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Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook] #1478171
07/20/10 09:40 PM
07/20/10 09:40 PM
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Andy & KS, the point I was trying to make is that in all likelihood, the student didn't play it better at home. They only thought they did because they weren't being as self-critical as they are at the lesson.


I partly agree. But for me it isn't being less critical, nor not hearing mistakes. It's selective memory.

I really did play it better at home. I played it perfectly. One out of ten times. The other nine were a little embarassing. I heard every rhythmic imprecision! But I remember the good one, as if that's a measure of how well I can play. Now at the lesson, I have a 90% chance of playing it less well than my best.

And even more seductive: The first five minutes of practice may have been pretty bad. I didn't miss hearing those mistakes. But they didn't bother me, because it was early in the learning process. After an hour of working on it, the last five minutes were pretty good. I felt comfortable and fluent, I relaxed and felt the keys. I choose to remember the last five minutes rather than the first. Then comes the lesson, and it's the first five minutes all over again.

On average, I probably play as well at the lesson as at home. But if i compare the average at the lesson to the best at home, I'll always be disappointed.

I think it is also possible to rise to the occasion and play better under pressure than when not. But I haven't mastered that one yet.

It might help to play under a lot of different conditions and learn the skill of adapting quickly. My teacher's piano had a very different touch, the bench was a different height, the light a little dim (and I see poorly). That type of thing doesn't have to throw you off but you have to learn that.


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Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: TimR] #1478193
07/20/10 10:09 PM
07/20/10 10:09 PM
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Definitely want to accentuate an above suggestion to record yourself at home - audio AND video. Even if you're the only one to ever hear it. It's great practice for what seems to happen in the mind when you're in front of a teacher.

Also, one thing that had helped me in the past would be to give myself quick little "tests" at home. Just go right up to the piano, if you haven't played all day or for a while and see if you can jump right in to the piece you'll be playing at the lesson. Don't practice, just quick little 1 minute tests to see if you can "turn on" at the snap of your fingers. You're practicing starting but that's it.


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Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Barb860] #1478200
07/20/10 10:17 PM
07/20/10 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Barb860

My 2 cents worth:
What do you do right before your lessons? Are you practicing like crazy and getting yourself worked up? I used to do that and it made me very nervous during lessons. Try not playing or practicing the day of your lesson. Practice afterwards instead. Do some deep breathing exercises before your lesson.


For me, this is actually not a good thing because then I'm not warmed up to play at my lesson. I've done this at times and it always makes me play worse. I guess the OP will have to try different things out to see what works best for them.


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Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook] #1478202
07/20/10 10:21 PM
07/20/10 10:21 PM
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted by rocket88
If there is one thing I hear every day, it is this:

"I played it better at home...honest!"

When a student foolishly makes this statement, I suggest that perhaps because they weren't listening critically, they didn't hear their problem areas and thus weren't focused on playing without them. If I get an incomprehensible look, I tell them that if I were to stop in at their home while they were practicing, they'd suddenly have the same problems they were having at their lesson.


John is getting some heat for this, but it is often true. Also, I tell students that I can tell if a student is just having some minor difficulties due to the lighting being different, the piano feeling different, the music being at a different height than at home, etc., or if they're having trouble because they don't know the music well enough.

Sometimes, I do tell them that perhaps they are having trouble because they didn't know that part as well as they thought they did. Being "under pressure" of someone listening to you can certainly highlight or bring out areas that need extra work.

No teacher expects a perfect performance, and the little mistakes that happen due to lack of focus or nervousness do not bother us. We are simply listening for the areas where there really is an issue that we can help with. We're on your side! laugh


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Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene] #1478211
07/20/10 10:41 PM
07/20/10 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
I tell students that I can tell if a student is just having some minor difficulties due to the lighting being different, the piano feeling different, the music being at a different height than at home, etc., or if they're having trouble because they don't know the music well enough.

Sometimes, I do tell them that perhaps they are having trouble because they didn't know that part as well as they thought they did. Being "under pressure" of someone listening to you can certainly highlight or bring out areas that need extra work.

No teacher expects a perfect performance, and the little mistakes that happen due to lack of focus or nervousness do not bother us. We are simply listening for the areas where there really is an issue that we can help with. We're on your side! laugh


Very well said. Thank you.


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Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: rocket88] #1478228
07/20/10 11:14 PM
07/20/10 11:14 PM
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I hope all teachers don't have the attitude many have expressed above. As a student, I can wholeheartedly and honestly say that I oftentimes play things better at home. Especially if the piece is the second one we're going over in the lesson and the first one didn't go well, or another similar circumstance.

Also, due to my piano teacher's recent purchase of a piano, I'm still adjusting to the action (which is very different from both his old piano and the one I have at home).

A lot of times for me weird technical problems pop up during lessons (which honestly weren't there before), or almost completely secure passages manage to fall apart at that instant.

And then of course there's just general nervousness. All these problems multiplied for me when I played in a masterclass.

As cliché as it sounds, I think you have to imagine the teacher isn't there for the duration of the first play-through. Or, perhaps take the suggestion above about recording. You could record yourself at home, then use that as a basis for any work to be done at the lesson.

Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Morodiene] #1478229
07/20/10 11:18 PM
07/20/10 11:18 PM
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Quote
John is getting some heat for this, but it is often true.

The objection on my side is that the wording leaves room for only one possibility - that the student did not practice attentively. (I doubt that was your intent, John, but that is how it came acoss).

It IS possible for other things to interfere with our ability to play in front of a teacher. I wrote several things that we students found. When they were addressed, the problem disappeared. It was not due to inattention from practising, and it had been real. To have that post followed by one implying that inattention in practising was the only possibility is frustrating.

It is NOT trivial to be in a semi-paralysis when in front of a teacher, and it is also worth something if there are causes and solutions when that occurs, is it not? It is also extremely frustrating for student if they have an actual problem, to be told that this problem does not exist. Not only that, but we cannot get help with a problem that is not acknowledged.

I fully understand that inattention during practising will lead to mistakes during lessons because we will not have mastered much. I also understand that we an imagine that our playing is better than it is when we're alone, and that wishful thinking can take over. But this is not the only thing that can be happening.

Again, where it occurs, we found the following things caused us to become butter-fingered during lessons:
- trying to be politely attentive to the teacher while playing instead of putting our whole attention to the music
- having too great an importance in the teacher's reaction, especially the false belief that if it is not perfect he would be displeased and maybe get tired of us as students (whether or not a teacher would ever dream of this)

Solutions, where it actually occurred (and I will argue vehemently that it does occur):
- placing your attention completely on what you are playing as though the teacher was not there, while playing, and knowing that this is ok and even desired
- shifting from worrying to what the teacher thinks of you as a performer, to wondering what he will find that you both can work on. Your abilities and playing become an object to be worked on outside of yourself

*When* such attitudes have affected our ability to play in front of you, then being able to change them and change the situation is a very big deal. If you are paralyzed in front of a teacher, and if you can get past that and actually draw on more of yourself in a lesson, that is important imho. It also means that a lot more can be accomplished. To be locked in such paralysis is very unpleasant for a student. There is also such a thing as caring too much, and this will haunt adult students in particular.

I do not disagree with with John wrote. If you have practised attentively then more will be "there" for you during lessons. I also know that a teacher can see that you have practised even if in general you bomb, because signs will be there. I do disagree, however, if inattention were seen to be the whole of the story. It does exist as a problem, there are causes and solutions, and a sad thing if they were ignored.

Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook] #1478242
07/20/10 11:30 PM
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Last edited by keystring; 07/21/10 03:26 AM.
Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring] #1478316
07/21/10 05:06 AM
07/21/10 05:06 AM
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Does it really matter whether the problem is nerves during lesson or whether the problem is overestimating once's abilities at home? It may be a combination of both. But luckily, many of the suggestions in this thread will help with both problems at the same time. So record yourself, perform for your stuffed animals, practice "starting" like danshure suggested, practice on different piano's when you get the chance.



Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: Syboor] #1478355
07/21/10 07:16 AM
07/21/10 07:16 AM
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It also just occured to me to suggest some breathing exercises. I knew one student who held his breath so much he was getting dizzy!

Try the breathing "square";
4 second exhale (breathing starts with an exhale)
4 second hold
4 second inhale (try to use a stomach/deep breath, not a shallow chest breath)
4 second hold

Repeat 10 times. Then make them 5, 6, 7 seconds as long as each side of the "square" is the same length.

Maybe you're unconsciously holding you're breath which causes a whole serious of physical/mental obstacles. Do the breathing before your lesson and one nice exhale right before you play.


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Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: danshure] #1478419
07/21/10 09:32 AM
07/21/10 09:32 AM
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Olympia, Washington, USA
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It would be interesting to hear from teachers who go to student's homes for lessons. Obviously, students cannot say, "I played it better at home," because they are home!

As an adult student, I wouldn't say, "I played it better at home." Rather I might say, "The touch and feel of this instrument is quite different than my home practice instrument, and I'm going to need a few minutes more to become fully adjusted to playing here. Please bear with me."

In rereading the OPs opening comment, I suspect her problem isn't technique or lack of familiarity with the music, or practice, but simple nerves, as many have pointed out.

The vast majority of my students over the past 30 years have been elementary through high school students. Nerves were never their problem. Plain and simple lack of practice, lesson preparation, attention to detail, was the number one cause of lesson problems.


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Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook] #1478457
07/21/10 10:42 AM
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In the past I taught a good handful of students in their homes, kids and adults. Now I have a few here and there at homes.

But in general I think when they're saying "at home" they mean "with out YOU sitting here!".
smile


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Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook] #1478458
07/21/10 10:43 AM
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John, the issue is not that of playing at home, but playing in the teacher's presence. What I described may affect older students who begin at an age of self-awareness. A teen who began as a child is used to the idea.

This is too important to let go. I have named both cause and solution that we found. It is not a case of nerves as much as it is of perception. If a student caught in this tells you "I played it better at home." they are not making an excuse - they are asking for help. The obvious next step to me is to see a) whether it is true, and b) if so, what is behind it so that it can be solved.

- paying attention to the music we are playing, rather than having attention politely going toward the teacher will make an enormous difference in how well we can play if this is going on. Does this sound unreasonable?

- seeing it as both of you working on your playing and the music, rather than yourself being assessed and maybe abandoned as not worth it (a common hidden fear) will also get rid of paralysis. At the same time, this switches attention from the teacher to the task.

These are the two main things that we found made us musically tongue-tied in front of a teacher. IF those things exist they will affect our ability to play in front of a teacher (specifically). How we, the students, perceive you, the teacher, and how we relate to you and the task of playing in front of you, can affect our ability to play in front of you. That is a mindset that has to be looked in the face to be overcome. If it's not going on then the whole thing is moot.


Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: danshure] #1478473
07/21/10 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by danshure
In the past I taught a good handful of students in their homes, kids and adults. Now I have a few here and there at homes.

But in general I think when they're saying "at home" they mean "with out YOU sitting here!".
smile


I suspect that's the truth, Dan. And if you were a fly on the wall, you'd probably discover what you already suspect, which is they don't.


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Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook] #1478484
07/21/10 11:27 AM
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I have at times with nervous students will let them "run through" the piece once without me listening, then have them play it "for real" again. This gives them a chance to get accustomed to my piano. I don't really know if it improves their playing at all, however, since the first time they play they don't feel as self-conscious about it, and the 2nd time, they're more used to the instrument.


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Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring] #1478490
07/21/10 11:34 AM
07/21/10 11:34 AM
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I suspect that, as often happens, we're talking two different issues here. I was reacting to the comment by Rocket88, "I played it better at home." I don't believe they do, rather, they are less self-critical at home than at the lesson. They being students primarily aged 6 to 18.

I don't disagree with your analysis at all, it's just that it's not what I'm referring to.

You understand, I'm sure, that most of us have 3 elementary aged students for every middle school aged student and probably the same ratio, 3 MS students for every high school student. That may not be universal, but I'm guessing that the number of 15 - 18 yr old students compared to 6 - 12 is roughly 1:10.

Of course, it's a given that when you have a more mature student with nerve problems, you give it your undivided attention, but being more mature, they're most unlikely to come to lessons saying, "I played it better at home," unless their tongue is firmly in cheek.


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Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook] #1478530
07/21/10 12:54 PM
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Yes, we were addressing different age groups. Since the OP is an adult that was my focus and reason for posting.

Quote
... but being more mature, they're most unlikely to come to lessons saying, "I played it better at home," unless their tongue is firmly in cheek.

Something possibly worth noting - When I began I had never had music lessons. It is a different world and you do not necessarily know how to present things when they come up. You don't have the language and don't know what fact or angle is pertinent. We may mention things that are irrelevant while trying to get at something that feels wrong. Something inane such as "I played it better at home." may indeed come out. Later on we can identify that the touch of an unfamiliar instrument or some other specific thing is the problem, but not in the beginning. This new world can be as murky for us as it is for a five year old, but since our language is sophisticated that is unexpected.

I was helped immensely through encounters with people ahead of me who could bridge the gap. Not only could I approach my studies differently, but I could also start communicating in a way that was more comprehensible to music teachers.

Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring] #1478563
07/21/10 02:01 PM
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I also realized I have another suggestion - visualization. Try picturing yourself in every detail in the situation. What the teacher's piano feels like, the room, the teacher sitting there, how you feel in the moment. Imagine yourself as clearly as you can playing how you know you can play (try breathing at the same time!). You're creating a mental/emotional rehearsal of the actual moment you'll face.

The mind knows no difference between you imagining the situation and really being in the situation, if you can do the visualization well enough, I'd be surprised if over time this didn't help.


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Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: John v.d.Brook] #1478564
07/21/10 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
I suspect that, as often happens, we're talking two different issues here. I was reacting to the comment by Rocket88, "I played it better at home." I don't believe they do, rather, they are less self-critical at home than at the lesson. They being students primarily aged 6 to 18.

I don't disagree with your analysis at all, it's just that it's not what I'm referring to.

You understand, I'm sure, that most of us have 3 elementary aged students for every middle school aged student and probably the same ratio, 3 MS students for every high school student. That may not be universal, but I'm guessing that the number of 15 - 18 yr old students compared to 6 - 12 is roughly 1:10.

Of course, it's a given that when you have a more mature student with nerve problems, you give it your undivided attention, but being more mature, they're most unlikely to come to lessons saying, "I played it better at home," unless their tongue is firmly in cheek.


Oh, I usually do believe them, child or adult. But the point is, it doesn't matter. Either there is a technical issue that seemed worked out at home but when under pressure was revealed to need more work, and/or there's an issue with nervousness in playing in front of the teacher and quite possibly others that needs to be worked on. And most teachers can tell when a student has practiced and having trouble playing and when a student has not.


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Re: I can't play during lessons [Re: keystring] #1478567
07/21/10 02:14 PM
07/21/10 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
John, the issue is not that of playing at home, but playing in the teacher's presence.


chang suggests another factor that contributes to this.

IIRC, it goes like this.

At home, we play notes. For the teacher, we suddenly realize we need to make music. It needs expression, it has to mean something.

Well, we've practiced the notes. But we might not have practiced making music. So when we try to, we're going to stumble.

It makes some sense, I think, for some students. It's an example of doing something different for the teacher that was not well practiced at home. And his recommendation was, " don't do that." (never practice without making music.)

For me the issue is not nerves or lack of practice. It's playing cold after a hard day at the office thinking about work. I guess I need to practice faster warmups.

I played for a generic Protestant service for a while. I used to dread the final hymn, immediately after the sermon. I'd be in my seat for 45 mind numbing minutes while this guy rambled on and on in pure stream of consciousness (because to plan or edit a sermon might inhibit the Holy Spirit!). Then jump up and play that hymn cold. Even worse than cold, having spent 45 minutes dreading it, letting the anxiety build.

Shoot, I feel bad just reliving it. think I need a beer.

Last edited by TimR; 07/21/10 02:15 PM.

gotta go practice
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