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Originally Posted by Yao
Originally Posted by 24000rpm
Yao, what's your take on this teacher? He appears to be very intelligent. I'd like to know how you feel about him

I’m also a beginner like you, so others may be more qualified to judge the teacher than me. But for comparison my teacher (also Chinese, trained in middle/high school of Sichuan conservatory and then studied piano in US college) in the first lessons focused more on basic techniques (correcting hand shape, the way to apply force, etc). From your description it sounds like you didn’t spend much time on the piano, so it is a little concerning if he asked you to practice Beyer but not first checking if you’re playing correctly.

Also why would he talk about syncopation, pickup measure, rubato etc if you aren’t playing pieces with these elements yet? I wonder if this is because you’re a new student so he’s trying to impress you with knowledge. I personally would prefer the teacher to focus on my current level and only introduce an item when I can use it.

But this is 1) my personal preference and 2) only judging him based on what you wrote so far, so it’s very possible that he did more things that you just didn’t include in your description...


Are you seriously suggesting a teacher might be trying to impress a beginning piano student? Not happening.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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I am hesitant to ask my teacher what his capabilities are. I imagine a person with a master's degree in piano from a good conservatory would be sight reading at least an intermediate level piece of music as if he's practiced it for days. But I hesitate to ask him coz i don't want him to think that I am challenging his abilities.

What would a masters degree graduate in piano from a good conservatory SHOULD be capable to do, in your options?

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I think they are required to pass exams which demonstrate some level of sight reading abilities, so you can know for sure that he's not too bad at it.

A masters degree graduate in piano performance from a good conservatory would be able to play pieces at a very high standard, some Chopin etudes at performance standard (they are a staple of auditions), have a pretty developed ear -- since you're from China, with the tonal language connection, perfect pitch is quite likely, they would know basic college level music theory, decent sight reading skills (at least playing grade 4-5 ABRSM stuff at sight), awareness of touch and tone color, projection, very good trained musical memory and experience with preparing for concerts and recitals, etc.

I think you should be able to ask him, just out of curiosity, what the education at a conservatory is like, without making it explicitly about his abilities. In all honesty, his abilities might be 10+ years ahead of where you are, and he might not show you the true extent of them so that you don't get disillusioned.

It is far more important that you get to know if his teaching style meshes with yours. You don't really have to worry about his playing ability.

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achieved 49 seconds for 45 notes just now.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Are you seriously suggesting a teacher might be trying to impress a beginning piano student? Not happening.

Why wouldn’t they when they need to compete for students?
Just because all teachers you’ve met don’t do so doesn’t mean no teacher does this.

Besides can you really justify getting paid for your time quizzing an adult student on terminology — especially techniques that aren’t in lessons yet — instead of actually focusing on playing? Any adult student can google online or buy a music encyclopedia... and even if I take some time to memorize all these new terms and get them 100% right, does that make me a good piano player?

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I agree with Ranjit — teaching style matters more than ability to play. Obviously for me this teacher’s “academic” style would be a terrible fit, even if he’s an excellent pianist. But OP may feel otherwise.

I assume anyone who’s gone to a music conservatory has the musical knowledge needed to at least guide you through the first couple of years of piano. But how effectively they communicate that knowledge, and whether you agree with their teaching methods, that’s more important.

For example in China most teachers follow the Hanon-Czerny route, while some other teachers disagree because they think such exercises aren’t prioritizing musicality. (In the west you see same arguments, though i think the ratio is flipped?) Since both have produced many excellent music students, it’s up to you to decide who you agree with more.

PS also common in China are teachers who promise to get you past an exam level, but they teach nothing except making students learn the required exam pieces... they do pass the exams but are still poor pianists. Just something OP needs to be aware of, don’t fall for that kind of trap.

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Yao, i hear you. Great to have a Chinese perspective, too. Thank you.

I consider myself a masochist when it comes to learn something. Like memorizing a whole dictionary when I was young.
If you think he's an "academic" style, I actually love it!
To me, Technique is much more important than musicality, partly because i think musicality is born, not something learnt.
Or , let me rephrase it: Learning technique is much more important than learning musicality.

Just a personal opinion of course, may not be correct.

Last edited by 24000rpm; 03/21/21 11:15 AM.
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Originally Posted by 24000rpm
Yao, i hear you. Great to have a Chinese perspective, too. Thank you.

I consider myself a masochist when it comes to learn something. Like memorizing a whole dictionary when I was young.
If you think he's an "academic" style, I actually love it!
To me, Technique is much more important than musicality, partly because i think musicality is born, not something learnt.
Or , let me rephrase it: Learning technique is much more important than learning musicality.

Just a personal opinion of course, may not be correct.

Musicality is just as important as technique. Without it, your pieces will sound poorly, no matter how much technique you have. And it is just another knowledge that you need to acquire. Of course some people have more natural skills than others, just like everything else, but playing musicaly is not a mysterious gift, it can be and should be learnt.

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I agree with Sidokar. Without musicality, your music will never be the best it can be.

An example - you can have the best technique, and will still only get 80% on an exam or 3rd place in a competition. It is only those who can make the piece musical, stirring strong emotions in the listener, that will get you over the hump to being a 90-100% piece, or a 1st place piece. (Percentages used for illustration purposes only)

I also disagree that musicality is born. Some of us struggle with it more due to our conservative upbringings and personalities but it can be nurtured and learned.

That’s why I think the smartest teachers are the ones that insist on playing musically even with beginners because it can be learned throughout the student’s learning, not just when they’re advanced.

I’m also curious why is it important to to tell us you’ve achieved 49 seconds for 45 notes? Piano playing is not an F1 race. You might want to consider changing your mindset on this, unless your only purpose is to be the fastest learner or fastest piano player there is. If that is your goal, then feel free because everyone has different goals.


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By “ musicality” do we mean adding the dynamics to a piece or something else?

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Originally Posted by Wayne2467
By “ musicality” do we mean adding the dynamics to a piece or something else?

Dynamics are one of the basic elements of musicality. Other examples include things like phrasing, articulation, metric pulse, accents, rubato, and tone production. All these elements can be tought individually or together. At more advanced levels teachers talk in more abstract terms like "make the music breathe" or "brighter colors" and similar terms but it mostly comes down to the same basics. These are things all decent teachers teach right from the beginner stages.

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Originally Posted by 24000rpm
Learning technique is much more important than learning musicality.
There is no such thing as piano technique in isolation. You always apply a technique in order to produce music that is pleasing to hear. For example, what useis it to hit random keys very fast. Anyone can do that. A beginner can probably wiggle their fingers fast enough to "trill" but it will sound choppy and disconnected not like a bird's signing. You can also "play" the notes of a piece by just banging the keys but it will not sound good unless you take care of playing the right parts louder or softer. Learning the skill of voicing different parts of the music is both a technical and musical skill. There is the physical element that a teacher can demonstrate but the goal of that skill is always musical.

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Hi 24000rpm,

After reading your posts in this thread, I think you should try a few other teachers because you seem to have (perhaps even subconsciously) doubts about your teacher. When you've found the right teacher, you'll not be posting summaries of your lessons (perhaps hoping to get validation from this forum on your teacher's methods) nor will you be posting questions asking how to validate the teacher's abilities. Your current teacher may be very good for others; but, based on what I'm reading, he's not a match for you.

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With any new teacher you need to give the teacher a chance, and that does not mean 1-2 weeks. Furthermore, there should be at least some initial trust that the teacher is qualified to teach and will work out a learning plan that is right for YOU. This is true irrespective of your level, but particularly true for beginners. The approach a teacher takes will vary: with a student who has never sat at the piano, the first lesson might be centered around ergonomics. For someone with a little bit of experience, it might be an analysis of what is ‘the little bit and where are the holes.

Child beginning students don’t generally have pre-defined expectations, such as ‘I don’t want to learn xxx’. They don’t analyze every lesson with a microscope. ... and they learn. Work on developing the patience of a child: wait and see what happens or you will find yourself teacher hopping over and over.


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Originally Posted by dogperson
Child beginning students don’t generally have pre-defined expectations, such as ‘I don’t want to learn xxx’. They don’t analyze every lesson with a microscope. ... and they learn. Work on developing the patience of a child: wait and see what happens or you will find yourself teacher hopping over and over.
Okay, this is an often repeated matra on this forum but I would take it with a big grain of salt. We may be witnessing selection bias because we only look at children who eventually become successful pianists and ignore the many that simply stopped playing due to lack of interest, or bad teaching, or other reasons. Accepting that your teacher is qualified may lead you onto a path of success at the piano IF they are really qualified, but if they are not then you may be wasting your time and end up like the many (unheared of) children who drop lessons. Thinking like an adult rather than a child might increase your chance of not being in the rejected sample.

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by dogperson
Child beginning students don’t generally have pre-defined expectations, such as ‘I don’t want to learn xxx’. They don’t analyze every lesson with a microscope. ... and they learn. Work on developing the patience of a child: wait and see what happens or you will find yourself teacher hopping over and over.
Okay, this is an often repeated matra on this forum but I would take it with a big grain of salt. We may be witnessing selection bias because we only look at children who eventually become successful pianists and ignore the many that simply stopped playing due to lack of interest, or bad teaching, or other reasons. Accepting that your teacher is qualified may lead you onto a path of success at the piano IF they are really qualified, but if they are not then you may be wasting your time and end up like the many (unheared of) children who drop lessons. Thinking like an adult rather than a child might increase your chance of not being in the rejected sample.

I think there's a fine balance between the two views. Adults are known to be particularly and unreasonably "picky" and "demanding" and questioning every little thing, unable to see the big picture. I'm sure I do this myself. And then there are teachers who are simply not the right fit no matter how hard BOTH parties try. An adult needs to be self-aware.

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by dogperson
Child beginning students don’t generally have pre-defined expectations, such as ‘I don’t want to learn xxx’. They don’t analyze every lesson with a microscope. ... and they learn. Work on developing the patience of a child: wait and see what happens or you will find yourself teacher hopping over and over.
Okay, this is an often repeated matra on this forum but I would take it with a big grain of salt. We may be witnessing selection bias because we only look at children who eventually become successful pianists and ignore the many that simply stopped playing due to lack of interest, or bad teaching, or other reasons. Accepting that your teacher is qualified may lead you onto a path of success at the piano IF they are really qualified, but if they are not then you may be wasting your time and end up like the many (unheared of) children who drop lessons. Thinking like an adult rather than a child might increase your chance of not being in the rejected sample.

Thinking like an adult: give the lessons more than 1-2 weeks to decide if the teacher is qualified and if you are learning. Assume for a few weeks that a conservatory trained teacher knows more than you. Assume for a few weeks your educated teacher will develop a teaching plan .

There is no basis or need fir not giving a new teacher more than two weeks before you, as a beginner, question everything in microscopic detail and make a decision to get a different teacher.


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Originally Posted by dogperson
Thinking like an adult: give the lessons more than 1-2 weeks to decide if the teacher is qualified and if you are learning. Assume for a few weeks that a conservatory trained teacher knows more than you. Assume for a few weeks your educated teacher will develop a teaching plan .

There is no basis or need fir not giving a new teacher more than two weeks before you, as a beginner, question everything in microscopic detail and make a decision to get a different teacher.

You're idealizing the teachers too much. Again, just because the ones you met are good, doesn't mean all teachers are good or trustworthy.

I think as an adult even if we don't know much about piano, we know about some characteristics that all good teachers must possess, for example, communication and patience. You expect students to trust teachers, like Karate Kid who keep "wax on, wax off" and wait for that magical moment where everything connects. No, though such enigmatic way of teaching makes a great movie, Mr. Miyagi would be a terrible teacher in real life.

I see no harm in students questioning teachers like "why are we doing A, B and C when I want to do D, E, and F?" I expect a good teacher to be able to answer "I see you want to do D, E, F, we can do D now, but E and F must wait until A, B, and C are done because X, Y and Z."

Sure having lots of questions may make the teacher's job a bit harder, but children students have their own problems too, e.g having a harder time paying attention or comprehending the teacher. Such things just come with the territory of being a piano teacher.

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Originally Posted by Yao
Originally Posted by dogperson
Thinking like an adult: give the lessons more than 1-2 weeks to decide if the teacher is qualified and if you are learning. Assume for a few weeks that a conservatory trained teacher knows more than you. Assume for a few weeks your educated teacher will develop a teaching plan .

There is no basis or need fir not giving a new teacher more than two weeks before you, as a beginner, question everything in microscopic detail and make a decision to get a different teacher.

You're idealizing the teachers too much. Again, just because the ones you met are good, doesn't mean all teachers are good or trustworthy.

I think as an adult even if we don't know much about piano, we know about some characteristics that all good teachers must possess, for example, communication and patience. You expect students to trust teachers, like Karate Kid who keep "wax on, wax off" and wait for that magical moment where everything connects. No, though such enigmatic way of teaching makes a great movie, Mr. Miyagi would be a terrible teacher in real life.

I see no harm in students questioning teachers like "why are we doing A, B and C when I want to do D, E, and F?" I expect a good teacher to be able to answer "I see you want to do D, E, F, we can do D now, but E and F must wait until A, B, and C are done because X, Y and Z."

Sure having lots of questions may make the teacher's job a bit harder, but children students have their own problems too, e.g having a harder time paying attention or comprehending the teacher. Such things just come with the territory of being a piano teacher.
No, it's not idealizing teachers. What it is, is giving the teacher/student interactions more than two weeks before making the decision to bail. Nobody here is claiming that all piano teachers are wonderful--they run the gamut, just like in every other field. Yes, teachers should exhibit patience and communications skills--as should the students. Can the student pick up on that in one or two lessons? Only in the most egregious cases. Otherwise, give it a little more time.

As for questions, sure, everyone has some questions and the questions deserve considered answers. But constantly questioning the teacher's methods and knowledge? That gets old, fast. Maybe the student would be better off with self-teaching.


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Wayne, yes. like how one's interpreting a piece of music, phrasing, dynamics


Originally Posted by Wayne2467
By “ musicality” do we mean adding the dynamics to a piece or something else?

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