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Patience (George Michael album)

Patience (George Michael album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my adult students broke so many long-term barriers last weekend!  This is the first time she has achieved consistency and sustained concentration.  What a lesson!

She started playing flute as an adult beginner, then added piano class about 2  years later.  When my piano class was discontinued, she tried progressing on her own at first, then started private lessons 6 months later.

So she has been plugging away for about 12 years now.  That is a huge commitment on her part.

Breakthrough #1

2 triads were marked to be played legato, but the top note of each was to be played with the thumb.  Instinct took over at last, and my student played the lowest 2 notes of each chord legato.  Definitely a first!


Several right-hand notes happened to be below the staff.  My student, having started out playing flute, was not required to read below the staff for at least 2 years.  (The lowest note on the flute is middle C.)

Her usual way of finding notes below the staff is to say “one below C,” “two below C,” etc.  That works, but that was the only method available to her.

On Saturday, something wonderful happened.  She played an A below the staff right away, no calculation necessary.  Then, on the next system and 1/2 a page to the right, she played a G!  I was flabbergasted!  She just did it!

After she had finished playing the piece, I mentioned the feat she had just accomplished.  She shrugged it off because G is next to A.  I certainly didn’t expect that.  She has never thought notes below the staff could be easy.


We were checking out the theme to Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.  This was completely new to her.  She will be learning the Bastien arrangement over the next 2 weeks.

First, we looked at the triplets.  My goal was to remove the need to look closely at every note, since each triplet is part of a scale.

My student played each triplet, no problem.

Next, I asked her to add the next note (a quarter note) in order to eliminate a possible glitch in the flow of the music.  She did it!  She was able to look at the 1st note of each triplet, then move her eyes over to the quarter note.  She played each of the snippets perfectly the 1st time!  There was never a triplet, pause on the 3rd note, stop to figure out where the quarter note was, then play the quarter note.  (When a passage is learned that way, it is very hard to remove the glitch and find the line.)

After that, she played the entire melody.  I was so happy that no past fears crept in.


In the theme from Sheherazade, the accompaniment in the left hand includes something that has been a problem in past lessons.  Two quarters in the top part descend to a half note, while the lower part has two half notes.  Everything is marked legato.  Holding a key down with part of the hand while changing pitches with another part of the same hand is not easy!  Again, she just did it.

And finally, a potential problem, nipped in the bud  🙂

When we looked at the left hand accompaniment in the Tchaikovsky, my student announced, “I’m not going to count the rests.”  So she “tried out” the left hand in that manner.

While she was playing, I thought about her comment.

“Trying it out” is a habit of hers that is hard to overcome.  It must feel safer to play so no one can really hear you.  It occurred to me that random chords allowed for random glitches, too.

After the 1st time through the chords, we talked about this.  When I suggested that counting could save later rhythmic problems, I demonstrated by playing 2 adjacent chords; randomly the 1st time, then rhythmically.

I think she bought it… we’ll see in 2 weeks.

And the credit goes to…

My wonderful, extremely patient, persevering student!  Congratulations!!!

What do you think?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Review by pianist Robert W. Oliver

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