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Mils... when one is nervous and stressed it is normal to feel like a idiot on a lesson, at least for me. It happens often that I don't get what my teacher says. We move on and I return to it at home and then I get it. The reason why we are a good fit: She is willing to try another way to demonstrate and explain when I ask. She also always tries to answer any questions I have. She understands that I have learning difficulties even though she cannot exactly understand why my brain works in a strange way. She does not push pieces that I hate. But she is really thorough and strict when it comes to quality. That has it's downside. I am already a perfectionist and when she kepts adding details that should/could be better the pieces will never be ready in my mind. But on the other hand I want to know all that so... She does have a sense of humour so we often just laugh at my difficulties...

We had bad lessons and good lessons in the first year, but as long as the majority weren't bad I felt it was worth to continue. Not that I did not contemplate quitting after the bad ones. After a while it settled when we got to know each other better. If you have only bad lessons I think a new teacher would be better. But be prepared to still have some of the same issues in the beginning, it's just that they should be balanced with some positivity. You need to change some of your ways probably, but the teacher has to be able to create an environment where that is motivated by positivity and trust.

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So, I felt good before yesterday’s lesson. I had memorized two and a half pieces and I thought the lesson would go well. It did not go that well because I tried to play the pieces too fast and had to stop sometimes. I should know better by now, as one of my teacher’s golden rules is: SLOW DOWN!

We all lose capability when we play in front of other people so we have to improve our chances of success by reducing the tempo. I was probably letting myself get away with bad habits when practicing at home. I also have the strange habit of trying to play slower and playing at the same tempo!

We all want to progress quickly and play fast. It appears that the only way to do that is to play slow enough so that we are absolutely sure of every physical movement and can move and play in time.

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Originally Posted by outo
Mils... when one is nervous and stressed it is normal to feel like a idiot on a lesson, at least for me. It happens often that I don't get what my teacher says. We move on and I return to it at home and then I get it. The reason why we are a good fit: She is willing to try another way to demonstrate and explain when I ask. She also always tries to answer any questions I have. She understands that I have learning difficulties even though she cannot exactly understand why my brain works in a strange way. She does not push pieces that I hate. But she is really thorough and strict when it comes to quality. That has it's downside. I am already a perfectionist and when she kepts adding details that should/could be better the pieces will never be ready in my mind. But on the other hand I want to know all that so... She does have a sense of humour so we often just laugh at my difficulties...

We had bad lessons and good lessons in the first year, but as long as the majority weren't bad I felt it was worth to continue. Not that I did not contemplate quitting after the bad ones. After a while it settled when we got to know each other better. If you have only bad lessons I think a new teacher would be better. But be prepared to still have some of the same issues in the beginning, it's just that they should be balanced with some positivity. You need to change some of your ways probably, but the teacher has to be able to create an environment where that is motivated by positivity and trust.


I think that is wonderfully perceptive and thoughtful. +1 thumb

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In my humble opinion it's all a matter of attitude. If one has dreams of becoming a 'great pianist' and 'quickly', one is going to be frustrated for years to come, or give up before the journey has really begun. But, if one enjoys playing piano, does it matter if practice can be frustrating and the end result probably far far below 'great pianist'? Not a bit. Plenty people pursue activities that they're not very good at but enjoy doing. Are they ridiculous and wasting their time? No, they're enjoying themselves, not trying to impress anybody.

I am 65, I have physical issues, I probably 'stink' by anybody's definition. I will never be that good, and I will probably only learn some few pieces well. Should I just quit? I happen to feel a great sense of accomplishment when I can play a piece, however wobbly and slow, and I enjoy the heck out of the sound of my piano. So I don't quit. Whenever I can, I play, because I like it.


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Originally Posted by rocket88
Originally Posted by Mils

I don’t think these pieces should take more than two weeks either. I honestly don’t think it’s all me. If it’s taking that long, then something is missing during the lesson.


Perhaps. But I have another perspective.

I have had quite a few students who, after a few lessons, find themselves in the same predicament.

In each case, the problem was how the student practiced.

In each case, upon careful questioning, I became clear that the student was hitting away at the piece for a up to half hour or more. Over and over and over.

It is as if they thought this is like hitting a nail into a piece of wood...keep banging away until the nail is in.

This is a very natural thing to do when people new to the piano begin practicing the piano, because that is how we accomplish many tasks in life...keep washing the dishes until they are clean.

But learning the piano is not at all like that, so if you hit it and hit it over and over, you won't get where you want to go. Instead, you will overwhelm your brain with dozens and dozens of attempts, including some mistakes, various tempos, etc.

The reality is that the brain remembers all of it, because you get what you practice. Practice 50 or so reps, over and over, of the same piece, with some inevitable mistakes , and the results is no clear and solid memory. So when the stress is increased (playing for the teacher), the whole thing falls apart. There is no solid and clear example upon which the brain can draw from.

I try to tell students who practice like this to stop, and basically do what is counter-intuitive and the opposite of what they are doing, which is:

1. Take a small section and practice it very very slowly no more than 5 times. Go so slow that you cannot make a mistake. (You are practicing the piece, not playing it. Playing comes after you have practiced it correctly to completion.

2. Come back later that day, or tomorrow, and repeat.

3. Do that with the next section, "stitching" them together by starting with the last note or 2 from the first section.

By practicing this way, you are getting a "clean install" of the piece.

Also, start doing this with a very very easy piece.

And, you might have ruined the existing piece by over practicing, so start with another.

For some reason, most of my students cannot grasp this concept. It is so unlike how we accomplish tasks in real life that people just cannot do it.

It took me a long time, and a lot of self-discipline to finally start practicing this way, and the results are great.

This is great advice.

I found that my inclination was (and sometimes still is) to practice a piece so much that I end up memorizing it. Sounds like it could be beneficial, but it does me no favors when I'm actually trying to learn how to read music (in addition to learn to play the piano). Now, I try to practice as rocket88 said and I think it has helped out a lot.

Also, it is very easy as a beginner to listen to a song and say "I want to learn that", and it's good to have a goal. But, sometimes those songs are a bit too complicated for where we are as students. You will get there!

I screw up a lot during lessons, too. I've come to expect it so when I play halfway decently, it's a bonus!

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I've noticed it's a recurring problem with many adult beginners: they don't want to go through the beginner stage, and don't expect to have to go through any baby steps as a beginner. They don't expect to be frustrated (if they are, it's their teachers' fault) and they believe that, because they are adults, everything they need to learn and practice should be engrossing and interesting right from the start.

They need to change their mind set if they really want to learn properly from a teacher. Any teacher.

Or else - to save themselves any aggro - just have fun on the piano, copying stuff from Youtube videos, and forget about teachers or learning properly........


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Originally Posted by Mils
Telling me what a dotted quarter note is, followed by an eight note makes more sense if you also let me hear it in the context of the song. I just started.


I think you may not have landed on the best learning workflow for you. For an adult beginner, learning piano is completely different from learning an academic subject at school, where you are completely reliant on the teacher. With adult beginner piano, 95% of the learning is what you do yourself at home, making your fingers do what they are reluctant to, learning by repetition, figuring out how that particular dotted note works, away from the pressure and scrutiny of someone looking at you.

Try getting the teacher to demonstrate and assign you things to learn at home and come back the next week basically prepared. Spending a lot of the lesson time on starting things from scratch and under scrutiny can be an enormous waste of time. Teachers are incredibly valuable, but they can't get inside your head and make your fingers do stuff. Only you can do that. So use the teacher for what they are valuable for, guiding you, assigning material that is appropriate for your level, critiquing what you're doing wrong, helping you with subtleties that you never even thought of, all the stuff that is more than just "playing the right note at the right time".


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Originally Posted by Jytte
In my humble opinion it's all a matter of attitude. If one has dreams of becoming a 'great pianist' and 'quickly', one is going to be frustrated for years to come, or give up before the journey has really begun. But, if one enjoys playing piano, does it matter if practice can be frustrating and the end result probably far far below 'great pianist'? Not a bit. Plenty people pursue activities that they're not very good at but enjoy doing. Are they ridiculous and wasting their time? No, they're enjoying themselves, not trying to impress anybody.

I am 65, I have physical issues, I probably 'stink' by anybody's definition. I will never be that good, and I will probably only learn some few pieces well. Should I just quit? I happen to feel a great sense of accomplishment when I can play a piece, however wobbly and slow, and I enjoy the heck out of the sound of my piano. So I don't quit. Whenever I can, I play, because I like it.


I think you have the right attitude. Very few people become great pianists. Should the rest of us do nothing and just watch those people play? My teacher is Russian. She came from an environment where regular people did not study piano, or any musical instrument, they only studied if they got into music school. My teacher has fully embraced the American mentality where anybody can study any instrument at any age. Want to start cello at 80? Go for it. She teaches a lot of adults and enjoys it. She teaches people who take piano as an elective course at the university.

If playing the piano gives you pleasure, that’s enough.

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Originally Posted by Mils
Originally Posted by rocket88
Originally Posted by Mils

I don’t think these pieces should take more than two weeks either. I honestly don’t think it’s all me. If it’s taking that long, then something is missing during the lesson.


Perhaps. But I have another perspective.

I have had quite a few students who, after a few lessons, find themselves in the same predicament.

In each case, the problem was how the student practiced.

In each case, upon careful questioning, I became clear that the student was hitting away at the piece for a up to half hour or more. Over and over and over.

It is as if they thought this is like hitting a nail into a piece of wood...keep banging away until the nail is in.

This is a very natural thing to do when people new to the piano begin practicing the piano, because that is how we accomplish many tasks in life...keep washing the dishes until they are clean.

But learning the piano is not at all like that, so if you hit it and hit it over and over, you won't get where you want to go. Instead, you will overwhelm your brain with dozens and dozens of attempts, including some mistakes, various tempos, etc.

The reality is that the brain remembers all of it, because you get what you practice. Practice 50 or so reps, over and over, of the same piece, with some inevitable mistakes , and the results is no clear and solid memory. So when the stress is increased (playing for the teacher), the whole thing falls apart. There is no solid and clear example upon which the brain can draw from.

I try to tell students who practice like this to stop, and basically do what is counter-intuitive and the opposite of what they are doing, which is:

1. Take a small section and practice it very very slowly no more than 5 times. Go so slow that you cannot make a mistake. (You are practicing the piece, not playing it. Playing comes after you have practiced it correctly to completion.

2. Come back later that day, or tomorrow, and repeat.

3. Do that with the next section, "stitching" them together by starting with the last note or 2 from the first section.

By practicing this way, you are getting a "clean install" of the piece.

Also, start doing this with a very very easy piece.

And, you might have ruined the existing piece by over practicing, so start with another.

For some reason, most of my students cannot grasp this concept. It is so unlike how we accomplish tasks in real life that people just cannot do it.

It took me a long time, and a lot of self-discipline to finally start practicing this way, and the results are great.


The problem os that I’m, evidentially, not practicing it correctly anyway but I think I am. Going back the mext time, the teacher obviously isn’t explaining everything that I’m doing wrong and helping me to correct those things, so that I can practice it correctly. I could understand him telling le to focus on these aspects this week and showing me how to do those correctly then focusing on other aspects th e next week but hat isn’t what’s happening. So, I never get to the point of mastering even easy pieces.


Mils,
These are pretty typical issues for new piano students with most any teacher. I would suggest sitting down with your teacher and using lesson time which you’re paying for talk to your teacher about what you want to accomplish by taking lessons. Ask him if you could perhaps switch learning methods and if not could you both agree to include pieces you like occasionally. Also ask him to demonstrate how to play each piece you’re assigned. Let your teacher know your frustrations and difficulties. If you can work it out with your teacher, both of you can work as team so you can learn to play music you enjoy. If you and your teacher can’t work it out, then try another teacher. Discuss your expectations and things you consider obstacles before signing up for lessons.

I’ve had over 10 years of private, group, and university piano course but for every single new piece I learn, I still stink! The best way to learn timing is to learn to count beats and use a metronome.


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Originally Posted by LarryK
My teacher is Russian. She came from an environment where regular people did not study piano, or any musical instrument, they only studied if they got into music school. My teacher has fully embraced the American mentality where anybody can study any instrument at any age.

Yeah, that was the old Soviet mentality. There were a few exceptions. Chess was one of them. Everyone played chess, not only those that got into the special chess sport school.

That said, it's not the current mentality. Lots of people are taking lessons in piano in Russia outside of the music schools, including some PW forum members. There are videos on Youtube of children in Russia with private teachers, so those children can have some music making in their upbringing but can also have a life outside of the 4 hrs/day grind of music school.


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Hey Mils, we'd love to try and help you out. Check out some of our blog posts if you're looking for specific advice on specific aspects of your playing. https://www.pianistmagazine.com/blogs/technique

If you'd like to talk over email, do let me know and I can send you my email address.

All the best,
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by LarryK
My teacher is Russian. She came from an environment where regular people did not study piano, or any musical instrument, they only studied if they got into music school. My teacher has fully embraced the American mentality where anybody can study any instrument at any age.

Yeah, that was the old Soviet mentality. There were a few exceptions. Chess was one of them. Everyone played chess, not only those that got into the special chess sport school.

That said, it's not the current mentality. Lots of people are taking lessons in piano in Russia outside of the music schools, including some PW forum members. There are videos on Youtube of children in Russia with private teachers, so those children can have some music making in their upbringing but can also have a life outside of the 4 hrs/day grind of music school.


It's nice to hear that some things have changed. I went over there with a bunch of goofy American folk/line dancers. All of the Russian dancers we met wore elaborate costumes, had state support, and really knew how to dance! We were a bunch of amateurs. Still, their professional dancers enjoyed dancing with us amateurs. They were amazed that we had 60 and 70 year old people in our group who were still physically able to tour the world. The Soviet system tended to cripple people by that age, due to some combination of poor food, lack of medical care, and too much smoking and drinking, I think. We had a guy in our group who was trying to set up chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous but that was not embraced, as far as I could tell.

You know, the most economic activity is generated by the tail of a distribution. Look at the New York City marathon. Over fifty thousand people run that thing. You can't claim that more than a few hundred are elite or sub-elite runners. So, it is the same with studying an instrument. Amateur pianists buy pianos, sheet music, and support teachers in far greater numbers than the professional players.

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Originally Posted by Mils
The difference is, I play incorrect notes at the lesson that I always play correctly at home. In addition, even I don’t play incorrect notes, the teacher says, well that was okay but there are a lot of things that could be corrected.


This used to be be me. BUT for me it was an attitude thing. I was trying to always be correct in my lesson.

It all changed for me when I read "The perfect wrong note" by William Westney.

Wrong notes are an opportunity to learn. What better place to uncover them in a lesson. That was the attitude change for me that made all the difference.

Just be mindful of what it felt like when an error occurs and your body will learn from your mistakes. Its not easy to be mindful of the now - the temptation is always to be thinking ahead.


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Originally Posted by akc42

It all changed for me when I read "The perfect wrong note" by William Westney.

Wrong notes are an opportunity to learn. What better place to uncover them in a lesson. That was the attitude change for me that made all the difference.
Just be mindful of what it felt like when an error occurs and your body will learn from your mistakes. Its not easy to be mindful of the now - the temptation is always to be thinking ahead.


I just bought this book now, to read on the plane to Australia and to reflect on while I can't be at the piano. Thanks Alan.

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Originally Posted by outo
Mils... when one is nervous and stressed it is normal to feel like a idiot on a lesson, at least for me. It happens often that I don't get what my teacher says. We move on and I return to it at home and then I get it. The reason why we are a good fit: She is willing to try another way to demonstrate and explain when I ask. She also always tries to answer any questions I have.......We had bad lessons and good lessons in the first year, but as long as the majority weren't bad I felt it was worth to continue. Not that I did not contemplate quitting after the bad ones. After a while it settled when we got to know each other better. If you have only bad lessons I think a new teacher would be better. But be prepared to still have some of the same issues in the beginning, it's just that they should be balanced with some positivity. You need to change some of your ways probably, but the teacher has to be able to create an environment where that is motivated by positivity and trust.
Well said. My experience as well.


Originally Posted by Mils
I practice a lot and I think I’m doing well but when I get to the lesson, I screw up AND I find out that I’m not doing anything right! It is immensely frustrating. I don’t see myself ever being able to play anything cleanly or being able to play well at any time before I’m a senior citizen.
Also, I have a VERY hard time adjusting, going from my digital piano to the one at the lesson. I’m sure most of the issue is with me but maybe I should try a different teacher. I’m still going to be bad but maybe with a different teacher, I won’t feel like all of my practicing has been a waste of time....... My timing sucks, my technique sucks and I just can’t seem to do anything right despite how much I practice!

There is so much going on in a lesson, at so many levels. I not only feel like an idiot at some (or all) points during my lesson, I am an idiot. In all other aspects of my adult life, I am not an idiot, but piano is different. My teacher has probably had hundreds of students like me--adults who are nervous coming into the lesson and frustrated at all their mistakes.

Mils, when your teacher (or your next one, if you change teachers) tells you something was done incorrectly, the teacher should follow the steps below. If the teacher won't do this, then get another teacher.
1. Explain to you in words what is correct.
2. Demonstrate it at the piano, slowly enough so you can see and hear what is being done.
3. Have you, the student, immediately repeat it the correct way several times. If you can make a note on your score as a reminder to you, better yet.

It is so easy (speaking from experience here frown ) to listen to the teacher correct something, nod your head in agreement, and then be at a loss when you go home to practice and realize you really didn't "get" what the teacher was trying to get across.


About choosing your own pieces: people are all over the map on this. I let my teacher choose my pieces. I'm paying for her knowledge of the piece, its level, and my needs as a student. Do I 'love' them all? No (though I usually like them better once I can play them better). But the piece has some skill or technique that I need and adds to the sum of my overall ability. I'm good with this. I'm in for the long run.


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Originally Posted by Stubbie
About choosing your own pieces: people are all over the map on this. I let my teacher choose my pieces. I'm paying for her knowledge of the piece, its level, and my needs as a student. Do I 'love' them all? No (though I usually like them better once I can play them better). But the piece has some skill or technique that I need and adds to the sum of my overall ability. I'm good with this. I'm in for the long run.
If a piece is unappealing I think a teacher should be able to find another piece at the same level that fits the needs of the student.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Stubbie
About choosing your own pieces: people are all over the map on this. I let my teacher choose my pieces. I'm paying for her knowledge of the piece, its level, and my needs as a student. Do I 'love' them all? No (though I usually like them better once I can play them better). But the piece has some skill or technique that I need and adds to the sum of my overall ability. I'm good with this. I'm in for the long run.
If a piece is unappealing I think a teacher should be able to find another piece at the same level that fits the needs of the student.

That is actually quite difficult if the beginner despises 'beginner' pieces: one hand playing one note at a time for instance.

After some three months, when the student is able to coordinate his hands and play different notes in each, and use all his fingers properly, there are lots to choose from.

How did he learn English? With a,b,c. Not by reading W & P.

How do you learn to play the piano? With one note at a time.


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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Stubbie
About choosing your own pieces: people are all over the map on this. I let my teacher choose my pieces. I'm paying for her knowledge of the piece, its level, and my needs as a student. Do I 'love' them all? No (though I usually like them better once I can play them better). But the piece has some skill or technique that I need and adds to the sum of my overall ability. I'm good with this. I'm in for the long run.
If a piece is unappealing I think a teacher should be able to find another piece at the same level that fits the needs of the student.
That is actually quite difficult if the beginner despises 'beginner' pieces: one hand playing one note at a time for instance.
I don't know whether the poster whose post I commented on is a complete beginner. My post was a general comment and applies to pianists after a very short amount of time. The OP's teacher doesn't sound like he's interested in letting the OP do much selection at any point in time.

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I'm torn on what to say Mils. As an adult if you don't like the teacher please try another. You have that option even if you have to commit to several lessons.

A little story here. My daughter is in AP English. She is extreme introvert and barely participates in the talking part of class. She gets really bad grades from the teacher in this part. She still is pulling an A at the moment. The teacher won't budge because he believes his way is right and for 90% of students he is probably right. My wife and I told our daughter she is stuck with this teacher so make the best of the situation and try to speak up a little bit. Teacher at parent/teacher conference even told us and my daughter she has to speak up. English is more then writing. Teacher praised my daughters writing too that she writes really well.

My point in story is you as an adult have control if you don't click with the teacher you can go try another one or two. My only advice is that piano for the first year is really follow the leader/teacher. I do have to agree with you Mils that he needs to talk to you as an adult not a child. If he can't do that please try another teacher.

Hope you find one that clicks and you stay with the piano. Once you have several years under your belt there is tons of music to enjoy playing. I usually lose track of time playing at night. After a bad day of work Piano is what settles me down. Don't give up!

my 2 cents. Please take care of them I don't have to many left smile


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Originally Posted by Mils
I’ve had 4 or 5 lessons. Maybe that’s not a lot but you know when something just isn’t your thing and piano, clearly is not mine.


You cannot judge by such a short amount of time whether piano is going to be your thing or not. While I found the first year quite hard, the point really is do you find any enjoyment out of it.

Originally Posted by Mils
I practice a lot and I think I’m doing well but when I get to the lesson, I screw up AND I find out that I’m not doing anything right! It is immensely frustrating. I don’t see myself ever being able to play anything cleanly or being able to play well at any time before I’m a senior citizen.


It takes a long time to get comfortable with a teacher, to stop trying to perform, and to play naturally. What you describe seems perfectly normal.

Originally Posted by Mils
Also, I have a VERY hard time adjusting, going from my digital piano to the one at the lesson.


I suffered from this and even changed a teacher in part because she had a horrible piano. However with experience and practicing on other pianos you will get over this.


Originally Posted by Mils
I’m sure most of the issue is with me but maybe I should try a different teacher. I’m still going to be bad but maybe with a different teacher, I won’t feel like all of my practicing has been a waste of time.


Reading how dissatisfied you are with the teacher, there is little option but to change. However don't expect miracles with a new teacher. As others have said, the teacher is really just a guide, it is the student who does all the work.


Originally Posted by Mils
I HATE the books we’re using. My teacher wants me to finish this horrible Alfreds ir switch to a Faber with songs that are just as bad until my technique is good enough to start a classical method book.


Well we all have had to start somewhere, but the material is inconsequential. The only important thing is picking up what the pieces are trying to teach.



Originally Posted by Mils
My timing sucks, my technique sucks and I just can’t seem to do anything right despite how much I practice!


Improvement in piano is not measured in days or weeks. Personally I like to take stock once every year (at my piano anniversary). Being overly self critical as you are here is only useful if you use it as a motivator to review and improve your practice methods. However don't expect anything to improve quickly.


Surprisingly easy, barely an inconvenience.

Kawai K8 & Kawai Novus NV10


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