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Need some advice from teachers
#2413141 04/23/15 12:49 PM
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Hi,
I've been posting on the technician's forum about a problem I'm having but I could really use some advice from teachers.
At home I have a relatively new (4 yrs.) Yamaha C3, a very nice, easy playing piano.
My teacher has a rebuilt Steinway A3, which has what seems to me like a fairly stiff, heavy action. She of course has no problem playing it, but after two years with her, I still cannot adjust to the action, and as a result I am simply unable to play things I have no trouble with at home. I feel like I'm stumbling over my fingers, can't control the sound, etc.
My teacher believes that playing on the heavier action makes one a more versatile player, and I don't question what she says. Nevertheless, it seems to me like if I'm not playing nearly as well as I do when I practice (of course I know there's other issues - nervousness, etc. - when playing for a teacher, but this is different) that I'm not getting as much out of my lessons as I would if I had less difficulty with her piano.
I've been struggling with this for some time, but kept thinking that over time I would get used to the piano, or be able to adjust my technique to be able to play it. But clearly an hour a week in a lesson is not doing the job.
I've been considering having my piano action worked on to make it heavier, but am very hesitant to change what is a very nice piano, with unknown results.
I'm planning to talk to my teacher this week about it, as I am seriously considering finding a different teacher rather than changing my piano.
I've played on lots of pianos, and I'd have to say that my teacher's A3 probably has as heavy an action as any I've played on. I fear that practicing all the time on a heavy action could possibly cause me problems, especially as I have some arthritis in my right thumb that I've been working with for quite a few years (resulting from an injury long ago).
I'm just looking for input - would dissatisfaction with her piano be a silly reason to leave a teacher I'm otherwise happy with? I've thought I might try Skype lessons instead, as then I could play on my own piano and presumably could play closer to my actual level in lessons.
Or, if I were to seek another teacher locally, is it unreasonable to want to audition his/her piano first?
Sorry if this has rambled on, but I'm really struggling with this.


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Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413180 04/23/15 02:49 PM
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EP, this is much more common than you think, and it's a real dilemma. There's no right answer, except I would say that a heavy piano action is no reason to abandon a good teacher, even though it makes you feel less competent.

Part of the task of being a pianist - at any skill level - is adjusting to the sound and touch of different instruments all the time.

I would *not* recommend altering the touch on your own piano. You might buy a digital piano with adjustable key resistance, or try to practice for an hour a week on a stiff piano. Or make arrangements with your teacher to arrive 30 minutes early to warm up on her piano. You might have to pay her for this extra time.

Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413195 04/23/15 03:53 PM
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I'm curious - what did the piano techs tell you? All of the Steinways I've played on have pretty normal action. Her's could be out of adjustment. I know that my teaching instruments, after 15 years of teaching, needed serious action work. Perhaps you could ask in a non-threatening way, such as, "I'm wondering how often I should have my piano's action adjusted or what is the norm? Every 5 years, 10 years? Has your technician provided any guidance?" Or something similar. Just another thought - most of my students use my piano tech. If yours are the same, you could ask him his thoughts.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413198 04/23/15 03:55 PM
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Thanks for your comments Peter. It's not just that it makes me feel less competent, but I come home from lessons feeling so discouraged and feeling that no matter how much I practice (and I practice a lot) or how well I can play it at home, I'm still not going to be able to play it on her piano.
I do have a good digital piano which I keep on heavy+ action, but even at that it's really no different than my Yamaha. Spending extra time at my teacher's house is probably not an option since she has a fairly tight schedule and a new baby.
I understand your point about being able to adjust to different pianos. I have played on a lot of different pianos, although at home I do not have access to anything other than my own and a number of pianos in a school, none of which have a heavier action. Nevertheless, that's why I've stuck with her this long, thinking I needed to be able to get adjusted to her piano.
At this point I'm feeling like I'm being held back, as well as losing enthusiasm. Thus my dilemma.

Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413201 04/23/15 04:01 PM
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John,
It's a bit of a tricky subject, because her father is her tech, and I know my tech does not hold him in particularly high regard, and I just really don't want to get in to suggesting anything negative about her piano.
My tech told me that the Steinway A3's of that vintage were known to have a fairly heavy action. Her piano has been restored at some point, but I have no idea what all was done to it.
I've played on a number of older Steinways and never run into any as heavy as this.

Re: Need some advice from teachers
Peter K. Mose #2413202 04/23/15 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Peter K. Mose
You might buy a digital piano with adjustable key resistance, or try to practice for an hour a week on a stiff piano.

Peter, are there any digital pianos out there that have adjustable key resistance? The reason I am asking is because I had to be educated about "touch sensitivity" when I bought mine, since I thought it involved and altered resistance. In fact, the resistance of the keys stays the same, but the instrument's response is adjusted. In other words, a faster descent of the fingers on the keys ("force") will produce a louder sound and vice versa, but with touch sensitivity you alter how much louder or softer the sound gets. But it may be that there are DP's that do allow you to change the resistance itself - (that would interest me).

Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413204 04/23/15 04:15 PM
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keystring,
You are right, it doesn't change the key resistance (at least I don't know of any that do), it just changes the response. Mine is a Kawai MP11, but others I've had were the same. Personally, I don't find that it makes a lot of difference in the perceived feel, but I keep mine on heavy+ anyway.

Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413207 04/23/15 04:23 PM
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As an afterthought, I remember reading something about an upright piano Kawai had with a variable touch control (the VT132). Had a lever you could move to change the touchweight. I don't know if it was ever available in the US or if it is still made. Interesting concept though.

Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413216 04/23/15 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by EP
My teacher has a rebuilt Steinway A3, which has what seems to me like a fairly stiff, heavy action. She of course has no problem playing it, but after two years with her, I still cannot adjust to the action, and as a result I am simply unable to play things I have no trouble with at home. I feel like I'm stumbling over my fingers, can't control the sound, etc.
My teacher believes that playing on the heavier action makes one a more versatile player, and I don't question what she says. Nevertheless, it seems to me like if I'm not playing nearly as well as I do when I practice (of course I know there's other issues - nervousness, etc. - when playing for a teacher, but this is different) that I'm not getting as much out of my lessons as I would if I had less difficulty with her piano.
I've been struggling with this for some time, but kept thinking that over time I would get used to the piano, or be able to adjust my technique to be able to play it.

I had exactly the same problem as an advanced student in my teens, but probably magnified, in that I was practising on light-actioned Yamaha uprights in the university practice rooms, while my new teacher was teaching on two 6-foot grands (Bechstein and Blüthner) with heavy actions. And I was also playing grands for the first time when I started lessons with him.

For the first few months, I could hardly get a forte out of his pianos - and played plenty of 'ghost notes' (as well as lots of mistakes), which never happened when playing on the Yamaha uprights. Every time I finished a lesson, my arms and fingers would feel fatigued, as if I'd gone through a hard workout.

But I did adjust eventually, and I became a better pianist for it, and developed the ability to adjust my touch to almost any action, whether on grands or uprights. At that time, the only basis I had for comparison was Yamaha uprights, as I'd never played any other pianos until then (- all the pianos I practiced on as a student had been Yamaha uprights), so I assumed that that's what grand pianos feel like, and I'd just have to get used to it.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413220 04/23/15 04:55 PM
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bennevis,
I keep waiting for that to happen, but so far, no.

I'm thinking I'll try to arrange with her for me to have a half-hour or an hour during the week, preferably just before my lesson, when I can just practice on her piano. Maybe that would give me a chance to adjust to it better. I'm not sure if it will be possible with her situation, but it's worth a try.

Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413229 04/23/15 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by EP
bennevis,
I keep waiting for that to happen, but so far, no.

I'm thinking I'll try to arrange with her for me to have a half-hour or an hour during the week, preferably just before my lesson, when I can just practice on her piano. Maybe that would give me a chance to adjust to it better. I'm not sure if it will be possible with her situation, but it's worth a try.

Maybe you can also go around visiting showrooms which have practice rooms for students, and see if you can find a piano with a similar action to your teacher's, and hire that room for hour-long practice occasionally.

That's probably what I'd do if I was in your position today.

I don't own an acoustic (my home piano is a high-end digital), and I visit showrooms quite often. The range of actions on pianos (new, old and rebuilt, upright or grand) is huge - heavy to light, 'sluggish' (high inertia?) to ultra-responsive, and everything in between. These days, I can easily adapt to any piano, and I enjoy 'testing' myself on unfamiliar pianos to see what I can get out of them.......


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413231 04/23/15 05:20 PM
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I wish I could - I live in a small town. The local piano dealer has a couple of teaching rooms with out-of-tune uprights, all the rest are in the main showroom, not suitable for practice. There's a college about 50 miles away, but the only pianos I have access to there are uprights in the practice rooms, so no real options there. Even so, it's probably worth a trip now and again.

Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413239 04/23/15 05:45 PM
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Despite what I said earlier, you could have extra weights put in your keys, to make your action heavier. Ask your tech about this idea.


Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413252 04/23/15 06:26 PM
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Are you happy with the instruction you receive from your teacher?
When you are at home with your friendly piano do you notice that you have made progress?

On a 10 point scale, the piano I take lessons on is about a 2.5, but on the same scale my teacher is a 10, so it works out for me. Anyway, I'm glad I play the piano I like 7 days a week and the one I don't like 1x per week!


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Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413265 04/23/15 07:42 PM
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Peter -
After considering some comments in this thread and in a thread in the technician's forum, and some other considerations, I really don't think I want to do anything to my piano other than some regulation and adjustment of the damper timing. I just like the piano too much to take any chances with it.

malkin -
The truth is, not totally, but that's another discussion.

Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413284 04/23/15 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by EP
I just like the piano too much to take any chances with it.
thumb I'd feel exactly the same. And I think I'd prefer your problem (frustrating though it undoubtedly is) to the opposite one, where your own piano was tough going and your teacher's was a dream. Think how much more time you spend with your own piano, and what a joy to have a good one. (I have a C3 too smile )

Some extra time with your teacher's piano seems like it would help, if you can manage it. I don't want to open the can of worms that is Teachers Teaching in the Student's Home, but yours would be a case where that situation would be very helpful. Anyway, best wishes to you and I hope you can find a solution.


Du holde Kunst...
Re: Need some advice from teachers
EP #2413290 04/23/15 08:57 PM
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currawong,
I've thought there could be advantages to having a teacher come to my place - I even have two pianos in my studio - but I know it would not be an option with my current teacher. Hopefully lining up some extra time on her piano might be possible, but it's in her home and it might not be an option either.

I had three pianos before the C3 - this is the one I plan to keep!


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