When are you over-preparing for your lesson?
I confess that I tend to over-prepare for my lessons. Often I practiced enough to have the piece memorized by the time I go to a lesson. This means I have to unlearn a lot during and after each lesson. Some unlearning can be hard because my brain has to reorganize something it has settled into somewhat an automated performance. Such frequent unlearning may also lead to inconsistencies that will show up during performance.
My guess is, ideally, a student should bring a new piece that they’ve only looked at a few times and then explore it together with the teacher. At such a stage, the student may not be fluent but have greater mental flexibility to explore, consequently, they will progress faster.
What do you think? How do you recognize the point beyond which the amount of preparation/self-teaching before lesson is unproductive?
This is the very reason I don't intentionally memorize anything before I've had it looked over - using a camera, a coach, or a teacher. Of course you can't help accidental memorization - it just happens through repetition. I find this is especially a problem if you've come from an instrument where reading is more difficult. Switching from reading multiple independent lines to a single line makes memorization very quick for me and it has caused this very problem before. I consider this 'soft' memorization, compared to 'hard' memorization - where I have intentionally made an effort to commit it to memory. I find soft memorization doesn't really 'stick' very long - maybe a couple weeks without touching it.
Michael, I memorise what I work on partly because I repeat enough they stick and partly I want to feel the notes kinesthetically, eyes closed. Your suggestion on keep reading and playing every note off the pape even when they are memorized is a great one. For some reason I tend to be reluctant to read anything once memorized. Not sure how common this is among students. Another bad habit to correct:)
Very common Yixi. Reading the notes instead of playing from memory is more work and requires you to slow down.
Michael and Yixi, you nailed it. I am not a great sight-reader, and when sight-reading at a lesson I sound and feel extra clumsy.
I wish I had memorization problems! I have a very, very, very hard time memorizing music (always have), so much so that my new task is to learn how to play a new piece without referring to the sheet music.
I generally memorize automatically. If I don't have it memorized at least somewhat memorized, I haven't practiced it enough. :-) (I have noticed that I cannot memorize the way that I could when I was in my 20s, though, much less my childhood.)
Which concerto, Lydia?
My first impulse is to say that a student SHOULD "over-prepare" and work the hell out of a piece of music before bringing it in. They should have it fingered and bowed, understand the rhythms, and hopefully use common sense (like pick up notes should usually be up-bow), and use good bow distribution, or work out fast passages where things tend to break down. They don't use their metronome. They don't bother to listen to their piece, either themselves on a recording, or on youtube.
Scott, the types of things I usually have to unlearn at my lesson are fingerings, bowings and interpretation. I always read, listen, watch and compare difference versions of a piece first I work on. I would have my fingerings and bowings worked and reworked by the time ready for lesson, but my teacher would always find things that don't work or don't make overall sense and need to be changed. She often tells me to keep it simple as I tend to overthink and make things too complicate. But I believe there's nothing simple about simplicity; it comes with experience and mastery.
I agree with Christian that there is no such thing as over-preparation. It is okay to memorize music extra early. In fact, for people who are unable to read music, or at least read and play at once, they must memorize all the notes, bowings and fingerings before moving on.
I'm never upset with students who come "over-prepared"! Occasionally it means that a small mistake has been woven a little too well into the fabric, and that makes it hard to get out. But generally that's not a frequently-occurring problem because those who practice a lot tend to also be conscientious about it!
I agree with Laurie and Scott about the value of being over-prepared. We have all heard that saw about preparing 200% because you lose half when you get on stage.
Paul, so true! I know I shouldn't ever try to impress my teacher -- that's not the point of having a lesson! But then, is there any other way to be prepared for lesson?:) Once in a while, my teacher would say she was happy for me when she saw some break through. That's the sort of thing I'm living for.
Yixi, that's not a bad problem to have. I find it tough to not give at least something short shrift in my practicing leading up to a lesson, even though I practice about 3 hours most days. But I've been taking two lessons per week for the last few months, so while it gets me more immediate feedback and direction, things don't always get as polished as I would like. Memorization is a fairly slow and deliberate process for me.
Jason, it's the Tchaikovsky.
Funny, I once had a teacher tell me that I should consider everything I do in lessons to be a performance, and if I made more than 3 mistakes that meant I was unprepared. I know that may seem harsh, but I think maybe he didn't want lessons to be just him listening to me fumble around and practice for an hour. It certainly got me to practice a lot more. This could be where my tendency to overprepare came from :-)
Karen, I think it makes perfect sense for everything in a lesson to be played as a performance. That's what our lessons are preparing us for, after all, and having someone there changes the dynamic, in that it bridges the gap a little in terms of there being an audience. I think it can be taken too far, and that the 3 mistakes is maybe a little blunt (Not to second-guess), but I think it's imperative for the student to make the connection that a lesson isn't just for playing the notes, as it were.
You might be over preparing when you practice a sonata movement by yourself when you may have better spent some of that the time rehearsing that same movement with a pianist.
Lydia, I suspected that was the one, just seemed like the next logical step in your latest period of playing. Congrats on getting back to it, and good luck on the preparation. I'm looking forward to hearing a recording of it here one day=)
Raymond, good point. Playing with other is different skill set that I don't think I can get much from violin lessons. I find it frustrating playing with others who are under-prepared, as so many amateur chamber players I met just like to sight-read through a whole bunch of music in each given session. But you are right, when working on a sonata, I should play with a pianist as soon as I am ready.
If I learn a song before I know the tempo, it always throws me off during the lesson.My teacher asks me to slow it down,but I've already memorized it faster. Even with a metronome it's more difficult to go back to where the teacher thinks I need to be.
Yixi, you need to find chamber-music partners who are good enough to sight-read at a satisfying level. :-)
Lydia, I'm in a smallish city here in Victoria BC. I would have to travel to Vancouver BC to find such chamber musicians.
I agree with Laurie. I'm not teaching private lessons at the moment, but when I did (which was for many years), I don't believe I ever once thought to myself "I wish this student had practiced less." I most certainly wished that students had practiced more *carefully*, generally on a weekly basis, but never did I wish they had done less preparation.