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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.

 

 


Too Young for Piano Lessons?

One of the most common questions I get asked, is if any age is too young to begin piano lessons. On the basis that child development can be so vastly different, the answer to that is complicated. Adding to that complication, is the expectation of piano lessons in regards to the child’s developmental stage. ┬áHere are some guidelines of how I assess a child’s readiness for piano lessons.

Eric’s Guidelines

  1. Piano students are able to maintain basic sanitary needs. As lessons are short, students should be in control of their toilet habits so that lessons can be focused on music and piano. In addition, piano students are asked to refrain from sucking on thumbs, and understand basic cough/sneeze protocols.
  2. Piano students are capable of separation from parents for the duration of the lesson. While the parent is welcomed to watch, private piano lessons is based on the one on one connection between teacher and student.
  3. Piano students have an understanding of fragility of things. The studio piano is not a toy, but a tool for students to learn and grow on. That being said, actions such as hitting, spitting, or slamming shut the piano lid are prohibited. While expectations of this will be taught to the student and parent, it is expected that the child has a developing ability to self-regulate their actions.
  4. Piano students have a growing interest in the piano and music. While it is not expected for children to develop a flaming passion overnight, teacher and parents should see a growing flicker of interest from week to week. If a student is actively expressing discomfort and refusing to participate in lesson activities, parents and teacher will meet to discuss further actions.

Guidelines above are meant to be just that- guidelines. All cases are unique due to student interest, relationship between student and teacher, and parental expectations. Throughout the year, I will check in with parents and students to discuss. These discussions are an opportunity for parents to speak on their expectations and their observations. Remember, the mandate of EN Music Studio is to foster creativity and honour the authenticity of students.


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.