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#959593 - 06/27/07 07:22 PM Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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clueless parents Offline
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Our almost-7-yr-old starts piano lesson recently. His first teacher has two state-award-winning students, but she was so strict that our child started hating piano very fast. So we had a new teacher after only a month.
The new teacher was great with kids. Now, he began to like music again and practicing is no longer a struggle. HOWEVER, unlike the first teacher, we noticed this teacher didn’t teach anything about fingers.
We arrived a little early yesterday and saw an older student play. She was playing a quite complex piece, but her whole hands were totally flat on the keys! And the fingers never leave the keys, they just moved from one key to another horizontally. This is totally wrong according to the first teacher, yet the current teacher said nothing.
We only want our kid to love music and don’t expect him to participant in any competitions, but still, is it ok to play piano like that? We are clueless parents, would really appreciate you teachers give your opinion. Should we start to look for a new teacher again?

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#959594 - 06/27/07 07:51 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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John v.d.Brook Offline
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Hello! And welcome. Since you're up in Seattle (at least from Olympia) I thought I'd start off with a solid "It depends."

Seriously, the teacher may have a different order to teach the various aspects of pianism, although I personally work with hand position right off the bat, I don't make a big deal of it while the student is trying to master so many other details at the same time. Have you asked about it?

As you are in Seattle, if you decide to switch once again, you might call Jennifer Bowman over at Sherman-Clay and ask her for a listing of the "Well Prepared Pianist Institute" teachers in Seattle. These teachers are working with students to develop musical playing in the style of Leon Fleischer, Rubenstein, and the past grand masters of piano.

Disclaimer. I am one of those teachers, but am located too far for you!


"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
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#959595 - 06/27/07 08:32 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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Sometimes a student plays a certain way even after the teacher tells them not to. You dont' know how long this student has been with this teacher. PErhaps they jsut transferred, and the teacher is working with them on fixing some incorrect technique. There are also differing schools of thought on how to play. Are you expecting to see fingers lifted off the keys? There is a school of technique that teaches and very close-to-the-keys playing. Or there might be an arch around the knuckles and the rest of the fingers are flat (but the tips touchign the keys). It's really hard to assess it without seeing it myself. How did this student sound? That is what this whole piano-playing is about, and there has to be some leeway for differing techniques, all else being equal.
I recommend talking to this teacher. Call her up and share your concerns. Find out her philosophy on techinque. If you don't agree with hers, or if she doens't teach technique, then you have to consdier what's best for your son. He's enjoying music now, and he wasn't before.


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#959596 - 06/27/07 10:39 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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Dear Parents:

Handshape is something that is usually developed from the first lesson, but it's possible your young man has trouble holding the shape, is double jointed and the fingers cave in from pressure, or he holds the hand and wrist rigidly, so perhaps the teacher is letting him play in his own natural way, rather than making the hand shape an issue at the moment. The teacher may be observing and noting the "problem" but choosing to do nothing about it for a while. This would release the child from becoming inhibited by having to make and hole "perfect" hand shapes when he truly can not yet do that.

As far as fingering, surely he knows his right hand and left hand, and the finger numbers counting from the thumb, as 1-2-3-4-5 (fingers are numbered in contrary order with pinkies being 5). Do you have the assignment notebook to look at and see what is entered there as far as instruction, and in the music lesson materials?

The girl you saw and heard may have been using a technique with flatter fingers for romantic music with predominately black notes and octaves, making it look like her hands were crawling note to note. I'm not sure what you were saying about her.

If you are not pianists, please don't second guess, ask an outright question of the new teacher but in a considerate way and expecting that he will provide an understandable answer.

It is so good to hear that they like each other, and your son is practicing again. That is valuable. If you were to change teachers abruptly again without resolving the problem satisfactorily, you are in danger of becoming a "teacher hopper". (No insult intended.) I don't know how your son would interpret that, but it might be perplexing to him as to why you are changing teachers. He may feel he is not pleasing you or the teachers, and place blame on himself. What do you think would be his reaction?

He is young yet, and he needs the basic information well grounded, and for the enjoyment level to be up high enough. He is on an adventure of self discovery, I would imagine. When he grows to a larger hand, all things technical and music making should have been presented and learned.

You have asked about the experience of the 2nd teacher, have you not? Learn what he is all about first before deciding. Give this young man your sincere support and praise for the things that you see going well. And, let the teacher teach. By all means go to the studio recitals and see firsthand how all the students are doing.

This advice comes from my experience in teaching and it is from my philosophy about the student - parent - teacher - relationship and all cooperative efforts in behalf of all the participants. Everyone should be building a bridge of clear communication.

Best wishes! You won't be clueless parents for long!

Betty Patnude

#959597 - 06/28/07 01:39 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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Thanks all for replying, we will talk to the teacher.

#959598 - 06/28/07 01:43 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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if the teacher's students play with flat hands, switch teachers. I played with flat fingers for a really long time and it took forever for my teacher to correct that problem. My guess is that you son did not hate piano when he was with the 1st teacher, it is the disipline and practise that he hates, I know because I had a student like that.


Mastering:Chopin Etudes op.10 nos.8&12 and op.25 no.1, Chopin Scherzo no.4 in E major op.54, Mozart Sonata in B flat major K.333& Khachaturian Toccata
#959599 - 06/28/07 01:45 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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or you could find out more about the teacher and whether the flat hands issue is something the teacher does'nt care about, if the teacher does'nt care ...Switch!


Mastering:Chopin Etudes op.10 nos.8&12 and op.25 no.1, Chopin Scherzo no.4 in E major op.54, Mozart Sonata in B flat major K.333& Khachaturian Toccata
#959600 - 06/28/07 05:30 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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Thanks, Amelia. That's what I was worrying about. I wonder how you handle your "trouble" student.

#959601 - 06/28/07 06:01 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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im sorry to say it, but i ended up dropping her, because she started to show too much rebellion and her parents don't support me as the teacher, her mom just kept on trying to manupilate me


Mastering:Chopin Etudes op.10 nos.8&12 and op.25 no.1, Chopin Scherzo no.4 in E major op.54, Mozart Sonata in B flat major K.333& Khachaturian Toccata
#959602 - 06/28/07 07:58 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  

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There is no perfect teacher. Maybe she's great musically. Maybe she can inspire your son to practice. You can at least keep her while you search for another teacher.

I once had a teacher who hardly ever taught anything about technique. I didn't care for him but others raved about him and he had some good students. My opinion was that his good students had had good basic training before they got to him.....

I dunno---I really think the hand position is pretty important to start off correctly.....imho

#959603 - 06/28/07 08:05 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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karen, I don't disagree with anything you've said, but I've learned recently (although I think I knew it before, so "relearned" would be more accurate) that correct use of the hands is pretty much a life-time study. cool


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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#959604 - 06/28/07 09:17 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  

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Yes, John I agree...that' why I kind of hemmed and hawed about it. It's hard to argue with success...

#959605 - 06/29/07 10:36 AM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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Quote
She was playing a quite complex piece, but her whole hands were totally flat on the keys! And the fingers never leave the keys, they just moved from one key to another horizontally.
Wow! In my view this quote perfectly describes Vladimir Horowitz’s style of playing. I know some people who believed that his hands position was “wrong”. I also know people who tried hard to imitate his style of playing. No doubts, it served him rather well!

There are as many different hands accommodation styles as there are piano players.

As the matter of fact there are pieces where this is the ONLY way one can perform. The good example would be Chopin Etude in A Flat Major, op 25 No. 1. Just to play this piece you have to stretch your fingers flat and move them around without leaving the keyboard.

So, the new teacher is great with kids and now, the student began to like music again and practicing is no longer a struggle. And you want to leave the teacher just because some other one teaches another hand position?! Sorry, but it does not seem rational to me.

#959606 - 06/30/07 11:09 AM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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I agree with Balalaika. I play both op 25 no 1 and the Black Note with flat hands/fingers. Contemporary witnesses said Chopin and his pupils did the same.

Sadly today there are still flat finger schools vs curved finger schools - and neither meet. Talk to the teacher, or better yet watch a lesson or two.


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#959607 - 06/30/07 12:26 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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the Black Key etude shouldn't be played with flat hands even if you have small hands. I have small hands and I curve my fingers.


Mastering:Chopin Etudes op.10 nos.8&12 and op.25 no.1, Chopin Scherzo no.4 in E major op.54, Mozart Sonata in B flat major K.333& Khachaturian Toccata
#959608 - 06/30/07 01:17 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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Amelialw, why ever not?


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#959609 - 06/30/07 01:37 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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the point of the Black Key Etude is to train the flexability of your fingers and make your fingers strong even when you play with curve fingers and in order to give the shape to the piece that's what you have to do


Mastering:Chopin Etudes op.10 nos.8&12 and op.25 no.1, Chopin Scherzo no.4 in E major op.54, Mozart Sonata in B flat major K.333& Khachaturian Toccata
#959610 - 06/30/07 02:01 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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Amelialw, isn't that the point of all etudes?


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http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/

#959611 - 06/30/07 02:02 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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It is really easy to pick a few selected pieces, that require the hands to play flat-fingered. Horowitz is the obvious exception to many rules, and no one can argue with the outcome. BUT...just as he is the exception along with the black-key etude, it would be imprudent to imply that exceptions dictate the rule. If you were to watch a hundred concert pianists, I would bet that 99 play with curved fingers most of the time. I often watch Classic Arts Showcase. I have yet to see any pianists that played flat fingered as a rule. It is very difficult to transfer weight from the body to the keys with flat fingers. The fingers cannot do it alone. Horowitz, along with an amazing instrument made more sound than any other pianist of memory. Be assured he was transferring weight for those BIG sounds. His finger position was in a perpetual state of change. I teach the kiddos to curve their fingers. Most kids from age 7 can get their fingers around a tennis ball. This is a great shape for any young pianist. Kiddos however and especially early on are not the most coordinated. After 6 months, I would like to see a valiant effort at achieving this hand position.
John Pels

#959612 - 06/30/07 02:14 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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Quite a lot of Chopin cries out for flat fingers. With flat fingers you are strengthening the lumbricals which otherwise are weak. Also they are the most responsive muscles (before anyone disagrees could they check out Schultz first?).

John, why shape their hands at all?


snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/

#959613 - 06/30/07 03:01 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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I agree with Amelialw on curved fingers for the black key etude. I don't think fingers should ever be totally flat.
Interstingly, I have a video of Bud Powell, and his fingers are curved very little.


working on:
Goldberg Variations
#959614 - 06/30/07 05:14 PM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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ok, and this is'nt true either.
"As the matter of fact there are pieces where this is the ONLY way one can perform. The good example would be Chopin Etude in A Flat Major, op 25 No. 1. Just to play this piece you have to stretch your fingers flat and move them around without leaving the keyboard."
That's not true at all, my teacher has hands which are the same size as mine ( 1 octave) and she plays Chopin Etude Op.25 No.1 with perfectly curved fingers...

there is a difference with fingers that are curved a little and fingers that are not curved at all. When I practise the Black Key etude, for some areas I can barely curve my hands because of the wide stretch but I still do it.


Mastering:Chopin Etudes op.10 nos.8&12 and op.25 no.1, Chopin Scherzo no.4 in E major op.54, Mozart Sonata in B flat major K.333& Khachaturian Toccata
#959615 - 07/01/07 12:01 AM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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Here's an example of Horowitz's flat fingers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gv2oM5DE1Mk

'nuf said.


"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
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#959616 - 07/01/07 12:05 AM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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his finger's aren't completely flat...


Mastering:Chopin Etudes op.10 nos.8&12 and op.25 no.1, Chopin Scherzo no.4 in E major op.54, Mozart Sonata in B flat major K.333& Khachaturian Toccata
#959617 - 07/01/07 12:39 AM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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They're not flat at all! His wrists are low, but his fingers are curved, as are his hands. When he lingers on a note, he sometimes straightens a finger. Horowitz's piano had been regulated for a very light touch, much lighter than what you or I play on. The size of his hand and length of his fingers didn't necessitate the larger arch most of us need, but it's clearly present.


"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
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#959618 - 07/01/07 12:54 AM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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John, Amelialw here (Black note halfway through) his fingers are. In fact at times totally stretched out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOXO4WcBkuo


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#959619 - 07/01/07 01:16 AM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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By this time, it should be evident from this discussion alone that the flat versus curved finges debate is a non-issue.


Semipro Tech
#959620 - 07/01/07 01:23 AM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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BDB, you are so right. The piece dictates the finger shape. If you are really tension free your fingers will find the appropriate use.


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http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/

#959621 - 07/01/07 09:57 AM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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What I notice is not so much that he uses taut fingers frequently (when the music calls for it) as his elbows are below the level of the keyboard. This means that in order to gain traction on the key, which is a romantic music playing technique, he must use a pull stroke more than a push stroke. And that is precisely what you see him doing. As it works rather well for him, I'm not sure what the the problem is. (Or as BDB says, a non-issue!) I like my students sitting a bit higher, so they can use either pull or push strokes, depending upon the music, or at least have the option.

Getting back to the taut fingers - two points. You can get more energy into the keystroke if your joints are locked and because of the length of his fingers, he is having to play his three long fingers close to, nearly touching, in fact, the fall board. If you go to your piano, you will find that a lot more energy is required from the fingers the closer you are to the fallboard. That could have been one of the driving forces behind having his instrument regulated for a very light touch.

One more thought - there is a school of playing which has pianists flexing their fingers only at the metacarpophalangeal joint (see hand illustration at http://www.assh.org/Content/NavigationMenu/PatientsPublic/HandAnatomy/Hand_Anatomy_.htm) whether the finger is curved or straight.


"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
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#959622 - 07/01/07 10:57 AM Re: Please advice. Should we change teacher?  
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Hello there, as long as your child is enjoying the lessons that's all that matters at age 7, unless of cause he wants to become a concert pianist that practices 4 hours a day and is very serious about it, but it sounds to me like he just wants to give it a try for now. You'll be changing teachers as he progresses and wants to learn different things but for the next few years he'll be fine learning for the fun of it, and if you're concerned about the hand position then it's so easy to pick up a book and show him your self and ask the teacher about showing him as hand position is so easy to show, and yes some students will have to slowly learn hand position as there hands might be an awkward shape


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