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Czerny is going to be the end of me (Read 292 times)

Offline novatramp

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Czerny is going to be the end of me
« on: September 19, 2021, 02:01:43 AM »
New member here and first post.  This isn't just a rant but an appeal for some perspective from teachers.

Background:  Middle-aged and started taking piano lessons in 2018.  Took a year off from lessons in 2020 but kept learning at my own pace.  I practice religiously at least 1.5 hours a day. 

I started with a new teacher in April and we work on 3 things: 1) a technique book by Hutcheson, 2) repertoire that is polished to performance level, 3) Czerny Op 139.  He explained that there's 3 Czerny books we'll go through and this is the first. 

The approach we do with Czerny is they need to be as close to the marked tempo as possible, with expression and 'musicality', AND every time there is a repeat sign (which so far is 2x for every piece) I need to add my own variation.  Also, if I have to spend more than a week on an exercise I'm supposed to come back with a different variation because "he's already heard the first one".  At first I didn't mind it because I like small attainable goals that can be achieved with those pieces. 

The issue is I'm getting to the point that I'm spending an hour a day on Czerny alone.  Since April (~20 weeks) I have finished the first 11.  #12 is going to take multiple weeks (with new variations) because I was playing the grace notes before the beat instead of on the beat.  Some quick math tells me that it's going to take 4 years for me to get through Op. 139 and I'm getting pretty discouraged thinking about spending the majority of my practice time on these pieces that really aren't very pleasant to listen to.

Question #1: Is this kind of focus on didactic material typical?

Question #2: How do I broach the topic with the teacher that I'm getting very discouraged without sounding like I'm just whining? 

Offline quantum

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Re: Czerny is going to be the end of me
«Reply #1 on: September 19, 2021, 12:30:39 PM »
Hi and welcome to Pianostreet!

Question #1: Is this kind of focus on didactic material typical?

Teaching and learning styles greatly differ, and there are many approaches to learning music.  It is therefore very important IMO, to find a teacher-student combination that fits well.  Just because someone is a good teacher and has demonstrated results with other students, does not automatically mean they are the most appropriate teacher for you and your learning style. 


I started with a new teacher in April and we work on 3 things: 1) a technique book by Hutcheson, 2) repertoire that is polished to performance level, 3) Czerny Op 139.  He explained that there's 3 Czerny books we'll go through and this is the first. 

The first few stages of learning any instrument involves a lot of foundational work: topics that get a student on their feet playing music, and which will be built upon in the future.  It is a lot of work, and can seem overwhelming at times.  However, it also highlights a problem in music instruction: the exercise first approach, where exercises are assigned in an overtly didactic manner, irrespective of the individual needs of a student's learning situation.  Most students study music in order to play music, not to play exercises.  I'm not saying your teacher is doing this, but it is something to be aware of. 

I think music instruction should be primarily based in real music, and the role of exercises is to enhance the study of such music, or to target specific problem areas that need attention. Exercises should be assigned when needed, but not serve as an umbrella approach for learning facility at the instrument.  One only needs to complete exercises pertinent to their situation.  Whatever the case may be, real music should remain the backbone, driving force, and primary resource behind learning concepts. 

To take an analog: in order to read Shakespeare one needs to learn the alphabet, vocabulary, and grammar.  Once basic foundational skills are learned it is possible to start reading.  But would one's first steps be making an alphabetical list of all words used in a play, then learning the meanings of each of those words; after which, only then does one start to read the work.  Or would it be better to start reading, and when one reaches an unfamiliar word, then look up its meaning.  The latter placing the word in context with the literary work, and providing an model of its usage.

Part of the challenge in teaching and learning music is to balance the technical requirements such as exercises, with real music.  IMO, the majority of one's practice time should be devoted to real music making, such as repertoire and improvisation.  The time practising things like scales, arpeggios, exercises, etc. should not take over the time devoted to practising real music. 



Question #2: How do I broach the topic with the teacher that I'm getting very discouraged without sounding like I'm just whining? 

I think you should be direct with your teacher and present your concerns.  It is not whining at all, it is taking ownership of your educational path.  It does not do well to your teacher or yourself to keep concerns inside.  One should feel comfortable having an open conversation with ones teacher about lesson topics. 

Ask your teacher to go in depth about practice planning and strategy when working at home.  Ask your teacher to show you how to structure your time and focus in order to complete weekly assignments. 

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 scientistplayspiano

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Re: Czerny is going to be the end of me
«Reply #2 on: September 19, 2021, 01:41:30 PM »
I always ask my teacher for repertoire suggestions, and find piece that I would enjoy performing. I like Bach, so we started with Anna Magdalena Notebook, then started two hand invention at year 2. It is very challenging, however, I thoroughly enjoy the journey. Of course I interlace my learning with other small pieces. In the meantime, I am also learning Hanon techniques, 5 finger scales, arpeggio, articulations, dynamics etc.

It is also good to have a goal to complete 2-3 performance pieces every year for recitals or to show off to friends and families.

I think you are correct with the math, we will never exhaust all these repertoires in our lifetime, so it is important to choose pieces we enjoy the most, even at the entry levels. Interest is your best teacher. Ultimately it is your lesson, you need to choose a path. If you want to see online resources, send me a message, I can forward the channel of my piano teacher.

Offline dogperson

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Re: Czerny is going to be the end of me
«Reply #3 on: September 19, 2021, 02:10:34 PM »
I always ask my teacher for repertoire suggestions, and find piece that I would enjoy performing. I like Bach, so we started with Anna Magdalena Notebook, then started two hand invention at year 2. It is very challenging, however, I thoroughly enjoy the journey. Of course I interlace my learning with other small pieces. In the meantime, I am also learning Hanon techniques, 5 finger scales, arpeggio, articulations, dynamics etc.

It is also good to have a goal to complete 2-3 performance pieces every year for recitals or to show off to friends and families.

I think you are correct with the math, we will never exhaust all these repertoires in our lifetime, so it is important to choose pieces we enjoy the most, even at the entry levels. Interest is your best teacher. Ultimately it is your lesson, you need to choose a path. If you want to see online resources, send me a message, I can forward the channel of my piano teacher.


Does your piano teacher offer a video exchange program for her remote students?

Offline brogers70

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Re: Czerny is going to be the end of me
«Reply #4 on: September 19, 2021, 02:16:19 PM »
To the good suggestions you've gotten already, I'd just add that it's great that your teacher is pushing you to improvise variations on the repeats. That's a skill that's very important for Baroque music, and I've never had a teacher that pushed me to do it, certainly not one who incorporated it into Czerny.

I agree with the others; it's not whining to bring up your concerns to the teacher.

Offline scientistplayspiano

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Re: Czerny is going to be the end of me
«Reply #5 on: September 19, 2021, 06:12:16 PM »
@dogperson, my teacher does teach a few virtual students, but I think that is mainly because of COVID. She also teaches university piano class, and is always fully booked. Frankly I think she charges too little.

I never heard of video exchange program before, would you elaborate? Feel free to PM me and I can ask my piano teacher.

Here is one of her recent videos, if you want to check out:

Offline dogperson

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Re: Czerny is going to be the end of me
«Reply #6 on: September 19, 2021, 07:10:22 PM »
@Scientist
It is something your teacher has no reason to do; I didnt realize she posted her tutorials without a subscription training plan. Piano Career Academy, which has online tutorials and planned training modules lets subscribers send one video per week, which will be reviewed and comments returned to the student. A compromise ho true remote lessons that still provides some instructor feedback 

Offline novatramp

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Re: Czerny is going to be the end of me
«Reply #7 on: September 19, 2021, 08:59:33 PM »
Thanks to everyone for the input.  I completely understand the importance of 'eating your vegetables', e.g. working on the not-so-fun stuff.  I was a competitive golfer before I blew up my back and turned to piano, and spent hours upon hours at the driving range and putting green.  It just feels like I'm eating 90% vegetables and get a few scraps of meat here and there. 

The more I think about it there's also other issues in the mix.  One, I would love to focus more on jazz piano at some point but I don't feel like I have the technical abilities yet (e.g. in my mind jazz is for advanced pianists only).  So when I'm sitting there practicing Czerny it sounds nothing like where I want to end up.  I'll bring up my concerns to the teacher in the next lesson.