Most valuable lessons from teachers - What affected you most?

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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Jan 04, 2006 9:25 am

Most of us have had or encountered great piano teachers who are adept at communicating important lessons about playing, in the most effective manner. What were the most important lessons or tips that you've learned from piano instruction, either from a private teacher or college professor or performer? These can be tips on technique, general approaches to more effective learning, or ways of thinking about the piano that help motivate you, among other possibilities.

We often ask questions similar to this one of our A/E Interviewees, so, in a sense, this is a chance for everyone to offer to all the visitors to the site their best "pearls of wisdom" accumulated over the years. If you would like to reveal the source of the wisdom you relate, so much the better! :cool:
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
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Fri Jan 06, 2006 5:39 pm

Several listeners (not all teachers) have stressed to me the all-important process of actually LISTENING consciously to exactly what sounds I was making at the piano. It took awhile for it to penetrate, and to realize that we are often so involved in doing that we're not really hearing.

Next step from there: the best quote I know is the one from Vladimir Horowitz: "Make your ears decide what they want to hear" --BEFORE you play!! And to do that you have to create the sound you want in your head.

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Postby Stretto » Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:21 pm

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:Most of us have had or encountered great piano teachers who are adept at communicating important lessons about playing, in the most effective manner. What were the most important lessons or tips that you've learned from piano instruction, either from a private teacher or college professor or performer? These can be tips on technique, general approaches to more effective learning, or ways of thinking about the piano that help motivate you, among other possibilities.

I could probably write a page or more on tips I've picked up from teachers over the years. So I will attempt to list a few and post more later as they come to mind. First let me say that one of the things I am most grateful for is that I have had several different teachers. In college I had 3 different piano instructors in 4 years. I feel having different instructors in college as well as having so many different teachers prior was an advantage because I learned very important and new ideas from each one. Although most teachers may not appreciate me saying this, in some ways it was advantageous to switch around. Of course if you have an excellent teacher, don't switch as you may not get as good of one again!

The best tips I have picked up have been from my private piano instructors in college. This isn't to say my beginning teachers prior to college didn't teach me anything worthwhile. Perhaps it's more a matter of me not being able to remember anything profound or specific. But I was progressing during that time so I must have been learning something. However I can think of more things that were lacking in the first 6 years of learning. For example, theory as far as how to identifying chords in a score or on the keys, improvisation, proper technique, and ear-training. I also think that when it came to how to practice especially prior to college at least, none of my teachers as I can remember gave me specific practice directions. I feel that in that regard I taught myself because I would invent various ways on my own to break down a piece of music in practicing.

Here are a few pieces of advice I remember from professors in private instruction:

When I complained about learning a piece I disliked:
"It's important to be able to play pieces of music one doesn't like."

When I asked about learning arrangements of music (sorry prof.'s but I was a nieve newcomer at the time):
"First learn to play classical music and then you can go ahead and play pop music and arrangements."

The best thing ever said to me was when I was met with skepticism on my skill level:
"I believe you can do it."
(Probably the best thing a teacher can do for a student is in the way of encouragement by letting a student know that they are capable! :))

I will try to post some practical tips on playing that I learned when I get a chance.




Edited By Stretto on 1137031974
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Postby Stretto » Tue Jan 17, 2006 2:24 pm

I thought of a tip I learned from a teacher in my first few years of piano lessons that has really stuck with me for the long haul. I've only heard the idea from that one teacher. The tip she gave me was in general, get gradually louder when playing ascending notes and get gradually softer when playing descending notes. This tip has carried me a long way in adding subtle dynamic nuances where there are no specific dynamic markings.

Of course a later teacher carried the idea one step further with the idea that when a passage repeats elsewhere in a piece, vary it dynamically from how one originally played the passage.

Does anyone have any comments in regards to these two ideas? Agree or disagree? Does anyone have any tips for adding dynamics to a piece in general? Has anyone heard the above ideas before?
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Tue Jan 17, 2006 6:46 pm

Stretto, these things are SO valuable! What both teachers did was to make you aware that you have to create LINES--linear effects, constantly--and in the bass line, too, and in all the voices possible.

We have to begin the whole study/playing process with a vivid realization that the piano is a non-linear instrument: the notes don't really connect, they start to fade the moment they are struck, like bells. But the artist learns to make the successive tones relate to each other in such a way as to create an overall line or shape--it's like connecting dots (I think of it as something like a Gestalt phenomenon). So you make the listener believe the piano is doing what it can't really do, and the funny thing is that the illusion is more magical than if the piano could actually connect tones like a violin.

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Postby minorkey » Wed Jan 18, 2006 7:04 am

Stretto wrote:The tip she gave me was in general, get gradually louder when playing ascending notes and get gradually softer when playing descending notes.

Funny, I've been doing that instinctively...

Regarding the second tip, yes I've heard that too. Agree!
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Wed Jan 18, 2006 9:56 am

Stretto,
I have used and taught these ideas also, as you are following the dynamics of the piano. But like all "rules" I feel they are meant to be changed or varied.

In some pieces, I like to go back to the original dynamics when the theme repeats, and there are times when I reverse the dynamics for effect. When students are first using dymanics with the scales, I teach cresc. up and dim. down, but then later suggest it be reversed.

When some music is a short piece, with no markings, I suggest the student put in dynamics as they feel/hear them. When they compose, I ask for dynamic markings as well.
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Postby Stretto » Sat Jan 28, 2006 10:49 am

OK, Here's another tip that I picked up along the way:

To get a piece up to tempo, an instructor had me set the metronome at the speed I could reasonably play the piece with few mistakes (even if it was painstakingly slow :laugh: ). Then each day, I was to practice the piece with the metronome set one notch slower than that speed, at the speed, and one notch faster than that speed. Then the next day, set the metronome up one notch and do the same thing again (one notch slower, one notch at that speed, one notch faster).

Actually this was typically done with one line of music at a time with a date marked at the end of each line as a goal by which to have that line up to speed.

This helped me tremendously getting to the point of playing at tempo with fewer mistakes.
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Postby Tranquillo » Sun Sep 23, 2007 4:29 am

I think one of the most important things I have picked up has got to be there is so much i dont know. A few years ago I found music lessons to be very tedious I learnt things that I already knew ...
I was re - learning these things due to a class of people that did not ever learn such things. The teacher didnt bother to make anything a good challenge for me ... she got me to go tiwth the class. But the next year when I had a differnet music teacher I really learnt that music is not just lines and dots that sound nice. It is a vehchile to human emotion not just that but it has changed and evolved and still remains to be organised sound.
I felt like there was so much to learn and there was so much I didnt know. The years before I felt like I knew everything due to a tedious course ...
I will never forget that teacher she taught me humility and those lessons will always stick with me when I felt upbuilt and enriched by the contents of what she was teaching!
Music is organised sound
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