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Student Etiquette

As a piano teacher, we only have 30/45/60 minutes with each student in a week. Therefore, it is quite important for us to be able to fit as much musical knowledge into the lesson as possible. Of course, children often have other plans for the lesson. Even the most mature students get distracted, or has an off day.

That being said, I expect none of my students to be perfect. After all, most of them are very young and are learning discipline and respect for the first term. Below, I list out some guidelines for student etiquette, so that the lesson can be both productive and fun!

Etiquette for Piano Students

  1. Don’t play while the teacher is talking. If the student is playing on the piano while the teacher is trying to talk, that is a clear sign that the student is not actively listening. Most of a piano lesson is verbal, so if the student is not listening, then they will not hear the instructions to improve.

  3. Don’t excessively complain about the “hard parts”. Of course, not every part of the lesson can be fun. Scales in particular are never very exciting. Exercises in a book are never particularly exciting. However, if a student can gather their focus and be walked through the exercise, there can be more time left over for the fun parts of myself! After all, a piano teacher’s job is to teach music, not just play music.

  5. Don’t play something that the teacher did not agree on hearing. This is not to say that the piano student should not explore other music on their own. When the piano teacher is there, there is a limited amount of time to get through the necessary basic material. A piano teacher may leave some time at the end of the class to hear other musical material (I do!). Otherwise, the piano student is encouraged to do this type of playing on their own time.

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Learn more about piano lessons with Eric here

Progress, Not Perfection

“Practice Makes Perfect!”

That is a phrase I heard many times in my past. That is a phrase I lived by when pursuing my A.R.C.T diploma for RCM. It’s a phrase I threw out at my students to encourage them to aim for higher and better.

Now, I have a different opinion on it.

While I still believe practice is integral to improving, I don’t believe “perfect” should be the goal of music lessons. When I was younger, this idea of perfectionism haunted me through performances, exams, and competitions. Nothing ever felt good enough.  As hours of practice piled on, I improved my technical skills drastically, but lost the reward of enjoying playing the piano.

Most people understand and believe that nothing is perfect, so aiming for perfection is futile. However, the problem is deeper than this. Most people who aim for “perfect” also understand this general concept. What they are really aiming for is being the best they can be at every moment.  While this type of intentional living can win awards and dazzle audiences, it can also leave an empty hole after each perfection. What comes after perfect? How can you ever be better than perfect? At what price does someone pay to internally compete with thousands in their own head? With music, the journey to perfection never ends.

Progress, Not Perfection

What those musicians, and myself, are really looking for, is progress. We want to continually grow and develop. We want to feel like our actions (practice) are translating into tangible results.  Instead of setting perfect as a goal , which can be exhausting to chase, we can set progress as a goal. Instead of seeking a standardized result, we can chase after we want for our own growth.

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Healthy Technique

Recently, I have read about the controversy surrounding 14 year old singer Laura Bretan singing opera caught my attention.

Healthy Singing

Classic FM summarizes the issue in their article “Laura Bretan’s singing technique ‘raises deep concerns’ says singing teacher“. Voice professionals have expressed their concerns over the stress Bretan is placing on her vocal chords due to her choice in singing opera prematurely.

While I am not a voice teacher, it is important to open the discussion on healthy technique for musicians. Piano players, much like other instrumentalists and singers, have physical limitations that should not be pushed without consideration.  A consequence is that this behaviour can cause long-lasting injuries.

Musician Injuries

The most common condition for an overworked pianist is carpal tunnel syndrome, which is characterized by a pain in the arms and hands caused by a compression of a major nerve. This syndrome is seen in piano players that play and practice with tension in their hands and arms. This is especially dangerous if the pianist is practicing for hours every day without consideration of proper technique.

Just like how we should not try to lift heavy objects with our backs, we should not attempt to force advanced technique on a student that has not yet learned to use their body in a free and relaxed manner.

When we bypass healthy technique to play difficult music, we not only worsen our physical condition but also limit ourselves in our musical expression. Without freedom in the arms, wrists, and hands, a pianist can never truly express themselves on the piano.

Healthy Technique:

An approach to healthy piano technique is the Taubman Approach. While reading this information may be helpful, please consult and ask your piano teacher if you feel as though you have tension while playing the piano. Healthy technique is the basis of great piano playing!

Practice safe! Be sure to take breaks, to stretch, and to always warm up.

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