Issue 109: Festina Lente – Make Haste Slowly

I’ve a new student, already raring to take his Grade 5. He has chosen and taught himself his pieces, so, in his mind, there is very little left to do – just the scales and arpeggios, studies, sight-reading and aural tests. to cover. Ideally he would have liked to have taken the exam this term, but is prepared to wait until Easter!

topiary piano

Such enthusiasm! For pieces, that is. He had already reached Grade 5 standard on keyboard, but wanted to switch to piano. So, through word of mouth, as a friend of another pupil, he’s come to me.

This is proving a bit of a challenge.

He needs to work on technique, and touch, and arm-weight, and hand shape, and finger shape, and independence of the fingers, and left hand note reading skills.

He needs to understand the importance of good fingering.

He needs to know how to achieve forte, and piano, and gradation of tone, and cantabile playing, and shaping phrases, and phrasing off at cadences.

He needs to learn how to pedal properly.

He has taught himself to get through all his pieces with little or no knowledge or application of any of the above.

So now, I have to work out how to somehow transform the work he has done, without plunging him into resentment or despair.

My first attempt – changing one of the pieces for the exam, and asking him to leave it until we work on it together has failed. I did explain that I wanted to work on it with him “from scratch, right fro the very first steps”, but the next week, he announced that he had learned it hands separately but it’s really difficult to play it hands together. My heart sank. AT this rate we will rapidly run out of set pieces! I would have liked to have had the chance to work on fingering, hand shape, positioning the fingers to be ready for the following notes etc etc. Too late.

What of the work I did with him in the lessons on scales, studies, sight-reading? What indeed. He needs to focus on those aspects of learning to play the piano that will reap the rewards for the future, rather than charging ahead on what brings him the most satisfaction now.

Hopefully, sooner rather than later, I will manage to persuade him that there is more to playing the piano than being able to scramble through the set pieces by a mixture of quick reactions and fluffed notes. Hopefully, I will be able to convince him of the virtues of building the foundations slowly and carefully, in order to make good progress later.

I have a feeling it is going to be a tricky winter term as we get used to each other’s ways!

the snake keyboard

 

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