Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Piano Is Practical" Mini Documentary

   Piano is a practical skill meaning that the skill has usefulness through out life. So, as parents I would like to encourage practical (likely to succeed or be effective in real circumstances) assistance to your child in their practice routine. 
  I asked many of the parents in my studio to describe their child's practice routine. Here are some of their great comments.

1. She practices at the same time every day however long she wants. Sometimes she gives a concert.
2. His routine is to practice in the mornings before school.   15 to 20 minutes on most days.   He usually starts with scales.   I sit with him and help him.
3.They have changed over the years. Typically I prompt the children to do their practice.
4. He plays any chance he gets.  He plays his favorite pieces over and over.  He also picks out, by ear, new pieces he likes.  He plays at least 45 mins./ daily
5. Usually practices after dinner for about 15 minutes and during free time on weekends.
6.  I try to have her practice after dinner and in the morning on late-start days and Saturdays. I have her play each of her pieces three times through until she knows them well enough to do it fairly well, and then two times through each time after that. I am not consistent enough.
7. We do scales, new songs, review old songs up to 10 total, do the theory book.  Sometimes we do note flash cards if we have time.
8. She often plays on her own
9. In the past she would play many times during the day, but lately she has been in a funk
10. He gets up and plays after everyone is awake
    I see a similar thread winding through these comments. Practice before school if they are elementary age and practice after dinner if they are middle school and high school age. Practicing the same time every day is a very sound solution. If your child has a heavy homework schedule taking a break to practice for 20 minutes will make them more able to concentrate again, after. 
   I remember the challenges of children practicing, very well; I had five of my own. One skill I developed was to acknowledge that I was not the best practice buddy every day for my children but I was able to be really good with each child once a week. On the day that my focus became intense with that one child, I listened more intently to their playing and assessed the flow and amount of hesitations and mistakes. I read their assignments carefully it see if they were playing all assigned music and I asked questions about their intentions. I tried to give assistance to the problems they identified. I showered them with praise and hoped that this was enough to carry us through the week. You may think that it was easy for me because I was a teacher but my daughter played violin and I knew very little about that instrument. The complexity of her instructions and her frustrations were often more than I could handle. I was not perfect, but once a week I was great.
   I hope this encourages us all to see piano as a practical and useful skill. Watch our video about how we see pianists in everyday life.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I Am In Love

   Natalie, at Music Matters, introduced me to Evernote, a free app organizing tool. I so appreciate the review and I am in love. It was just what I needed to keep track of piano lesson notes and ideas. I have a note for every student in a folder entitled "piano students".

    The search features allow such flexibility. I can add as many tags to a note as I please which helps me find a specific note quickly. With a free subscription I can upload 60 megs of material every month. I love opening the app and search for Thursdays lessons and seeing my notes for each student and a picture to boot. I think seeing their happy faces makes me excited to teach them.

     The app syncs to all my devices so I can create a note on one device and have it on the other in seconds. There are more great features. I have a little clipper that grabs an internet page and sends it to Evernote and makes a makes a note for me. I can take a picture of some music and put it in a note with a message to work on the piece. I can e-mail a note to a parent so I can share an insight. I could go on but this is enough to give you a peek into the ways I use Evernote.
   Love is in the air and it delivers to my device.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What Gifts Are Emerging With Piano Lessons?

   On my parent questionnaire I asked what gifts were emerging since the onset of piano lessons. I find that I see the gifts as well and I am so grateful to see them blossom. When it comes to gifts, it is my observation that they are given incompletely. I have a gift to improvise and compose but I did not get the gift to be thorough and detail oriented. I find a melody, play it and get excited and then my lack of stick-to-it-tiveism bogs me down. Notating is tedious and nerve-racking. Gifts never preclude hard work. 

   Here is a sampling of the great answers I received. As you can see composing is a gift that keeps rising to the top. 
1. He seems to have a good ear and good rhythm.
2. She can figure songs out by ear that she hears on her iPod.
3. She has always shown musical talent and she sings from her heart.
4. He is shy but the piano playing is revealing his musical gifts.
5. Both children are experimenting in other musical fields.
6. He enjoys composing and playing his own music when he has time. Music has given him confidence,
7. I remember when you asked him to improvise the first time. He only played one note. Now he makes up his own endings and he makes the music his own.
8. He is experimenting playing his own songs with chords. His confidence has grown mastering more difficult songs.
9. I found out she has even more music in her heart and head than I thought she did. She has been singing since she was very little.
10. He is creatively inspired.
11. He has improved his ability to sing in tune, can read notes, and has developed good rhythm.
12. We knew she was musically gifted but we didn't realize how steady and solid her rhythm would become.
13. She likes to compose a little of her own.
   These answers help me feel that I am on the right track to do more lead sheet work and improvising. Wish I had more time in the lessons.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What Expectations Do You Have For Your Child?

In a recent questionnaire to parents I asked the question -What expectations did you have before your child started piano lessons? The answers were varied and insightful. Here are a few of them.

1.That my children will have a better understanding of music

2. That he would learn to read and enjoy music.

4. That it would be tough-going keeping her motivated over the long-term, but that—if she stuck with it—it would prove a long-lasting gift for her and for my (hopefully) future grandchildren. I looked at it as a long-term, generational investment and a gift for her if she ever wanted to do anything musically. 

5. I thought he would learn the basics of music.

6. Just that he would have fun, and love music, and be a lifetime lover of music.

7. That he would continue to love playing and gain confidence in his musical ability.

8. Just that he would learn to appreciate music.

I thought back to what my mother would have said. It would be something like, "I expect that she will learn to play well enough to accompany our family sing-alongs, play at the Christmas Eve party, and play for the church congregation." You see my mother was practical and she saw playing the piano as a practical skill.

So, to this excellent list of expectations may I add, expect that your child will play the piano for may varied and different functions of home life and community life. The Piano Is Practical.
 Watch for a documentary, starring my students, as we explore how playing the piano is a practical skill.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Parent Interview

I am always interested in feedback from the parents I work with and so I wrote some questions which I felt would give me some ideas of what they thought about the experience of piano lessons for their child.

               The questionnaires are coming back and I am going to compile the answers and without revealing names give a general idea of what people said.