Piano World Home Page
So first of all, I absolutely love my piano teacher. He’s patient, passionate, encouraging, motivating, strict but in a good way, and such a grand virtuoso too. And I love his repertoire as well. I’ve only started lessons a few months ago, but I’ve been wondering almost from the start if he was a good fit with me, an adult beginner.

So the first two lessons were exactly as I expected : we talked about my musical background (which is pretty much non-existent), about what kind of music I liked, why I wanted to start piano, my expectations, etc. When I contacted him, I also mentioned that I was a total beginner who needed to learn everything from the start, and who wanted to start on solid bases. So he showed me some exercices, my first scale, explained quite a lot of things, how to sight-read, and gave me my first very easy « piece/exercice ». And he was quite pleased that I’ve managed to achieve it by my own for the next lesson. We then discussed what kind of pieces I wanted to play next, and when I answered some that I thought were easy like Chopin’s Prelude 4 (back then I didn’t know yet that there was a lot more than just playing the right scores and keys), and he strongly disagreed, explaining that we should do easier things first and why. Which I completely agreed to, and I was very enthusiastic about what he gave me too.

And then after a few lessons (two months perhaps ?) something kinda changed. He suddenly started to give me more work, less exercices, no more scales (he suggested that I should learn them at home along the different pieces that I play), but mostly, he insisted that I should go pieces that a beginner definitely can’t play, like Chopin’s Waltz in A minor (wtf). And this change of attitude kinda confuses me, especially since he first disagreed to some easier/same level pieces (again, I never complained and showed a lot of enthusiasm for the first beginner pieces that we worked on). I still learn a lot during the lessons, we do theoretical points whenever there’s something that I need to learn about the piece I’m learning or when I ask a question, but now the lessons mostly focus on the pieces (decoding them, how to play them, how to place my fingers better, how to play it better, basically). And even though I really enjoy the lessons, in between them I always get scared that I’m burning steps, that we’re going too fast, that I won’t properly learn the basics and will stop progressing soon because of it (for example, I still struggle to sight-read a lot, or I’ve managed to play the Chopin’s waltz, but I play it very unwell as I lack of technique, like controlling the volume of my left hand, etc.)

Another thing that has been making me uneasy is that shortly after we started to take lessons, he got promoted as a teacher to the most prestigious conservatory of the country, raised his lesson fees and stopped taking beginner students. He never told me so, never asked to pay more than what we agreed on and never mentioned dropping me or whatever, but I can’t help feeling so out of place to be learning with such a top-level musician and performer, as if I was stealing somebody else’s place – an advanced player or professional’s place. And I can’t help thinking that maybe he started giving me pieces like that thinking that I’m not serious, or thinking that he’ll drop me soon anyway or that I’ll eventually give up, or because he’s just bored with beginners.

A friend told me that I’m overthinking, and that I should be flattered because the way the lessons shifted probably meant that he has good expectations from me. But I don’t know, I don’t think I play well, and I’m still afraid of going too fast, skipping the important stuff and being stuck as a beginner forever. And I’m also afraid of addressing him the matter as I don’t want him to think I’m questioning his teaching ways, when I feel so grateful.

So yea, how and after how much time do you know if your teacher is a good fit for you ?
Let him read what you wrote down here and go from there.
I don't think it's as bad as you think. My teacher also started giving me some stretch pieces in my first year (including that A minor waltz). I think he genuinely thinks you can do it. You can still learn a lot musically and technically from pieces that are hard and I think the baby steps approach is holding back a lot of people.

Here's what I think is happening. Progress is not linear and you have to review and revisit the things you learn several times before they become natural. It's not the case that you master one skill fully before moving to the next skill. What happens when you learn a new skill is that at first you can kind-of-sort-of do it with a lot of effort, you move on, then later you encounter the same skill again and this time you can do it a little better, then after a couple of repeats of this (with long intervals of time in between) you find it easy and natural. That's when you master that skill. But it would be a total waste of time to linger on that one little skill forever without working on any other skills. What I think happened is that your teacher started giving you more difficult skills to master while you are still internalizing all the basics. It doesn't mean you won't go back and revisit the basics; you probably will many times, although you might not even notice if those basics are part of a piece that teaches other skills too.

I don't think he is trying to drop you. He could have easily raised his rate if he wanted to do that.
You have to discuss your concerns with him. I would not suggest having him read what you posted on this thread as it's too strongly worded. I don't think there's any way for anyone here to know whether he doesn't like teaching beginners or has little experience teaching beginners.

Exactly how long have you been taking lessons at this point? If it's only around four months as it appears from your post, some of the pieces you mentioned do seem very advanced for someone who has studies for such a short time. In addition, I think he should be giving you careful instruction over a long period on something like scales.
Are you working to any sort of syllabus? It sounds like you are not sure if you are missing out important steps.

If not, you could get hold of the syllabus of one of the teaching academies like ABRSM. That will tell you what level of repertoire pieces and technical work (scales, arpeggios etc .) are apprpriate for each year of learning.

You could compare that with what you are actually doing with your teacher and then discuss with him if you see anything missing or if the pieces he’s assigned to you are too advanced for your level.
Ask him why he's giving you harder pieces, and tell him that you are not able to play them well. He will likely respond by telling you what he expects from you learning the piece. The Chopin waltz, while difficult isn't inconceivably so.
So you’ve been learning for 2 months, have no previous musical experience (did you play any instrument growing up?), and now your teacher wants you to learn scales and pieces on your own at home, and gave you a Chopin piece already?

😱

No, I’m sorry, this is wrong. Unless you played some other instrument at some point and can read music pretty well already, and dabbled a little in piano previously, this is not the way to teach an absolute beginner. How long are your lessons? This doesn’t make any sense.
Originally Posted by ranjit
Ask him why he's giving you harder pieces, and tell him that you are not able to play them well. He will likely respond by telling you what he expects from you learning the piece. The Chopin waltz, while difficult isn't inconceivably so.
It is for someone with absolutely no previous musical experience, who only started learning a couple months ago.
I misread that, any teacher that gives Chopin to practice after 3 month of lessons is just trying to stroke his/her own ego.

Maybe you are super talented or just a guinea pig.

I think the latter.
OP --
Your teacher is a top level teacher and teaches at your country's best conservatory. He probably didn't get there by being a bad teacher, although it's a possibility. He is far more qualified than anyone on this thread (most of whom are students and have a very narrow view of learning the piano). Ask him to explain why he's teaching you more difficult pieces. You said you could play the Chopin waltz, but it was not good at all. It's possible that your teacher is getting you to try things out and trying to broaden your perspective or something.

I could imagine scenarios in which I would suggest a beginner to try out the Chopin waltz in A minor (which is basically Chopin's easiest waltz). Maybe I want to get someone out of a fixed hand position. Maybe I want to make someone more aware of chords and stride patterns in context. Maybe someone needs to attempt a hard piece to realize what they are lacking. Maybe there's a spark of potential, and I need to know the extent to which they can figure stuff out on their own.

People on this forum tend to be very conservative, and frown upon unorthodox approaches. However, good teachers use unorthodox approaches all the time, for various reasons. You need to figure out if there is a valid reason for your teacher giving you harder pieces to attempt, and he is the only one who can really answer that question.
Just my train of thought, I am teaching you Chopin so I can demand a higher fee.

Raising tuition fees without communication is a big red flag to me.

Yes, Chopin Waltz is on of the easiest Chopin pieces, suggesting that someone can study that after 2-3 month of lessons is disingenuous at best.
Still, it wouldn't hurt to directly ask, would it?
FWIW John Thompson's Modern Course Grade 2 has a somewhat simplified version of the Chopin Prelude Op. 28/7 - but then again it's supposed to be for someone in 2nd year of instruction.

(The Grade 3 book even has the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2, simplified version that is 😅)
I started off self-teaching for a few years. The first teacher at the conservatory is very good at sight reading. 1 day I brought in a book with advanced pieces. She opened a piece and started reading it through with few misses. Otherwise she can be very moody.

After taking a break, I got assigned a different teacher. She hardly ever show her bad temper except this week when some of her students wanted to connect through Zoom. The WiFi at the conservatory is incredibly slow with many students and teachers using it. Otherwise she is patient and don't push anybody to go any faster. If a student wants to continue with the same piece, she would work on it for another week.

My teacher understands adult learners like myself have a busy schedule so she try to introduce new materials at a reasonable pace. Someone in the family who is still in high school got into violin playing a few years ago and recently got a new teacher. He said the first teacher wasn't as tough but he enjoys playing the instrument. Instead of quitting, he is adjusting to the teaching style of the new teacher.

You're not going to find a teacher that is perfect in every way you expect. As long as the teacher listens to your concerns and tries to accommodate your needs. I only spend an hour with the teacher each week. Like most people who have 1h lesson per week I'd spend more time practicing on my own. Besides the assigned pieces that are not overly challenging, I download pieces on my own. In any given week I can juggle between 3-5 pieces at an intermediate level and occasionally playing an advanced piece. Unless I'm training for a competition and have coaching with the teacher at least 3x /week, I don't think she is having a huge impact on my progress than giving me the motivation to keep on practicing.

Many people posted videos online on learning on their own. When you're working with a teacher, you tend to play through a repertoire book 1 piece at a time in a systematic way. People who are on their own tend to pick interesting pieces and spend weeks perfecting few challenging ones and skipping a lot in between.
Originally Posted by ebonyk
Originally Posted by ranjit
Ask him why he's giving you harder pieces, and tell him that you are not able to play them well. He will likely respond by telling you what he expects from you learning the piece. The Chopin waltz, while difficult isn't inconceivably so.
It is for someone with absolutely no previous musical experience, who only started learning a couple months ago.

I agree with ebonyk. I can't understand why, in the OP's words, "a total beginner" would be given a Chopin Waltz to work on after just two months of lessons.

With every thing else the OP writes - which should not be shown to the teacher, in my opinion - this does not seem like a good student-teacher match.

Regards,
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Here's what I think is happening. Progress is not linear and you have to review and revisit the things you learn several times before they become natural. It's not the case that you master one skill fully before moving to the next skill. What happens when you learn a new skill is that at first you can kind-of-sort-of do it with a lot of effort, you move on, then later you encounter the same skill again and this time you can do it a little better, then after a couple of repeats of this (with long intervals of time in between) you find it easy and natural. That's when you master that skill. But it would be a total waste of time to linger on that one little skill forever without working on any other skills. What I think happened is that your teacher started giving you more difficult skills to master while you are still internalizing all the basics. It doesn't mean you won't go back and revisit the basics; you probably will many times, although you might not even notice if those basics are part of a piece that teaches other skills too.

I think that's his idea as well. When I first expressed my doubts about getting so many pieces, he told me that you learn a lot of techniques and skills just by playing very different things and by playing lots of them. It makes sense, but I just wish we could also work on the baby steps as well at the same time. Were you worried about going too fast when given the Chopin Waltz ?


Originally Posted by scirocco
Are you working to any sort of syllabus? It sounds like you are not sure if you are missing out important steps.

If not, you could get hold of the syllabus of one of the teaching academies like ABRSM. That will tell you what level of repertoire pieces and technical work (scales, arpeggios etc .) are apprpriate for each year of learning.

You could compare that with what you are actually doing with your teacher and then discuss with him if you see anything missing or if the pieces he’s assigned to you are too advanced for your level.

Not really, we're mostly working on pieces, and slowly seeing whatever we encounter. It's by looking through some forums and through academic syllabus (like ABRSM) that I started feeling bit concerned. There are some things from level 1 that I think I can do well, but other (including playing a piece you've never encountered) that I couldn't do (my sight-reading is really terrible). But does not following such a strict syllabus makes you a bad pianist ?


Originally Posted by ranjit
OP --
Your teacher is a top level teacher and teaches at your country's best conservatory. He probably didn't get there by being a bad teacher, although it's a possibility. He is far more qualified than anyone on this thread (most of whom are students and have a very narrow view of learning the piano). Ask him to explain why he's teaching you more difficult pieces. You said you could play the Chopin waltz, but it was not good at all. It's possible that your teacher is getting you to try things out and trying to broaden your perspective or something.

I could imagine scenarios in which I would suggest a beginner to try out the Chopin waltz in A minor (which is basically Chopin's easiest waltz). Maybe I want to get someone out of a fixed hand position. Maybe I want to make someone more aware of chords and stride patterns in context. Maybe someone needs to attempt a hard piece to realize what they are lacking. Maybe there's a spark of potential, and I need to know the extent to which they can figure stuff out on their own.

People on this forum tend to be very conservative, and frown upon unorthodox approaches. However, good teachers use unorthodox approaches all the time, for various reasons. You need to figure out if there is a valid reason for your teacher giving you harder pieces to attempt, and he is the only one who can really answer that question.

I have no doubts about his qualifications. I know he has taught kids and beginners for many years, and also taught professionals and is giving Masterclasses across the country. That's why I don't really get what he's doing. I sure make progress, but when I read forums like here, I can't help thinking that I'm burning steps and what we're learning is wrong.


Originally Posted by Learux
I misread that, any teacher that gives Chopin to practice after 3 month of lessons is just trying to stroke his/her own ego.

Maybe you are super talented or just a guinea pig.

I think the latter.

I'm pretty much a total beginner (had some music classes when I was young and played a bit of guitar, but never seriously nor with a teacher). I think I do learn fast, but I'm definitely not super talented lol. Wouldn't see why giving a student pieces way above his levels would flatter your ego though. Wouldn't it make you feel bad to hear a student butcher a piece you like ?

However, just wanted to make clear that he NEVER raised his fees for me or never talked to me about his new post. I just saw it on his page. And I would never make him read this of course, if it wasn't obvious, even if I'm worried, I do respect my teacher a lot.
The “absolutely love” and beautiful description of the fine qualities of your teacher in the opening of your post makes me want to encourage you to explore your concerns directly with him.

I see other teachers also give this piece to “late beginners” to introduce foundations of musical concepts:
E.g. Josh Wright: “ If a student loves Chopin but is still in the stages of late beginner/early intermediate repertoire, I will generally start them with this piece, as most of the pieces Chopin wrote were of a much more advanced nature. However, this little gem is a perfect starting point for students to not only learn about the style of a waltz, but also be introduced to voicing, nuance, and rubato”

Perhaps he is trying to open a conversation about those concepts, rather then expecting perfect execution?

Originally Posted by coffeestained
Were you worried about going too fast when given the Chopin Waltz ?
Yes, I was worried about going too fast all the time. In fact, I have written about it before. I still think this method of throwing you in the deep end has great benefits though. As long as you stay under that teacher's supervision you will eventually figure out the basics. With this approach you get to develop your musicality to a much greater degree early on. The disadvantage is that your reading skills will probably lag behind what you can play and you will have to work hard to make up for that. I think your teacher expects you to read a lot of music on your own to develop those reading skills.

Originally Posted by ranjit
Your teacher is a top level teacher and teaches at your country's best conservatory. He probably didn't get there by being a bad teacher, although it's a possibility. He is far more qualified than anyone on this thread (most of whom are students and have a very narrow view of learning the piano). Ask him to explain why he's teaching you more difficult pieces. You said you could play the Chopin waltz, but it was not good at all. It's possible that your teacher is getting you to try things out and trying to broaden your perspective or something.

I could imagine scenarios in which I would suggest a beginner to try out the Chopin waltz in A minor (which is basically Chopin's easiest waltz). Maybe I want to get someone out of a fixed hand position. Maybe I want to make someone more aware of chords and stride patterns in context. Maybe someone needs to attempt a hard piece to realize what they are lacking. Maybe there's a spark of potential, and I need to know the extent to which they can figure stuff out on their own.

People on this forum tend to be very conservative, and frown upon unorthodox approaches. However, good teachers use unorthodox approaches all the time, for various reasons. You need to figure out if there is a valid reason for your teacher giving you harder pieces to attempt, and he is the only one who can really answer that question.
I agree fully. Perspectives on this forum are very narrow and limited. I often found my teacher's methods unorthodox (compared to what I found here) but I trusted him and in the end I did quite well (I think).
OP
I agree entirely with Qazsedcft and ranjit on this topic. Keep in mind that you might be still very much unaware of what you can do well and how well you do it. This is something that in my experience we as adult beginners tend to be overcritical about, but your teacher's perspective might be very different. From what you comment, I am more inclined to think that he has noticed some very good qualities in your learning curve over the past months to decide to push you a bit more. I had very similar thoughts to what you describe at the very beginning with my teacher as well, and believe me, I am glad I never decided to change teachers. Almost every time my teacher has suggested a piece I am thinking this is insane, now way I am getting this one right. And at the end, with his good guidance and to my surprise, things start to work and come into place. And that feeling is very encouraging and motivating. It pushes you to keep learning. I would talk to him anyways for you to have a very clear idea of what the purpose of every task is. It seems he is a very competent and experienced teacher, so trust him and let him guide you.

Originally Posted by coffeestained
[quote=Qazsedcft]
Not really, we're mostly working on pieces, and slowly seeing whatever we encounter. It's by looking through some forums and through academic syllabus (like ABRSM) that I started feeling bit concerned. There are some things from level 1 that I think I can do well, but other (including playing a piece you've never encountered) that I couldn't do (my sight-reading is really terrible). But does not following such a strict syllabus makes you a bad pianist ?
This is the bad side of all the info you find online. There is very useful and interesting information on the different syllabi (like repertoire suggestions) but there is no reason why every piano student in the world should fit the standards defined by them. I am very much against standardized teaching/learnign in a lot of fields anyways, and piano is no exception. Not following a syllabus will not make you a bad pianist by any means. Your teacher might have not even followed one when he was learning. There are many factors and things you have been exposed/have learned throughout your life that might determine the way you learn piano, and this goes beyond prior musical training. I would advise you to not overthink on this, and trust your teacher. I mean, he seems like a very competent person, why would he follow a syllabus if his experience has showed him there are perhaps better methods or that each learning curve is different and teaching tools should be tailored to every student?

My last advice, do not forget to enjoy the process! laugh feel proud and happy for every milestone.
Your teacher may be probing you in order to detect your optimal learning pace, it's common. If he is a good teacher and he sees that you can't cope with that pace he will cut back. But it's important that you tell him about every deficiency that you notice in your skills and your understanding.

That said, I'm a proponent of a carefully built foundation in everything.
Originally Posted by mtb
I see other teachers also give this piece to “late beginners” to introduce foundations of musical concepts:
E.g. Josh Wright: “ If a student loves Chopin but is still in the stages of late beginner/early intermediate repertoire, I will generally start them with this piece, as most of the pieces Chopin wrote were of a much more advanced nature. However, this little gem is a perfect starting point for students to not only learn about the style of a waltz, but also be introduced to voicing, nuance, and rubato”

Perhaps he is trying to open a conversation about those concepts, rather then expecting perfect execution?

Very few people would call someone with 2-4 months experience a "late beginner". I think that would normally apply to someone with 2-3 years experience. I can't imagine Josh Wright was referring to someone with 2-4 months experience in the part you quoted.
Originally Posted by coffeestained
We then discussed what kind of pieces I wanted to play next, and when I answered some that I thought were easy like Chopin’s Prelude 4 (back then I didn’t know yet that there was a lot more than just playing the right scores and keys), and he strongly disagreed, explaining that we should do easier things first and why. Which I completely agreed to, and I was very enthusiastic about what he gave me too.
My thoughts are: if you hadn't told him that you wanted to learn that Chopin piece 'next', he'd never have given you any Chopin to learn now.

With adult students learning music, teachers tend to be very sensitive about not boring them by insisting on mastering fundamentals or underestimating their capacity for tackling difficult stuff, and most of all, giving them what they (believe they) want was opposed to what they say they are happy to play while still grappling with the basics. (After all, if you start learning piano because you really want to play Chopin, would you be happy to wait two years or so before playing your first Chopin piece?)

Though I don't teach adults, I know a teacher who does, and that is what she tells me about how she teaches adult beginners, and keeping them on for the long haul (which is every good piano teacher's aim). My (ex-)beginner friend experienced the same from his teacher several years ago, and it was only his insistence that he really wanted to be taught all the basics properly like his teacher's child students were expected to learn, that gave his teacher confidence that really was what he truly wanted.

My advice now to you is: if you have confidence in your teacher and like his teaching, go with the flow and see what happens. If you really come unstuck (as opposed to thinking you're 'not getting anywhere'), tell him. Just remember: don't compare yourself to anyone on YT videos........
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Very few people would call someone with 2-4 months experience a "late beginner". I think that would normally apply to someone with 2-3 years experience. I can't imagine Josh Wright was referring to someone with 2-4 months experience in the part you quoted.
It's funny you mention that because Josh Wright himself mentionned in one of his videos that some of his students could play advanced rep after 2 years. The variation in people's progress seems to be much wider than what is commonly accepted on this forum.
Originally Posted by coffeestained
But does not following such a strict syllabus makes you a bad pianist ?

That would depend on what you were doing instead of following a syllabus. It's perfectly possible that your teacher has in his mind exactly what he plans for you to do over the next year, say, and it is a brilliant and proven teaching system. Or he might be completely winging it and just making it up on the day. Either way, you seemed from your post to want some yardstick to compare what he is doing with others. Looking at the content of other syllabi (not necessarily following them) would be one way of getting that yardstick.

Originally Posted by coffeestained
no more scales (he suggested that I should learn them at home along the different pieces that I play)
That's odd. Beginners usually need supervision and review and feedback of their scale playing (to ensure your physical technique is okay and that your musical technique is smooth and even.)

Originally Posted by coffeestained
he insisted that I should go pieces that a beginner definitely can’t play, like Chopin’s Waltz in A minor. (my sight-reading is really terrible)

I wouldn't worry too much about sight reading at first year beginner level. How is your regular reading? Can you play the piece (even badly) while reading every note, or is it that which you struggle with?

Because if you have difficulty with that, the absolute worst thing you can do is to be playing difficult pieces. You need the exact opposite, the simpler the better, simple enough that you can read and play every note at full tempo.

Because if you don't, you will quickly get into the habit of using your big powerful adult pattern recognition brain to skip over the fact that you can't read fast enough to play. And then that will become a habit and you won't improve at reading.
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Very few people would call someone with 2-4 months experience a "late beginner". I think that would normally apply to someone with 2-3 years experience. I can't imagine Josh Wright was referring to someone with 2-4 months experience in the part you quoted.
It's funny you mention that because Josh Wright himself mentionned in one of his videos that some of his students could play advanced rep after 2 years. The variation in people's progress seems to be much wider than what is commonly accepted on this forum.
Almost anything is conceivably possible by some extreme outlier case, but that statement also depends on what Wright meant by advanced rep. Thinking about what's normally considered advanced rep(Beethoven Sonatas, Bach WTC, major Chopin works) I think that far less than 1% can play advanced rep after 2 years. Maybe 1 in a 1000. Videos of Evgeny Kissin playing at a very young age(don't know how many years of study) show him playing music not nearly approaching advanced rep. I think most students after two years are playing what's normally considered beginner pieces.
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Very few people would call someone with 2-4 months experience a "late beginner". I think that would normally apply to someone with 2-3 years experience. I can't imagine Josh Wright was referring to someone with 2-4 months experience in the part you quoted.
It's funny you mention that because Josh Wright himself mentionned in one of his videos that some of his students could play advanced rep after 2 years. The variation in people's progress seems to be much wider than what is commonly accepted on this forum.
I think you have to be careful about what people say on YT videos - especially if they're making money from them (and therefore want to keep their viewers and attract new ones). Personally, I take all anecdotes and claims in them with a barrelful of salt.

For instance, what does he mean by "advanced rep"? Chopin's Op.28/4? - attainable by lots of people. I'm pretty sure he isn't talking Op.28/3, which is hardly even 'difficult Chopin'. How well are they playing them?
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Very few people would call someone with 2-4 months experience a "late beginner". I think that would normally apply to someone with 2-3 years experience. I can't imagine Josh Wright was referring to someone with 2-4 months experience in the part you quoted.
It's funny you mention that because Josh Wright himself mentionned in one of his videos that some of his students could play advanced rep after 2 years. The variation in people's progress seems to be much wider than what is commonly accepted on this forum.
Almost anything is conceivably possible by some extreme outlier case, but that statement also depends on what Wright meant by advanced rep. Thinking about what's normally considered advanced rep(Beethoven Sonatas, Bach WTC, major Chopin works) I think that far less than 1% can play advanced rep after 2 years. Maybe 1 in a 1000. Videos of Evgeny Kissin playing at a very young age(don't know how many years of study) show him playing music not nearly approaching advanced rep. I think most students after two years are playing what's normally considered beginner pieces.
Yes, agreed, but statements like that show what is possible. Maybe 1 in 1000 can play advanced rep after 2 years, but maybe many more people can play intermediate rep after a few months. I don't know, I'm not a teacher. But I would not dismiss the experience of teachers of advanced students like Josh Wright.

And for the record, when he says advanced he really means advanced, like the pieces you mention. In another video he mentions someone who was so obsessed with scales he could play them in 16th notes at 160 BPM after 2 years of playing piano. I thought "How is that even possible?", but apparently it is possible. I don't think he is being deceptive or is exaggerating.
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
In another video he mentions someone who was so obsessed with scales he could play them in 16th notes at 160 BPM after 2 years of playing piano. I thought "How is that even possible?", but apparently it is possible. I don't think he is being deceptive or is exaggerating.
Why not? Did he even say that the student was playing the scales perfectly evenly and was technically impeccable, despite probably practicing nothing but scales for 2 years?

Sorry to be so cynical, but on YT and social media, anything is possible.....
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Very few people would call someone with 2-4 months experience a "late beginner". I think that would normally apply to someone with 2-3 years experience. I can't imagine Josh Wright was referring to someone with 2-4 months experience in the part you quoted.
It's funny you mention that because Josh Wright himself mentionned in one of his videos that some of his students could play advanced rep after 2 years. The variation in people's progress seems to be much wider than what is commonly accepted on this forum.
I think you have to be careful about what people say on YT videos - especially if they're making money from them (and therefore want to keep their viewers and attract new ones). Personally, I take all anecdotes and claims in them with a barrelful of salt.

For instance, what does he mean by "advanced rep"? Chopin's Op.28/4? - attainable by lots of people. I'm pretty sure he isn't talking Op.28/3, which is hardly even 'difficult Chopin'. How well are they playing them?
First of all, I'm a subscriber already and it was in a private video not one available publically on YT and he was mentioning it in passing in the middle of the video, so it wasn't some kind of shabby advertising statement "Look what you can achieve with my instruction!". The statement was actually an anecdote in the context of warning students against biting off more than they can chew.

Here's a description from the advanced section on his web site:
Quote
(Disclaimer: since the Advanced section of this course currently contains concert etudes and other technically challenging pieces for the "Technique" section (all of which are repertoire pieces anyway), I have combined my suggestions below to include pieces from both the Technique and Repertoire sections, and given 5 recommendations for "easier" pieces, and 5 recommendations for "tougher" pieces from this section of the course).

5 of the easier pieces in this section:

Chopin Etudes (technical)- my favorite virtuosic Chopin Etudes to start students with are Op.10 No.12 (targets left-hand development), Op.25 No.12 (targets flexibility and arpeggios), and Op.25 No.2 (targets right-hand development)
Chopin Etudes (lyrical) - Op.10 No.6, and Op.25 No.7. These are wonderful pieces for developing a good sense of rubato, voicing, and dynamics
Debussy - "Clair de lune" from Suite bergamasque
Mozart - Sonata No.11 in A major, K331, 3rd movement "Alla turca"
Brahms - Intermezzo in A major, Op.118


5 of the tougher pieces in this section:

Beethoven - Sonata in C-sharp minor, Op.27 No.2 "Moonlight", 3rd movement
Any of the concerti listed (one of my favorite romantic concerti to start a student with is the Saint-Saens Concerto No.2)
Chopin Etudes: perhaps the 3 toughest Chopin Etudes are Op.10 No.2, Op.25 No.6, and Op.25 No.11
Liszt Paganini Etudes
Chopin Ballades - in my opinion, these are the pinnacle of Chopin's writing, and should not be taken lightly. Make sure you have played something from several of his other genres (etudes, nocturnes, waltzes, polonaises, mazurkas, etc) before tackling a Ballade so you have a keen understanding of his music. Nothing is worse than an ugly Chopin Ballade (haha)
Originally Posted by ranjit
Still, it wouldn't hurt to directly ask, would it?
Of course not. And it would be nice if you stopped insulting people on these forums. 🙂👍
Yes, being thrown into the deep end, so to speak, can be a reasonable thing to do once you have some experience under your belt. Lots of people play stretch pieces, there’s a lot of benefit to that. But only a certain amount of stretch is reasonable before the wheels fall off. Stretch pieces after a year or two of playing piano is perfectly fine. In my opinion, there is no such thing as stretch pieces after 2 to 3 months of learning. After 2 to 3 months of learning, a student is only just beginning to learn their first few pieces. There is no ability to stretch when you have almost no experience yet.

I read through a lot of posts here, and someone mentioned that “eventually you’ll get the idea” regarding technique. Eventually getting the idea is totally different than actually learning the techniques that you need in order to play different pieces. I fail to understand what exactly is wrong with following a particular syllabus, such as RCM or a ABRSM, which gives you everything in the proper order. Why eventually learn something in a roundabout way, when you can learn it at the proper time with the proper pieces and etudes?

My first teacher did this as well. We didn’t follow any particular book, she just gave me pieces to learn. The last piece she threw at me was CPE Bach Solfeggietto, and I quit. I barely learned any theory and had been playing for a little over two years. There was absolutely no way that I should’ve been playing that piece. I really shouldn’t have been playing the Chopin she was giving me, because I didn’t even understand the music, could not sight read it at all, and was just learning blindly at that point. The wheels fell completely off when she gave me this last piece. I knew then that I had no real foundation to stand on. I had just gotten a job working shiftwork, and she wasn’t able to accommodate my schedule anymore anyway, so I quit. The 2 1/2 years that I spent with this teacher wasn’t a waste, but she didn’t teach me what I needed in order to move forward in a way that was sustainable. Instead, what happened was the wheels totally fell off and I was at a standstill.

There are definitely shortcuts to learning piano pieces. 4 year olds can play by rote. Fake books abound. After my learning experiences, though, I really believe that there are no shortcuts to being a pianist. Learning piano pieces, as opposed to learning to actually PLAY, to understand the theory behind the pieces, sight read without having to write note names all over the score, comprehend the whys of technique, and all the other myriad things that encompass actually being a well rounded musician, are totally two different things. If I knew then what I know now, I’d be playing Beethoven sonatas at this point.
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Very few people would call someone with 2-4 months experience a "late beginner". I think that would normally apply to someone with 2-3 years experience. I can't imagine Josh Wright was referring to someone with 2-4 months experience in the part you quoted.
It's funny you mention that because Josh Wright himself mentionned in one of his videos that some of his students could play advanced rep after 2 years. The variation in people's progress seems to be much wider than what is commonly accepted on this forum.
Almost anything is conceivably possible by some extreme outlier case, but that statement also depends on what Wright meant by advanced rep. Thinking about what's normally considered advanced rep(Beethoven Sonatas, Bach WTC, major Chopin works) I think that far less than 1% can play advanced rep after 2 years. Maybe 1 in a 1000. Videos of Evgeny Kissin playing at a very young age(don't know how many years of study) show him playing music not nearly approaching advanced rep. I think most students after two years are playing what's normally considered beginner pieces.
Yes, agreed, but statements like that show what is possible. Maybe 1 in 1000 can play advanced rep after 2 years, but maybe many more people can play intermediate rep after a few months. I don't know, I'm not a teacher. But I would not dismiss the experience of teachers of advanced students like Josh Wright.

And for the record, when he says advanced he really means advanced, like the pieces you mention. In another video he mentions someone who was so obsessed with scales he could play them in 16th notes at 160 BPM after 2 years of playing piano. I thought "How is that even possible?", but apparently it is possible. I don't think he is being deceptive or is exaggerating.
I'm not dismissing what Josh Wright says but I would have to see the video to know exactly what he is discussing. Otherwise, it's just your understanding of the video.

Playing intermediate rep after 2 months is just as much an outlier situation as playing advanced rep after 2 years. I think talking about extreme outlier cases is, by definition, not meaningful for at least 99%(probably more like 99.9%) of pianists.
Originally Posted by ebonyk
I fail to understand what exactly is wrong with following a particular syllabus, such as RCM or a ABRSM, which gives you everything in the proper order. Why eventually learn something in a roundabout way, when you can learn it at the proper time with the proper pieces and etudes?
There is only one thing wrong with this approach: you don't get to play Chopin, or La Campanella, or whatever your poison happens to be, until you actually have the technical and musical means to play them....... grin

With children, there's no problem. After all, they think Chopin is a chopping board, and still remember the falls and scrapes they had trying to ride a bicycle with only two wheels, and the amount of H2O they swallowed while trying to swim. Not to mention how many years it took them to learn to read and write English (and add & subtract), despite having grown up speaking the language since they were in diapers.

With adults, you have 'expectations'. Especially those promoted by various YT videos and websites (and some 'teachers' in them)......
I’d say one of the main things is to be comfortable asking the teacher ANYTHING. Any burning questions or concerns then they also should be comfortable answering too
Originally Posted by ebonyk
I fail to understand what exactly is wrong with following a particular syllabus, such as RCM or a ABRSM, which gives you everything in the proper order. Why eventually learn something in a roundabout way, when you can learn it at the proper time with the proper pieces and etudes?
Nothing wrong with that and you can follow that approach if it suits you. I am just pointing out that there are also other paths and people have followed them and been successful. I'm not even saying these are "shortcuts" because they aren't. They are just different approaches.
OP - talk to your teacher. It sounds like at the beginning, the lessons were meeting your expectations. Let your teacher know this, and that you’re currently feeling overwhelmed by the material/feeling like you may be missing foundational material. Listen to your teacher’s response. If appropriate, acknowledge the teacher’s recent promotion, that you’ve heard he/she is no longer taking beginner students, and if they think it would be better for you to transition to a different teacher, would they have any recommendations for a good teacher. Good luck! Whatever happens, I think it’s really important to have great communication with your teacher — I think this goes a HUGE way to ensuring that you are on the same page and getting what you want from your lessons.
Originally Posted by Sgisela
OP - talk to your teacher. It sounds like at the beginning, the lessons were meeting your expectations. Let your teacher know this, and that you’re currently feeling overwhelmed by the material/feeling like you may be missing foundational material. Listen to your teacher’s response. If appropriate, acknowledge the teacher’s recent promotion, that you’ve heard he/she is no longer taking beginner students, and if they think it would be better for you to transition to a different teacher, would they have any recommendations for a good teacher. Good luck! Whatever happens, I think it’s really important to have great communication with your teacher — I think this goes a HUGE way to ensuring that you are on the same page and getting what you want from your lessons.
Good advice.
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by ebonyk
I fail to understand what exactly is wrong with following a particular syllabus, such as RCM or a ABRSM, which gives you everything in the proper order. Why eventually learn something in a roundabout way, when you can learn it at the proper time with the proper pieces and etudes?
Nothing wrong with that and you can follow that approach if it suits you. I am just pointing out that there are also other paths and people have followed them and been successful. I'm not even saying these are "shortcuts" because they aren't. They are just different approaches.
But a syllabus is really just a progressive way of learning. It’s the same with method books. You work on pieces, études, theory, sight reading, etc. that are all at one level, and when you’re ready you go on to the next level. This is the basic way that anything is learned. No one learns math starting out with calculus. What other approaches are there to learning that don’t follow this approach? I’m genuinely curious.
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
It's funny you mention that because Josh Wright himself mentionned in one of his videos that some of his students could play advanced rep after 2 years. The variation in people's progress seems to be much wider than what is commonly accepted on this forum.
Almost anything is conceivably possible by some extreme outlier case, but that statement also depends on what Wright meant by advanced rep. Thinking about what's normally considered advanced rep(Beethoven Sonatas, Bach WTC, major Chopin works) I think that far less than 1% can play advanced rep after 2 years. Maybe 1 in a 1000. Videos of Evgeny Kissin playing at a very young age(don't know how many years of study) show him playing music not nearly approaching advanced rep. I think most students after two years are playing what's normally considered beginner pieces.
Yes, agreed, but statements like that show what is possible. Maybe 1 in 1000 can play advanced rep after 2 years, but maybe many more people can play intermediate rep after a few months. I don't know, I'm not a teacher. But I would not dismiss the experience of teachers of advanced students like Josh Wright.

And for the record, when he says advanced he really means advanced, like the pieces you mention. In another video he mentions someone who was so obsessed with scales he could play them in 16th notes at 160 BPM after 2 years of playing piano. I thought "How is that even possible?", but apparently it is possible. I don't think he is being deceptive or is exaggerating.
I'm not dismissing what Josh Wright says but I would have to see the video to know exactly what he is discussing. Otherwise, it's just your understanding of the video.

Playing intermediate rep after 2 months is just as much an outlier situation as playing advanced rep after 2 years. I think talking about extreme outlier cases is, by definition, not meaningful for at least 99%(probably more like 99.9%) of pianists.
I know exactly what video he's talking about and I remember the quote "... And some people are playing Chopin etudes after two years. Now, that is very rare, but I have had one or two students who have progressed at that rate, so it's possible." He replied with something similar when I emailed him.

It is quite wrong that students are always late beginner after 2-3 years. I had taught myself a Chopin nocturne and Schubert Impromptu (technically grade 7-8 pieces) in my first two years. I think that with good instruction, a student can possibly progress much faster. This idea that a lot of people have in the forum that you will be at point X after Y years resulted in people not believing me and dismissing my opinions over here (which I'm still rather bummed about). And despite having seen counterexamples on this very forum, some posters are stuck in some kind of wishful thinking that everyone progresses at a neat linear pace of about a grade a year. I cannot change how they think, but I don't want new piano students to get the wrong idea.

It is indeed possible and a lot of people progress at the rate of 2 or more grades a year, let's say. I would say maybe 1 in 20 students could be at an intermediate level (say grade 5-6) after two years, if they just tried. If it took me five years to attempt Fur Elise, I would have quit long ago! I think a lot of people would be able to play it decently after 2 years, if they learned properly. In fact, I would be surprised if someone learning optimally and putting in a lot of effort did not reach a similar point after 2 years. People generally underestimate how far solid unflinching effort can take you.

I have read anecdotes from people who have studied with top teachers, who had a number of students play Fantaisie Impromptu and the like at age 8-9 (this does require some talent though). The top teachers simply don't teach according to the ABRSM formula. It looks like a frog-in-the-well syndrome here, where many people cannot see past their own limited experience and biases.

Most normal teachers just assign pieces in an attempt to get students experience in a graded fashion. Technique and all that jazz will come "with time". In order to learn a technical skill, they will assign etudes to students and ask them to perform it for them after a week or two. This is not how the top teachers teach. They teach their students the core movements according to a piano school and their personal experience. (Look at Graham Fitch or Denis Zhdanov for example.) They are always observing, troubleshooting, analyzing. Figuring out what precise set of coordinations the student is missing or needs to improve upon in order to get there. Because if you learn the correct movements, you will basically be able to play it at tempo perfectly. They try to figure out where the student's inefficiencies in their practice method lie. This can result in exponential improvement as the student learns to learn, rather than gradual improvement over a period of years.

Whenever someone says it takes years to do something ostensibly easy, my inner skeptic always turns on. The OP seems to be very articulate and have a fast learning curve. I know a number of people who were similar. And the common theme is that teachers usually say it will take a long time to get that far, at the start. One student I know was told in the first lesson that to play a certain Bach piece in a year on the violin, he would have to be a "prodigy". Sure enough, after a year, he was quietly assigned that piece, and played it well. Similar things have happened to me as well. The OP's teacher is clearly happy with their progress and has kept them in as a student at the original rate. From what I know about top teachers, that is an indirect sign that they enjoy teaching the student and that they have potential.
Originally Posted by ebonyk
Originally Posted by ranjit
Still, it wouldn't hurt to directly ask, would it?
And it would be nice if you stopped insulting people on these forums. 🙂👍
I only said that a large number are conservative and narrow minded, which they are wink

I dislike the fact that they are saying this teacher is crap without reading the situation completely. And if the OP takes the advice and leaves the teacher, they may have lost an incredible opportunity. It is no mean feat to be accepted as a professor at a top conservatory. The fact that they were surprised by what the OP was able to achieve in their first week also points at having a good amount of talent.
Originally Posted by coffeestained
I still learn a lot during the lessons, we do theoretical points whenever there’s something that I need to learn about the piece I’m learning or when I ask a question, but now the lessons mostly focus on the pieces (decoding them, how to play them, how to place my fingers better, how to play it better, basically).
It looks like he is focusing on basic principles via the pieces. Whether you play exercises or pieces, it is the end goal that matters. I haven't learned very many exercises myself, never went through Hanon or Czerny, etc. There were some small pieces which I started out with for a few months, and then my teacher decided that I could work on harder pieces. I maintain that something which is under grade 6-7 is not hard for a talented student unless they want to play it really well (that is, they could learn it within a year for sure, but it won't be perfect). What is hard is getting all the nuances, holding all the notes which are supposed to be held, getting that consistency of articulation etc. So if your teacher is focusing on those, I think it is good. There are many valid approaches to teaching and it varies based on the student. None of the teachers who have taught me focused on scales for more than a few months. They taught me how to play them, I played them decently after a few sessions, and then we moved on. That is exactly what they told me -- you can work on these aspects and refine them with pieces. Past a certain level, it is important to have musical context even when you are developing technique.
Originally Posted by ebonyk
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by ebonyk
I fail to understand what exactly is wrong with following a particular syllabus, such as RCM or a ABRSM, which gives you everything in the proper order. Why eventually learn something in a roundabout way, when you can learn it at the proper time with the proper pieces and etudes?
Nothing wrong with that and you can follow that approach if it suits you. I am just pointing out that there are also other paths and people have followed them and been successful. I'm not even saying these are "shortcuts" because they aren't. They are just different approaches.
But a syllabus is really just a progressive way of learning. It’s the same with method books. You work on pieces, études, theory, sight reading, etc. that are all at one level, and when you’re ready you go on to the next level. This is the basic way that anything is learned. No one learns math starting out with calculus. What other approaches are there to learning that don’t follow this approach? I’m genuinely curious.
No. A syllabus is just a list of pieces selected by a commitee that thinks that these are appropriate for a student after X years. The pieces themselves are rarely composed with the intention of teaching a specific skill or of "being appropriate for a grade 4 student". A teacher's job is to select pieces from the repertoire that they think will improve some skill of the student. Graded lists are indeed useful for this purpose but they don't necessarily have to be followed linearly and the skills don't necessarily have to be taught in the same order that the commitee decided. In fact, my teacher often disagreed with the ratings, in both directions, sometimes assigning pieces that I thought were too difficult but sometimes he would decline certain pieces that were theoretically at my grade level saying they are too difficult.

And about learning, it is not the case that we learn by mastering one task fully before moving to the next task. That is simply not how our brain works. Observing how little children learn to speak or to walk is informative. They learn skills progressively but they don't really master one skill fully before moving to the next because they don't exist in this simplified world of "in today's lesson, let's learn about how to ask questions". They have to interact with a fully functional world as soon as possible even if they do it badly at first. That is in fact the default learning mode of the human brain. In my opinion, even adults can learn this way but they have been trained by years of institutionalized education and their professional careers to think in more schematic ways.
Originally Posted by ranjit
Most normal teachers just assign pieces in an attempt to get students experience in a graded fashion. Technique and all that jazz will come "with time". In order to learn a technical skill, they will assign etudes to students and ask them to perform it for them after a week or two.
No, that is not how real piano teachers teach, whether 'normal' or not. Of course, I can't say anything about fake teachers, of whom there are plenty.......
Quote
the top teachers......are always observing, troubleshooting, analyzing. Figuring out what precise set of coordinations the student is missing or needs to improve upon in order to get there.
Again, all good teachers teach that way. All my four teachers, when I was a student.
Even yours truly, and I don't consider myself a "top teacher"...... smirk


Quote
Because if you learn the correct movements, you will basically be able to play it at tempo perfectly.
There are so many things wrong with this statement that I don't know where to begin. But this is not the first time you've made sweeping statements of this sort, thereby damning all those students who, despite trying to play straightforward two-handed scales and arpeggios (or whatever that's completely out of their league) after a few weeks of lessons, with all the correct movements, can't achieve evenness and fluency.

Tell you what, I don't think you've ever played Rach. But you have played the Revolutionary Etude very well (according to yourself). Go and learn Rach's equivalent, his Op.23/2. Surely, by now, you have the right teacher to show you how to 'learn the correct movements and you will basically be able to play it at tempo perfectly'. Come back in two weeks and post your recording. Need more than two weeks? OK, two months.

Or, if you don't like Rach, how about a much easier and lighter piece, Mendelssohn's Rondo capriccioso. Let us hear your results.
Originally Posted by ranjit
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Almost anything is conceivably possible by some extreme outlier case, but that statement also depends on what Wright meant by advanced rep. Thinking about what's normally considered advanced rep(Beethoven Sonatas, Bach WTC, major Chopin works) I think that far less than 1% can play advanced rep after 2 years. Maybe 1 in a 1000. Videos of Evgeny Kissin playing at a very young age(don't know how many years of study) show him playing music not nearly approaching advanced rep. I think most students after two years are playing what's normally considered beginner pieces.
Yes, agreed, but statements like that show what is possible. Maybe 1 in 1000 can play advanced rep after 2 years, but maybe many more people can play intermediate rep after a few months. I don't know, I'm not a teacher. But I would not dismiss the experience of teachers of advanced students like Josh Wright.

And for the record, when he says advanced he really means advanced, like the pieces you mention. In another video he mentions someone who was so obsessed with scales he could play them in 16th notes at 160 BPM after 2 years of playing piano. I thought "How is that even possible?", but apparently it is possible. I don't think he is being deceptive or is exaggerating.
I'm not dismissing what Josh Wright says but I would have to see the video to know exactly what he is discussing. Otherwise, it's just your understanding of the video.

Playing intermediate rep after 2 months is just as much an outlier situation as playing advanced rep after 2 years. I think talking about extreme outlier cases is, by definition, not meaningful for at least 99%(probably more like 99.9%) of pianists.
I know exactly what video he's talking about and I remember the quote "... And some people are playing Chopin etudes after two years. Now, that is very rare, but I have had one or two students who have progressed at that rate, so it's possible." He replied with something similar when I emailed him.

It is quite wrong that students are always late beginner after 2-3 years. I had taught myself a Chopin nocturne and Schubert Impromptu (technically grade 7-8 pieces) in my first two years. I think that with good instruction, a student can possibly progress much faster. This idea that a lot of people have in the forum that you will be at point X after Y years resulted in people not believing me and dismissing my opinions over here (which I'm still rather bummed about). And despite having seen counterexamples on this very forum, some posters are stuck in some kind of wishful thinking that everyone progresses at a neat linear pace of about a grade a year. I cannot change how they think, but I don't want new piano students to get the wrong idea.

It is indeed possible and a lot of people progress at the rate of 2 or more grades a year, let's say. I would say maybe 1 in 20 students could be at an intermediate level (say grade 5-6) after two years. if they just tried. If it took me five years to attempt Fur Elise, I would have quit long ago! I think a lot of people would be able to play it decently after 2 years, if they learned properly. In fact, I would be surprised if someone learning optimally and putting in a lot of effort did not reach a similar point after 2 years. People generally underestimate how far solid unflinching effort can take you.

I have read anecdotes from people who have studied with top teachers, who had a number of students play Fantaisie Impromptu and the like at age 8-9 (this does require some talent though). The top teachers simply don't teach according to the ABRSM formula. It looks like a frog-in-the-well syndrome here, where many people cannot see past their own limited experience and biases.

Most normal teachers just assign pieces in an attempt to get students experience in a graded fashion. Technique and all that jazz will come "with time". In order to learn a technical skill, they will assign etudes to students and ask them to perform it for them after a week or two. This is not how the top teachers teach. They teach their students the core movements according to a piano school and their personal experience. (Look at Graham Fitch or Denis Zhdanov for example.) They are always observing, troubleshooting, analyzing. Figuring out what precise set of coordinations the student is missing or needs to improve upon in order to get there. Because if you learn the correct movements, you will basically be able to play it at tempo perfectly. They try to figure out where the student's inefficiencies in their practice method lie. This can result in exponential improvement as the student learns to learn, rather than gradual improvement over a period of years.

Whenever someone says it takes years to do something ostensibly easy, my inner skeptic always turns on. The OP seems to be very articulate and have a fast learning curve. I know a number of people who were similar. And the common theme is that teachers usually say it will take a long time to get that far, at the start. One student I know was told in the first lesson that to play a certain Bach piece in a year on the violin, he would have to be a "prodigy". Sure enough, after a year, he was quietly assigned that piece, and played it well. Similar things have happened to me as well. The OP's teacher is clearly happy with their progress and has kept them in as a student at the original rate. From what I know about top teachers, that is an indirect sign that they enjoy teaching the student and that they have potential.
1. I never said that " students are always late beginner after 2-3 years", and you shouldn't put words in my mouth. I said that was the typical case and that playing what I would call intermediate works after 2 years was extremely rare. I see little point in mentioning extreme outlier cases that apply to such a tiny percentage of students. Playing even the easiest Chopin Etudes after two years is beyond a doubt an extreme outlier case.
2. You may have taught yourself a Chopin Nocturne and Schubert Impromptu in the first two years but we have no idea how well you played them. Most of those who teach themselves in their first few years have no understanding of how well they are playing. Again, IF you played them well this would be an extreme outlier case.
3. Playing FI at age 8-9 after around 3-4 years of instruction would again be an outlier case although not as extreme as playing a Chopin Etude after two years.
4. I agree with you on how good teachers who emphasize technique often teach, but I bet if you asked them how many can play some of the pieces you suggest after the time you say, they would agree with me that this is an extremely rare occurrence.
5. There was nothing in the OP's post to indicate his teacher is "happy with their progress".
6. You say that 1 in 20 students could progress at the rate you claim. Even if that's true(which I seriously doubt), it means the overwhelming majority can't.
@bennevis: I respect your opinions and have in fact followed your advice on more than one occasion but I really think your view of adult learners is quite skewed and limited. Perhaps ranjit is also lacking experience but still that is no reason to harshly dismiss his views.
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
@bennevis: I respect your opinions and have in fact followed your advice on more than one occasion but I really think your view of adult learners is quite skewed and limited. Perhaps ranjit is also lacking experience but still that is no reason to harshly dismiss his views.
Are you saying that his statement, amounting to 'learn all the right movements and you'll be able to play at tempo perfectly' is correct, and applicable to everyone - with zero reference to any basic technical skills, let alone advanced skills (which take years to develop, let alone 'master')?
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
@bennevis: I respect your opinions and have in fact followed your advice on more than one occasion but I really think your view of adult learners is quite skewed and limited. Perhaps ranjit is also lacking experience but still that is no reason to harshly dismiss his views.
Are you saying that his statement, amounting to 'learn all the right movements and you'll be able to play at tempo perfectly' is correct, and applicable to everyone - with zero reference to any basic technical skills, let alone advanced skills (which take years to develop, let alone 'master')?
No, I don't agree with everything ranjit wrote but some of his points have merit. I also don't want to generalize to everyone else. My point is just about being open to other possibilities than one's own experiences.
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
My point is just about being open to other possibilities than one's own experiences.
I am, which is why I wrote what I wrote in my previous post, directed at the OP:

Here it is again:
My advice now to you is: if you have confidence in your teacher and like his teaching, go with the flow and see what happens. If you really come unstuck (as opposed to thinking you're 'not getting anywhere'), tell him. Just remember: don't compare yourself to anyone on YT videos........


Ranjit's assertions (not just in this thread but in many, many other threads) that if you have the right teacher and are practicing properly, you can play anything at tempo (presumably within a few months or less) does a grave injustice not just to all good teachers but also all the diligent students who practice assiduously but still find that achieving technical competency takes a long time. Far too long, according to the expert ranjit......
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
No. A syllabus is just a list of pieces selected by a commitee that thinks that these are appropriate for a student after X years. The pieces themselves are rarely composed with the intention of teaching a specific skill or of "being appropriate for a grade 4 student".

That's not what a syllabus is. A syllabus is the outline of everything you will learn in a class or course of study. It's a roadmap that shows you where you're going and what you're going to learn, right up to the end of the class/course of study. I find them very helpful in piano learning because you can see what's at each grade, so it's easier to make a decision on where to start a student. Of course not everyone needs to start at the very beginning. But someone with no experience at all probably should.


Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
They learn skills progressively but they don't really master one skill fully before moving to the next because they don't exist in this simplified world of "in today's lesson, let's learn about how to ask questions".

Yeah, this is TOTALLY different than learning an instrument, LOL. There's a bit of a difference between babies learning how to walk and someone learning a Bach fugue. At least in my personal opinion.
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
@bennevis: I respect your opinions and have in fact followed your advice on more than one occasion but I really think your view of adult learners is quite skewed and limited. Perhaps ranjit is also lacking experience but still that is no reason to harshly dismiss his views.
Are you saying that his statement, amounting to 'learn all the right movements and you'll be able to play at tempo perfectly' is correct, and applicable to everyone - with zero reference to any basic technical skills, let alone advanced skills (which take years to develop, let alone 'master')?
I'm not saying that it will be easy to acquire the right movements. That is the part which takes years, although you can speed it up by several techniques it will still probably take years to get to a high level. All I'm pointing out is that it's largely a matter of coordination and a good teacher will typically address it directly. And by and large not so much about hand strength or disability or endurance or whatever except at very high levels. There is no reason why you couldn't learn piano in a year to a certain level just as there is no reason why you couldn't learn calculus in a year, it is primarily in the mind in a sense. I talk about directly attempting to reduce inefficiency in movement and attempting to play fast from the start (people get hit with speed barriers usually if they start at a slow tempo hoping to ratchet up the speed), etc. I never said you can achieve mastery in months, only that you could probably play grade 5 pieces if you worked really hard. And there are plenty of examples, most recently I've seen AndresVel on this forum, who I was impressed to hear played a Bach invention quite well after less than a year. But that is less than 1% of what constitutes mastery at the piano. Even grade 8 is maybe 2% at most. If you can play stuff like Chopin op 10 no 1 at concert standard, then we're talking.

I can not play the Revolutionary Etude well. I only said I can play it at tempo (140-160 bpm) and get through it largely without mistakes. But I can't play it well. Still, that in itself is not a bad achievement, I think.
Originally Posted by ebonyk
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
They learn skills progressively but they don't really master one skill fully before moving to the next because they don't exist in this simplified world of "in today's lesson, let's learn about how to ask questions".

Yeah, this is TOTALLY different than learning an instrument, LOL. There's a bit of a difference between babies learning how to walk and someone learning a Bach fugue. At least in my personal opinion.
There is quite a bit of overlap imo. The latter is obviously harder. But the kinesthetic awareness comes with time, and several different skills develop simultaneously. You need to figure out which things can be worked on in parallel, and what things just come with time. In some cases, you need to just experiment in order to develop a mental model for the kinds of movements which can work, and to get used to coordinating your hands in that fashion.
Originally Posted by ebonyk
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
No. A syllabus is just a list of pieces selected by a commitee that thinks that these are appropriate for a student after X years. The pieces themselves are rarely composed with the intention of teaching a specific skill or of "being appropriate for a grade 4 student".

That's not what a syllabus is. A syllabus is the outline of everything you will learn in a class or course of study. It's a roadmap that shows you where you're going and what you're going to learn, right up to the end of the class/course of study. I find them very helpful in piano learning because you can see what's at each grade, so it's easier to make a decision on where to start a student. Of course not everyone needs to start at the very beginning. But someone with no experience at all probably should.
That is the institutionalized way of looking at things but you don't have to agree with the commitee and follow their plan sequentially.

Originally Posted by ebonyk
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
They learn skills progressively but they don't really master one skill fully before moving to the next because they don't exist in this simplified world of "in today's lesson, let's learn about how to ask questions".

Yeah, this is TOTALLY different than learning an instrument, LOL. There's a bit of a difference between babies learning how to walk and someone learning a Bach fugue. At least in my personal opinion.
I was making an analogy and I think the language learning analogy is quite appropriate. I also happen to be a language geek and I observe people who learn many languages. The successful ones are not the ones who follow the course syllabus but those who jump right in the middle of everything and immediately interact with people in their target language. There are many examples on the internet of people who have gone to foreign countries without speaking a single word. They don't first go and learn the grammar rules and basic phrases - none of that at all. They just go on the street to ask for directions or try to speak to people in bars without knowing a single thing about the language. And after a few months they are fluent. They figure out all of it on the fly. It's amazing but that is how the human brain works! Not with books and syllabi and bureaucratic commitees deciding what is "appropriate". The people studying with books on the other hand can't have a proper conversation after 3 years of study, and I'm talking about the diligent ones following all the steps in the book and doing their homework and exams and everything.

OK, granted learning a musical instrument is more difficult than learning a foreign language but the brain's basic processes don't change and I believe it's possible to master very complex tasks with this approach of embracing the chaos and figuring things out as you go.
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
I was making an analogy and I think the language learning analogy is quite appropriate. I also happen to be a language geek and I observe people who learn many languages. The successful ones are not the ones who follow the course syllabus but those who jump right in the middle of everything and immediately interact with people in their target language. There are many examples on the internet of people who have gone to foreign countries without speaking a single word. They don't first go and learn the grammar rules and basic phrases - none of that at all. They just go on the street to ask for directions or try to speak to people in bars without knowing a single thing about the language. And after a few months they are fluent. They figure out all of it on the fly. It's amazing but that is how the human brain works! Not with books and syllabi and bureaucratic commitees deciding what is "appropriate". The people studying with books on the other hand can't have a proper conversation after 3 years of study, and I'm talking about the diligent ones following all the steps in the book and doing their homework and exams and everything.

OK, granted learning a musical instrument is more difficult than learning a foreign language but the brain's basic processes don't change and I believe it's possible to master very complex tasks with this approach of embracing the chaos and figuring things out as you go.
On the other hand, working with an accent coach to train you to recognize and pronounce unusual phonemes will help you more than just speaking to native speakers. Similarly, having a teacher demonstrate and explain principles of technique is very helpful and you can't just pick that up by watching videos (and believe me, I've tried). But again, having met people who learned all proper with a good teacher, most of them play easier stuff "perfectly" but it often doesn't seem organic, bit rather supplanted on them by their teachers, rather like the studious language learners you mention. Diving into the thick of it and actually gaining hands on experience with the instrument, and actually trying and failing with pieces beyond your level is incredibly important. Somewhere, there exists the perfect synergy between the two approaches.
Originally Posted by ranjit
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
@bennevis: I respect your opinions and have in fact followed your advice on more than one occasion but I really think your view of adult learners is quite skewed and limited. Perhaps ranjit is also lacking experience but still that is no reason to harshly dismiss his views.
Are you saying that his statement, amounting to 'learn all the right movements and you'll be able to play at tempo perfectly' is correct, and applicable to everyone - with zero reference to any basic technical skills, let alone advanced skills (which take years to develop, let alone 'master')?
I'm not saying that it will be easy to acquire the right movements. That is the part which takes years, although you can speed it up by several techniques it will still probably take years to get to a high level. All I'm pointing out is that it's largely a matter of coordination and a good teacher will typically address it directly. And by and large not so much about hand strength or disability or endurance or whatever except at very high levels. There is no reason why you couldn't learn piano in a year to a certain level just as there is no reason why you couldn't learn calculus in a year, it is primarily in the mind in a sense. I talk about directly attempting to reduce inefficiency in movement and attempting to play fast from the start (people get hit with speed barriers usually if they start at a slow tempo hoping to ratchet up the speed), etc. I never said you can achieve mastery in months, only that you could probably play grade 5 pieces if you worked really hard. And there are plenty of examples, most recently I've seen AndresVel on this forum, who I was impressed to hear played a Bach invention quite well after less than a year. But that is less than 1% of what constitutes mastery at the piano. Even grade 8 is maybe 2% at most. If you can play stuff like Chopin op 10 no 1 at concert standard, then we're talking.

I can not play the Revolutionary Etude well. I only said I can play it at tempo (140-160 bpm) and get through it largely without mistakes. But I can't play it well. Still, that in itself is not a bad achievement, I think.
Your comments are filled with vagueness and ever dchanging claims.

1. "Learn calculus in a year" to what level? It goes without saying one can learn a typical one year calculus course in one year. Just like a piano student can learn the usual first year piano material within one year.

2. No one ever mentioned hand strength or endurance.

3. Now you say one can learn piano in a year to a "certain" level but without specifying what that level is. And the relevant question is not if 1% or .1% can reach some level in some period since that is just an extreme outlier case. You mention reaching grade 5 in "months" without saying how many months. If you mean just a couple of months which is what most of this thread has discussed, then I think almost everyone would disagree with you.

4. You give a single piece as criterion for mastering piano.

5. Learning a Bach Invention after one year is impressive but if that person spent an inordinate amount of time doing that it doesn't mean they've reached whatever level that piece is considered to be.
No, it is quite difficult to learn a calculus course in a year starting from ground zero (just basic numeracy).

No, not a couple of months. I meant something in between 6 months to a year, and referred to playing Fur Elise or a Bach invention, well enough to pass an exam (not performance standard).

It's not a single criterion. I never said it was enough to learn the piece to be at a high level.

Well the 1% thing is hard to calculate.The number of students who actually sincerely apply feedback and work hard is probably much less than 1% anyway.
Originally Posted by ranjit
No, it is quite difficult to learn a calculus course in a year starting from ground zero (just basic numeracy).
You are correct if one is starting from ground zero although one could argue that if one already has basic numeracy one is not starting as a complete beginner. But learning calculus in a year starting from basic numeracy is obviously an extreme outlier case by which I mean like 1 out of 1000. IOW it's irrelevant to this discussion.

If after studying for one year a student can play a Bach Invention well that's impressive but if they spent an inordinate amount of time learning the piece it means their playing is not at whatever level the Bach Invention is rated.
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
If after studying for one year a student can play a Bach Invention well that's impressive but if they spent an inordinate amount of time learning the piece it means their playing is not at whatever level the Bach Invention is rated.

I agree this is a key distinction. Unless there are unusual circumstances, like an actor playing a pianist and wanting to appear realistic, a wholistic approach to learning produces a good pianist, or linguist etc.

I’ve nothing against people dabbling — it’s good to try different things — but it is different from serious study and commitment.

For example, I learnt some common phrases & responses from a Turkish girl on the bus to Istanbul (and they turned out very useful) but that’s not what I and most people consider as learning the Turkish language.
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Yes, I was worried about going too fast all the time. In fact, I have written about it before.

Thank you so much for sharing your own thread, it kind of reassures me to see that some people ended up doing well even while being taught in a non conventional way. And it also reassures me that other people were worried about it at first too.

Originally Posted by scirocco
I wouldn't worry too much about sight reading at first year beginner level. How is your regular reading? Can you play the piece (even badly) while reading every note, or is it that which you struggle with?


Regular reading as in the sens of identifying scores ? I guess I can read them properly (whenever my teacher gives me a few bars that we haven't seen together to decipher for the next lesson, I rarely make mistakes), but I'd be playing them very slowly and whenever it's hard for me to play in rhythm or at the right tempo if I'm reading. I never write the notes on the music sheet though, this is a habit I don't want to take. I do memorize what I'm playing very fast though (I can usually play by memory the few bars I've learned the next day), so not good I guess. I'm trying to work on it by doing 5 minutes of sight-reading exercices at the beginning of every practice session. I don't think my teacher can really help me with that one, I think it's something one has to do on their own.

Originally Posted by ebonyk
After my learning experiences, though, I really believe that there are no shortcuts to being a pianist. Learning piano pieces, as opposed to learning to actually PLAY, to understand the theory behind the pieces, sight read without having to write note names all over the score, comprehend the whys of technique, and all the other myriad things that encompass actually being a well rounded musician, are totally two different things.

Yes! This is what I do worry about. I don't want to play Chopin just because I want to, I'd rather be able to understand fully what's going on, wether it's about the emotions, the techniques, the harmonics, the nuances. Otherwise, I do think it's difficult to play it well, or at least it would take a lot more time to learn the piece as you don't fully get what's behind it. But maybe learning those things via different pieces isn't that bad either.

Originally Posted by Sgisela
OP - talk to your teacher. It sounds like at the beginning, the lessons were meeting your expectations. Let your teacher know this, and that you’re currently feeling overwhelmed by the material/feeling like you may be missing foundational material. Listen to your teacher’s response. If appropriate, acknowledge the teacher’s recent promotion, that you’ve heard he/she is no longer taking beginner students, and if they think it would be better for you to transition to a different teacher, would they have any recommendations for a good teacher. Good luck! Whatever happens, I think it’s really important to have great communication with your teacher — I think this goes a HUGE way to ensuring that you are on the same page and getting what you want from your lessons.

It's probably the best thing to do. How do you address those kind of things without sounding like you're a questioning their teaching ways ? I can't stress enough how blessed and lucky I feel to study with a top musician that I admire (even before he became my teacher). It's not that I'm not satisfied with the lessons, as I said, I really enjoy them and have progressed a lot in a few months, it's just that I'm worried that he's skipping all the basic stuff because I'm an adult beginner.
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
I was making an analogy and I think the language learning analogy is quite appropriate. I also happen to be a language geek and I observe people who learn many languages. The successful ones are not the ones who follow the course syllabus but those who jump right in the middle of everything and immediately interact with people in their target language. There are many examples on the internet of people who have gone to foreign countries without speaking a single word. They don't first go and learn the grammar rules and basic phrases - none of that at all. They just go on the street to ask for directions or try to speak to people in bars without knowing a single thing about the language. And after a few months they are fluent. They figure out all of it on the fly. It's amazing but that is how the human brain works! Not with books and syllabi and bureaucratic commitees deciding what is "appropriate". The people studying with books on the other hand can't have a proper conversation after 3 years of study, and I'm talking about the diligent ones following all the steps in the book and doing their homework and exams and everything.

This analogy is really interesting. I've actually been in that case for learning a new language - thrown in a foreign country and didn't speak a word, figured it out on my own after a few months indeed and became fluent very quickly, a lot more quickly than people who had been taking classic lessons. However, I do have some grammar gaps, or things I just know because it sounds natural, but couldn't explain properly to someone who would be learn the language, for example. And this is an analogy I've been using too, wondering if it'd be a good thing with music. It does work wonder for me (at least, for the language, it did), but I'm afraid that figuring out the fundamentals wouldn't work well with piano.

As for the pronunciation, I'll have to disagree with he coach thing. My pronunciation in that language is A LOT better than people who've been taking classes. Being surrounded by natives and you'll just pick it up the correct way naturally (not saying this works for everyone or for music, but it's been the same for me with two languages).

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
If after studying for one year a student can play a Bach Invention well that's impressive but if they spent an inordinate amount of time learning the piece it means their playing is not at whatever level the Bach Invention is rated.

Fully agree with this. This is pretty much how I got the confirmation that it was way too early for the Chopin piece (I mean, I knew it but it became more obvious) - every day it felt like I had to start over what I'd practiced the day before, as if I couldn't pick it up, while usually I can already see some sort of progress on the next day.
Maybe mixing some stretch pieces with easier pieces could work well though.

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
5. There was nothing in the OP's post to indicate his teacher is "happy with their progress".

I have no idea indeed. How does a teacher usually express the fact they are unhappy with a student's progress ? I'm guessing he's fine with, he told me I seemed to be working efficiently by my own compared to other beginners and he told me that I was learning fast once. Congratulated me for the Chopin Waltz even though I still play it very badly, saying it's normal after only 2-3 lessons. But that's more about what I do at home than about my progress rate. And the thing is that I know no one who plays piano around me, and have no idea what is the "typical" learning curve, and feel kinda lost as if I'm doing good or terrible lol. I have no idea and it's quite frustrating.
Originally Posted by coffeestained
Originally Posted by ebonyk
After my learning experiences, though, I really believe that there are no shortcuts to being a pianist. Learning piano pieces, as opposed to learning to actually PLAY, to understand the theory behind the pieces, sight read without having to write note names all over the score, comprehend the whys of technique, and all the other myriad things that encompass actually being a well rounded musician, are totally two different things.

Yes! This is what I do worry about. I don't want to play Chopin just because I want to, I'd rather be able to understand fully what's going on, wether it's about the emotions, the techniques, the harmonics, the nuances. Otherwise, I do think it's difficult to play it well, or at least it would take a lot more time to learn the piece as you don't fully get what's behind it. But maybe learning those things via different pieces isn't that bad either.

That’s why I made the decision in the last few months to dial back a bit. This summer I caught up my theory, technique, ear training and sight reading/reading ability all to the same level, and now I’m playing a bunch of pieces at this level before I move on. I want to feel that I’m competent here before I advance. When I get back to those harder pieces, it’ll be at the right time, not just because I want to be there. I’m patient. I can wait. 🙂👍

Originally Posted by coffeestained
I have no idea indeed. How does a teacher usually express the fact they are unhappy with a student's progress ?
LOL, my last teacher was perfectly fine telling me I’m not going fast enough. I stopped going. I can’t change my brain, lol. I don’t need extra stress in learning piano. This instrument is my haven, it’s my place of joy. I don’t it turning into something that adds to my stress.
© Piano World Piano & Digital Piano Forums