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Students that exhaust my energy #2725119
03/29/18 10:10 AM
03/29/18 10:10 AM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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I've had many students for 5 - 10 years, which is a fairly good statistic in our music store. With those students, I am noticing I am less tolerant of disregard for instructions.

Over the years, I continue to work with some students on technique-- pre-teen boys who still play with flat, dented or flying fingers, resulting in uneven, unclear notes, concepts learned at the start. Through example, I stress that curving the fingers and keeping them close to the keys will aid in speed, but clarity comes first.

In particular, one student still focuses mainly on how fast he can play. I continue to remind students that fast does not mean good playing. Student played a piece so fast that notes were missed, it was uneven, dynamics, staccato and legato were not followed. . These are concepts learned in the first 6 months of lessons.At this point, I should not have to tell him this at every lesson. This student, and most of my male students ignore fingering notations in the music, despite my highlighting-- I shouldn't have to do this any longer. I was so frustrated, I told him the piece was a mess. I've tried everything, sharing videos, recording him, at every lesson I stress musicality, not speed, but I feel like they just go home and do what they want.

No matter how much I explain, or provide tantalizing presentations on how technique, fingering, etc. all are there for very good reasons, week after week, I find myself facing the same issues. I take some responsibility as I've always focused on a positive atmosphere, and handled critiques gently. As a result, perhaps those critiques were often disregarded because I wasn't taken seriously. How often, or much do you remind students, or insist that these concepts are followed?


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725132
03/29/18 10:44 AM
03/29/18 10:44 AM
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And I should mention that I finally emailed the parent and received this reply, "Thanks for the good information."


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725134
03/29/18 10:52 AM
03/29/18 10:52 AM
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Annoy them every lesson and at every point their fingers misbehave, they miss a staccato, they miss a rest, they play too fast with stopping the playing and mentioning the error. If you're pleasantly, but totally, consistent and constantly break their playing flow to correct their bad habits, they are very likely going to try to obey just to get through to the end of the piece. Use the whole lesson on one messy part until it isn't messy any more, and they are likely to start listening to avoid the frustration of not moving on. And use every lesson to continue cleaning up the same messy part until they start realizing they have to do it at home too just so they can move on.

Last edited by pianopi; 03/29/18 10:53 AM.

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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725144
03/29/18 11:38 AM
03/29/18 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows

In particular, one student still focuses mainly on how fast he can play. I continue to remind students that fast does not mean good playing. Student played a piece so fast that notes were missed, it was uneven, dynamics, staccato and legato were not followed. . These are concepts learned in the first 6 months of lessons.At this point, I should not have to tell him this at every lesson. This student, and most of my male students ignore fingering notations in the music, despite my highlighting-- I shouldn't have to do this any longer. I was so frustrated, I told him the piece was a mess. I've tried everything, sharing videos, recording him, at every lesson I stress musicality, not speed, but I feel like they just go home and do what they want.



Teenage boys have high testosterone levels - which peak in the mid-teens - to contend with, and are more concerned with trying to impress than with musicality. ("I feel the need - the need for speed" - Top Gun grin). And they also want to assert themselves, to prove themselves worthy of being men. Thus, they are also prone to pushing their boundaries. (BTW, girls have testosterone levels ten times lower.)

When I was at that age, that was what I wanted to do too - play pieces as fast & loud as I could (even if I couldn't). But I also had ABRSM exams to do, and my pride wouldn't let me fail. So, I had to do what I needed to do to get the best marks I could (i.e. listen to my teacher), and therefore reserved my need for speed for the pieces I was learning for myself, which I never told my teacher about. Who cares how messy they are, when I'm just playing to please myself?

So, unless you put them up for exams or something similar, you might have to try some reverse psychological techniques to get them to do what you want. Or maybe show them how a 'real man' would play the music, if there are YT videos of the pieces.......


"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: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725188
03/29/18 04:27 PM
03/29/18 04:27 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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bennevis, I hold 2 recitals a year, and enter students in a local Festival as well. This boy has been playing way too fast since he for the last 6 years- since he was 7 years old. I shudder to think of the future lessons as he is entering his teens! eek


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: pianopi] #2725189
03/29/18 04:28 PM
03/29/18 04:28 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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Originally Posted by pianopi
Annoy them every lesson and at every point their fingers misbehave, they miss a staccato, they miss a rest, they play too fast with stopping the playing and mentioning the error. If you're pleasantly, but totally, consistent and constantly break their playing flow to correct their bad habits, they are very likely going to try to obey just to get through to the end of the piece. Use the whole lesson on one messy part until it isn't messy any more, and they are likely to start listening to avoid the frustration of not moving on. And use every lesson to continue cleaning up the same messy part until they start realizing they have to do it at home too just so they can move on.


Excellent suggestions and I plan to follow them!


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725190
03/29/18 04:31 PM
03/29/18 04:31 PM
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This is what I would do:

Give these students simple music full of patterns that make them sound more impressive than they really are. Here are some composers whose works are useful for this situation:

Kevin Olson
Melody Bober
Robert Vandall
Dennis Alexander

In particular, take a look at Vandall's Preludes or his Toccata in F Minor.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725195
03/29/18 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
bennevis, I hold 2 recitals a year, and enter students in a local Festival as well.

Unfortunately, he'd just take recitals as opportunities to play fast & loud. People tend to be impressed by that sort of thing, especially those in his peer group. I remember a few kids who did that in my student days, and they got the most applause.

What he needs are (written) assessments of some sort by adjudicators that don't involve performing in public. By people he respects - a sort of second opinion, if you like. I also agree with giving him pieces with lots of patterns to play. After all, if he can play something 'impressively' (= at speed) and under control, he learns the satisfaction of playing something well.

BTW, I don't think that aggravating him in the manner pianopi suggested is going to help a 13-year-old boy who's been speeding for six years. He's likely going to be confrontational or do the precise opposite of what you want, just to annoy you back........


"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: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725205
03/29/18 06:08 PM
03/29/18 06:08 PM
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bennevis, my hopes that he would eventually "get it" and follow fingering, dynamics, articulation hasn't been realized by encouraging reminders. Perhaps if I'd been more the kind of teacher pianopi suggested from the start, these problems wouldn't still exist, We started out with simple pieces, moved to Bober's sharp and flat keys books, and he's played much simpler pieces for the Festival. It's always the same notations in his assignment book and on the music. How will the less difficult books AZN suggests change the student's mindset to ignore all of these important aspects of music?


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725212
03/29/18 06:34 PM
03/29/18 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
This boy has been playing way too fast since he for the last 6 years- since he was 7 years old. I shudder to think of the future lessons as he is entering his teens! eek


That reminds me of the story about two kids playing a duet. One of them got up and left, because he was the fastest, and finished his part first.... ;-)


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725222
03/29/18 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
We started out with simple pieces, moved to Bober's sharp and flat keys books, and he's played much simpler pieces for the Festival. It's always the same notations in his assignment book and on the music. How will the less difficult books AZN suggests change the student's mindset to ignore all of these important aspects of music?

I don't know whether this will help, but the way I deal with 'recalcitrant' (for want of a better word) people (or 'clients') in my job is to put myself in their shoes. And I deal with many such people - adults as well as kids - on a daily basis.

I think you've been looking at this problem only from your own perspective. You are frustrated because he ignores what you ask of him, and he goes and does what he wants. You just want him to do as he's told. I don't know anything about him apart from what you've told us, but based on that, I can imagine that he is a kid who enjoys playing fast, probably impatient in nature, and perhaps sees music as more a means to impress his peers rather than for its musical worth. Continually nagging him with no real consequences (let's face it - there's not much you can do if he doesn't obey you) has proven to be counter-productive. 'Upping the ante' in the manner suggested earlier may turn an attitude of 'hey, I just like playing fast because I can, so what' to 'you're really pestering me and cramping my style, so I'll play even faster just to annoy you'.

So, you think 'laterally'. OK, he can't handle fast in the pieces you've given him, but he wants to play fast, and you want accuracy. So - why not give him stuff that sounds impressive but actually easier than what he can handle, if only he'd slow down. As you know, Rustle of Spring is actually quite easy to play - easier than the twists & turns of say, Schumann's Arabeske - but it sounds far more impressive. (Yes, I've played them both, one after the other in the same recital, and everyone in the audience thought the former must have taken a lot more hours of hard practicing, and applauded accordingly.... grin). So, you get something more like a win-win situation: he gets to play flashy-sounding stuff that he's capable of playing fast & accurately, while you get better playing because he's playing within his technical means. And you can then build on that step by step without making him feel you're continually finding fault with him. It may not fit your idea of how you want him to progress, but far better that than what's been happening, don't you think?

I can relate something from my own childhood to illustrate something similar. My mother used to keep nagging me to eat vegetables. The problem started because at the age of one or two, I was given, and ate some bitter-tasting greens which I instantly spat out, and from then on, refused anything of that color. Until age seven or so, when I had school lunches with other kids, and I didn't want to appear 'different', so I tried them - and I discovered that most greens were actually OK. But I couldn't, and wouldn't, 'lose face' in front of my mother, so I still kept refusing them at home. If she stopped nagging me at every mealtime and just ignored what I put on my plate and in my mouth, I'd probably start eating them a little at a time at home, but she didn't, so I didn't. In fact, she probably still thinks I don't eat greens to this day........ grin


"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: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: bennevis] #2725254
03/29/18 10:15 PM
03/29/18 10:15 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
BTW, I don't think that aggravating him in the manner pianopi suggested is going to help a 13-year-old boy who's been speeding for six years. He's likely going to be confrontational or do the precise opposite of what you want, just to annoy you back........

He's already annoying her. Now the ball's firmly in chasingrainbow's court.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725271
03/30/18 01:22 AM
03/30/18 01:22 AM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
How will the less difficult books AZN suggests change the student's mindset to ignore all of these important aspects of music?

First: You need to realize that some kids will never play halfway decent. Just live with it. It's OKAY that they don't understand all important aspects of music.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: AZNpiano] #2725318
03/30/18 08:42 AM
03/30/18 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
How will the less difficult books AZN suggests change the student's mindset to ignore all of these important aspects of music?

First: You need to realize that some kids will never play halfway decent. Just live with it. It's OKAY that they don't understand all important aspects of music.


Yep. I have a few students like this. They like piano well enough, but don't really care about the details. No amount of nagging or reasoned explanation is going to make them care about playing with a refined technique etc. In these cases I aim for a middle ground-- a result that approaches a standard of playing that I can live with, while taking into account what the student finds interesting/satisfying. This could mean taking a piece in a style that the student likes, and focusing on only one element (articulation, or fingering or dynamics), while letting other details go... and being satisfied with the effort the student will put in. To the OP, do your best and remain positive, but direct your energy and enthusiasm where it will make a difference-- pouring it into these students is exhausting!


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: JohnSprung] #2725321
03/30/18 08:49 AM
03/30/18 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
This boy has been playing way too fast since he for the last 6 years- since he was 7 years old. I shudder to think of the future lessons as he is entering his teens! eek


That reminds me of the story about two kids playing a duet. One of them got up and left, because he was the fastest, and finished his part first.... ;-)



No doubt, he shouted "I win!!" on his way off stage.


I've been trying to change my signature quote for weeks.

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725345
03/30/18 10:34 AM
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I wonder if you teach using one or two pianos? Having two pianos could help in that you could play along with the student and ensure that an appropriate tempo is used (assuming that he’s listening to you and able to slow it down). Or could hands separate work - you play one hand and he play the other and then switch?
You could say “we’ll need a slower tempo so that we can play together more easily”.

It might also be fun to play some pieces for your student that are WAY too fast - maybe the national anthem, or something famous like Amazing Grace, etc. Say “I’m going to be the student, you’re the teacher.” Then rush through the piece at a ridiculous tempo. Then ask “How did you like it? What would you suggest I change?” When I do this, sometimes students are hilariously picky or focus on something else entirely - it’s really interesting to hear what stands out to them.

I have had teenage boy students who are only impressed by loud/fast music and only want to play loud/fast music, so I feel your pain! Require him to play at various more appropriate speeds at the lesson, and give him metronome numbers to practice at home. There are times when I’ve said - “Do NOT go faster than ___ on your metronome.” And don’t let him come to the lesson and play it ridiculously fast - work on the parts that need work, hands separately or together, find the appropriate speed, and then require him to play at that speed at the lesson. If he starts it too quickly, stop him and ask him to start again at the appropriate speed.

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725359
03/30/18 11:18 AM
03/30/18 11:18 AM
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Would playing a four hand piece with him force him to pay attention to tempo?


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: dogperson] #2725423
03/30/18 03:47 PM
03/30/18 03:47 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Would playing a four hand piece with him force him to pay attention to tempo?


We used to do duets. I think the source of my frustration is that we work on these concepts during each lesson, and yet, the following week, they return in full force. I truly feel it's time for "tough love." I've found that has worked with some of my biggest offenders. I could assign him a piece for 4 hands--good suggestion.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725424
03/30/18 03:48 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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dogperson, the Chopin quote in your signature is beautiful!


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725427
03/30/18 03:52 PM
03/30/18 03:52 PM
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pianist lady and AZN, I am giving him one more opportunity to heed my suggestions and critiques over the last 7 years. Then I just throw in the towel. I've often told my male students, "Someday you will look back and remember when Miss ___ told you that ______ really works!"


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: piano2] #2725429
03/30/18 03:55 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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Originally Posted by piano2
I wonder if you teach using one or two pianos? Having two pianos could help in that you could play along with the student and ensure that an appropriate tempo is used (assuming that he’s listening to you and able to slow it down). Or could hands separate work - you play one hand and he play the other and then switch?
You could say “we’ll need a slower tempo so that we can play together more easily”.

It might also be fun to play some pieces for your student that are WAY too fast - maybe the national anthem, or something famous like Amazing Grace, etc. Say “I’m going to be the student, you’re the teacher.” Then rush through the piece at a ridiculous tempo. Then ask “How did you like it? What would you suggest I change?” When I do this, sometimes students are hilariously picky or focus on something else entirely - it’s really interesting to hear what stands out to them.

I have had teenage boy students who are only impressed by loud/fast music and only want to play loud/fast music, so I feel your pain! Require him to play at various more appropriate speeds at the lesson, and give him metronome numbers to practice at home. There are times when I’ve said - “Do NOT go faster than ___ on your metronome.” And don’t let him come to the lesson and play it ridiculously fast - work on the parts that need work, hands separately or together, find the appropriate speed, and then require him to play at that speed at the lesson. If he starts it too quickly, stop him and ask him to start again at the appropriate speed.


We barely have room in the studio for a digital piano and 2 chairs. I do play along with students and switch hands, as well as play duets (for beginners). I also have demonstrated the difference between playing something super fast and messy, or slower and musically. They always pick the slower, more musical piece. And I provide metronome markings. I don't generally use them in the lesson, but maybe for this guy, I should.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725477
03/30/18 08:13 PM
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You might need to work with him during the lesson and write out a step-by-step process that he needs to go through during the home practice. The more detailed you can make this the better.
Could you type it up on a laptop during the lesson and then email it to him and his parents? Lots of students don’t really practice - they play through the pieces. This boy might benefit from having a list of tasks to complete during his home practice - maybe even a place to put a check mark to show that he has completed the task that day.

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725478
03/30/18 08:14 PM
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Oh yes, and then at the next lesson go through the practice tasks as you assigned them the previous week. If he did them enough times, he’ll be good at them. If he doesn’t know what they are, then you know it’s another week of poor practicing.

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725480
03/30/18 08:25 PM
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piano2, great suggestions. Thanks! I generally write what needs to be worked on in the assignment book, but most students probably don't even look in there. frown


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725482
03/30/18 08:31 PM
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I'm not addressing this quote (attributed to Einstein) to anyone here in particular, but it's worth bearing in mind, because I see this time & time again in my work with people:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.


"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: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725500
03/31/18 12:10 AM
03/31/18 12:10 AM
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 7,761
Orange County, CA
AZNpiano Offline
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
pianist lady and AZN, I am giving him one more opportunity to heed my suggestions and critiques over the last 7 years.

Patience is overrated.

Earlier today I taught two of my late transfers (both came to me after level 8). I now can get both of them to produce what I want them to produce, because I am not patient with them, and I don't hesitate to point out what lousy teachers they've had until they found me. I use a combination of intimidation, mockery, and sarcasm. Mixed in there somewhere is an occasional joke that makes them roll on the floor laughing.

You might want to give intimidation, mockery, and sarcasm a try. I'm not being sarcastic here.


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2725509
03/31/18 12:52 AM
03/31/18 12:52 AM
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Posts: 1,155
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Candywoman Offline
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The part I can relate to is knowing how a student could best proceed, but having to accept a far lower standard. I could have a student learn piano very effectively in ten years if they did what I ask. Instead, the process goes on and on due to their various impediments.

It might be: student can't handle criticism, student wants to put his own spin on everything he does, student doesn't really hear instructions, student doesn't practice effectively despite all the tips in the world. Boys in particular can sometimes have a hard time listening to others. My theory is they feel they have to take an action instead of consider the action I'm suggesting.

If you think about it, students don't want to be automatons so there's always an incentive to not do what the teacher asks. I would love if all my students used my fingerings, but I've given up on many of my fingerings. I suppose they want to make the experience their own.

I suppose the question we can ask ourselves is, how can we step back and allow the student some latitude?

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: AZNpiano] #2725510
03/31/18 01:02 AM
03/31/18 01:02 AM
Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 6,323
South Florida
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Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
pianist lady and AZN, I am giving him one more opportunity to heed my suggestions and critiques over the last 7 years.

Patience is overrated.

Earlier today I taught two of my late transfers (both came to me after level 8). I now can get both of them to produce what I want them to produce, because I am not patient with them, and I don't hesitate to point out what lousy teachers they've had until they found me. I use a combination of intimidation, mockery, and sarcasm. Mixed in there somewhere is an occasional joke that makes them roll on the floor laughing.

You might want to give intimidation, mockery, and sarcasm a try. I'm not being sarcastic here.

If this "tough love" is not tempered by some amount of support and praise, it's bullying.

I don't believe you are a bully. I believe at times you PRESENT yourself as one, which gives people here a very wrong impression. wink

But I do agree with you about being tough when tough is needed.

Most of my students are people I genuinely like. I want them to like music, even eventually love it. I don't want my students, especially the young ones, to fear me, or come to lessons dreading the time I am going to spend with them.

However, I do tell them that it is "Groundhog Day" when they come in utterly unprepared, unless it is a very rare thing and for a very good reason.

I also regularly talk about "Let's pretend," and what it means. That is my phrase for when anyone, including one of us, is imagining being on stage or in front of people and getting a generous amount of applause when what is really happening is just awful. And, by the way, I think it happens to the greatest players on the planet, but the great ones catch themselves after around 10 seconds, while students can go on this way for a very long time, lost in a fantasy.

Then there is "Go magic fingers," which is about trusting the fingers, reflexes and muscle memory to get the job done. Again, the best players in the world will do that, but the moment things go wrong, they immediately go into hyper-attentive mode and fix the problems. Most students will practice that way, over and over, day after day, until something happens that brings in reality. The most common thing is a horrible performance, a complete train wreck, but if it gets to that point, the more sensitive will be so embarrassed that they will quit.


Piano Teacher
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: bennevis] #2725511
03/31/18 01:14 AM
03/31/18 01:14 AM
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Posts: 6,323
South Florida
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Originally Posted by bennevis
I'm not addressing this quote (attributed to Einstein) to anyone here in particular, but it's worth bearing in mind, because I see this time & time again in my work with people:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.

You know much more about music history than most people here, so I'm sure you know that Chopin, an excellent teacher, was known to be very gentle sometimes, but stormy when he had a bad day. I SUSPECT that some of the stormy days were probably brought on by his students not listening.

As a teacher you don't want students who are easy-going. You want them to have spirit. You want them to have a drive that pushes them to play louder, softer, faster, slower. I'm sure you have also read about Martha Argerich, a notorious speed demon. Can you imagine what would have happened if someone had tried to intimidate the fire out of her?

It's a delicate matter.

As a teacher you are always trying to find the line between "too much" and "not enough". You have to be fairly harsh at times when working with strong-natured people, who are (of course) high strung and always push. But you also don't want to "break" these people. You don't want to break their spirits. That spirit is what makes them special, if they can master it.

My best students have ALL tried to play too fast. I did, when I was young. I still do at times, but I immediately catch myself, because things get out of control, and I am listening to myself. I will demonstrate something too fast, without the appropriate amount of practice, and I immediately say:

"There, that's a perfect example of 'out of control'. That was too fast, and it was faked. Now listen as I take what I just totally blew, and fix it."

Then, if a student does the same thing, plays too fast and ruins everything, I say: "Oops, out of control. You heard what happens when I tried to play too fast. But you're trying to play as fast as me. I've been playing the piano since the time of Fred and Wilma (Flintstones), and I can barely control it at that tempo."

If it's too fast, again, several times, I say: "It's still way too fast. It sounds awful because you can't play that fast. WHAT PART OF IT'S TOO FAST DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND!!!"

But I also smile when we fix it. And I finish up with, "Yup, now it's good. Before it was AWFUL. You were in Let's Pretend and Go Magic Fingers mode. Don't feel too bad. I've done it hundreds of time myself, and so have the greatest pianists on the planet."

Last edited by Gary D.; 03/31/18 01:16 AM.

Piano Teacher
Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: Gary D.] #2725543
03/31/18 05:32 AM
03/31/18 05:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.

As a teacher you don't want students who are easy-going. You want them to have spirit. You want them to have a drive that pushes them to play louder, softer, faster, slower.

.....You don't want to break their spirits. That spirit is what makes them special, if they can master it.

My best students have ALL tried to play too fast. I did, when I was young. I still do at times, but I immediately catch myself, because things get out of control, and I am listening to myself.

I remember Heinrich Neuhaus, the legendary Russian pedagogue saying that his two greatest students Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels were both speed merchants and 'bangers' in their youth. In fact, they remained so well into adulthood, as anyone who has their live recordings from the 1950s-1960s will know. They explored and pushed their limits, and occasionally beyond - witness Richter's handfuls of wrong notes in Mussorgsky's Pictures (Sofia 1958) and his car crash in the coda of the Appassionata's finale during his first American tour (1960). Richter of course also went to the other extreme in pushing the limits of slow tempi (Schubert's D960 for instance). You could say that they lived their pianistic lives dangerously, and good teachers (as you say) don't want to break that spirit, but instead want to harness and build on it.

Students who never try to push beyond their limits may turn out to be good musicians, but they're unlikely to be the sort of performers one would make special efforts to go to hear, or even want to listen to. Slapdash and out-of-control playing needs to be reined in, but the predilection for speed and extremes should be nurtured in the right way, not nipped in the bud (as Tom Cruise showed us in Top Gun wink ).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CitIXrkQfzo


"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."
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