music lessons


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.

 


Music in The House

Music In The House

Remember when your child (or you!) were first learning your native language? We know that even though babies can’t understand the grammatical complexities of language, we know that they are listening.

That is how we start music lessons! The first step is listening. While many children start piano lessons at school age, they may or may not have had music exposure in their early life. Most children will have had exposure to nursery rhymes and preschool tunes, but have they had exposure to the instrument that they are going to have lesson for?

In the context of piano lessons, it is important to expose them to the sounds of the piano. The easiest way, is to find music they know (from preschool? that you sing to them?) played on the piano. This way, they can connect the two; music with words and music without words are different…but similar!

As a preschool teacher, I often noticed that the children regurgitate things they have heard on TV or YouTube. On a similar note, I have noticed that children spontaneously burst out into songs that we sing in group time. If children hear more piano music in their daily lives, it is conceivable that they would also process the information and begin to produce it.

Noteworthy, I also notice that preschoolers speak very much like their parents, and the teachers. This makes sense, as we are their main source of language inspiration in these early years! With this in mind, I encourage all parents to also participate in playing the piano. Not only can parents participate in the students’ learning, but also learn with the child. By learning with the child, the parent can identify with the child and their musical journey.

Summary:

  1. Play music in the house!- Not only can music set an enjoyable mood, children are indeed listening to and processing the musical information.
  2. Play piano yourself!- Students are encouraged when they see their parents participating, and this could lead to fulfilling bonding experience.
  3. Encourage their playing- even in the beginning stages. Even when their music is still babbles, encourage it! Just like we encourage toddlers to use their language.