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having trouble staying positive #2228352 02/09/14 10:54 AM
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Apologies for what will be probably a long and whiny post - this has been on my mind for a while.

I am a teacher of beginners (mostly) and I find myself teaching piano as a profession but without professional qualifications. In the name of gaining a proper teaching diploma, I took up lessons with a local teacher and have been studying with her for over a year.

She is great and well-meaning, and it is most helpful to (1) have a role model for business attitude and practices and (2) have someone to bounce ideas off, when difficult teaching situations arise.

The difference between my skills and what I need for the diploma is 90% sight reading skills, but there is a limit to what she can do to help me with this (as in, I just need to get on and do it) so we also spend lesson time on all sorts of things. Mainly, I reason, I can use her usefully for aural skills, as this is what I can't do so usefully by myself.

Sightsinging has become part of the British exam system (it never was decades ago when I went through this), so really, we ought to be doing this.

Now, I try to put aside all feelings of inhibition and inadequacy about my voice. I am not a singer (my teacher is, she teaches singing also). I have made a start in sightsinging skills by myself, and got somewhere, but it is a different thing doing it outwith my own living room, and with a different person on piano. More like exam conditions.

But she just seems utterly clueless about where to start. So, earlier this year, she pulled out some grade 8 sightsinging (grade 8? why start there?) and asked me to sing, first the upper part. Well, the upper part was too high for me, but sufficiently high, I could take it down the octave, so I was OK with that. No, she changes her mind, sing the lower part (which was both too high, and too low to take an octave down iyswim). So we press into this before I've had time to think what I'm doing, I manage a few notes (by following her on piano, not by my own aural efforts) and stop as it seemed pointless.

She congratulates my on what I did. Why? I did nothing. frown End of lesson, roll onto next week.

Last lesson I asked her to play something on piano, I attempt to copy on another instrument. We come to a sticking point, two strange, large, ascending intervals. At a certain point she shows me the music and asks me to sightsing it, that was after introducing it as a difficult thing to sing. Oh, and it includes a high Eb, which is way out or range for me.

I think my exact words were, 'you've got to be kidding!' No, she wasn't kidding. Well, I flat out refused.

Is is really too much to ask someone who is also a singing teacher to be aware what a non-singer might and might not be able to do? I mean, I have shown her my vocal range, though I don't exactly remind her every lesson, and she could forget - still - a high Eb?!?! Can most normal women do that?

So what I should be doing is practicing what I can myself, in preparation for the next lesson, then have a chat with her. But I'm afraid all I can do now is get emotional about the whole thing, and then I really don't feel like singing.

I think I just need to buck up, or wait a week for my hormones to be in a different place. There again, I'm paying her a lot of money, and I feel like we're wasting time.

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Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: ten left thumbs] #2228468 02/09/14 02:09 PM
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Get

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new

teacher



NOW


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Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: ten left thumbs] #2228481 02/09/14 02:22 PM
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AZN has covered the teacher's view of the situation. From a student's perspective, I was thinking, Run for your life!


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Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: ten left thumbs] #2228494 02/09/14 02:45 PM
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I agree with AZNpiano. How to find that teacher is a whole other story. In order of teaching difficulty, it probably goes this way:

- a teacher with a young novice and a method book: straightforward - go along the book which has everything set out for you already. It may not be brilliant teaching, but at least it's not a confused mishmash.

- an experienced, well-trained teacher with a novice - She knows what things need to be learned, how everything hangs together, and how to build it up in stages over time. She can create a system, and she is starting with everything fresh and new.

- a transfer student whose previous studies were with a teacher, and went along the same lines as what the current new teacher does - a couple of adjustments here and there and you're all set to go.

You are in the most difficult category: a student with a fair bit of musical experience with abilities all over the place. It requires a fairly good teacher who can organize and reorganize, find out where you are and what you need, and get it to make some sense so that you can also work with it. (The grade 8 choice was probably since you are not a beginner in terms of music, and you 'might get bored/insulted' by more basic things - or simply for lack of knowing what to do with you.)

From the description, this teacher doesn't seem to know how to handle it, and your negative feelings are normal and understandable.

Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: ten left thumbs] #2228523 02/09/14 03:43 PM
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If you dont want to find the time to find a new teacher, ask your teacher to transpose. As a teacher myself, I find it hard to play along with the student if he or she needs the exercise done in a different key, but its a simple enough process to find the note if the student makes a mistake or starts to go flat (in my experience, they never go sharp... only flat... curious) during your testing you should be able to aske the tester to change the key, since the point of the test is to check your abilities to sightsing, and not to test whether your voice is amazing.now, given that im from the u.s, the rules may be different where you are, so its still a good idea to check.


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Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: ten left thumbs] #2228542 02/09/14 04:19 PM
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On finding a new teacher: I think probably quick advice to ditch this teacher is a bit premature. I'd already decided (and told her) I'm going to stick with her for this calendar year, then take a break, as my sight-reading skills aren't improving super-fast, and I can't afford to stay with her till I'm diploma-ready.

But we do actually have good communication and I know she means well. It's just difficult to imagine she is so clueless about where I am - but evidently she is (thanks for pointing that out, keystring, I am precisely difficult, complicated and all over the place). And so I just need to spell it out really clearly. I am not insulted by Grade 5 sightsinging.

As for transposing (nice try!) we are talking about 3 notes that spanned about a 12th (2 ascending intervals) and there is no key on earth I would be able to sing that in. There are earthworms at the bottom of my garden with bigger vocal ranges than me. Besides, given she'd just played it to me, what was the point of asking me to sight-sing it?

Thanks to you all for taking the time to post. I do feel the sting has gone somehow. The thing is, I need to be able to talk to her without getting all upset... Or at least, without getting too upset.

Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: ten left thumbs] #2228707 02/09/14 09:43 PM
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Originally Posted by ten left thumbs
Is is really too much to ask someone who is also a singing teacher to be aware what a non-singer might and might not be able to do? I mean, I have shown her my vocal range, though I don't exactly remind her every lesson, and she could forget - still - a high Eb?!?! Can most normal women do that?


To answer your question, yes, most women can sing a high e-flat. However, if you lack the ability to do so, she as a teacher should be able to teach you how to do it and do it well. Straining on your own to reach a note you have no idea how to hit is not teaching.

I teach voice as well and even if I have a student who takes piano and then wants to learn a bit of singing, I teach them technique. I may later suggest they take separate voice lessons if they want to have extra lesson time for that, but other than that, I teach how to sing. The fact that she isn't telling you means she doesn't know how and only works with students who don't have vocal issues.

Let me be clear that there is nothing wrong with you. You just need to have the proper muscles developed and shown what to do!


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Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: ten left thumbs] #2228766 02/10/14 12:12 AM
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[quote=ten left thumbs...as my sight-reading skills aren't improving super-fast...[/quote]

I'm just a visitor with a bad accent to the land of music, but speaking as someone who's pretty much relegated to reading music and does it... ok, the skill develops really slowly.


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Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: carol j] #2228846 02/10/14 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by carol j
If you dont want to find the time to find a new teacher, ask your teacher to transpose.

Unfortunately, not very many classically-trained piano teachers will be able to do that.


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Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: ten left thumbs] #2228847 02/10/14 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by ten left thumbs
On finding a new teacher: I think probably quick advice to ditch this teacher is a bit premature.

You seem to have a higher tolerance for pain than most of us here. Good luck with sticking it out.


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Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: AZNpiano] #2228867 02/10/14 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by carol j
If you dont want to find the time to find a new teacher, ask your teacher to transpose.

Unfortunately, not very many classically-trained piano teachers will be able to do that.

Transposing is a basic accompanying skill, and accompanying is a basic part of classical piano training. Any classically trained teacher should be able to do it, either at sight or with a little prep time.

ten left thumbs, it sounds like you found a teacher who is a good fit for you for most things, but not a good fit for sight-singing. It might be a good idea to find someone else to work just on sight singing, and stick with piano playing (including sight reading at the piano) with this teacher.



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Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: Morodiene] #2228869 02/10/14 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by ten left thumbs
Is is really too much to ask someone who is also a singing teacher to be aware what a non-singer might and might not be able to do? I mean, I have shown her my vocal range, though I don't exactly remind her every lesson, and she could forget - still - a high Eb?!?! Can most normal women do that?


To answer your question, yes, most women can sing a high e-flat. However, if you lack the ability to do so, she as a teacher should be able to teach you how to do it and do it well. Straining on your own to reach a note you have no idea how to hit is not teaching.

I teach voice as well and even if I have a student who takes piano and then wants to learn a bit of singing, I teach them technique. I may later suggest they take separate voice lessons if they want to have extra lesson time for that, but other than that, I teach how to sing. The fact that she isn't telling you means she doesn't know how and only works with students who don't have vocal issues.

Let me be clear that there is nothing wrong with you. You just need to have the proper muscles developed and shown what to do!


I wonder which Eb we're talking about here. I know coloratura sopranos can sing a really high Eb, but most women can't get there. The Eb below that (which I guess is still "high" compared to the first one above middle C) is in the normal female range.


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Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: ten left thumbs] #2228871 02/10/14 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by ten left thumbs
But we do actually have good communication and I know she means well. It's just difficult to imagine she is so clueless about where I am - but evidently she is (thanks for pointing that out, keystring, I am precisely difficult, complicated and all over the place). And so I just need to spell it out really clearly. I am not insulted by Grade 5 sightsinging.


Another of my wacko thoughts, not far different from keystring's comments maybe. .

There is more than one thing you're expecting this teacher to do.

One is to know your capabilities well, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and develop a plan to fill in the gaps.

The other is to execute the corrections for your gaps, to help you with very specific skills.

You're focused on the second (she wants me to sing Eb) but I think your frustration is mostly with the first.

If you're going to stay with her, I think you need to split the responsibility so that you do more of the first, and that will end up with you being more directive about what you want her to do for the second.

Knowing how to relate to the teacher is a bit of a dance, that develops over time and at some stages must change. The rules are a bit vague, especially in the case of an adult teacher looking for help.



gotta go practice
Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: jdw] #2228875 02/10/14 08:24 AM
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Originally Posted by jdw
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by ten left thumbs
Is is really too much to ask someone who is also a singing teacher to be aware what a non-singer might and might not be able to do? I mean, I have shown her my vocal range, though I don't exactly remind her every lesson, and she could forget - still - a high Eb?!?! Can most normal women do that?


To answer your question, yes, most women can sing a high e-flat. However, if you lack the ability to do so, she as a teacher should be able to teach you how to do it and do it well. Straining on your own to reach a note you have no idea how to hit is not teaching.

I teach voice as well and even if I have a student who takes piano and then wants to learn a bit of singing, I teach them technique. I may later suggest they take separate voice lessons if they want to have extra lesson time for that, but other than that, I teach how to sing. The fact that she isn't telling you means she doesn't know how and only works with students who don't have vocal issues.

Let me be clear that there is nothing wrong with you. You just need to have the proper muscles developed and shown what to do!


I wonder which Eb we're talking about here. I know coloratura sopranos can sing a really high Eb, but most women can't get there. The Eb below that (which I guess is still "high" compared to the first one above middle C) is in the normal female range.
I assumed she was referring to the E-flat on the top space of treble clef, not the one three ledger lines above the staff. It is a common note in most vocal music, but if she can't sing it, why isn't the "teacher" teaching her how?


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Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: Morodiene] #2228935 02/10/14 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
I assumed she was referring to the E-flat on the top space of treble clef, not the one three ledger lines above the staff. It is a common note in most vocal music, but if she can't sing it, why isn't the "teacher" teaching her how?

This actually goes back to the other thread about mixing piano lessons with singing lessons, merely for the sake of "ear training", but done by teachers who are not specialized in teaching singing. Of course this is your area of expertise, Morodiene.

I remember something you wrote - I think it was in the public forum (?) - on how you teach singing. The first step, as I remember, was simply how to develop the physical control so that student physically knows how to sing with ease and control. If a student doesn't have that, and is struggling, then she'll get the message that there is an inherent, unsolvable personal weakness, and that does dreadful things to confidence. And it is totally unnecessary.

In regards to Eb5 (in the system where middle C is C4) - I was first in a choir of elderly untrained singers. They began to falter after G4. My own untrained range is 3 octaves, with the highest note being C6. Eb5 is still comfortable and easy. I am a soprano. If I were an alto I'm not sure that Eb would be comfortable.

Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: keystring] #2228947 02/10/14 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring
In regards to Eb5 (in the system where middle C is C4) - I was first in a choir of elderly untrained singers. They began to falter after G4. My own untrained range is 3 octaves, with the highest note being C6. Eb5 is still comfortable and easy. I am a soprano. If I were an alto I'm not sure that Eb would be comfortable.


Your ability to sing C3 and C6 would be remarkable in our choir. You can sing an octave below and two octaves above middle C.

We have no sopranos with a C6. Our two trained sopranos both say they once owned that note, but now one gets screechy on G5 and the other on Bb5. I don't actually know anybody with a solid C6.

Our altos sound forced around C5 and it's clearly uncomfortable.

I sing in the bass section and have a range of G2 to E4. I assume if I knew more about correct mechanics I could sing higher with less strain; if I stay above C4 for long I tire.

Sightsinging for me is not about range or vocal production, but about knowing where I am with respect to a key center and secondarily knowing how wide an interval should be.


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Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: AZNpiano] #2228952 02/10/14 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by ten left thumbs
On finding a new teacher: I think probably quick advice to ditch this teacher is a bit premature.

You seem to have a higher tolerance for pain than most of us here. Good luck with sticking it out.


smile Thanks!

Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: keystring] #2228956 02/10/14 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring


In regards to Eb5 (in the system where middle C is C4) - I was first in a choir of elderly untrained singers. They began to falter after G4. My own untrained range is 3 octaves, with the highest note being C6. Eb5 is still comfortable and easy. I am a soprano. If I were an alto I'm not sure that Eb would be comfortable.


If middle C is C4 then we're talking about Eb5. Not too sure of the labelling system but I can sing fairly comfortably from the G below to the G above middle C on a good day. I can sing a bit higher, and a bit lower, but it's a strain.

In answer to Morodiene's question, why isn't she teaching me this, I suppose I haven't really asked for help with vocal range specifically. And I'm thinking, given her record, maybe I shouldn't!

Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: TimR] #2228957 02/10/14 11:53 AM
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To what TimR was saying:

The idea of the student and teacher collaborating on this makes sense, especially since the student is already experienced in music and even teaching it. There is enough self-knowledge to state where difficulties are, to give the teacher information. But as to what you list as the student's responsibilities -
Quote
know your capabilities well, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and develop a plan to fill in the gaps.


- the teacher needs to play a major role, if not a primary role, in this. And the teacher has to have complete knowledge to be able to do that. If the teacher's main experience has been to get students ready for incremental stages in a music program (ABRSM or whatever), she may not have the wherewithal.

As student you don't have the complete picture which an expert should have. We get into cause and effect, and it's complicated because the background is so mixed up, which confuses clues. I came into something similar when I first took lessons on my first instrument, because there was so much I already could do.

Let's take your idea with a real life example. The main underlying cause of weaknesses for me is in the area of technique. I started on a piano piece where I was to play repeated LH chords softly and evenly. They came out harsh and uneven. As student I could hear this but not fix it. (As per your assessment by student). I also could feel stiffness and tension (ditto). You can report such a thing to the teacher --- but then the teacher sees what is causing the mess: how to relax the fingers, use the arms etc.; she will also have a plan on how to practise to overcome it.

Take the same scenario: student comes to teacher who points out that her playing is harsh and uneven - student goes home trying to fix "harsh and uneven". This is simply an exercise in frustration. If the student can't pinpoint "the cause is tension" then the teacher has to. Otherwise they are working on the wrong thing. And even if the student can pinpoint a general cause, the teacher must still be able to get at the cause of the cause, and develop a plan.

Depending on the student's background and strengths, the student can then develop a practice plan around the teacher's plan. Bottom line is that this is not anything as straightforward as when starting out from scratch, hopefully guided by a good teacher who aims for the whole package.

Re: having trouble staying positive [Re: ten left thumbs] #2228968 02/10/14 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by ten left thumbs
Originally Posted by keystring


In regards to Eb5 (in the system where middle C is C4) - I was first in a choir of elderly untrained singers. They began to falter after G4. My own untrained range is 3 octaves, with the highest note being C6. Eb5 is still comfortable and easy. I am a soprano. If I were an alto I'm not sure that Eb would be comfortable.


If middle C is C4 then we're talking about Eb5. Not too sure of the labelling system but I can sing fairly comfortably from the G below to the G above middle C on a good day. I can sing a bit higher, and a bit lower, but it's a strain.


You would be typical of the altos in our choir.


gotta go practice
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