When to "pass off" on a piece;

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There are so many important concepts to learn when beginning piano. When a beginner learns a new song, do you keep working on it until all the elements are done well? For example, in Music Tree Level 1, Unit 1, there are songs with legato and dynamic markings - is it too much to expect a beginner to play expressively while still playing the right notes and note values? I don't want it to be too much to expect. I'm thinking, if I were a beginner and feeling very proud for having played the notes correctly, would it be discouraging to hear the teacher say, "Once more, with feeling!" (figuratively speaking, of course)! I think it is important to teach different styles of expressive playing from the beginning, and just want to do it right. Thanks so much!

-- Laurie (lbrichards@att.net), February 25, 2002


I don't think every piece should be perfected. If that were the case, it would take students MONTHS to finish a book. And young beginner students need to be motivated. My 3rd grade daughter took lessons for a short time from a teacher who wanted everything perfect. She worked on the same Alfred Lev. 2 song for 6 weeks. She would really be discouraged after her lesson, thinking she'd finally had played it good enough, only to have to work on it again. I remember as a piano student myself not perfecting every single piece, yet I also remember the vast repertoire of classical music I was introduced to. I perfected Clementi Sonatina #1, but also got to work on #3 and #6 (yet we didn't spend as much time o

-- Miss Alix (alidoremi@aol.com), February 26, 2002.

You cannot ignore dynamics and expression when the child is just beginning and then expect them to magically be able to do it years later. It also sends the message that music is simply notes on a page to be learned until you get to the next one. Students want to make music and can do so easily, but it does not happen by saying, "Now play loudly because the f means to play that way." It comes from infecting the student with the excitement of the music! For example:

Susan plays "Take Off". Why not incorporate the learning of the note pattern with the idea of the plane taking off? What happens when a plane takes off? It goes up (as do the notes), but it also gets louder. Have the student imagine being in the airplane or being on the ground as an airline mechanic watching the plane take off. How about being the pilot?

Children have wonderful imaginations and if you don't capture them right from the start with the music, they will only ever play notes and worse, they will quit piano study because it was only about playing notes. Children are capable of a lot more than you think. Don't limit the child, expand him! It doesn't have to be about playing perfectly, like the last respondent whose child studied two pieces for 6 weeks. If you have done your job well, the note reading and the music will go hand in hand.

-- Arlene Steffen (asteffen@fresno.edu), February 26, 2002.


I ditto what Arlene has said. However, in what I'm assuming to be your immediate situation (said student comes in with piece well learned in terms of notes, rhythm, and fingering, yet lacks expressive qualities suggested in the score) when you don't really want to completely reassign the piece again... Take the student the next step further right at the lesson. Praise her for her accurate note/rhythm reading, but lead her to create an expressive performance right now! Use whatever is at hand (words included with the music, creative movement activities to perhaps shape a melodic line or step the rhythm of the piece in a way that corresponds with the dynamic markings, etc.). Then get back to the piano and help her assume these same expressive qualities in her playing. If she is able to add these final touches on the spot at the lesson, then it might not be necessary to reassign the piece. However, draw her attention to any expressive markings from the get go when you prepare a new piece with her. Before I send a child home with a new piece, we first "explore the score", beginning with the title and how we would expect the music to sound with such a title. Then we look to see if the composer has indicated to us how s/he wants it to sound. Even when/if we tap out the rhythm of a piece, we'll do it in a musically expressive way (or at least try to) always saying the words expressively to fit the piece. Something I do occaisionally with students when they have a rather descriptive piece to perform is tell them that I'm going to close my eyes when they play it this time and I want to "see" the music in my mind. If it's a dance piece, I want to "see" the dancers, a nature piece, "see" the rain, storm, sea, whatever. Then, if the student truly paints a sound picture for me, I just RAVE about it!! Good luck.


-- Gretchen Taylor (gtpiano@yahoo.com), March 04, 2002.

Laurie, I fully agree with Alix, Arlene and GT .

I am an adult student, have been learning for about 2 years. I would like to give a student perspective .

For a new piece, my teacher would briefly introduce the piece by describing either the composer, the era, the mood of the piece etc. I find this interesting because not only it helped me to appreciate the piece more but I have gained understanding finer aspects of music.

Next I would sight read the staffs one hand at a time. As I am playing she would be thinking out loud while she read ahead . she would mention things like note name (if she sense I have problem) , abnormal finger positions, jumps, sharps, natural.. I would like to emphasize that this helps me alot because it give me a picture of the thought process of an accomplished pianist while she is playing. Initially, I find it annoying as I could not concentrate and play while she is talking or singing, but i am used to it now. But I still find it impossible to match her ability but knowing that the task can be performed motivates me to continue training myself.

The weekly lesson lasted only 30minute.During the week, I spend total of about 2-10 hours depending on my mood, free time and whether or not I like the pieces. I typically have 3 pieces to prepare.

The next time we meet, I would play both hands for her, if I didnt practice much, I would stumble and make a fool out of myself. She would attempt to explain to me the root cause of my problem. For example, she would remind me that I need to be aware to shift my hand in preparation to play the next bar. Bear in mind, I am not capable of reading ahead yet so I have to analyse in advance and memorise the challenging transitions. Occasionally I would make rhythm error, and she would help me correct it. Sometimes I can't help but feel that I am wasting time and money for that lesson because I could have easily solve these types of problems on my own if I just spend more time preparing the piece. I am lucky to have a teacher who tries very hard to convey some new knowledges to me even at times like this. This piece will be reviewed again the following week.

For a piece that I managed to practice to my satisfaction, needless to say I would be able to play it note and rhythm 'flawlessly' . I might be able to throw in some expression also. This is where she shows her talent in teaching, no matter how hard I practice and how well I think I have performed, there is always something extra that she can teach me.

Right now, I having problem with things like accurate and consistent pedalling , and when the left and right require different phrasing.

The second week , we would review the piece again and after imparting some new knowledge or reinforce old ones, she would 'pass' the piece and introduce new one.

I hope this post is not too confusing but in summary what I am trying to say is that, my teacher and I both are comfortable with passing the piece within 2 weeks, anything more would make me (and her) to lose interest.

The lesson content actually depends on how well I could prepare the piece, the more I practice the more new things I get to learn.

-- JY (noname_poster@yahoo.com), May 09, 2002.

LAurie, I dont think a student is supposed to play all the lessons perfectly. It takes months for a piece to be perfect, I think the pieces included in the lesson books are to illustrate the student how to play in a certain way,,,,

I would say that a beginner student should only focus on trying to get the concept and do her-his best.

I agree with what you say. It is very important to teach the student different styles of playing,,,,it is just a matter of time before the student grasps what the teacher is trying to say,

-- gabriela fernandez (glf7102@mwsc.edu), April 20, 2003.

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