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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
All 4 of my instrumental teachers encourage me to listen to others to get a sense of different people’s interpretations, then use my own judgment (i.e. think for myself) on how I want to interpret it.

I think telling absolute beginners to not listen to others is poor advice. If you do that I don’t think you’d get very far because you don’t know all the nuances yet. How do you know what you don’t know? Once you’re somewhat experienced, however, I think it makes more sense not listening, if that’s what you want. That’s still not what I’d do though.

There are so many other instances of learning where students are either told what to do or shown what to do (visual and aural). If you’re learning carpentry, you would watch the master carpenter show you his skills, tips and tricks. You might even pick up his style and preferences and personalize it for yourself. If you are a surgery student, you’d be in the operating room, watching the lead doctor operate to learn how to do surgery. You’d pick up on his style and preferences and then when you do surgery on your own, you’d personalize what you previously learned from the teacher. If you are a child, you’d learn how to speak by imitating your mother or father’s speech. The list goes on. I think it is no different for music.

Maybe some child prodigies don’t need to listen to outside influences and have their own ideas at very young age but how many of us are child prodigies?


You might find it unreasonable not to listen, but that has been how two teachers I have had teach. I would not remotely try to estimate how commonly this is the way beginners are or are not taught. Further, the word ‘different’ was not meant to imply inferiority. Did anyone here issue an absolute of ‘don’t listen’? Don’t think so. Some are taught as beginners to listen, some are taught not to listen. There should not be an edict for either perspective.


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Originally Posted by dogperson
You might find it unreasonable not to listen, but that has been how two teachers I have had teach. I would not remotely try to estimate how commonly this is the way beginners are or are not taught. Further, the word ‘different’ was not meant to imply inferiority. Did anyone here issue an absolute of ‘don’t listen’? Don’t think so. Some are taught as beginners to listen, some are taught not to listen. There should not be an edict for either perspective.

dogperson, the post wasn’t “directed” at you so to speak. So please don’t get upset.

No one person issued an absolute edict but that’s the message beginners are getting in this forum, that certain advice is gospel. And yes that is bothering me.

Not just this issue of listening or not listening, also other issues such as sight-reading, metronome use, etc.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 02/20/21 12:59 PM.

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Why not listen to recordings of the piece you are working on. I listen to as many as I can get my finger on as I hit the YouTube channel. I listen to the pros and the amateurs. I consider this all part of background research. The idea that you should not listen to other recordings because you might copy them seems like a silly notion. If we could mimic our favorite artist, wouldn’t we all be playing like Horowitz or (fill in the blank of your favorite pianist)?



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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
All 4 of my instrumental teachers encourage me to listen to others to get a sense of different people’s interpretations, then use my own judgment (i.e. think for myself) on how I want to interpret it.

I think telling absolute beginners to not listen to others is poor advice. If you do that I don’t think you’d get very far because you don’t know all the nuances yet. How do you know what you don’t know?
I think you're misunderstanding what the rationale is for teachers telling their students not to listen to others before they've learnt the piece (and formed their own interpretation, when they're sufficiently advanced). After they've learnt it, they should listen to others better than themselves playing it - including their teachers - so that they can see what is possible and even preferable to what they did. They won't necessarily be able to incorporate what they hear, because of technical limitations, but it is important that they know what's possible.

Of course, beginners can't reproduce intricate nuances anyway - in fact, they might still be struggling to play one hand louder than the other, so the main focus initially is to have the student being able to read music accurately, rather than just reproduce something he's already heard. (How often have teachers seen poorly-taught students - "transfer wrecks" - struggling to play straightforward rhythms in new pieces they've never heard - because they've always relied on copying someone else in the past? Or even - not actually being able to read music at all, because the student has such a good ear for imitation that he's always been able to copy what his teacher plays - as one teacher in the Piano Teachers Forum found out to her cost?)

Firstly, the 'test' for the ability to read accurately depends on the student being able to do it readily with music he's never seen or heard before - and going on to sight-reading, a valuable skill to have, once the student can read notes on staves reasonably well, and know about basic expressive indications. (Everyone doing ABRSM, AMEB, RCM etc exams have to learn to do this, and there are very good reasons why sight-reading forms part of them.) The basic expression markings are in the music (unless you're talking urtext Bach etc): for near beginners, they can play loud, soft and everything in between, and getting louder and softer. You do not need to copy someone else to do this.

As the student progresses, his musicality improves, and he learns about more expression markings and to decipher more into the music, adding things not expressly indicated (like slowing down just before the end, bringing out the melody, voicing and playing them like a good singer would sing them) and so on. If he just copies someone else in every piece he learns - even if he only chooses the bits he likes from each performer - he is, in effect, relying on someone to teach him what to do for everything before he even tries it for himself, from the score.

Classical music students through the centuries, until fairly recently, have never been able to listen to someone else playing all their pieces for them before learning them (unless they have misguided teachers like the one mentioned above, who played every piece for her students before they tried playing & learning for themselves) because there were no recordings. In fact, it's only since the advent of YouTube that almost every piece that's been published (including simple beginner pieces) can now be heard before learning - and IMO, far too many students have become totally reliant on it.

In case anyone is still misunderstanding what I'm getting at: I am NOT saying that no-one should ever listen to any recording of what they are learning. I am saying that (assuming you can already read music) you should try to learn the piece entirely from the score first - including forming your own ideas and interpretation - before you listen to other people's performances. That way, you develop your musicianship far better, including learning from your mistakes.


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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
All 4 of my instrumental teachers encourage me to listen to others to get a sense of different people’s interpretations, then use my own judgment (i.e. think for myself) on how I want to interpret it.

I think telling absolute beginners to not listen to others is poor advice. If you do that I don’t think you’d get very far because you don’t know all the nuances yet. How do you know what you don’t know?
I think you're misunderstanding what the rationale is for teachers telling their students not to listen to others before they've learnt the piece (and formed their own interpretation, when they're sufficiently advanced). After they've learnt it, they should listen to others better than themselves playing it - including their teachers - so that they can see what is possible and even preferable to what they did. They won't necessarily be able to incorporate what they hear, because of technical limitations, but it is important that they know what's possible.

Of course, beginners can't reproduce intricate nuances anyway - in fact, they might still be struggling to play one hand louder than the other, so the main focus initially is to have the student being able to read music accurately, rather than just reproduce something he's already heard. (How often have teachers seen poorly-taught students - "transfer wrecks" - struggling to play straightforward rhythms in new pieces they've never heard - because they've always relied on copying someone else in the past? Or even - not actually being able to read music at all, because the student has such a good ear for imitation that he's always been able to copy what his teacher plays - as one teacher in the Piano Teachers Forum found out to her cost?)

Firstly, the 'test' for the ability to read accurately depends on the student being able to do it readily with music he's never seen or heard before - and going on to sight-reading, a valuable skill to have, once the student can read notes on staves reasonably well, and know about basic expressive indications. (Everyone doing ABRSM, AMEB, RCM etc exams have to learn to do this, and there are very good reasons why sight-reading forms part of them.) The basic expression markings are in the music (unless you're talking urtext Bach etc): for near beginners, they can play loud, soft and everything in between, and getting louder and softer. You do not need to copy someone else to do this.

As the student progresses, his musicality improves, and he learns about more expression markings and to decipher more into the music, adding things not expressly indicated (like slowing down just before the end, bringing out the melody, voicing and playing them like a good singer would sing them) and so on. If he just copies someone else in every piece he learns - even if he only chooses the bits he likes from each performer - he is, in effect, relying on someone to teach him what to do for everything before he even tries it for himself, from the score.

Classical music students through the centuries, until fairly recently, have never been able to listen to someone else playing all their pieces for them before learning them (unless they have misguided teachers like the one mentioned above, who played every piece for her students before they tried playing & learning for themselves) because there were no recordings. In fact, it's only since the advent of YouTube that almost every piece that's been published (including simple beginner pieces) can now be heard before learning - and IMO, far too many students have become totally reliant on it.

In case anyone is still misunderstanding what I'm getting at: I am NOT saying that no-one should ever listen to any recording of what they are learning. I am saying that (assuming you can already read music) you should try to learn the piece entirely from the score first - including forming your own ideas and interpretation - before you listen to other people's performances. That way, you develop your musicianship far better, including learning from your mistakes.

I don’t think I’ve misunderstood the rationale for teachers telling their pupils to not listen to others’ interpretations. I think I understand.

But when experienced folk like you come here and say such things, the noob thinks it’s good advice for them. And they take it to heart. And they think it’s gospel. That’s my pet peeve.

Honestly, how an experienced pianist wants to learn, listening to pieces prior to learning or not, doesn’t bother me at all. It is their decision. They’re experienced enough to know what is good for them. But so many noobs are reading similar threads from the past with very strong opinions about things and getting such a twisted view of the “best” way to learn the piano.

And I don’t know about you but I’ve always hated the term “transfer wrecks” and really thought “not highly” of the teacher that calls his students such. Perhaps he comes from an era where that kind of mean talk is ok. I hope you don’t perpetuate such negativity.


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Originally Posted by 24000rpm
do you actively avoid listening to the piece that you are working on. For example, if you are working on a Bach invention, you avoid listening to that on a Gould's CD.

One of my friends told me that, to test if you have the ability to interpret the piece yourself and not to have a 'pre-impression' of it or phrasing, etc, you need to avoid listening to other poeple's play, especially virtuoso's.

I found this notion make a little bit sense after a while. Do you?

Being able to listen to what you are working on shortens the time that you need to work on the piece, though, IMHO.

Any advice given about anything has to be coupled with why it is given, and under what circumstance. With the caveat that some people will simply pass on advice as gospel because it was told to them as gospel.

Supposing the student needs to learn to read music, and to count. If the student always listens to the music first, to "hear how it sounds", will reading abilities progress? Same with counting. You can't grow in what you don't practice. In fact, in the teacher forum, a teacher discovered to her dismay that her student who had been playing well for about 3 years, actually couldn't read! Parent had been helpfully downloading Youtube videos all that time. And then some of those method books come with play-along CDs.

So there is a circumstance and reason not to.

I had no chance to listen to anything I played when I first learned, because that wasn't available back then. So I'm learning to listen now. I'm encouraged to listen to good performers and interpretations. Usually I do that after studying the score, because that is just what is natural to me.

But interpretation also comes from understanding the music. Where is a phrase? What notes, in a series of chords, might be like a hidden melody? What might the high point be? What do you think you'd like to stress, and why? Then you listen to performances. "Hey, why did that person do it this way?"

Listening, meanwhile. It took me time to hear some things, and some I still don't hear, esp. in regard to the fine points of time.

Just some general thoughts.

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I think I should have been more clear about this. What my friend was telling me is that : do not listen to a recording BEFORE you learned the piece.
After you can fluently play the piece, listen to anything you want.

The idea, as I was told, is this:

1. a beginner like me occasionally would read the scores wrong , so listening to a recording before you learn the piece will kinda rob you the opportunity to carefully read the sheet and/or double checking because you would have the sound of the recording as an aid.

2. phrasing and dynamics, etc---- phrasing a piece of music and making dynamics are acquired skills. Listening what you are learning would rob you the opportunity to do the "homework" yourself


etc etc
etc etc

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I’d say if the score has been read wrong then by listening to the piece you would be more likely to realise a mistake/ mistakes had been made reading the score rather than carrying on ingraining bad habits

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Originally Posted by 24000rpm
I think I should have been more clear about this. What my friend was telling me is that : do not listen to a recording BEFORE you learned the piece.
After you can fluently play the piece, listen to anything you want.

The idea, as I was told, is this:

1. a beginner like me occasionally would read the scores wrong , so listening to a recording before you learn the piece will kinda rob you the opportunity to carefully read the sheet and/or double checking because you would have the sound of the recording as an aid.

2. phrasing and dynamics, etc---- phrasing a piece of music and making dynamics are acquired skills. Listening what you are learning would rob you the opportunity to do the "homework" yourself


etc etc
etc etc


That is the way I was taught as a raw beginner (with no parental support). Pick up the score and work out the notes and rhythm without hearing it first. There were no aids except correction at my next visit. I did learn from my mistakes that way. ... snd it was all 100% homework.

Is this the only way to learn? No but I would not have a problem suggesting it to beginners as it worked for me as a beginner. Just a few scabbed knees. 😉 as adults, beginner or advanced, we are capable of evaluating pros and cons of varied approaches.


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Originally Posted by Serge88
In blues and jazz piano the first advice is to listen to other jazz and blues performers.

Also, the great painters spent much time in museums copying the works of old masters. I'm too much of a noob to offer good advice, but I learn a lot listening others play. It expands the realm of possibilities for me. And just because I hear something doesn't mean I can play it the same way or as well.

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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Honestly, how an experienced pianist wants to learn, listening to pieces prior to learning or not, doesn’t bother me at all. It is their decision. They’re experienced enough to know what is good for them. But so many noobs are reading similar threads from the past with very strong opinions about things and getting such a twisted view of the “best” way to learn the piano.
I don't know whether you think I'm still talking about only "experienced" pianists doing that. Or if only "experienced" pianists can do that.

I am not.

I am talking about anyone who has already learnt to read music fluently. Anything from three months to three years into lessons. "Noobs" if you like (though it's not a term I'd ever use - not that I'd use "transfer wrecks" either, except that I couldn't think of a term for 'students who were badly taught by someone else before coming to a teacher who knows how to teach properly' quickly enough to fit into my post before I thought of something else I wanted to say.)

But as I've said often enough in the past - no-one needs to read (let alone agree with, or learn from) my posts. And - to repeat myself ad nauseam - everyone should enjoy their learning, in whatever way they choose.

However, I do practice what I preach. If I had a kid who was learning piano from a teacher who told him to always listen to YT recordings of all his pieces before he learnt them, I'd switch teacher - pronto.


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Trouble with YT is that you not necessarily listening to a recording played as it should be

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I would think that pressing the wrong note is not a bad habit. I will just sound differently. Once you think you completed the piece and listen to other's playing, you'd identify the mistake and correct it. No bad habit retained, does it?

Originally Posted by Wayne2467
I’d say if the score has been read wrong then by listening to the piece you would be more likely to realise a mistake/ mistakes had been made reading the score rather than carrying on ingraining bad habits

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Originally Posted by 24000rpm
I would think that pressing the wrong note is not a bad habit. I will just sound differently. Once you think you completed the piece and listen to other's playing, you'd identify the mistake and correct it. No bad habit retained, does it?

Originally Posted by Wayne2467
I’d say if the score has been read wrong then by listening to the piece you would be more likely to realise a mistake/ mistakes had been made reading the score rather than carrying on ingraining bad habits
You can press the correct note and still make the wrong sound though- acquiring the wrong sound becomes habitual imo

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speaking of which, I had a long conversation with this friend about what constitutes a bad sound.
I've been doing piano tuning 3 times already by myself. Reason being that those hired ones are too careless. So I know a thing or two on the physics of how piano makes sound.

My argument is that, you can't really tell one single note by Gould or by me, because its physics behind this single knock on key are identical, unless the piano got a problem.
My friend agreed.
We also agreed that the real difference you hear a virtuoso and me is how all those notes' properties are combined: duration of vibration, hitting force.

basically, there's really no single bad sound, but there are bad combination of sounds.

Just some food for thought.



Originally Posted by Wayne2467
Originally Posted by 24000rpm
I would think that pressing the wrong note is not a bad habit. I will just sound differently. Once you think you completed the piece and listen to other's playing, you'd identify the mistake and correct it. No bad habit retained, does it?

Originally Posted by Wayne2467
I’d say if the score has been read wrong then by listening to the piece you would be more likely to realise a mistake/ mistakes had been made reading the score rather than carrying on ingraining bad habits
You can press the correct note and still make the wrong sound though

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Absolutely not! I generally listen to as many different performances of a piece as I can, and I also look to a few online teachers and see what their suggestions are about learning and playing and voicing the piece. How else you can keep learning? You can make your own decisions on interpretation, and hearing it played many different ways is helpful, IMO. Then consulting the score and deciding how YOU will play it, seems a reasonable path.


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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Maybe some child prodigies don’t need to listen to outside influences and have their own ideas at very young age but how many of us are child prodigies?
I think child prodigies tend to listen more, not less. Tiffany Poon used to listen to recordings repeatedly until she got a piece in her head before she sat down to play as a child.

Classical music is music, and as all music, is somewhat analogous to language. The musicality you bring to the table is what your subconscious has understood from prior listening experiences. If you change those listening experiences, to some extent you can reprogram your subconscious musicality.

Imagine a dramatic reading of a Shakespeare play. If you have zero experience with it, and are thrust in front of a mic, you will do a terrible job. What you need is extensive prior experience of listening to people reading Shakespeare, and some training where someone coaches you on how to recite Shakespeare. After all of that, once you read a completely new Shakespeare play, you can give it your own touch or otherwise do your own thing, but it is only because you have assimilated the idiom first. And even after that, you need to listen to other people so that you don't stagnate when it comes to your own ideas.

I think many classical musicians miss this because they had been listening to classical music constantly since they were 4 years old or something, so they don't even remember the assimilation process, it just happened. They would have automatically gained an instinctive understanding of functional harmony and a huge number of other stylistic things related to classical music, by just listening to it so much. I think it's possible to do the same thing later on, or even as an adult (I believe I have) but at that point it's even more important that you listen to stuff like your life depends on it. There's a reason they say great artists steal.

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Originally Posted by Wayne2467
Trouble with YT is that you not necessarily listening to a recording played as it should be
Just listen to a good professional playing the piece. Much of the beginner and low intermediate rep has been recorded by pros for the specific purpose of allowing those level of pianists listen to a recording.

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Originally Posted by ranjit
I think child prodigies tend to listen more, not less. Tiffany Poon used to listen to recordings repeatedly until she got a piece in her head before she sat down to play as a child.
If you watch her practice sessions (which are usually looooooong, LOL), you'll also see her pause and go to Youtube to see how other pianists play a certain section. I do this, as well. It's helpful.


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Originally Posted by ebonyk
Originally Posted by ranjit
I think child prodigies tend to listen more, not less. Tiffany Poon used to listen to recordings repeatedly until she got a piece in her head before she sat down to play as a child.
If you watch her practice sessions (which are usually looooooong, LOL), you'll also see her pause and go to Youtube to see how other pianists play a certain section. I do this, as well. It's helpful.
Are you talking about the Patreon ones?

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