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Re: Teachers, when do you leave a piece? #963096
03/10/08 04:16 PM
03/10/08 04:16 PM
Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 7,639
Olympia, Washington, USA
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Quote
There must be something to it, since everyone at a post beginner level seems to be doing it, but I just don't see what it is. frown Can you help me to understand?
Akira, I think your questions have been answered on another series of posts, but as I see this specific question hasn't been answered, let me try.

As an adult, you probably do prepare your weekly lesson better than most of my young beginners, but even my best beginners need more than a week on some pieces. It could be a rhythm issue, it could be a musical issue, it could be phrasing, dynamics, or a host of other problems. Plus, most students simply need more repetition to get full control of the problem they're working on.

For my intermediate and advanced students, I expect that they will have the basic issues solved in a month of work. At least, I do not assign literature to them which is too difficult for them to do so in a month. Bear in mind that many of these pieces are 80 or more measures long, so there is a lot more to cover while learning the piece.

Some teachers advocate memorizing as they learn, others want students to achieve basic reading accuracy before starting memorizing. I'm in the latter group. So the second month is spent refining the memorization. The third month is simmering. Musical issues, ie, interpretation, is started just as soon as the notes can be read, but really begins in earnest when the piece is memorized. That's when students can begin focusing totally on what sound they are producing.


"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
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Re: Teachers, when do you leave a piece? #963097
03/10/08 06:16 PM
03/10/08 06:16 PM
Joined: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,645
Los Angeles, CA
Akira Offline
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Some teachers advocate memorizing as they learn, others want students to achieve basic reading accuracy before starting memorizing. I'm in the latter group. So the second month is spent refining the memorization. The third month is simmering. Musical issues, ie, interpretation, is started just as soon as the notes can be read, but really begins in earnest when the piece is memorized. That's when students can begin focusing totally on what sound they are producing.
Thanks for the explanation, John. From a 'learning' standpoint, on the surface, it would seem that all one has done was learned to play a piece. However, based on what you described, you appear to be saying that the process of resolving these musical issues is the actual 'lesson' being learned from this three-month process. You take the understanding of how these issues were resolved with you, so that when similar circumstances occur with other pieces, it allows the student to apply what he/she has learned from the lesson. Is that a fair interpretation of what you're saying, John?

As I side note, I'm also curious why teacher's emphasize memorization. Wouldn't that take one further away, rather than bring it closer to the goal of developing sight reading skills (which I presume you advocate). Would you say this is an important skills at all levels? As a beginner, I'm very intentionally trying not to memorize anything, as I wish to develop my sight reading. Any thoughts on this?

Re: Teachers, when do you leave a piece? #963098
03/10/08 07:29 PM
03/10/08 07:29 PM
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Canada
keystring Offline
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I wonder whether it would be be good to expand on Akira's last question. What is the role of sight reading skills in the grand scheme of things?

Re: Teachers, when do you leave a piece? #963099
03/10/08 08:02 PM
03/10/08 08:02 PM
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London
Innominato Offline
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I wonder too.

The time spent on learning where the notes are and in which tempo they must be played is so negligible compared to the time one spends actually playing from memory that I cannot understand the scope of spending hours and hours in getting better at something you do 1/1000 of the time... then, I'd prefer to dedicate this time to playing the piece better, right?
And the reading skill get better and better anyway, right?

I'm speaking here of course of classical pieces, for jazz etc. the matter will probably be different.


"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

Kemble Conservatoire 335025 Walnut Satin
Re: Teachers, when do you leave a piece? #963100
03/10/08 08:21 PM
03/10/08 08:21 PM
Joined: Aug 2004
Posts: 2,024
Canada
SAMoore Offline OP
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I'm not a teacher but I think good sightreading skills, aside from enabling you to play unfamiliar music, will enable you to learn new pieces more easily, relearn old pieces faster and minimize those embarassing moments when you are asked by a teacher to "pick it up from here" and you sit dumbly staring at the piece like you've never seen it before (not that that ever happens to me of course :rolleyes: )


It's the journey not the destination..
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Re: Teachers, when do you leave a piece? #963101
03/10/08 09:59 PM
03/10/08 09:59 PM
Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 89
Huntsville, Alabama, USA
7yritch Offline
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Huntsville, Alabama, USA
I think one needs to balance sight reading and memorization based on ones goals/objectives.

In my case, I primarily memorize the pieces I’m learning because I don’t sight read well, and I don’t want to take the time to develop sight reading yet. However, I find my ability to read the music improves with each new piece. Also, being a self-taught adult beginner, I find it easier to concentrate on the ‘making music’ part of playing after I memorize it. I don’t intend to leave a piece after I’ve memorized it, but return to it frequently to keep it in memory, and hopefully improve it. It’s fun!


Charles R. Walter, Model 1500 (2009 w/Renner action), Satin Ebony
Re: Teachers, when do you leave a piece? #963102
03/11/08 12:21 AM
03/11/08 12:21 AM
Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 7,639
Olympia, Washington, USA
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Akira, this is but a slight issue for beginners, but a great issue for advanced players. When you read something for the first time, you get a brief overview of what the author is writing. Depending upon your degree of sophistication, your grasp may be greater or less. As you reread and study what the author has written, your understanding grows. When you truly understand, ie, know, what the author has written, you can repeat nearly verbatim to another person.

So, too, in music. Just because you can read a piece of music doesn't mean you understand it, or can impart meaning when playing it for someone else. That takes insight, which comes from study. A friend of mine has a saying, "Now that you've memorized the notes, we can start learning the piece."

If you accept the premise that true learning/understanding cannot occur until the notes are known, that is, essentially memorized, then you can see why most teachers want students to memorize. I like to start students memorizing right from the beginning, so their minds are trained to grasp the notes quickly. Transfer students are problematic to teachers such as myself, because they are not prepared to put in the work necessary to make memorization a part of their routine.

That said, my personal advice to you would be to select one piece each week to really learn - memorize - you'll be surprised how much more you get from it.

John


"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
Re: Teachers, when do you leave a piece? #963103
03/11/08 12:40 AM
03/11/08 12:40 AM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 16,344
Canada
keystring Offline
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Thank you for the explanation, John.
I've been trying to place the reason and also role of sight reading, because teachers also stress that skill. For reasons I thought of the fact that we do get exposed to new music which we then have to develop as you described. But at the first introduction it is good to be able to run through the piece to get a general idea, and how do we do that if we can't sight read?

But then when we are developing a piece we would no longer be sight reading, because we would be working on it - to me that feels different than sight reading - and at that point we are also memorizing. So when we work on pieces, sight reading would no longer play a role and would it in fact be something that we rarely use? Is it there "peripherally" so that we are able to glance back at the music to check if need be?

When should we use sight reading, and when not?

Also would I be correct in understanding that memorization does not only involve the right notes at the right tempo, but all the nuances and technical details that turn a piece into music?

I hope my sight reading question was not too inane. It dawned on me that most of us are trying to get a handle on sight reading, but that I wasn't really sure to what end, or when to use it or not use it or how.

Re: Teachers, when do you leave a piece? #963104
03/11/08 04:01 AM
03/11/08 04:01 AM
Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 7,639
Olympia, Washington, USA
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Reading at sight is a wonderful skill to have - it might be labeled "practical musicianship." I'm sitting in church Sunday AM and our organist calls in sick. Guess who's asked to fill in? I need to have the ability to read the hymn tunes, the liturgy and at least skeletonize the choir selection on the fly without panic. Of course, this may never happen to you, but you may be at a party, and someone throws a lead sheet at you. What do you do? Panic?

Of course, when you are sight reading, you're not making great music, but in the examples I gave, great music isn't expected. Just something to support the singing.

As you point out, when you're developing a piece, you're transitioning from reading at sight to reading with recognition, of the form, shapes, phrases, etc., of the piece in question.

Just to give you a sample of differing opinions, I attended a lecture by the great pianist, Luiz de Moura Castro, who basically said that if you're going to perform a piece from memory, then memorization needs to occur early on, long before the piece is polished. Conversely, he contends that if you're going to perform with music, then you should not memorize, but rather work solely from the music.

Back to your question, when should we use sight reading? You probably know that I am a firm believer in not assigning students repertoire which is beyond their ability to sight read, not at tempo, but at least slowly, and as a whole. This differs greatly from many teachers who take the approach somewhat advocated by our friend Gyro. Learn a few notes or measures each day until you've learn the piece. My own opinion is that this method is actually slower in the long run than my approach.

John


"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
Re: Teachers, when do you leave a piece? #963105
03/11/08 05:42 AM
03/11/08 05:42 AM
Joined: Feb 2008
Posts: 802
London
Innominato Offline
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"minimize those embarassing moments when you are asked by a teacher to "pick it up from here" and you sit dumbly staring at the piece like you've never seen it before (not that that ever happens to me of course [Roll Eyes] )".

Well, if it's a short time, I think she will be so good as to wait..... wink

If one stares at the stave struggling to know which planets they come from, I certainly agree with you...

I would not invest a big amount of time to be able to *instantly* read and play the music, though, as I fail to see the return on my time investment... wink (that's by the way what I mean for "sight reading": you read in the staves as naturally as you read a book...)


"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

Kemble Conservatoire 335025 Walnut Satin
Re: Teachers, when do you leave a piece? #963106
03/11/08 12:40 PM
03/11/08 12:40 PM
Joined: Feb 2007
Posts: 89
South Carolina
G
GregF Offline
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South Carolina
Interesting thread. I see a couple of things in here - how long to work on a piece and memorizing benefits.
Please forgive me if sports analogies bug anyone, but here's my opinion and comparison of piano practice/playing to one of the few things I put as much time and effort into as piano - golf.

In piano and golf, there are both technical skills and playing/performing skills. In golf, you might be taking weekly lessons and/or daily trips to the driving range to work on technical skills. Then, on the weekend, you would head out with your group to apply these skills to the course. Many adult beginners/re-learners, as I am, spend most of their time at the piano driving range, never taking their games to the course. By course I mean public performance, where, as in golf, it is an entirely different ball game.

JvdB is training his students to be players instead of just practicers.

so, how long do you spend on a piece? Depends on the purpose of the piece. There are skills only pieces and there are repertoire pieces. If you can move on from your weekly "skills" piece quickly, that is great, but is my opinion that you need some repertoire pieces to take to the course - a hotel lobby, a music store, friends house, etc. Some have even been crazy enough to play at the Charlotte airport during a layover. You don't have to get through Alfred level 3 before its OK to share the music. These repertoire pieces shouldn't go away, as long as you consider them repertoire. You should practice them enough to keep them polished.

So why memorize? So you can perform without the score! Personally, on the little bit I have memorized, I can get into the music much better than reading the score.


Now if I can follow my own advice. smile smile

GregF

Re: Teachers, when do you leave a piece? #963107
03/11/08 01:06 PM
03/11/08 01:06 PM
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Posts: 16,344
Canada
keystring Offline
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Skills and knowledge are the path to musicianship, but they are not musicianship. The feeling that piece engenders, that we try to express, is also not the whole thing. There is a place where skill, knowledge, and the creation of music -- which I understand to be a process wrought over time in each piece by anyone --- meet. I am beginning to understand that a good teacher's role is not just to give the mechanical technicalities, or even the technical technicalities (legato crescendo means to join the notes together while moving from mp to f), but to some other place where the two blend. The sports analogy is only partly true. However, I wonder how often music these days is approached like a sport as in well executed gymnastics.

Re: Teachers, when do you leave a piece? #963108
03/12/08 03:32 PM
03/12/08 03:32 PM
Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 7,639
Olympia, Washington, USA
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Keystring, you've nailed it. I am beginning to understand that a good teacher's role is not just to give the mechanical technicalities, . . .

Too many in our profession feel that if the students can play the right notes, at the correct tempo, using the phrasing marks on the score, as well as the dynamics, they've succeeded. Well, okay, I do have a couple of students who, if they could actually do that much, it would be close to a major miracle, on the order of changing water into wine. However, for most students, this is and should be, just the beginning.


"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
Re: Teachers, when do you leave a piece? #963109
03/12/08 04:16 PM
03/12/08 04:16 PM
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Canada
keystring Offline
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It's been a long time getting that definition so far and hammering it out. I'm still near the beginning of my journey but at least the vision has altered.
When you write about the interpretation in the profession, do feel that philosophies about what music is might have changed over time, or is it just different among different people?

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