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What do you expect from a piano teacher?
#1673010 05/07/11 11:36 AM
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Hi everybody!

I am sure this question has been addressed here before, but I wanted hear from other piano students/teachers in the forum.

I am an adult (35) who have learned piano (autodidactic) with ups and downs for 10 years completely alone. For that, I cannot really say which is my level; I went through Alfreds' Adult Books 1-2 easily, and I can also 'play/reproduce' more elaborate pieces (e.g 'The heart ask for pleasure first', from Michael Nyman). All of these, at the very amateur-level of execution.

I have recently moved to Austria and will stay here 2 years. I am considering to take piano lessons for the first time, to have a more formal to piano education. So i'd guess I should start from zero. I would love to learn some music theory, improvisation above all, but also sight reading, etc... Furthermore, It would be a dream to play with other people modern (e.g jazz) pieces (in an ensemble?). Is this all something that you could ask a teacher, or is there a more more formal way to do the things to learn piano (that's indeed the aim)?.

I have been avoiding to take lessons for some reasons; although I own a good digital, I do not have access to a real acoustic piano. I cannot promise to practice 1 or 2 hours daily (surely 30 min would be a more honest estimation). I really love music and playing piano, but I would not like a teacher who transforms this into another TODO-list after work (although I can tolerate some discipline) .

I will try to get some interviews with teachers of a local music school here (mainly devoted to kids) but have no clue what to expect from them, or how to raise these questions. All of this is very new to me, and I would like to hear from other people here with more experience. I am still not sure if it really helps to have a piano teacher? (I thought learning piano is just practising).

Any piece of advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks a lot

Jose

Last edited by Nin; 05/07/11 11:49 AM.
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Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
Nin #1673244 05/07/11 08:17 PM
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Hya Jose, I think you may be overthinking things a little!! I believe you want a teacher on the one hand, but are slightly nervous about a teacher that may start telling you what to do!
I believe you want a teacher that will take into consideration what you have learnt yourself...

I did too, but we have to be prepared for the likely chance a teacher will say "no thats wrong, you wont progress unless you do it this way ..."

I think that is a big fear all adults that have learnt a bit themselves may have, or may have had... we do not want to find out that all our practising has been "bad practice" or has developed in us bad habits...

In total honesty.. look at folk who you consider to be good pianists.... could they have got that good without discipline and hours of practice?

There are no "short-cuts"
Discipline and good practice techniques = progress.

A good teacher will possess patience , have an interest in your progress, and will guide and encourage you.
But,also, not be afraid to show displeasure when you haven't practiced enough or followed his or her insruction.
Recomendations from others as to which teacher are also usefull...
Never be afraid to ask a teacher to play a piece of music you like, hand them the score and test their ability!!!
After all your paying.











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which in sleep has fallen on you. Ye are many,they are few. Shelley

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Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
Nin #1673273 05/07/11 09:46 PM
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You probably want to talk to a few different teachers before deciding on one you like. Ideally you will find someone who is prepared to work on your reading and technique without having to throw away the work you have done on your own. It's likely that you have developed some bad habits but those can be fixed. I went through several teachers before finding one I really liked, I needed someone who was prepared to let me set my own goals and this is what I now have. I tell my teacher where I want to go and my he shows me what to do to get there.

Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
Rostosky #1673436 05/08/11 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Rostosky
Never be afraid to ask a teacher to play a piece of music you like, hand them the score and test their ability!!!
After all your paying.


I don't agree with this. If you are only judging a teacher's ability based on their level of sight reading then fine, but otherwise it shouldn't matter if a teacher can demonstrate the ability to play a specific piece that you want to play. Of course, if we're talking about elementary level stuff that shouldn't be a problem. But if the piece is advanced enough, the teacher may very well be able to play the piece with some practice, but they may not be able to sight read it! smile Just using myself as an example, I have a masters in music and specialize in jazz. I'm technically accomplished and can play at a professional level, both jazz and classical. However, I'm not a good sight reader. I often teach classical pieces that are not difficult for me to play with a little practice (Chopin's "Raindrop" Prelude comes to mind), but I can't sight read that.

I think it's important to trust a teacher. Testing them with various exercises or demonstrations shows insecurity on the part of the student. If you feel that you're teacher may not be competent, consider asking questions about whatever it is that you are uncertain about. They may very well play for you to clarify. laugh But you should at least get a direct, sensible, and honest answer without hesitation. It is very possible for a teacher to know the way, but not be able to show you.

Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
Scott Coletta #1673777 05/08/11 05:04 PM
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Scott, I did not actually mean "sight read this now!" should have explained myself better....
Never be afraid to test the competence of a teacher...
I,m sorry, but there are some charlatens out there..as in any profession.
For instance my piano tuner who I might add was a stunning tuner and piano mechanic having replaced all the butt springs in my Cramer.. He was the church organist, and accomplished.
However,
when it came to lessons , he used to turn up every week with buns and cakes. I jest not.
A cup of tea and coffee would turn into two and sometimes three, and buns and cakes would be imbued.
Don't get me wrong , I do have a fondness for the sweet floury things in life, but sometimes half of the hour would be wasted on fruit cake sampling.

When I mentioned the fact that I would very much like to get on next week, and maybe we should miss the cakes, his answer was "don't worry, I only get the ones on special offer from Asda"
As though he thought I was concerned only with the cost, which he bore on a weekly basis, from my payment to him for an alleged hour of teaching of course.

Heres another thing... he was old.. and allthough full of wisdom and knowledge, I found it difficult to deprive a pensioner of their obvious love of pastries... it made me feel mean.
Recomendations from "happy customers" can be handy.








Rise like lions after slumber,in unvanquishable number. Shake your chains to earth like dew
which in sleep has fallen on you. Ye are many,they are few. Shelley

Founder and creator ofRostoskys 13th crystal skull project
Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
Rostosky #1674123 05/09/11 03:44 AM
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Hi everybody,

thanks a lot for your advices! Believe me, I am absolutely sure, that my future teacher will very soon realize about all my bad habits.

I thought, I should formulate my question more precisely ; I can easily image the position of a teacher, for example, in Science (I teach myself). There, we have/develop a concrete and defined list of topics to learn. However, I have a harder time to imagine how to teach something which firstly implies a motor skill, and second an artistic "feeling". Here, I cannot define the roles of teacher/student that well. What is it expected from both of them?

I am very excited, but at the same time, kind of worry about starting piano lessons.

Thanks a lot, this is an amazing piano forum.

Jose.

Last edited by Nin; 05/09/11 03:52 AM.
Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
Nin #1674133 05/09/11 04:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Nin
However, I have a harder time to imagine how to teach something which firstly implies a motor skill, and second an artistic "feeling". Here, I cannot define the roles of teacher/student that well.


Although this is controversial, my view is that 'feeling' is a matter of conforming to the performance expectations of the audience. There is no magic involved, and this is something that can be taught just the same as any other skill.

The problem is that many piano teachers will likely not agree with this statement, and will not have a specific strategy for teaching this aspect of playing.


Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
Nin #1674137 05/09/11 04:28 AM
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I am a self teaching beginner (using Alfred All-In_one 1 book, but I do not say "I do not need a teacher". I found these two articles made by a piano teacher:

http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/0...udy-video-it-doesnt-have-to-be-drudgery/
(for me the first version of the piece in the video is right, but after the teacher show the right way I can understand how this piece should be played)

http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/0...udy-how-to-avoid-method-book-dependency/
(a good teacher can tailor the class to you)



Alfred Adult All-In-One - level 1 - "Go Down, Moses" - page 133


Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
Nin #1674144 05/09/11 05:27 AM
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Jose (Nin), I agree with Rostosky that you are overthinking. How to raise questions? Simply ask them!

Now re some specific issues you’ve mentioned:
Originally Posted by Nin
I can also 'play/reproduce' [...] e.g 'The heart ask for pleasure first', from Michael Nyman.

1. Giving examples of pieces you play without a teacher doesn’t indicate your level, because you might play those pieces well or badly. With a teacher, he/she sort of endorses your quality of playing.

2. You don’t start from zero. The teacher will probably not have to explain to you the basic concepts and notation. But I bet you’ve developed a lot of bad habits which will have to be eradicated. When I started my lessons after 7 months (not 10 years as you) of self-learning, my teacher, after evaluating my “skills”, demanded that I abandon all pieces I’d learned so far and start other (although similar) pieces from scratch.

3. If your dream is to play jazz, make sure at the very beginning that the teacher is willing and able to teach that.

4. If you have only a good digital piano and not an acoustic one, it’s no problem.

5. With practicing 30 minutes daily properly, you can make a very good progress.

Originally Posted by Nin
I am still not sure if it really helps to have a piano teacher? (I thought learning piano is just practising).

6. Practicing yes, but you have to practice playing well. Without a teacher, you don’t know when you play wrong. Or you know that something is wrong with your playing, but you are unable to reduce the problem to specific technical and musical terms (e.g. finger/hand position, movements, phrasing, articulation, breathing even). Without a teacher, it is possible to learn to play fluently, but not to play well.

7. I agree with Rostosky that you should test the competence of your prospective teacher. I also agree with Scott Coletta to the extent that it’s important to trust the teacher, but only after it has been proven that he/she is competent. The teacher should have absolutely no problems with reading a vista the stuff you are learning (at your present level) and much beyond. Of course, as Scott mentioned, some good pianists and teachers are not good sight readers and may be unable to sight-read advanced pieces, but that’s a matter of future in your case.

Originally Posted by Nin
I have a harder time to imagine how to teach something which firstly implies a motor skill, and second an artistic "feeling". Here, I cannot define the roles of teacher/student that well.

That’s the essence of the teacher’s job. He/she should be trained and experienced in playing that role. Trust him/her.




J.A.S
Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
J.A.S #1674904 05/10/11 08:41 AM
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Perhaps the question is a little one sided?

A student teacher relationship is one of give and take on both sides. As in any relationship, it is best not to analyse too much and a shopping list of qualities may in fact lead you away from the very person who has something special to offer you. My experience is that we as students have an influence on how the relationship develops, student and teacher adapt one to the other. You can't go wrong with someone who is a good musician and with whom there is a connection on a personal level so that you can work together.

Perhaps we can ask ourselves as well, what can I give/what do I give to my teacher?


Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
ChristineG #1675059 05/10/11 12:33 PM
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Hang on, If you emloy a plumber, he or she comes to your home, does the job (hopefully) that you asked them too, you pay them and they go.
Surely you dont think "what else can I give the plumber?"
With a piano teacher you are giving them wages.




Rise like lions after slumber,in unvanquishable number. Shake your chains to earth like dew
which in sleep has fallen on you. Ye are many,they are few. Shelley

Founder and creator ofRostoskys 13th crystal skull project
Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
Rostosky #1675061 05/10/11 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Rostosky
Hang on, If you emloy a plumber, he or she comes to your home, does the job (hopefully) that you asked them too, you pay them and they go.
Surely you dont think "what else can I give the plumber?"
With a piano teacher you are giving them wages.


I don't want to put words in Christine's mouth, but I think what she means is, and what I want from my students is:

for the student to work hard, ask questions, give feedback, show respect, come prepared to lessons, and generally have a good attitude.

These are things I give to my students, and reciprocate with when I have a teacher.


Piano teacher.
Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
Rostosky #1675125 05/10/11 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Rostosky
Hang on, If you emloy a plumber, he or she comes to your home, does the job (hopefully) that you asked them too, you pay them and they go.
Surely you dont think "what else can I give the plumber?"
With a piano teacher you are giving them wages.
But there are certainly different levels of work relationships. I think the student/teacher relationship is a bit more collaborative than the plumber/homeowner one.

BTW, I always give my piano tuner a glass of wine. After he's finished tuning. smile My piano teacher would probably deserve one too, except he doesn't come to my house.


Mary Bee
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Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
MaryBee #1675173 05/10/11 04:37 PM
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I do agree about the colaboration but with a proviso.
When I was at school, we had a fantastic music teacher.
Unfortunately, he treated the kids like a friend and many of the girls grew a sort of crushy-type attatchment to him.
After a few years he got a better job at a university...
The girls were in tears.. worse, they couldnt except the new "aloof and distant" replacement who had a more authoritarian stance. Many gave up music as a result.
Given that life throws so many curveballs at us, It might be best to not get to close to a teacher or emotionally attatched, because in the long run life will throw curves at the teacher,they may have to move , they may get ill, they may get divorced, etc, and the friendlier you are with them the more you will be affected, and therefore the more your studies may suffer?






Rise like lions after slumber,in unvanquishable number. Shake your chains to earth like dew
which in sleep has fallen on you. Ye are many,they are few. Shelley

Founder and creator ofRostoskys 13th crystal skull project
Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
rocket88 #1675192 05/10/11 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by rocket88

I don't want to put words in Christine's mouth, but I think what she means is, and what I want from my students is:

for the student to work hard, ask questions, give feedback, show respect, come prepared to lessons, and generally have a good attitude.

These are things I give to my students, and reciprocate with when I have a teacher.

That is what I understood too.

Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
Nin #1675221 05/10/11 06:08 PM
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Piano teachers have an easy life don't they? They (mostly) won't take you on at all unless you show some evidence of musicality. If you make progress, it is because he/she is a good teacher. If you don't progress it is because you don't listen / work hard / practise enough.

I am joking here but really the only way to learn the piano is to play the piano so when you say "I thought learning piano is just practising" you are right but in my opinion a good teacher will be able to analyse your existing strengths and weaknesses and then point you in the right direction and give structure to your practise sessions so that you make faster progress than you would ever have done if you had learned by yourself.

What to expect from a teacher? You should expect that the teacher should listen to what you want to get out of the experience and deliver well planned lessons that focus on your needs. So you absolutely need to be clear about what you want and don't want out of the experience before engaging a teacher.

I was in the same position as you about nine months ago but I was lucky to find a very good teacher who has helped me to make tremendous progress in quite a short time. Just some of the things that he has done (which I would never have done myself) to help me progress include:


  • carefully selecting pieces for me to learn to help me strengthen my weak left hand.
  • introducing me to Hanon's exercises to strengthen my weaker fingers.
  • teaching me more efficient ways to learn new pieces rather than just bumbling along a bar at a time.
  • insisting I learn and practise scales and arpeggios as they are the basis of all western music
  • encouraged my interest in learning about the theory of music and sourced good books and exercises on the subject


Nine months ago I couldn't play a C-Major Scale one octave, both hands together. In March I passed my ABRSM Grade 3 with a Distinction laugh and I feel so proud of myself. For sure I did work really hard but there is no way I would have made anything like that kind of progress without my teacher.

What is more, and perhaps the most important thing is that the lessons are fun and there is no pressure. He understands that I am a busy working man and doesn't guilt-trip me if I haven't practised as much as I would have liked to in a week. His advice is that 15 minutes practice twice a day when you have a moment is better than two hours twice a week as long as you practise the right things in the right frame of mind.

Sorry I have rambled on a bit but my advice is first of all to be very clear about your objectives. If necessary make a list so that you don't forget. Discuss these objectives with your teachers and ask them to be quite specific about how they plan to help you achieve your goals. Play for your teachers and ask for an honest assessment of your current ability and what they think you need to do to get to the next level.

You will know if what the teacher says makes sense and also you want the feeling that the teacher is enthusiastic and passionate about what he/she does.

Once you have chosen a teacher, if it doesn't work out, you haven't lost anything. You have gained experience. Just try someone else.

I hope that helps you in some small way and good luck, Jose.

Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
Nin #1675344 05/10/11 11:01 PM
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Horrors! I go off to work with no idea that the wording in my post would open itself to such a literal, and negative, interpretation of giving. Financial incentives and cozying up is not what I had in mind at all.
Anyway, thanks to rocket88 and those who followed for putting the correct words in my mouth. I have nothing to add.

Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
ChristineG #1675394 05/11/11 01:14 AM
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So sorry Christine, I seriously didn't intend for it to come across like that, what I meant to mean was; Say you have massive respect for someone in authority like a teacher, If they are totally an Authority figure and stay like that the sense of looking up to them remains. When you see their human side, dropping crumbs on themselves from biscuits, being a bit disheveled from being late etc, or learn of their private life or family probs, then sometimes they fall off that pedestal..
I just meant that all the time they remain "The infalible piano teacher" we try harder to earn their praise,which means we try harder,which is good?




Rise like lions after slumber,in unvanquishable number. Shake your chains to earth like dew
which in sleep has fallen on you. Ye are many,they are few. Shelley

Founder and creator ofRostoskys 13th crystal skull project
Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
Rostosky #1675560 05/11/11 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Rostosky
Unfortunately, he treated the kids like a friend and many of the girls grew a sort of crushy-type attatchment to him.
Whoa. That's not what I meant by having a "collaborative" relationship with your teacher!

Quote
It might be best to not get to close to a teacher or emotionally attatched, because in the long run life will throw curves at the teacher,they may have to move , they may get ill, they may get divorced, etc, and the friendlier you are with them the more you will be affected, and therefore the more your studies may suffer?
Well, why get close to anyone in life? I mean, they're going to die eventually!

Originally Posted by Rostosky
Say you have massive respect for someone in authority like a teacher, If they are totally an Authority figure and stay like that the sense of looking up to them remains. When you see their human side, dropping crumbs on themselves from biscuits, being a bit disheveled from being late etc, or learn of their private life or family probs, then sometimes they fall off that pedestal..
I just meant that all the time they remain "The infalible piano teacher" we try harder to earn their praise,which means we try harder,which is good?
Maybe true for students who are children. But for an adult student? I would guess that adults are working hard to attain their own goals, not to earn their teacher's praise. And you don't need to place your teacher on a pedestal or view them as an authority figure to do that.


Mary Bee
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Re: What do you expect from a piano teacher?
Nin #1675654 05/11/11 02:19 PM
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You may want to write down your expectations and how you see yourself progressing. I have only had one piano teacher. She taught me like she would teach little kids. By this, she expected a certain level of commitment from me. One I was not able to keep. I practiced for HOURS UPON HOURS each week. That is fine if I had hours for practice, but a full time job and helping my disabled husband every day, keeping up with the housework (that was the thing to go)...plus the demands of 1. learning a scale, arpeggios and 2, learning 3 new pieces each week...was too much for me.

I tried to tell her these things, but it fell on deaf ears. I ended up picking one of the three to practice, and trying to do it well...and she did not think I had the commitment. I do, and I play most days, but I just couldn't keep it up. I did learn alot from her, but I don't care how long it will take me to get through a book. I'm 57 and want to enjoy my time on the piano, not feverishly work at it...like I'm trying to get into Julliard!

Sorry for the long post...but you want to find out exactly what you want from your teacher. To let him/her know where YOU want to go and how they can help you!! They are doing YOU a service..and if there isn't any value...

Oh...at the end, since I wasn't keeping up with her commitment requirements, she started doing things during my lesson time, like making her dinner...or doing her wash. I quit then and have been working on my own.

Hope my experience has helped you!
Nancy


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