piano player


Imaginative Play

imaginativeplay-in-piano-lessons

 

What is Imaginative Play?

Imaginative play, or pretend play, involves the child role playing situations that they have seen before. By doing this, they experiment with behaviours, problem solving, and empathy. For example, a child might pretend play to be the parent of their teddy bear, and has to deal with topics like feeding the bear and cleaning the bear. There has been substantial evidence of increased intellectual and emotional development through this method of learning.

Can We Have Imaginative Play in Piano Lessons?

Andrea from Teach Piano Today has advocated for the use of imaginative play in piano lessons. By introducing music knowledge in themes that kids are familiar with, they are more comfortable in asking questions. Andrea also notes that there should be a balance between imaginative play lessons, or “traditional” piano lessons; instead of building a curriculum on pretend play, piano teachers can strive to incorporate this kind of play once in a while to add excitement and variety.

Bridging the Gap

Serious music education can be very daunting for young kids. Quarter notes? Half notes? Pivot? Allegro? All of this with the challenge of coordinating their fingers.  For students who are beginners, it may feel like every concept introduced is impossible to understand. This is where imaginative play comes into play (no pun intended). While children may not understand (yet) why a strong solid tone would build their technique, they absolutely do understand that if they will fall if they do not grip on to the monkey bars tightly. While children may not understand rhythm is the blueprint of music, they absolutely do understand when someone is talking too fast for them to understand.  By using imaginative play, we let the children know that same knowledge they are learning everywhere else is applicable to music, so it is not so scary!

 

Take Lessons with Eric Here


Healthy Technique

Recently, I have read about the controversy surrounding 14 year old singer Laura Bretan singing opera caught my attention.

Healthy Singing

Classic FM summarizes the issue in their article “Laura Bretan’s singing technique ‘raises deep concerns’ says singing teacher“. Voice professionals have expressed their concerns over the stress Bretan is placing on her vocal chords due to her choice in singing opera prematurely.

While I am not a voice teacher, it is important to open the discussion on healthy technique for musicians. Piano players, much like other instrumentalists and singers, have physical limitations that should not be pushed without consideration.  A consequence is that this behaviour can cause long-lasting injuries.

Musician Injuries

The most common condition for an overworked pianist is carpal tunnel syndrome, which is characterized by a pain in the arms and hands caused by a compression of a major nerve. This syndrome is seen in piano players that play and practice with tension in their hands and arms. This is especially dangerous if the pianist is practicing for hours every day without consideration of proper technique.

Just like how we should not try to lift heavy objects with our backs, we should not attempt to force advanced technique on a student that has not yet learned to use their body in a free and relaxed manner.

When we bypass healthy technique to play difficult music, we not only worsen our physical condition but also limit ourselves in our musical expression. Without freedom in the arms, wrists, and hands, a pianist can never truly express themselves on the piano.

Healthy Technique:

An approach to healthy piano technique is the Taubman Approach. While reading this information may be helpful, please consult and ask your piano teacher if you feel as though you have tension while playing the piano. Healthy technique is the basis of great piano playing!

Practice safe! Be sure to take breaks, to stretch, and to always warm up.

Take Lessons with Eric Here

 


What is Being a Piano Player?

 

Am I a Piano Player

I have been playing the piano since I was 7 years old, and I still often wonder…

“am I a piano player?”

What makes a piano player? Is it extreme virtuosity displayed by playing works by the greats like Liszt and Chopin, where fingers are moving so fast and in such complex ways that it seems magical ? Or is a piano player the creator of soft spoken ambient music at a classy venue?

Everyday, I ask myself this question. After dedicating 17 years of my life to learning this art,  thousands of dollars into lessons, competitions, and exams, and now having my work center around piano teaching, I still ask myself whether or not I am a real piano player. I know many friends who feel this way.

That is because piano is only the medium, and the substance is music. Music can be anything, and the brilliant thing about pianos, is that they can almost play everything.  Of course, I’m not saying that the piano can ever replace the sweet sounds of a flute, or the gentle plucking a guitar. However, the piano can duplicate those notes that the flute and guitar playing, due to the piano’s large 88-key range. Because you can play as many notes as your hands can reach with the piano, you could even play the guitar and the flute part together on the piano to create a reduction of those two parts.

However, that doesn’t answer the question: What is a piano player?

A piano player is someone who can multi-task, because solo piano pieces require both harmonic (the music structure), and melodic (the catchy and/or beautiful tune) content. All piano players eventually learn the importance of balancing these two aspects of music with their two hands, through developing the ear to hear the subtle differences, and developing the fingers to reflect the correct changes. Don’t forget about the foot pedal too.

A piano player is someone who can adapt quickly to a new situation, because most pianos you will perform on will likely not only be owned by someone else, but have a completely surprising, and sometimes shocking, sound and touch to them. Any piano player will tell you the horror stories of playing on a dysfunctional piano. Maybe it was out of tune. Maybe one of the keys didn’t work. I once played on a piano where a piece of a key broke off as I was playing. Unfortunately, that’s just the problems of a piano player, since our instrument is too heavy to transport. Knowing this…we adapt! All piano players eventually learn to quickly understand their instrument onstage and perform to the best of their abilities.

A piano player is someone who enjoys being in the solo spotlight. This one may be a little more controversial, as I know many piano players feel like they’re not comfortable performing. There are also many opportunities to support other musicians as a piano player, such as being an accompanist to a choir, or being part of a piano quartet. However, the one thing that separates the piano from all the other instruments, is that there is usually only one spot for a pianist on stage. A piano can perform so many musical functions, that it can stand on the stage solo for an entire show. A piano player is brave enough to be up there solo and play their instrument

Of course,  some of these points can be made for other instruments too! However, it is important to note that piano is  commonly thought of as a important skill for all musicians to have.

Some Examples of Work that Require Piano Skills

  • Leading a choir sectional (helping singers learning their notes)
  • Transposing something quickly (changing the key)
  • Composing (much easier to play all the parts on the piano rather than bring in many instruments!)
  • Accompanying soloists (Instrumental players, like a violin player, often play pieces with piano accompaniment

The list goes on and on. A piano player is anyone who loves music, and uses the piano to express themselves. The very visual and intuitive piano is great for both beginners, and seasoned musicians.

Have a great day!

 

Eric
EN Music Studio