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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927685 12/03/08 06:41 PM
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Keystring,

I've always felt that working at the piano and playing at the piano are strange words to use - it's actually "doing" or "reading" or "planning" or "checking" or some acting verb. Passive words don't apply. Even thinking" in music is action because it's part physical/part mental/intention/plus recall.

I think that often we do work with cognitive development in order for things to happen. The more we know about the brain and how to teach, the more changes we have of becoming instinctive through repetition.

So, my experiences would lead me to believe that indeed it is firing neurons - and that it is an important prerequisite. I am not of the opinion that piano students can find their way alone, and I think that teachers need to give much more information, much more correction, much more instruction, much more guidance and suggestions, not less.

If musicians in the learning stage could do it on their own (any age) they supposedly would not need a teacher at all. Having teachers prevents having deadends, faulty understanding, and wrong turns. Knowledge needs to be set in place, monitored, drilled, and retrieved as needed.

Actually, I think that the sound comes into being last for many musicians - unless the player is an aural learner - which means the sightreading and kinesthetic are going to be weaker than what the ears abilities gains by being the strength.

If I were to create a profile of someone off to a good start, their abilities would probably be in this order: visual (spatial relationships), kinesthetic (coordination and rhythm) and lastly ears (pitch, memory, recall, audiation.)

Teaching to weaknesses is important so that all abilities are brought to a compatible level, no one ability way ahead, and no one ability way behind.

The brain has to exceed itself from it's starting point, lesson by lesson. Music making is partly latent talent, and a lot of acquired skills.

Betty

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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927686 12/03/08 07:29 PM
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True playing is something that the small child knows how to do if not interfered with. Play is serious business. Some examples:
A small child places objects inside other objects. He is developing important concepts. He bangs on things and listens to how they sound. He imagines a scene and an adventure, and then his toys and objects around him become that scene. This is conceptualizing.

If you can remember being a child doing this, you will remember that you were utterly serious. You were driven from within, unashamed of your endeavours and putting your whole self into them. You tried very hard, and the blocks you stacked fell down. You tried again, and they fell. You tried a third time, and they fell, and then you cried in frustration. And then you tried again, and the blocks stayed up. Perseverence and purpose. This is playing!

We adults make a mockery out of play with the toys we produce to exploit children and their parents. We should give that a different verb.

But real playing of the kind that I have described is what we do with a musical instrument. I would honour that verb. I *play* the piano. What do you think?

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927687 12/03/08 07:54 PM
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Originally posted by Betty Patnude:
I think that teachers need to give much more information, much more correction, much more instruction, much more guidance and suggestions, not less...

Having teachers prevents having deadends, faulty understanding, and wrong turns. Knowledge needs to be set in place, monitored, drilled, and retrieved as needed...

Actually, I think that the sound comes into being last for many musicians - unless the player is an aural learner - which means the sightreading and kinesthetic are going to be weaker than what the ears abilities gains by being the strength.
Interesting discussion.

Re much more information, much more correction, much more instruction, much more guidance and suggestions, not less, I would perhaps rephrase that as enough rather than much more, as if simply more of the same guarantees learning. In fact, I don't think anything we do as teachers guarantees learning. It is the student who learns, and sometimes through faulty instruction, or none at all. Of course I don't think this is the ideal, but it does happen. Sometimes the less we say the better.

You said: Having teachers prevents having deadends, faulty understanding, and wrong turns.. Once again, I'd rephrase that as may prevent. Depending on the teacher, it may cause them. I'm not being contrary, just emphasising that we don't have total control over the learning processes of our students, however we may like to think we have.

As for the third section of your post which I quoted, (Actually, I think that the sound comes into being last for many musicians), well it may be so. But I have yet to meet the person who wanted to play the piano because it was such fun to push down those black and white keys smile . It was the sound, the music, and the making music which drew them in the first place, and I believe it's the sound which is what it's all about, so I'd place sound in a more crucial place than you do. But anyone who's read any of my posts will know I'm a strong advocate of reading smile - it's just that it's my firm belief that there is an aural component to reading which is very important (I know, it's all the Kodaly teaching I did once upon a time).

And keystring - "serious" play. You're so right smile


Du holde Kunst...
Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927688 12/03/08 08:21 PM
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Math and music are inherently different.
Music is a sentimental language, it is meant to trigger personal emotions in people. People don't get offended with math, but they get with music. They get offended with music critics, with having "wasted" hours of their life listening to terrible music, with having the music they love not understood by others. This is because music is inhrently intimate. It's like nakedness. You're open to it (let's say modelling or even intimate spheres of your life) when you trust the environment and you choose personally. But as soon as the environment become compulsive, forceful and ostile, you close like an hedgehog and actually develop an aversion to it. Math is devoid of sentimentalism, emotivity or personality. It is as sterile as it gets. Pretty neat orthodox notions to memorize. Math is a necessity and when presented as a necessity (you need math to be able to use your own money to purchase stuff) you get motivated very easily.

And let's not forget that music education has not much to do with piano education per se. Music education in school could mean the study of some theory and active listening of various music (from classical to hip-hop) But certainly it will never mean "compulsive piano playing" since there's no reason for such a thing to be considered a "standard" in music education.

It bears repeating: music is inherently different than grammar, geography, math and geometry. It is not a simple series of notions to memorize. It is a personal creativity expression touching the depth of our immagination, feelings, fears, emotions and even erotism. Music needs willingness and passion and middle class status quo through music is fortunately extinct. As the critic Sandow once said "I'm discounting enterely the option that certain music players and listeners are simply status-seekers, it has been so long since music was required for high social status". If such sad tradition is still surviving in the USA than it's a serious social disgrace.

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927689 12/03/08 09:40 PM
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Sharing a few student stories below as a reminder that what makes each student tick is unique. You can only give your all and hope you've imparted something of value in the process.

My own story and no doubt very common story: desire began it, but teenagers are fickle......

When nine years old, I asked a friend who was taking piano lessons to teach me Solfeggieto (sp?). I learned to play the notes by heart and wanted more. I was lucky enough to have great parents; at eleven I was taking lessons at Mannes' preparatory department. Theory classes were required, as were recitals, which I desperately tried to wriggle out of. I progressed without much effort. I had no practice regimen and neither my parents nor my teacher demanded one. Certainly I would have progressed more with more effort on my part. At fifteen or sixteen I quit. No reflection of my teacher's or parents efforts. My attention turned to boys. Even got "caught" making-out with a college student in a stairwell at Mannes frown laugh .

Nevertheless, I, like so many other mediocre students, treasure what I did learn and have recently returned to taking lessons. I'm thrilled to be learning the last piece I worked on as an adolescent. Sure I wish I'd practiced more as a kid, etc. etc.

The bottom line? My teacher did the best she could with the "material" she had to work with and I remain grateful for being tuned in/turned on to classical music and the piano in particular.

My neighbor: She had no desire to learn piano, but is no less of a person for it.

She was forced by her parents to take lessons -for 10 years, no less - and she has creepy memories of the experience. She did practice and says she made little progress despite. She's a doctoral student in art history who's turned on by how architecture and culture influence on another and is an avid surfer.

Two quasi-nieces:

These sisters took lessons from the same teacher beginning at nine and ten years of age. One started out enjoying lessons, practiced, but made slow progress and quit after two years. Perhaps she was disheartened by her younger sister's ability to play by ear.

The younger one disliked learning to read music but played by ear so the teacher worked with her on jazz theory and she created her own music. now at age twenty, she still doesn't read music but plays all the time in the dorms at Columbia and has taken several music classes there. She now wants to learn to read music and her interest in classical music grows. We talk music and play for each other when she comes home for school breaks.

Please, remember to take pleasure in those of us you do inspire thumb

Gotta go now eek ... no joke, my lesson starts in 30 minutes.

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927690 12/04/08 10:54 AM
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There are a few wild assumptions flying about.

'Students are forced to take lessons'

I don't have any of these. In the past 15 years I could count them on one hand. If anyone told me that they hated piano and hated the lessons but were being forced to come I would refuse to teach them.

'Children have a passion for music and a burning desire to play piano'

Again I could count these on one hand.

Almost all piano students are on a sliding scale between these two extremes with most falling square in the middle. They could take it or leave it. When they practice and do well they enjoy it but it is not a high priority in their lives hence they do not practice every day.

Another assumption...

'Piano teachers expect piano to be the most important thing in their students lives'

I don't know any piano teachers who think this way. Most of us accept that piano is just another activity or experience amongst many others. I don't remember anyone saying that piano should take priority over other things or that it is any more beneficial or worthwhile. All we ask is a little commitment if a student is to come for regular lessons.

'A student who doesn't practice could be defined as one who practices less than an hour a day'
Only my very best and most dedicated students practice anything like an hour a day. I class a student who doesn't practice as one who does not touch the piano from one week to the next.

Piano teachers are not stupid. Nor are they single minded piano fanatics. Of course there are reasons why students don't practice. You can't very often pin it on any one factor and usually there is no point laying blame on anyone. It's just the way it is. However, if you are going to take lessons every week then you have a responsibilty as a student to do something in preparation for the lesson. It's not fair to expect the teacher to do all the work. If you are not sure what to do then just have a go at whatever or practice the previous weeks assignment, that would be a start. If you are short on time then spend a few minutes. If you don't like the pieces then find some you do like or at least help your teacher by letting them know what you are into.


Pianist and piano teacher.
Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927691 12/04/08 12:36 PM
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Gosh, Chris, you think???? laugh laugh laugh

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'Piano teachers expect piano to be the most important thing in their students lives'

I don't know any piano teachers who think this way. Most of us accept that piano is just another activity or experience amongst many others. I don't remember anyone saying that piano should take priority over other things or that it is any more beneficial or worthwhile. All we ask is a little commitment if a student is to come for regular lessons.
Had to laugh at this one. Of course, my students know, without a doubt, that piano is the most important thing in my life. They walk into the house (studio, sorry), and first thing they see is 3 pianos, piano paraphernalia all over the place, books on piano, on music, and music scattered everywhere.

In the USA, many of us have had a week off for the Thanksgiving holiday. It's interesting to me what and how students prepared over this 14 day hiatus.

One student, the most talented and brilliant of my group, didn't touch her piano, and was sight reading what we sight read together two weeks ago.

Another student, I hit a home run (sorry about the mixed metaphor) as one of the Christmas carols turned out to be her absolute favorite, and she had worked her heart out, memorized it, and was doing a delightful job. She accomplished six weeks of progress.

Another student "forgot" her carols, so we worked on Shostakovitch. The first of the 3 Fantastic Dances. You know, the one where counting and rhythm is so critical.

My favorite student, who is absolutely average, but a real grind (I mean this in the utmost of complementary means possible) worked her heart out, over and over, perfecting her work. She will go far in life, and actually will become a decent pianist, perhaps for her church and certainly for her family.

And so on. Another typical week.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927692 12/04/08 01:05 PM
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The thing is, you really don't improve on the piano unless you practice at least an hour a day. I've had the students who practice 15 minutes a day, and they really don't get anywhere like that. Yes, we would go over practice techniques, yes, I'd tell them what to work on, but we would seldom progress beyond really really simple beginner pieces. Eventually, the kid would get bored with these and quit.

In contrast, I had a couple of students who would practice 2 hours a day. They were not geniuses, and they both started relatively late - ages 12 and 13. But their progress was lightning-fast - they were playing simple Mozart sonatas after a year.

I'm not sure where the cutoff point between "don't bother" and "enough practice" is - but I would guess that anything less than an hour is simply a waste of time.

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927693 12/05/08 05:07 AM
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Originally posted by Chris H.:
There are a few wild assumptions flying about.

[b]'Students are forced to take lessons'


I don't have any of these. In the past 15 years I could count them on one hand. If anyone told me that they hated piano and hated the lessons but were being forced to come I would refuse to teach them.
[/b]

This is relieving. In my experience students forced to take piano lessons are a rarity as only parents living vicariously through them would do that.

Quote
[b]'Children have a passion for music and a burning desire to play piano'

Again I could count these on one hand.

Almost all piano students are on a sliding scale between these two extremes with most falling square in the middle. They could take it or leave it. When they practice and do well they enjoy it but it is not a high priority in their lives hence they do not practice every day.
[/b]

It all boils down to their passion for music to begin with. I've known several students who told me that had they failed at piano, they would have picked up another instrument. Not all people love music, many just don't care about it others are hooked since their first listening as babies.
I agree with you it's a spectrum and the extremes (burning hate and burning passion) are less than those in the middle.

Still, I see no reason to practice everyday.
Taking days off is beneficial for learning in general. Even more for mechanical physical repetitive motions.

Quote
It's not fair to expect the teacher to do all the work. If you are not sure what to do then just have a go at whatever or practice the previous weeks assignment, that would be a start. If you are short on time then spend a few minutes. If you don't like the pieces then find some you do like or at least help your teacher by letting them know what you are into.
Still the reasons for not practicing can be addressed. For example the way Kreisler addressed the problem of definying, organizing and scheduling practice.

The concept is simple: one who don't practice because he/she doesn't want to, is not going to practice even if his/her practicing is well defined, clear and organized. If he/she on the other hand doesn't usually practice but start practicing when practicing becomes more organized and clear, then the reason for not practicing was not will but indeed basically not understanding how to practice.

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927694 12/05/08 05:35 AM
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Originally posted by Danny Niklas:
This is relieving. In my experience students forced to take piano lessons are a rarity as only parents living vicariously through would do that.
Don't cha just love 'im. Bless.

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927695 12/05/08 07:34 AM
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I think that forcing students to take piano lessons can be for a variety of reasons. Having your child live out your dreams would only be one of them. There may be the belief that piano is one of the fundamental skills of a well rounded and cultured individual, along with math, reading, history, geography. You may not want to be left behind by the neighbour whose offspring are threatening to outshine yours. You may believe that piano study will create a habit of self-discipline and perseverence which will serve your child as an adult. You may have a clumsy child and think the effort will create coordination. You may have read articles on the 'Mozart effect' and want to get more cerebral neurons firing. You may know that music is good for ya, without knowing why or having thought it through, but if it is, your child is going to get that music. Or your child may have initially been interested in music, and has now hit a rough spot, and you think it is the wrong time for him to quit and that he does not have the maturity to make that decision.

These would all be reasons a parent may have for forcing a child to take piano lessons, or continue them (in the last instant). Living one's dreams through one's child is only one of them. Perhaps such a parent might be gently encouraged to take up lessons on their own. Why are they not doing so? What has stopped them?

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927696 12/05/08 08:49 AM
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That's true, but they're all such poor reasons that living vicariously through your children is the better one of the bunch.

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927697 12/05/08 09:17 AM
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Okay, I'm sure to get flak, flack, flake, (spell check please!) for saying this but I've seen too many times where a student has heard someone play the piano and it "wasn't" a classical piece. They ask mom or dad to put them in piano lessons only to find that they've gotten to Grade 9 Royal Conservatory of Music and "can't" play the piano they way they had imagined.

In Canada anyways, the time has come for the Royal Conservatory of Canada to start putting in lead sheet playing, improvisation, and, yes, jazz and blues. And I mean "good" jazz instruction, not just a watered down version that some classical composers come up with.

Playing only conservatory pieces and working towards "conservatory" exams is boring! Boring! And some of the stuff in those exams is learned and the student hasn't a clue why it's required. We need change and soon if we are going to expect to see piano practice exciting!

Sorry to be so forward here, but this is really how I feel. I lost just one student last year and in the last week I pick up 6 students who are excited to practice. I honestly have no students who aren't practicing. I credit it not to my teaching (okay maybe a little to my teaching), but to the fact that the students are playing and learning what they wanted in the first place!

Just my take!


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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927698 12/05/08 10:10 AM
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Diane, your post brought a smile to my face.

At our first group lesson of the year, we talk about piano lessons, what we're trying to learn, how to play smoothly and be able to make beautiful music. We go through the different styles of music and differentiate art music from social music. I make a big point of encouraging students to play the piano beyond their lesson assignment. Nods of comprehension and agreement.

Fast forward to the Christmas season:

Student: Oh, Mr. V., I just love this kind of music (jazzy sounding carols). Why can't I do more of this?

Me: You can and you should be. Why aren't you?

Student: This is the first time you assigned me anything like this.

Me: Remember our first group lesson where we discussed preparing your lesson assignments and then playing music in the style you particularly like? Of course, you can play any music you like.

Student: (face turning bright red) Oh, I didn't know you meant that I could actually play what I wanted to play.

Me: Of course you can. Why are you learning the piano? To be miserable? Your lesson assignment uses music designed to teach you specific technique, so you can be a better player. But you're free to spend the other 23 hours every day playing anything your heart desires.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927699 12/05/08 10:15 AM
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I agree with Diane. I think it's wrong to consider the classical orthodox piano training as the only possible standard to learn the play the piano. The jazz and pop approach work as well, technically and musically, and students should be prompted to work within the style/styles which suits their creative needs and motivations.

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927700 12/05/08 10:29 AM
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Right on, West Canada,

Some of the staid old fogies need to whip up the tempo.

As Hoagy Carmichael so aptly sang in "Old Music Master"

"You gotta jump it music master
You gotta play that rhythm faster
Or you never gonna get it played
On the Happy Cat hit Parade.

You gotta tell your friend Beethoven
And Mr. Reginald De Koven
They gotta do the same as you
Or they gonna be corny too."

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927701 12/05/08 10:39 AM
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Personally speaking, I think I could live without being on the Happy Cat Hit Parade, thank you very much.

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927702 12/05/08 11:42 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by Diane...:
Okay, I'm sure to get flak, flack, flake, (spell check please!) for saying this but I've seen too many times where a student has heard someone play the piano and it "wasn't" a classical piece. They ask mom or dad to put them in piano lessons only to find that they've gotten to Grade 9 Royal Conservatory of Music and "can't" play the piano they way they had imagined.

In Canada anyways, the time has come for the Royal Conservatory of Canada to start putting in lead sheet playing, improvisation, and, yes, jazz and blues. And I mean "good" jazz instruction, not just a watered down version that some classical composers come up with.

Playing only conservatory pieces and working towards "conservatory" exams is boring! Boring! And some of the stuff in those exams is learned and the student hasn't a clue why it's required. We need change and soon if we are going to expect to see piano practice exciting!

Sorry to be so forward here, but this is really how I feel. I lost just one student last year and in the last week I pick up 6 students who are excited to practice. I honestly have no students who aren't practicing. I credit it not to my teaching (okay maybe a little to my teaching), but to the fact that the students are playing and learning what they wanted in the first place!

Just my take!
Why not? Bach's students played contemporary pieces. Our students play ....... what was contemporary 300 years ago!

Hee, hee. Please don't take seriously. But I think there is a lot to Diane's approach.

Sure, John points out they can be doing the fun stuff on their own. But if a student has 30 minutes available to practice, I'll bet he feels guilty if it's not lesson material. The only way I can see around that is to make some of the other stuff lesson material.


gotta go practice
Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927703 12/05/08 12:19 PM
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I have a student who loves jazz piano, and is planning on studying that in college. However, in order o prepare for the auditions, he needs to be able to play at a certain level of "classical" music. He understands this and has actually enjoyed learning some of the pieces. But he is always encouraged and welcome to study other stuff on his own, and he does. The other day he plated his Christmas piece for me, which was a jazzy version of Jingle Bells. He did a fine job, and when he was done he mentioned he made up an arrangement of Carol of the Bells, which he played for me. It was really creative and I asked him to play it on his recital in addition to the one he has prepared.

While it is wonderful to have students that take this sort of initiative, I must say that most will not. Or if they do, they may feel as though that kind of music is not allowed in lessons. Even if you say so, sometimes they still don't believe it. I try to assign different styles of music, as well as learning songs from ear, lead sheet, etc. If it is directly encouraged, then they are more likely to realize that what they've learned can directly apply to any style, and will feel more open to share that side of their passion with you.


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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927704 12/05/08 12:20 PM
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Originally posted by Danny Niklas:
I agree with Diane. I think it's wrong to consider the classical orthodox piano training as the only possible standard to learn the play the piano. The jazz and pop approach work as well, technically and musically, and students should be prompted to work within the style/styles which suits their creative needs and motivations.
Absolutely. I can't imagine that piano teachers who won't allow their students to play styles which interest them even exist anymore do they?

Like John, I would fully expect my students to play other things in their own time. That's what I did. I loved to work out pop tunes by ear and also got involved in playing jazz. There would have been no point in my teacher trying to stop me. If a student turns up with music they have selected and practiced I would be thrilled and more than happy to work on it with them.

Sadly it doesn't happen enough. I have had some bad experiences with teaching jazz in the past. I am a jazz player myself although my training was classical. I spent my youth in a big band and it was great. Unfortunately I don't get many requests for jazz music or improvisation skills. The ones who do ask do so because they think it will be an easier option. What they don't realise is that it actually requires far more input from them. You learn to improvise by spending hours experimenting at the keyboard. A teacher can point you in the right direction but you have to be very motivated and dedicated to do it justice.

Pop music I am not so keen on. I don't mind if a student has a pop song they want to learn and will help them with anything they bring to the lesson. However most of the arrangements are truly awful. They are not remotely pianistic and even when played well do not really sound right. The simplified versions are even worse. Also I have very limited knowledge of current pop music and can't even begin to help them with selecting pieces. From what I have seen and heard there is not a lot to be learned about playing the piano from it.


Pianist and piano teacher.
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