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A parent's questions (Read 344 times)

Offline julytwenty

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A parent's questions
« on: July 21, 2020, 07:33:59 PM »
Dear all,

I have a child who's interested in classic music and piano. My child has been learning for a while and doing great but something drove us (parents) to consider changing the piano teacher. The current teacher is half retired and mainly teaching for fun and we (parents with some basic music background) have concerns on the development. Mainly my kid's playing is not consistent (uneven sometimes, sound balance, rhythm is random)

After some survey, we tried another recommended teacher. After first lesson, my anxiety level surged. The new teacher request all the possible techniques to start with (scales, hanon, different rhythmic patterns) all with set speed goal. My child reacts fine (my child's words: can take that challenge) but I can't help to wonder:

1. Is it really necessary to focus on so much scales and hanon exercise? (A lot of pianists claimed they have never practiced those)
2. Is it really important to win lots of competitions. I found that seems to be the main focus these days (I've listened to a few children, they can play perfectly without making mistake but... it doesn't sound like music, worst, some of the performance look like monkey posing or dancing with no meaning...)
3. What is the best combination of learning, technique discipline and musicality....also competition, what is the purpose of that. (for getting into good college rather than for the love of music?)

Thank you for spending time reading this.

Worried parent.

Offline quantum

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Re: A parent's questions
«Reply #1 on: July 22, 2020, 03:21:43 AM »
Hi and welcome to Pianostreet,

What are your child's goals in music?  What do they want to do with music?  Has your child expressed how far they would like to take their music studies? 

The current teacher is half retired and mainly teaching for fun and we (parents with some basic music background) have concerns on the development. Mainly my kid's playing is not consistent (uneven sometimes, sound balance, rhythm is random)

Have you talked to the teacher about this?  Musical development does not happen overnight.  Evenness, sound balance, and rhythm are all things that take time to develop.  There is a tendency for rhythm to be a weak point for classical music students, it is not uncommon for this to even carry over to first year university studies where it is methodically dealt with.  The teacher could be working on these things, but you need to confirm that.  Concern would be raised if the teacher does not consider these things valuable to your child's education, and is failing to address them in lesson.  But you must first find out what is being covered in lesson before jumping to conclusions.  There is a difference between what is taught in lesson and what your child decides to work on at home. 

After some survey, we tried another recommended teacher. After first lesson, my anxiety level surged. The new teacher request all the possible techniques to start with (scales, hanon, different rhythmic patterns) all with set speed goal. My child reacts fine (my child's words: can take that challenge) [...]

There are different teaching styles.  One should reasonably expect a level of unfamiliarity when working with a new teacher.  Teachers will have varying things they prefer to focus on.  If your child doesn't object to the work, then I don't think there is much to worry about.  Remember, your child goes to lessons to learn, and with that comes the expectation of new challenges. 

1. Is it really necessary to focus on so much scales and hanon exercise? (A lot of pianists claimed they have never practiced those)

No.  IMO, scales are useful for learning the concepts behind them.  They are useful for learning common techniques encountered in repertoire.  However, most people don't take up music study because they are passionate about playing scales.  Real music is more important that scales, and you don't learn to play real music by spending endless hours practising scales alone. 

2. Is it really important to win lots of competitions. I found that seems to be the main focus these days (I've listened to a few children, they can play perfectly without making mistake but... it doesn't sound like music, worst, some of the performance look like monkey posing or dancing with no meaning...)

IMO, definitely no!  Unless winning competitions is your goal in music. 

Winning competitions has a very specific goal: to please the judges in order that they award you a certain mark.  It is subjective at best.  To please the judges, a competitor will likely need to forgo their own musical vision and in its place present one that is favourable to the judges. 

3. What is the best combination of learning, technique discipline and musicality....also competition, what is the purpose of that. (for getting into good college rather than for the love of music?)

It is the one that suits the student's goals.  You need to know the direction your child wants to take music first, and that in turn will inform the appropriate course of study. 

Competitions can be a performing opportunity.  It can be a stepping goal, working towards the achievement of a certain level of repertoire.  It can be a place to see what other students are doing.  It can also be a place where people are more interested in trophies and marks than in music making.  It can be used to build a resume: win this, this, and this, and get offered something else because you did that.  Music competitions are not always about the music unfortunately. 


What is causing so much worry to you as a parent? 
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 ted

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Re: A parent's questions
«Reply #2 on: July 22, 2020, 05:36:12 AM »
What is causing so much worry to you as a parent?

Although I am possibly too different to comment I was going to anyway. However in the light of quantum's excellent synopsis I shan't bother. His last question occurred to me too as the child does not seem unduly bothered either way. Discipline is important but it is only one means to the enjoyment of art, whatever individual form the latter takes.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline julytwenty

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Re: A parent's questions
«Reply #3 on: July 26, 2020, 09:36:41 AM »
Hi quantum and ted

Thank you for the response.

My biggest concern is the routine like practices (scales) will kill the interests :< (that's the reason myself and my husband quit piano). We (three of us, parents or kid) have never set any goal. He just wants to play the piano and we just enjoy the music in the house everyday.

What I observe, he loves sharing his music to others. (He'd come home telling me story how he explain Chopin's Etude to school friends or just play the piano when sees one in public), I love seeing this sheer joy but again see the lacking of technique. I know if he wants to play those pieces he loves he will need more skills than what his current lessons offered.

I just hope he won't drop this valuable love because of the disciplines (which sometimes have conflicts with freedom of expression)

Offline quantum

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Re: A parent's questions
«Reply #4 on: July 26, 2020, 10:20:45 AM »
Goal setting is good practice in any activity.  It is not only for the serious student, or professional musician.  Goal setting defines a direction you want to go, and if you know where you want to go you are more likely to get there. 

If all your child wants to do is play music at home, share it with friends, and play public pianos, that's fine.  But you must recognize, that is a goal!  It's worth repeating, all those things are well defined goals!  So if those are the activities your child is interested in, their musical education must support them reaching that goal.  Finding a direction through wandering serendipity is not always the best choice, though it may provide temporary gratification through an over relaxed approach, in the long term it may not provide a sense of personal accomplishment, a sense that you were able to do the thing you were after. 

If you understand how a particular piece, exercise, technical element, etc. lets you better achieve a goal, you are more likely to stick with that activity, even if that activity is not the most exiting thing in the world. However, by understanding your goal, you understand how that activity will be rewarding to your goal. 

Sometimes it is just a lack of communication between teacher and student with regard to what the goal is.  It is not uncommon that the two parties just don't discuss this and assume each other's goals are the same. 

Granted, there are some teachers out there that only teach one way, and do just that with all their students - making a carbon copy out of every single pupil.  I would recommend you avoid such teachers, unless that is the exact approach you are after. 

Don't assume your experience with music education is the same as your child's experience.  You need to talk with your child to find out exactly what they are experiencing and thinking about music lessons.  Scales don't have to be routine or boring, it is all in the way material is presented to the student and used.  Unfortunately many teachers just assign scales like homework and do nothing more with them.  They don't explain how they are used, or how to make them better, or how to craft music out of them.  In such case, I completely agree that such an approach is demotivating. 

Goals don't quash interests or motivation, rather, they enhance the motivation of a student, give them defined direction, allow the student to achieve the things they want, and give a sense of personal accomplishment.  How is your child able to share their passion for advanced level repertoire like Chopin Etudes, without knowledge of basic technique such as scales?  Think of how much more articulate your child could be talking about and demonstrating the Chopin Etudes if they could show people how basic technical elements such as scales were used as part of the Etudes. 

Discipline does not restrict freedom of expression, rather, it becomes the fruit of creativity.  Look what someone like Bach was able to do with the restrictions of fugal form.  Freedom does not always lead to freedom, sometimes it leads to overwhelming confusion because of the amount of options presented.  There is a saying used in the study of music counterpoint, I'll paraphrase: in the process of learning a technique negative rules predominate, in real music positive possibilities predominate.  Discipline leads to freedom.

I'll say it again, playing music for the fun of it is a goal!
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 keypeg

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Re: A parent's questions
«Reply #5 on: July 26, 2020, 11:11:32 AM »
wrong place - deleted.

Offline julytwenty

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Re: A parent's questions
«Reply #6 on: August 08, 2020, 01:54:56 AM »
Just a follow up from this thread.

So we moved to new teacher. My child has just been with this teacher three lessons. His touch has dramatically changed. After some scales practice, his music now sounds quite different from a month ago.

I am amazed how this can all happen in such a short time...

In the beginning I did challenge (was worried) about how boring it is to routinely work on scales. I changed my mind. I am witnessing how he conquers the obstacle to move his fingers faster. All these are fascinating. :)

I guess the other challenges for him is the new teacher catches every single mistake he makes because he doesn't read score properly. This might (hopefully) encourage him to read the scores instead of playing by ears. He still plays with random fingering at the moment and skipping score once he knows the music but with this teacher he probably wont be able to continue the sloppy habit. I feel happy about it but hopefully he can survive the discipline.