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How much time do you put into teacher assigned work versus your own adventures?

For example, if you practice 1 hour a day would 45 min be teacher assigned work and 15 min your own items?

Or do you only do what your teacher assigns?

I often wonder if it's best to only work on what the teacher assigns and wait to add your own items until you're at a certain level. Curious what others think about this.

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I never counted what I chose to play on my own - whether it's playing (mangling) pop tunes by ear, sight-reading stuff, having fun improvising with friends (or without them) or having a go at attempting something of which I can barely play the first measure - as 'practice time'. They were done after finishing my practicing, as relaxation....instead of kicking a ball around like other more sensible kids.

As far as I was concerned, it was just 'fun time', like one would read a comic after finishing Macbeth.

Incidentally, I was trying to play by ear from day 0 (the day when the piano arrived, not the day of my first lesson, which was day 1), but of course doing the other stuff had to wait until I had the skills to do so.


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I'd say I'm roughly 60/40 "lesson work" vs. "fun time," but the stuff I'm doing for lessons always takes priority. Sometimes the "fun time" pieces eventually get converted to "lesson work" once I decide I really like them and/or need assistance. Other times it's just sight-reading for fun or playing 'junk food' music that I wouldn't mention to my teacher.

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Entirely up to each person I suppose. Everyday can be different as well. Say your teacher assigned you 2-3 songs and you're playing one for fun, maybe the first few days most of the time is spent on the teacher assignments, then you get a bit comfortable with them and throw extra time at your fun time.

Fortunately, my teacher likes giving course work and allowing me to pick a song I want to work on. Generally I pick it and after working it for a week my teacher helps fill in fingerings and maybe change notes here and there. Generally these songs are much harder than what she's assigned me so it gets played a few weeks in a row. We didn't start doing this till about 2 months into lessons though.

You can always tell your teacher you're interested or already playing another song for fun and ask for help on it or about incorporating a fun song just for you each week.

Last edited by Emily2Lame; 03/01/21 11:34 PM.
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I typically try to get through all my teacher assignments first and then if I have time - work on some of the books or pieces I'm doing on my own.

And it's nothing official or anything-but I find that on Sundays, I only play what I want to play. Those songs are usually the 6-8 songs I've finished in class but am still working to polish. My goal is to have a 30 minute repertoire to play at a local nursing home so I try to keep about 6 songs ready to play in anticipation of that goal.

Like Emily2Lame, my teacher is great with selecting the songs I work on....when I'm ready for a new song - I have the choice of selecting one I want to play or having her select one. I typically go back and forth. She has me playing one now that I never thought I'd be able to play - but surprisingly, I'm (slowly) getting it.

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From reading this, I seem to do this differently then most people here. Usually I choose what ever I work on myself. I get tips from my teacher, but I'm choosing the pieces I want to play on my own. Sometimes I ask my teacher like "hey, are there pieces by composer XY that you would recommend for my level", but overall I'm in control over what I play.

This might sound harsh to some people, but I'm not going to play a piece that I don't like. I'm an adult, and I'm learning the piano for my enterntainment. I don't have any plans on becoming a concert musician, I'm a little to old for that. So everything I do on the piano I do for myself, not for anyone else.

So in the end, "the path is the goal" fits very well here. I want to enjoy everytime when I sit down at the piano every day. Those 30min to 1hr are just mine and I'm not going to spend them on something that I'm not 100% interested in.

tl;dr: 100% of my time spend on the piano is my own adventure.

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I am in group piano. I can play pieces at a high intermediate or low advanced level but my sight reading was weak a few years ago. I joined a group playing lower intermediate pieces and tend to get ahead of the class. The teacher would assign pieces arranged for easy piano up to 3 pages. I'd be done learning an assigned piece in 2-3 days and the rest of the week work on 1 or 2 pieces I downloaded recently.

My sight reading improved in 2 years but I'm still with the same group of people learning at a snail pace. The split is more like 40-60 than 60-40.

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I usually work on the pieces assigned by my teacher, and after that on my chosen pieces. The time can vary, depending how much time I have, but my priority is always on the assigned pieces, and then for fun, my own pieces.

My assigned pieces are usually difficult for me, and take at least two months to get to a somewhat ok level, and I feel the need to play easier music to a higher level than is sometimes posible with the more difficult pieces.

A rough estimate would be three quarters of my time on assigned pieces, and a quarter on my chosed music.

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When I'm in lessons I find it incredibly difficult to make time for non-teacher-assigned work. I so very rarely feel like I can achieve all I want to on the assigned work between one class and the next, and working on other things instead sets that progress back further. I am at a level where I have good input into the selection of the assigned work, which helps.
I haven't had a teacher for the last year though, since initial Covid restrictions were put in place here, so it's all "my" assignments for now. I'm enjoying the freedom for now - in particular my last teacher taught me a lot about what to aim for that I am still working on applying, so I think I am working more intelligently on my own than I was able to before working with him.


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Solely lessons here. Otherwise if I'm gonna do fun stuff, I'd rather seek my teacher's advice and opinion. I'm a beginner btw.

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I couldn't give a percentage. Maybe 50/50? I work on harder pieces with my teacher, but almost always play/read through easier pieces that she never knows about. Sometime I'll share a recording for feedback. I think if you are just starting out, stick with what your teacher assigns. After some time, you'll probably start exploring on your own.


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Originally Posted by barbaram
When I'm in lessons I find it incredibly difficult to make time for non-teacher-assigned work. I so very rarely feel like I can achieve all I want to on the assigned work between one class and the next, and working on other things instead sets that progress back further. I am at a level where I have good input into the selection of the assigned work, which helps.....
Ditto for me. I'm slow. I just don't have the time.

For the most part, my input into selection is picking amongst the A, B, or C choices presented by my teacher. She would probably like for me to take on more responsibility for choosing pieces, but part of my reason for having a teacher is to tap into her vast knowledge of the literature and her many years of teaching. As for working on pieces that I like, I have found that quite a few pieces that strike me as 'bleh' initially I come to really enjoy once I get into them.


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Thanks for all the feedback. Good mix of all different approaches. I often feel I'm the same boat as the others where lesson work is plenty to focus on with all the time we put in it. Therefore, I often feel that I should only focus on teacher assigned work. I supposed I could try a few weeks lesson only work and see what I like or how I progress. I think that's a big part is experiencing different approached finding what works. I often try having many things in the mix but sometimes I think i do better with 1 or 2.

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I usually have four pieces I'm actively working on, but they are all in different stages. I wouldn't be able to take three new pieces, for example, and have much to show for it at a lesson a week later. With four pieces, and one or two at a fairly advanced stage, I can give one of those pieces a "rest" for a day and concentrate on the other three, then give another a rest on another day, etc. Works for me.


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Pretty much everything I do is what I choose to do. It just so happens that the teacher agrees with it

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Originally Posted by Sebs
How much time do you put into teacher assigned work versus your own adventures?

The question seems a bit odd to me because I don't think I have ever not chosen what I wanted to do.

The main point though is, if parts of the learning journey seem a bit tedious there should always be an outlet for fun.


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This has been a great thread and its fun to hear all these different perspectives.

I've only been playing for several months so I tend to stick with whatever weekly songs my teacher provides. Even when I despise the music (Chopsticks anyone?) I still have some fun and recognize that its just a stepping stone towards getting to where I want to be. Some of the music I despise is still really fun to play... the Trolley Song is the first that comes to mind, lol. It haunts my dreams, but I still play it a couple of times per day because I find the left hand action to be a lot of fun.

All that said, I tend to practice for 3 to 4 hours per day so I do make some time for doing my own thing, usually just 10 to 15 minutes at the end of each practice session. For now, that means playing songs I've already learned that I do enjoy (Memory, Scarborough Fair, Chevalier de la Table Ronde) and then some improvisational work within the tiny confines of the keyboard where I can actually do some improv without a level of discordance that frightens my cats out of the room. Sometimes during these "fun" sessions I don't even count out loud, but shhh, don't tell my teacher.

I have tried adding some of my own song selections to the practice list but my teacher already gives me more than enough weekly work so adding my own music makes me feel like I'm overdoing it.


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Originally Posted by earlofmar
Originally Posted by Sebs
How much time do you put into teacher assigned work versus your own adventures?

The question seems a bit odd to me because I don't think I have ever not chosen what I wanted to do.

The main point though is, if parts of the learning journey seem a bit tedious there should always be an outlet for fun.
But aren't you doing AMEB exams and isn't there a syllabus? You probably have several pieces you can choose from within the syllabus?


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Originally Posted by Sebs
How much time do you put into teacher assigned work versus your own adventures?

For example, if you practice 1 hour a day would 45 min be teacher assigned work and 15 min your own items?

Or do you only do what your teacher assigns?

I often wonder if it's best to only work on what the teacher assigns and wait to add your own items until you're at a certain level. Curious what others think about this.

I put most of my time into "teacher-assigned" work for various reasons.

1. I am learning a few instruments at the same time and have a full-time job so I can allocate only so much time to piano practice.

2. Because of my time limitations, I feel like I have "wasted" my time every time I play something "for fun" that's not contributing to my very specific learning path and goals. These "for fun" pieces are often too difficult for me, I try to learn them and realize halfway that it's probably not a good idea to learn it at my current skill-level, and then I get frustrated because I've wasted time for nothing.

3. "Teacher-assigned" work for me means pieces that my teacher and I have chosen together, so in reality, it's not really "assigned" but is also "fun" and "enjoyable" for me.


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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Originally Posted by Sebs
How much time do you put into teacher assigned work versus your own adventures?

For example, if you practice 1 hour a day would 45 min be teacher assigned work and 15 min your own items?

Or do you only do what your teacher assigns?

I often wonder if it's best to only work on what the teacher assigns and wait to add your own items until you're at a certain level. Curious what others think about this.

2. Because of my time limitations, I feel like I have "wasted" my time every time I play something "for fun" that's not contributing to my very specific learning path and goals. These "for fun" pieces are often too difficult for me, I try to learn them and realize halfway that it's probably not a good idea to learn it at my current skill-level, and then I get frustrated because I've wasted time for nothing.

This is exactly how I feel and I was doing that exact same thing or spend days/weeks on one and was like why? I know it's still good practice and you gain something from it all. However, I'm going to try really push the effort with teacher assigned work and when I want to venture out I will ask the teacher for ideas!

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