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Originally Posted by Morodiene


On a side note, why is it that students will tell you they are frustrated and stuck, and yet refuse to practice in the manner you have told them precisely to get them 'unstuck'?


Probably because the way you want her to practice is harder than the way she wants to practice.

And maybe on some subconscious level she thinks if she does it your way and still fails, she'll feel even worse.

Can you break your advice down into smaller practice tasks, and ask her to just do one or two for the next lesson?

And what if she were to set it up as sort of a science experiment? In other words, she turns her egg timer to 10 minutes, does one practice task for 10 minutes, then writes a mini-report (a paragraph or so) in her notebook about what results she got, how it went, etc.

Maybe that would let her distance herself psychologically from the effort, and protect her ego. As if she were just the observer, monitoring a student's practice.

Regarding the choice of music, what kind of music does she listen to at home? If she likes well-known classical tunes, the Simply Classics series might appeal.

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Originally Posted by Donzo
Hi Morodiene,

Ok, you are the teacher and I'm a student so you have way more experience in this than me - this is just a suggestion, don't take it like I think I know what I'm talking about...

But what I was suggesting back on Oct 10th was that you give her more control and more decision-making in choosing her path. What you've said just now sounds to me like you are telling her "do exactly what I say if you want to improve". Sounds like you really didn't agree with my advice of the 10th smile (And there's nothing wrong with that.)

From what you've said, it sounds like a motivation issue. I'm wondering if you can take a big step back, change all the pieces she's working on (to something easier), change the techniques she's working on, just try to reset her process in a way that makes it easier for her. Let her do the easy stuff and regain her confidence and enthusiasm and come back to the current sticky point from a different direction after traveling a different road for a while. I.e. If she is stuck, and you can't get her unstuck, maybe its best to take a detour...

Yeah, not sure if this is helpful but ... I mean well anyway smile

Don
That's the thing... have done this. This is how we got in this situation to begin with. I asked her what she would like to do, but she either doesn't know or doesn't say. I'm inferring that she wants to play popular tunes that she recognizes, so I was teaching her the 12 bar blues and learning melodies by ear in the hopes that it would help her pick up songs on the radio. I have asked her many, many times what she'd like to do and she comes back with nothing.

She brought in her Beatles songbook and said she played through Hey Jude and I wanted her to continue and then she said no she didn't want to do that. So it's not a lack for me trying, but if someone can't make up their mind, then someone has to for them. I get the sense that she wants me to tell her what to do on one hand, but on the other, not when it comes to actually practicing. I am actually changing all the pieces she's working on, we have not held onto any.

She has been planning her daughter's wedding and doing a lot of babysitting, and I think that perhaps that is the real issue. Hopefully she can stick it through until that's over with.


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Originally Posted by BrainCramp
Originally Posted by Morodiene


On a side note, why is it that students will tell you they are frustrated and stuck, and yet refuse to practice in the manner you have told them precisely to get them 'unstuck'?


Probably because the way you want her to practice is harder than the way she wants to practice.

And maybe on some subconscious level she thinks if she does it your way and still fails, she'll feel even worse.

Can you break your advice down into smaller practice tasks, and ask her to just do one or two for the next lesson?
You mean like, "Practice this measure slowly with counting" or something like that? I only list one or two specific things for each piece for her to focus on.

Quote

And what if she were to set it up as sort of a science experiment? In other words, she turns her egg timer to 10 minutes, does one practice task for 10 minutes, then writes a mini-report (a paragraph or so) in her notebook about what results she got, how it went, etc.

Maybe that would let her distance herself psychologically from the effort, and protect her ego. As if she were just the observer, monitoring a student's practice.
I do not think she is the type of person to do this even if I suggested it. I did, however, tell her that if she's short on time or energy, she can just focus on one passage in a piece for 5 or 10 minutes and that is effective practice.



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I too, was self-taught before getting lessons. When I practiced on my own, I often went over songs I knew well many times, and practiced new songs as little as possible, because it was hard, and I had no deadlines. It's quite different really practicing the hard parts, which is actually hard work, and can be very frustrating.

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Originally Posted by Morodiene


That's the thing... have done this.



Ah, sorry, I did not realize just how little help she has been.

Originally Posted by Morodiene


She has been planning her daughter's wedding and doing a lot of babysitting, and I think that perhaps that is the real issue. Hopefully she can stick it through until that's over with.


I think I'd have to agree with Peter then... if she is this distracted then maybe the best thing is to just keep her going enough that she doesn't lose the habit completely of practicing piano, but not put too many expectations on her. I have no experience in quitting and restarting at piano, but I guess it is better to not quit through a bad patch, as regaining momentum seems like it could be a daunting task.

Anyway, I feel for you... and don't have anything further to suggest frown

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Originally Posted by BrainCramp

Probably because the way you want her to practice is harder than the way she wants to practice.


This gave me food for thought.

Quote
And maybe on some subconscious level she thinks if she does it your way and still fails, she'll feel even worse.


Fear of failure/success is a terrible waste of time, but I do know some people have it. It wouldn't surprise me if there's some of this in her as well. She is very quick to complain or make excuses for her mistakes, which tells me she's emotionally invested in them rather than ready to get beyond them, if that makes any sense.

I'll have to pay particular attention to this and perhaps try to just point out the positives for a while and get the attention off the mistakes.

Thanks for all the help everyone!


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Originally Posted by Morodiene

On a side note, why is it that students will tell you they are frustrated and stuck, and yet refuse to practice in the manner you have told them precisely to get them 'unstuck'?

I wonder if it's a pride thing why students do this. Once in a while a student will get it and be astounded that when they follow my advice it actually works smirk


I had this issue when I restarted lessons as an adult. I had gotten used to making my own decisions so going back to taking direction from someone else took a bit of adjusting. My way made sense to me, and I didn't like being told my way was wrong, at least not without questioning the new way of doing things. As a person who likes proof of things, when switching teachers I usually had a few months of "break-in" before I unequivocally accepted what she/he said.

I guess just keep demonstrating the way to practice, and hope your student will eventually pick up on it. Or, ask why she doesn't like to practice the way you suggest? It may just be a pride thing as you suggested which will sound silly to her once that is actually said out loud (because she knows you're the expert, and she is not).


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Originally Posted by Morodiene
She has been planning her daughter's wedding
............

Just a thought, Morodiene. Sometimes people will make a better effort for their children than they do for themselves. Have you tried working on something she could play at her daughter's wedding as a surprise or a gift of sorts? Maybe the daughter and future SIL have a special song?


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Originally Posted by Morodiene


For 3 weeks now I have had very direct conversations with this student, telling her specifically how I think she should practice at home, and each week she comes in not having done any of it, and complaining about her mistakes. I finally said toward the end of the lesson that if she continues to practice her own way, she will give up piano because she won't make the progress and will continue to be frustrated.


Hi, Morodiene,

I am an adult piano student into my 7th year of lessons, so maybe I can add a bit to the discussion.

Since she has her own way of practicing, have you asked her to show YOU the way that she practices? Maybe with seeing what she does you can zero in and suggest a more productive way of doing it. In regards to her mistakes, I've been taught to focus on practicing theses areas of the piece I am learning in tiny fragments, adding notes back in and then the measure before and after, etc. After I have the mistakes under control then I go back and play a complete section with the hard parts back in. You can show her that by focusing on the hard parts she can work in short time frames and make great progress.

I think a lot of people, young and adult students, think of practicing as playing the entire piece over and over and not fixing the problem areas.

Another thing that might be pointed out is to go through the piece to see where the music repeats, such as in an A B A composition. My teacher told me that since I was playing the A section twice already that I needed to work on the B section twice as much. Breaking down the piece can make it less intimidating to learn.

If you can penetrate your student's mind-set by getting her to understand that small bits of music in short practice sessions can achieve a lot of progress, then maybe she can feel that practice is doable in between her other activities. It is actually good to step away from a focused practice session and do other things because it lets the brain absorb what was just learned.

In regards to your post about the Beatle's piece. Did she say why she didn't want to continue with it? Too hard? Didn't know how to approach it?

Granted, she may be too distracted by the upcoming wedding, but if she continues, maybe the above ideas could help?

I am sure that you have already suggested the above ideas, but I thought I'd throw my 2 cents in from the adult perspective.

I am not concerned about mistakes in my lessons because I know my teacher and I will work together to fix things and I will then be able to play the piece well.

If she understands that mistakes are a good thing maybe she will not focus so much on them. Many adults have ingrained in them the sense that mistakes are bad because of how they remember school and how they were taught in the past. Getting past that memory can be hard for some.

As I was writing this I just had another thought. Some adults think that learning the piano is just going to be easy to do. If your student can grasp that it is a process that has its ups and downs but a student will be able to get there with STEADY focused, efficient practice, that she will get there in the end. If she understands that everyone goes through hitting road blocks but with the help of her teacher she can get past them and improve beyond what she thinks she can achieve, then maybe your input can get through to her.

A Rebours


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Originally Posted by A Rebours
Originally Posted by Morodiene


For 3 weeks now I have had very direct conversations with this student, telling her specifically how I think she should practice at home, and each week she comes in not having done any of it, and complaining about her mistakes. I finally said toward the end of the lesson that if she continues to practice her own way, she will give up piano because she won't make the progress and will continue to be frustrated.


Hi, Morodiene,

I am an adult piano student into my 7th year of lessons, so maybe I can add a bit to the discussion.

Since she has her own way of practicing, have you asked her to show YOU the way that she practices? Maybe with seeing what she does you can zero in and suggest a more productive way of doing it. In regards to her mistakes, I've been taught to focus on practicing theses areas of the piece I am learning in tiny fragments, adding notes back in and then the measure before and after, etc. After I have the mistakes under control then I go back and play a complete section with the hard parts back in. You can show her that by focusing on the hard parts she can work in short time frames and make great progress.

I think a lot of people, young and adult students, think of practicing as playing the entire piece over and over and not fixing the problem areas.

Another thing that might be pointed out is to go through the piece to see where the music repeats, such as in an A B A composition. My teacher told me that since I was playing the A section twice already that I needed to work on the B section twice as much. Breaking down the piece can make it less intimidating to learn.

If you can penetrate your student's mind-set by getting her to understand that small bits of music in short practice sessions can achieve a lot of progress, then maybe she can feel that practice is doable in between her other activities. It is actually good to step away from a focused practice session and do other things because it lets the brain absorb what was just learned.

In regards to your post about the Beatle's piece. Did she say why she didn't want to continue with it? Too hard? Didn't know how to approach it?

Granted, she may be too distracted by the upcoming wedding, but if she continues, maybe the above ideas could help?

I am sure that you have already suggested the above ideas, but I thought I'd throw my 2 cents in from the adult perspective.

I am not concerned about mistakes in my lessons because I know my teacher and I will work together to fix things and I will then be able to play the piece well.

If she understands that mistakes are a good thing maybe she will not focus so much on them. Many adults have ingrained in them the sense that mistakes are bad because of how they remember school and how they were taught in the past. Getting past that memory can be hard for some.

As I was writing this I just had another thought. Some adults think that learning the piano is just going to be easy to do. If your student can grasp that it is a process that has its ups and downs but a student will be able to get there with STEADY focused, efficient practice, that she will get there in the end. If she understands that everyone goes through hitting road blocks but with the help of her teacher she can get past them and improve beyond what she thinks she can achieve, then maybe your input can get through to her.

A Rebours
Thanks for the feedback. I have tried all of those things you suggested, and really I think it comes down to her being finished with the wedding, but also her coming to the point where she can get beyond the emotions of a mistake. She said that she tried working on the Canon in D I gave her the way I talked about and she was able to make progress, but perhaps you are right in that she's now realizing the kind of work involved in playing piano. She described it as frustrating, but then when she did the work I suggested she got results. She said she did want to continue working on the Canon, so we'll see when I see her next how she feels after having had a few more days to work on it (I was sick today and so we rescheduled).


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I speak as an adult student, with some sympathy for my teacher:

. . . Adult students are a real bitch to teach.

We don't practice consistently. We don't always accept guidance, because we're old enough to know better. We often don't know what we want to do next. And we don't learn nearly as fast as the young students -- neither our brains, nor our fingers, are as plastic.

And sometimes we practice, and work hard, and seem to just go backwards. I've been working through Tim Richards' "Improvising Blues Piano", and I'm badly stuck, and don't know exactly how to get out of that pit. It'll be a topic for my next lesson.

Sometimes the resolution has to be:

. . . "Call me when you're ready to re-start lessons."

and both you and the student will breathe a sigh of relief. That's very different from:

. . . "We're finished with one another."

And sometimes (as has happened with me in the past) the teacher and student get over the rough spot, and start making progress again.

It's not a steady progression through the grades.

. Charles

PS -- If this student is up to it, "Improvising Blues Piano" has a lot of good material in it. But it requires decent skills to begin with -- I think he labels it "intermediate". It's also _blues_, not "pop", although some of the principles carry over.

PPS -- I'm in a choir, singing lots of Christmas stuff, and I'm Jewish. That hasn't been a problem (except for being off-topic <g>).







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It's funny as I have a 180 degree view of things.

I can't speak for the other seven adult students my teacher has, but I think we are a breath of fresh air, compared to some her 20+ younger students.

I always come to my lesson well-practiced, prepared and focused. I pay attention at all times to what my teacher is telling me, and best of all, I virtually never cancel lessons and always pay on time. smile

I have some younger students that come before me, and I can see the frustration she has sometimes with their behavior and lack of practicing.

Now sure I get stuck and frustrated sometimes, but who doesn't? I would hope that would never interfere with the student-teacher relationship we have going on here.

P.S. I'm not trying to sing my praises here. Since as adults we have chosen to spend the time, effort, and money to pursue this past-time, I would hope many adult students feel as I do.


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I think that we ABF adult students may constitute somewhat of a lunatic fringe in the world of piano pedagogy.


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Originally Posted by BrianDX
It's funny as I have a 180 degree view of things.

...

I always come to my lesson well-practiced, prepared and focused. I pay attention at all times to what my teacher is telling me, and best of all, I virtually never cancel lessons and always pay on time.


Me too!

Originally Posted by malkin
I think that we ABF adult students may constitute somewhat of a lunatic fringe in the world of piano pedagogy.


Agreed!!



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Originally Posted by malkin
I think that we ABF adult students may constitute somewhat of a lunatic fringe in the world of piano pedagogy

In this context I'll consider being called a lunatic a badge of honor. smirk


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Students like you guys are awesome. At any age.


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Originally Posted by malkin
I think that we ABF adult students may constitute somewhat of a lunatic fringe in the world of piano pedagogy.


LOL!

An update on my student, after having a few talks with her, I told her to hold off on serious practicing until her daughter is married and she comes back from her much-needed vacation after that. For now, she's just to play 10 minutes per day reviewing some of her recent favorite pieces. She really wants to work on the Canon in D, but I told her it's best to wait until this is all over with.

We spent the lesson this week working on just freeing herself up and not being a perfectionist in front of me. I told her to play the absolute worst Entertainer I've ever heard, and to laugh it off while doing it. We both had some chuckles, and when she wasn't playing badly enough I reminded her not to fix any of the bad stuff. In the end, I told her that there were some moments where she actually played more freely than I've ever heard her play, and that's what we want to make more of a habit when playing for others (she has the same problem playing for her husband and family members). It was a good lesson that didn't require her to practice and learn.

Hopefully in 2 weeks, we'll be back to making progress in her repertoire. smile


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Originally Posted by Morodiene
...I told her to hold off on serious practicing until her daughter is married and she comes back from her much-needed vacation after that.
In the lead-up to my daughter's wedding I took to obsessively practising the Wanderer Fantasy when the stress started to get to me. Worked a treat! smile


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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Hopefully in 2 weeks, we'll be back to making progress in her repertoire.

Why the rush? Maybe she could benefit from a lot more non-repertoire-directed work, such as continuing to learn to play freely through out-of-the-box activities as you described.



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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Hopefully in 2 weeks, we'll be back to making progress in her repertoire.

Why the rush? Maybe she could benefit from a lot more non-repertoire-directed work, such as continuing to learn to play freely through out-of-the-box activities as you described.



She is very much a beginner, and she and I are both eager to work on pieces. I think it's important at this stage to encounter a decent amount of music to gain the experience. Not all has to be at performance level, but learned enough so that you can recognize when you encounter and Alberti bass again, or some other pattern. I will continue to address her perfectionism/performance anxiety issue though. smile


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