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#379576 - 01/11/06 07:44 AM Expectations of an advanced teacher?
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3717
Loc: London, England
Advice please. (also posted on teachers forum)

I am a restart adult, having started playing again about 5 months ago. I did ABRSM grade 8 as a child and have recovered most of my technique and am playing above that level now - roughly diploma level pieces and one or two target pieces that are quite difficult, longer term projects. I have put a great deal of work into this.

My teacher, whom I see once a week for an hour, is observant, motivating, and has good theoretical knowledge, with excellent understanding of scores. However, he is primarily an organist and cannot play the piano repertoire that I am seeking to learn. Hence he is unable to demonstrate to me, especially at tempo (I rely on CD's).

Do teachers or advanced players (I have posted this in the advanced players section too) feel that I should seek a teacher who can demonstrate at advanced level, or is this unrealistic from most teachers?

As an aside, a concert pianist friend has suggested that I do not bother with a teacher at all - just work on the pieces I am interested in and have a class now and again with a really good player / teacher (such as himself - he is a diploma examiner as well as professional pianist). Do you have any views on this?

I feel at the moment that I have sufficient questions on theory and harmony (that I never studied very effectively) that weekly input is helpful and also keeps me on track to some extent.

I do feel that I need more inspirational input though from time to time.

Views would be appreciated.

Kind regards

Re-learning after a long break from playing. New piano for 2017. 7ft semi concert grand.

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#379577 - 01/11/06 07:54 AM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
lilylady Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/05
Posts: 4983
Loc: boston north
How useful the CD's are (or the computer) now that we have them available! Heck I remember hutting for LP's at the library when I wanted to hear a piece and they usually were not there.

It sounds like your teacher can still answer a lot for you and answer the theory and harmony but boy some piano techique would be of help. An organist really does play things differently. As both, I sometimes have a hard time leaving the organ technique behind when I play the piano.

It would be good if you could get a serious 2 hr lesson in once a month with an advanced piano teacher (which is what I would like to do at this time as well). S/he could start you on the correct technique of a piece (needed when you first start practicing so that you do not have to redo the learning) and then evaluate and help with problem areas once the notes are learned. Also the various interpretations of composers.

Roberta (getting back into playing after a 20 yr hiatis, but having taught piano and organ for years)
"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."

#379578 - 01/11/06 08:32 AM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
Frank III Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/10/03
Posts: 310
Loc: Spring Lake, MI
Hi Adrian,
I am an adult taking lessons from a college professor. I can't tell you how much I get from taking from someone of her level. It makes a huge difference when she demonstrates to me on the piano what she is trying to tell me. Also, her playing experience allows her to pick appropriate pieces for me.
Frank III

#379579 - 01/11/06 10:01 AM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
pianoanne Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/02/04
Posts: 650
Loc: Pacific NW
I had a teacher who sounds like the one you have (knowledgable but can't demonstrate), she is a good teacher for young students. I studied with her during my senior year of high school, and really was hurt by her lack of knowledge about advanced piano repertoire and college music programs. After I got the pieces to a certain level, she didn't really have that much to say either. A friend of mine studied piano all throughout high school with an organist and it wasn't until he went to college and studied with a professor that he made rapid improvement (even after just one semester he improved significantly). I would at least get a few lessons with a professor, just so you can compare and see if you want to change. If you are really serious about this, which is what it sounds like, then find the best teacher you can.

#379580 - 01/11/06 10:44 AM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
Lemon Pledge Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 353
An important and complicated question. I canít answer it, but here are my thoughts.

No teacher has everything. A serious student -- you certainly seem to be one -- will try his best to extract whatever the teacher has to offer him. You clearly recognize your teacher's strengths, which suggests that you will benefit from his instruction in many ways.

Why do you want demonstrations from him? Some teachers demonstrate for the ostensible purpose of illustrating how a passage should sound. I never found such demonstrations very helpful, in and of themselves. However, teachers who can demonstrate, and explain, HOW to do something, are always in great demand. Why won't your teacher play difficult passages for you? Is he opposed to demonstration as a matter of pedagogical principle? Is he embarrassed to appear less than perfect in front of a student? Is he unfamiliar with the piano literature? Or does he simply lack the technical skill to execute the passages well, even if he had practiced them? If it's the latter, you can probably assume that he won't be able to provide much guidance in the area of technical control. Those who have never enjoyed an effective piano technique cannot teach others how to acquire one. Of course the converse is not true, as many virtuosos have no ability to diagnose and correct their students' mechanical problems.

If you sense that your teacher does not have enough practical knowledge to assist you in a particular way, your instincts are probably correct. Iím not suggesting that you leave him, but maybe itís time to explore other options.

Does the ďdiploma examiner" have your best interests in mind? His advice sounds bizarre to me. I donít know you, of course, so please excuse my presumption, but I believe that anyone who would ask such questions is better off with a regular instructor.

#379581 - 01/11/06 11:10 AM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
pianojazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 361
Loc: dearborn, mi
AJB- IMHO you need a "piano" teacher. One that understands the mechanical aspects of the piano keyboard, the physiology of the human hand, can demonstrate, correct, articulate and illustrate how to "play" the piano. Granted, the piano and organ keyboards look the same but that is the only similarity. This is not to say you need to abandon your organ teacher - you can learn from any musician, pianist or otherwise. But at some point you will need to focus on piano technique at which time only a pianist will suffice.

#379582 - 01/11/06 11:13 AM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
i agree: get a teacher who can play piano well!

#379583 - 01/11/06 11:51 AM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
PoStTeNeBrAsLuX Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/05
Posts: 2618
Loc: Geneva, Switzerland

As I've mentioned sometime before, we seem to have followed a similar course in our respective youths in terms of ABRSM training, and then returning in a serious fashion to the piano after a good few years(decades?) away. I engaged a professional teacher 9 months ago for a weekly hour lesson; he lives 5kms away so he comes to my house. My 60 year old teacher, a graduate in piano performance and teaching from the ZŁrich Conservatorium, has always been more than able to demonstrate any musical and/or technical issues we have so far encountered[1]; more importantly his instruction and advice has quite radically changed how I approach the whole mental and physical aspect of playing a piano, as well as visualising and executing the movements required to produce the desired sounds. He obviously loves playing and teaching, and enjoys sharing his wealth of experience and knowledge with others. Along with his many obvious musical gifts, he is a most charming and humble man as well; I now consider him more a good friend and motivator than just a 'piano teacher' IYSWIM.

I find that one hour per week is fine, given that I can get 15-20hrs of practice in between each meeting. I think it depends on how much time you can devote to working on the pieces in hand (as well as *what* you choose in terms of repertoire[2]), as to how often and for how long you have a lesson. If one could only manage 5-6hrs a week, then perhaps a 2hr lesson every two weeks would be more workable.

I would certainly recommend finding a teacher who can demonstrate and, more importantly, really *communicate* the ideas behind playing the piano at an advanced level. I started lessons last April with the rather ill-defined objective of achieving "some kind of improvement" in my playing; the original deal was to do 12 weekly lessons and review the situation. However, I soon found myself swept along on a wave of enthusiasm, as I began to hear/see the first results of both my teacher's contributions and the work I was starting to put in between lessons.

Best of luck in all your endeavours!

- Michael B.

[1] Currently on the menu is Beethoven Opp109 & 110, Chopin Op71 and Schubert D485.

[2] I try to choose pieces that stretch my current level of playing, but also to remain realistic in what I can presently achieve. The two Beethoven late sonatas above are amongst the most involving pieces I have played to date, but I am greatly enjoying dealing with the numerous challenges they pose. However IMO it would be pointless to attempt something like Op106 at the present time...
There are two rules to success in life: Rule #1. Don't tell people everything you know.

#379584 - 01/11/06 12:18 PM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3717
Loc: London, England
Thanks for all the input and advice.

To answer some questions:

1 I am taking this very seriously
2 I am not sure why my teacher does not demonstrate the repertoire. I suspect that he cannot do it. He will try to play very short sections (a bar or two) usually with one hand, to demonstrate rhythmical ideas. He clearly reads well but I think he is at best rusty and probably much too used to Organ and Choral work. Also he does not have an acoustic piano at home.
3 He has helped me progress well in the last few months, but all for the choices of pieces have been mine. I in effect dictate the teaching program (not necessarily through choice)
4 It took me a long time to find him and locating good teachers around here is far from easy. There are plenty who teach children, but they in terms of their playing ability the several I have seen do not play as well as I do or are only a bit better. I went to this teacher because he advertised teaching at Diploma level (I am not interested in exams, just the repertoire).

It sounds like you have found a good solution Michael B. I have taken steps today to try to make contact with Russian pianist who has moved into the area to see if she might give me some lessons. I don't know if this will work out but I feel I need to do something as I think I could progress faster if I could get clearer help with some technique issues.

Re-learning after a long break from playing. New piano for 2017. 7ft semi concert grand.

#379585 - 01/11/06 12:32 PM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
rockpeter Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/05
Posts: 607
Loc: Montreal Canada
This is only my opinion,
If a person is well enough advanced and is not planning to play professionally, why not learn by yourself. Assuming you do not have problems playing the pieces you want to play.

As for teachers, you will always have them at all levels, you need to have one that is appropriate for your level.

Your comment about your teacher being able to demonstrate probably isn't necessary if the teacher is capable of explaining what has to be done. The example that came to my mind in a flash was that of a figure skater. I don't think any teacher will do a quadruble turn in the air to show a student hows its done. They would probably break their leg \:\)

Ok..Ok... If you don't want your Steinway give it to me !!!!

#379586 - 01/11/06 12:44 PM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
iconoclast Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/05
Posts: 389
Loc: Ancramdale, NY
Piling on......
I think the mechanics of piano playing are sufficiently different from organ that your money would be better spent with somebody who can play the repertoire you're hungering for. I selected my present teacher after hearing that she had played Ravel's 'Ondine' at a (recent) recital and I figured that anyone that could nail something like that was somebody I could learn from for a VERY long time. And she has certainly wildly exceeded my expectations - I only wish I'd met her when I first started taking lessons when I was 15.......

#379587 - 01/11/06 12:57 PM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts

I'm in the current stage, and without a teacher at the moment. It's not that I can't work on things on my own, it's just I need direction and incentives to continue on.

If I were you, I would look into studying with someone who knows the piano and all that it has to give. Organists can sometimes play the piano well, but those people are a rare breed since the instruments are really so different not only music-wise, but also techniqe-wise as well.

Right now, after looking locally, and like you I found that there are many adult beginner, or child-only teachers, and the really good teachers are far and few between. These people may do a fine job for beginners, but may never be able to help me musically and technically. Since there is no one locally, my option now is to travel to Boston and contact on of the conservatories.


#379588 - 01/11/06 01:02 PM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
iconoclast Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/05
Posts: 389
Loc: Ancramdale, NY
Just for my own edification what repertoire is 'diploma level'?

#379589 - 01/11/06 01:07 PM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
Contrapunctus Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/05
Posts: 808
Loc: Whittier, California
To put in my two cents, I do advice you stick with having lessons. Teaching yourself is too risky. You can land up with bad habits and then it makes it difficult to play the music you want to play well.
Secondly, I do not think that you should take piano lessons from an organist. What does an organist know about piano technique and repertoire? you need a good, qualitfied piano teacher.
Thirdly, make sure you find a teacher who has as much confidence in you as they do in their other students. Don't let them skip teaching you things because they think you're not going to be professional.
I don't know what the meaning of life is- I'm too busy to figure it out.

#379590 - 01/11/06 01:27 PM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3546
Loc: US
just to add to what has been said: I strongly recommend getting a pro level PIANO teacher who can really work on technique with you. It makes a huge difference!


#379591 - 01/11/06 01:57 PM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
BruceD Offline

Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 20169
Loc: Victoria, BC
I'm in the camp with the majority on this question (Aren't we a nice, cosy, agreeable group ;\) )

I think it is, if not counter-productive, at least not in your best musical interests to work with a teacher who doesn't have sufficient technical skills to master the repertoire that you wish to play. Demonstrations aside, however articulate he may be, and however much he may comprehend the musical content of the repertoire in question, if he can't technically play it, then I wonder if he really fully understands the technical requisites necessary to master the repertoire or to solve the individual problems that you may encounter in learning it.

Going with the idea that more is better: Four ears are better than two. No matter how skilled and motivated you may be to study on your own, I firmly believe that guidance from an experienced teacher on a regular basis is really necessary for almost all of us. We don't always hear ourselves as we think we play. Even many seasoned concert musicians still study with coaches, even if only to validate their musical ideas and interpretations. We (poor!) pianists work in enough of a vacuum most of the time; don't deprive yourself of the satisfaction that comes with working with someone with whom you can share musical ideas and who can really help you advance.

- - - - -
Estonia 190

#379592 - 01/11/06 02:43 PM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
PoStTeNeBrAsLuX Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/05
Posts: 2618
Loc: Geneva, Switzerland
Just for my own edification what repertoire is 'diploma level'?
The ABRSM (Associate Board of the Royal Schools of Music) based in London, offers public practical exams from Grades 1 to 8. After that (but not directly as it were, DipABRSM is quite a big step up from Grade 8; some teachers say more like a "Grade 12"), there are the external performance diplomas: DipABRSM, LRSM (i.e. Licentiate), and FRSM (i.e. Fellow). Recital times are 35/40/50mins respectively. All three require written submissions (1100/1800/4500 words) in the form of original programme notes for the works in your performance: you then have to answer questions on the notes and recital. This viva voce section, as well as a sight-reading test, carry quite a proportion of the marks, so it's not *all* about the recital.

To give you an idea of the various diplomas standards, here is a small selection of works at the various levels:

DipABRSM: Berceuse, Impromptu #2
LRSM: Any of the 4 Ballades, Barcarolle
FRSM: Either of Piano Sonatas nos 2&3 (complete in each case)

DipABRSM: Sonatine (complete)
LRSM: Jeux d'eau
FRSM: Gaspard de la nuit (complete)

I think you get the idea... The repertoire lists are pretty wide-ranging, but you can only play one work by any one composer. A Grade 8 ABRSM pass is one of possible prerequisites to enter for a DipABRSM (they do accept other institutions equivalent qualifications), which is in turn acceptable for entering for the LRSM, etc. IIRC the standards expected for DipABRSM, LRSM and FRSM more or less correspond to university bachelor, masters and doctorate music degrees in music performance.

So, to return to your question, for the purposes of this discussion and in general terms, "diploma standard" refers to that required to pass a DipABRSM. If you read through the diploma forums on the ABRSM website, there are apparently quite a few people who enter it, unaware of how much higher the standard is compared to Grade 8. Many such people fail the first time, it would appear that the average time taken between Grade 8 and a successful DipABRSM result lies between 2 and 3 years. It would seem that it's definitely not just a case of learning a few pieces slightly harder than Grade 8, ripping them off in front of an external examiner and waiting for the postman to deliver your certificate...

- Michael B.
There are two rules to success in life: Rule #1. Don't tell people everything you know.

#379593 - 01/11/06 04:41 PM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hello Adrian,

It is possible for an organist to be a fine pianist as well as a fine teacher of piano. You're in the best position to know if this is the case with your teacher.

My first, (and best), teacher was an organist/pianist, and he had some ideas, stemming from organ technique, that applied to piano technique.

What am I trying to say?: your teacher is a good piano teacher or not, regardless of whether or not he's an organist, and it may be that being an organist improves his piano teaching ability.

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

#379594 - 01/11/06 04:47 PM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
drumour Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/05
Posts: 872
Loc: Scotland
Originally posted by AJB:
Advice please. (also posted on teachers forum)

Do teachers or advanced players (I have posted this in the advanced players section too) ...[/b]
What's/where's that then?

Vasa inania multum strepunt.

#379595 - 01/11/06 06:01 PM Re: Expectations of an advanced teacher?
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3717
Loc: London, England
Thanks all. The advice from both forum groups was pretty much thw same - stay with lessons and get an advanced piano specialist teacher. Stay with the organ guy for theory and harmony.

I suppose I knew this at heart. The snag is, top flight piano teachers are either hiding from me (quite possible) or are very scarce around here. I am, as of today, on the trail of a Russian concert painist and her (concert pianist too - quite famous) husband who have arrived in the area. I have no idea if she does private lessons but I am arranging an introduction via a director of music from a major school in the area. Certainly her web site is impressive (but no mention of teaching).

I know that being a good player does not equal being a good teacher, but she might be a good find if she does teach.

Thanks all

Re-learning after a long break from playing. New piano for 2017. 7ft semi concert grand.


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