Sunday, May 29, 2011

What next?

My semester of piano lessons is almost at an end. What do I do now? Sort of thinking in pixels, here . . .

I know I'm going to keep practicing whether I continue to take lessons or not. What I'm not sure about is whether the lessons are worthwhile enough with this teacher, or even with any teacher. I'd say 90% of what we have worked on has been tone production and voicing, and the other 10% phrasing. This is fine as far as it goes, but I believe there's more to playing the piano than these things. Also, there's been little advice on how to practice beyond, "Just play around with this!"

This teacher has said from time to time, "You have an amazing memory!" Um, I don't think so! I've developed a basic ability to memorize and work something up to an approximate performing level, but mostly I feel like I'm muddling my way through, and it would be nice to get some actual instruction on this stuff.

The other issue is that I'm serious about learning the entire Well-Tempered Clavier. It's my main piano love. But this teacher seems to have no interest in this. I suspect she thinks it's one of those crazy "adult student" ideas that is completely unachievable. And okay, I am never going to be able to play the entire two volumes in one concert from memory, like Angela Hewitt, but I can at least continue to learn them one at a time. I brought in WTC II/15 back when I started working on it in February and we worked on it for a few minutes, and I mentioned it from time to time as the months went on, but she never asked me to play it for her again. Everything we have worked on has been music that she has chosen, and that's fine -- I have learned a great deal from working on it -- but OTOH, none of it has deeply spoken to me in the sense that I felt impelled to learn it.

I like the fact that she brings up things I wouldn't have thought about. I mean, anyone can tell you to play the right notes. You don't even need a teacher for that (after all, the notes are right there on the page). Once you're beyond the basics, a teacher is helpful for things that are not so obvious, or perhaps for things that are obvious to an experienced listener but not to you.

This has certainly been better than having the kind of teacher who churns you through a vast number of etudes and pieces but doesn't actually teach you how to play them. When I was in graduate school, there was another cello student who had a teacher like this; she finally switched teachers after much travail and insistence with the administration of the school (which is another story in itself). She would work on a pile of things for a week or so, and then the teacher would give her new ones, even though she couldn't really play the first pile. It was a total waste of time, not to mention money (seeing as the school was not cheap). If I had to choose between a teacher like my current one and a teacher like that, obviously I would choose the former.

So I suppose the question is whether I could do better. 

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