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Topic: piano lessons  (Read 1480 times)

Offline pianocat

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piano lessons
on: November 11, 2021, 07:41:18 PM
Hi everyone,

I'm new and hoping to hear some advice for my piano lessons from people here. This is my story:

Recently, I restarted my classical piano lessons after 7 years break. I played piano when I was a kid for about 6 years. Now I'm taking lessons from a piano teacher once every two weeks. I'm adult student so I don't have lots of time to do once a week. My teacher is a great pianist and also has passion in teaching. I told her I want to learn more techniques to reach advanced level so I can play hard pieces. I told her this is my goal:
- Liszt - Paganini Etude S.161 No.3 "La Campenella"

In our first lesson, she said my sight reading and techniques are good so we could start playing some slower pieces from my wish list. Now I've been practicing for more than two months. We've had five lessons and we're now working on three big pieces from different composers. We've gone through all of them and have been polishing them maybe 2 times for each. I feel itís quite boring to keep playing the same pieces for months and a bit frustrated the standard I have to pass one piece is different with my teacher's. For me, I think they sound good enough. I played them with no big problem, performed the expressions written from the composer and other details teacher taught me. I'm not just playing notes but playing music. However, according to my teacher's standard is still not enough.

My teacher focuses on the musicality and is polishing all the details in a phrase to make the music sound better. I feel she expects me to play as perfect as I can. It seems my teacher is setting higher standard for me. Is it because I told her my goal are those hard pieces? Do I have to play each piece perfectly (like a recital level?) so I can play harder pieces in the future?

When I was a kid, every piano lesson I had many different pieces to play. We polished the previous assignment not so many times and then learned a new one. I know they're easier and shorter pieces so I can play many at a time but I really like the idea that every lesson I'm learning new pieces and every time I get to know something I never heard before from teacher's new assignment.

Should I follow my teacher's pace, just be patient and keep practicing the pieces until she thinks it's good enough to move on to a new piece? Or should I talk with her that I would like to play more new pieces in a faster pace so we maybe polish the pieces we learned a little bit less? I really like her teaching but I'm just bored of practicing same things for months. Am I impatient? Is it ok if I ask her to assign other smaller or easier repertoires alongside main pieces? Do you work on many pieces or just a few like me? Do you have new assignment every lesson?

Sorry, there are many questions. Thank you in advanced!
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Offline anacrusis

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Re: piano lessons
Reply #1 on: November 11, 2021, 10:49:28 PM
A bit difficult to answer, because it depends on what you mean with "polish". If having to polish the piece means that you are not allowed to play it very messily, with many mistakes, rushing and so on, then yes, you need to polish your pieces more if you ever hope to reach the standard needed for the pieces you have as a goal. But if you have to spend many lessons polishing each piece, then they likely are too hard and your teacher should give you easier pieces that you can complete faster.

Overall - based on my own experience as someone who has gone to music college - I think it's better to play a large quantity of pieces that are at such a level that you can play them well without too much trouble, as well as a few pieces that challenge you here and there, but not too much. Quantity and experience helps building up skill more quickly than wrestling with the same, too difficult piece for months. However, at a certain point a new piece each lesson sounds a bit too quick.

If your teacher is a master student she is probably young? Keep in mind that studying for a master in performance does not mean that you know how to teach. Teaching is a whole separate art. It makes sense that she insists on polishing your pieces to a high level, because that's what she'll be doing in her own study, but if it's starting to kill your enjoyment of playing, I think it sounds like it's too much. She might simply not be an experienced enough teacher to see that it's not the right time in your course of study, or in alignment with your goals, to focus on polishing things for months on end.

I suggest you bring this up with her and see what she says.

Offline pianocat

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Re: piano lessons
Reply #2 on: November 12, 2021, 10:19:25 AM
A bit difficult to answer, because it depends on what you mean with "polish". If having to polish the piece means that you are not allowed to play it very messily, with many mistakes, rushing and so on, then yes, you need to polish your pieces more if you ever hope to reach the standard needed for the pieces you have as a goal. But if you have to spend many lessons polishing each piece, then they likely are too hard and your teacher should give you easier pieces that you can complete faster.

Overall - based on my own experience as someone who has gone to music college - I think it's better to play a large quantity of pieces that are at such a level that you can play them well without too much trouble, as well as a few pieces that challenge you here and there, but not too much. Quantity and experience helps building up skill more quickly than wrestling with the same, too difficult piece for months. However, at a certain point a new piece each lesson sounds a bit too quick.

If your teacher is a master student she is probably young? Keep in mind that studying for a master in performance does not mean that you know how to teach. Teaching is a whole separate art. It makes sense that she insists on polishing your pieces to a high level, because that's what she'll be doing in her own study, but if it's starting to kill your enjoyment of playing, I think it sounds like it's too much. She might simply not be an experienced enough teacher to see that it's not the right time in your course of study, or in alignment with your goals, to focus on polishing things for months on end.

I suggest you bring this up with her and see what she says.

Thank you very much for your advice! By polishing, I mean focusing on the musicality and all the details in a phrase to make the music sound better (I updated my post to explain this more clearly). I played correct notes, performed the expressions written from the composer and other details teacher taught me. But it's still not enough I feel my teacher expects me to play as perfect as I can. I'm not sure if they're too difficult for me but I feel they're fine. In our first lesson, she said my sight reading and techniques are good so we could start playing some slower pieces from my wish list and that's what we're working on now. I'll talk with my teacher in next lesson.

Offline pianocat

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Re: piano lessons
Reply #3 on: November 12, 2021, 11:11:54 PM
This topic has been merged by the admin. Thanks.

Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: piano lessons
Reply #4 on: November 12, 2021, 11:24:58 PM
Yes. I'll be honest - but if you can't play pieces like Beethoven's Pathetique 2nd really convincingly then you're going to struggle with pieces like La Campanella.

Aren't you happy that a teacher is trying to set a higher standard for you? Choose to reach it... and then exceed it if you can.

I had teachers who had LOW standards. They let me play like crap through Primary and High school (albeit one who only had 2 years to try and fix all my mistakes, before she had to move on). At university I was almost destroyed by my lecturers. I spent almost 5 years trying to fix every technique, and mistake and even my hand technique - I had very flat fingers (don't know how it worked for Horowitz).

I think it's fair to question it, but ask her to maybe play a section to the standard she expects. If you can hear that hers is better, then think about how it would be good to play it that well. Also, if you want to hear other piano players offer an opinion - feel free to share a recording.

If we mostly validate what your teacher is saying, then it seems like she has a very good understanding of how to teach the piano.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: piano lessons
Reply #5 on: November 13, 2021, 12:17:54 AM
..I'm taking lessons from a piano teacher once every two weeks... I've been practicing for more than two months. We've had five lessons....

and we're now working on three pieces:
1.Beethoven - Pathetique Sonata 2nd Movement
2.Chopin - Nocturnes, Op. 9, No. 2
3.Debussy - Arabesque No. 1 in E major

.... I feel itís quite boring to keep playing the same pieces for months .... I think they sound good enough.... However, according to my teacher's standard is still not enough.
I beleive it is a not the most effective lesson setup to merely study a few pieces like this for months on end. What about improving your practice method? Is your teacher certain you understand fingering logic at the piano and are able to solve it in all sorts of situation?  Your sight reading is so strong you can read everything immediately? There are many more skills at the piano that need to be developed which will help you deal with more advanced repertoire, it certainly is not simply about playing a few pieces with mastery, that will give a very fragmented perspective if it is the only approach.

You should be doing a large bunch of smaller pieces as well and target some piano skills which will help you learn faster. Ask the teacher to give you this along side the larger works you have been doing.
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Offline ranjit

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Re: piano lessons
Reply #6 on: November 13, 2021, 03:20:23 AM
I wouldn't say impatient, exactly. I know what you mean and it is one of the signs of an inexperienced teacher to not know when to leave a piece and when to push. If you have more fundamental things to address, it is more efficient to do so with smaller pieces. When it comes to harder pieces, it's then a matter of combining all the pieces of the puzzle you have already learned using simpler pieces as a base.

Online brogers70

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Re: piano lessons
Reply #7 on: November 13, 2021, 12:00:11 PM
I think that you will get to your dream pieces faster in the long run if you work on learning a bunch of easier pieces first, things that you can get pretty well polished in a month or less. Not that you cannot keep working a bit on harder, aspirational things. Working on lots of pieces that do not lay way outside your current technical abilities will end up giving you a level of comfort with the piano that you need to play harder things well.

I also started as a adult, with lots of knowledge about music. It was easy for teachers to think that because of my interest, the right thing was to let me go for the hard things I wanted to learn, even though they were beyond my level. Eventually, I had to take a "sabbatical" year and just play nothing but lots of ultra easy things. Doing that helped a whole lot more than one more year of struggling with things I loved but wasn't really ready for.

Offline keypeg

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Re: piano lessons
Reply #8 on: November 13, 2021, 09:55:51 PM
I beleive it is a not the most effective lesson setup to merely study a few pieces like this for months on end. What about improving your practice method? Is your teacher certain you understand fingering logic at the piano and are able to solve it in all sorts of situation?  Your sight reading is so strong you can read everything immediately? There are many more skills at the piano that need to be developed which will help you deal with more advanced repertoire, it certainly is not simply about playing a few pieces with mastery, that will give a very fragmented perspective if it is the only approach.

You should be doing a large bunch of smaller pieces as well and target some piano skills which will help you learn faster. Ask the teacher to give you this along side the larger works you have been doing.

This is the kind of advice I was hoping to see.
From a teacher.

I also don't understand why the question was move OUT of the teacher forum. 

Offline pianocat

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Re: piano lessons
Reply #9 on: November 13, 2021, 11:42:27 PM
Thank you everyone for your great advice!

Offline anacrusis

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Re: piano lessons
Reply #10 on: November 14, 2021, 12:01:59 AM
I think the Burgmuller studies Op. 100 are great little pieces that could be worth your while. Even if they're simple, some of them could challenge you, unless you are at a really high level, if you decide to play them really well. At the same time, each etude is just a page long, so they won't take up months of your time.

Offline jimf12

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Re: piano lessons
Reply #11 on: November 16, 2021, 03:11:53 PM
I am kind of going through the same experience - adult restarter who started going back for every other week lessons last spring with a very exacting teacher.    I actually like the approach of approaching every piece with the intent to get it perfect.   What I've learned, or at least had reemphasized, is that it takes a certain amount of time to get a piece to the 95% level and about 4 times that to get it the rest of the way.    While I do take longer to finish pieces, I find I have definitely raised the bar for myself with all the pieces I play.   I've gone back to some "finished" pieces and realize they need more work.    I used to kid myself and call that polish, but I now realize it's more than polish.   

I think getting in the habit of getting pieces to a high level is more rewarding than just getting them to a passable level.   To help with the turnover rate, we do throw in some pieces that are significantly below the level of those more project type works.   For my level, the Bach Two Part inventions are a perfect compliment.    I don't have to break my neck to finish one in a reasonable amount of time, and it gives me that sense of accomplishment while I plug away on something more difficult. 

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