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#929816 - 06/24/06 09:32 PM Need Help from Experienced Teacher  
Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 15
Winston Offline
Junior Member
Winston  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 15
I have a student that has the following problem:

She is in her mid 30's and is at a level 4 in playing ability (Keith Snell's Repetoire Books - Merry Farmer, Arabesque by Burgmuller, etc). The problem is that she is primarily interested in much harder works (level 7 and beyond - Chopin, Debussy, etc.) She does not practice regularly - maybe 30 minutes to 45 minutes a week and yes I have explained that she needs to practice a minimum of 30 minutes a day to experience any kind of consistent progress. When she practices Chopin which I advised against she gets frustrated and doesn't want to practice. She complians that the Keith Snell Books contain just little cutsie songs that she abhors and thus has no motivation to practice. What do I do? The few simpler pieces she has liked are Ivan Sings by Khatchaturian (she said it sounded more complex and not so cute) and the simplest Bach prelude in C major.

Does anyone know of some more complex sounding music that can bridge the gap between Merry Farmer and Chopin. She just bought a $32,000 Schimmel 4 months ago and doesn't want to give up. Lets face it she has a beautiful instrument, is naturally pretty musical but lacks a lot of technique. There is a big gap between her technical ability and her ability to play something musically.


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#929817 - 06/24/06 09:55 PM Re: Need Help from Experienced Teacher  
Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 13,837
Kreisler Offline
Kreisler  Offline

Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 13,837
Iowa City, IA
There's a new repertoire anthology out - The Festival Collection from FJH publishing.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

#929818 - 06/24/06 10:15 PM Re: Need Help from Experienced Teacher  
Joined: Feb 2006
Posts: 146
lagin Offline
Full Member
lagin  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Feb 2006
Posts: 146
B.C., Canada
You should look at perhaps doing the Celebration Series books (used for the Royal Conservatory grading system). Ivan Sings is grade 6. They are filled with Sonatinas and Preludes, ect. NOT WATERED DOWN versions, but the real things and gradually get more advanced. Each book also has a study book with etudes corresponding to the repertoire book's level for building technique. Fur Elise is grade 7, grade 9 is the first Beethoven Sonata (the easy G major one) and the first Bach prelude and fugue (they do them in sets which is why the C major one she learned is diploma level (eg. gr. 11) because of the attached fugue), ect. Each book covers Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th century composers. If you're really into building her technique even more than just the studies, the Frederick Harris Syllabus has the scales, arpeggios, ect, and which keys and which tempos belong to each grade, but if she's not into that, the corresponding study books should do the trick, too. I did both (studies and scales) and progressed at a good pace.

Christians aren't perfect; just forgiven.
#929819 - 06/24/06 10:29 PM Re: Need Help from Experienced Teacher  
Joined: Jun 2006
Posts: 99
Mario Ajero Offline
Full Member
Mario Ajero  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Jun 2006
Posts: 99
Nacogdoches, TX
Just to back up what Kreisler said, I bet your student might like this Festival Collection.

More specifically, it's called Succeeding with the Masters: The Festival Collection compiled and edited by Helen Marlais.

If your student liked the Khachaturian piece, then I bet she'll work well with Book 4. Book 4 contains that same Khachaturian piece, so the other pieces should be of comparable difficulty for her. All major historical periods are represented (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th/21st Centuries).

In fact, my favorite pieces are the new compositions. I love the last piece in the book called "Oriental Flower" by Christopher Norton (b. 1953). It has some nice lush jazz harmonies which I doubt she'll find to be too "cutsie".

There's also a CD that comes with the book with performances of all the pieces by Helen Marlais, so that could be used to attract your student to learn them.

#929820 - 06/24/06 10:54 PM Re: Need Help from Experienced Teacher  
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 8,483
signa Offline
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signa  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 8,483
Ohio, USA

#929821 - 06/25/06 01:32 PM Re: Need Help from Experienced Teacher  
Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,919
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member
Chris H.  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,919
Winston, I have an adult student who sounds quite similar. She is working on ABRSM grade 8 at the moment. Although she is intelligent and quite musical her technique does not live up to the demands of the music and she is struggling. She took grade 5, 6 and 7 and her marks diminished with each exam due to technical problems. I have made countless suggestions regarding repertoire and exercises that would help but she simply won't entertain practicing anything other than exam music. Any mention of playing pieces below grade 8 in order to improve skills is taken like an insult. I have come to realise that there is very little I can do about this. The thing is that adult students know their own mind. They are paying for their own lessons and will take what they want from the lessons. You can advise your student but at the end of the day if she wants to spend time practicing pieces which are too difficult then nothing you say will stop her. The chances are she already knows that she will not play her dream pieces on that level of practice but she is happy to keep trying. The repertoire books mentioned are worth a try and their are plenty of them around. Look for easier works by the more reputable composers like Beethoven, Bach, Chopin etc. If the quality of the music is good then she might feel more inclined to give them a go. Don't beat yourself up though, if she is still coming for lessons then you are doing a good job.

Pianist and piano teacher.
#929822 - 06/25/06 02:22 PM Re: Need Help from Experienced Teacher  
Joined: Apr 2005
Posts: 4,534
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member
Gyro  Offline
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Joined: Apr 2005
Posts: 4,534
Tell the student to continue with lessons as
usual with you, playing what you assign,
according to your assessment of her abilities,
but in addition, entirely on her own, to
start playing whatever Chopin she wants
to, and not necessarily just the traditional
Chopin starter pieces like
preludes, nocturnes, waltzes, military
polonaise, etc. But rather, if she so desires,
the first movement of the E min.
concerto, for example.

Tell her to take it at a very slow tempo
at first and to just play however much
she can manage, even if it's just a couple
of measures a day initially, since of
course it will be much too difficult for
her. Suppose she can do only a few measures
of the 1st movement the first day; that's
okay, just continue from where she left off the
next day, and so forth. If she keeps at
it like this, eventually she'll be able
to play a page a day, then two, then three,
etc. And some time in the future she'll
be able to play the whole first movement
in one sitting, although not at full
speed and not perfectly. (If you doubt
the feasibility of something like this,
I can testify that it is possible, because
I myself have done it--I, an amateur with
little or no talent, can play a whole
concerto through at one sitting by virtue of
sheer dogged repetitive effort, starting
from being able to play only a few measures
a day.)

If she does this, I think you may then have an
enthusiastic student on your hands, who
will be eager to learn everything you teach
her, since she will then see it as helping
her with the extracurricular Chopin project
she's working on entirely on her own
(emphasize to her that she'll have to work
on it entirely on her own, with no direct
assistance from you, since you don't
advise doing this at her level of
development; and you'll also need to be open
minded about this and be completely
willing to let her do this, indirectly
cheering her on even)--as opposed
to now, where she sees the lessons as
pointless children's pieces.

#929823 - 06/25/06 09:13 PM Re: Need Help from Experienced Teacher  
Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 15
Winston Offline
Junior Member
Winston  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 15
Thank you all for your input. I now have a wealth of ideas. I will keep you posted as to her progress.

#929824 - 06/26/06 02:29 PM Re: Need Help from Experienced Teacher  
Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 3,755
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member
AJB  Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 3,755
I would say to her that if she can only practice 30 to 45 minutes a WEEK, then she has wasted her $32,000 on a piano and is wasting her money and your time on lessons.

The problem is not her repertoire, or techinical ability,talent (or lack of it), or what you are doing in lessons, but the simple fact that she has a lousy work ethic! Simple as that.

To me she fits the description "all the gear and no idea".

Tell her - "practice more and thou shalt progress!"

Kind regards


Currently playing 2017 C212 with carbon fibre soundboard, WNG action. Working on Bach, Beethoven, Grieg mainly.
#929825 - 06/26/06 05:47 PM Re: Need Help from Experienced Teacher  
Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 1,597
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member
sarabande  Offline
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Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 1,597
Well, I agree with what Gyro said about if she wants to learn the harder stuff, maybe try letting her learn it note by note, measure by measure, line by line. I used to do that a lot with music that was way too hard for me literally with some adding note by note. Have her work on one line a week at the most. But as Gyro mentioned, have that music be in addition to her regularly assigned music.

When I was a teenager taking lessons, I used to just buy books of music I really wanted to learn many if not all looking back were way beyond my ability. I just took them to my teacher and said, "I would like to learn the music from this book." My teachers never said a word about it, but that music was always IN ADDITION to whatever she would assign. I didn't mind because I wanted to learn it, she didn't mind because I was doing what was assigned also.

#929826 - 06/26/06 07:29 PM Re: Need Help from Experienced Teacher  
Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 1,597
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member
sarabande  Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 1,597

I would definitely try asking for suggestions and perspectives in the adult beginner's forum if you haven't. I think many there would be able to give you tips from the perspective of feeling in the same shoes as your student as far as wanting to learn certain music, like harder classical music sooner. Except from bits and pieces I've read, most sound like they practice A LOT. Maybe you could even invite your student to join the adult beginner's forum on Piano World.

Moderated by  Ken Knapp 

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