Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Horror of Traditional Piano Lessons

Now that Halloween is over, it's safe to talk about traditional piano lessons - the tedium, the boredom, the overbearing teachers with their incessant metronome beats.

Do we really need this? Do we really need yet another polished perfomer who can play Czerny and Beethoven on cue? Don't we have enough of these skilled typists already? I think so. And frankly, I just don't get it. I don't get why anyone would want to learn how to play other people's music.

Of course this music is worthy of preserving, but I'm speaking about being creative at the piano. I'm talking about the ability to sit down at the keyboard and just play without forethought or planning. Is there value in this kind of approach to playing? Yes! And while improvisation and composition are taught, it's not emphasized. It's relegated to inferior status while the poor student spends time first learning how to read notes and then recreating what has already been done. What a shame.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think any pianist you'd describe as a "skilled typist" could accurately be described as "playing Beethoven." Doing that — really interpreting a piece of written music — is a tremendously creative, introspective, and personal undertaking.

    If you ask me, traditional piano lessons aren't preserving this great music; they're strangling it. I hate it that people equate the great composers of centuries past with the persnickety way their music is taught today. They certainly wouldn't put up with it if they were still alive. The pedantic, literalist aesthetic of score reading is largely a mid-20th-century invention.