adult lessons


Grind of Classical Music

Last week, I began working on Chopin’s Nocturne in D flat Major. It was a piece I have heard over and over again in my life but never had a chance to learn. A classic! Beautifully written with a soaring melodic line and rich dramatic harmonies.

Also, not the easiest piece. Not for me at least. After all my music education, I often feel that I should be able to sightread every piece of music out there. In fact, I feel a little embarrassed admitting this!

Even after 18 years of experience, my progress in learning new classical music seems familiar. I break down the piece into chew-able sections that I can work on. I don’t get all the notes and rhythms right every time. Sometimes I don’t even get it right by the end of my practice session. After getting to know the notes and rhythm more, I start to think about dynamics, phrasing, expression. I know that all of this will take me more time. Although I want to be able to perfect the piece in one day, I know that this is the grind of classical music. Classical music is full of technical challenges, complex twists and turns, and potential for creative expression

However, despite the familiarity of the grind, I noticed that I’ve learned concepts that help push me along throughout the years

  1. I practice better. No longer do I play something from beginning to end repeatedly. I employ random practicing, instead of block practicing and see my improvement accelerate
  2. I keep it consistent. Even when feeling discouraged, I schedule 30 minutes of my day to practice.
  3. I celebrate the small progresses. Even if I can’t play the whole piece smoothly, I celebrate the sections that I notice has improved.
  4. I improvise. Besides the classical music, I book off time in my schedule to improvise and create other types of music. It makes me feel that there is variety and options in my journey.

 


Simple Creativity Tips

Hi everyone,

As you may be aware, living a creative life is one of my priorities in life. I think that being creative encourages a zest for life- which I need! For me, I am most happy when I feel that I am being authentic and open to change.

That being said, I am always looking for ways to be more creative in my every day life. In my daily grind, I often find myself working into a rut. With many tasks and routines to get through, I tend to focus more on efficiency, rather than creativity. How can I do this better with less time?

Of course, the number 1 tip for living a creative life…is to create. Write a blog! Write songs! Draw! Even if it’s only for 10 minutes every day, that dedicated time adds up. At the end of the week, you would have been creative for more than an hour.

Today, I want to talk about injecting creativity into our everyday tasks. This helps boost that 10 minutes a day into an all day lifestyle direction.

  1. Add little differences to your meals–  cooking is my biggest challenge! I personally do not love cooking, but understand it is essential to my living. While making breakfast, I often experiment with little changes. Little things such as a different way I cut my avocado to different arrangements on the plate make a huge difference! Not only does it visually looks different, I feel myself more aware of what I’m doing- breaking out of the mundane routine. I also enjoy that I get to be more aware of what kind of foods I like and don’t like.
  2. Go for a 10 minute walk everyday, but walk in a different direction every day. I enjoy exploring my neighbourhood! It gives me different visual input everyday.
  3. Don’t use your phone while you wait for things– whether at the grocery store, at the elevator, or on your break at work, I try not to use my phone as a distraction tool. Breathe in every minute! The break from digital media helps me discover my own thoughts.

With these small changes, I find that I participate in my life much more actively, which is a key component of feeling creative.

 


Playing for the teacher 

Pressure

Playing for the teacher is one of the most nerve wracking things. There is always a feeling of pressure. When children come to lessons, they are displaying a skill that they are developing. Some students are unabashedly expressive; most students withdraw knowing their skill level.

“Did I practice enough?…can she tell?” (Most likely)

“I practiced!….but I might still make some mistakes and she will think I didn’t practice”

“There is this section I totally did not understand….will she get mad at me if I don’t know it this week?”

Overall, these feelings come from a need to impress a mentor. I wanted to be showered with praise, not criticism

Criticism can be hard to swallow for a lot of people. Especially with a never ending journey like piano lessons, it can feel like the (constructive) criticism never ends.

In this case, we need to remember to focus on the journey, not the destination. We can encourage this with our students

Encouragement

Encouragement from teacher and parents is a critical part of piano lessons.

“I think this section has improved drastically! I can see you put a lot of work into making this your own”

“This composition sounds great so far! I think its time to experiment.”

Even when far from the final product, each step is worth acknowledging. After all, the students are learning. There is no need to demand perfection.

Being Relatable

What I’ve noticed about some of my students, is that they think I am able to play every piece of music imaginable. More importantly, they think that it requires no effort on my end. Although I wish I could say this was true, it simply is not! What the students do not acknowledge, are the years of lessons I’ve had and the grind of music I still am on. Seeing this, I make an effort to show my students what I am working on. It may be a different difficulty level, but I am going through the same struggles.

The pressure of being evaluated never goes away, but we can teach our students that constructive criticism is a part of growth. We can teach our students to view the lesson experience through a different lens, with teachers as mentors and not judges.