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#1313731 - 11/28/09 05:53 AM "Unlearning" bad habits  
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Sytadel Offline
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Hi guys,

I am (was?) up to the Mexican Hand Clapping Song in Alfred's book #1 when I traded in my cheap keyboard for a digital piano. Up until then I'd practiced routinely... but probably not well - and didn't pay attention to the rhythm and accents of the song. In particular, I treated the quarter rests as dotted quarter rests and the subsequent note as an eighth instead of a quarter.

I started trying to "re-learn" it on piano and found my progress very slow compared to what I was used to. My hands automatically moved towards the old, incorrect rhythm, and even the right rhythm - when I hit it - I didn't particularly enjoy. Even new passages and later bars I seemed to acquire much more slowly than what I used to. Over time I just accepted this was probably just my natural rate for learning a song on piano.

After practicing it, on average, maybe 1/2 an hour a day (in addition to other songs, scales, etc.) I decided to try O Sole Mio... and was remarkably surprised when I picked up the first 8 bars flawlessly in a little over an hour and a half. I'd learned more of "O Sole Mio!" in 90 minutes than what I'd learned playing about 6-8 hours of the Mexican HCS!

Can anyone else relate to this slow experience of "unlearning" bad habits? Did you persist with old songs you'd learned incorrectly, or throw the baby out with the bathwater and try new songs? I am debating whether I should persist with Mexican HCS or keep working at later songs in the book.

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#1313741 - 11/28/09 06:35 AM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Sytadel]  
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Unlearning bad habits is difficult for me too, not so much w/ timing and counting, but w/ fingering.

Yes, I did relearn the passages I had fingered incorrectly. My fingering problems had to do w/ smoothness and setting up for the next move, etc. My teacher helps me a lot w/ this though.

best wishes

#1313742 - 11/28/09 06:37 AM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: kdi]  
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Teachers rarely carry over repertoire from a previous teacher for that very reason. Throw the baby out!


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#1313790 - 11/28/09 09:49 AM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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sytadel,
that's not a bad habit, that's just a misread piece. You understand how the piece goes now, that's the lesson.

It's a waste of time and effort to unlearn and then relearn it unless you want to perform it, or happen to love it. I would move on to something else for sure.


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#1313800 - 11/28/09 10:06 AM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Canonie]  
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If you can analyze that you're
using a dotted quarter rest--even
an advanced player wouldn't be
able to do that--you are doing
very well indeed and should not
be concerned.


#1313805 - 11/28/09 10:13 AM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Gyro]  
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Any advanced player (and most intermediate ones, too) would understand a dotted quarter rest.

Concern for playing skillfully is a good thing.

Only a troll or a crank would say otherwise.

Steven

#1313857 - 11/28/09 12:47 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: sotto voce]  
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Not to worry, you'll get there! smile It can be a pain to unlearn one thing and replace it with something better, but it's worth it.

One thing, though. When I do something like that I find a few week's break helps. Move on to some other tunes - do them - go back to what you weren't getting right. The break in time helps to see ir fresh.

#1313859 - 11/28/09 12:56 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: ten left thumbs]  
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I second kbk's advice. Put the piece away and move on. This is why it is so important to learn a piece correctly the first time, because it is almost impossible to unlearn the wrong notes or rhythms. Really, the only way to correct this now is to forget it, and maybe come back to it a year later and relearn it. Of course, by then you'll be far beyond this piece so it's probably not even worth doing that.

In the future, be sure to practice slowly enough so that you have time to pay attention to the correct rhythm and notes. Once you can play those accurately, then add the accents, dynamics, and articulations. As you become a better pianist, you'll be able to add these things right from the start, but it is easy to overwhelm yourself with too much detail on the onset of learning a piece. Focusing on notes and rhythms at first will help you to make less mistakes in the learning process.


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#1313867 - 11/28/09 01:25 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Sytadel]  
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Very very very hard, at least for me.
I "learned" piano very much on my own -- and 40 years later, I'm still struggling to "unlearn" the wrong basic ways of playing I got into.

#1313868 - 11/28/09 01:27 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Canonie]  
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Originally Posted by Canonie
sytadel,
that's not a bad habit, that's just a misread piece. You understand how the piece goes now, that's the lesson....

Great point. This specific kind of mislearning would seem to be way easier to undo and overcome than most.

#1313875 - 11/28/09 01:38 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Sytadel]  
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P.S. Another thought......just wondering:

For a piece/song like this, what's the difference if you play that particular aspect "wrong"?

Aren't there probably just different versions of it? Maybe even you were playing an alternate version according to what you had in your head, from hearing it. Such songs are usually "folk" things where it's sort of arbitrary how certain aspects are written out. I remember when I first played "Silent Night." The written version had both the melody and rhythm a bit different than usual, and in my naive child mind, I thought, "huh, everybody sings it wrong." Later I realized this was just an alternate version.

For the sake of learning to read music (and for studying other music), it's important to realize that you read it wrong from the book. But I don't see what difference it makes for playing the piece. I don't even see why you shouldn't be able to just keep playing it the "wrong" way, if you like it better. And from what you said about not "enjoying" it the 'right' way, I would guess that you DO just like it better the "wrong" way, and maybe the 'wrong' way really is better.

Here's a thing that I remember from when I was a kid: In one of the John Thompson books, there's "Shortnin' Bread." A friend played it at school, in one of those "talent shows." He played the rhythm ALL WRONG -- basically, syncopating a bunch of extra stuff. (The written version had almost no syncopation.) I was open-mouthed dumbfounded, literally. I had the grace not to say anything to him, since he seemed happy enough and the audience liked it fine. But since we had the same teacher, I did mention it to her, and she said, "Yes, I told him, but he keeps doing it wrong."

Years later, I realized that what he did was improve the piece -- even at the age of just 10 or whatever we were. The written version in that Thompson book was just 1 version -- and it wasn't a great version; it was very simplified. Update: The kid wound up becoming a big guy at MTV. And I, who played it "correctly," am just doing this. ha

If I'm right that this is a song that just has alternate versions, I would advise, sure, realize that you read it wrong, but play it however you like it, including even making other changes from the written version if you would like.

#1313879 - 11/28/09 01:49 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Mark_C]  
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(OK, let the debates begin.) smile

#1313884 - 11/28/09 02:02 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Mark_C]  
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I had assumed the OP had played the piece how it really goes rather than how it was notated. What's to debate apart from the bizarre number of posts you've accrued in 17 days? Hey, where's your life man?


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#1313894 - 11/28/09 02:18 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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I don't understand your point. I don't understand how it's for or vs. what I said.
If you're saying you don't like my posts, don't read them.
If you're wondering about my life, no need. smile

#1313902 - 11/28/09 02:28 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Mark_C]  
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Originally Posted by MarkCannon
I don't understand your point. I don't understand how it's for or vs. what I said.
What's to debate is my point.


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#1313903 - 11/28/09 02:28 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Mark_C]  
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I agree with your main point, MarkCannon, that often these folk tunes are simplified or alternate rhythmic versions. If a student is playing Silent Night and it's written as 3 even quarters instead of dotted quarter-eighth-quarter (as it is usually sung), I will generally point out to them when I give it to them that they simplified the rhythm, but I give them the OK to play it as it should sound. Or, if I have a version with the correct rhythm, this is a great way to introduce the new note values to them by how they sound.

However, if a student is changing something that say, Chopin wrote I would have a hard time letting that go. It is one thing to play rubato, it is another to play the incorrect rhythm.

However, I thought from the post that the OP wanted to unlearn an incorrectly learned rhythm, whether it was how it sounds in its common usage or not, and not questioning whether or not he should unlearn it or leave it.


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#1313916 - 11/28/09 02:41 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Morodiene]  
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
I agree with your main point.... that often these folk tunes are simplified or alternate rhythmic versions. If a student is playing Silent Night and it's written as 3 even quarters instead of dotted quarter-eighth-quarter....I will generally point out to them when I give it to them that they simplified the rhythm, but I give them the OK to play it as it should sound.

That is truly a breath of fresh air coming from a teacher.
Don't get me started.... smile I think the opposite approach not only stifles creativity, but it makes the student wrongly question his sense of music.

Quote
....Or, if I have a version with the correct rhythm, this is a great way to introduce the new note values to them by how they sound.

....and that adds creativity on your part. smile
"Thinking outside the box," and utilizing the personal things that happen with a particular student as a takeoff for something new and useful.
P.S. One thing I like about how you put it -- and which I hope others will catch -- is that you're acknowledging the view that maybe the score has it 'wrong', and the student's instinct wants to 'correct'/improve it. And IMO that should rarely be discouraged for the sake of playing 'correctly' some alternate version that happens to be printed.

Quote
However, if a student is changing something that say, Chopin wrote I would have a hard time letting that go.

Absolutely. As I said, I'm assuming that what we're talking about it something very very different than that.

Quote
However, I thought from the post that the OP wanted to unlearn an incorrectly learned rhythm, whether it was how it sounds in its common usage or not, and not questioning whether or not he should unlearn it or leave it.

Yes -- but I thought his wanting to do that was maybe misguided and based on some assumptions about what's 'right' or 'wrong.' I was trying to do him the favor of letting him know that maybe he was going on good instincts in the first place.

#1313918 - 11/28/09 02:41 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Morodiene]  
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
I will generally point out to them when I give it to them that they simplified the rhythm, but I give them the OK to play it as it should sound.
I do exactly the same.


snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/

#1313923 - 11/28/09 02:51 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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Originally Posted by keyboardklutz
What's to debate is my point.

I assumed I would get yelled at for saying it's OK and even advisable for him to just play it "wrong."
"Debate" was intended as a euphemism. smile

But mainly I realized I was introducing a new aspect to the discussion, and one on which there would be opposing sides.

#1314046 - 11/28/09 08:28 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Mark_C]  
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Hey Mark I considered saying what you did about it's your own version and how that doesn't matter.. but decided to be brief for once wink

But since you've started it, my students change pieces all the time especially in the first year when the pieces are more ummmmm inspiring of improvement. It's really an understanding in my studio that the very end of a piece can be "improved" or personalised. My strongest students are usually the ones that do it the most. I'm talking extra notes or chords or re-voiced chords, not just the situation where a student makes the rhythm more authentic as this is always a good idea.

I always point out the deviation for the sake of understanding the written score, and they always say "yes but it sounds better my way" laugh I just love kids. Exceptions: when beginning a piece that is for an exam or competition i warn them to remember to play as written and explain why. And if I find their alteration tasteless shocked I'll tell them why without mincing words, but again it's really their decision. Of course as they progress there are fewer pieces that want improving. They seem to understand that Bach say is not usually improved by their efforts, but I still wouldnt stop them.

When I started teaching I didnt know that this would happen so it was pretty funny. I had only one student and each week I'd write a piece or 2 to teach him the next thing, and he'd come back the next lesson and play My pieces with his improvements. Hehe


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#1314102 - 11/28/09 10:09 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Canonie]  
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Originally Posted by Canonie
......my students change pieces all the time especially in the first year when the pieces are more ummmmm inspiring of improvement. It's really an understanding in my studio that the very end of a piece can be "improved" or personalised. My strongest students are usually the ones that do it the most. I'm talking extra notes or chords or re-voiced chords, not just the situation where a student makes the rhythm more authentic as this is always a good idea.


I'm THRILLED to see that some of our teachers on here allow that kind of thing, and even encourage it. I briefly did some teaching in the past, and I greatly regret that I wasn't attuned to that. That failure misses opportunities to tap into the student's innate musicianship and into whatever made him/her want to study piano in the first place.

Quote
I always point out the deviation for the sake of understanding the written score......

Yes indeed!

Quote
....and they always say "yes but it sounds better my way" laugh

As an adult I did that a couple of times with my teacher and nearly got killed. smile
One time when I was feeling particularly 'whatever' smile I said, "C'mon, sit down and try it my way and see how good it feels."
He didn't. ha

Quote
....when beginning a piece that is for an exam or competition i warn them to remember to play as written and explain why. And if I find their alteration tasteless shocked I'll tell them why without mincing words, but again it's really their decision.....

Just great. I'm pleasantly surprised that we're seeing such things being said on here. It looks like teaching has come a nice long way.

P.S. A 'pianist and pedagogue' of some note has this lecture which he calls: "Piano Teaching: Two Centuries of Musical Harassment." smile
It seems like he's far from alone in questioning some approaches of the past.

#1314105 - 11/28/09 10:10 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Canonie]  
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Thanks for the replies guys.

It's good to hear teachers and experienced players say that much of this behaviour is not only normal, but acceptable... as a very new pianist I don't usually trust myself enough to play it differently to the sheet music. I ask myself; "Who am I to think I know the song better than the composer?"

I do definetely strive to add my own accents, feel, and personality to the song. Looking back over the last few I've learned - I know that I play the last 6th on every 8th bar quieter than the preceding 2, even though it's not part of the music. In O Sole Mio! I play the eighth note in the bass louder than the trailing notes to give it a little pop. I'm comfortable with this.

However I am very hesitant to change the actual notes played; how long they last, or what fingering is reccommended by the book. I see this as the 'essential template' and have usually strived not to change it, even though my instincts may lead me to do so. I rarely misread in the sense that I fail to identify a note's length/position on the piano, but I may notice these things but subconsciously play it slightly differently because I prefer it that way.

#1314108 - 11/28/09 10:20 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Sytadel]  
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Off the subject but maybe very slightly relevant.... smile

When I first saw the word "Citadel," in my mind I pronounced it the way your USER NAME looks: SY-tay-dle

When I heard the right way to say Citadel, I didn't keep saying it "my" way. ha

P.S. This is on my mind because tomorrow I'm meeting a relative who went to school at the Citadel.

#1314121 - 11/28/09 10:50 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Mark_C]  
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Another similar point of view from a teacher:

Specifically, when a student is playing something that (almost) everybody knows, if they correct a simplified version to make it closer to the real thing then I not only tolerate but encourage it. Correcting misprints (which is how the student perceives what they are doing, if indeed they notice anything at all) is sometimes necessary.

With particularly bright young students, or always with older students, I will point out to them exactly what they've done to improve the arrangement, and demonstrate the difference. I will often say that the publisher would have preferred to print it correctly but didn't want to make it hard to read for inexperienced players.


(I'm a piano teacher.)
#1314123 - 11/28/09 10:55 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: david_a]  
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Originally Posted by david_a
....when a student is playing something that (almost) everybody knows, if they correct a simplified version to make it closer to the real thing then I not only tolerate but encourage it....

You're making me feel very happy.

Quote
With particularly bright young students, or always with older students, I will point out to them exactly what they've done to improve the arrangement, and demonstrate the difference. I will often say that the publisher would have preferred to print it correctly but didn't want to make it hard to read for inexperienced players.

Beautiful!!!

#1314134 - 11/28/09 11:23 PM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Sytadel]  
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Originally Posted by Sytadel
... as a very new pianist I don't usually trust myself enough to play it differently to the sheet music. I ask myself; "Who am I to think I know the song better than the composer?"

I do definetely strive to add my own accents, feel, and personality to the song. Looking back over the last few I've learned - I know that I play the last 6th on every 8th bar quieter than the preceding 2, even though it's not part of the music. In O Sole Mio! I play the eighth note in the bass louder than the trailing notes to give it a little pop. I'm comfortable with this.

However I am very hesitant to change the actual notes played; how long they last, or what fingering is reccommended by the book. I see this as the 'essential template' and have usually strived not to change it, even though my instincts may lead me to do so. I rarely misread in the sense that I fail to identify a note's length/position on the piano, but I may notice these things but subconsciously play it slightly differently because I prefer it that way.


Sounds like you're on the right track Sytadel smile It's great that you add nuances to O sole mio. The score is just a map for the music it's not the music. Messing with the template after you have read and more or less learnt the written version could teach you a lot.

In a book like Alfred's a creative person could try many versions of some pieces. I'd say do this if you want to, even if you are altering notes as you'll probably learn even more that way. As a beginner you are not just learning to read, you are also learning to listen, to discover how melody and harmony work (theory), to imagine/hear music in your head and to be a little creative. Making your own versions of pieces (or making up your own) develops all these skills.

If you really want to ramp up your learning you could try to notate your altered versions with pencil and music paper, or with a music writing program. This is a good way to improve your reading!

By the way, fingering I leave as is.


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#1314178 - 11/29/09 01:50 AM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Sytadel]  
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Originally Posted by Sytadel
However I am very hesitant to change the actual notes played; how long they last, or what fingering is reccommended by the book.
William S. Newman describes most 'book' fingering as the work of a 'dollar-a-page man'.


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http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/

#1314191 - 11/29/09 02:27 AM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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Yes -- I didn't catch that!
Nobody should much hesitate to change a fingering.
Fingerings, even when indicated by the composer, are generally nothing but "serving suggestions." smile

#1314196 - 11/29/09 02:45 AM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: Mark_C]  
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keyboardklutz Offline
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keyboardklutz  Offline
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Joined: May 2007
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London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted by MarkCannon
Fingerings, even when indicated by the composer, are generally nothing but "serving suggestions." smile
Rubbish. Fingering by the composer is close to sacrosanct! Especially if it is Chopin.


snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/

#1314201 - 11/29/09 02:59 AM Re: "Unlearning" bad habits [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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Mark_C Online content
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Mark_C  Online Content
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Originally Posted by keyboardklutz
Originally Posted by MarkCannon
Fingerings, even when indicated by the composer, are generally nothing but "serving suggestions." smile
Rubbish. Fingering by the composer is close to sacrosanct! Especially if it is Chopin.

I would bet that even Chopin would disagree with that.

I'd allow that an arguable exception would be the ETUDES. Arguably but not certainly.

But aside from that, I feel quite sure that composers (including Chopin, maybe especially Chopin) would realize that different people's hands are different, different people's abilities are different, PLUS......

Different interpretations might call for different fingerings. For that reason, even the composer might well have used different fingerings at different times, even in passages where fingerings are marked.

I get the feeling you and I might be disagreeing quite a bit.
But please don't take it personally. I sure won't. smile

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