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How do you deal with burnout of pieces assigned by your teacher?

For example, we did Minuet in G, Minuet in Gm, Musette in D (in progress), Polonaise in Gm (coming up).

After working on Minuet in G for so long until we had it polished and memorized, we finally dropped it, by my request. Now I feel like the pieces she assigns to me are just no fun and I can only spend about 10-15 min on them a day. I know the pieces offer a lot and I do like them but I wonder if the burnout is from staying in this style for so long? Any suggestions? I have mentioned I feel burnout on the pieces and she says it's ok but just keep at it at my pace.

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You could tell your teacher you want to change pieces/style and then you could pick the pieces/styles.


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It's difficult to know how to answer this without more detail. You took "so long" perfecting and memorising Minuet in G - but how long did you spend on it and what else did you do during that time?

Are you spending 10-15 minutes a day over all your pieces or 10-15 minutes a day on each piece? For the level you are at, the AMBN, 10-15 minutes on one piece each day is reasonable if the other pieces you are doing are easier and use less time. How many other pieces are you working on and what level are they?

What other things are you doing at the piano each day and how much time is that taking?
_________________________________

I never dealt with burnout at the piano. If I spent so much time on a piece that I started to lose interest on it I'd move onto something more appealing until the desire came back.

I only worked on small sections of my main piece at a time and I mainly presented my teacher with the passages I needed help on. There wasn't much time spent on the bits I could play until I was running sections together and had to consider how each section fitted in to the architecture of the whole piece. Not really how you'd tackle a piece at the Notebook level.


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Has your teacher assigned only Baroque pieces to study? If you strongly dislike music from this period you could ask her to assign music from a different period. How long have you been studying piano?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 07/18/20 05:16 PM.
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The pieces: Minuet in G, Minuet in Gm, Musette in D & Polonaise in Gm came from the Notebook from Anna M Bach. These are pieces originally from other composers copied into the Notebook by hand and performed on a harpsichord / clavichord. And the original of the 4 pieces would have staccatos or slurs. These were added as phrasing for piano to simulate the phrasing of an early keyboard instrument not having sustained notes.

They are considered standard learning pieces and many students would be asked to learn them before moving onto more difficult pieces. I have more than a decade of playing piano so learning any 1 of the 4 pieces would take me no more than a week. These are pieces that I can read through easily.

What we want to accomplish with these pieces:
1. Consistency. Pieces with many repeats if we can do something once, we can do it again without errors.
2. Specific techniques like slurs & staccatos.
3. Hands playing at sync. A piece like the Musette in D there are sections 2 hands play exactly the same notes an octave apart.
4. Big jumps. The Musette in D has a few big jumps.
5. Counting or playing to a steady beat.

I'm in adult group class. The last pieces I worked on came from a Jazz book for easy piano. We did "Georgia", "Summertime" & "Stormy Weather". The pieces do have ties & slurs, dynamics, sections with staccatos, big jumps and repeats. I don't have to think about repeating a section except in a performance. I'd be repeating when learning the notes anyway. When it comes to repertoire, there are more choices than just the few pieces out of the Notebook. You can learn to play with 2 hands at sync., big jumps, staccato, slurs, etc. without getting into the standard pieces students are expected to play. A good compromise would be to ask the teacher to use other books with interesting songs and introduce the pieces from the Notebook 1 at a time in between so that the repertoire wouldn't be boring.

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Originally Posted by Sebs
the pieces offer a lot and I do like them but I wonder if the burnout is from staying in this style for so long? Any suggestions? I have mentioned I feel burnout on the pieces and she says it's ok but just keep at it at my pace.
I suggest you get this book and show it to your teacher, and ask if you can learn other pieces (in styles other than Baroque) from it:

https://www.amazon.com/Easy-Classics-Moderns-Music-Millions/dp/0825640172

Incidentally, all the pieces you mentioned are also in it, but the book also contains 140 other short pieces by many other composers, including Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Bartók et al, which are all worth learning.


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Originally Posted by zrtf90
It's difficult to know how to answer this without more detail. You took "so long" perfecting and memorising Minuet in G - but how long did you spend on it and what else did you do during that time?

Are you spending 10-15 minutes a day over all your pieces or 10-15 minutes a day on each piece? For the level you are at, the AMBN, 10-15 minutes on one piece each day is reasonable if the other pieces you are doing are easier and use less time. How many other pieces are you working on and what level are they?

What other things are you doing at the piano each day and how much time is that taking?
_________________________________

I never dealt with burnout at the piano. If I spent so much time on a piece that I started to lose interest on it I'd move onto something more appealing until the desire came back.

I only worked on small sections of my main piece at a time and I mainly presented my teacher with the passages I needed help on. There wasn't much time spent on the bits I could play until I was running sections together and had to consider how each section fitted in to the architecture of the whole piece. Not really how you'd tackle a piece at the Notebook level.

We are also doing technique and Czerny etudes. This is a rough breakdown daily routine.

10-15min on a minuet thats near polishing/polishing
10-15min on a minuet thats new/learning notes etc
20-30min technique/etudes
20-30min sight reading (just started this routine on my own and never did it before and really love this)
10-15min my own music. Usually playing something at/below my level that I can play through after few tries.

I spend a good amount of time studying at and away from piano and really enjoy it.

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Has your teacher assigned only Baroque pieces to study? If you strongly dislike music from this period you could ask her to assign music from a different period. How long have you been studying piano?

Yes, we also worked through a method a book for while too. I like the baroque music and was pleased we spent so much time on the first Minuet as it taught me what a true polished piece feels like. But I think working on piece after piece in this era is why I'm a little burned out. In 2015 I played about a year (off/on) only with Piano Marvel and just repetition(ie hurry up get 100% move on, not real true learning). I started back up little over a year ago, and now with lessons about 9 months ago. I'd say the as each month passes I notice I play and study more, I play almost every day, I put in a lot of time and effort and I am happy with the results.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Sebs
the pieces offer a lot and I do like them but I wonder if the burnout is from staying in this style for so long? Any suggestions? I have mentioned I feel burnout on the pieces and she says it's ok but just keep at it at my pace.
I suggest you get this book and show it to your teacher, and ask if you can learn other pieces (in styles other than Baroque) from it:

https://www.amazon.com/Easy-Classics-Moderns-Music-Millions/dp/0825640172

Incidentally, all the pieces you mentioned are also in it, but the book also contains 140 other short pieces by many other composers, including Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Bartók et al, which are all worth learning.


Thanks! I assume you can get just as much value from these other pieces? Such as, baroque isn't the only "gold" standard to help develop a student? Do you have any in particular from this book you suggest?

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You can chose any period of music Sebs. The book suggestion above has a mixture of styles so is a good option. Many people play only modern music and others play gaming music so its include pieces with your interest. Many people give up piano so its important to have a variety. It is best to have a mixture of styles and not just one style.

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Originally Posted by Sebs
Originally Posted by bennevis
https://www.amazon.com/Easy-Classics-Moderns-Music-Millions/dp/0825640172


Thanks! I assume you can get just as much value from these other pieces? Such as, baroque isn't the only "gold" standard to help develop a student? Do you have any in particular from this book you suggest?
Most certainly, you don't need to play only Baroque.

As my favorite composer is Mozart, I can recommend all the Mozart pieces in it, e.g. the Allegro in B flat, K3 (on page 29) or the Rondo in C (page 40). Schumann's 'Melody' and 'The Wild Horseman' (pages 88 & 89 respectively) are also very appealing, and again, in a very different style from what you're currently learning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svlbr9V1M-g
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNS_n25JQkg


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As an adult learner I think the most painful thing for me is to learn / practice pieces that I do not like. Even a mere week of it feels like an eternity for me. Thankfully, I select a piece from what my teacher provides me each week. This provides some additional motivation for me to learn it. I am also doing a duet with my teacher to add more variety.

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Burn out has not happened to me so I'm not sure.. Does you teacher tell you exactly what she wants you to work on for each piece? If she doesn't move on, probably there is something that needs work. I am playing some easy Bach these days and I can easily spend 15 minutes just on one measure. The objective is specific.

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Check out Burgmuller op 100, Heller 50 selected studies, Schumann Album for the Young. Gurlitt op 82 no 65, Ellmenreich Spinning Song.

Here's a sortable list on IMSLP of graded piano works.

IMSLP Intermediate Piano Rep

There's a lot of good material in there, but you might have to wade through some junky stuff. I'm sure you'll be able to find some recordings of this stuff on Youtube. Honestly, this sort of research is the kind of thing your teacher should be doing or already know. You pay for your teacher's time during the lesson, but also his/her expertise and knowledge. Good luck. Hope you find some stuff you like!

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Originally Posted by wszxbcl
Burn out has not happened to me so I'm not sure.. Does you teacher tell you exactly what she wants you to work on for each piece? If she doesn't move on, probably there is something that needs work. I am playing some easy Bach these days and I can easily spend 15 minutes just on one measure. The objective is specific.

I typically also work on small chunks as well. No she doesnt give me an exact routine of what to work on. I typically just plug away as I see fit depending on time I spend on it.

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Hmm... I suggest you ask specifically what she wants you to improve on. Not so much a routine but specific critique. For example, a certain part needs to be more even, another part softer etc. (I need to write down what my teacher says to work on, specific tasks, which measure, or else I forget.) When you can hear your improvement on the items on your to do list, then you don't get bored.

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Originally Posted by Sebs
How do you deal with burnout of pieces assigned by your teacher?

I would say I struggled with piano lessons as a kid. I never really loved the pieces, though, strangely given the context of this thread, I kinda liked Bach.

I played a couple simplified ragtime pieces early on and loved them and did damn well on them.

But I was pretty clueless and did not get the hint. But I was stubborn and kept slogging away at various pieces that are in fact very nice but which I really do not have a connection with.

And, in my late 20s I sort of found ragtime again and found that I really enjoyed playing it. And ommphty years later I took it pretty serious and refined my technique some.

I think kids who like the piano can put up with a lot of "play this" without an explanation. I think as adult amateurs it is harder because you have to find something that hooks into your brain some.

The classical tradition has many pieces that cater to people starting the piano because (IMO) it was a primary leisure activity that everyone needed some access to. We have many diversions today, to the detriment of instrumental skills. If you want to cultivate instrumental skills and you are just not grooving on what you are working on, I think you need to insist that your teacher think about how to mix things up a bit.

Their job is not only to try to give you a good foundation but to help you find the music that makes you want to make music.


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Look around for a teacher with big ears, maybe.
That you can suggest what you want to be able to do.
Then a good schedule in dialog with you how to get there.
- this piece will improve this and that in your playing
- these exercises will quicken to master this and that

This kind of thing, rather than doing the same material they know well and pupils don't like that much.

I'm still looking....


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This turned out longer than expected...lazy Sunday morning.

Your daily routine is 60-90 minutes before you get to your own music. At the level of the pieces you're learning I wouldn't expect you to need more than forty minutes a day at the piano. For the time you're putting in I'd expect you you to be around ABRSM 4-5 or RCM 5-6 and working on pieces from the four main areas, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern.

You still didn't say how long you took over the Minuet in G. The piece has four lines (musical, not printed lines) and ornamentation that shouldn't be needed until the piece is being played well with good facility. That should be about a week on each line (eight measures). If you're memorising it as a main repertoire piece you might spend five minutes on each 4 bar phrase individually, no more than ten minutes on the piece each day.

There isn't a gold standard. You need to spend up to a quarter of your time on technique; independence of hands and fingers, playing without excess tension, five-finger exercises, trills, double notes, broken, arpeggiated and solid chords, etc.

Your repertoire should take up the bulk of your time and cover the four main eras. One piece from each period, three a day, with one piece taking a day off every four days might be very workable, especially if you're memorising material and need more assimilation time.

If the Czerny is prescriptive I'd look for more musical material, if it's corrective then use it instead of regular technical work until the problem is fixed. Czerny is musical but it's very repetitive and covers a very narrow time period; far too narrow to offer musical inspiration or to broaden your harmonic vocabulary. His exercises served a purpose - satisfying the voracious appetite of his pupil, Liszt. There are better and more efficient ways of growing today, both musically and technically. One or two exercises in lieu of classical material while you're still finding your musical feet, maybe, but no more. Our time at the piano is precious and you don't want to be a mechanicus.

Of course, if you're going for RCM exams where the etude is stressed as much as real music then this is a burden you have to bear.

We use Baroque material because it's polyphonic and it helps us to develop a stronger brain - essential for controlling hands and fingers independently. Bach is the foundation of all modern fingering technique and Scarlatti develops a wider keyboard proficiency; most of his sonatas were written to address a specific technical issue. The rest of the pre-classical music is relatively trivial. The AMBN is not Bach. At best it's an appetiser for elementary Bach.

The Classical period is the beginning of music specifically written for the piano. The greater sustain of the piano over earlier instruments introduces more rhythmic variety than the reams of semiquavers that dominated the Baroque and with continued harmonic expansion as the pieces get longer without losing the listener's interest. It tests our handling of musical structure and interpretation.

The Romantic period returns to shorter but more varied musical forms and increases the rhythmic and harmonic vocabulary. It is this period where the modern instrument was developed, capable of much more cantabile material, and technique was developed to its highest point under the hands of Liszt, Chopin and Brahms.

The Modern era developed beyond the tonal system with ever more chromatic harmony and atonality with still more diverse musical forms and ideas.

The suggested book, Easy Classics to Moderns, is an excellent introduction to the variety of music that makes up our world but modern printings are a pain to keep flat. Smaller editions of individual composers, such as those suggested by DanS, might be more practical.


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Interesting topic to get into. In my younger days everybody in the family relied on our music teachers to pick the repertoire since I come from a non-musical family. None of us would walk into a store and pick pieces to play for interest. We felt that we were not at a high enough level to decide what is appropriate.

A while ago a friend of the family brought her 2 sons who were in Suzuki piano & violin to perform "Minuet in G" in our living room as a duet with a portable keyboard and a violin. Although the playing was flawless, there was nothing personal about the piece which they didn't choose. The Suzuki teachers didn't decide the pieces students should play either. The Books were compiled based on the decision of music scholars at the Suzuki Association. A few decades ago most if not all Suzuki teachers trained to teach acc. to the Suzuki formula would be working through Suzuki Books 1 at a time without introducing other pieces just for fun.

In my younger days I listened to music regularly and had a small CD collection. Playing the pieces I heard was the last thing on my mind. Today I spend more time looking for music that are playable at my level. Playing a piece I've learned recently on a public piano or someone else's piano is very personal. As an adult learner I have a teacher but I also spend a lot of time learning pieces on my own. Today I'd pick out sheet music from a store or download pieces like "What a Wonderful World", "Moon River", etc.

In the beginning we need to learn to read music and some basic techniques. After that students should explore the different styles of music and vast amount of repertoire already available. Many of us had bad experiences with music lessons from the past. We dreaded the day of the week when we were scheduled to meet the teacher. Today an hour of learning would go by quickly and the rest of the week I'd spend hours practicing and perfecting my pieces because they are enjoyable to listen to and fun to play. The idea of "learning through play" has been around for a while. The learning process should not be like an academic exercise. The music we play and the learning process (through experimentation) can be enjoyable.

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@zrtf90 Thanks for the reply. I'm not sure exact time spent on Minuet in G. This was before logging minutes. I would say I spent 5 weeks on it with an average of 10min day at 4 days a week as I didn't play it every day. I ended up building out a nice minute tracker as it motivates me to see month over month, etc. Here is my current month(July) breakdown.

JULY:
635min on Songs
435min on Technique
235min on Sight Reading
330min on Lesson

An example would be Minuet in Gm, I actually started 8 weeks back but total hours worked on it is 9 so thats about an avg. of 9min a day. Probably needs another hour or two to polish up. So while I spend weeks and weeks actual total time spent I'm happy with and I'm not worried about the time spent. I just wonder if there are pieces that offer same value that I would want to spent 30min a day on, etc. I'm definitely more concerned with long term goals and improving so if it's best to just stick it out with pieces that are not so exciting for an adult learner I am happy to. The reason I started playing other pieces at/below my level is just to also see more patterns, notes, etc.

Another question would be should I work to allocate more minutes a day to these pieces assigned in order to spend say only a couple weeks on them?

Last edited by Sebs; 07/19/20 11:08 AM.
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