block practicing


Perspective

Piano lessons is generally based on the long term one-on-one connection between a teacher and student. Through time and music, teacher learns about the student’s unique abilities, challenges, and personality.

One of the issues that arise out of this paradigm, is the lack of different perspectives of the child’s learning. Usually, there are three perspectives: one of the teacher, one of the student, and the parents.

So at the minimum, most piano students get 3 perspectives on their musical journey. This is not too shabby! However, in a long term journey in piano, 3 perspectives are not enough to provide guidance for constant growth and change.

Why is Perspective Important?

Perspective is important because it provides context to our journey. Let’s begin discussing by challenges in music. When a student is struggling in a piece, there are several different perspectives a teacher can take in solving the issue. Is it strictly an unfamiliarity problem? Therefore, can it be solved by more practicing? What comes first? Technique or musicality? What should be practiced first? These different routes drastically lead to differences in student’s musical journeys. After all, teacher are mentors and provide their philosophy as a guide.

 

On that note, it is important to identify what the goal of the teacher is. If the teacher is aiming to cultivate composers, the perspective on what steps to take differ widely from cultivating a performer.

Even when considering the above views, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As a teacher, I can not guarantee that I have the perfect idea of music. Art is open to the public’s interpretation and criticism. That being said, it is important to have other people’s opinions on their observations.

How Can We Add Perspective?

Switching teachers for student is equally disruptive. When you switch teacher, you once again have to take time to build a relationship. In our next blog, we will discuss how to add the benefit of different perspectives in piano 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.

 


Student Etiquette

As a piano teacher, we only have 30/45/60 minutes with each student in a week. Therefore, it is quite important for us to be able to fit as much musical knowledge into the lesson as possible. Of course, children often have other plans for the lesson. Even the most mature students get distracted, or has an off day.

That being said, I expect none of my students to be perfect. After all, most of them are very young and are learning discipline and respect for the first term. Below, I list out some guidelines for student etiquette, so that the lesson can be both productive and fun!

Etiquette for Piano Students

  1. Don’t play while the teacher is talking. If the student is playing on the piano while the teacher is trying to talk, that is a clear sign that the student is not actively listening. Most of a piano lesson is verbal, so if the student is not listening, then they will not hear the instructions to improve.
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  3. Don’t excessively complain about the “hard parts”. Of course, not every part of the lesson can be fun. Scales in particular are never very exciting. Exercises in a book are never particularly exciting. However, if a student can gather their focus and be walked through the exercise, there can be more time left over for the fun parts of myself! After all, a piano teacher’s job is to teach music, not just play music.
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  5. Don’t play something that the teacher did not agree on hearing. This is not to say that the piano student should not explore other music on their own. When the piano teacher is there, there is a limited amount of time to get through the necessary basic material. A piano teacher may leave some time at the end of the class to hear other musical material (I do!). Otherwise, the piano student is encouraged to do this type of playing on their own time.

 
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