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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 2:51 pm 
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On the (very likely) off-chance that I have asked this before.....

I'm interested to know what you seek from a flute/whistle lesson when you go to a festival or workshop.

90+percent of them seem to be simply someone teaching a tune, which to me is not accomplishing very much other than getting a tune that you might not have had from someone of note or admiration. Time with a recording or the dots/ABCs would accomplish the same end, other than the photo op, maybe. But that's just my opinion. Many people feel otherwise and are content with a tune.

I liken the music lesson experience to those I occasionally get for golf: I'm asked what I'm hoping to accomplish and the pro helps me get there. He'll do it by examining my performance (swing), and study the parts of my grip, rotation, ball flight etc. He wouldn't stand there and hit golf balls for a 1/2 hour and simply have me try to figure out how to emulate it.

I ask because I'm at times asked to give flute/whistle lessons, which I enjoy doing, but don't want to disappoint folks by simply teaching a tune or two. That seems a waste of money and a very easy way out of helping you improve (or compensating for the fact that the teacher has no idea how to actually do that).

So in the effort to bolster my classes, I'd like to know what you prefer to have happen in a class of about 4+ players and what you'd find most helpful to your playing.

Thanks for the input.

dm


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 3:03 pm 
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What I look for in a group workshop/lesson at a gathering if for the instructor to explain how and why he/she plays the tune the way he does. As you suggest, I can learn tunes from recordings but, living in the states away from any significant Irish influence, I'd like to better understand the "pulse" of the tune, how breathing/ornamentation/etc. is used in that performer's style, and how it fits into their understanding of the context of the music. I've experienced some very useful workshops where no tunes at all were presented, only illustrative phrases demonstrating some particular aspect of the music.

If it's a private lesson, I try to listen to enough of the instructor's playing to be able to ask "what are you doing in that tune", "how do you do it", "what exercises should I do to figure out how to do it" and stuff like that.

It's great if the instructor in either setting picks out a tune to use to illustrate the techniques, but I'd much rather learn the techniques that I can apply to how I play than a bunch of tunes.

Them's my initial thoughts.

Best wishes.

Steve

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 3:09 pm 
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I teach private lessons and classes (and of course have taken many myself). For my larger classes, I usually teach ornamentation/style/breathing/variations around a tune most people know. Or I have them learn an easy tune (e.g. Tripping Upstairs, O'Keefe's) to work on specific things such as cuts and breath points, jig feel, etc. I need to gauge the group: if most folks are intermediates, I'll teach to that level; if most are beginners to that level. I also like to find out if students have particular questions or interests. In my private lessons, I do similarly to the golf instruction: I ask the student what he/she wants to accomplish or has questions about and work from there.

I agree that I don't get much out of a workshop in which the instructor just teaches a tune or two.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 4:06 pm 
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I have attended several workshops with noted 'pros' over the years, and taken individual lessons via skype. The worst and least memorable workshops had way too many people and yes, the 'instructor' presented the tune...we played it on masse (some good some not) and moved on. The best, were smallish classes (3-8), the instructor presented the tune, segment by segment and then went around the room for each player to attempt the skill/segment/exercise. They are the most memorable and useful workshops I have attended. It is nerve-wracking, playing in front of the few others and then having the instructor comment, de-bug, offer suggestions etc., but I must say that it is the most useful experience I've had. It even builds a kind of community in the small group. That feedback and attention must be there, to be a true 'lesson' IMO.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 4:15 pm 
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Best group lesson I've ever taken taught ornamentation (Grey Larsen).
The best classes concentrate on the elements of technique.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 9:34 pm 
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Hi David,

As an experienced teacher coming from a completely different art form...

The best classes offer something transformative and accessible across a range of abilities:

It might be physical technique, opens up dexterity,
It might be embouchure, opens up tonal quality
It might be rhythm, opens up musicality.
It might be dynamics, opens up expressiveness
It might be phrasing, opens up lyrical ability
It might be articulation (not ornaments per se, rather how to use ornamentation - which is what I think Jim was trying to say about Grey Larsen)

I'd be cautious about teaching specific technical things (e.g. how to do a roll). They might be important, but you run the risk that half the class is bored while the other half is lost.

Merely offering a new tune is a little cheap, although it might be a framework for a specific learning goal.

Other important teacher tips:
- people have different learning styles,
- but, all people learn kinesthetically (by doing),
- if you are talking they aren't learning. (Man, that is a hard one!)


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:29 am 
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tstermitz wrote:
I'd be cautious about teaching specific technical things (e.g. how to do a roll). They might be important, but you run the risk that half the class is bored while the other half is lost.
Agree. From my experience of workshops with an Irish focus I think one can draw a line between people who know about and can do cuts, taps and rolls - even if they could play and use them better - and those who don't. If there are a mixture of those people then tstermitz's suggestions are what I would hope for. I find there is plenty to learn from different people's take on those and guess most of those not familiar with the techniques would get a lot from that as well.

That said, I have appreciated going to workshops where just one or two little things, only taking a few minutes, moved my playing forwards in ways I remember. Also going over old ground helps get familiar with the workshop environment ready for when the material is very challenging and the other attendees more experienced.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:21 pm 
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I actually think teaching a tune is a great thing to do in classes, as long as you don't simply "teach the tune" (i.e., the notes) but take time to talk about phrasing, ornamentation, variations, etc. within the context of the tune.

I find it's most valuable, as both a student and a teacher, to learn or teach technique in the context of tunes rather than separately. When I was learning on my own, I spent a lot of time learning ornamentation and then applied it to tunes I wanted to learn. It made me a terrible player, because I had no sense of which ornaments were appropriate in which places, or the degree to which ornamentation could be used in service to a tune instead of blurring a tune beyond recognition or glossing over its melodic subtleties, and I had to unlearn just about everything (twice!) when I finally got to spend time with teachers who were in the tradition. A tune can be a vehicle for learning technique, and when I teach I hardly ever teach technique outside of the context of a tune.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 3:14 pm 
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It would be nice if the tunes were announced in advance and made available,
perhaps just very simply, so that the workshop could concentrate on
the issues Brad mentions. Grimly learning tunes in workshops is
for me not so helpful.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 3:33 pm 
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All I ever seem to need is inspiration. But that's not just in terms of being in the company of a great player; the best teachers appear to be able to see into my playing and somehow show me how it could be so much better. And that is inspiring.

From a practical point of view, I think teaching is best done through the medium of tunes, and it can be easier to impart some new knowledge by teaching a tune that the student does not yet know. It's very easy to regress to past habits with a tune that one has played a lot already. And, after all, it's very quick and easy to pick up the notes to an unfamiliar tune; it's how to play it that's hard.

I was lucky enough, during this year's Joe Mooney Summer School in Drumshanbo to have as a guest teacher for two days a fella called Noel Sweeney (all Ireland flute champion 1982). I'm not sure when I have been so inspired by any player. I am very grateful to John Wynne, himself a very fine teacher from whom I have learned a lot over the past few years, for inviting Noel to take the class for those two days. Since then, inspired by Noel, I have practiced far more than previously, and my playing is coming on by leaps and bounds as a result. I will never forget Noel's gentle, yet insistent teaching, nor the way he seemed to reach in and grab my playing, twist it about and show me what it could be.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 6:48 pm 
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These were all inspiring responses, and though I've been teaching/tutoring for going on 30+ years now (actually nearly 40 as I think it through), I'm always enthused and very much like to hear people's take on the proposition of learning and teaching, though I will say I actually prefer to call it coaching. It seems better suited.

There are some very good approaches offered here, all very sound, and I'm happy to see responses from the student side as well, because, after all, you are indeed the recipients.

There's a great musical skill required in showing someone else how to handle something musical, and very goodly amount of personal skill in doing in such a manner as to inspire, not tear down.

I'm hoping this thread keeps going so that others -- myself included -- can continue to draw from others and make adjustments we feel could best benefit our teammates (keeping it line with the term "coaching.").

Thanks all again. Lovely stuff.

dm


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 6:53 pm 
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I have taken all kinds of lessons, in music, various sports, technology, and various management skills. What I notice about the most effective teachers is their ability to zero in on one thing that will make me better now so that I can really see/hear/feel a difference. Not so good teachers point out so many things that my poor brain fills up, and I don't come away with anything, because I don't know where to start, and don't know what will make the biggest difference.

Part of this is that effective teachers make it about me and my progress rather than the more common making it about them. Surprisingly often at workshops I find it is a mixture of the teacher talking about their life, experiences and accomplishments and/or demonstrating their proficiency. It's inspirational and interesting, but I don't take away anything that makes me feel I have taken a step in the right direction.

Another part is that many teachers forget what it was like to be be a learner, and thus can't put their finger on what it is like, and thus what to recommend to make it better. The best flute player I have heard live was a marvel to listen to, but when someone asked what he did at some point in the tune, he would reply that he didn't know, it just bubbled out from somewhere. Enviable and sincere, but not much to go on....It is interesting also to notice how many teachers say they are doing one thing when they are actually doing another, so they aren't very aware of the mechanics, or about how to explain what one needs to do.

One effective lesson I remember was the instructor arriving with recordings of different players playing the same 4 bars or so of a tune. He commented on exactly what each was doing, copying each example slowly and explaining how the effect was done, why shortening this note made a effect from shortening that note, and so on. One hears constantly of the importance of listening, but it was a lesson in what to listen for, and a lesson on how to do what one heard. It made me realize that I wasn't really listening...O'Grada in his tutor stresses "if you can hear it, you can do it", but this lesson was foundational for me.

Hugh

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 9:15 pm 
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I guess, then, that what one seeks is a good teacher.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 11:44 pm 
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Ok, so you got all this inspirational motivation? Next time we play together, I'll be expecting an awesome, unbelievable lesson on some of the insane ornamentation you use!! :P

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 26, 2017 6:32 pm 
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very funny, Charles! lol
happy to trade tidbits.

Thanks again to all. I handled the three classes I gave differently than in the past, trying some new ideas and techniques, and by the feed-back I'd received (there were about 5 in each class), the methodology was a good one.

I think I managed to challenge the students, but at the same time have them come away with new ideas for approach and practice, which was my entire intent. Use of dynamics was particularly important and opened up a few eyes on how that all threads together. It also showed the importance of a good solid tone, which so many flute players lack.

Thanks again, all.

The feedback has been terrific and informative. Not to mention appreciated!

dm


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