Monthly Archives: March 2016


Looking Past One Bar at A time

 

 

When beginning to take piano lessons, I find that students often focus all their concentration at completing one bar at a time. Most of this struggle is technical; these beginner students are being bogged down by the challenge of physically coordinating their fingers. While this is perfectly normal to begin with, it is important look at the bigger rhythmic picture, to play the music and not just a finger exercise.

So why the fuss about having to look past one bar at a time? When we are learning, we should take it slow and in small chunks right? Yes! To some degree. Eventually, after a lot of repetitive practice, muscle memory will help connect those bars together

However, muscle memory, especially when done by blocked practicing, is an ineffective way of practicing. A lot of this progress will disappear overnight!

What are some ways to help look past one bar at a time?

 

1.Practice Your Scales!

  • By gaining more flexibility and agility with your fingers, you will be less concerned with the technical aspect of completing a bar. Instead of looking for the finish line at the end of one bar, look at the finish line of every four bars

2. Practice Sightreading!

  • Sightreading is a great skill to have as a musician.  To be able to play any piece by looking at the first time you see it,  the student must know their notes and rhythms, and be confident in their technique.

3. Look At The Big Picture

  • How long is the melody? Is it connected by a phrase mark? Where is the peak/climax of the melody? You should always aim to finish a melodic phrase while playing. Otherwise, it’s kind of like a sentence that never….

 

…ends!

 

Add meaning to music! Analyze what the composer intended when he or she wrote this song, and you will likely play this piece better. Remember, this is an art form, not a set of technical requirements. While this is tough for the beginner students, it is better to get a good understanding of music right from day one.

 

Take Piano Lessons in Victoria, B.C with Eric Ng

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Rhythm Rabbit

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Rhythm is tricky. To be able to understand structures of time in relation to sound is not an easy task to do. Even today, I find myself facing new rhythmic challenges to figure out. As a piano teacher teaching lots of beginner students, I notice that the concept of rhythm is especially hard to grasp. When I reached out to parents and child-care professionals, they told me that children are very visual. While rhythmic notation is also visual on paper, the value of a quarter note, half note, dotted-half note is much less intuitive to them until they internalize what the notation means

So I wondered: How can I show rhythm to kids visually? I had tried teaching them how to compose, but the littlest ones still had trouble piecing the information together.

So I created Rhythm Rabbit!

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Rhythm Rabbit is a game I designed to show rhythm fits within a 4/4 bar. Each of the  quarter, half, dotted half, and whole note pieces are designed so they take up the amount of physical space equal to their rhythmic duration. For example, this dotted half note above takes up 3 spaces of the 4 spaces of a 4/4 bar. Not only do they see that the dotted half note takes up 3 spaces/3 beats, they have to find the quarter note piece to finish off the 4/4 bar.

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I ask the student to build Rhythm Rabbit to get to his carrots, and they experiment with the note cards until they find a rhythm that fits. Then they have to make Rhythm Rabbit hop in rhythm towards the carrot. The little ones love this story!

If they have “holes” in their rhythmic path, I tell them Rhythm Rabbit would fall into the ground without a path!  The children then understand that they must fill in the missing beats with something.

If they pick a rhythm that’s too long, I tell them that the long road covered up the carrot and now Rhythm Rabbit can’t get to it. Also, the excess of length against the main frame with the numbers is a good visual cue that it is incorrect.

I found this game to be incredibly successful in teaching the basic 4/4 bar with basic rhythm. In addition to playing the game, I ask the students to clap the rhythm of the road they built, to further solidify their knowledge. By connecting the visual cues with the audio cues, I feel as though I am bridging the gap between music and what they already know.

 

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Composition Month Part 1 (Little Hands Child Care)

March is Composition Month at EN Music Studio! At Little Hands Child Care, I asked the little ones to come up with a story with their favourite animals and play the story on the piano. They have to decide if the animals were high or low on the piano, quiet or loud, and what the animal decides to do. We use these sounds to tell a story as a form of music storytelling.

Here are some of the highlights!

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“Sleepy Cat” by Francis

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“MEOW RAWR!” by Sophie

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“Birdie has no friends” by Koto

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“Teagan’s Doggie” by Teagan

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“Twinkle Twinkle” by Joelle

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“My Little Lamb” by Matthew

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“Twinkle Twinkle” by Emma

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“Monkey, I Love You” by Amélie

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“Slick” by Mya

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“Cat” by Aalyn

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“Fiona’s Cat” by Fiona

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“Horse Tag” by Emme

More to come from Composition Month!