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For the first time in several months, I was able to have an in-depth lesson with my piano teacher. Since I still have a couple of trouble spots with The Little Drummer Boy, I thought I'd play it for her and see if she could help me. I suspected that there might be other ways to finger certain passages, and as it turns out, I was right. She reworked several passages, not just changing fingerings but suggesting that they be played more legato (even though there are no legato markings in the music). She also told me that the passages I was working on are at a more advanced level than I'm currently at, and that if we hadn't missed so much time, she might have taken me in a different direction. Finally, I noticed that my right shoulder did not feel so tense after she reworked the passages, so perhaps the pain is due to the technique problems.

In places like MIT, you have the "firehose" effect in which lots of material is thrown at you and you try to get through it, somehow. People with more experience with the subjects tend to do better, but it's still a lot of work, mostly done without the guidance of the professor or lecturer. But this sort of thing may not apply very well to music (unless the student is highly trained). Even if the student is able to bring pieces to an acceptable level of proficiency, the technique used may be suboptimal and possibly harmful.

So the upshot of all this is that I really need regular lessons from a teacher at this stage of my learning. This may be difficult because my teacher won't be available regularly. She's still getting over the surgery, plus she now has a cabin on Mt. Shasta she and her partner spend time at.

Edit: modified subject


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 19th, 2006 02:59 am (UTC)
Is there anything useful that can be done between "no lessons" and "lessons with primary hard-to-get teacher", like someone who can provide lesser instruction that still lets you advance some? (This would be a question for your teacher, not a research project for yourself.)
Nov. 19th, 2006 05:55 am (UTC)
When I found out about my teacher's surgery, I asked her if she had any affiliates who I could take lessons from while she recuperated. She never told me whether or not she has affiliates. Instead, she agreed to see me part-time. I'm thinking of raising the issue again.
Nov. 22nd, 2006 04:00 am (UTC)
Firehose does work with music. You tackle a piece that's way too hard for you and develop the technique to master it along the way. When I was 10 I wanted to play Sarasate's Carmen Fantasty. My teacher said I wasn't ready yet. I tried again when I was 11. Same thing. At 12, I finally started working on it without permission, and having gotten far enough, my teacher agreed to help me to play it better. I had to work really hard to play it because it was beyond my ability at that point, but within a year, I'd won competitions on that piece and got to play it with orchestra. Granted, I can play it better now, but I wouldn't have made nearly so much progress if I hadn't tried something that was too hard for me.

Of course, if you get into bad habits by using improper techniques to "shortcut" your way to playing the notes, it can backfire, but in general, it's a great way to improve your technique (you might not want to perform the piece right away though).
Nov. 22nd, 2006 06:46 am (UTC)
Perhaps I should've written "may not always work." (I just changed it.) In general, I was trying to point out the difference between the typical student-teacher interaction (mostly in the classroom, sometimes during office hours, usually only for the duration of the class) and the student-private music teacher interaction, which happens (ideally) over a much longer period of time, where the teacher can draw upon the history to chart a course that brings the student along gradually and effectively. In the particular case of a firehose environment, a private teacher might decide that the student is intellectually capable of learning a piece in one way, but might know more effective ways of learning that minimize the chances of injury.

I had actually discussed with my teacher what pieces I wanted to learn on my own before her summer break, and even played through them a bit. So we were initially on the same page. My guess is that if there was no break in lessons, she would have had me work on some exercises and possibly some shorter intermediate pieces which would have better prepared me for the pieces I attempted to tackle on my own. Also, it would have only been two months off if she and her partner hadn't become ill, so that prolonged some bad habits that might've been identified if we'd resumed on schedule.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )