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Non-muscians' perception of playing an instrument


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#1 SparkysMagicPiano

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 11:56

(I've been reading this forum for some time and have only very rarely posted, but have just started teaching some piano pupils.)

 

I had a call yesterday from a lady who wanted to give her husband a piano lesson for Christmas. Just one. They have a piano and her husband keeps saying he wishes he could play it, but she was quite clear he didn't want to learn to read music and he wants to be able to play 'boogie-woogie' like his father used to. I asked whether he ever picks out tunes on the piano or tries to copy anything he knows (because I know some people can get a long way with a good ear and a real interest in 'exploring' music) but she said he doesn't. She upped her offer to 4 lessons when I told her it takes more than one lesson to learn to play the piano!

 

I suppose I'm just a bit incredulous at how poor many people's understanding is of what it takes to learn a musical instrument - and just how skilled and talented a competent musician is.

 

My other jaw-dropping anecdote was from a very intelligent and otherwise sensible friend, who I told about me returning to having piano lessons after many years' break. She said "but I thought you could already play the piano!" 

 

Does anybody else think there's a very strong case for educating everyone much better about what it takes to be a musician?!


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#2 corenfa

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 12:34

While we're at it, let's see if we can get my mum to remember that I play the horn, not trombone. Bless her, it's been decades and she still thinks I play the trombone. 


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#3 elemimele

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 13:02

I dream of a world in which everyone gets the chance to try out a few wildly different musical instruments. But until that happens, it's not really all that surprising if people don't know how much is involved in learning to play. Experienced people (often) make things look easy, whether that's playing the violin, shaping pizza dough, ice-skating or playing snooker.

At the moment, most people will never see an oboe closer than a shop window. Most adults won't touch a piano key (yup, you can find a piano in a shopping-arcade or railway station near you, if you fancy making a fool of yourself in front of hundreds of people, just after some semi-professional's let the world know how good they are). I come from a fairly musical family but I've never held a bowed string instrument.

I agree about education. What's needed is a great strengthening of school music, so that everyone gets a chance to be a musician (at whatever level is appropriate). Finding out what makes a good musician, what is involved in being a musician, would be a useful side-effect. Those who've missed the boat at school need chances to re-enter the world of musical education in later life. Who knows, perhaps those 4 taster-lessons will lead to something longer-term? But I don't know how you're supposed to use them... what's the most productive thing to do?


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#4 DMC

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 14:17

I've just amended my website to say something along the lines of 'if you are able to practice for 5 days a week, then do get in touch about Piano lessons'. I'm so fed up with people thinking they can rock up once a week to a 30 minute lesson, do nothing in between and become skilled at the Piano.

 

I'm even more shocked that the parents at the independent school that I teach at think 1 lesson a week and virtually nothing in between will lead to exam success. They seem to confuse the word 'musician' with 'magician'.  Half of them are doctors, and I'm pretty certain it took more than turning up to lectures in order to attain their skills. 


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#5 Banjogirl

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 14:32

People who can't play an instrument (or actually, do a lot of other things) prefer to equate proficiency with 'talent' because they can't be bothered to put in any effort. What always gets me is the people who say that I am 'clever' because i can sight sing. It took hours and hours of learning to read music and then learning to sight sing. They call me clever because they want me to do the work for them because they can't be bothered to put in the effort that I have done over many years. Sorry, touched a nerve there! 'Please, Banj, will you tell us how our part goes.' NO! Learn you own blinking part!


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#6 -Victoria-

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 15:20

I've just had a text message enquiry almost exactly the same - wanting "a few lessons" as an Xmas present for wife!
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#7 Dorcas

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 16:49

I understand the frustration, but I would treat the enquiries about lessons as presents, with professional courtesy.  Sometimes they did lead to students staying on longer term.  When people made enquiries with me, I offered a trial lesson after Xmas, and did not accept payment for a block of lessons.  The way I explained it, prospective students needed to me first, then decide for themselves if they wanted to continue.  What the enquirers don't realise of course, is just because someone says they want to learn, doesn't necessarily indicate serious intention or an understanding of the processes involved.   That aside, a man who knocked at my door, trying to find a hobby for his wife, went away disappointed.  It's a lovely idea, wanting to help someone get started on an instrument, but it isn't always welcomed by the recipient.


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#8 elemimele

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 17:37

I'm with Dorcas on this. If I had a partner who repeatedly said things like "I wish I'd learnt violin at school like my friend Debbie!", then after a while I might well be inclined to negotiate a trial session with a violin teacher. After all, no one in their right mind is going to go out and buy a half-decent violin on the off-chance their girlfriend will enjoy playing it. A trial session, if a suitable teacher can be found, is a safe way to explore whether it's a good idea, in a supportive and positive environment. The likely outcomes ought to be either "strewth, that's difficult. It's a life experience, glad I tried, but I honestly haven't the energy to do this properly, so I'm stopping here" (in which case person now has new respect for violinists, and needn't spend the rest of their life thinking "what if..."), or "Wow that's tricksy, but it's soooo rewarding, I want to get my own instrument, sign up for the lessons, and put some effort into this..." (and a violinist is born).

Trial lessons on a musical instrument shouldn't be so different to those trial sessions flying an aeroplane that people buy their boyfriends. It's not going to turn you into a professional pilot, but it's a chance to experience something that you'd never otherwise feel. In fact it's better, because buying a violin is more financially accessible than ongoing flying lessons (and more environmentally friendly too).


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#9 Norway

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 17:44

Not sure about more environmentally friendly (in the early stages of learning anyway!) :lol:


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#10 Gran'piano

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 18:13

I tend to differentiate between wanting to be able to play the instrument and wanting to learn to play. The two phrases sound very similar but folk who enjoy trying to do things generally are more realistic about effort involved.
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#11 ma non troppo

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Posted 12 December 2019 - 01:03

I don't do "gifted" lessons. If you want lessons you will arrange them yourself. The minimum number of lessons I sell in a block is 10. I have a similar attitude to buying lessons as a Christmas gift as I would do to buying a puppy as a gift.
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#12 Gran'piano

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Posted 12 December 2019 - 07:48

Because I am not a music teacher and do not have to follow normal proceedures, I would suggest the guy and his wife look at this video together to see how far behind the 'start at the starting post' he is at the moment. Then they can ask themselves how realistic his 'aim' is.
https://youtu.be/B8lTXWMEhmY
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#13 Latin pianist

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Posted 12 December 2019 - 07:54

I've had quite a few like this over the years. The last one was a teacher at school who bought 10 lessons for her mother. I had to chase this up and it became obvious the mother didn't want this at all. In the end, the teacher's Y11 son took the lessons and he did seem to enjoy it, but GCSE s were looming and he didn't continue. I also had one years ago bought as a leaving work gift for someone and they never took up the lessons.
People don't realize that in most cases you have to have lessons for many years before you have what I call a useable skill. Students get, say to grade 3 and stop and I'd be surprised if they were still able to play in a few years time.
DMC, I have the same problem as you at a Private School. Virtually no practice from most students.
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#14 -Victoria-

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Posted 12 December 2019 - 08:13

I don't do "gifted" lessons. If you want lessons you will arrange them yourself. The minimum number of lessons I sell in a block is 10. I have a similar attitude to buying lessons as a Christmas gift as I would do to buying a puppy as a gift.

 

The first thing that went through my mind when I got my enquiry yesterday was "piano lessons are for life, not just for Christmas!"


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#15 agricola

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Posted 12 December 2019 - 08:41

I haven't had one of these for a while but I would only do "gifted" lessons if they had been cleared with the recipient.  I did take on one lady who had been given a block of lessons and she eventually passed Grade 1, but generally these lessons are hard work for the teacher.

 

People who say "I've always wanted to be able to play the piano" but have done nothing about it are looking for a fairy godmother, not a piano teacher.  


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