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Composition – Same Tune with Different Modes

Different Modes

I decided to explore parallel key modulation further and write a tune with different modes. I write the melody and harmonize using the major key first, and then modulate it to the parallel minor key without changing the direction of the tune. Since I am currently exploring C major, I decided to do C major and C minor.

My Perspective

When I write a tune, I definitely decide on a mode before writing. Major keys and minor keys evoke very different emotions for me; I would choose one over the other based on what emotion I would like to express. For this tune, I wanted express some nostalgia that I have felt around New Years Day. I find that C major is right for this feeling, because of it’s simplicity. Here’s a picture of the first draft of my tune!

I then played it in the parallel (harmonic) mode. The difference is huge! What I intended to be a light wishful tune became a dramatic tune that suggests a hint of pain. Take a listen for yourself! Which one do you like better?

 

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Parent Involvement

Parent involvement is an important aspect of piano lessons. In my experience, all piano students that reach any level of success has the common factor of an involved parent.

Why is it important?

Relatability is a large part of why parent involvement is important. Many parents request piano lessons for their children to provide them opportunities that they did not have in their own childhood. While this is great (and admirable!), this often means that the student is the only piano player in the house.

Let’s compare learning piano to learning a language. If a child only hears a new language (let’s say French) once a week, for half an hour, how will he/she pick up the ability to speak and read the language? We often expect our piano students to produce a 4-8 bar song within weeks of piano lessons. Would we expect children learning French to recite short stories within weeks with no home guidance?

Furthermore, having no one to relate to is highly discouraging. Not only is picking up a new language (music) difficult to begin with, having no one going through the same journey adds a level of isolation.

Implementation

There are a couple ways we can implement parent involvement, even if the parent has little music experience! I encourage the parents to improvise together; to learn and grow from each other’s interpretation of music. For parents who have a stronger musical background, I encourage them to learn duets together. This is a great exercise for both musicality and discipline on both parts. Lastly, I encourage parents to practice with their children. Although I understand it is hard to find time to practice in a busy adult life, practicing with your child will give you a different perspective of what the student is going through.  You may even try learning the same songs as the student progresses!

Extra benefits

First of all, two for one piano lessons! By paying the price of one, parents can learn what the student is learning. Secondly, this is a great bonding exercise for child and parent, and encourages the value of discipline. Thirdly, it encourages the longevity of interest in lessons. As piano lessons are a long term investment (often years!), parents should feel the incentive to continue fanning the flame of interest for the student.

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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.