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Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940751 08/22/07 02:19 AM
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I don't know if this is possible, but if it is, I was thinking it would helpful to know some advice on what music topics/skills lend themselves to being more easily learned while being self taught versus identifying topics/skills that are more suited to learning while taking lessons. I am currently approx at a late elementary - early intermediate level. I may be entering the self taught phase for a while and wonder what skills are more suited to self taught versus what skills are best left to lessons.

For example, it believe I can do a fairly decent job learning the notes of the staff on my own.

Thanks.


Previously known as NorwegianForest a long long time ago right here in this very forum.
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Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940752 08/22/07 02:45 AM
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Any music theory can easily be self-taught. A book I recommend is Alfred's Essentials in Music Theory. It comes in 3 volumes, so you can decide where you'd come in (or you can buy all 3 in one book).

You may also be able to do scales, chords and arpeggios, at least get the basics. As long as you have the correct fingering, that can be self-taught as well (I believe there are several books that show the fingerings for all key signatures).

Choosing repertoire may be a little harder at your level. I would say that you should choose music that looks like it is something you can play. There's nothign wrong with stretching yourself a bit, as long as it's not too far from what you are capable of doing now. The only proble is that wehn self-teaching, you may develop some bad habits or get stuck, and frustration will set in. If at all possible, try and find a teacher who would be willing to let you "check in" every once in a while, say, once a month or so if regular weekly lessons aren't possible for you. They can at least keep you on the right track.


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Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940753 08/22/07 03:57 AM
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I agree that theory can be easily taught without instruction. Pieces can be memorized and fingering can be worked out.

However, I disagree with the idea that technique is a good thing to try on your own. You will be able to memorize notes and fingerings, but that is only one part of technique. If you are serious about learning the piano, then tone production is the goal of technique, and this is frustratingly difficult to learn...even with a professional instructor.

If you are not serious about learning the piano, then just have fun with music, nothing wrong with that.

If it is a financial issue, then really zero in on the theory, and listen listen listen to good pianists untill you are in the place where music can be a priority.

I tried to teach myself 8 years ago, for about 4 years...and I was disciplined. When I got fed up and began taking lessons, I had moments every lesson where something completely clicked, and I could not imagine how I managed without this new information. I learned more in one year than the previous 4.

Don't set up any barriers for yourself. Get a teacher(preferably registered) If you don't you'll never know what you may have been capable of!!


Music is the surest path to excellence

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Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940754 08/22/07 06:29 AM
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Norwegianforest wants to fly ... bravo!

Knowing how highly individual each and every pianist measures up to the formal teaching regimen ... it is a brave and exciting stage to throw off the apron-strings and take responsibility to "go it alone".

In everybody’s secret heart is a wish to master a keyboard favourite ... why not use the bountiful help of the Forum to attain this goal.

Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940755 08/22/07 11:05 AM
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All this teacher-taught, self-taught stuff. I really don't get it. I had one of the best teachers around and still learned most things myself. Teaching is one side of a process. Learning the other. A teacher presents the material (leads the horse to water). The student learns the material. Any student who waits to be lead won't get far. Any teacher who does not self-teach themselves (ha,ha) is a poor teacher.

Teacher, student, who's who? I know it's very 70's, but we're all in the same boat.

Is someone who takes advice from Piano World still a self learner? Is someone who uses a book? Is someone who uses a textbook in school one?

Or sadly, is it just financial?

Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940756 08/28/07 02:37 AM
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anything can be self-taught, so does the piano playing, because there're plenty of resources you can use to do just that: internet, youtube, books (theory/technique/music) and anything. the only hard things left are self-discipline and follow through, and the only thing that one who self-taught cannot get is 'feedback' or 'judging yourself' part, even with aid of video/audio recording, because one cannot always tell a certain technique is good or bad unless watched by a professional.

i had self-taught before, and would do it again if i have to, but in the mean time i treasure my teacher greatly for his advices and help.

Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940757 08/28/07 03:11 AM
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As this is the "Piano Teacher's Forum," it's not very likely that teachers are going to line up and tell you to learn the piano on your own. However, it is true that it is the student who does the learning, not the teacher. Of course, there is lots for you to study on your own. You can start learning about musical history, and the history of the times when composers lived. You can start learning music theory. There are numerous texts available, written at easily understandable levels. You can learn about musical forms and nationalistic forms. You can learn music aurally, that is, by listening to recordings, so that you become acquainted with different styles (we used to call this music appreciation when it was taught in elementary and secondary school).

What about self-teaching an instrument? Of course, it's possible. How do you think we got to where we are today? But why on earth would you want to reinvent the wheel, when it's so much easier to learn piano with the help of a qualified teacher? Chopin and Liszt developed very advanced playing techniques, but they based it on a very solid foundation, which they learned from their teachers. When you self-teach from scratch, you have to learn what Bach and Scarlatti learned, then add to it what Mozart, Beethoven and others added to it, then discover what Chopin and Liszt added to it. In the end, it's a decision you have to make - Do you want to become a top notch player in a reasonable amount of time, or do you want to spend your entire life trying to rediscover what's already been learned?


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940758 08/28/07 08:42 AM
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Forgive me for finding the foregoing diatribe just so much flagrant piano teacher propaganda.

It is high-handed subterfuge to lace the pro-teacher argument with a Bach/Chopin potted history... when the nitty-gritty aim of every young hopeful is a secret wish ... to freely play keyboard favourites independent of frills or apron-strings .

Teachers conveniently hide the fact that the inherited antiquated notation never allows this to happen ... with the rare exception of the few with freak aural memories (concert pianist material) ... by comparison 99.9% of us are reduced to laboured sight-reading ... hours of endless practice to come close to mastering a keyboard favourite ... but this we can do at home ... and perhaps reach out in a supportive emergency to the Forum.

If only piano teachers could guarantee a full and rich keyboard life to their students after they’ve done with them ... but in making a
living at $40 a lesson ... why spill the beans?

Sorry chaps ... stirring!

Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940759 08/28/07 10:24 AM
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John, btb is right. If only I could find a teacher who could hand me down Mozart, Bach, Chopin I'd travel half the world. To paraphrase btb - it's taking advantage of the youngster's innocence offering such things (Jack and the Beanstalk?).

$40 a lesson? I charge $60!

Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940760 08/28/07 12:14 PM
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I'm a senior in high school, and I've done both, flown solo and studied with teachers. On the whole, they're right. I can tell you three of my teachers were absolutely useless and not worth studying with, and that's why I don't study with them anymore. My first teacher seemed to think I would have to stay with her if I wanted to continue study, but she found out that you might want to try assigning interesting pieces before your student leaves. My current teacher serves a couple of purposes: 1) She gets me into competitions, and she puts her students in two recitals a year. It is ALWAYS preferable to have a performance and a deadline to really streamline your practice. Also, she is helping me to prepare, finacially and music-wise, a senior recital before I go to college. 2) I am responsible to her every week, even if it's one of those hectic ones where life seems to be whirling around you. Yeah, everyone says it's easy to get yourself to do something, even something you love, but it's not. Read about all the novelists out there who love to write but find themselves procrastinating. Of course, like us, when they find themselves stretched for time, they devote all their free time to writing, as we do to practicing. 3) My teacher guides me into keeping up a varied repertoire. I can say I would be able to do it, but I know after a year by myself all the pieces I could play well would probably be by Debussy. 4)This is not a reason I stay, but I'll tell you I've been playing for ten years, and without the foundation that I got in the beginning, I would have gotten nowhere. Maybe you can drop a teacher by the time you can play Fur Elise, let's say, but before then someone's got to show you where to put your hands, and someone's got to really show you the difference between piano and forte, and you need that feedback.

So, if you can't afford a teacher, I'm sorry. I basically played on my own. I kept up in the jazz band at school, so there was always something to practice. I just played whatever I could get my hands on, chorus music, the few pieces I owned at the time. You can do it, but as a student I would say teachers aren't just advertising, they do play an important role in your studies. They know what they're talking about. As for what everyone else is talking about, I wouldn't bother with history. Yeah, it's nice, I took the course and I loved it. But no matter how history goes, if you simply put pieces in a chronological order, like Bach->Beethoven->Chopin, etc. you can see how technique and style developed over the years and that's all you'll really need. Theory is wonderful to me, but I'm a composer and a singer. Are you going into these too? Scales you should study, be sure to get the correct fingerings for all of them, major, harmonic minor, melodic minor. Make sure you have a metronome (I know I probably don't need to point that out). And do your best. Read widely. If there's anything you're not sure about, it's your job to find out about it. You don't have a teacher to get you that kind of info. As always, the decision comes back to you. I don't know how much you like that, sometimes I hate to make decisions. But everything's in your hands now.

I hope you have the best of success. In the end, the music reigns supreme, whether the musician is self-taught or had a teacher. Focus on the music, and you'll be heading in the right direction.


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Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940761 08/28/07 12:20 PM
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Of course, like us, when they find themselves stretched for time, they devote all their free time to writing, as we do to practicing.
2008, an ideal teacher will also practice their art. Liszt famously gave up practicing but I kinda get his point. For the rest of us mortals...

Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940762 08/28/07 12:45 PM
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Hi klutz,

At today’s conversion rate of R7.24 to the Dollar ... your fat $60.00 piano lesson fee would be equivalent to a Pretoria R434.40 ... and imagining standing in your plutocratic shoes ... working on 10 lessons per day and 20 working days per month ... with 20 students that would haul an annual income of R208,512.00 ... enough here to buy a brand new BMW ... and a tankful of petrol if Bush doesn’t invade Iran.

But don’t you think you might be charging too much ?... I know that you have risen in posh society ... to become Her Majesty’s Royal Musician at Buckingham Palace ... what’s the grub like at the Palace?

Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940763 08/28/07 12:57 PM
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btb, I used to charge 50 bucks an hour but a mature student insisted, as she'd just got a raise, in paying 60. I gave the extra 10 back but she insisted.

Any established teacher in London who thinks a lot of themselves charges at least $90. I charge less than 60 for a friend's kids.

I just gave my Golf GTI away. I had to choose between an extra pupil or losing the car. I'm very selfish with my time.

Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940764 08/28/07 01:53 PM
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btb, why do you insist that teaching is a racket? Most teachers I know have the student's best interests at heart, and don't get rich off of teaching. I charge $18/half hour lesson. I teach my students improvisation, composition, theory, sight-reading, and while giving them repertoire to help them progress, I always try to find at least one piece they will enjoy working on at any given time.

You obviously have been burned, and so it is probably best that you study alone. I studied alone for 10 years until I realized that I was stuck, and then returned to lessons. No one can learn everything from one source/teacher, and so I expect that all of my students will move on at some point, and that is fine. No one is held captive at my studio through guilt trips or any other manipulative techniques. I only want students who want to be here.

Even if you think that I charge too much, you must understand that your calculations are off. You do not consider how expensive it is to live in certain places. If the cost of living is a lot higher, then prices in general are higher. The average median income for women in my area is $24,303. On a good year I'm lucky if I make $20,000, and that includes playing/singing for weddings, accompanying vocal competitions, accompanying at churches, etc. I'm not complaining, but I am pointing out that you cannot compare apples to oranges. It costs more to live in large cities. Students drop out over the summer, cutting one's income down by 1/3. Students graduate and go off to college. There are so many factors that are taken into consideration. I know of no piano or voice teacher who can afford to drive fancy cars on their income. We do it becuase we love it. Are there bad teachers out there? Sure. But don't lump the good in with the bad.


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Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940765 08/28/07 02:06 PM
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btb, why do you insist that teaching is a racket?
For most teachers it is a racket.

Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940766 08/28/07 02:31 PM
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Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
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btb, why do you insist that teaching is a racket?
For most teachers it is a racket.
Do you know most teachers to make such a statement with any accuracy? I would think not. The best you can say it most teachers you know are or aren't something. And most teachers I know, as I stated before, have their student's best interests at heart, and continue to learn and try different songs to keep their interest, refer them to another teacher when they've done all they can with a student, and encourage their students so that they can enjoy the process of learning.


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Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940767 08/28/07 02:45 PM
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In the United States, that would mean an annual income of just under $30,000. After taxes, that leaves $20,000. Enough to by a nice Honda Civic, provided you don't eat and live in a box for a year.

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Originally posted by btb:
Hi klutz,

At today’s conversion rate of R7.24 to the Dollar ... your fat $60.00 piano lesson fee would be equivalent to a Pretoria R434.40 ... and imagining standing in your plutocratic shoes ... working on 10 lessons per day and 20 working days per month ... with 20 students that would haul an annual income of R208,512.00 ... enough here to buy a brand new BMW ... and a tankful of petrol if Bush doesn’t invade Iran.

But don’t you think you might be charging too much ?... I know that you have risen in posh society ... to become Her Majesty’s Royal Musician at Buckingham Palace ... what’s the grub like at the Palace?


"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)

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Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940768 08/28/07 02:52 PM
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Somebody must be doing something right in piano teaching, because many of us have students who have been with us for a long time. I have 3 with 7 years, and 2 with 5 years that have continued in study with me although we moved last October. It is a longer driving time one way than most of us would put up with for piano lessons, the distance is only 7 - 9 miles, but on roads that become gridlocked during commuter time a one way trip can be 30 - 45 minutes, which affects anything after 3 PM weekdays. I did lose 2 students during the past winter because of the traffic and weather conditions.

My students pay my rates faithfully - paying for a quarter, half year, or year in advance has been the "norm" over the years in my previous location. Is this a sign of "disgruntled" clients?

I am rebuilding my piano studio and hope to have the same statistics at this location.

I would wish for everyone who teaches with integrity and has given value to their students to not think of the mockery some here would like to make of our chosen career. I find some of this detestable when generally assigned to all teachers.

When you find a music teacher not to your liking, you vote with your feet, any bad mouth applies only to your own bad experiences, and does not transfer to those of us who are held in esteem by our clients and our peers. It is specific between you and the teacher you are talking about.

We don't earn the money you think we do, as expenses for business operation and maintenance, and music activities and supplies take a chunk, as do taxes and putting money away for our retirement. It is not a walk in the park. I think most of us manage our money with careful consideration.

It seems to come down that most of the ranters think it's about money. It's about love of music, dedication, hard work, and forgiving those who trespass on our reputations without knowing us. I know an insult when I hear one, and they are being passed out wildly today. If what I am saying here today is insulting to you, so be it.

I am not trying to depend those who are poorly prepared for piano teaching, or unorganized, or not giving much for the money spent, or just plain detached, dull, cold, or sour in their demeanor.

"Great Students Deserve Great Teachers!"

Betty Patnude

Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940769 08/28/07 02:52 PM
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And most teachers I know, as I stated before, have their student's best interests at heart
Are you sure they're not taking a sneeky look in their pocket books much of the time?

Re: Learning music topics: Self taught vs Lessons
#940770 08/28/07 03:08 PM
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A "sneeky look"? Where did that come from? By racket, it is usually a term meaning that the person is a con artist. Making promises and not delivering with the intention to be fraudulent. Taking a "sneeky look" has nothing to do with it. Many people of all professions are concerned about monetary issues, putting food on the table, roof over their head, etc. And yet it's piano teachers who are singled out as somehow racketeering? And all this coming from a teacher. Perhaps it is more a reflection on oneself than anything else, since you do not offer lessons for free. :rolleyes:


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