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Posted By: tnew Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/22/10 07:40 AM
I'm an adult student, who only started learning back in February/March using first Alfred's books, then hired a teacher. Now I think the teacher is so very nice, but I keep wondering if something is missing.

For lessons, she flips through my music books to find something she thinks would be good to play (but seems rather random and not focusing on any particular technique at the time). The following lesson I play it and she gives me tips on how to improve it. That's about it. I asked about scales and such once, and she said I could do a few if I wanted. I asked which ones, and she quickly flipped through the book before handing it back and said all of them would be good. I felt a bit overwhelmed because it was everything and yet without a plan on how to get there.

In addition, there are no particular books to work with, just any book I bring in and then just based on whatever I tried playing since the last lesson. Is it important to note that I don't have any knowledge of music before starting this spring?

She knows her pianos, and gives really good tips for whatever I am playing at that moment. I just thought maybe it should be more structured, and maybe throw in there a bit of theory now and then. Or is this how piano is normally taught (just playing whatever is in front of you at the time), and I just need patience?
Posted By: danshure Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/22/10 11:26 AM
I you feel you would best learn with structure and a bit of a plan, you should communicate this to your teacher.

It's not about "how piano is taught" ... it's about how YOU learn best!
Posted By: Derek Hartwell Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/22/10 11:34 AM
Different teachers have different methods and styles.
If you want a more disciplined, structured method, first tell your teacher and discuss it. Then, if your teacher changes her approach to suit you, all well and good. If not, then find a teacher whose style and method are what you are looking for.
Posted By: Gyro Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/22/10 06:41 PM
As a child, I took lessons from five different classical teachers, for
nine yrs. This is more or less how all of them taught. Skipping
through a method book is normal for classical teachers. It is
rare for a teacher to proceed through a book covering everything
in it, one song after another. Classical teachers typically do not
teach theory; I got very little, just very basic stuff.

As for technical studies, like scales and so forth. There is
a school of thought that they are not necessary, and a student
can get all his technical work from the actual pieces he
plays. I was not required to do much scale work. As for Hanon,
Czerny, etc., these are also technical studies, and some teachers
don't think they're necessary. I only played limited Hanon
and Czerny when I took lessons.

As for a "structured plan to get somewhere,"
what is the "somewhere" you want to get? If
that "somewhere" is a big-time concerto,
or other concert pianist-level pieces, for example, then I don't
believe that there is any plan that will get you there assuredly.
Concert pianist-level pieces are technically beyond average
players. In these pieces, the notes don't fall conveniently under
the fingers and present tendon-ripping physical challenges to the
player. You can take lessons for decades, but if you lack
concert pianist-level talent, you can never smoothly transition
into concert pianist-level repertoire; you simply lack the talent
for these types of pieces.

That said, concert pianist-level pieces can still be played
by anyone, but not like a concert pianist plays them. That is,
a concert pianist can work up concert repertoire in a yr. An
amateur would have to take decades to work up the same
Posted By: Minniemay Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/22/10 09:40 PM
Contrary to what Gyro says, most teachers I know do NOT teach the way you have described and all of them in my local association have a good theory background.

Find a teacher who is a member of a music association or who has an educated background. Our state MTA requires a music degree or its equivalent for membership. This ensures a common ground of knowledge.

Good teaching is not about turning the page to see what's next. It involves planning and structure around the needs of the student. Find someone who understands this.
Posted By: AZNpiano Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/22/10 10:57 PM
Originally Posted by Gyro
Skipping through a method book is normal for classical teachers. It is rare for a teacher to proceed through a book covering everything in it, one song after another. Classical teachers typically do not teach theory; I got very little, just very basic stuff.

[Linked Image] Please replace "classical" with "bad."
Posted By: samasap Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/23/10 03:45 PM
Sounds like she's not very organised as a teacher! I teach privately and each week write out lesson plans for each individual student, which basically splits the lesson between warming up with some scales - I usually get pupils doing one normal scale, perhaps a few arpeggios, maybe a broken chord and a contrary motion scale. I introduce them gradually, and then they have a few different things to work with.

Once they are playing these competently I then include another scale as part of their learning.
We also have set pieces that we are working on, and once I feel they are complete then we look to learn another, but I still get them every few weeks to cover existing pieces and scales.

Maybe approach your teacher and just say you want some guidance and further instruction from your lessons. Explain you want her to set you scales e.t.c. See what she says!

If you want any further help send me a message!
Good Luck.
Posted By: tnew Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/23/10 04:04 PM
Very helpful comments, thank you. I'll try talking to the instructor, but I will also look around for alternatives. I would appreciate a bit more structure, especially to help me determine my progress.

Skipping topics in order to get to the main business has never been my thing. I don't care about getting to a certain level faster by skipping things, and I certainly don't want to miss any information. I only skip around when it comes to electronic device user manuals smile.

I have no goals for playing any particular piece either, I only want to keep marching forward at a steady pace.

Posted By: tnew Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/23/10 07:17 PM
Thank you Samantha. I am looking for the sort of approach you have described, and some confirmation that I have completed the next lesson competently before moving on. Unfortunately I am not getting that at the moment.
Posted By: Morodiene Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/24/10 01:21 PM
I agree with everything above except Gyro's post. Do communicate with your teacher. However, it is possible that she is just like this. Someone who wants to be more in control of their lessons (as some adults are) would very much like her approach. You aren't that type of person, and so while its worth asking about she may not be able o change her ways. A good teacher can, of course, adjust their style to match that of their student.

I would be on the look out for a new teacher just in case. Of course, discontinue lessons with this one according to her policy -- if she has one! If not, give her plenty of notice you will be leaving.
Posted By: MusiciansWay Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/24/10 03:21 PM
Bravo to you, tnew, for reaching out for advice. I encourage you to keep advancing on your musical journey.

In addition to the pointers already offered, allow me to add that I cover key issues concerning how to select a teacher and manage student-teacher dynamics on pages 293-296 of my book The Musician's Way (available from most online booksellers).

For one, I recommend that students choose teachers carefully.

So, if you're going to seek out a new instructor, it will probably be best for you to consider what criteria you'll use to evaluate prospective teachers. I provide strategies & criteria on pages 293-4.

You'll also find helpful articles concerning practice, motivation, and more on The Musician's Way Blog: http://musiciansway.com/blog/

Best wishes, Gerald
Posted By: blueston Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/24/10 04:09 PM
The first thing I thought when I read your post was that maybe your Teacher was trying to save you money by trying to find some suitable pieces for you in YOUR music books you already own.

But still, it seems if the Teacher cared a lot more about you then they would put more effort into preparing something for you and have stronger opinions on which pieces you should learn.
Posted By: tnew Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/24/10 05:42 PM
I agree with the comment about defining my criteria before I set out to find an instructor. But I had to laugh when the first requirement that popped into my head was that they have to speak english.

I'm a bit tired of lessons in german. Though I am not so confident on my luck in finding a teacher who is comfortable speaking in english frown It also bothers me that they call B an H. It just doesn't make sense (A H C D E F G ?).

My instructor is a nice person, but really only speaks german and Chinese. She is also a student herself, and probably is relatively new to teaching. She doesn't have a policy or curriculum, just shows you the areas you ask to be shown. But then you have to know what the right questions are to ask her. Policy or not, I have always and will continue to be respectful of her and speak to her about my concerns.

Posted By: keystring Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/24/10 06:08 PM
Not that it's helpful in your quest, but..
It just doesn't make sense (A H C D E F G ?).

Put yourself in a time period where the modern structres of music didn't exist. Look up the history of how it evolved. At one point there is a hexachord of 6 notes roughly with intervals you'd get C D E F G A - So far so good, because there will be no dreaded tritone. Some fancy foot work was used, and two types of seventh note were used (though it wasn't really a seventh if you restarted your six notes somewhere in the middle) - a hard and a soft. Your H. C D E F G A Hard wink
Posted By: Nannerl Mozart Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/25/10 10:15 AM
I had a teacher like that for singing at one stage, what annoyed me the most was that I simultaneously had a piano teacher who was extremely organised and had lessons structured so well he was able to fit everything in and also had enough lee way for discussion, overtime and questions on my part. I ended up leaving that singing teacher, though he was very young and I was really one of his first students, so it was quite early in his teaching career. He changed over the course of time I spend with him, first being so easy going and fine when I first met him, and I could get away with no practice, but over time he started to be a little bit firm if that had ever happened.

It's a big ask if you want to communicate with your teacher and ask her to change the way she teachers, I've tried this before with an old piano teacher I had years ago, I ended up parting with him on not so good terms because we ended up just arguing every lesson. If you decide to communicate with your teacher on this matter, you can do this in a variety of ways, you can take the lead as a student, like I did with my former singing teacher, by setting up the curriculum and structure yourself, detailing the repertoire and the skills you would like to learn (theory, scales, improv, etc) and perhaps hope that the teacher prepares. I only did this because it would have been detrimental to my learning to find a new teacher in that situation ( I had my exam in a few months so I didn't want to go onto new technique ).

To me, students want to be lead by a teacher, they want somebody to instruct and to guide the way with a structure, you sound like you would like this, and you are perhaps considering to drop your current teacher or otherwise communicate with her, it sounds like there is a little hesitance to do both for fear of hurting your teacher. I understand, I've been there, you have to know that you are the student and you are paying for the lesson. Think about what YOU want.
Posted By: tnew Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/25/10 08:57 PM
Thank you keystring. I didn't know that about the H. It sounds like it's rather old fashioned.

Thanks all. It's all excellent advice.
Hi tnew,
I am a piano teacher of 50 years, and my piano method teaches like they learn in Europe: music patterns with theory, so when you play songs you know what you are doing. Other methods in America, don't follow that kind of piano method ways, unless you use special piano books for scale-wise, etc. I am not knocking American piano methods, for I used them for many years because my piano teacher from age 9-18 yrs of age was a University piano teacher, and she had all/most of the right materials side-by-side in books that gave me a wonderful program/method of learning the piano. Most piano teachers can only do what they understand themself to do...doing their best. Many of the American piano teachers come to me for further understanding/or/to teach my piano method. I took from a European concert artist, who gave me the European way of learning the piano, which I now pass on to teachers and students. My method doesn't jump around, but has a wonderful step-by-step process of learning the piano that adults love to learn this way. In fact I just received a note from a piano student who takes from a piano teacher, and studies my piano method on the side....lol...because it is on PDF with audio/visual self study.
Posted By: Morodiene Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/26/10 01:22 PM
Bonnie, if you don't mind, can you expound a bit on the difference the European approach is vs. the American? (Sorry if this is a 'hijack' of the thread, tnew, if you wish I can start a new one).
Posted By: John v.d.Brook Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/26/10 01:25 PM
[Linked Image]

Hi Bonnie, welcome to the forum (again, perhaps?)!

I'm wondering what the European "method" is. The reason I ask is because my grandson, who is German, is taking lessons and the process is an abomination (sparing the details for sake of brevity). I'm beginning to think that there may be as many "European" methods as there are American methods. My daughter is somewhat frantic, having tried two previous teachers. She studied piano in Germany, but was already a lower intermediate student when we moved there, so we really don't know the full range of approaches. BTW, I am familiar with the methods developed by Fritz Emonts.

Can you share with us a bit more about what you are doing and how it differs from the American approach? Thanks.
Posted By: tnew Re: Asking advice from piano teachers - 08/26/10 07:14 PM
It's quite ok, Morodiene. I am also curious what the differences are.

Please do share your experience with us Bonnie. I have no real experience in methods from either side of the Atlantic, with the exception of the before mentioned piano teacher.
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