“I’m so proud of myself!,” said Marty. She has been taking class piano since August. Before that, she had a few lessons, played the violin, and taught herself the basics.
The class is a mix of community members and general students. The levels vary widely. I’m challenged to come up with a format that will allow us to do some group activities and leave me the ability for some one-on-one time as well. This semester, the levels range from complete beginners to the famous Liszt Consolation in Db. So, we do a mix of large group, small group, and individual activities.
We improvise together using activities such as those in the Kinney’s Pattern Play books. This lets those with more experience use more intricate melodies and accompaniments and those with less experience keep it simple. This semester we have completed 2 improvs. The first used a chromatic bass (single notes or intervals/chords with one note changed at a time) and a minor melody in the style of Chopin’s Prelude Op. 28 No. 4. At the midterm, some of their improvs sounded more like Philip Glass (see below) than like Chopin, but that’s OK. The one we are currently completing for the final is one I created. It is based on a Japanese scale and we are taking it up a half step onto the black keys for a bit of variety.
We have also been working as a group using the matched pattern fingerings (featured here in a recent PA post) to learn hands together scales. This is also something that everyone can do together. Some play one octave in one direction only, others do multiple octaves. It works out great and is the most fun when we do it round-style in 3rds or 6ths.
I go around a do mini-lessons (5-10 minutes) with as many students as possible. Did I mention this class meets for 2 hours once a week? I try my best to get around to everyone every week. Sometimes we start with the mini lessons. Other times we do them in the middle or end of class. I also send them off to the practice rooms in pairs to play for and help each other.
Back to Marty. She has come a long way. She has learned to harmonize a melody and use a system for rhythms rather than just guessing at the subdivisions. She has done some imaginative improvisation, and gotten her fingers to obey mostly her every wish. She has learned to take and to give constructive feedback.
She is proud of herself. I’m proud of all these students. The fact that the class meets only once a week means that they truly must discipline themselves to work daily on something that is not their major or day job and take ownership of the process. Marty knows that she is the one who did all the work and has the confidence that comes with that knowledge.
I’m proud of me for that!
If you are a fan of Philip Glass or are looking for a Christmas Gift for someone who is, check out Jeremy Limb’s new album, The Piano Music of Philip Glass. The album is available from Amazon and the iTunes Store and many other retailers.
I love it when another blogger jogs my memory and I think, “Oh I need to tell everyone about this other thing that my students and I do.” Well, it happened again. Bradford of The Practicing Musician posted a very helpful article on using Lego bricks to help students understand rhythmic subdivisions. I’m going to . . . → Read More: Block Towers
In this SuiteLinks: Workshops on brain creativity with Bruce Adolph, Homeless man moves listeners, Middle-East Peacemaking duo, Rosewoman at the Kennedy Center, New documentary on James Booker, FTC vs. MTNA, and more!
New Documentary about James Booker
Penderecki at 80
Peacemakers: Duo Amal
FTC vs. Piano Teachers
Homeless man’s playing moves listeners
Pianist not guilty . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: December 1
Here is the latest edition of Great Finds! Happy Thanksgiving & Hannukah, (or Thanksgivukkah)!
Sight Reading Factory
Sight Reading Factory generates reading exercises that make musical sense. Instrument types and levels are easily configurable. There are 5 levels of difficulty when you select piano. As the levels get higher readers are presented with more complex . . . → Read More: Great Finds: Sight Reading, Technique, and American Piano Music
In this SuiteLinks: Da Vinci’s Piano-Cello built and heard, 21st Century Victor Borge?, Musician wins Ocean City noise suit, Ornstein’s Piano Quintet, Technician shines in Pianomania, Teen finds talent after concussion, and more!
Da Vinci’s Piano-Cello
After concussion teen pianist finds musical talent
Steven Lin a Gilmore star
Interview (never published) with Brubeck
Musician . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: November 23
I remember trying to learn scales hands together. Four in one hand then 3 in the other my teacher said. F is like C except there is a 4 on Bb. B doesn’t use 5 in the right hand. Aarghhh! I was not good at scales. I learned them but never got . . . → Read More: Scales. What?
In this SuiteLinks: How to turn almost anything into a musical instrument, Dariescu is Woman of the Future, Jail time for practicing, Pleyel shuts down, New piano compositions by Oscar winners, and more!
Houseplant, or pot, or pan, to musical instrument
Tribute to Pollei
Alfred Brendel interview
Perianes’ Chopin & Debussy
Confronting Schubert’s Nightmare
Pleyel . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: November 16
Megan sighed, “I’ve never been able to play louder with one hand and softer with the other. I just can’t do it.” We had been working on balance of layers in her Chopin Waltz. Megan is 14 and just began studying with me this fall. She has innate musicality and great learning skills but, I . . . → Read More: Touch & Go
In this SuiteLinks: Classical station fires staff, Nerdiest piano jokes, World’s thinnest piano, Awesome program at 98, Hamelin, Trifonov, & Lang Lang, After the Mozart Effect, and more!
The good and bad of the Lang Lang effect
Being an artist
The Steinway foundry is it’s heart
Staff fired at classical station
Dablemont’s nerdiest . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: November 9
I love getting unexpected packages in the mail. And by unexpected packages, I mean unsolicited materials and recordings submitted for possible review. It’s like Christmas to tear open the packaging and delve in.
Lately though, I’m noticing a disturbing trend in some new recordings that have been sent to me. The producers and recording engineers . . . → Read More: Smoke & Mirrors: A Rant
In this SuiteLinks: Juggling 2 concert careers and an infant, Piano + fuselage, Remebering Bob Green, Nothing later than Brahms here, Iyre talks, and more!
Muñoz on Piano Jazz
Juggling 2 concert careers and an infant
Pires: the real miracle
Dinnerstein on Bach and Pop
Piano + fuselage
Perahia: nothing later than Brahms . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: November 2
Antimatter: Any substance that, when combined with an equal amount of matter, results in the complete and direct conversion of all substance to energy. (WhatIs.com)
Anti-Masterclass: Any masterclass that, when combined with an equal part of input from all participants, results in the complete and direct conversion of all playing to energy and artistry.
I . . . → Read More: The Anti-Masterclass
In this SuiteLinks: Graffman talks, Free street lessons in Harvard Square, Playful & profound Goldbergs, Kuerti stricken during performance, Historic traveling piano, Lady in No. 6 preview, and more! **
Kuerti stricken during performance
Best classical insults
In performance a realist
Gary Graffman talks
Habituation in practicing
Meet Crossroads’ new music director, pianist Dong-Yi
Keys . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: October 20
It started with a performance of a method book piece with the word Yodel in the title. “It sounds weird,” said my young student, “and I don’t understand why that B is there.” “Do you know what yodeling is?”, I asked. She shook her head sideways, “uhuh.” I certainly can’t yodel, so demonstration was out . . . → Read More: Vintage PA: Yodeling Puff The Magic Dragon