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Taking Lessons


BluMunk

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At the end of October, I started lessons for the first time since college (1999 or 2000).

 

I've been settled into my on-again/off-again career as a music director for quite a long time, but a few years ago I really began to feel that my chops were getting in the way of playing with the big fish as far as performance goes.

 

So, I'm back under the tutelage of my college prof., from whom I took I think two semesters of piano.

 

I am having, so far, an amazing time. Not only am I looking to get better at playing, but I also want to develop practicing skills (most of what I do currently, and have been doing for the past decade, is getting a score to a whole musical and sight-reading/teaching from it a day or two later, using the rehearsal process to learn the parts on the fly. Effective, but parts that push me technically often get, um, abridged for the sake of running a smooth rehearsal).

 

I'm working on a Chopin Nocturne (Bb-), and I'm really enjoying the attention I have to/get to pay to my practicing, as well as the physical training that I'm doing. In particular, there are, for me, large stretches in the left hand as well as some fast position shifts in the right hand that usually I'd say, "man, my hands really can't do that, guess this piece is too hard (or maybe I'll simplify so I can be more accurate without much effort)." But, with some rehearsing and repetition, I'm getting some shapes under my fingers that I've never done before.

 

It's also excellent to have someone with a discerning ear and high standards critique my preparation. A few small pieces I've finished and brought in as "done" were actually far from done, and the nuance to get from my 'basic' level to a more polished finish is really difficult. But, I'm learning about deficiencies I didn't even realize I had, and shortcuts I'd been using without thinking that hurt my musicality.

 

And, practicing every day, even if only for one or two 20 minute sessions on days when I'm busy, feels great! Progress is obvious, and it's been awesome for my mental alertness and mood.

 

That's it; just wanted to share a bit of the joy of the process. It's humbling, as I am now experiencing daily how much further I have to go, but it's inspiring at the same time.

 

(Even though I don't generally gig with classical music, my long term goal is to learn the entirety of 'Pictures at an Exhibition' . . . the Mussorgsky, not the ELP :P )

 

What are all your experiences with lessons? I'm curious if some of the more accomplished folks here still take, even occasionally, and what that looks like at maybe a higher level.

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This is great. I wanted to do that about 20 years ago. I contacted my old piano teacher who prepared me well for my tryout as a music major. My goal was to get back in practice and be able to play again the way I played at 18. I needed someone to push me. Playing synth-pop had eroded my skills on piano. To my surprise she said no. Her reasoning, I don't need her, I just need to practice. Now, 20 years later, I play worse now than I did then.

 

Congrats on making this move. I envy you. If there was another decent teacher in my small town I would go back to taking lessons.

This post edited for speling.
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I posted a thread about this awhile back. I went back to Hochstein after 21 years. It's kind of a cool music school here locally with a lot of Eastman and Julliard grads teaching on the side:

 

Hochstein

"Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"

 

 

noblevibes.com

 

 

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To my surprise she said no. Her reasoning, I don't need her, I just need to practice.

 

That's a terrible conclusion and for me is the utter opposite. THE main reason I am progressing with a teacher now is because he is another human that I have to be accountable to. There is so much crap for me to work on when I sit down at the piano. I would never put in the time on these classical pieces if I didn't have the looming prospect of a lesson with this teacher on Tuesday. I can put in hours and hours on a piece, but would I do it for three months? Nope. Too much other stuff going on (jazz chops, originals, learning standards, working on my time, organ chops, Top 40 tunes, etc) and I would start to falter in the time spent on these pieces. Having a teacher means I have to plod on, doubts and other music be damned.

 

In other words, I theoretically COULD do it on my own, but I never WOULD do it on my own. That's why I need a teacher. And that's probably why would did 20 years ago.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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THE main reason I am progressing with a teacher now is because he is another human that I have to be accountable to. There is so much crap for me to work on when I sit down at the piano. I would never put in the time on these classical pieces if I didn't have the looming prospect of a lesson with this teacher on Tuesday. I can put in hours and hours on a piece, but would I do it for three months? Nope. Too much other stuff going on (jazz chops, originals, learning standards, working on my time, organ chops, Top 40 tunes, etc) and I would start to falter in the time spent on these pieces. Having a teacher means I have to plod on, doubts and other music be damned.

 

In other words, I theoretically COULD do it on my own, but I never WOULD do it on my own. That's why I need a teacher. And that's probably why would did 20 years ago.

So it sounds like having the rigor and discipline imposed on you by having to answer to a teacher each week is strengthening your classical repertoire, but do you find that this progress translates into benefits in your professional playing as well?

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

-Mark Twain

 

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So it sounds like having the rigor and discipline imposed on you by having to answer to a teacher each week is strengthening your classical repertoire, but do you find that this progress translates into benefits in your professional playing as well?

 

Yes and no but mostly yes. Quantifying the results of any kind of practice is such a non linear thing for me. I have my days where I shred and nothing can stop me (rare). I have my days where I feel like I can't play sh!t. I still have this even though I am taking lessons. But: 1) My baseline technique is probably higher 2) My reading muscle is strong at the moment and as it's continuously getting tested w/ the classical it will stay strong.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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So it sounds like having the rigor and discipline imposed on you by having to answer to a teacher each week is strengthening your classical repertoire, but do you find that this progress translates into benefits in your professional playing as well?

 

Yes and no but mostly yes. Quantifying the results of any kind of practice is such a non linear thing for me. I have my days where I shred and nothing can stop me (rare). I have my days where I feel like I can't play sh!t. I still have this even though I am taking lessons. But: 1) My baseline technique is probably higher 2) My reading muscle is strong at the moment and as it's continuously getting tested w/ the classical it will stay strong.

Got it. Thanks. I haven't had a formal lesson in over 30 years years, but I never was able to recognize the connection between formal, classical training and gigging chops. I'm sure it was there, but it was never obvious to me. I enjoyed studying and playing classical pieces, but it always seemed like I'd take off my powdered wig to rock out for gigs, and then put it back on to play straight eights.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

-Mark Twain

 

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Well the Zen of classical lessons to me is how it indirectly or directly translates into what I am playing. it does make other music easier. Right now I am learning a six page Michel Camillo piece now that is a big pain in the ass but I am finding I like it. It doesn't seem as laborious as say playing a Bach piece.

"Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"

 

 

noblevibes.com

 

 

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Timely topic for me. I just started taking lessons again after more than 35 years.

 

I'm simply interested in being a better player, and made a list of deficiencies I wanted to address. It includes simple things like posture, touch and tension management all the way to techniques, dexterity and application of jazz theory.

 

I was very fortunate to connect with Tomoko Ohno, a jazz pianist from northern New Jersey. The experience has been great so far (2 lessons in), and I'm learning a lot. She is patient, informative and incredibly talented. I see her about one every 3-4 weeks. The lesson is supposed to be 90 minutes, but she's never in a rush to kick me out, and we cover a lot of ground.

 

I'm working applying scales I've never used before, new approaches to comp voicings, ii-V-I major and minor structures, application to songs, some reharmonization and some classical rep. I've never played any kind of classical before, and while we are starting simple (Bach inventions and the Well Tempered Clavier), it's given me some very fresh insight on playing technique and approaching the piano.

 

Even some of the stuff she says in passing is incredibly valuable. For example, I've always played piano with way too hard of a touch. I know this impacts my dexterity, and it sometimes makes me feel like the piano is my enemy. After watching me do this, Tomoko simply told me I was going to hurt myself, stop attacking the instrument and instead listen to the lovely tone this beautiful instrument creates. It doesn't sound like much, but it was an impacting moment for me, and has affected the way I approach the instrument. Sometimes just getting feedback from someone better is so enlightening.

 

To me, the most important thing is that she is happy to teach me the things I want to learn, at a pace the is comfortable for me. She of course throws in stuff I wouldn't know to ask, but she realizes I'm no spring chicken, and teaching by rote would not be as effective.

 

It's been enlightening and I look forward to my daily practice, as well as looking for ways to put the new skills to work. At times I feel like a kid again.

 

.

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I'm retiring in about three years.

 

I have a killer acoustic piano that sits in a room designed for purpose (don't ask).

 

My goal is to get deep into lessons and completely blow out the classical pieces I never had time for back in the day.

 

Just sayin'

Life is too short to be playing bad music.

 

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Timely topic for me. I just started taking lessons again after more than 35 years.

 

I'm simply interested in being a better player, and made a list of deficiencies I wanted to address. It includes simple things like posture, touch and tension management all the way to techniques, dexterity and application of jazz theory.

 

I was very fortunate to connect with Tomoko Ohno, a jazz pianist from northern New Jersey. The experience has been great so far (2 lessons in), and I'm learning a lot. She is patient, informative and incredibly talented. I see her about one every 3-4 weeks. The lesson is supposed to be 90 minutes, but she's never in a rush to kick me out, and we cover a lot of ground.

 

I'm working applying scales I've never used before, new approaches to comp voicings, ii-V-I major and minor structures, application to songs, some reharmonization and some classical rep. I've never played any kind of classical before, and while we are starting simple (Bach inventions and the Well Tempered Clavier), it's given me some very fresh insight on playing technique and approaching the piano.

 

Even some of the stuff she says in passing is incredibly valuable. For example, I've always played piano with way too hard of a touch. I know this impacts my dexterity, and it sometimes makes me feel like the piano is my enemy. After watching me do this, Tomoko simply told me I was going to hurt myself, stop attacking the instrument and instead listen to the lovely tone this beautiful instrument creates. It doesn't sound like much, but it was an impacting moment for me, and has affected the way I approach the instrument. Sometimes just getting feedback from someone better is so enlightening.

 

To me, the most important thing is that she is happy to teach me the things I want to learn, at a pace the is comfortable for me. She of course throws in stuff I wouldn't know to ask, but she realizes I'm no spring chicken, and teaching by rote would not be as effective.

 

It's been enlightening and I look forward to my daily practice, as well as looking for ways to put the new skills to work. At times I feel like a kid again.

 

Mike I think the big bitch of it is trying to unlearn habits when you are older and have been playing a certain way. You kind of have to let go. I had the same problem. My teacher said "listen you can play, you played classical music, just don't hold onto the keys so much" It was a little of the anxiety of starting over because it had been so many years for me but I know what he meant.

"Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"

 

 

noblevibes.com

 

 

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...In other words, I theoretically COULD do it on my own, but I never WOULD do it on my own. That's why I need a teacher. And that's probably why would did 20 years ago.

 

Exactly my thought. If I was closer to a big city I would try to barter with a music store, 5 hours a week of my time working on computer systems for 3 hours of lessons on various instruments.

This post edited for speling.
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Timely topic for me. I just started taking lessons again after more than 35 years.

 

I'm simply interested in being a better player, and made a list of deficiencies I wanted to address. It includes simple things like posture, touch and tension management all the way to techniques, dexterity and application of jazz theory.

 

I was very fortunate to connect with Tomoko Ohno, a jazz pianist from northern New Jersey. The experience has been great so far (2 lessons in), and I'm learning a lot. She is patient, informative and incredibly talented. I see her about one every 3-4 weeks. The lesson is supposed to be 90 minutes, but she's never in a rush to kick me out, and we cover a lot of ground.

 

I'm working applying scales I've never used before, new approaches to comp voicings, ii-V-I major and minor structures, application to songs, some reharmonization and some classical rep. I've never played any kind of classical before, and while we are starting simple (Bach inventions and the Well Tempered Clavier), it's given me some very fresh insight on playing technique and approaching the piano.

 

Even some of the stuff she says in passing is incredibly valuable. For example, I've always played piano with way too hard of a touch. I know this impacts my dexterity, and it sometimes makes me feel like the piano is my enemy. After watching me do this, Tomoko simply told me I was going to hurt myself, stop attacking the instrument and instead listen to the lovely tone this beautiful instrument creates. It doesn't sound like much, but it was an impacting moment for me, and has affected the way I approach the instrument. Sometimes just getting feedback from someone better is so enlightening.

 

To me, the most important thing is that she is happy to teach me the things I want to learn, at a pace the is comfortable for me. She of course throws in stuff I wouldn't know to ask, but she realizes I'm no spring chicken, and teaching by rote would not be as effective.

 

It's been enlightening and I look forward to my daily practice, as well as looking for ways to put the new skills to work. At times I feel like a kid again.

 

Mike I think the big bitch of it is trying to unlearn habits when you are older and have been playing a certain way. You kind of have to let go. I had the same problem. My teacher said "listen you can play, you played classical music, just don't hold onto the keys so much" It was a little of the anxiety of starting over because it had been so many years for me but I know what he meant.

 

It's funny that you bring that up, Outkaster. While practicing after the first lesson, I felt some pressure to have some miraculous improvement to show Tomoko. But all I kept thinking was that you can't undo a lifetime of bad habits in a month. And I have a lot of bad habits. I slouch, constantly hunch my shoulders, keep my arms too tense; and those are before I even play a note! I've become very aware of these things now, and make the conscious effort to correct them, hoping they become innate over time.

 

The other main thing she brought to my attention (without actually saying it), was my tendency to try to play "through" the note, very similar to what you're saying about holding onto the key. I hit too hard and press too hard on the keys, like they are going to somehow make the note sound better. Playing the classical rep is really helping me understand touch a lot better. After all these years I'm finally understanding what it means to play piano.

 

I think this will translate well to organ playing as well. Even though it's not touch sensitive, I play organ like an old beaten up Rhodes. And it's pointless. I watch great players like Dr. Lonnie Smith and they make it look effortless. I'm only beginning to understand why.

 

Yes, letting go is a big challenge. But I am just beginning to see some improvements in my live playing, so things are starting to take hold.

.

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I didnt have that many bad habits but my reading wasnt the greatest because I was not paying attention to the details. At any rate he told me my methodology was not that great. This is a guy that taught me how to make use of my time when I was younger. He would tell me doing scales are like sit ups you need to do to keep fit. I got the analogy because I worked out a lot then. He would also tell me to take 20 minutes and practice 7th chords. He said if you dont have a lot of time and do it without interruptions you have done a lot. He said most people waste time practicing certain things and was all about making the most of the time you do have, he is a master of that stuff and being realistic. My only problem is competing priorities.

"Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"

 

 

noblevibes.com

 

 

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Even though it's not touch sensitive, I play organ like an old beaten up Rhodes. And it's pointless. I watch great players like Dr. Lonnie Smith and they make it look effortless. I'm only beginning to understand why.

 

Try using primarily the metacarpophalangeal joints to glide around the keys, with the interphalangeal joints nearly straight.

 

http://groundupstrength.wdfiles.com/local--files/anatomy%3Aintrinsic-hand-muscles/finger-joints-bones.png

 

Wes

Hammond: L111, M100, M3, BC, CV, Franken CV, A100, D152, C3, B3

Leslie: 710, 760, 51C, 147, 145, 122, 22H, 31H

Yamaha: CP4, DGX-620, DX7II-FD-E!, PF85, DX9

Roland: VR-09, RD-800

 

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