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Does anyone here have experience teaching previously self-taught pianists? (Read 1192 times)

Online ranjit

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I'm really worried about this from a personal standpoint, being self-taught since several years. What has your experience been teaching people who are previously self-taught? For example, did you have to teach them again from scratch? Were they ever actually at the level of playing they thought they were? In particular, were there any students who came to you after attempting and partly succeeding to teach themselves difficult pieces such as the Chopin Fantaisie Impromptu or the Beethoven Pathetique, etc., and if so, what was your experience with them?

Offline dogperson

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DELETED as Iím not a teacher


Online ranjit

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dogperson -- I'd like to hear what you say on the matter. Even anecdotal evidence would be really valuable. You don't have to take my question literally and not answer just because you aren't a teacher.

Offline dogperson

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Feedback from both teachers and students on another piano forum:

Students who begin by self teaching and then transfer  to  an instructor, have a lot of remedial  work to be done. Generally, they do not play the level they think they do because of technique insufficiency. How remediation is conducted, and what level the student would begin at playing, is very personalized based on what and the volume that needs to be Corrected.

I suggest you have an assessment visit with a piano teacher

Offline quantum

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I think, regardless of the path that music has taken a person, one should never be ashamed to seek out the assistance of a teacher if the need arises.  Sometimes people begin in music thinking they only want to learn a few of their favourite pieces, then it progresses to being a light hobby, then it progresses to an insatiable appetite to learn more, and all of a sudden one realizes one is serious about learning music. 

As a teacher, I think passion for the playing and studying music has tremendous value, regardless if one starts as self-taught.  It can be brought forward into the energy needed towards formal study.

Self-taught students may need some remedial work, but I don't think that should scare anyone away from seeking out a teacher.  Students that have studied with numerous teachers, as is frequently the case in university study, will discover that teachers frequently disagree on material and attempt to "correct" the lessons of previous teachers.  It is ultimately up to the individual student to decide which approach is best for them.  So remedial work to some extent happens even to students who have previous instruction.

Learning is a continuous and fluid thing.  Students that start off with formal lessons are not necessarily better off. 

Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline dogperson

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Ranjit
Was any of this useful to you?  Any comments, thoughts, plans?

Offline lostinidlewonder

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People with many years self learning need to find a teacher who will not simply try to recreate them (unless that is what the student wants), that is in my mind probably the worst thing the teacher can do to these kind of students in most cases.

As a teacher I like dealing with those who have self taught before coming for lessons as quantum has already suggested it shows that these students have a passion and interest to learn the piano for themselves. They have a lot of experience already that can be built upon and improved. I feel that it is irrational to worry about "bad habits" that may come up while self learning, the benefits gain from self learning far outweigh any problems that might occur. From doing something not completely correct when shown a more effective way it is better understood, it is certainly better than not knowing anything at all. I am yet to come across any bad habit that is more difficult to remove/improve than building a correct method from scratch.

There are some differences in learning method which I found difficult to break through. One talented student who self taught learned his music through midi synthesia videos and has learned pretty tough pieces from composers like Liszt and Beethoven through this manner, he is highly resistant to learning from sheet music because he is much more efficient using another method. As a teacher I could choose to totally break down his inefficient method but it would do him no service and probably make him quit learning in that manner. So I have to take care to slowly help his reading without taking away learning methods he is comfortable with. He learned (not fully controlled but not too bad) Liszt HR2 in a month through the videos so I can't say it is totally bad for him! It is just very difficult to keep track of fingering corrections and points of interest.

There are more examples like those who resist developing reading skills with all their might and like to memorize small sections at a time. We can't take that away from them if that is what they are comfortable with, it is not altogeher a terrible method but certainly it can be improved upon with reading skills. Simply forcing them to abandon their old methods and replace it with a new one doesn't always build upon their experience effectively, it is a mistake to simply do away with a students inefficient method that has been working for them and not use it as a platform for improvement.
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Online ranjit

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People with many years self learning need to find a teacher who will not simply try to recreate them (unless that is what the student wants), that is in my mind probably the worst thing the teacher can do to these kind of students in most cases.

Thank you for this! It's one of the reasons why I'm hesitant to get a teacher, but I personally think I ought to get a teacher before I attempt virtuosic repertoire like Chopin & Liszt etudes, or anything by Ravel. I'm just really worried that teachers will think I'm crazy, and tell me not to attempt them for another 5 or 10 years, and start me out with grade 1 books. But I will end up attempting them anyway since I love them so much! I'm pretty confident that I can somehow manage the notes of relatively hard pieces (such as FI, some of Chopin's etudes, parts of the Hungarian Rhapsodies, etc.), but the real consistency and command over the techniques will be lacking when I compare myself to someone actually at that level. I think I will need a teacher eventually in order to get that sort of command over technique.

One talented student who self taught learned his music through midi synthesia videos and has learned pretty tough pieces from composers like Liszt and Beethoven through this manner...

That is pretty impressive, and almost exactly what I was looking for: how do teachers teach someone who has actually manage to teach themselves some decent material, Chopin waltzes or nocturnes, or even Fantaisie Impromptu/Liebestraume/Etude Op 10 no 1, etc.? The common "reasons" not to self-teach fall apart given a fairly conscientious, talented student with prior experience self-teaching other subjects. Most people talking about self-taught pianists talk about those who play hackneyed beginner pieces with a ton of mistakes and with barely no sense of musicality. It's a pervasive stereotype.

I also started out with midi, and might have gone down that route. In the first few months, I taught myself the first minute or so of Chopin's Minute Waltz, but it sounded like sh*t. I then kind of decided that I'd learn classical music from sheet music (reading sheet music is straightforward really, just extremely tedious for a beginner -- you google the terms you don't know,  and listen to recordings to figure out composer-specific intentions). I think synthesia/midi goes along well with an ear player as well (which I was). I still play popular tunes by ear, or look up the chords. Adding improvisatory flourishes and accompaniments sits really well with popular music, and the spontaneity makes it sound more "musical".

As someone who naturally plays by ear, I think this is how it goes -- You can already hear it in your head, you just need to figure out the notes, and then you remember them almost immediately. I also acquired a lot of technique by trying to play snippets of pieces far beyond my level (I wanted to play the second Hungarian Rhapsody, so I'd keep trying to get an F# major scale up to that speed, for instance), and via improvisation (it actually makes it easier to acquire technique imo because you're less self-conscious and okay with making mistakes, which allows for exploration).

In addition, I taught myself some basic college-level music theory from online courses and other resources, so I can do basic Roman numeral analysis, etc. for pieces I'm learning. The other day, I was attempting the octave section of HR6 just for fun (don't kill me for it lol), and I realized that it was a I- V7 progression, which then modulated to the mediant using a pivot chord (ii dim 7 - V - I in the mediant key). It's not something expected of a self-taught student.


Ranjit
Was any of this useful to you?  Any comments, thoughts, plans?

I recently met a student playing Chopin etudes, etc. and realized that while I think I could actually manage the notes with enough practice (over several months) and make it sound somewhat musical, it would be hard to actually achieve the control that he was able to achieve (accurate and consistent dynamics over several minutes, etc.) I'm self-taught out of necessity as there's no teacher nearby who teaches at a high level. I'll probably get a teacher when I shift sometime in the future. I think my technique could be improved, but it's decent enough to play most material below grade 8 without any issues whatsoever (You have seen the improvisations I post on the site.) I'm strongly inclined to believe that I have made significant progress, and several people who have taken a few years of piano lessons have told me I play considerably better than them.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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I'm just really worried that teachers will think I'm crazy, and tell me not to attempt them for another 5 or 10 years, and start me out with grade 1 books. But I will end up attempting them anyway since I love them so much!
A good teacher wont make the experience such a shock throwing you back so far immediately. It should all be a gradual process which you come to trust and want to follow yourself. A good teacher will ensure that the student is truly "on board" with it all, just having a polite student that agrees with whatever the teacher sets is something that both the student/teacher needs to become aware of because simply following advice strangles the individuality of the lesson especially with experienced self learners.

When dealing with self taught pianists who have many years experience it is almost rather offensive to me that a teacher would simply want to recreate them and not nurture them from the point they have worked hard to get to and consider how it could grow better from there. There is a strong tendency in us teachers to change what we think is not right, but we need to be careful HOW to go about about this, if something works well for that student taking it away is not a nice experinece or necessary for them, replacing it then with something they struggle with makes the experience full of drudgery.

When I come across students who have self learned for many years I realize I am dealing with someone who understands how to function as an autodidact. They are very accustomed to make decisions for themselves and solve problems with their own tools they make up or have tested works well for them. So advice often needs to help guide their experimentations and it is beneficial for the teacher to actually go through that journey with them and talk out or show how they are process the information.

I wrote a thread about the four types of thinking which I think is quite relevant especially when teaching self learners, it is important that the self learner understands how they think and the teacher they deal with needs to become more attuned to understanding how the student actually processes infromation. This is because self learner have selected many learning tools for themselves through their experimentation, so a teacher needs to analyze what kind of thinking processes came together to encourage the use of those tools.
https://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=41550

I have come across many students who really are inspired to play difficult pieces even though it would be more efficient to go back and build the skills at an easier level. There is nothing wrong with learning hard repertiore but it shouldn't become a main focus so a good teacher should still allow you to work on pieces you like but at the same time encourage you to work on smaller works too.

They should give you strategies to deal with difficult works and help you learn them faster and more secure. Sometimes we have to forget about the playing these hard works with complete mastery because it will simply take way too long to polish it all up because of the current lack of capability, but we can go as far as efficienctly possible. There is a point where you can put in a lot of effort and get very little back in return, usually when we sense that situation we have to admit the reality and move on otherwise time will be wasted.

It really is a mixed bag when you deal with students insisting on working with difficult works. A small amount really do excel and improve at a very fast rate when dealing with difficult works and they actually manage to gain mastery over it all at a good rate when all the work is laid out for them, but I would say the majority are merely overwhelmed to  different degrees, frustrated and end up floundering about.


I'm pretty confident that I can somehow manage the notes of relatively hard pieces (such as FI, some of Chopin's etudes, parts of the Hungarian Rhapsodies, etc.), but the real consistency and command over the techniques will be lacking when I compare myself to someone actually at that level. I think I will need a teacher eventually in order to get that sort of command over technique.
My students who are at the level to play these type of peices learn them at a very fast rate then we spend the most time simply polishing it up. When you work with a piece that is at your level the notes and fingering themselves should not be the major problem facing you. When you work with pieces that are difficult for you all of these notes and coordination issues become the main problem.

how do teachers teach someone who has actually manage to teach themselves some decent material, Chopin waltzes or nocturnes, or even Fantaisie Impromptu/Liebestraume/Etude Op 10 no 1, etc.?
The teacher needs to prioritize what is the most important changes to make. Sometimes the self learners have done a great job and would pass an exam if they played at that level, but those who really overstepped the mark and persisted learning something too overly difficult for them it can be a real mountain of mess to have to clean up and very difficult for the student to let go of because they have invested so much time into it. It almost feels like a hospital triage to me when I see a self learner play something difficult but not very well, I try focus in on the most sick patients. Often I can tell it is all beyond saving but rather than telling the students I hope to make them realize it for themselves,  I just lay down all the work they need to go through and that often helps them move onto something else for the time being.

The common "reasons" not to self-teach fall apart given a fairly conscientious, talented student with prior experience self-teaching other subjects. Most people talking about self-taught pianists talk about those who play hackneyed beginner pieces with a ton of mistakes and with barely no sense of musicality. It's a pervasive stereotype.
And not only the talented self learners should be a role model but those who struggle but actually make some progress on their own. Self learning is better than not learning at all. Some people have no choice but to teach themselves. It can become very confusing and frustrating for the majority so the danger is that they can think the entire process is just not worth their effort and they give up altogether. The internet has made learning much more confusing too because you will bombarded with what to do and what not to do all of which comes to you without those sources of information actually knowing you personally.
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