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Posted By: JB_PW Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 05:44 PM
I’m intermediate and I’ve been working with my teacher for just over 2 years. There a lot of ‘pros’ to working with her, but enough ‘cons’ that I’ve been going back and forth about looking for someone else for over a year. I’m not satisfied with how my lessons go in general, but I’m still learning enough tidbits from her here and there that I can’t say I’m not getting my money’s worth (her rates are incredibly low). I also like her personally, and she regularly expresses how much she enjoys working with me (I’m the only non-beginner adult in her studio).

At a minimum, I feel like I could use a different perspective…and maybe a reality check I guess. I hate to complain about being praised too much, but it often does not feel deserved. I’m afraid she’s too focused on building my confidence and making my lessons a “feel-good” experience.

One reason I have not decided to move on yet is that I would likely have to accept online lessons, which I’m not really excited about. Maybe the experience with someone who does this regularly would be OK. I had a handful of online lessons with this teacher in the spring (out of necessity) and I really did not enjoy that at all. I’m also a little worried I might be required to do weekly lessons with a new teacher…I prefer every other week.

Are video exchanges vs. live online teaching becoming common at all? I think I might prefer that, although I’m curious about the fee structure for that kind of arrangement.

Is it terrible form to look into some new teachers and possibly take a few trial lessons prior to ending my current arrangement?

JB
Posted By: ShiroKuro Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 06:16 PM
So, first, to this:
Quote
Is it terrible form to look into some new teachers and possibly take a few trial lessons prior to ending my current arrangement?

I don't think that's terrible... I think that's smart actually. You maybe just want to make sure you know how far in advance your current teacher would expect a notification that you're discontinuing lessons with her.

Re lessons in general:
I started as an adult beginner 21 years ago and have played consistently the entire time, and taken lessons more often than not (I took weekly lessons for the first 9 years, then for the last 11 years, it's been off and on depending on my work schedule, moving and that sort of thing).
Anyway, I have had 8 teachers in total, as well as the odd one-off with a master teacher here and there.

And one thing I have learned from all that variety is that a mediocre teacher is better than no teacher, but a great teacher is so much better than a mediocre teacher that it's just off the charts. -- And mediocre could just be "mediocre for you for where you are at a given point in time or "mediocre because the teacher-student combo isn't a great fit."

Of all the teachers I've had, 3-4 are what I would call great, in terms of great fit for me, great teaching approach etc. Fortunately, one of those great teachers is my current teacher. But the funny thing is that the teacher I had before my current teacher was so awful, and I was in denial about it (I really wanted a teacher, there aren't lots of options in my town, I was still learning from her etc.) But now that I have a new teacher and I think back to my lessons with her, well I just have to laugh. She was that horrible (and I was that desperate I guess! grin ) Anyway, I had lessons with her for a little over a year and then she retired, and I stopped lessons and was without lessons for maybe 1.5 years.

So, when the pandemic started and I was hearing about so many people doing virtual lessons, I thought, ok, I could try that. So I found someone who lives in a town about an hour away from me (so in the future I could conceivably drive to a lesson with him) and we have been doing a lesson every other week since July or so.

We do live-online, although I'm sure if I wanted to, he would be open to listening to a video that I sent him (say at the beginning of a lesson and then give me feedback etc.)

Twice a month works best for me and we do a 45-minute lesson. I would probably prefer an hour, but monetarily 45-minutes is more affordable and that was what he suggested initially.

I found him by googling "online piano lessons" and other similar search terms, and I actually considered teachers all over the US. He popped up and I could see how close to me he was, and one detail that caught my eye was that he had a PhD in piano pedagogy (the other great teachers I've had have all had either a masters or doctorate in piano pedagogy and I'm starting to think that makes a difference!) So we had a trial lessons and it was great, and now we're settled into a really good-for-me routine with our lessons.

Sorry this is getting long!

Anyway, I won't go into all the things I like about our lessons, but let me just say that since started lessons with him, I'm tackling pieces I would have otherwise thought were too hard, and I'm working on all kinds of music that I wouldn't be looking at on my own. I absolutely love it. And the difference between current-teacher and former-teacher is so stark, I don't even know how to describe it, but I wish I had stopped lessons with her much sooner!

So I'll stop there. I think you absolutely should try to find someone to teach you online, twice a month.
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 07:01 PM
Shiro, thank you for such a detailed reply!

I'm not going to say my teacher is horrible. I think she just has a different vision for lessons than I do. She's basically my coach/cheerleader. I want more.

I'm glad to hear you are so happy with your teacher. I think I will start shopping around. I'll have to decide if I want to try someone local so I have the option to meet in person at some point. If I don't go local I'm sure there will be a ton of options to sort through.
Posted By: Lakeviewsteve Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 07:13 PM
Bi-weekly lessons are really a turn off and warning sign to me. If I was still teaching I wouldn’t allow it unless the student were quite advanced and I felt a real connection with them in terms of their technical ability, their motivation level, and are we both getting out of it what we want.
Posted By: ShiroKuro Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 07:15 PM
Good luck and keep us posted!

BTW, I notice your sig says you're a fan of "Mendelssohn, Yann Tiersen, Heller" -- that's not a combination one comes across a lot.

I am a huge fan of Einaudi and Tiersen and other pianists in that genre. My earlier teacher was very dismissive of those composers, even though we did work on their music together (I always picked my pieces). But she was always trying to get me to play pieces from the traditional classical repertoire, and I never liked the pieces she would suggest, so we often had these awkward back and forths where she would try to get me to play something and I would end up refusing and we'd go back to whatever it was I had brought in... (She also once said Einaudi should be played like you were a robot.... OMG)

My current teacher told me that he teaches Einaudi a lot and he's very open to a wide variety of styles and composers. And wouldn't you know it, he pays attention to the kinds of pieces I like, and has suggested pieces (that were knew to me) by traditional composers (Scarlatti, Liszt) that I ended up loving and now we're working on those (or they're in the queue). It's refreshing to have someone who pays attention to who I am as a pianist rather than who they think any generic pianist should be.

So anyway, I didn't mean to ramble, but just to say, definitely find someone who will be able (and willing) to address all your musical interests!
smile
Posted By: dogperson Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 07:21 PM
JB
I would recommend you talk to your teacher: tell her you really enjoy the lessons and appreciate the confidence building but that you to hear details about how you can improve. How can you know if there is a mismatch in vision unless you discuss it? She may be doing what she thinks you want rather than what she prefers
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 07:26 PM
Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
Bi-weekly lessons are really a turn off and warning sign to me. If I was still teaching I wouldn’t allow it unless the student were quite advanced and I felt a real connection with them in terms of their technical ability, their motivation level, and are we both getting out of it what we want.

I don't think you're alone. When I was first shopping in my area a few years back, just about every teacher stated on their website (or in response to emails) that they only did weekly lessons. Can you explain why it's a red flag for you?

I prefer bi-weekly because of my work schedule. I work 12 hour shifts half the week. There's no time to practice on work days, so I get 3 or 4 days of practicing in per week...in a 2 week period that's a full week of practice. If my lessons were more structured and there were things to work on other than reviewing what I've practiced, I might consider weekly lessons...but that's not my current reality.
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 07:34 PM
Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
BTW, I notice your sig says you're a fan of "Mendelssohn, Yann Tiersen, Heller" -- that's not a combination one comes across a lot.

So anyway, I didn't mean to ramble, but just to say, definitely find someone who will be able (and willing) to address all your musical interests!
smile

I'm open to playing just about anything. I don't typically try to work on "modern" stuff in lessons, unless I'm having trouble with a particular passage. My tastes have evolved since I started taking lessons. I really didn't enjoy Bach Inventions at first, but I kept at it because they seemed to really be helping my finger/hand independence...and about a year in I realized I was enjoying them! Now I'm taking a break and doing some Scarlatti, and it almost feels wrong to not be working on a Bach piece. smile

But yes, that is an important point. I'll try anything once...but if I then ask to go another direction, I would hope that a teacher would respect that.
Posted By: ShiroKuro Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 07:41 PM
Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
Bi-weekly lessons are really a turn off and warning sign to me. If I was still teaching I wouldn’t allow it unless the student were quite advanced and I felt a real connection with them in terms of their technical ability, their motivation level, and are we both getting out of it what we want.

Wow, I'm surprised to hear this. Not surprised that a teacher would prefer weekly lessons, but rather that you actually see a preference for biweekly as a warning sign. Obviously any teacher should put in place whatever policies they feel work best for them, so please don't take my comments the wrong way.

And I agree that weekly lessons are preferable, esp. for beginning students. But for adults, sometimes there's just not enough time to make much progress in a week, and a twice-monthly schedule can be more manageable. Especially when work duties, parenting duties are added in.

In my case, I've now been playing for just over 20 years, so obviously (or, hopefully you'll agree) my lesson-needs are quite different from a beginner etc. I did have weekly lessons for the first nine years of taking lessons, and would recommend weekly lessons as the better option for beginners and early intermediate students.

But for where I am in my playing, and also how my work demands are, twice-monthly works much better for me, even though I practice every day (with very rare exceptions).

For my teacher's part, he was open to twice-monthly from the beginning, and now I've learned that he scheduled another twice-monthly person at the same time as my lesson, so his slot for that day/time is full every week, it just alternates between me and another student. (though I do wonder if this was easier to arrange now that it's online)
Posted By: ShiroKuro Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 07:43 PM
BTW I love playing Bach! It's been awhile since I worked on an Invention, but I always love them when I play them. And now as part of my sightreading work, I'm playing through Music for Millions and there's a lot of music by Bach, and I always enjoy it. smile
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 07:50 PM
Originally Posted by dogperson
JB
I would recommend you talk to your teacher: tell her you really enjoy the lessons and appreciate the confidence building but that you to hear details about how you can improve. How can you know if there is a mismatch in vision unless you discuss it? She may be doing what she thinks you want rather than what she prefers

Well...she has actually said that she's my cheerleader, and it's her job to make me feel good about my playing.

I'm sure I could have been more blunt with her...it's not really my style. I have made it clear on several occasions what I would like to focus on more, but nothing ever seems to stick. There's no structure. We work on whatever I decide to pull out of my bag. She doesn't recall what I'm doing from one lesson to the next. I decided to work on scales & arpeggios on my own, and to learn more music theory. I wonder what I might be missing out on that I just don't know to ask about?
Posted By: ShiroKuro Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 08:04 PM
Quote
There's no structure. We work on whatever I decide to pull out of my bag. She doesn't recall what I'm doing from one lesson to the next.

Yeah, no structure is definitely a problem in my opinion.... I do tend to choose the main pieces I work on as repertoire, but my teacher provides structure in what I do for technique and pedagogical goals (i.e, things like scales, arps, sightreading practice, as opposed to pieces I want to learn how to play because I love the music)

Also, not knowing what you're working on from one lesson to the next to me says she's not really invested in you as a student. Again, I would find that problematic.

Quote
I decided to work on scales & arpeggios on my own, and to learn more music theory. I wonder what I might be missing out on that I just don't know to ask about?

I think you should start shopping around. If you've already tried to talk her but nothing has changed, I don't think you're likely to get any benefit from additional efforts like that.

I'm sorry you're having this struggle. frown
Posted By: bennevis Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 08:20 PM
Originally Posted by JB_PW
she has actually said that she's my cheerleader, and it's her job to make me feel good about my playing.

I'm sure I could have been more blunt with her...it's not really my style. I have made it clear on several occasions what I would like to focus on more, but nothing ever seems to stick. There's no structure. We work on whatever I decide to pull out of my bag. She doesn't recall what I'm doing from one lesson to the next. I decided to work on scales & arpeggios on my own, and to learn more music theory. I wonder what I might be missing out on that I just don't know to ask about?
If you're really keen on structure in your lessons, there's nothing better than to follow a recognized piano exam syllabus like RCM, even if you decide not to do the exams. Print out the syllabus and show it to her, and ask her to help you fill in the missing gaps for your current level.

Teachers who specialize in adult students often just teach them what they want, no more (and perhaps no less, but that's not guaranteed), because adult students are paying for their lessons directly, and teachers are therefore keen not to discourage them. So......they perceive themselves as cheerleaders.

My adult beginner friend got round that problem by telling his teacher early on that he wanted to do ABRSM exams, and wanted to be taught the same way as he would teach his child students (all of whom did exams), without skipping or giving short shrift to any of the basic stuff. He only told his teacher that he'd changed his mind about doing exams when he was sure that his teacher was strict with him about mastering all the basics before moving on, by which time they were securely on the same wavelength thumb.
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 08:38 PM
I'm actually following the ABSRM syllabus for scales and arpeggios, because I wanted some clear goals and my teacher was a bit wishy-washy on that.

To be totally honest, I guess I'm not sure exactly how I want my lessons to go. I just know that I'm not satisfied at present. I certainly don't want a drill sergeant. But it would be nice to work with someone who was organized and/or cared enough to remember what I'm working on, and maybe ask once every couple of months "how are you doing on scales?"

This is only my 2nd teacher as an adult; I don't know what's normal/expected. Teacher #1 was obviously a mismatch. She had only previously taught kids and adult beginners. As I was neither, she just didn't know what to do with me. She was clearly uncomfortable/awkward in our lessons and I could only endure that 3 times. It was a few months later that my current teacher was recommended by an acquaintance, whose daughter had taken lessons for several years and apparently done well.

I can acknowledge that it's possible I need to be more clear/persistent about what I want. I'll give that some more thought before I throw in the towel.
Posted By: ShiroKuro Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 08:49 PM
bennevis, on the one hand, I think you make some good suggestions, but on the other hand... isn't it the teacher's job to provide that structure? Esp. for OP, who's not a beginner, but hasn't been playing that long...

I personally would want the teacher to take a greater role in deciding on lesson content.
Posted By: Moo :) Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 08:50 PM
I think many teachers in uk can only teach kids on a graded syllabus. As most kids reach only the first few grades and quit, I'm sure a lot of teachers are not experienced with intermediate to higher level. This is especially true with adults where many teachers have less experience.

I think for a beginner or intermediate level there are downsides of online learning so it may not be a good move. I have been playing for a long time so I can manage well online. I spent my lessons on 2 pieces and it's a lot of painstaking details I'm afraid. After learning all the basics - fingerings, tempos, errors. Most of the rest is details of the music. Online is not great at demonstrating techniques so if you are not at a level where you are comfortable with techniques then I would perhaps stick with an in person teacher.

You can discuss your views with your teacher and change the lesson plan. A teacher who is good however may be correct and it may be you that need to adjust. I personally have had to learn to spend long time on pieces and be more patient. I tend to enjoy the process now.

Good luck.
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 09:15 PM
Several good points Moo, thank you.

Originally Posted by Moo :)
As most kids reach only the first few grades and quit, I'm sure a lot of teachers are not experienced with intermediate to higher level. This is especially true with adults where many teachers have less experience.

After reading the forum for awhile here, I can see that teaching adults may not be easy. There are a lot of different goals, attitudes, expectations. Maybe as dogperson said, my teacher settled into this current style with me because she thought I was happy.

Originally Posted by Moo :)
Online is not great at demonstrating techniques so if you are not at a level where you are comfortable with techniques then I would perhaps stick with an in person teacher.

I am still learning technique, and it's one of the reasons I'm a little unsure about online lessons.
Posted By: bennevis Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 09:37 PM
Originally Posted by JB_PW
To be totally honest, I guess I'm not sure exactly how I want my lessons to go. I just know that I'm not satisfied at present. I certainly don't want a drill sergeant. But it would be nice to work with someone who was organized and/or cared enough to remember what I'm working on, and maybe ask once every couple of months "how are you doing on scales?"

This is only my 2nd teacher as an adult; I don't know what's normal/expected. Teacher #1 was obviously a mismatch. She had only previously taught kids and adult beginners. As I was neither, she just didn't know what to do with me. She was clearly uncomfortable/awkward in our lessons and I could only endure that 3 times.
It sounds like you've been self-taught before you decided to get a teacher.

That often brings its own problems: you may have big gaps in your skills set and/or knowledge which you're unaware of, but you also have some set ideas of your own about what you want, which your teacher is unable to reconcile. For instance, does she tell you up front what your technical & musical gaps are - including ingrained bad habits - and try to correct them (which may mean taking several steps back), or does she go along with you and just teach you what you want, and 'go easy' with you?

I don't teach adults, but I know a teacher who does, and she tells me that about half of her adult students were self-learners before they decided they needed a teacher. And that almost all of them have some ingrained problems - usually with technique and rhythm (she tells me she was sometimes surprised at how many of them couldn't play in time) - which would involve taking several steps back to correct. Unless they were aware of their problems and were willing to make the effort and spend time to correct them (as opposed to continue learning the stuff they want to learn), she doesn't bring up the subject.

I suggest that you clarify in your mind what you want from your teacher by writing everything down in the form of a list (things always get clearer when written down), with the most important things first. Then find a way of communicating them to your teacher that would be clear but not 'pushy', and see how she responds.
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 09:58 PM
I had lessons for maybe 3 years as a kid, then just played for fun in high school. After that, I rarely touched my piano for over 20 years. When I decided to resume playing, I only waited a month or two to get a teacher. So I don't really consider myself to be self-taught, but I'm certain I carried some habits with me.

My teacher has corrected some technique issues...mainly physical stuff, like arm/wrist/finger position, posture, etc. But overall I'd say she 'goes easy.' She knows I'm a very dedicated student, so she should understand I take this seriously and I really want to improve. But even when I say I want to spend more time on a piece to improve XYZ, she usually suggests I move on. I'm referring to pieces that I've often only spent 2 weeks on (i.e. 7 days of practice time)...it's not like I'm hammering away for months refusing to let them go.

I think the list idea is good, thanks for your comments bennevis.
Posted By: Moo :) Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 10:01 PM
You have said you are not sure how lessons are to go so it's not clear what you are looking for. Another move may not work. I have spoken to several pianists who go though many teachers. I think often it is them and not the teachers than need to adapt. I for example have always been inpatient with wanting to play lots of pieces so it took a long time to see the benefits of playing fewer pieces and working on small details. Many details are not written so you gain understanding from a teacher and often these skills are found in many pieces so spending time in detail in one is good progress. However if you measure progress online how long a piece takes or difficulty then this development is missed.

You had mentioned on an etude worrying about speed I remembered. I similarly had to relearn fingerings with a fugue in 2 hours of lessons. It set me back but my teacher said the changes will work. now I'm able to play through it even though it took a long time to pick up. I am sure other fugues would be easier as learning the first one was very hard but it is common style so another fugue should not be so difficult now I persosted.

As a intermediate level often you have to get a lot of tips on technique to get certain sounds and this is difficult online. How to pedal, to hold the hand, to staccato chords, how to accent etc. it makes it hard online if you are less experienced. I still get told by my teacher try this to get this change in sound but often I have done it in person before so it is easier.

I do agree that you often have to work at a lower level and slower progress than you wish but once you have some level you can push and take risks more successfully. I tend to find some people who want new teachers and keep changing it's because they are frustrated with slow progress and want to play complex pieces and feel that it's the teachers fault for not reaching properly. However I think a good teacher keeps you on slow progress. It's is clear a pianist with years experience in lessons and someone who rushes through. I would suggest you be content with slow progress it's normal. I think the online world gives a false sense of progress and you get a better sense in piano meetup group of real life progress, or lack of progress and slow progress.
Posted By: Moo :) Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 10:20 PM
If you are moving on from a piece in only 2 weeks then I think it is reasonable to ask why. My problem was normally the opposite when my teacher wanted to keep going and it was me that wanted to move on. There has been many times he has said that's enough for now and I've moved on when I've done what I can. Some problems if you can't do it with practice it may be best to move on. You need to be able to trust your teachers judgement. I think ti question them why if it's very quick is reasonable.
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 10:44 PM
Originally Posted by Moo :)
I tend to find some people who want new teachers and keep changing it's because they are frustrated with slow progress and want to play complex pieces and feel that it's the teachers fault for not reaching properly.

You realize the title of this thread means I'm frequently feeling indecisive about staying with my current teacher, not that I'm 'teacher hopping' and unhappy with multiple teachers, right?

The first teacher barely counted...she was a blip on the radar. This lady I've already been working with for over 2 years, and I haven't made a change yet. I'm just talking this through.

I'm not trying to play anything complex. Burgmuller Op. 100, easier SWW, Heller Etudes, Bach Inventions, some easy Scarlatti. Lately some the Schytte etudes, which are challenging for me.

Tell me this (anyone): what percentage of the pieces that you work on in your lessons do you feel proud of when you move on? You really feel like you did a good job...you're satisfied that your tempo is acceptable (for your current level) and you're playing with good musicality? Maybe my expectations are too high.
Posted By: ShiroKuro Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 10:59 PM
Moo:
Quote
I have spoken to several pianists who go though many teachers. I think often it is them and not the teachers than need to adapt.

I don't know how often this happens where it really is the student/learner and not either the teacher *or* a bad fit between teacher and student.

In my case, with the exception of my second teacher (who we both agreed I had grown out of), all of my teacher-changes were because either I moved or the teacher did (well, except for the second to last teacher that I wrote about in a previous post here, she retired). But my point is, I have changed teachers a fair amount (in terms of number of teachers, though not in terms of years of lessons with any one teacher, I have been playing for a very long time now, after all), but I have definitely not been "teacher hopping" and in fact, have obviously stayed with a teacher when I shouldn't have (because as I said earlier, I decided a teacher who was a bad fit for me was still better than no teacher).

Anyway, when we're talking about adults, I think approaches to teaching need to be more varied, and the issue of fit may be more relevant, so I'm not certain I want to conclude that "usually it's the student and not the teacher" ...
Posted By: dmd Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 11:05 PM
Originally Posted by JB_PW
Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
Bi-weekly lessons are really a turn off and warning sign to me. If I was still teaching I wouldn’t allow it unless the student were quite advanced and I felt a real connection with them in terms of their technical ability, their motivation level, and are we both getting out of it what we want.

I don't think you're alone. When I was first shopping in my area a few years back, just about every teacher stated on their website (or in response to emails) that they only did weekly lessons. Can you explain why it's a red flag for you?

If I were a teacher ( I am not ), I would discourage bi-weekly lessons also.


Why ?

Because now I have to find someone to fill those alternate weeks in between a new student's bi-weekly lessons in order to maximize my income.

What I would do is tell the student that I will make a note that he/she would like bi-weekly lessons and if someone else comes along to fill out the other weeks .... fine.

OR .... I might take the student with the understanding that if some other student comes along for weekly lessons I will take that student and be "forced" to drop the bi-weekly student.

Teaching is a business.

Now, there may be pedagogical reasons for discouraging bi-weekly lessons but the business reasons are valid also.
Posted By: ShiroKuro Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 11:08 PM
Quote
Tell me this (anyone): what percentage of the pieces that you work on in your lessons do you feel proud of when you move on? You really feel like you did a good job...you're satisfied that your tempo is acceptable (for your current level) and you're playing with good musicality? Maybe my expectations are too high.

So, in my case, I am very clear about my goals with different pieces I work on. If it's what I consider a "repertoire" piece, then I either have a goal of recording it (i.e., get the piece to performance level) or a goal of actually performing it (pre-covid) or playing with my violin-friend (also pre-covid). In other words, all of those pieces I expect to be playing musically and at tempo before I consider them "finished." The only times I've given up before getting the piece to that point is when I've decided something is really just out of my league (something that happened more often when I was without a teacher).

But for music I use for sightreading practice, or [b]reading[/] practice, I don't work on the pieces for very long (and I think this is analogous to years ago when I would play through exercises and method books). Right now I'm playing through the Music for Millions series and the goal is just to play through as many pieces as I can. Also, they are all pretty far below my level, though of course some have challenges. With these pieces, though, I don't generally care if I get them up to an appropriate tempo, I generally only spend a week on any single page of music.

So, back to your question: are you perhaps treating all of your pieces like repertoire pieces? Whereas, is it possible your teacher wants you to get exposure to a lot of pieces and doesn't see those pieces as repertoire pieces?

Could some of your pieces be more "exercise" oriented? And could you also perhaps convince your teacher to work more with you on the pieces you want to be "repertoire" pieces?
Love reading your responses Shirukuro. My teacher of 7 years loves Bach too. We started working on the inventions a couple of years ago..I was not a Fan then, but now see the value and we are doing some Sinofinas, but we are heading back to 2 part inventions that were deemed challenging backing then. Love einaudi too.

I started with weekly lesson from 30 mins moving to 1 hour. With the pandemic and realistically, so much of admin, we moved to bi-weekly, and this suites me so much better. Sometimes the lessons is more chat on crazies going on in our world. I have had only 1 teacher, but if I my gut wasn’t happy then I would have looked for another teacher.
My teacher has masters in music, plays so many sting instruments, and performs a lot of love jazz. He is seeped with knowledge and I like his approach to adult teaching. I wasn’t looking for a slap on my hand and rigid disciplinary approach. He is getting me mentally ready to sit for the performance grade exams by taking me through ugh a mock experience with an old paper. He looks at multiple different ways to teach a concept, if one approach doesn’t work for me. Being flexible is key too, as each lesson can’t be perfect every time. We are all human. Progress is better reflected over a quarterly basis or even over 1 year. Nothing progresses linearly.

It comes down to what are you looking for, your style of learning [critical], and trusting yourself. Believe me, if you are getting frustrated then it will only build up to a negative experience. Practicing the piano should always have an element of fun, even though the work is challenging at times.
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 11:31 PM
Originally Posted by dmd
If I were a teacher ( I am not ), I would discourage bi-weekly lessons also.

Why ?

Because now I have to find someone to fill those alternate weeks in between a new student's bi-weekly lessons in order to maximize my income.

I totally get that. But to say it's a red flag implies that it's not the business reasons. I suspect some teachers may think this is a sign that the student is not serious and/or not willing to put in the necessary practice time in between lessons. That is not a fair judgment in my opinion, and certainly not true in my case.
Posted By: dogperson Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 11:42 PM
Originally Posted by JB_PW
Originally Posted by dmd
If I were a teacher ( I am not ), I would discourage bi-weekly lessons also.

Why ?

Because now I have to find someone to fill those alternate weeks in between a new student's bi-weekly lessons in order to maximize my income.

I totally get that. But to say it's a red flag implies that it's not the business reasons. I suspect some teachers may think this is a sign that the student is not serious and/or not willing to put in the necessary practice time in between lessons. That is not a fair judgment in my opinion, and certainly not true in my case.

JB
If you decide to look for a new teacher, just explain your work schedule when asking for bi-weekly lessons. Twelve hour shifts are physically and emotionally draining. Unless you are Superman, it is impossible to work in effective practice during the 12-hour days
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 11:45 PM
Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
So, back to your question: are you perhaps treating all of your pieces like repertoire pieces? Whereas, is it possible your teacher wants you to get exposure to a lot of pieces and doesn't see those pieces as repertoire pieces?

Could some of your pieces be more "exercise" oriented? And could you also perhaps convince your teacher to work more with you on the pieces you want to be "repertoire" pieces?

We've never even discussed reading or sightreading practice. I've only been doing one technical exercise in lessons, from a book of arpeggio studies. She's usually satisfied with my progress in 2 weeks time and always wants me to move on to the next one. She's never concerned with the tempo, even though I haven't gotten a single one up to half tempo yet. I guess for arpeggios she just wants me to get the form right.

The last Bach Invention I only worked on for 2 weeks; it was also barely at half tempo. She said it was good enough and that I didn't need to keep working on it. crazy

So yes, I guess I am looking at them as repertoire. I'm doing mostly etudes, but there's a lot to work with there...I want to play them very musically, and it's frustrating when I've just got the notes down and not really done much else with it and she's ready to write it off.

It's possible the fact that I've just started recording recently is adding to my frustration. I'm hearing so many things that I think are wrong, or could be better...and I wonder, why didn't she mention these things? I suppose it could have sounded different on her piano, but not THAT different. Usually I'm still a bit nervous when I play for her, so I think it must even sound a bit worse than at home.
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 11:52 PM
Originally Posted by Pianoperformance
I have had only 1 teacher, but if I my gut wasn’t happy then I would have looked for another teacher.

It comes down to what are you looking for, your style of learning [critical], and trusting yourself. Believe me, if you are getting frustrated then it will only build up to a negative experience. Practicing the piano should always have an element of fun, even though the work is challenging at times.

Thanks for your comment. My gut hasn't been happy for a year. But I'm trying to take everyone's thoughts to heart here. It's forcing me to think about how I may have contributed to this situation. Even if I ultimately decide to move on I want the next experience to be better, so I will need to carefully think about how I approach it.
Posted By: wszxbcl Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 11:55 PM
Originally Posted by JB_PW
Tell me this (anyone): what percentage of the pieces that you work on in your lessons do you feel proud of when you move on? You really feel like you did a good job...you're satisfied that your tempo is acceptable (for your current level) and you're playing with good musicality? Maybe my expectations are too high.

I'm an older adult, advanced beginner. I estimate 60% of the pieces attempted become repertoire which I can perform in recital and feel good, even when there are piano teachers and snotty gifted kids in the audience who are really advanced. There is a goal, to reach a point on your piece when you can musically stand your ground. Of course technique is inseparable from that. The rest, 40% that I cannot play well enough, are set aside for later.

After reading your posts, and your other thread about reaching a fast tempo, I would suggest you try another teacher and go for weekly lessons. Like others, I don't like to tell others to change teachers. But I'll stick my neck out in this case. Sooner or later you will need a different teacher anyway.
Posted By: ShiroKuro Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/18/20 11:59 PM
Among the many things that have come up in this thread, this one jumps out: you probably need to spend more than two week on Bach Inventions...
Posted By: dmd Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 12:03 AM
Originally Posted by JB_PW
Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
So, back to your question: are you perhaps treating all of your pieces like repertoire pieces? Whereas, is it possible your teacher wants you to get exposure to a lot of pieces and doesn't see those pieces as repertoire pieces?

Could some of your pieces be more "exercise" oriented? And could you also perhaps convince your teacher to work more with you on the pieces you want to be "repertoire" pieces?

We've never even discussed reading or sightreading practice. I've only been doing one technical exercise in lessons, from a book of arpeggio studies. She's usually satisfied with my progress in 2 weeks time and always wants me to move on to the next one. She's never concerned with the tempo, even though I haven't gotten a single one up to half tempo yet. I guess for arpeggios she just wants me to get the form right.

The last Bach Invention I only worked on for 2 weeks; it was also barely at half tempo. She said it was good enough and that I didn't need to keep working on it. crazy

So yes, I guess I am looking at them as repertoire. I'm doing mostly etudes, but there's a lot to work with there...I want to play them very musically, and it's frustrating when I've just got the notes down and not really done much else with it and she's ready to write it off.

It's possible the fact that I've just started recording recently is adding to my frustration. I'm hearing so many things that I think are wrong, or could be better...and I wonder, why didn't she mention these things? I suppose it could have sounded different on her piano, but not THAT different. Usually I'm still a bit nervous when I play for her, so I think it must even sound a bit worse than at home.

Well, it does seem that you need to sit down with your teacher and discuss these concerns.

Hopefully, you will find that she has solid reasoning behind her approach and that you may need to "lighten up" a bit and accept her expertise in this.
Posted By: dmd Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 12:03 AM
Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
Among the many things that have come up in this thread, this one jumps out: you probably need to spend more than two week on Bach Inventions...

Why ?
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 12:05 AM
Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
Among the many things that have come up in this thread, this one jumps out: you probably need to spend more than two week on Bach Inventions...

Right? I was shocked. Usually I spend at least 6 weeks on them, and there's still a lot of work to be done. Maybe she didn't want me to work on it just for the sake of speed, but it's hard to feel good about dropping it when I've only reached half tempo.

Originally Posted by wszxbcl
Sooner or later you will need a different teacher anyway.

Really? Is that common for adults who are mainly playing for fun? I would love to find someone I just click with and not feel the need to look any further.
Posted By: Moo :) Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 12:11 AM
If you have had lessons only a short time so these pieces may be stretch pieces. I was playing grade 2 pieces after 2 years so it appears to be quite good progress. I would not expect too much on only 2 years lessons. It may be too high expectations. Nothing in mendelssohn songs without words is easy so most of the pieces you describe are grade 4-5.

I think if you wish to try an online teacher go ahead but I personally have done many years face to face with several teachers and currently online so I'm not sure it's a great idea. I was just giving the alternative perspective as everyone here always says change teacher. if someone tells me they have had 5 teachers and still can't find the right one then it's them and not the piano teacher. Too high expectations is not solvable by a change in teacher so just a warning.

Your teacher sounds great with positive feedback and I'm not getting what the issue is to be honest. If you want structure maybe follow the abrsm and have an online exam to get external feedback. Good luck.
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 12:12 AM
Originally Posted by dmd
Hopefully, you will find that she has solid reasoning behind her approach and that you may need to "lighten up" a bit and accept her expertise in this.

Hah! I cannot count the number of times the term "lighten up" has been thrown my way, starting with the "award" I received at the end of the year from my 5th grade teacher. smile Point taken. I really want to play well and I am often impatient.
Posted By: wszxbcl Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 12:20 AM
Originally Posted by JB_PW
Originally Posted by wszxbcl
Sooner or later you will need a different teacher anyway.

Really? Is that common for adults who are mainly playing for fun? I would love to find someone I just click with and not feel the need to look any further.

I started in my 50's so I can only play for fun. But I want to advance. Didn't you say your teacher mainly works with beginners? So if you want to advance...
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 12:28 AM
Originally Posted by wszxbcl
Didn't you say your teacher mainly works with beginners? So if you want to advance...

No, I'm her only adult student who is not a beginner. She has several (amazing) teenage girls who are much better than me. I think they are all on the exam course, which is MTAC (I think) here in Oregon.


Originally Posted by Moo :)
Your teacher sounds great with positive feedback and I'm not getting what the issue is to be honest.

Sigh. I knew this might be hard to explain. I appreciate positive feedback of course. But when you get lots of it, on a regular basis, often when you KNOW you didn't just play that well...it loses its meaning and just starts to make you feel silly. Maybe that's just me though.
Posted By: dogperson Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 12:33 AM
JB
No, it’s not just you about the praise amount— I’m the same way. I’d rather have LOTS of constructive criticism, sprinkled with only a smidgeon if praise. Then I know the praise is sincere and well-earned.
Posted By: Moo :) Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 12:35 AM
I think dmd had the best advice. I'm not sure we can help you online but was an interesting discussion.

'Well, it does seem that you need to sit down with your teacher and discuss these concerns'

I agree!
Posted By: ShiroKuro Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 12:47 AM
Originally Posted by dmd
Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
Among the many things that have come up in this thread, this one jumps out: you probably need to spend more than two week on Bach Inventions...

Why ?

Partly because JB (the OP) has biweekly lessons and isn't able to practice every day. But also because for most pianists at the stage where Inventions are challenging, there's so much to be learned from them that I can't imagine moving on so quickly. Others may feel differently, but that's my take.

JB, I really hope you'll try some trial lessons with a few other teachers. You deserve to have someone you click with, and not feel like you "have to lighten up."
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 01:05 AM
Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
JB, I really hope you'll try some trial lessons with a few other teachers. You deserve to have someone you click with, and not feel like you "have to lighten up."

To be fair...that's totally valid advice for me. laugh

I really appreciate everyone's input. It's given me a lot to think about. I will probably decide what the biggest issue (or 2) is with my current teacher, and think of a tactful way to discuss it in my lesson. I will need to be more direct than I have in the past, which is uncomfortable...but I should at least give it a shot.

If I'm not satisfied with the results, I'll start checking out my other options. I don't want to do that unless I'm ready to pull the trigger.
Posted By: wszxbcl Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 01:34 AM
Originally Posted by JB_PW
Originally Posted by wszxbcl
Didn't you say your teacher mainly works with beginners? So if you want to advance...

No, I'm her only adult student who is not a beginner. She has several (amazing) teenage girls who are much better than me. I think they are all on the exam course, which is MTAC (I think) here in Oregon.

Oh ok I misunderstood. In that case, would be nice if she teaches you no different from the others. That's one of the things I like about my teacher: she teaches me as if I have a future in music, hahaha...
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 01:41 AM
Hmm...that might be an easy way to start this conversation with her. I could ask how her lessons with those girls differ from mine, and then maybe suggest some changes based on that. I certainly don't want to jump through all the hoops they have to (like all the memorizing), but I can't deny that she's getting results with them. Could just be raw talent too, I don't know.
Posted By: bennevis Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 01:56 AM
The best way to progress is to keep moving forwards, not get bogged down by a feeling of inadequacy that pieces aren't 'finished' until you've played them to a certain standard or speed. (BTW, Bach didn't give any tempo indications of his Inventions.)

If there are pieces you specially like and want to keep, by all means keep working on them by yourself if your teacher has passed you on them, but don't let them keep you back from learning others. Stagnation is the enemy of progress. By continually working on new stuff, you'll keep developing, and if you then return to a piece you've previously learnt a year - or even a few months - ago, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much better you can play it, and with less effort.

When I was a student, the only pieces I spent a lot of time on (i.e. more than two to four weeks) were my exam pieces: three a year. For all the other pieces, my teachers (all four of them over a period of ten years) moved me on when I'd learnt what they wanted me to from them, regardless of how well I actually played them. As a kid, I simply took my teacher's advice, and never thought any piece I learnt was 'unfinished' when my teacher passed me on it.

That's the way I teach my students too. I don't expect complete mastery of each piece before moving them on to new pastures, as long as they'd learnt what I wanted them to from each piece. With piano, there is a lot to learn, and the best way to master new skills is to learn aspects of each with different pieces, rather than get stuck on one particular piece.
Posted By: zillybug Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 02:07 AM
I returned to the piano and lessons after not playing for over 40 years. I was concerned that a teacher would not take me seriously because of my age. I chose a teacher who was known to expect a lot from his students. Like dog person said I also do not want praise when I know it’s not good so it is not just you. The few times I have gotten praise I know it means something.
I cannot imagine being finished with an invention in two weeks.

When I was doing them, I had to memorize each hand separately and then together. He is also very picky about articulation. While I can see some easy pieces getting done in two weeks, I cannot imagine it for a Bach invention. From what you say about the teenage girls, it sounds like your teacher is treating you differently. Some teachers think adults want that.
In the beginning, I told my teacher that I wanted to play as well as possible, wanted him to be tough on me and I was willing to do the work. I would have a serious talk with your teacher .
Posted By: wszxbcl Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 05:27 AM
Originally Posted by JB_PW
I certainly don't want to jump through all the hoops they have to (like all the memorizing).

Oh! But DO jump through hoops! Teachers can't help getting all excited when you jump through a ring of fire and didn't collapse :-) At least when you try, you raise this to a different level and a good teacher will meet you there.

Yes start a conversation about how lessons differ with the other students. You won't have as much time to practice as those teenagers, so you will progress slower. But ideally you get a slow version of the same approach. (And do weekly)
Posted By: Sidokar Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 09:15 AM
Originally Posted by JB_PW
I'm not trying to play anything complex. Burgmuller Op. 100, easier SWW, Heller Etudes, Bach Inventions, some easy Scarlatti. Lately some the Schytte etudes, which are challenging for me.

Tell me this (anyone): what percentage of the pieces that you work on in your lessons do you feel proud of when you move on? You really feel like you did a good job...you're satisfied that your tempo is acceptable (for your current level) and you're playing with good musicality? Maybe my expectations are too high.

The Bach inventions are very difficult to play well. They involve a lot of different skills, ornaments, articulation, hand independance, ... many people in my opinion try to play them too early and then feel frustrated because the result is not good. I have seen a bunch of vids of kids butchering these pieces. The Heller etudes can be very difficuly, it depends which ones, so are the Schytte etudes. And Scarlatti, it also depends which ones. So if you only had a few years of piano as a kid and then 2 years with a teacher, all these pieces would normally be quite difficult for your level, and it would not surprise me if you are unsatisfied with the end result.

That said, the fact that your teacher does not seem to have a structured approach is certainly an issue, if you are serious about piano. My sense is that instead of choosing randomly pieces and various studies or exercices is to really first assess what is your true level, roughly, for example against an rcm grading system, and determine what gaps you have. Then you can choose the right pieces within a range of choices to fill those gaps. And after that you can define a progress path, based on your abilities, learning capability, hours available to learn the piano, ...

Dont compare yourself with others. It is useless. Your capability to progress are unique. Maybe faster than some or maybe slower. What you should be aiming to is to be able to play well pieces that are within your current level. Playing poorly pieces too difficult for you is unsurprising. And the fact that you think Bach inventions are not complex, makes me think you probably dont have a very clear view of what your level is.

For the teacher, online or not, ... I always prefer face to face if possible, for someone in your situation. Once you know your teacher well (assuming you change) and you are on a good progress track, you can switch to online.
Posted By: Moo :) Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 10:47 AM
I played through many bach invention during covid lockdown and a few in more detail. It is possible to play a bach invention in 2 weeks. It does not have to be full tempo. It is not clear what the correct tempo is as we have no clear instructions for this.. It only the teacher can answer why so quick to move on. Why did you spend so long to memorize and work on each voice separatly in such detail? I would not agree at all it is necessary to memorise them. This would be a slow process. Similarly people here suggested say it needs hours singing. I found very odd. Bach inventions an not an overly complex academic exercise. Whilst they are not easy pieces, they range from grade 4 to grade 6ish. You can spend too long. If it's an exam piece maybe a good idea to aim for a polishes version but it may be good idea to move on quickly.
Posted By: Moo :) Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 11:05 AM
I see the bach invention 12 is on the new trinity grade 7 syllabus, so some of these are of higher difficulty especially at speed. It may be good to work on a few to a higher standard. I found really helped left hand playing.
Posted By: JB_PW Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 02:26 PM
Originally Posted by Sidokar
The Bach inventions are very difficult to play well. They involve a lot of different skills, ornaments, articulation, hand independance, ... many people in my opinion try to play them too early and then feel frustrated because the result is not good. I have seen a bunch of vids of kids butchering these pieces. The Heller etudes can be very difficuly, it depends which ones, so are the Schytte etudes. And Scarlatti, it also depends which ones. So if you only had a few years of piano as a kid and then 2 years with a teacher, all these pieces would normally be quite difficult for your level, and it would not surprise me if you are unsatisfied with the end result.

I misspoke. I should not have said the Inventions are not complex. It just seems like these are often assigned to people within a couple years of learning piano (from what I've read here). I was just trying to say I'm not one of those people trying to play something like La Campanella after 2 years and complaining that it's not going well. smile

Over the last 2 years, I have worked on 7 or 8 Inventions. I have moved on from each of them before I'm satisfied. I'm used to that. I've learned from each one, and I know that I'm not going to be able to play them "well" right now. Having my teacher tell me to move on from the last in 2 weeks just seemed a bit silly to me. I was barely digging into it.

I would estimate I'm around grade 4-5 ABSRM. I'm working through the syllabus on my own (scales & arpeggios...I'm almost through the grade 5 goals and for grade 4 I just need to go back and do the contrary scales, those are tough for me). I also recently bought the grade 4 repertoire book and I can sight read them OK (some much slower than others), but would need to spend some time to make any of them sound nice. This doesn't seem advanced for the amount of time I've been playing, but sometimes I do forget that playing clarinet for 30+ years doesn't have much bearing on my piano playing!
Posted By: Sidokar Re: Frequent indecision about teacher - 10/19/20 06:53 PM
Originally Posted by JB_PW
I misspoke. I should not have said the Inventions are not complex. It just seems like these are often assigned to people within a couple years of learning piano (from what I've read here). I was just trying to say I'm not one of those people trying to play something like La Campanella after 2 years and complaining that it's not going well. smile

Over the last 2 years, I have worked on 7 or 8 Inventions. I have moved on from each of them before I'm satisfied. I'm used to that. I've learned from each one, and I know that I'm not going to be able to play them "well" right now. Having my teacher tell me to move on from the last in 2 weeks just seemed a bit silly to me. I was barely digging into it.

I would estimate I'm around grade 4-5 ABSRM. I'm working through the syllabus on my own (scales & arpeggios...I'm almost through the grade 5 goals and for grade 4 I just need to go back and do the contrary scales, those are tough for me).

Grade 4,5 in abrsm would be something like a grade 7 in rcm. In the Rcm syllabus, invention 1,4 and 8 are rated 7 and all the other ones are level 8 (out of 10 which is about Abrsm 8). I would not give a Bach invention to a true beginner with only 2 years of piano. The average beginner would need about 4 to 5 years. But you have already a lot of experience in music so that helps. I would agree with you that spending only 2 weeks on such a piece is short. I think it is fine to move from one piece to another as long as you also have 1 or 2 pieces which you really work out on a longer run to get to a musically satisfying result.

It is good to work out the technical elements but if you want to really know what is your musical level, for example grade 4 or 5, you would need to pick a piece at that level and work on it a longer period of time and see if you can get to play it really well. So for example, if you think you are at that level, you should be able to play at tempo, with a clean articulation and good phrasing one of those inventions. Of course you can also pick other pieces.
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