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#27648 - 11/18/02 09:12 AM Several technique questions
CR Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 03/18/01
Posts: 289
Loc: Idaho
Over the past couple of months, during each of my students' lessons I've questioned myself how important it is for them to follow the given fingering on the music. How important is it really? They observe the given numbers for the beginning of each piece, but when a new fingering is given some place throughout the music, it's overlooked as if it never was there. I've read past discussions here that question finger numbers, and some have said let it go, but... the fingering the kids choose themselves looks simply terrible, to say the least! As well as ending them up in a situation where they can't play legato and the piece ends up choppy. I suppose one could say I'm an advocate for following the given numbers unless it's uncomfortable or can't be done, but in most cases w. my students, I've observed the given numbers would be easier to use. With my first teacher, she had me follow "strictly" the given fingering, except in times when it couldn't be done. So I ask you teachers out there: what is best?

My next question is dynamics - similar problem with fingering. It's either there or not. Each week I send my students home with "watch dynamics" written in their notebook. I've been working on my 13 y.o. student for about a year with bringing out the expression, and finally attained it so it pretty near comes natural in some songs. However, it still needs some working on. How long do you work with dynamics with your students, and do you keep drilling it until it's definitely noticed that it's there and they're capable of observing the marks themselves?

Lastly, voicing the melody has been introduced to my students. Trying to really bring out the r.h. is difficult for them and the l.h. ends up overpowering the melody. Again, how often do you work w. students on that?

All these problems I've been drilling as best I can w. my students, and some weeks we're both tired of hearing "dynamics once again", "fingering!" or "work on bringing out the melody", that I'll let it go to the wind for once. :rolleyes: Please help!
_________________________
It goes without saying that technical proficiency should be the first acquisition of a student who would be a fine pianist.
~S.Rachmaninoff~

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#27649 - 11/18/02 10:57 AM Re: Several technique questions
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
I'm a piano teacher who doesn't recruit & retain very many students, so this might not be good advice if you want to keep all your students, but here goes...

If you care about how well your students play and you wish to maintain a standard of excellence for them to aspire and (hopefully) rise to, you need to make sure your students pay attention to all markings on the music (including fingering); and you need to keep working with students on these elements until they're thoroughly mastered.

Hope this helps. \:\)

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#27650 - 11/18/02 11:05 AM Re: Several technique questions
CR Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 03/18/01
Posts: 289
Loc: Idaho
Great advice, Jalapeno, because that's exactly what I've been trying to do. I wanted to also include in my above post that I just feel like I'm rapping and harping them, and wonder if I should continue it or not. I guess I'm doing my job, since what you told me, I see I'm going in the direction I aspire for my students.

I just noticed I was a bit prolix in my above post, too. :] whelp, I had to sort my thoughts out some way! Thanks again, Jala!!

[ 11-18-2002: Message edited by: chopins raindrops ]
_________________________
It goes without saying that technical proficiency should be the first acquisition of a student who would be a fine pianist.
~S.Rachmaninoff~

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#27651 - 11/18/02 11:16 AM Re: Several technique questions
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
I'm sure you're doing your best. Yes, teaching this way can feel like harping & nagging [with some students I feel like I'm going to go bald from tearing my hair out trying to work with them ]... but teaching any other way is not acceptable, IMO. You just have to keep trying & hope that at least one of your students cares enough to make a reasonable effort to pay attention, follow directions, practice, & learn.

What I tell my students: "If you wrote the music, then you can do whatever you want. If someone else wrote it, then you need to observe all the markings that the composer put in the music because that's his way of letting us know how he wants the music to be played. How would you like it if you wrote a song, put certain markings on there so people would know how it goes, & folks just ignored your markings & played it their way instead of the way you meant for it to go?"

[ 11-18-2002: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#27652 - 11/18/02 02:28 PM Re: Several technique questions
Bontempo Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 08/17/02
Posts: 353
Loc: Belgium/Portugal
Let me throw some of my silly comments in...

First things first: I agree 100% with Jala (only for this once, OK? \:\) ) as to always wanting your students to excel. But you know that not every student CAN excel. There is about 30-40% of students that are actually able to produce good-very good results. And the rest can simply be trying their best and not achieving it! All the issues you mention are very important features at the early stages of piano learning; but I've put in my mind that not every student will master them to a 7/10 level or more. So it's more of a question of focusing on specific problems ONE AT A TIME. Sometimes kids are overwhelmed by all the complexity of piano playing. If we spend a whole year working specifically on pieces designed to help voicing and by the end of the year the voicing is better, then it's surely a victory!

More specifically:

Fingering - I've been reflecting about this and have a thought; maybe kids overlook positional-change fingering because when they read new music they don't approach it step-wise, hands-separate-then-together... they just like to dig in immediately! Fingering is a habit. You put THIS and not THAT finger because your brain is trained by repetition to do it. So, if you want to help your students correct bad fingerings, you should have to repeat it with them at the lesson, all the way from hands-separate to hands-together!
Believe me - even the weirdest fingering can feel so natural once it's a habit! (been there)
Ahhh, and 100-thumbs as for sticking to fingerings in good editions UNLESS.

Dynamics - Here I have the impression that it is a matter of demanding 200% from the very first piece where dynamic marks appear and emphasizing so much at that point the importance of dynamic marks. Do you think it could be a waste of time? I feel it too in a certain way. But if you don't demand your students to make 200% dynamics from the first piece, you cannot expect them to make as little as 10% in more complex material. Once more, I strongly feel that not all students are capable of fulfilling this demand. It's up to the teacher to realise which students s/he can push harder.

Voicing - It's also a question of early starts, like dynamics, and early demand. IMO, difficulties in voicing are mostly related to quality of hearing. Children with voicing-problems are probably children who cannot correctly sing the bass tune of a small simple two-voice piece. I never, NEVER teach voicing (in early stages) through playing intensity, saying that rh has to be louder than lh or the opposite. I always say (and demonstrate with overwhelming exaggeration to prove my point) that your audience (even if it's only your teacher) will listen to whatever you are listening to. If you're not listening to your music, then it will not sound like music. If you're attentively listening to your right hand, then whoever is on the audience will also listen to it, and you will instinctively play it as to be heard. This is something I wanted to tell you personally, J~, because it may be the small little step missing for your Fantasy Impromptu.

Sorry for writing so much, I'm not trying to make a dissertation or something, just got excited about the topic. Thank you so much for inducing this reflection on me, I really love PT.com!! \:\) \:\) \:\)

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#27653 - 11/18/02 03:07 PM Re: Several technique questions
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
Bontempo: \:D How do you know that 60-70% of students are incapable of excelling? Sure, the % of students who easily excel is quite small, but there are plenty of above-average & average students who IMO can excel if they work harder than they're presently working. If you're not in those students' homes week after week to see how much (or how little) they're actually practicing & how much (or how little) effort they're actually making to polish their pieces to perfection, then you can't say for sure how many of them can't excel. Yes, there will always be a certain % of students who are incapable of excelling, but I personally believe the % is a lot smaller than 60-70% God help us if the % is as high as you say it is! I've always firmly believed that for most people, where there's a will there's a way. \:\)

[ 11-18-2002: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#27654 - 11/18/02 03:33 PM Re: Several technique questions
Eric Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/04/00
Posts: 2325
Loc: New York, NY
1. Fingering
Always demand good fingering from your students, whether it be a fingering written in the book, one that the teacher comes up with, or one that they arrive at themselves. If they come up with an awkward fingering, correct it and make sure they understand the whys and wherefores of making such choices.

2. Dynamics
Begin thinking and teaching that dynamic markings are actually only end results of bigger artistic questions. For example, instead of saying, "In measure 5, it says p so you should play softly there," try saying something like "can you make measures 5-8 seem like a distant, faraway echo of measures 1-4?" Much more expressive playing comes about if the character of the music is paramount, rather than just louds and softs.

3. Voicing
What Bontempo said~! \:\)

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#27655 - 11/18/02 05:52 PM Re: Several technique questions
Arlene Steffen Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
Well, I guess I'll jump in here, fwiw.

I've found that anything I say is ineffective. However, if the student experiences dynamics (balance, technical gesture, etc), and better yet, if the student discovers it seemingly on his own, that's when it starts to stick.

Your job is to ask questions that lead the student to that point or demonstrate the sound in such a convincing way (and have the student imitate) that there can be no other way to do it! The other part of this process is that it has to be done when the piece is introduced, not after a week of working on the notes.

First impressions last.

Re: balance (which, btw, is different from voicing). I disagree that it is a listening thing when we are talking about a child's first experiences with it. A child just learning this skill can hear it if we demonstrate it, but they need to learn the technical motions that produce it. This is one instance where I have found that the ear does not guide the hand instanteously, in most cases.

I have the students play HS to feel the difference in weight and gesture, making sure they exaggerate. We play exercises where they make one hand feel as if it is sinking through the piano keys and the other hand is almost floating. I also think that playing a good legato is part of making the balance convincing. They often neglect tone when they are first attempting this and hearing legato helps.

My 2 cents.

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#27656 - 11/19/02 07:20 AM Re: Several technique questions
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
Some students don't respond to either verbal explanations or visual demonstrations. Some have to experience the "feel."

My non-intuitive adult student didn't understand legato until I played it on her forearm. She still struggles a bit, but not nearly as much as she used to.

A couple of weeks ago, after having difficulties with a student who had a bad habit of lowering her wrists way below keyboard level, I decided to ask her to rest her hand on top of mine as I played the musical passage she was having problems with. Worked like a charm! Once she "felt" it, she got it. \:\)

I have Arlene to thank for these great ideas. Thanks, Arlene! \:\)

BTW, Arlene: I can't ask my adult student any questions whatsoever because every time I do, she mentally shuts down. I have to either tell or demonstrate everything. That may not be some teachers' idea of "teaching," but it's all that can be done with this girl. Sometimes you just have to deal with what you have to deal with & not worry too much about what the "experts" say.

[ 11-19-2002: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]

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#27657 - 11/19/02 05:56 PM Re: Several technique questions
Arlene Steffen Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
I have Arlene to thank for these great ideas. Thanks, Arlene!

To give credit where credit is due -- thank Marvin! \:\)

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