Music genres and piano learning - Are all equally good?

Explore a new topic relevant to piano education monthly

Moderator: Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed

Postby 112-1182392787 » Thu Jan 24, 2008 5:55 pm

Certain types of instruments would be less suited to the demands of certain genres of music, and these genres by definition have a collection of musical works called repertoire behind them that people wish to play. The genre will dictate that certain technique and certain musical approaches be learned and used, and the approaches and the technique become the goal for the sake of the genre. By the same token one type of instrument will allow you to carry out that musical expression and that technique, more than another. There is no argument that genre is not important, only that repertoire does not teach. We are not really disagreeing. Just the nature of the focal point is being missed.

I take the view that, all things being equal, the student should choose a teacher willing to entertain at least some of his interests during training.

Yes, and those interests have nothing to do with repertoire. If I looked through the yellow pages and saw an advertisement in terms of repertoire, I would be very hesitant about contacting such a teacher. I know enough about studying music at this point that I know the skills and knowledge must be acquired. Some teachers do teach toward repertoire rather than toward skills, and the skills are sacrificed. They must be learned in a particular order, and not as a piece of music might suggest.

Supposing that a student thinks he wants to learn to play a particular piece by Bach. A teacher may know that he needs skills # a, b and c in order to be able to play Bach, and may need to bring this student through multiple hoops that may bear no resemblance to Bach. Another teacher may simply allow that student to play Bach, maybe giving him a simplified version, or leaving out the nuances that can only be acquired by developing the skills and knowledge. Which of these two teachers is serving the student best? As a student I must trust that if a teacher gives me something different than I think I need, it is nonetheless right for me at the end, and will bring me there more surely than if I have my way. It is a matter of trusting expertise. Repertoire is not a means toward acquiring skills. What we need are the skills so that we can play whatever we want to play independently of the teacher at some point.

A teacher who gives an uninformed, untrained student what he wants, may not be giving him what he needs in order to attain what he wants. If I want to play Bach, and my new teacher says that I have to do all this other stuff in order to be able to play Bach well, then I am best served by accepting to do this other stuff. It is very possible and even likely that I will end up changing what I want because I will get a bigger picture. I may realize that not only can I play Bach, but I can play many other things of this genre I had never dreamed of, and music as a whole is a much richer prospect than I had imagined. If my teacher limits himself to my immediate wishes I will never have a chance to discover that.
User avatar
112-1182392787
 

Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Jan 24, 2008 7:53 pm

pianissimo wrote:
I take the view that, all things being equal, the student should choose a teacher willing to entertain at least some of his interests during training.

Yes, and those interests have nothing to do with repertoire. If I looked through the yellow pages and saw an advertisement in terms of repertoire, I would be very hesitant about contacting such a teacher. I know enough about studying music at this point that I know the skills and knowledge must be acquired. Some teachers do teach toward repertoire rather than toward skills, and the skills are sacrificed. They must be learned in a particular order, and not as a piece of music might suggest.

I think I understand your point about skills and knowledge and would agree that accomplished pianists must share many skills, whatever their particular focus in genre (and, thereby, repertoire). However, when you say "Yes, and those interests have nothing to do with repertoire.", I think you might have a hard time convincing the student who wants to learn jazz piano that his interests have nothing to do with the jazz repertoire. Or, are you saying that the student who wants to learn piano to play popular songs has no legitimate reason to ask for some popular songs to be incorporated in his training, where appropriate, since his "interests have nothing to do with repertoire"?

Honestly, I don't see any particular reason why "teaching toward repertoire" should necessarily sacrifice skills, in the long term. In the beginning, of course, when the student has limited exposure to any genre, his training will have gaps, no matter what genre(s) the teacher might use in teaching. In the longer term, the student may learn them in a different order and to a different degree, but it should be possible to train the student. I'm sure that the thousands of jazz piano teachers out there who teach to the jazz repertoire would disagree with someone who said that their teaching sacrificed skills and knowledge.
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
User avatar
Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Site Admin
 
Posts: 994
Joined: Sun Jun 08, 2003 6:46 pm
Location: Rio Rancho, NM USA

Postby 112-1182392787 » Fri Jan 25, 2008 6:06 am

I am saying that repertoire does not teach the skills for the genre. I would assume that of course there may be a choice of repertoire, but in terms of becoming able to play that kind of genre the repertoire is less important than the skills. There is no argument against any choice of music: I just find it relatively unimportant. That is to say, as a student the repertoire I am given interests me less than the skills.

Does "teaching toward repertoire" have the same meaning for each of us? My teacher may want to give me the skills that I need, and present learning tasks to me in the best order for acquiring those skills. Certain repertoire may be tools toward those skills which are the foremost purpose.

Teaching toward repertoire, on the other hand, means that I choose a piece of music, my teacher sees what skills I will need for that particular piece, gives them to me for the sake of the repertoire rather for the sake of building up my skills.

It is a matter of approach. A teacher can use repertoire in any way he or she chooses, including as a tool for giving skills. In my own learning I would not want the repertoire to be the foremost goal that governs the manner or order in which I learn things.

This is not an argument against having a choice in regards to any kind of repertoire. It just seems unimportant to me as a student. I cannot see repertoire choice as having a positive or negative effect on acquiring skills for a given genre or piano playing as a whole.

who teach to the jazz repertoire

I would think that they would teach to the jazz genre, and its requirements, and use the repertoire as a vehicle. I can also imagine that classical music can be "jazzed up" - it's a matter of approach.




Edited By pianissimo on 1201262976
User avatar
112-1182392787
 

Postby Tranquillo » Fri Jan 25, 2008 6:22 am

Honestly, I don't see any particular reason why "teaching toward repertoire" should necessarily sacrifice skills, in the long term. In the beginning, of course, when the student has limited exposure to any genre, his training will have gaps, no matter what genre(s) the teacher might use in teaching. In the longer term, the student may learn them in a different order and to a different degree, but it should be possible to train the student. I'm sure that the thousands of jazz piano teachers out there who teach to the jazz repertoire would disagree with someone who said that their teaching sacrificed skills and knowledge.


That is very true there should be no reason that repertoire sacrifices musical skill. And I agree with you in the limited exposure area that the student will have gaps. My comment prior pointed to a generalist teacher that does not restrict and limit repertoire to a certain genré but rather considers a variety of styles and can see the cross pollonation of genrés.

But different genres may require different skills, and that is where my consideration of jazz came in, but not in the sense of repertoire. For example, I have understood that in some classical circles the pure way of learning requires that you do not deviate from anything, you do not explore other genres, you acquire very precise specialized abilities and sensitivities that you do not want to jeapardize. Jazz, on the other hand, wants freedom, exploration, the ability to move from one mode to another, having chords and chord progressions at one's fingertips, the ability to listen and respond quickly in a spontaneous but knowledgeable fashion to what others are playing. Different skills and facilities are needed. It may be that something good for the classical musician is considered bad for the jazz musician. The jazz musician may need to learn about modes and beats and whatnot, and he may need to be taught, and to practice differently. The same repertoire might be used, but approached differently. The goals taught toward are not repertoire, but the needed skills for the genre. The repertoire does not teach this. The classical student and the jazz student may take the same piece of music and do different things with them.


VERY TRUE! A friend of mine recently saw a jazz piano teacher and took me to her first jazz piano lesson. Being a classical pianist herself, jazz spins your head around and is very different. The time is never stict or even 'on time', there is a lot of filling in rather than reading. Her jazz piano teacher was classically trained and she remarked that she "does not understand why they dont teach Jazz, its fun and kids will like it".
--- what I am saying is teachers should get students to learn repertoire of a wide variety of genrés. And they should also follow up on interest. I am also saying that fundamental skills are the bottom line.

Yes, and those interests have nothing to do with repertoire. If I looked through the yellow pages and saw an advertisement in terms of repertoire, I would be very hesitant about contacting such a teacher. I know enough about studying music at this point that I know the skills and knowledge must be acquired. Some teachers do teach toward repertoire rather than toward skills, and the skills are sacrificed. They must be learned in a particular order, and not as a piece of music might suggest.

Thats like when I was in the stage of looking for a singing teacher ... there were 'vocal coaches' out there . And a 'vocal coach' only works on repertoire ... whereas a 'singing teacher' works on technique and skills. (and repertoire but not as the emphasis).
Such teachers seem to appear in the piano education world.

I take the view that, all things being equal, the student should choose a teacher willing to entertain at least some of his interests during training.

That is true ... ofcourse skills are applied during the time of learning repertoire. Yes, all things should be equal. Any teacher adaptable to teaching should work with the interest that the student does have.
Music is organised sound
User avatar
Tranquillo
 
Posts: 465
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2007 11:43 pm

Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri Jan 25, 2008 8:34 am

pianissimo wrote:I am saying that repertoire does not teach the skills for the genre. I would assume that of course there may be a choice of repertoire, but in terms of becoming able to play that kind of genre the repertoire is less important than the skills. There is no argument against any choice of music: I just find it relatively unimportant. That is to say, as a student the repertoire I am given interests me less than the skills.

Does "teaching toward repertoire" have the same meaning for each of us? My teacher may want to give me the skills that I need, and present learning tasks to me in the best order for acquiring those skills. Certain repertoire may be tools toward those skills which are the foremost purpose.

Teaching toward repertoire, on the other hand, means that I choose a piece of music, my teacher sees what skills I will need for that particular piece, gives them to me for the sake of the repertoire rather for the sake of building up my skills.

It is a matter of approach. A teacher can use repertoire in any way he or she chooses, including as a tool for giving skills. In my own learning I would not want the repertoire to be the foremost goal that governs the manner or order in which I learn things.

This is not an argument against having a choice in regards to any kind of repertoire. It just seems unimportant to me as a student. I cannot see repertoire choice as having a positive or negative effect on acquiring skills for a given genre or piano playing as a whole.

I'm having a hard time understanding the distinction you seem to be trying to make between genre and repertoire. To me, a genre is demarcated by a repertoire of works with common characteristics and "sound." How does one learn to be a jazz pianist without eventually playing the jazz repertoire? How does one learn to be a classical pianist without studying and playing music from the classical genre? Since you argue that you place emphasis on skills, would you be perfectly happy learning piano from a well-qualified teacher of popular piano music, when your goal was to play the classical repertoire?

The description you give of "teaching toward repertoire" is not one that I have ever heard done by any teacher, though I suppose it's possible to do. It also wasn't one contemplated in the original topic. The much more common situation is one where the teacher works in repertoire for the student which teaches what he needs to learn, but reflects his expressed interests to some degree.

Training genre may be unimportant to you, as an advanced student, but it's not unimportant for many students, who come into lessons with specific ideas about at least some of the things they would like to learn. There is an excellent book by Noah Adams from about 13 years ago in which he describes learning to play piano for the purpose of being able to play a single part of one work, Schumann's Traumerei from the Kinderscenen.

I agree with much of what you say, but would make some of the distinctions in a less "binary" way. One of the reasons I started this thread was to discuss why it is that most teachers focus on one genre, even if they give the student some input in to the process. Is there something about any particular genre that makes it particularly suitable for training? My point has actually been in complete agreement with you: the route to obtaining necessary skill and appreciation need not be carved in stone (or ivory). :D
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
User avatar
Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Site Admin
 
Posts: 994
Joined: Sun Jun 08, 2003 6:46 pm
Location: Rio Rancho, NM USA

Postby 112-1182392787 » Fri Jan 25, 2008 6:39 pm

It's probably a question of vocabulary. I understand genre to mean a style of music with particular attributes. Repertoire is a collection of music that people play that may or may not be restricted to a genre. Ave Maria is classical but can be played in jazz and other styles. If you mean what I would call genre by the word repertoire, then I understand your question better.

I'm not an advanced student, and for piano I'm probably closer to being a beginner. A music teacher might be more experienced in answer your question. I'm curious about the answers.
User avatar
112-1182392787
 

Postby Tranquillo » Sat Jan 26, 2008 5:52 am

I gave it some thought today.
Simply putting it ... What if a student brought in a piece of music that the teacher has never heard of in her/his life and the teacher is not able to to teach the student how to play that piece because of a lack of musical skills ...
Music is organised sound
User avatar
Tranquillo
 
Posts: 465
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2007 11:43 pm


Return to Topic of Note

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest