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Ben Podgor

Piano teaching: Is there any danger of teaching bad habits.

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The Keyboard appears to be inactive. In fact, prior posts are not listed. The teaching of piano was discussed on the violin section. It caused me to wonder if one can really teach bad habits in piano playing. I am presenting this question because I tried to teach myself how to play the violin. Acquired some very bad habits which my present violin teacher has worked very hard to correct.

I taught piano when I was in High School. Was very successful, I believe. Yet, I myself was never a really good performer. Never considered the possibility that I might be permitting someone to aquire bad habits.

My question is: what can one do wrong in teaching piano.

Ben

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Well, maybe not to the degree of a bowed string instrument, but you can develop some bad habits with piano. Just from what I've observed, you need to have your hand in a certain shape, press on the keys a certain way, sit up and at a proper distance. Also the way you achieve various notes or chords affects the mobility, so I would think if you learned this the wrong way you would have to de- and then re-learn later so it wouldn't be a problem in more difficult pieces.

BTW if you want to see the older threads, you can change your profile (2nd page) to view more days. This forum is pretty inactive though, as you mentioned.

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Ben Podgor,

To answer your question, you can teach as many "bad habits" on violin as you can piano.

In my experience they are equaly difficult to learn and learn well.

Now, the real queston is what do you or I or anyone else consider "bad habits."

Some teachers would say that a bad habit is any technique or movment, posture, & etc. that does not meet their "ideal." Others would say it is simply an action, movment or posture that is pointing to another, but real, problem. Generally, the 'bad habit" is an attempt to cover for the actual problem. It is the way a student or we ourslevles finds to "get the job done." A "bad habit" is only as bad as it is at preventing another movement or action. If it prevents nothing, and accmplishes it's goal, it really is not a "bad habit."

E

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Ecrivain:

Based on your analysis, I am going to conclude that I taught well. My students were able to perform simple pieces well. None planned to become professional performers. I did not take on any advanced students. They and I were playing for the enjoyment of it.

I do think that the violin is much more difficult to learn, even if one does not intend to become a professional performer.

Ben

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Yes, my mother taught me and I leanred her technique, but it's not all bad.

Ben, We are both named Ben. We both play the piano. I do not intend to give concerts. Play for my own pleasure. Do not have to play to perfection.

I wish you were in U. S. Would like to try your violins. Am not happy with tone I get from my violins. But, as my teacher points out. It is not the violin's fault. When she plays my violin, it sounds beautiful. But when she plays her violin it is wonderful.

I like your web site.

It is about 2 years since I posted my original question. I have come to the conclusion that to play the violin one needs the best teacher possible. To play the piano it is not as important.

Ben

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Piano requires finger strength and independence in both hands but not entirely different techniques like the violin. Bad habits become more evident as one progresses to more difficult music and techniques and these techniques are not easily changed. A piano keyboard is quite large and it is really hard to cover it all as if it were 'under the hand'.

Attention to all detail is important, same as violin, if you want to sound really good.

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Lets add some food for thought...

Would playing with flat fingers be considered a bad habit. OR what about playing with the thumbs resting on the wood, or fifth fingers pointing in the air, or elbows moving like bellows, or .....

Each of them work, but none are good. Most self-taught pianists have very bad habits for 2 reasons - not watching (really watching) good pianists, or not being taught by a good pianist.

Bank tellers - those who work every dya counting and checking large sums of money are taught how to identify fakes in an unsual manner - and yet not.

They are trained using only the original/real thing, day after day. When a forged note comes across there fingers it is identified immediately.

This could be applied to piano players. You will never know the "perfect" until you have seen and been shown the original.

The same goes for the violin - left wrists that collapse, elbows that are not tucked in, fingers not holding the bow properly.

etc

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Lets add some food for thought...

Would playing with flat fingers be considered a bad habit. OR what about playing with the thumbs resting on the wood, or fifth fingers pointing in the air, or elbows moving like bellows, or .....

Each of them work, but none are good. Most self-taught pianists have very bad habits for 2 reasons - not watching (really watching) good pianists, or not being taught by a good pianist.

Bank tellers - those who work every dya counting and checking large sums of money are taught how to identify fakes in an unsual manner - and yet not.

They are trained using only the original/real thing, day after day. When a forged note comes across there fingers it is identified immediately.

This could be applied to piano players. You will never know the "perfect" until you have seen and been shown the original.

The same goes for the violin - left wrists that collapse, elbows that are not tucked in, fingers not holding the bow properly.

etc

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I think I repeated your message under my name. Did not mean to do that.

What I wanted to say was that I probably had one of the best piano teachers available at the time I studied it. My teacher's teacher was Xaver Scharwenka who was considered on the same level as Paderewski. My teacher played regularly on the radio in New York.

But that did not make me a good performer. He never taught me anything about music. I studied that much later. Yes, I probably got good instruction on finger movement, but he was there to spend the hour with me. He was there because he needed the money.

It did not make any difference I had no intention of majoring in music. I have been playing for over 75 years. Still love it. So when someone asks if you need a degree to teach it, my answer is "depends on what the student wants to accomplish."

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It is about 2 years since I posted my original question. I have come to the conclusion that to play the violin one needs the best teacher possible. To play the piano it is not as important.

Ben

As a piano teacher I would have to disagree. Can you tell us what bad habits your violin teacher had to eradicate? Scharwenka, the Scharwenka? Amazing.

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As a piano teacher I would have to disagree. Can you tell us what bad habits your violin teacher had to eradicate? Scharwenka, the Scharwenka? Amazing.

As a violin teacher, I would agree. To make sound on piano: press key down. To make sound on violin: hold bow properly, proper arm motion and coordination with the wrist in order to keep bow parallel to the bridge through the stroke, control the pressure on the stick which varies as you move the bow. Never mind changing pitches without the aid of frets or keys in a totally different type of motion than the right hand.

I am not in any way comparing the difficulty of the instruments at the highest levels where they each present equally formidable challenges to the artist. I am firmly convinced that at a beginner level, the piano yields much more satisfactory and immediate results than a string instrument.

Bad habits on the violin: improper and thus inefficient bow hold, left wrist position that has the palm of the hand supporting the neck, drawing the bow in a crooked fashion creating a whistling sound or a scratch.

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I am not in any way comparing the difficulty of the instruments at the highest levels where they each present equally formidable challenges to the artist.

Bad habits on the violin: improper and thus inefficient bow hold, left wrist position that has the palm of the hand supporting the neck, drawing the bow in a crooked fashion creating a whistling sound or a scratch.

You said it there. We have to give our students the opportunity to reach that level, whatever instrument - there's an equal number of initial bad habits in both. Thanks for your list.

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Lets add some food for thought...

Would playing with flat fingers be considered a bad habit. OR what about playing with the thumbs resting on the wood, or fifth fingers pointing in the air, or elbows moving like bellows, or .....

Each of them work, but none are good. Most self-taught pianists have very bad habits for 2 reasons - not watching (really watching) good pianists, or not being taught by a good pianist.

Bank tellers - those who work every dya counting and checking large sums of money are taught how to identify fakes in an unsual manner - and yet not.

They are trained using only the original/real thing, day after day. When a forged note comes across there fingers it is identified immediately.

This could be applied to piano players. You will never know the "perfect" until you have seen and been shown the original.

The same goes for the violin - left wrists that collapse, elbows that are not tucked in, fingers not holding the bow properly.

etc

I'd go so far as to say that few piano teachers teach really good technique, some even teach things that injure their students. The problem is that things like sitting too low (or high), playing with a collapsed wrist, stretching, twisting, curling, etc., don't always lead to injury but they are always inefficient. Too often teachers say do it this way because that's what my teacher taught me. That way bad habits get propagated rather than eliminated. People who play with bad technique or teach bad technique don't know they are doing it and may even be defensive when corrected. To get an idea of how good piano technique works see http://www.golandskyinstitute.org .

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As a violin teacher, I would agree. To make sound on piano: press key down. To make sound on violin: hold bow properly, proper arm motion and coordination with the wrist in order to keep bow parallel to the bridge through the stroke, control the pressure on the stick which varies as you move the bow. Never mind changing pitches without the aid of frets or keys in a totally different type of motion than the right hand.

I am not in any way comparing the difficulty of the instruments at the highest levels where they each present equally formidable challenges to the artist. I am firmly convinced that at a beginner level, the piano yields much more satisfactory and immediate results than a string instrument.

Bad habits on the violin: improper and thus inefficient bow hold, left wrist position that has the palm of the hand supporting the neck, drawing the bow in a crooked fashion creating a whistling sound or a scratch.

You identified my main problem on the violin. It was my left hand hold, the palm supporting the neck. I still have a long way to go on correcting that. Probably never will. But since I play only for my own pleasure it really does not make that much difference. I do not intend to play in a group.

Ben

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You identified my main problem on the violin. It was my left hand hold, the palm supporting the neck. I still have a long way to go on correcting that. Probably never will. But since I play only for my own pleasure it really does not make that much difference. I do not intend to play in a group.

Ben

Ben,

If you are having fun, don't change a thing. If you would like to be able for your left hand to be able to play faster, try this: bend a common sponge between the bottom of the wrist and the neck so that it forms an upward V, the bottom of which rests at the joint between the wrist and the beginning of the arm. This should create the right angle to be able to play a little faster. The other method I use with my students to fix this very understandable bad habit is to have them play the first double stop etude in the "Polo" double stop etudes. You can not play it without proper left hand position.

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Piano requires finger strength and independence in both hands but not entirely different techniques like the violin. Bad habits become more evident as one progresses to more difficult music and techniques and these techniques are not easily changed. A piano keyboard is quite large and it is really hard to cover it all as if it were 'under the hand'.

Attention to all detail is important, same as violin, if you want to sound really good.

I have been teaching both piano and violin students and I agree with you... :)

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The Keyboard appears to be inactive. In fact, prior posts are not listed. The teaching of piano was discussed on the violin section. It caused me to wonder if one can really teach bad habits in piano playing. I am presenting this question because I tried to teach myself how to play the violin. Acquired some very bad habits which my present violin teacher has worked very hard to correct.

I taught piano when I was in High School. Was very successful, I believe. Yet, I myself was never a really good performer. Never considered the possibility that I might be permitting someone to aquire bad habits.

My question is: what can one do wrong in teaching piano.

Ben

Bad technique: Stretching fingers, curling fingers, dropped wrists, "chicken wing" arms, banging the keys down, sitting too low, sitting too high, most of these bad techniques can lead to debilitating or more serious injuries such as dystonia and tendonitis. In short there definitely are serious bad habits to be avoided in playing the piano. I actually think that string teachers are more aware of and better trained at avoiding these injury producing habits than are piano teachers.

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