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Topic: feeling overwhelmed  (Read 1469 times)

Offline contrapunctus1

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feeling overwhelmed
on: April 25, 2022, 10:24:24 PM
So long story short, I'm currently learning the Bach Inventions with my teacher (it's me 4th week of having lessons) and I am just overwhelmed by what she is expecting of me. I did play piano for about a year on my own and didn't really play anything classical before.
So now is the first time I am confronted with the metronome and phrasing and "making the music sing" which were things I didn't actively consider before.
Currently I am practicing the Invention 13 and I think while playing with the metronome hands seperate is manageable, I completely lose track of it when playing hands together.
At the same time trying to think about phrasing (of which I don't really have a good understanding altogether) just makes everything a giant mess.
It just seems like I can't get it all done at the same time (staying on beat with the metronome, good phrasing and dynamics while playing hands together).

Can anyone relate with my situation?
Any tips on how best to approach it?

Offline ted

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #1 on: April 26, 2022, 12:29:49 AM
Does your music in general bring you joy ? Discipline and hard work are no good unless part of a duality, the other side of which is creative joy, fun and freedom. If the latter objective of transcendence is forgotten then the work becomes a pointless grind. Talk to your teacher frankly just as you talk to us here and see how she reacts. If she has music in her she will understand and help you.
"Mistakes are the portals of discovery." - James Joyce

Offline contrapunctus1

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #2 on: April 26, 2022, 01:36:50 AM
thanks a lot for the reply!
well i generally enjoy playing the bach inventions but practicing them for my weekly meeting with my teacher feels like a real grind (getting used to the metronome, figuring out what a phrase is, getting things up to speed, hell i even practiced a lot of hours only to get the trills right on the first invention).
so maybe its just too much workload put on me (i consciously practice like 1-2 hours a day, dont know if thats a lot for a low intermediate player).
i just hope and pray the grind gets easier because it sucks to put a loooot of work in and still getting the feeling from the teacher that its far from a desirable end result :(

Offline bwl_13

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #3 on: April 26, 2022, 03:05:15 AM
With 1-2 hours at intermediate you're sitting quite nice. Many teachers hope to get 30-45 minutes of practice out of students around your level.

Be patient with yourself and keep in mind that Bach is quite challenging for some people, myself included (I started a thread about this fairly recently). Eventually, things click but take it slow and focus on one thing at a time if you need to. Are you practicing anything else? Is it only this Bach that you're spending all this time on?

As ted said, be open with your teacher and let her know what you're experiencing. I've put a bit too much on a motivated student's plate before and realized I needed to slow down to help them out. It sounds like your teacher has a good understanding of this music, and I'm sure she'll understand what you're going through. Good luck!
Second Year Undergrad:
Bach BWV 914
Beethoven Op. 58
Reger Op. 24 No. 5
Rachmaninoff Op. 39 No. 3 & No. 5

Offline keypeg

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #4 on: April 26, 2022, 07:57:17 AM
Guys, the OP self-taught for a year; is 4 weeks into lessons, and the teacher is having him/her play Inventions and try to be expressive and musical. No possible concerns, anyone?

Offline ranjit

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #5 on: April 26, 2022, 08:03:07 AM
Guys, the OP self-taught for a year; is 4 weeks into lessons, and the teacher is having him/her play Inventions and try to be expressive and musical. No possible concerns, anyone?
In my experience, that's how many teachers teach. If a student is able to play a piece at a certain difficulty level, they tend to assign similar pieces. It's often under the assumption that very rigorous training isn't what the student is looking for.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #6 on: April 26, 2022, 11:07:07 AM
So long story short, I'm currently learning the Bach Inventions with my teacher (it's me 4th week of having lessons) and I am just overwhelmed by what she is expecting of me. I did play piano for about a year on my own and didn't really play anything classical before.....
Currently I am practicing the Invention 13 ....
It seems to me that your teacher has certainly over extended you. The 13th invention is around grade 5 AMEB where it is not unusual for students to have 3-5 years experience. Given that you have not played classical piano pieces before it seems rather ridiculous that you are made to study this invention.

Do speak to your teacher and admit it is too difficult and you would like to study easier works before tackling the invention no 13. Why hasn't your teacher taken into account the repertoire you previously studied and chosen pieces more appropriate to your experience base? There are plenty of easier Bach works to initially experience before the inventions, such as the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. Sorry to suggest this but your teacher seems a little inexperienced to give you invention 13.

Why not study works in the genre you already have experience with and enjoy?
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Offline contrapunctus1

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #7 on: April 26, 2022, 02:37:34 PM
Well, actually I told my teacher in our first lesson when she asked me of my long term goals in terms of music I'd love to play, that I am really into Bach and playing the pieces of the WTC to be one of my current goals, so I think thats why she decided to do the inventions now (and aside from the grind practicing them, I do enjoy them a lot!).
The main issue I think is, that during my self study I almost only focused on two things (that is reading sheet music and technique) so even my teacher was surprised about my technique in our first lesson.
So playing pieces from the Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook may very well be for my level in terms of "musical understanding and expression" but far too easy in terms of technique.
I guess I should have started with a teacher right from the start, because then I wouldn't have such huge gaps now in the different aspects of playing and understanding music :/

Offline keypeg

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #8 on: April 26, 2022, 02:58:34 PM
In my experience, that's how many teachers teach. If a student is able to play a piece at a certain difficulty level, they tend to assign similar pieces. It's often under the assumption that very rigorous training isn't what the student is looking for.
That to me is not teaching, or at least not good teaching.  It has nothing to do with "rigorous" training - it's about giving foundations and ironing out what may have gone wrong during the self-teaching.  That means basic things.  (Rigorous to me sounds like advanced, or for very serious musicians.  dunno if you meant it in that sense.)

Offline keypeg

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #9 on: April 26, 2022, 03:09:18 PM
Well, actually I told my teacher in our first lesson when she asked me of my long term goals in terms of music I'd love to play, that I am really into Bach and playing the pieces of the WTC to be one of my current goals, so I think thats why she decided to do the inventions now (and aside from the grind practicing them, I do enjoy them a lot!).
...........
Turn this around for a moment.  Supposing you're a teacher and suddenly a self-taught adult shows up at your doorstep.  You have to create some kind of series of lessons, but what will you do?  An easy out is to ask pieces-goals.  Then you just grab some piece in that genre, and teach 'the piece'.   You don't have to worry about teaching "the student", and how to teach students (give them skills etc.).  Someone who knows how to play pieces can do that.  This is how it should sound, etc.  Otoh I've talked to some teachers regarding their handling of transfer students (you transferred from your first teacher - you ;) ); they have a mental list of particular skills they want to check up on, and work on with the student.  And an adult student may appear to know more than they do when they demonstrate playing what they learned themselves.  Everything you've related has been about the piece, and nothing about your skills as a student.  Meanwhile, as a never-taught student, you won't even know what to ask.  (I've got an old t-shirt.)

Offline contrapunctus1

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #10 on: April 26, 2022, 03:27:55 PM
Well you are right, maybe I should talk a bit more about my teachers teaching style to clarify.
First off, her main line of work is playing accompany for opera and I am one of her "first" students to teach.
The lesson usually goes as followed:
I start to play the piece (lets say Invention 1) just like I would during my practice time. She focuses a lot on the "singing voice" of the piece and tells me when she thinks I am not applying any phrasing or when im off-rythm,...
She then navigates with me through different sections of the piece like that and also plays parts of it for me so I get a better understanding of how she would interpret it herself.
The lesson then concludes with what she wants me to focus on during my practice time and maybe add a piece I can get started on for the next week (if im progressing enough on my current ones).

Sometimes during the lessons she will use expressions I have no idea about but she will explain in great detail if I ask her about it (like I had to ask what she meant with "phrasing" in our first lesson :D).

Offline bwl_13

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #11 on: April 26, 2022, 03:45:23 PM
I do agree that the Bach inventions may be too challenging with relatively little time having played the piano. However we don't know how contrapunctus1 plays or what they've been playing before the inventions. It's possible for a self taught beginner to have a natural aptitude for the piano, in addition to 1-2 hours a day to practice I don't think it's impossible to play Bach inventions. Although I do think the teacher needs to prioritize which aspects are to be focused on in each lesson, filling in any gaps in a self-taught musicians learning before adding on new concepts.
Second Year Undergrad:
Bach BWV 914
Beethoven Op. 58
Reger Op. 24 No. 5
Rachmaninoff Op. 39 No. 3 & No. 5

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #12 on: April 26, 2022, 04:07:36 PM
Well, actually I told my teacher in our first lesson when she asked me of my long term goals in terms of music I'd love to play, that I am really into Bach and playing the pieces of the WTC to be one of my current goals, so I think thats why she decided to do the inventions now (and aside from the grind practicing them, I do enjoy them a lot!).
I guess you are not so "overwhelmed" then if you are enjoying it. Yet when you say things like you totally lose track when playing two hands with the invention 13, this really is a problem, why be so overextended makes no sense especially with only 4 lessons with the teacher. The teacher should spend time getting to know your ability and overextending you is not the correct manner imho.

So playing pieces from the Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook may very well be for my level in terms of "musical understanding and expression" but far too easy in terms of technique.
I don't see how one can segretate musical understanding, expression and technique. It was only one suggestion of course there are a lot more pieces to choose from. I just don't think doing grade 5 pieces when you have so limited experience really is a good idea in most cases. You struggle with both hands with the invention so it to me seems that the teacher has chosen music that has over stepped the mark, this is fine once you have had a few months work with the teacher and they measured that you can deal with it, but you have been together such a short time, it doesn't make sense to me that this should be happening so early on.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #13 on: April 26, 2022, 04:12:37 PM
I do agree that the Bach inventions may be too challenging with relatively little time having played the piano. However we don't know how contrapunctus1 plays or what they've been playing before the inventions.

You should consider this regarding the Invention 13.
I completely lose track of it when playing hands together.

To me this speaks volumes.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
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Offline keypeg

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #14 on: April 26, 2022, 05:17:29 PM
For those trying to advise or give feedback, this is probably important to know.
First off, her main line of work is playing accompany for opera and I am one of her "first" students to teach.
The lesson usually goes as followed:
I start to play the piece (lets say Invention 1) just like I would during my practice time. She focuses a lot on the "singing voice" of the piece and tells me when she thinks I am not applying any phrasing or when I'm off-rhythm,...
She then navigates with me through different sections of the piece like that and also plays parts of it for me so I get a better understanding of how she would interpret it herself.

Offline ranjit

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #15 on: April 26, 2022, 06:41:40 PM
I comment here because pretty much literally the same situation happened to me. The first teacher I worked with assigned me a Chopin waltz and Bach invention etc. Nine months later, my second teacher, when I mentioned that I was interested in Chopin etudes, assigned me op 25 no 12 and op 10 no 8. And the teachers weren't unqualified, they had a Masters and doctorate respectively from decent schools and the second was established in the city. Given all of this happened with me, I'm not surprised that a teacher would assign a Bach invention, especially one fairly new to teaching.

Now, I also learned the first page of op 10 no 8 and the entirety of op 25 no 12 within a month which complicated matters, because according to traditional teaching methods, teachers will assign a piece and if a student can play it they continue with that piece. It takes a very experienced teacher to notice all the fine things which are missing. Perhaps that teacher noticed what was missing, but let me work on the pieces anyway because I was a "hobbyist". Though this teacher was experienced, newer teachers often run up against students who progress quickly and don't realize why they should take it "slow". The problem is that what's needed isn't exactly taking it slow, but instead observing and ironing out issues until they are learned well. However, many teachers are either incapable of this, or are afraid of students losing interest.

Also, as an adult, there is a common understanding that they can not learn proper technique because the bones/muscles just aren't formed correctly. I don't think this is correct, it's mostly a neural conditioning issue and the amount of actual strength it takes is something adults can definitely develop. But most people have not come to these sorts of conclusions, and this is exacerbated by the fact that a vanishingly small number of adult students ever improve at the piano beyond a point. The teachers had never seen a student like me, and it's fair to assume the OP's teacher may not have seen a student like him. The teachers also teach according to a vague recollection of how they were taught, which is usually similarly being asked to play pieces, and spending several hours practicing the details until they are learned. However, what they often find hard to judge is when a piece is too difficult, because as part of their development, they learned a very large number of easy pieces in a certain order and gradually just "got it". Kids often implicitly learn technique, and when a teacher sees that a student is able to play something, they often don't reinforce good habits out of some misplaced sense that the music is more important and that the technique is mundane. I know concert pianists who learned in this manner, largely intuitively, and maybe even later suffered issues, so people with some degree of natural talent often can get very far without truly good instruction.

Also, again, most teachers, and I'm speaking from experience, truly do not believe that an adult can ever learn the kind of technique a child would have, much as they don't believe an adult can change their accent. So they teach and give suggestions for incremental improvement, but rarely start from scratch and try to develop technique rigorously. This is what I mean by rigorous, it's putting in an enormous amount of time and effort until the basic movements are "perfect" and totally ingrained at a subconscious level. Now this can take place over years, but it makes sense -- even in my experience, I have never seen an adult willing and capable of doing this (except for other piano students on forums etc.). They often get dejected too fast, and want to do something fun instead. Also, the vanishingly few who are really serious probably seek out excellent teachers, so the average teacher is likely to meet exactly zero of them during the normal course of events, further reinforcing the idea that it's impossible. And then they don't want to disappoint adult students, but if you probe them enough (and I have), they will usually come clean and say that you will never have their technique because you didn't start as a child.

So they teach you according to what they believe can be taught, which in itself isn't a bad idea tbh. Like, we don't make kids grind IQ tests for a reason. And I am also not sure that most adults can relearn hand movements to the extent that they can play piano at an accomplished level. I feel like I can observe motor movements and sound quite well, and I have seen that not all people can to the same extent. I have met a few who have started piano late (13+) and play very well and they all have this trait where they have very good observational ability and are excellent mimics.

So this is what ends up happening much of the time. Adult student can play the notes in rhythm with some musicality? Okay, let's triage the piece and make the student work on different aspects of it and throw in some musicality. The end result is passable and most people can't hear the nuances of classical piano anyway, so how does it matter?

Offline keypeg

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #16 on: April 26, 2022, 08:11:01 PM
Ranjit, if I recall correctly, the first teacher had some specific goals in mind for you, as a piano teacher.  Wasn't the Bach invention for steadier pulse?  And I don't think you were confused and overwhelmed.  I sense something different happening here.

Offline contrapunctus1

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #17 on: April 27, 2022, 02:31:59 AM
I just wanna throw in some thoughts here regarding Ranjit's reply:

So the idea of never being able to play the piano at a certain level was always like a mental block for me to even get started with the piano, but now I think this idea is very flawed in itself.
If we go from a pure technical standpoint, maybe it's true that acquiring a virtuoso technique is impossible for the adult student but lets say with good guidance even the most technically challenging pieces can be learned well (as proven by many amateur pianists).

Now I also think that the technique and musicality of someone with a masters degree in music (piano performance) is of a very high level but the vast majority of those people never hit the world stage or become "generational" musicians. Why?
Because truly great musicians happen by natural talent + very hard work + luck in getting discovered and taught by the right people.

So why should the student compare himself to the teacher?
I think the teacher himself is very aware of his own limitations in some aspects of music (maybe composition, maybe certain technique aspects,...)

Should a world class pianist like Lang Lang or Kissin feel bad about the fact that their technique may never get as "perfect" as Sokolov's? Or should they worry that their Bach interpretations may never be held in the same regard as Gould's or Schiff's?

I think the point of music is not in reaching any certain level but simply the joy it brings to a persons life.
If people just focus on comparing technique and whatnot and only think about limitations it really doesn't make anyones day better.

The idea of the piano as a skill that can ever be "fully" learned and mastered doesn't match reality. Otherwise there would be many greatly talented and hard working pianists who would reach the point of perfection in every aspect imagineable. Aswell as the lists of "greates pianists" being hundreds of pages long.

So in my opinion comparison is kind of a waste of energy and one should just focus on his own journey  :)

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #18 on: April 27, 2022, 06:12:39 AM

So in my opinion comparison is kind of a waste of energy and one should just focus on his own journey  :)
It seemed to me though that you are comparing your difficulties to see if others can relate though.

Also acquiring virtuoso technique is beyond most people no matter what age they begin, no matter how well they practice. Ones own personal potential however is expanded considerably with appropriate practice techniques and repertoire choice.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.pianovision.com

Offline ranjit

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Re: feeling overwhelmed
Reply #19 on: April 27, 2022, 11:29:15 AM
Ranjit, if I recall correctly, the first teacher had some specific goals in mind for you, as a piano teacher.  Wasn't the Bach invention for steadier pulse?  And I don't think you were confused and overwhelmed.  I sense something different happening here.
Well, even if I was confused and overwhelmed, I would have been too obstinate to let it be known to the teacher. ;) That said, I simply wasn't able to get the piece to the teacher's expectations, and that's something I still face. So in a certain sense I'm overwhelmed with the kind of daunting proposition that it's never good enough and it gets kind of depressing at points. Maybe it's just them setting high standards.
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