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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by zonzi
This question is based on too many underlying implicit hypothesis, especially the student model is too generic. This is the same thing to ask how do you proceed for a first time with an exotic fruit. for me write a book of 100 pages maybe not enough to answer correctly.

I don't think so. I was considering this:
Originally Posted by Candywoman
You can improve your students but generally you know from the first lesson what you have to work with.
If you've been teaching students for umpteen years, you will have some kind of routine for a first lesson: things you do, and things you check for. You will notice general patterns. This does not need a 100 page thesis. If someone knows from the first lesson, then there must be some kinds of traits.

I also asked because I'm a bit skeptical. A child may be shy. Or immature for their age which might mean that later on they would do fine and it's not a lack of potential ability to learn to play music.

If the student had lessons before but was taught badly, then you may be seeing the damage. Or conversely: teachers have reported having a new student who played brilliantly, but it turned out they couldn't read a single note - a few pieces had been fed, to perfection, and skills for independent learning were not there. Those first impressions were false. Though there are teachers who have a checklist of things they check for. Which again goes to my question.

If you can tell from the first lesson, how is that you can tell?
I identify myself as one of those students who was scarred by an early experience with an incompetent teacher. Thinking back that teacher might have been a nobody without a teaching degree who was only able to get a job at an organ shop at a mall on Long Island. I took lessons from age 5-9 or possibly 10 and had a wonderful teacher whose primary goal looking back was to teach me the rudimentary of playing the keyboard and music in general. I was very good at playing by ear and could copy the style and rhythm of my teacher by ear only and was able to read music and transcribe music I heard on the radio though I relied too much on my ear rather than counting. When that teacher retired (who happened to be Liberace’s first cousin and looked just like him but with a wig) the second teacher came into the picture and he had a terrible attitude for children scratching his head, huffing when a stray note was missed, explaining things in too complex terms for a 9 or 10 years old that I just stopped my lessons then and there- and I loved playing the organ. I always received accolades from my first teacher of how talented I was and after that experience with the second teacher I was certain that there was no truth to that.

So I continued my enjoyment of the organ on my own and when my parents purchased a piano I was struck by its incredible degree of expression when compared to the organ that at 12 years of age I set out to learn the piano on my own and so I did until my early twenties. People wonder why some people become self learners- well there you go. I wish I had not gone this way because I wonder how far I would be now if I had proper instruction. It was not until a grad student heard me playing in a group piano class in college told me I had a talent and then she made it a point to set me on the right path eventually enrolling into a good conservatory “adult” class and from there on I’ve been fortunate to always find qualified teachers. Music not being my career path it took a twenty year hiatus until I started taking lessons a couple of years ago all in all having probably 6 years worth of piano instruction.

My time to practice at the piano is still very limited these days but I make due with what time I do have. I believe I am a person who has a pretty good facility for the piano most of my teachers remark that they don’t know how I was able to get as far as I have with so little teaching and some of it I think is just sheer will or maybe it was just coming across that thoughtful graduate student who had a positive attitude. I have a lot to thank her for.

I’m not kidding myself in thinking I would have had a career in music because I do know my limits and I have witnessed great talent but maybe at the very least I could have been one of the ops favored students if she came upon me in my youth and gave me a chance, but perhaps such as the train wreck teacher I met she wouldn’t have. I think it is the duty of all piano teachers to give their all to all their students not just the “talented” ones or they really shouldn’t be in the business of teaching music. I’m now in the medical field with my own business and I don’t treat my patients differently just because some are in better shape than others or show more potential. That would be unethical and irresponsible. I would like to think that most people approach their careers that way.


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Some people have the talent and the potential for music but not able to get a good teacher. Others have very little inclination even after a few years with a teacher.

In my younger days a cousin tried to teach me a song out of a beginner's book. Just reading a page with repeated 3-note chords was difficult enough that I wouldn't touch a piano for 3 decades. The first 10 minutes of a lesson may be too soon to tell if an absolute beginner with no background and doesn't come from a musical family has the potential to advance. Let a student try piano for a month. Some who have the inclination would be picking up at least half of what is being taught in the first lesson.

In 1 case the father took piano lessons as a child but hated it. He is highly intelligent and passed a few exams but haven't touch the instrument for years. He got his kids into piano. After a year they were still reading notes like a foreign language. A year is probably too long to make the decision to quit. Not sure at the time what their teacher (assuming the kids have the same teacher) felt about the kids prospects moving to an intermediate level? Did he/she continued to teach because the parents were able and willing to pay?

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Jethro,
I totally agree with your professional ethic and understand your unrelenting passion over piano. I took lessons as a child but was of mediocre talent and I knew it. In my little sleepy Japanese town 50 some years ago, we only had two piano teachers, an old & almost blind one and another a fresh graduate from a conservatory in Tokyo. They both taught at the same Yamaha music store. The young teacher was very pretty and wonderful with the piano. Since all the kids wanted her lesson, they put only the talented one for her. My brother was chosen for the young one and I got the old one. The difference between the students of the two teachers were stark. Little music makers vs bangers. Even the books they used were different. There were duets etc etc. The old lady did not seem so interested in teaching either. I don’t know how many times I cried. I wound up quitting the piano after 7 years but could not quit piano. Like you, I took up different occupation and after 20 plus years of hiatus came back to the piano. I definitely don’t have talent. But I don’t care. I love music and enjoy seeing the unfolding beauty under my clumsy hands. I also enjoy hearing more things when I listen to the music. Like hearing an carefully woven melody hidden underneath. So teachers, please teach everyone with care as you do always I’m sure. My talented brother quit years ago. I’m still banging.

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Originally Posted by Jethro
I think it is the duty of all piano teachers to give their all to all their students not just the “talented” ones or they really shouldn’t be in the business of teaching music. I’m now in the medical field with my own business and I don’t treat my patients differently just because some are in better shape than others or show more potential. That would be unethical and irresponsible. I would like to think that most people approach their careers that way.

Bravo, Jethro!! I'm glad someone finally said this.

(Just checked back into Piano World forums after years of being away and almost forgetting about this site. It was a nice surprise to see some of the same names I remember from years ago still here!)

As an elementary teacher and erstwhile piano teacher, I was appalled to see this attitude on this forum that I seem to remember as a positive, cheerful place.

It's precisely because I refuse to mentally or verbally label any student as a "troublemaker" or "hopeless" (or in this case, a "doorknob"), that I have seen dramatic (and permanent!) turnarounds in behavior in students written off as permanently difficult for years, even as a substitute of just a day or two in their class.

Believe me, the children know how you feel about them, and most live up to those labels. I know I did, even though I was a "good student." I learned piano pieces I'd thought were too hard for me, just because my teacher thought I could, which expanded my thinking.

I'm not saying you'll turn an average or below-average piano student into a genius, but I am saying you can help that person realize his/her personal full potential and obtain the physical, mental, and emotional benefits and joys of discovering the piano. Isn't that what we're there for? Or are we there to get self-satisfaction from turning out geniuses?

I've been learning and am still need to learn on of my hardest lessons as a teacher--being humble. If something's not working, that's not to say it's all my fault, I always need to change myself first in some way (my communication, attitude towards the student, joy in teaching, etc.), then I see a positive change around me. Hasn't failed me yet!

Let's be the kind of teacher we would want to have, genius student or not.


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I don't think you read the whole post. The dedication of teachers is not in question, certainly not my dedication.

Some piano teachers are there to help students attain some benefits and joys of discovering the piano, but some teachers may ask themselves, "Would I like to have more students actually "play" the piano rather than work the keys, or actually pursue a career in music, or demonstrate a command of the instrument?" There is no harm in asking the question on a forum. It's not unfriendly.

Children do not know what you think about them. You can be really kind and patient with them but they don't know your thoughts. They can't read your mind. For instance, I have one student with lots of potential whose sister is doing very well. He himself could be great at the piano, and produced more early on, but doesn't practice enough or at all really. My thoughts are that the money should go towards doubling the sister's lesson time and letting the boy pursue other interests. These are not thoughts that end the relationship.

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Originally Posted by Candywoman
If my piano studio was compared to flight instruction, I'd say very few ever get off the ground, despite my best efforts at teaching. It's like they're stuck in ground school. If they do take off, there is no safe landing and no fuel to continue.

Back to flight instruction for a thought. Consider the popularity of flight simulation video games. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Flight_simulation_video_games


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Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by Candywoman
If my piano studio was compared to flight instruction, I'd say very few ever get off the ground, despite my best efforts at teaching. It's like they're stuck in ground school. If they do take off, there is no safe landing and no fuel to continue.

Back to flight instruction for a thought. Consider the popularity of flight simulation video games. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Flight_simulation_video_games

One major difference is gamers are forced to play at tempo - might be a slow tempo in a beginner level, but always at some tempo.


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I was just thinking that most of the people who play flight simulator video games have fun and never expect to get off the ground. Or more likely they never expect to land a plane safely.


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The title has intrigued me ever since this thread got started. Without considering anything that has been written, and going only by the title:

If piano (or music) teaching were compared to flight instruction

Flight instruction has as its purpose to teach someone to fly, and that person will end up in an airplane. In fact, the hapless instructor will be up in the plane with him, risking life and limb. wink (Though he will have his own controls, and can take over at any time.) I think that once they're up in the air, at first the instructor has most of the controls, and only gradually relinquishes them to the student pilot.

Practice will only be in the presence of the instructor, since you can't fly a pretend plane at home. Though I suppose that study of theory will be at home: and if you don't know what you need to know, you won't get to go further - like into the sky (guessing). But most learning would be a physically there thing.

What about music instruction? It can be toward passing exams, getting through method books, getting through method books faster than the neighbours' kids, following rules whether or not they work because them's the rules, going after parents' wishes whether or not implausible and whether or not the child wants to even be there. Like, there can be a mess of stuff out there. "Get the skills so that when you're in the sky you won't crash and kill both of us." seems a much simpler proposition.

As an aside - going beyond kids I find it preposterous to be suggesting to novice adults students to be sure to tell their teachers that they are there to get the skills for playing the piano. But going by my and a few other people's experiences, it does seem to be prudent.

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Why should an adult student tell their piano teacher they want to develop skills?
Because not all adults do. Some just want to learn selected sheet music, even if it is measure by measure rote learning.

Why make your new teacher guess which type of adult student you are? Teachers have a history with both types.


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Not all adult students will know that they have to specify that they want to learn skills. Piano teachers have experience with many students, whereas many students have no experience with teachers and have no idea what to expect or what to tell them. Sure, the student who just wants to learn a few pieces will carry those into the lesson and present them as goals. So if I were a teacher (I'm not), unless a student asked to learn particular pieces, I'd assume they were after skills. I'd ask, too. Teachers have a history with both types of students. They don't have to guess. Just ask.


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Communication is good but it has limits. I prefer to assess what is needed and fill in the gaps. Students come to a professional to sort them out.

To be honest, conversations with adult students are very tiresome for me. They say things like, " I want to take off the summer, I will be away on the long weekend, and with work and all, I barely have time to practice. By the way, I want to do an exam, but I want to enjoy the journey. I don't want to perform. I'm going to need to do ear-training and technique. I have arthritis. Do you teach every second week?"

I just let them talk. Then the next week, they say the same things all over again. Produce something please, anything.

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Originally Posted by Candywoman
Communication is good but it has limits. I prefer to assess what is needed and fill in the gaps. Students come to a professional to sort them out.

To be honest, conversations with adult students are very tiresome for me. They say things like, " I want to take off the summer, I will be away on the long weekend, and with work and all, I barely have time to practice. By the way, I want to do an exam, but I want to enjoy the journey. I don't want to perform. I'm going to need to do ear-training and technique. I have arthritis. Do you teach every second week?"

I just let them talk. Then the next week, they say the same things all over again. Produce something please, anything.

Basically from this and your other postings you only want a subset of piano students out there, basically the ones that are focused, dedicated and have the skills to become performance level pianist. That's fine, you see that in sports where some private coaches will only work with athletes that are trying to make the high school team or college team or go pro. Nothing wrong with that but for the most part they let it be known up front what they expect from their prospective students and discourage others from even applying. As one such person told me regarding hockey if a middle school kid wasn't aiming for the high school team why play? (This person didn't think house programs were worthy) Once again fine, they were very upfront about it.

You appear to want it both ways. You really want the "cream" as you put it but will take on other students as well then complain about having to teach them. If you don't like adult students don't take them on. If you don't like casual students then don't take them on. If on the other hand you need the business then try to make it work and stop complaining about it.


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Originally Posted by Candywoman
Communication is good but it has limits. I prefer to assess what is needed and fill in the gaps. Students come to a professional to sort them out.

To be honest, conversations with adult students are very tiresome for me. They say things like, " I want to take off the summer, I will be away on the long weekend, and with work and all, I barely have time to practice. By the way, I want to do an exam, but I want to enjoy the journey. I don't want to perform. I'm going to need to do ear-training and technique. I have arthritis. Do you teach every second week?"

I just let them talk. Then the next week, they say the same things all over again. Produce something please, anything.

Don't take on any students over the age of 13. Problem solved.


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Point taken. I don't have the means to refuse any students.

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Originally Posted by Candywoman
Communication is good but it has limits. I prefer to assess what is needed and fill in the gaps. Students come to a professional to sort them out.

To be honest, conversations with adult students are very tiresome for me.
If you aim to teach students how to play music on the piano, and assess what abilities they do and don't have so that you know where to start, then there is no need for a conversation. Since that's what I would be there for.

Unfortunately not all teachers start with the premise that they'll be teaching skills to their students, esp. older ones. That's why I discovered that this better be cleared up from the start. That's the conversation.

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Originally Posted by Stubbie
Not all adult students will know that they have to specify that they want to learn skills. .
In all honesty, we shouldn't have to. It should be the default. Well even if a student wants to "learn a few songs", how do you play anything without skills. Point being that a piano teacher teaches piano, and when you take piano lessons you should assume that this is what you will be taught. You are engaging an expert who has all the ins and outs: knows everything that is involved, therefore what the student needs.

I just simply assumed that this is what I'd be given when I had my first instrument lessons. Practising as you are told, when it is toward the wrong goals, can be akin to being given a shovel to dig yourself into a hole. aka "transfer wreck in the making".

That said, I wrote to the "flight instruction" idea originally, and only this one stray thought got pulled out of it. Any thoughts by anyone on the actual flight instruction topic that I took up?

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The best skill training for "learn a few songs" today is probably still Pavlov's method (or variants). The Sgt. gunnery Hartman in Full metal Jacket is one of the best executors of this method.
I think it is easy to find a retired marine, ask him to make sure the student is following the software's instructions and he will be happy to receive 25USD/hour. The skill for "learn a few songs" could be learned in very short time.

In this case, it doesn't make sense to hire a piano teacher by paying 40USD/Hour.


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For flight instruction, the school or the instructor is explicit about what will be taught and what the result will be. Is it customary for piano teachers to provide explicit explanation of their goals, expectations, and outcomes for each student?


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Originally Posted by malkin
For flight instruction, the school or the instructor is explicit about what will be taught and what the result will be. Is it customary for piano teachers to provide explicit explanation of their goals, expectations, and outcomes for each student?
Today ABRSM, RCM etc exams are very popular, which indicates many people are learning piano with a clear goal and quality expectation.
This was very unusual in the past...


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