't any huge shifts in dynamic, but by the middle of the piece, I can picture Chopin bringing a room full of listeners to tears with the haunting despair thats in his voice.. but it resolves.. So maybe you're both right, but not communicating to each other appropriately.  The best conversations I've ever had with my teacher had nothing to do with my fingers or keys on the piano.


I've listened to lots of different recordings of it and I've heard a lot of different versions, and my interpretation isn't out of line.
I doubt your interpretation is at all "out of line" - but perhaps misinformed?

Very good advice, thank you.


No problem.,

-Paul

Offline rafant

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #9 on: January 18, 2005, 08:13:47 PM
Joseph Hoffman, a former great pianist and teacher, used to advise to be willing to obey your teacher, a good teacher of course. Every good teacher has pedagogical abilities, more experience and knowledge than his/her pupils, so he/she has authority.  Not always for a teacher is possible, or efficient in time, to explain why asks that things be done in a certain way. So, from good will, try to follow your teacher's advise as close as possible. Maybe you discover that he/she is right, and so you are enhancing your ability to play in different ways. There is no damage in doing so during your lessons. If you think that you can't possibly obey, or can't rely on your teacher's ability, better change of teacher, since every good teacher deserves obedience.

Glissando

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #10 on: January 18, 2005, 11:50:26 PM
Hmm... (runs his finger across the scrollwheel on his new iPod to this piece)

:)

Yes, a great piece.  I dunno, the piece to me starts as a sweet quiet sort of emotional statement as you describe.. But that to me is only the opening statement.  Think of the tension that is created as the theme develops.  It's ever so subtle, there aren't any huge shifts in dynamic, but by the middle of the piece, I can picture Chopin bringing a room full of listeners to tears with the haunting despair thats in his voice.. but it resolves.. So maybe you're both right, but not communicating to each other appropriately.  The best conversations I've ever had with my teacher had nothing to do with my fingers or keys on the piano.

ah, the awesome ipod. Can't wait til mine gets here. :)
I don't know, I remember hearing this piece when I was 3 years old, and I've always loved it since then- I guess that would have a lot to do with how I interpret it. It's not despair I hear in the piece, more like a -perhaps haunting- deep and sincere love for someone. Kind of like Aragorn's love for Arwen... Dang, it'd be so much easier to explain what I mean if I could record myself playing!!!!

Quote
I doubt your interpretation is at all "out of line" - but perhaps misinformed?


;)

Offline janice

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #11 on: January 19, 2005, 01:51:32 AM


Or do you mean... argh.... please....
"intercourse.
noun.
Communications between persons or groups."
dictionary definition....   ::) :P

Sorry!!  That was rude of me.  I couldn't resist saying that!  ;)
Co-president of the Bernhard fan club!

Offline dongsang153

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #12 on: January 19, 2005, 06:47:06 AM
this is all very good advice.  i'd like to include that you learn more than notes from your teacher.  anybody with half a brain can learn the notes.  but ultimately, you chose your teacher for their point of view of the music.  but if you feel that you are not learning anything from your teacher, i would suggest looking into find a new teacher.  when you do, i suggest to see if you can hear their other students play.  if you like the way the students play, and want to play like the other students, then the teacher might be right for you.

i recently got back into piano again.  i audition for the "applied program" in school.  if i made the audition, i would get free lesson paid by the state.  i got in.  from there i had a list of teachers approved by the college that i could choose from.  i chose my current teacher because all of her students had something about their playing that i just could not put my finger on.  i wanted to play just like them.  the students of the other teachers just had a really boring and dull sense of playing, and i didn't like that. 

so my point is, listen to the potential teacher play, and also their students.  each student is a reflection of their teacher. 

Offline ujos3

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #13 on: January 19, 2005, 10:14:13 PM
In my opinion teachers are supposed to have developped their musical sensibility through their experience and perhaps their talent (but mostly experience).

So you should at least consider her proposals.

But  I suggest you to have auditions with other teachers and/or advanced piano students (this should be for free, go to a music school and ask). They should be good piano players. So you would have a third (and impartial) opinion.

Also,  a professional player should be able to play this piece "as a love letter" or "as a despairing claim", etc, independently of their opinion and personal sense of the piece.

So may be you would develop also your sensibility and technique trying to play the way your teacher wants you to do.

Javier

Offline SteinwayTony

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #14 on: January 20, 2005, 06:43:47 PM



;)

I get to brag -- my girlfriend is currently doing an off-Broadway play with Wallace Shawn.  It opens January 27.

Ethan Hawke and Parker Posey are in it, too:

https://blog.verbosecoma.com/archives/000733.php

Offline whynot

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Re: frustrated beyond all belief- need advice and answers
Reply #15 on: January 22, 2005, 03:46:13 PM
Pedaling in Bach:  well, for me pedaling is only partly about bringing out the character of the piece, and very much about bringing out the character of the instrument.  I pedal everything I play, but of course very (VERY) differently.  For Bach, I rarely use it to sustain notes or build chords.  Instead, I pedal every changing note, even if it's fast, in order to get overtones from the other strings.  On a good piano, this brings incredible life to the sound that I don't think you could get any other way.  It's just how the instrument works.  I practice this way so I have a lot of control on the pedal, then in performance I have the pedal skills to work with whatever sound is happening in the moment and can pedal "by ear".  I learned this from an incredible pianist.  I don't think a lot of people do it this way, and it's very hard for the first week, but now I have options I didn't have before.  For whatever it's worth....

Good luck with your new teacher, and congrats on being so personally involved in your musical choices.  I don't mind at all when my students argue with me.  Although I like to give more of a response than, "This is how I like it."  That's not enough reason for me.  Anyway, hang in there! 
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