Lessons - What would you change?

Like to talk with other young piano students? This is the place!

Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Mon Sep 12, 2005 9:28 am

Aside from spending less time and effort practicing, which almost every piano student would like to change, what would you change about your lessons if you could? Would you like to change to different repertoire, longer or shorter lessons, emphasize different aspects of the lessons more or less, or just change instruments to name a few possibilities? What would make the lessons more fun or easier to look forward to? Every piano student has a pet peeve, and all opinions are valid in some sense, so what would you change about your lessons?
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 Stretto » Fri Sep 30, 2005 10:37 am

Well, Dr. Zeigler:

Here I am again feeling sorry for this lonely question sitting out here needing an answer. As I teacher, I would be quite interested to hear some student's answers on this topic. I really try to make an effort to find out what a student wants out of lessons and what they would like to see happening differently in the course of the lesson itself, what they would like to see emphasized more or less, what the student would like to learn they feel they are not learning. I have asked students similar questions (even asked them to return a written questionare), especially when they get a little older up toward teens where they may have a better idea of what they really would like to learn they haven't or what may absolutely drive them nuts. I do try to pick up on cues.
For example, some students want to come in and play all their pieces without interruption, some would rather talk about each piece as they go and I ask them on things like that what they prefer. Some would rather try to figure out a new piece or section by themselves first before working on it at lesson, some would rather get some help on a new piece from the start. It is kind of like pulling teeth I've noticed getting student's imput for some reason. Some of it I think is students don't always seem sure themselves what they want to see happen in a lesson. After they've been taking a while though, I think they would have more ideas what they would change. Anyway, I wish some students would answer your question. I'd be really interested. A lot of what I do in teaching is based on what I would have liked to see different in my lessons.

One thing I would change as a student over the years in taking lessons is more "hands on" actually examining the theoretical elements right in the score I am working on at the time as opposed to learning theory off in some workbook someplace with no knowledge of how to apply it to recognizing those elements in the actual music I happen to be working on. I took 4 levels of theory growing up because I told my teachers I wanted to learn it, so they mainly assigned me workbooks. I never did once, take what I worked on in the book and look for it in an actual score all that time. When I went to get a degree in music, I started wondering in taking theory classes, why my training was so lacking in this area taking private lessons growing up. I came across some of my old theory workbooks from then, where I had filled out all these worksheets on complicated chords like "augmented", "diminished", and all these inversions. I had just been "filling in the blanks" with no clue what it meant in a score, no clue what a chord progression was, no clue how to determine if a piece of music changed keys or what key it changed to, etc., etc. In doing the workbooks, I never even played the chords, inversions, etc. on the piano to see what they looked like on the keys. Anyway, it is so important for a student to be able to recognize all these things in the actual piece they are playing. I'm always pointing out to my students at the lesson, "Did you know what you just played is a C chord, just switched around or made into some pattern." "Did you realize you were playing in the key of E minor?" and show them how they can tell and explain what E minor is. Sometimes the student's don't seem interested in that stuff, they just want to play the notes, but I keep sounding enthused, fascinated, try to explain it in language appropriate to their age, hopefully over time of pointing that stuff out in the music, it will sink in.
Anyway, that's one thing I would have changed about my own lesson experience among many.
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Postby 76-1144948098 » Thu Apr 13, 2006 7:06 pm

I'm a a high school student, piano student and a piano teacher, so here goes. :D

I would really appreciate it if I got more encouragement at my lessons. For instance, if I work really hard on a certain piece all week, and play it as best I can, and then my teacher says: "Okay, good, but let's just look at bar 5, you might want to change yadayadayada, and this crescendo doesn't get loud enough" (or whatever) I feel like "Man, I practiced this really hard and all she says is "Okay, good"?" It really bugs me.

Another thing I really appreciate, is that at some times during my lesson, my teacher talks to me as a fellow teacher, encouraging me and suggesting ideas, asking what method I use, I show her, I ask her, she shows me, etc. I really like that.

I wish that all teachers were really honest with you. "This bar didn't sound very good at all. Maybe you could fix this..." and I would usually reply with "Ya, sorry, I've been working on that bar, but it just isn't coming, it's kinda frustrating!" Rather than the teacher saying "Oh well, you know, um, how about playing that bar again again? I'm sure it's fine but I'm not quite sure" So ya, I'm exagerating, but you see what I mean. Then there are instances where I wish they would just shut up and tell me I'm doing great. I think that after one or two "That was not good" kind of comments, it's enough. Work around it, find another way to say it. But if you never ever say "You know, that was bad.", the student is going to feel like you're not being honest.

I also really appreciate professional dressing. If I showed up at my lesson and my teacher was wearing ugly jeans, a faded orange T-shirt, no make-up, and messy hair, I'd probably wonder what kind of teacher this really was. Of course, again, I'm exagerating, but you get my picture. Teachers: Dress classy. ;)

That's all I have for now. :D
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Postby pianogal » Fri Aug 03, 2007 12:33 pm

I'm just a piano student who's also in high school. I don't have any experience of teaching. But there's one teaching method that my teacher does that's really useful for me.

I only have one hour of lesson (I wish I have two :D ), when I just finished playing one song with lots of things to change, my teacher would write some stuff down in my notebook (I'm sure most of teachers do that). But for the rest small parts, he just tells me what to do. When I get home ready to parctice, I forgot what he said. Or sometimes, the suggestions that he wrote aren't clear enough, he explains in class, I get it, and then at home, I just stare at the notes not knowing what to do. I'm sure you had that time too.

So when I pointed it out to my teacher. He changed the way he teaches. For each little part, he explains to me what to do and let me try it in front of him, until I get it. That way, it's less possible for me to forget, because I've experienced it in class.

If you are having the same problem, tell your teacher is. It helped me and it will help you too!
Don't ever give up piano, because you will like it someday
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Fri Aug 03, 2007 3:13 pm

That's Great!! For some reason a lot of students (and even parents) are afraid to speak up and communicate like this, when it could solve an important issue in no time. You have a super teacher--and he has a super student!

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Postby Tranquillo » Sun Jan 13, 2008 6:09 am

Looking at a few exam sylabus' there is so much that a piano student learns but also at the same time misses out on.
As a highschool student and a piano student I think one thing that some teacher don't teach is other instruments. I don't mean teach the actual instrument but I mean talk about the mechanics of other instruments. Its through this understanding of other instrument students can gain a better understanding or accompanying and ensemble work.

Also, some teachers dont teach other styles properly. For instance they may teach jazz. But stick to reading the music rather filling in or improvising.
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