eric ng


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.

 

 


Analogies

Analogies in piano lessons are inevitable. Unless a child has prior training in music, most terms and technical skills seem alien. Arpeggio? Finger pivot? Legato? Consonant and dissonant harmony? For a child just beginning to learn piano, these terms are foreign.

All piano teachers generally use a flow of analogies to connect what students know and what they don’t.

My personal favourite one came from my university teacher. She often equated hand and wrist movement to baseball. Her point was that our arms and wrists work together to create movement. While I have little experience with baseball myself, I certainly have seen people bat many times. For me, the concept clicked- I can use that image of batting to enhance my piano movements. With the correct use of my arm movement, I can express myself through the piano better.

For Sporty Kids

In Victoria, I had a 7 year old student that was heavily involved in hockey. He participated in early morning practices, speed skating sessions and tournaments. When I first taught him, he knew very little about music.

When asked about why we have to do scales (he said they were boring), I asked him how he learned to skate so fast. Immediately I saw him put together the connection between the skating drills he did and scales. Essentially, they are the same- exercises designed to practice increasing agility and strength. We also used the hockey relationship to talk about practice. How often does he miss the net when he practices shooting? How long does he practice a particular shot for? Sometimes we delved into more specifics- a staccato is that same quick attack as when you make the puck go really fast across the ice

For Visual Kids

Another favourite from my University days is the “roses” analogies. It is common for musicians to not pay as much attention to rests (pauses in music); it is logical to think that they are not as important as sounds. However, they are definitely a part of the music! My teacher often asked me to “stop and smell the roses, enjoy and feel the breeze”. One particular student of mine enjoyed drawing stick figures smelling roses on top of rests to remind himself of their function.

Analogies are not only great in communicating messages, but also make piano lessons fun and creative!

 


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.